A Wild Chase for Gold (Preview)


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Chapter One

Texas, 1880

Andy struck out with the hammer. The sparks flew as the metal warped, heated, and bent, glowing orange as he imagined the flames of hell might. Once the bar was in shape, hooked round, he plunged it back into the fire. The heat emanating from the roaring flames was enough to scald many a person’s skin, but not Andy’s. He’d been raised from a boy to withstand it. These days, his skin was browned enough to take the heat, with only the occasional reddening and white burn marks puckering the surface.

“How’s it coming? That horse won’t shoe itself,” Charlie’s words called across the forge.

Andy didn’t respond straight away. Every day it was the same. Andy would work, and Charlie would ask for it to be finished quicker. Instead of answering, he took the metal back out of the fire and onto the anvil, striking it with the hammer a couple more times to check that the second hook of the shoe was closer to its perfect shape.

“Shall I take all that banging as a ‘yes’?” Charlie’s voice came from an archway leading out toward the street.

“Yes,” Andy said, huffing slightly as he plunged the metal into a water bath. At once, smoke emitted, moving in the air above his head like dancers writhing around one another. He left the metal to cool off for a minute as Charlie’s heavy boots shuffled into the room. Turning to see his uncle, Andy was brought up short in the late-night light.

The orange hues cast Charlie in a certain brightness that revealed how old he was getting. The skin on his face seemed to sag a little more these days, the wrinkles more pronounced. The cropped dark brown beard that used to pepper his chin was now gray, and his eyes, though still alight, seemed to be paling a little.

Sometimes I forget how old he’s getting. Andy kept the thought to himself as Charlie looked him up and down.

“You nearly done?” he asked.

“So much patience.”

“We don’t get paid to show patience.” Charlie chuckled with the words. “We get paid to do our work.”

“It’s nearly there.” Andy moved away from the fire and lifted up a cloth, snatching it off a nearby iron hook and drying his face, dabbing off the sweat. It had beaded not just along his brow but down his checks and his neck, too, so that his skin seemed to run with water.

“You’ll make that towel smell.”

“It always smells,” Andy huffed before lowering his voice, so his uncle couldn’t hear him. “This place always smells.” He cast a glance around the forge, taking it all in.

It hadn’t changed much in the ten years that he had been living with Charlie, training since the age of thirteen to be a blacksmith. The fire was alive, and the walls were covered with examples of their work. The ground beneath their feet was sandy and arid, revealing the dryness of the ground beyond the walls.

I’m ready for change.

Andy kept this thought to himself, too. He knew well enough by now what Charlie thought of his ambitions and wants. Charlie’s words had always been the same in that regard.

“Folk like us were born here and will die here. It’s the way of the world: like a rattlesnake’s hiss, it can’t be changed.”

Yet Andy wanted change. As he finished with the towel, he turned back to look at his uncle, seeing Charlie was watching him closely.

“I’ll have it done within the hour,” he said, trying to assure his uncle. “Leave it with me.”

“Right, well…” Charlie nodded and adjusted the jacket he had thrown over his shoulders. It did little to hide the dirty blacksmith’s clothes beneath, with the ash burns from the fire, along with the soot on his palms, but it was something. “You could join me down at the saloon when you’re done?”

“I think I’ll get some rest instead.”

“You? Rest?” Charlie laughed at the idea. “You rest as often as a coyote sleeps, barely ever.” He chuckled another time and turned in the archway, about to leave. “You won’t be sat idly looking at one of those newspapers of yours again, will you?”

He tossed the words over his shoulder with that same hint of tension back in his voice.

“No.” Andy lied. He had every intention of getting out one of the newspapers that had been delivered from the far east of America. In those pages, he could read about city dwellers. He could read of men who had changed their lives. They wore suits to work, not grubby aprons and shirts stained with ash, and they went to fine dinners, making money with their minds, not their hands.

Andy had every respect for the occupation he’d been brought up in. It wasn’t that he looked down on it, far from it—the reality was that he simply wanted something else. He wanted something more.

“You go to the saloon. I’ll get this done.” Andy nodded at Charlie, encouraging him to leave.

