Seeking Justice and Reprisal (Preview)


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Chapter One

The somber mood was perfect for the occasion.

A slight wind was blowing a heavy mist that caused a cold shiver to run along the spines of those attending. Black clothing was the order of the day, with a priest officiating over the ceremony.

The graveyard was littered with those unfortunate souls crying out for justice from their resting places.

Holden Young was amongst them, being put to rest in a cold and impersonal wooden coffin.

Those who knew him felt the burden of his loss heavy on their shoulders.

One woman stood alone with her grief, watching with an intense stare as the coffin was lowered into the ground.


Sally didn’t shed a tear, past the point of caring what other people thought of her. She had done her own private grieving behind closed doors, weeping openly into a pillow over her loss.

Standing there, she remembered the night it happened—when she had lost everything in the blink of any eye. It gave her thoughts of violence that scared her. There were bad people in the world. It was her right to avenge her husband’s untimely demise.

The bitter reality had smacked her in the face that cold November morning when she’d heard the unmistakable sound of a gun going off.

She remembered, with vivid clarity, her body reacting to the sound. A feeling of helplessness had come over her, and an uncertainty of what she would find. She’d clutched the cross and begged God to intervene. Her faith had been tested in the past, but nothing like what she was about to find on the hard and unforgiving ground.

She’d been cold, frozen to her spot in the kitchen, holding court over the stove adding spices to the stew. The spoon had dropped from her hand and she’d turned abruptly, already knowing the truth.

The ranch sprawled out for miles in either direction with several different species of livestock, including three magnificent beasts galloping around in a circle in the paddock. She had tamed their wild ways, whispering her devotion into their ears whenever she rode off into the sunset to clear her head.

She leaped over the fence in one bound, landing on the soft earth next to her prize stallion.

Black Lightning, with his mane of dark fur, accepted the invasion of his personal space with a whinny of delight. The horse responded to the pull of his reins with his horseshoes digging into the ground for leverage.

Their life together was something she remembered fondly.

Sally recalled the man she was going to spend the rest of her life with. It didn’t matter that she didn’t feel that all-encompassing love. He was a good man with a kind heart, willing to roll up his sleeves to make a life with her. She had learned to love him in her own way.

She didn’t believe in star-crossed lovers. It seemed impractical to think something like that existed. Sally had found herself attracted to Holden after several months of marriage—a convenience that had grown into something more meaningful.

His eyes were his best feature. They expressed how he was feeling with one look. She only wished to show him half of what he was giving her. Making a home for him was the least she could do.

Even now, Sally could feel the wind in her dirty blond hair flapping in the breeze that day. Finding him prone and lifeless, bleeding profusely and still holding onto the hammer, had broken her spirit.

Her hands had been shaking when she’d collapsed next to him, afraid to touch the body. That would make it real.

Holding him had made her inconsolable. She’d looked for help with tears streaming down her cheeks. Nobody had been around to witness her grief during this important milestone in her life. This one act of violence proved there was nothing sacred.

The blood had been thick and sticky on her hand, and the stain on her fingertips never went away. It didn’t matter how many times she scrubbed them until her skin was blistered.

Her screams of anguish had been met with only silence.

She had grabbed the gun to see that it hadn’t been fired. The barrel was cold. Sally brought it to her cheek with trembling anger building until it was a venomous rage. There was only way she could think of that would alleviate the pressure. The answer was right there in her hand.

Her recollection of that horrible day was interrupted.

“Ashes to ashes… dust to dust… we return one of God’s children to his kingdom. Ours is not to question why. Let him go in peace,” Father Michaels spoke with his voice cracking, trying to keep it together.

Sally walked over and placed her hand in the freshly dug earth. It felt warm slipping through her fingers down to the coffin below and made a sound like bacon sizzling on the stove with the fat dripping just the way Holden liked it.

She stared at her fingers, still seeing his blood. It was the last thing of his she could hold on to. It was tangible, even if it was in her head.

“I will miss you more than you know. My life is forever shattered. I have no idea where to go from here. I was always a bit of a loner, never quite knowing my place. You gave me your heart and I gave you my devotion in return. I was a better woman for knowing you. Rest in peace.” She said those final words with a heavy heart.

Others followed in her footsteps, symbolizing their acceptance by taking a handful of dirt and metaphorically releasing him from the burden of this life.

It was all so pointless.

Father Michaels took a moment and addressed Sally. “There is no doubt he loved you. You have my deepest condolences. My door is always open for you in this time of need. Don’t hesitate to use me as a crutch to get through these troubling times. I want you to carry his words with you.”

