Authors: Gigi Moore
Elk Creek 2
When her much-older abusive husband, Rance, dies, Lucy Peyton believes her nightmare is over and looks forward to a new life of independence. Her hopes for a marriage of love instead of convenience, however, are dashed when she discovers the provisions of her late husband’s will and realizes that Rance is still trying to crush her, even from the grave.
Rance’s nephew, urbane adventurer and thrill seeker, Ki Benjamin, may have just found a reason to settle down in Podunk Elk Creek when Lucy’s petition reaches him in New York.
Prentice Teague has a lot to make up for from his former life, and he gets a chance at redemption when he’s reincarnated as Ethan Crawford. A young cowboy who fell into some dubious company before his untimely death, Ethan now is the target of a corrupt mentor determined to finish the job he started when he shot Ethan in the back.
Fantasy, Historical, Ménage a Trois/Quatre
Elk Creek 2
Siren Publishing, Inc.
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IMPRINT: Ménage Everlasting
E-book ISBN: 978-1-62740-203-3
First E-book Publication: July 2013
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Elk Creek 2
Copyright © 2013
Elk Creek – Oklahoma Territory – 1882
“So, do you think there’s something to what Ginger says?”
Jed Baxter glanced at his deputy from the corner of his eyes as they traversed the outskirts of town on horseback, side by side. “We wouldn’t be out here searching if I didn’t.”
“You know what I mean, Jed. You think Ethan was…dry-gulched?”
“Tarnation, Wiley, I don’t know what to think, but I’m sure hoping the girl is wrong.” Jed immediately berated himself for losing his temper. He had been trying to remain nonchalant since this whole thing began. He had known it wouldn’t serve a purpose to get upset or fret, especially not in front of the girl. Ginger McCall had been a mite upset enough for everyone concerned when she’d showed up earlier at the jailhouse voicing her suspicions. She was in a state and crying about something having happened to Ethan. Jed didn’t want to let on to his deputy, however, that he was as worried as Ginger, especially when so much time had gone by without anyone, and not just Ginger, having heard from or seen Ethan.
Jed didn’t want to have to be the one to face Clint and Kate if Ginger’s suspicions were true, but it was his job. He just hated delivering bad news to people, especially good salt-of-the-earth people like Ethan’s momma and daddy. Despite the recent falling out with them the boy had suffered, Jed knew nothing was going to stop Clint and Kate from grieving their boy if he had in truth been killed.
“What’s that up ahead?” Wiley pointed to a well several yards away where a pair of boots was just barely visible from behind the brick face.
Jed squinted, the dawning day providing precious little light to see by. His deputy must have eagle eyes. He knew he kept the boy around for something. “Don’t rightly know, but we’re going to find out directly.” Jed dismounted his horse, pulling his gun out of its holster as he crouched low to the ground and began walking toward the well and pair of boots.
“Is it him?”
Jed winced at his deputy’s loud whisper. He couldn’t rightly blame the boy. He hadn’t been on the job too long and hadn’t learned to temper his youthful exuberance and impatience. “Don’t know yet,” Jed whispered back. He moved forward slowly and steadily, worried that the sidewinder who’d dropped whoever those boots belonged to was still about and ready to drop him and Wiley. The hair on the back of his neck stood at attention with the likelihood.
He glanced back over his shoulder to see Wiley dismounting his horse to follow him in a low crouch, approaching the well from the opposite side as Jed.
They almost reached it at the same time, but Jed’s head start gave him a few seconds to take in the scene before Wiley arrived and paused over the body with a gasp.
Jed grunted his agreement. From the looks of it, the boy wasn’t too long dead either. Jed reached out to confirm his suspicions, his fingers not meeting much resistance as he poked the body. Stiffness hadn’t set in and the buzzards and crows hadn’t made an appearance yet, a good sign for the condition of the body. “I reckon we’d better get him back to town so’s O’Brien can take care of him.”
Jed glanced up at Wiley’s solemn tone. The boy looked a mite peaked. Ethan had been about Wiley’s age, if Jed recollected correctly. He reckoned the boys had gone to school together, as well as socialized around town, so it was expected for the boy to be looking a little green around the gills as he did.
If Wiley was taking on so, how in the heck was poor Kate going to take it?
* * * *
Kelly O’Brien had had a busy, long couple of days, first building two deluxe caskets for two of Elk Creek’s dignitaries then overseeing the details of their funerals and burials.
Furniture building was Kelly’s business and he had parlayed it into a lucrative sideline, acting as the town’s funeral director.
He’d always been good with his hands and loved woodworking, but he was even better with people, always knowing the right thing to say for any situation, which came in handy when dealing with the grief stricken.
No one, however, could have foreseen Clint and Kate’s boy getting himself shot up a little more than a day after the mayor’s mother-in-law and the banker’s wife both died. That turn of events could put a strain on even the best manager.
Despite all this, he actually looked forward to this part of his job—the quiet preparation and solitude. He didn’t have any demands to meet except to dress the deceased and see that he’d look good for the family in his casket for his proper burial in the morning. He didn’t have to deal with the mourners until tomorrow and he didn’t have to deal with his disappointed wife again until he got home. By then, she would hopefully be asleep.
In contrast, dead bodies were so cooperative. Dead bodies didn’t talk back. Dead bodies didn’t complain or have opinions. Dead bodies weren’t full of unpleasant surprises. He knew exactly what to expect when he handled a dead body and he liked it that way.
Kelly hopped down from the front of the wagon, carrying a suit and shoes for Ethan that he had gotten from the lad’s mother, and proceeded to unlock the double doors with the key Simon had loaned him.
As soon as he entered the icehouse’s cavernous insides, he almost regretted leaving his coat in the wagon. He didn’t know how Simon worked out of here most days, even from an office in the back, but he supposed the owner was used to the cold.
Kelly figured he’d probably be so busy with Ethan in the next half hour or so, he wouldn’t have time to notice the cold either. At least the lad had had the good manners to get himself shot up in early spring when it wasn’t too hot out and his body hadn’t had too much of a chance to rot before Jed and Wiley had gotten to it.
Kelly whistled a dirge he remembered from his childhood in Dublin as he proceeded inside, walking by rows and rows of insulated ice. He finally made it to the back of the building where Ethan had been set up on a worktable in Simon’s large, well-furnished office.
Except for the body, the room had a homey, lived-in feeling with its polished wood furnishings of two chairs, a huge desk, and filing cabinet. There was even a tall wardrobe where Simon kept a few suits on hand for those times when he didn’t go straight home at night.
Doc Malloy had seen to cleaning and neatly wrapping the body while Kelly had been occupied with his other duties earlier, and Kelly thanked him mightily for the assistance.
Now all he had to do was…Kelly paused on the threshold of the office and peered at the table where Ethan’s body lay. He could have sworn he’d seen the sheet move. Maybe it was the wind that had ruffled it. Of course that was it.
Kelly took up his whistling again, placed the suit and shoes and other undergarments on a nearby wooden chair before he made his way over to the table.