“Hmm. See you later, then.” Charlie nodded in parting, placing his hat to his head and disappearing through the archway into the quickly darkening sky.

Andy picked up the metal rod out of the bath another time, checking the crook of the horseshoe. Now all he had to do was break it off and nail it to its second piece. As he continued with his work, his gaze kept slipping back to the archway through which Charlie had left, his mind on things other than his work.

What would my father say, if he were here now? What would he think of the papers I read?

Andy longed to ask him, but there wasn’t much talking a man could do from beneath a gravestone. Andy could only remember having one conversation with his father about the cities in the east. He had mentioned them once.

As a boy, Andy had pored over the newspapers one day with his father at his shoulder.

“They’re the big lights, they call them. The windy cities. Trust me, lad. You want a different life someday, that’s where you have to go.”

Andy hadn’t forgotten that conversation.

As he finished up with the horseshoe, breaking it off and cooling it down in another plunge of water, Andy sighed, looking around his lot in life.

Part of him knew he should be content with what he had. The job was a stable one, safe, and—as Charlie kept reminding him—out here in the wilderness, their town was so small that bad things rarely came knocking at the door. In the city, Charlie believed crime occurred as often as the tumbleweed blew through in the west. He always said it was safer here; in the city, you were robbed by men in suits as well as those that carried guns.

As Andy pulled out the horseshoe and began to nail it to a similar shape, hammering the two together to form the perfect shoe, he became aware of something that had shifted in the room. For a minute, he could have sworn he heard the arid ground being scuffed beneath someone’s shoes.

Andy paused, his hammer raised in the air, and turned his head to the side, listening once again for the sound. Night was quickly falling beyond the walls now. Soon, the only light would be coming off Andy’s fire. In that light, he could see his own reflection in the one window they had in the room.

It was on the far side, a good distance away from the fire so that the glass never warped in the heat. He looked tall, even in that reflection, and in the poor light, his sandy brown hair could have almost been black. His features were barely distinguishable, apart from the long nose and the strong jaw.

I’m looking more like my father every day.

At least, he looked like the memory he had of his father.

Deciding the sound had been in his imagination, Andy returned to his task with vigor, hammering the shoe into place. It wasn’t long before the sound came again, as if a boot had pressed over a few stones. Andy paused again, straining to listen with his head cocked.

Was that a horse?

He heard the snort of an animal somewhere close by. Presuming it was someone coming by for new business, Andy lowered the shoe, though he kept the hammer in his hand when he went to the archway, peering out.

There was no horse there. Only the scuff of the arid land as if someone had run off, kicking up the dust behind them.

Andy hovered there for a second, watching the empty ground in thought. Something was amiss; he was sure of it. If anyone came looking for business, they announced themselves—they didn’t hide in shadows and skulk around buildings.

He moved back into the forge, this time turning his head left and right, warily looking out for anything else that could be strange. Farther down the street, the town grew busier. There was a boarding house, and the saloon, so busy tonight that the doors were open and the tinkle of piano music was falling from the windows.

The boarding house beside it was lit up with so many candles in the windows the building seemed to have many eyes, peering out at Andy. He found his eyes darting between those windows, looking for Lettie. At one point, he thought he saw the skirt of one of her dresses passing the glass, but he couldn’t be certain.

Behind him, there was another sound, deep within the forge.

“Who’s there?” Andy turned back and stepped inside, gripping the handle of his hammer tighter. There was now no chance for doubt in his mind. Someone was in here with him. “I said, who’s there?” he demanded. “You deaf or a halfwit?”

“That’s enough.”

Andy froze. From the shadows of the forge, a figure had moved forward to place the barrel of a gun straight at his temple.

“The hammer. Put it down.”

Andy tossed it to the ground without hesitation, then angled his head as best as he could.

Beside him was an outlaw. The man was bloodstained, his clothes a deep shade of red. It was enough to make Andy swallow past a nervous lump in his throat. The outlaw cocked his head back, lifting the broad-rimmed hat on his head to reveal his cheeks had another blood stain on them. Around his hips, more weapons were slung, including knives, but the gun was in his hand, and he showed no sign of lowering it.