Father Michaels was clothed in black, with a blazing white collar. His dark hair was combed to one side, dripping water. He offered a Bible as cold comfort for her loss.

She raised her hands with the corners of her mouth turned down. “I don’t mean to offend you, but I don’t believe God’s words. My faith has been shattered into a million pieces. Keep that away from me. How can something this horrible happen to one of the good ones? Don’t answer that; it was rhetorical. I already know God can be cruel. How much loss can one person take before they finally break?”

Sally referred to her parents, lost at sea without a trace. That was a memorable sixteenth birthday. Nothing was the same after that.

Father Michaels touched her shoulder to console her. “I’m sure things will look better in the morning. God does work in mysterious ways. We can’t know His plans for us. Come back to the flock,” he urged with gentle insistence.

“You are wasting your breath. I don’t need to hear it. The only thing I want is for the man responsible to hang for his crimes. I won’t rest until that happens,” she said defiantly, her hand inching toward the steel equalizer in her holster.

It was hidden underneath her jacket, with her long brown skirt flowing down to her ankles. Keeping it hidden gave her a false illusion of power. The gun was her safety blanket. She slept with it under her pillow. Nobody knew, and Sally wanted to keep it that way.

“I know it’s hard to put on a brave face but, in time, you will learn to soldier on without him. We all deal with grief in different ways. Saying goodbye is the hardest thing,” Father Michaels mentioned in a whisper.

“I know you mean well, and I appreciate the effort, but you are not going to change my mind.” She pushed away and walked off, visions of death plaguing her every thought.

She had some things to consider. There was no way she could maintain the family homestead. The best thing was to make preparations to sell it to somebody who could truly appreciate the beauty surrounding them.

Black Lightning was tied securely to a tree, waiting for her to return.

The others who had attended the service walked away. There was no fanfare. No celebration of his life. The ceremony ended with a whimper, but there wasn’t a dry eye.

The people would go back to their lives. Sally would be the only reminder but she wasn`t planning to stick around any longer than necessary.

Sally stopped one last time and looked over her shoulder, saying a final goodbye without the words coming out of her mouth. It did nothing to curb her lust for vengeance. Her only comfort was found in the handle of a gun and the feel of it in her fist, ready to send this man a message he was never going to forget.

She walked away from the grave and put on the black Stetson. Her fingers moved around the brim, feeling the craftsmanship.

It was her husband’s.

She wore it as a reminder of better times and to feel closer to him. She needed to feel his hands around her. The hat was a pale substitute.

She leaped on Black Lightning, desperate to blow off some steam.

Black Lightning turned opposite the town, moving toward the hills. He knew the path better than anybody. It led him back home.

Something was wrong. Something bad had happened. Something was different. Riding was her escape, but today, it felt numb. She was going through the motions.

Sally screamed at the top of her lungs, the momentum of Black Lightning forcing her to relive her glory days. The minutes flew by with the hooves pounding in her ears until they came to the top of the hill overlooking the countryside.

They were both breathing heavily, the air frosty every time they exhaled.

Sally didn’t feel the cold. Her blood was boiling. It was all the warmth she needed.

Her breath became short with the recollection of her time with Holden. He was never comfortable with her being alone on the ranch with no way to defend herself. There were many dangers, including Native Americans holding a grudge after losing their land or wild animals foraging for food.

Learning to shoot had been difficult, but it was all about muscle memory. Sally never gave up and persevered until the targets fell one at a time. Holden was right there behind her with encouraging words, his hands steady on hers, showing her technique and the proper way to breathe.

That was the past… this was the present. There was no hiding from it.

She rode down to the house with the wind at her back and brought the horse to the water. It was a bitter irony to be back at the scene of the crime, but she was no longer going to feel haunted by his ghostly image in the middle of the night.

She saw someone waiting at her house, and Sally instantly knew who it was.

Laura was her best friend. Sally would know her pale complexion and demure blond hair anywhere.

She was waiting with her husband Benjamin. Each wore a stoic expression of concern, and for good reason. They understood her pain and wanted to be there for her, but she had declined the offer.

It was going to be hard enough to see him lowered into the ground, Sally had explained. She didn’t want them to see her at her worst.

Laura had her blonde hair pinned up, showing off the nape of her neck. The silver cross must have been burning a temporary indentation in the palm of her hand—she was holding it so tight her fingers turned white.

“I’m not sure how we feel about all of this. I can’t condemn you for wanting to find some distance. This place holds a lot of memories for you… some painful and others more pleasant. It will be here when you are ready to come back. These are the papers you wanted me to sign. They are legally binding, with one amendment,” Benjamin said, shuffling the papers, the wind threatening to rip them from his grip.