“All’s clear, boys,” the man drawled, then whistled. Slowly, two more men stepped through the archway, looking back and forth.

Now, Andy understood. If an outlaw needed business, they couldn’t just come knocking at a forge. They needed to make sure they weren’t seen, hence the hiding, and the snort of the horse that was clearly tucked away somewhere.

The two other outlaws stumbled inside quickly. One was shaking, frantic, so nervous that he wouldn’t stop running his hands through his hair. The other was much calmer; he walked with an easy gait and a pistol slung low over his hips.

“I can’t believe it. We’ll be caught for this, Sandy, we will,” the frantic man was whispering madly, looking in the direction of the man holding the gun at Andy’s head.

Sandy, that’s his name.

“Shh, Skunk, you fool,” the third man snapped in the shaking man’s direction. “You not done this before? You don’t give names, only fake ones.”

‘Skunk’ nodded and slung his chin low. It wasn’t difficult for Andy to see why he had earned the nickname. When he passed by, a stench hung in the air.

“Don’t make a move now, blacksmith,” Sandy warned, pressing the gun flush against Andy’s temple.

“You’re not going to kill me.” Andy found his voice.

“Cocky, in’t he?” The unnamed man from across the room laughed and looked around the forge as if he was at a store, shopping.

“You’ve come here for business. You’re hardly going to kill the man you need to do the work, are you?”

Andy’s words made the three men look at each other. Sandy looked to the unnamed man for approval, who nodded slightly. It was clear he was the one in charge, especially when he walked past Skunk and slapped him around the back of the head.

“Stop shaking. You’ll drop your weapons.”

Slowly, the gun was lowered from Andy’s head.

“That gun will be back up any second, blacksmith, I warn you,” Sandy said slowly. “Now, you make horseshoes?” Andy gestured down to the shoe he had been working on. “Good, one of our horses needs shoeing.”

“Fine, then bring him in.” Andy wasn’t going to ask about payment. He knew well enough that his life was the only payment he was going to get, and he couldn’t even be guaranteed that.

They could shoot me once I’ve done the work.

His eyes danced over the weapons at each man’s belt as he returned to his place at the anvil. He was taller than the three of them, broader too. The work in the forge had made him strong over the years, but he had no such weapons on him. In a brawl he might have won, but not when facing a gun.

Sandy waited for the unnamed man’s approval again before hurrying out and fetching the horse.

“This is a bad idea. Such a bad idea.” Skunk kept shaking his head from side to side until the unnamed man struck him across the back of the head again.

“Stop whittering,” he said, to little effect.

“You’re not listening, Mo. This is bad.”

“What did I say about names!?” Mo barked, lifting his hand another time. Skunk skulked back into a corner, but on this occasion, he managed to escape being hit.

The horse was quickly brought into the forge. At once, it whinnied, upset at the heat.

“What’s wrong with him?” Sandy asked in outrage, as if the horse could answer for himself.

“Keep him away from the flames. Over there.” Andy gestured to the other side of the forge, waiting for them to move.

The air in the room seemed to shift. When the three men grew settled, they all stared at Andy, clearly waiting for him to begin.

“I’m going to need my hammer back,” Andy pointed out wryly. His words were clearly not appreciated by Mo, who picked the tool up from the ground and hesitated before giving it back.

“Don’t think of using it as a weapon, blacksmith. Little good it will do against a gun.” With this warning, he placed the hammer in Andy’s hand.

At least it’s something.

Andy got to work on finishing the horseshoe, but he was distracted. His eyes kept dancing between the outlaws, seeing Mo and Sandy with their heads bent together, talking at length. If the bloodstains weren’t enough of a warning for Andy, then their whispering and glances his way were.

When they’re done with me, they will kill me.

At the thought, a memory flashed in his eyes. He was in this very forge, hiding in the far corner, with his father stood over him.

“You hide here, and you don’t come out, yes?”

“Yes,” Andy had murmured, his voice quiet as his father had picked up a sheet of cloth taller than his own height.

“Outlaws don’t take prisoners. Remember that.” With these words, his father had thrown the sheet over his head, hiding him.

“How long?” Sandy asked impatiently, jarring Andy back to the moment.

“Soon.” Andy let it be his only reply. He finished the shoe and plunged it into the bath another time, letting it cool off. The sudden steam in the air made the horse snort.

“Don’t spook him,” Sandy warned.

“He’s your horse. You should get him under control.” Andy’s snideness only made Sandy place his hand back on the gun in his belt.

“No. Not yet.” Mo’s words made Andy fall still.

They really are going to kill me.

Rather than making him shake or tremble, the thought made one of Andy’s hands ball into a fist, and the hammer feel heavy in his other palm. He wasn’t going to die today, not at the hands of outlaws. He wasn’t going to let his family’s past repeat itself.

“Once it’s cool, we can fix it to the horse.” Andy motioned to where the shoe was cooling off.

“Good.” Mo nodded and reached into his belt, lifting out another gun. Andy stood taller, preparing for the barrel to be turned in his direction, only it wasn’t. Instead, Mo held the weapon out to him. “Can you straighten out the barrel? It won’t fire anymore.”

“You need a specialist to fix a gun.”

“You saying we have no more use for you?”

“I didn’t say that.” Andy reached for the weapon slowly, hardly in a hurry for these men to be done. He could see at once what had happened to the weapon.

The barrel had been bent at such an awkward angle that it stopped the firing pin from working. He didn’t expose it to heat as it was a soft metal and could have traces of gunpowder inside, but hammered it back in place, then subtly removed the firing pin. He kept glancing at the outlaws, but Mo and Sandy were too busy whispering to notice what he was doing, and Skunk was still muttering to himself in the corner.

Slowly, Andy dropped the firing pin into the pocket of his apron. It wasn’t much, but it was a start to getting out of this situation. Mo took the gun and went to fire it at the ground, to see if it worked. Andy held his breath, hoping he wouldn’t load the weapon to test it.

Clearly, Mo didn’t want to risk the sound. The weapon clicked, appearing just fine. The outlaw nodded in approval and Andy tried to hide his sigh of relief.

“Now, the horse. Bring it forward.” Andy reached for the horseshoe, indicating he was about to attach it.

With one sharp whistle from Sandy, Skunk was ordered forward, taking the reins of the horse. At first, the steed objected to being close to the flames, but he calmed down when Andy reached out and stroked his nose.

“There, now,” Andy said softly, his voice deep. “Hope you’re ready for this, buddy.”

The words had two meanings. Andy could see an opportunity. What the outlaws had forgotten was that they had brought a very dangerous weapon with them, but it wasn’t the guns—it was the horse. What was worse, the weapon didn’t just respond to them. It would respond to anyone who cared to control it.

With that in mind, Andy acted.

I will not die today.

He struck out with the hammer and hit the anvil in the middle of the forge so hard that the horse was spooked and reared back.

Chapter Two

The horse’s whinny was more like a screech, echoing through the short room of the forge. With its hooves madly waving in the air, back on its hind legs, there was no telling where the horse would go, or on which man his legs would come down.

“Get the horse!” Mo demanded of Skunk, gesturing at him. Skunk rounded the animal, standing dangerously in the way of its hooves and pulling on the reins, trying to get the steed under control.

“You, blacksmith!” Sandy turned in Andy’s direction, pulling the gun he had raised earlier. Andy didn’t give him chance to put that barrel anywhere near his temple.

He struck out with the hammer, delivering a blow straight at the man’s hand. He barely clipped Sandy. Had it been a full hit, with a weapon like that and Andy’s strength, he might not have gotten up again.

I’m no killer.

Andy hit Sandy hard enough to send the man reeling. He fell over the anvil, clutching his temple and the blood that poured forth. The sheer amount of shouting that he did showed he was safe from any injury that was too serious. If that had happened, he would have laid on the floor, not uttering a word.

“Argh! Look what he’s done. I’m bleeding.”

“No more.” Mo’s words were dark and deep as he lifted the gun Andy had just fixed, pointing it straight in Andy’s direction. “Skunk, get the horse.

“I can’t—ah!” Skunk pulled on the reins again, only to pull the horse down on himself. Andy had to leap out of the way, as did Mo. They both hurried back as one of the hooves hit Skunk’s shoulder. The shaking spindly man was sent prostrate to the floor, screaming at the weight of the horse upon him.