“This is for the best. I need to see this through, but you don’t have to understand it. And I can’t say for certain I’ll be back—the future is nothing more than one moment at a time,” Sally said, scanning the documents before signing her name.

“He wouldn’t want this for you. I was responsible for the two of you meeting. You can’t deny that it was the best five years of your life. It probably felt like a lifetime, but you did make each other complete. Stay here for a few days to get your head on straight. Let the wheels of justice work in your favor before you do anything reckless,” Benjamin suggested.

He held onto the suspenders with his thumbs around them. His white shirt was stained with dirt and his long pants were scuffed on the edges. He was no stranger to manual labor.

“Listen to my husband. You need some time to come to terms with the loss. Let us be there for you until you are ready to embark on this new adventure. We’ll make up the guest room for you,” Laura offered with a hand out, waiting for Sally to take it.

It was a grim undertaking to see all of her hard work slipping through her hands. Sally was distraught, unable to focus on the bigger picture. The ax handle by the door sticking up at an angle gave her a moment of pause.

The last she had seen it in action was in her husband’s hands.

She just couldn’t bring herself to hold onto it. It had the musky scent of her husband all over it. Just touching it made her legs shake until she almost collapsed to the ground.

“You have both gone above and beyond. I want to take you up on your offer, but I just can’t. I’m not the same person. Losing him ripped my heart out of me. I don’t have any forgiveness—the only thing I want is vengeance. I’ll stay in the barn for a few days,” Sally announced, staring into space.

“I don’t think that’s a good…” Benjamin trailed off.

Laura was nudging his ribs. “I’m just glad that you’re not going off half-cocked. I need these few days to change your mind,” she insisted.

It was unseasonably warm, with a fresh layer of snow melting on the Montana landscape. The mountains surrounding them were cutting them off from civilization, away from the prying eyes of others.

Sally smelled something cooking on the stove, with several different spices tempting her palate. Cooking was a labor of love. She couldn’t remember her last home-cooked meal.

Everything left an acrid taste in her mouth.

“I hate to burst your bubble, but nothing short of wild horses is going to keep me from finding the man who shot my husband in the back. It was cowardly, and he must pay the ultimate price. His death is the only thing on my mind,” Sally blurted out.

“That’s the grief talking. We will call you when dinner is ready. I made some of your favorites, including homemade brown bread. I’m going to make sure you eat something. I know about your love of food, and I don’t want you to lose that passion for cooking,” Laura said.

Time had a tendency to heal all wounds.

Chapter Two

Sally had spent enough time grieving. It was time for her gun to do the talking for her. The pearl-inlaid handle stuck out of her jacket when it flapped in the breeze. Every chamber had a bullet with the name of the man responsible for killing her husband on it.

Riding into town on Black Lightning gave her a chance to think clearly. Laura thought she had convinced Sally to seek counsel with the sheriff, but it was only part of the story. She was perfectly happy to make her introductions. She needed more information.

Rumors had been swirling about the identity of the cold-blooded gunslinger. Sally wasn’t going to rest until that name was on the tip of her tongue.

It was refreshing to have something to look forward to.

The only things she had were a few mementos, including a heart-shaped locket hidden underneath her clothing. She was wearing her husband’s dark pants, tailored to her frame. The same black Stetson adorned her head.

It was not normal for a woman to wear pants in the Wild West.

The lawlessness of several towns had the sheriff picking up the pieces. He saw her coming and sighed deeply. Sally could see his reaction through the window.

She strolled purposefully and confidently toward his door, looking for answers.

The sheriff hiked up his pants, the holster around his waist holding two six-shooters. Cutting her off at the pass before she had a chance to enter stopped her in her tracks.

“I don’t know what you think you’re accomplishing by coming here. This isn’t any of your business. I have a posse of able-bodied men willing to do what is right. Let the men handle this—we don’t need you mucking around and making things worse.” The sheriff crossed his hands over his chest indignantly, trying to assert his dominance.

“I just want a name,” Sally said tartly.

“I’m sorry for your loss, but that doesn’t give you the right to seek vigilante justice. Turn around and go back to your ranch, there’s nothing you can do. Don’t make me arrest you. The last thing you want is to cool your heels in jail for the night,” the sheriff said, addressing Sally in his best official voice.

Sally cracked her neck from side to side with the hat staying on her head. “At the risk of repeating myself, I want a name, and I’m not leaving until I get one. I don’t mean to put you on the spot, but you don’t know what I’ve been through unless you walked a mile in my shoes,” she argued, holding her ground with her eyes narrowed.

Her intention wasn’t to ruffle his feathers. Her fantasies revolved around ending the miserable existence of the man still breathing after what he had done to her husband.

“I’m going to ask you one last time to go home. I promise that everything is being done to bring this man to justice. I reckon you’ve never taken somebody’s life in cold blood. It’s not easy; you lose a part of yourself. I don’t want that for you. Holden wouldn’t want that for you,” he stated emphatically, his finger twirling his handlebar mustache.

There were wisps of gray hair underneath his hat after everything he had seen and done in his career. He was barely thirty and looked fifty on his best day.

“We can do this the easy way or the hard way,” Sally threatened in a backhanded fashion.

The sheriff clearly didn’t take kindly to being backed into a corner. The sweat stain underneath his arm was pungent.

The badge was a shining example of loyalty and trust. She knew there was only so much he could do. He had mentioned there was a posse, but nobody was willing to strap on a gun.

It was up to him to bring the man in alive to answer for his crimes. She didn’t trust him to do that.

She wasn’t going to wait for justice to be served.

“I don’t like your tone. It sounds like you’re threatening a man of the law. We wouldn’t want what you say to be misconstrued. This time, I want you to hear me. You’re not thinking clearly. Stop this madness before it goes too far,” the sheriff blustered with his voice raised, obviously no longer content to keep their conversation private.

Sally took a few steps closer. “It wasn’t a threat. It was a promise. You wouldn’t want your wife to know about Meredith. I think you know what I’m talking about. You have a lot to lose. That secret is safe with me, but only if you give me a name,” she threatened, referring to the mistress of the bordello.

Sheriff Timmins swallowed “I don’t… I don’t know what you’re talking about,” he said. His voice cracked, stuttering over his words.

“I think we both know the truth. Some things are better left unsaid. I don’t care who you sleep with, but I don’t think your wife shares the same sentiment. She might suspect, but she doesn’t know anything for certain. I can clear up any misconceptions. Meredith will talk for the right price,” Sally prodded.

“You’re blackmailing me in broad daylight. What does that say about you? Holden must be rolling over in his grave. This is no way to preserve his memory. I’m not going to let you get away with this,” Sheriff Timmins warned, his fingers on the handle of his gun.

Sally huffed but was not deterred from this course of action.

“We should go inside and talk in private. We wouldn’t want your dirty laundry to be aired in public. I’m a reasonable woman.” She directed him to his office with a wave of her hand, devoid of the wedding ring.

Sheriff Timmins was staring at the white patch of skin. Sally instinctively moved her hand into her pocket, self-conscious.

He backed away into the office with her following from a safe distance. The only thing he could do was sit at his desk in a position of authority.

“Some people in this town think of you as a joke. This position was given to you. You weren’t elected. The people might have a change of heart if they know you’re not the family man you claim to be. I’m through asking. Give me the name in the next five seconds or things are going to go from bad to worse for you,” Sally demanded, her hands firmly planted on the desk.

The sheriff stared at her, stunned, with his mouth open. He looked around nervously, inching his way to his desk.

There was something wrong with her, but she had to keep it together. The temptation to choke him was almost too much. She was tired of the platitudes and condolences for her loss. It was all the same. She would nod politely and say very little.

She wasn’t going to get anywhere without information to lead her in the right direction. And this man was standing in her way.

“This isn’t the first time I’ve been confronted by somebody grieving the loss of a loved one, and I’m going to tell you what I told them. The law is there for a reason. Let’s not say anything we are going to regret,” he stammered with his hands in the air, signaling his surrender.

“What happens after I leave this office is out of your hands. You can forget this conversation ever happened. Continue with your dalliances and you will never hear from me again. That sounds like a good deal, in my humble opinion. I would take it, before I forget that I’m a lady,” Sally replied with one lock of hair swinging back and forth in front of her face.

Sheriff Timmins took a deep breath, resigned to his fate. “His name is Hal Bolton. He’s been responsible for cattle rustling and killing anybody that interferes. Your husband wasn’t the only one. As far as I can tell, your husband interrupted, and he wasn’t about to leave any witnesses. Take this and leave my office.” Sheriff Timmins handed her a wanted poster with the picture of the suspect and the amount for the bounty at the bottom.

She didn’t say it, but it wasn’t lost on her how much her husband’s life meant in the grand scheme of things. How he died seemed impersonal, demanding of a feminine touch of justice—which was exactly what it was going to get.

“It was a pleasure doing business with you, Sheriff. I use that term loosely—you disgrace the badge. Let’s hope we never run afoul of one another,” Sally fumed, staring at the photograph before crumpling it with her fist.

The sheriff exhaled deeply and sat back, not saying another word. Sally could see the defeat in his eyes.