The horse was so spooked that he ran for the archway in the forge, bolting as fast as he could. He left Skunk wailing on the ground, like a mewling newborn coyote.

“I said, not another move,” Mo warned, lifting his gun in Andy’s direction. “Drop the hammer.”


“I said, drop the hammer!” Mo bellowed the words, but they did little good.

Andy was confident of what he had done. Instead of dropping the hammer, he placed his other hand in his apron pocket and pulled out the firing pin with a smirk, holding it up in the firelight for the outlaw to see. Mo’s dark eyes widened on the pin, then he fired.

The gun just clicked, refusing to fire the bullet he had loaded in it.

Andy lashed out, lifting the hammer he managed to swipe directly at the gun. He knocked it from the outlaw’s hand, sending it into a far wall where it thudded dully and dropped to the earth. By the time Andy had wound up for a second blow, Mo had backed up enough to pull a knife from his belt. It was curved on one edge and serrated on another. The sight of the blade glinting in the firelight made Andy careful.

Blades can kill a man as well as any bullets.

“Let me out of here, blacksmith.” Mo was backing up toward the archway. “You have two outlaws to take to your sheriff. Quite the hero, won’t you be? Now, let me go.”

“I don’t intend to let an outlaw go free.” Andy reached forward again. Instead of aiming for the knife, he struck the hammer against Mo’s hand.

Bones crunched audibly as the blade was dropped. A guttural groan of pain followed before Andy tackled Mo, driving him into the nearest wall. With his forearm pressed across Mo’s throat, he held the man in place and reached for the other weapons in the outlaw’s belt, taking them out quickly.

“Argh…” Mo croaked around the pressure on his throat, trying to speak. “You’ll die for this, blacksmith.”

Andy glanced back, but it was clear the other outlaws could do nothing. Skunk was wailing on the floor, clutching his shoulder, and the blood from Sandy’s temple was now in his eyes. He was much more concerned with thinking his eyes were bleeding, unable to recognize that it had simply dripped down from his temple.

“Not at your hands,” Andy muttered, then pressed a little harder, making sure Mo couldn’t move again. He took the last of the weapons and tossed them to the side.

What he needed now was rope, some way to hold Mo in place, but the closest rope was out of reach on the nearest hook across the wall. Mo had to realize it at the same time, for they both darted their eyes toward it.

“You’ve got to let me go now, blacksmith,” he said, his lips flickering into a small smile.

“Who says I do?” Andy wasn’t going to take chances. He lowered his arm just enough to lift his other hand and punched Mo straight in the jaw.

Mo reeled on his feet, his eyes glazed. For a second, Andy thought he would fall back onto the wall and slide down, but far from it. Mo took one step forward, stumbling, then he fell to the earth, flat as a plank of wood, casting a dust cloud around him as he was knocked out cold.

Breathing heavily, Andy reached for the rope on the wall, moving slowly across the room as he took stock of the forge. It was quite a different place now.

Sure, Charlie, nothing bad ever happens here. Hardly any crime!

Andy was still tying up the outlaws when he heard voices outside of the forge, and people running.

“Where did that ruckus come from?”

“The forge.”

“Charlie, it was your forge!”

“Is Andy in there?”

The cacophony of voices echoed down the street, then faces pressed themselves to the one window and through the archway. Amongst them were men Andy recognized. Saloon workers, miners, and even a bounty hunter, who smiled widely when he saw the state of the forge.

“Andy? Andy!” Charlie’s voice was panicked. “Let me through. For god’s sake, men, let me into my own forge.”

A path was created to let Charlie in.

Andy looked up from where he had tied up the last man, Skunk, to see his uncle’s face. His gray eyes went wide, taking in the sight without blinking.

“The blood…” he murmured, looking at Sandy, who was still moaning that his eyes were bleeding.

“It’s your head, you fool,” Andy said, grabbing the man’s shoulder and making him sit straight, with hands bound by the rope. His words didn’t seem to make the situation any better for Sandy, who now gripped his temple in panic.