She knew it was true. He was mainly a figurehead. He couldn’t hit the broad side of the barn. His authority was mainly puffing his chest and using his words to defuse a situation before it got out of hand.

He watched her leave.

The smile on the corners of her mouth surprised her. It was the first time she had felt anything at all in almost two weeks. This resurgence of vitality lifted her spirits.

The information on the wanted poster gave her a location to start from, in his hometown a hundred miles away.

Every feature of this man was captured on the poster, down to the most minute detail—including the small scar underneath his lip. His eyes told the story of living a hard life. She wanted to see the look in his eyes as he stared down the barrel of her husband’s pride and joy.

The colt gave her a sense of power.

There were several guns in his collection. That cache of weapons was at her disposal secure in the saddlebags over Black Lightning.

She had a morbid curiosity about death, something she had  shared with anyone, including her close friends.

Seeing this man die was going to absolve her of her sins. Washing away the filth was going to take more than holy water. The blood she was going to spill in her husband’s name wasn’t of the innocent.

She walked into the store and quickly acquired the supplies necessary for a long journey. Warm blankets and food would make it easier to ward off the chill during the evenings.

It wasn’t lost on her how those picking through the merchandise were whispering behind her back. They kept their distance with an air of indifference.

She was a hair trigger itching for a fight to relieve some of the frustration building up inside her.

The first flake of snow came down just outside the window as she stood at the counter waiting for old man Jenkins to finish taking her money.

“Martha was very sad to hear about Holden. He was one of our best customers. We still have his homemade jerky on the shelf; it’s one of our best sellers. I know it doesn’t seem like it, but this town is a family. It might be dysfunctional, but we still rally when things get difficult. What the heck? It’s on the house. It’s the least I can do,” old man Jenkins stated.

“That’s very kind, but I can’t let you do that. You have a business to run. I don’t want to be a charity case. I appreciate the offer, but I respectfully decline.” Sally counted out the money and walked away without another word.

She quickly and efficiently made room for everything in the saddlebags, securing the flaps before she mounted the horse in one fluid motion. The leather of the saddle was smooth to the touch with the slightest whiff of polish.

“Sally! Sally!” Laura screamed to get her attention.

Laura was holding up her dress, keeping it from grazing the wet earth. Sally could see her friend wasn’t going to let her leave without a few choice words.

“I’m going to stop you right there. Think about what you would do if something happened to Benjamin. God forbid something does, but it is possible. Sickness is rampant, but it doesn’t compare to those heartless men seeking their fortune by sacrificing anybody standing in the way. You have to let me go,” Sally beseeched, driven by something that she couldn’t explain.

There was no choice when she could hear Holden’s voice in her mind, begging for justice. It might have been a figment of her imagination, born from grief, but it was still there. Nobody else could hear him, but she did—loud and clear.

Laura had her mouth open, clearly ready to say something more, but she didn’t. She gave Sally a solemn nod of consent and stepped away from the horse.

Sally locked her gaze to the horizon and understood her destiny was out there waiting for her to claim it.

God help Hal Bolton.

“Seeking Justice and Reprisal” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

The sound of the gun going off would change her life forever…

Sally Young is a fearless woman who always wanted nothing more than a quiet life on the farm with her beloved husband, far away from her haunted past. Everything is about to change forever, though, when one fateful day her husband is shot to death. Devastated and losing hope, she sees no other choice but to take matters into her own hands and seek vengeance. Once Sally discovers the name of the murderer, she is determined to use all of her skills and take down the person who stood in the way of her happiness. If she wants revenge, she’ll have to shed some blood… What is she willing to risk in order to find and defeat the evil murderer while a dark cloud of confusion and danger is following her around?

While Sally is preparing for the greatest battle of her life, she crosses paths with Henry Bolton, a man of few words. To Sally’s surprise, he is the brother of her husband’s killer and their resemblance is uncanny. Although they get off to a rocky start, they will soon realize they have something in common; they both want to track down the same man. Unfortunately for them, their troubles have just begun and every day brings a fresh crisis. Will Henry help Sally survive the treacherous journey? What is he willing to sacrifice in order to protect her?

Even though Sally and Henry meet under the worst variety of circumstances, day by day they become closer and create a special bond. However, as long as the vicious criminal is still out there, they wouldn’t dare admit their feelings for one another. Will their love have a chance to flourish if they complete their mission successfully? Or will they be forced to abandon all hope for a fresh start once and for all?

“Seeking Justice and Reprisal” is a historical adventure novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cliffhangers, only pure unadulterated action.

Get your copy from Amazon!


Grab my new series, "Legends of the Lawless Frontier", and get 2 FREE novels as a gift! Have a look here!

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