Charlie was looking over the fresh blood on Sandy and the dried stains on his clothes.

“It’s not all his blood, Uncle,” Andy explained as he stood to his feet.

“Someone fetch the sheriff! He’ll want to hear of this,” one of the miners ordered, and the bounty hunter was quickly dispatched, running away so fast he skidded in the dust.

“What happened here?” Charlie asked, turning back and forth. He reached out for Andy’s shoulder, grasping onto it.

Andy was unsure what Charlie intended with that touch. Was his uncle holding himself up to stop falling at the shock? Or was he reassuring himself that Andy was alright?

Their relationship had always been something of a strange one. Andy was indebted to Charlie, there was no doubt about that, and he loved him as a nephew had to love an uncle, but they were hardly especially close. What was more, they didn’t typically exchange any physical affection between them. It was what made the grasp to Andy’s shoulder so unusual.

“Outlaws on the run,” Andy explained and nodded down at Mo, who was still out cold. “They needed a horse shoeing and weren’t inclined to pay.”

“If this is what we get for not paying, remind me to always bring money with me,” one of the nearest miners said in jest, causing laughter around him.

Another time, Andy might have been tempted to join in, but not now. Not after he had been so close to the barrel of a gun.

With the excitement leaving his body, Andy’s eyes danced over the weapons scattered around the forge. Any one of them could have found their mark. It was by luck that they had not.

“How did you…?” Charlie trailed off, clearly uncertain how to phrase the question as he gestured at the men.

“They had a horse,” Andy explained. “The steed wasn’t fond of being spooked.”

“Where’s that sheriff?” one of the miners demanded to know. “He needs to hear of this. Our young blacksmith is a hero!”

There was a general murmuring of agreement and a few men stepped forward, clapping Andy on the shoulder, congratulating him. Andy stood woodenly, uncertain what to make of their praise. He could have happily done without it. Now that everything was over, he kept looking at the gun from which he had removed the firing pin.

My father was not as lucky as I was.

“Quite the talent. Maybe you should become a marshal, Andy?” another of the miners said. There was more agreement from the crowd that had gathered, each man pressing his head through the archway in the attempt to have a better look.

Andy didn’t respond. He wasn’t interested in such things. He’d rather have a life where he didn’t have to meet outlaws every day.

“Now, then, what’s all this about three dead outlaws?” a deep voice called from the back of the crowd.

“They’re not dead,” Andy snapped back.

Hurriedly, all the men moved from the archway, allowing room for the bearer of the voice to step forward. It was Sheriff Thatcher. With quick, beady eyes, he looked over the scene, taking off his white hat to reveal his equally white hair beneath. His mustache twitched before his eyes returned to Andy.

“Mighty fine job you done here, boy.”

Andy bristled at being called ‘boy.’ He may have still been young compared to an old man like Thatcher, but it didn’t make him a boy anymore. Charlie reached for Andy’s shoulder again. It was an odd moment, and it took Andy a beat to realize his uncle was pulling him back, almost protectively.

“Let’s see what we got…” Sheriff Thatcher bent down to Skunk first, checking his face. “Tell me what happened, Andy.”

“A Wild Chase for Gold” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Andy is haunted by the murder of his parents ten years ago. Though he’s working under his uncle, Charlie, as a blacksmith, he can’t help wanting more. After a dangerous encounter between Andy and three outlaws, Charlie reveals a secret. His parents were murdered by an outlaw who left a clue behind – a treasure map. Can Andy find a way to link the loot to his parents’ killer, or will the danger re-emerge to threaten his own life?

The thirst for vengeance could drive a man mad…

Jesse has been lying in wait since he escaped prison with one goal in mind. Someday, someone will come to town with the treasure map he lost a long time ago. In pursuit of the loot and a new beginning, Jesse is determined to do anything it takes.

Will he have to kill again to fulfill his heart’s desire? If it comes to it, he just might…

As Andy and Charlie race across Texas to search for the loot, the threat of death lingers like it’s their shadow. With their relationship sometimes fracturing, can they come together to fight whoever is chasing them, or will they lose the fight? An adventure that will keep you turning the pages!

“A Wild Chase for Gold” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.

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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