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Authors: J. R. Roberts

To Reap and to Sow

BOOK: To Reap and to Sow
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GETTING ACQUAINTED

“You all right, ma'am?” Clint asked.

“Yes,” Lynn replied. “I…I just…”

“Shut your goddamn mouth!” Mark roared. “I'll deal with you when I'm through with this one!”

Clint held his ground and waited for Mark to collect his courage. When Mark finally did make another move, Clint saw it coming as clearly as if he'd watched a bank of storm clouds roll over in the course of a day.

Mark's first swing was rushed and was announced by a grunting breath as well as a shift in his entire body. All Clint needed to do was take a step back to allow that punch to miss him by a foot. Mark's second swing was a bit faster, but Clint was able to see it coming in enough time to spare for him to slap it away. When Mark bared his teeth and let out a frustrated obscenity, it was almost funny.

Clint took hold of Mark's shirt and held him at arm's length. Before Mark could respond, Clint punched him in the face with a straight right jab. As Clint's knuckles cracked against Mark's chin, Clint knew he hadn't hit the other man hard enough to do any more than catch his attention.

“I'll buy the first drink,” Clint said. “No need to keep tussling if there's no call for it.”

“Oh, there's a call for it,” Mark replied before lunging forward and throwing a punch intended to turn Clint's face into strawberry jam.

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THE
GUNSMITH 311

TO REAP AND TO SOW

J. R. ROBERTS

JOVE BOOKS, NEW YORK

THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP
Published by the Penguin Group
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Penguin Books Ltd., Registered Offices: 80 Strand, London WC2R 0RL, England

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

TO REAP AND TO SOW
A Jove Book / published by arrangement with the author

Copyright © 2007 by Robert J. Randisi.

All rights reserved.
No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

For information, address: The Berkley Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 375 Hudson Street, New York, New York 10014.

ISBN: 978-1-1012-1507-4

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ONE

The palm of Mark Rowlett's hand made a sound that filled the room as it slapped across Lynn McKay's face. It wasn't a very big room, so most any sound would echo inside of it, but the slap had a jarring ring to it that silenced all the other shouting that had come before.

Lynn was a tall woman in her early twenties with a slender build and long blond hair. The elegant lines of her face were contorted into a stark expression of surprise as she placed her hand upon her face where the sting of that slap was still very much alive.

“You hit me,” Lynn whispered.

Mark Rowlett was a big fellow who stood only a few inches taller than Lynn. His mouth hung open to reveal uneven rows of dirty teeth. Every breath he took rustled the whiskers that covered the entire lower half of his face. “Yer damn right I hit you,” he snarled. “You had it comin' for what you did.”

“I didn't do anything! That's what I keep trying to tell you!”

Although she'd been standing up to him until now, Lynn flinched when she saw Mark make a move toward her.

Mark grinned at the sight of that. He picked up on her little show of weakness the way a circling vulture picked up on a rabbit that had been lying still for just a bit too long.

“Don't give me that bullshit,” Mark grunted. “I know what a whore like you does when I ain't around to keep an eye on you.”

Someone knocked on the door, but Mark ignored it. He stood in the little hotel room with his back to the door so he could glare at everything else in the room. For the most part, he focused upon Lynn, who turned so she could look into a small round shaving mirror hanging from a hook over a washbasin.

As much as Lynn wanted to cry, she kept herself from doing it. She knew Mark would enjoy that sight a bit too much. Steeling herself as she gingerly touched her cheek, Lynn said, “That's probably the owner telling you to stop making so much noise.”

“Well, he can go to hell!” Mark shouted as he turned toward the door.

Despite the curse, whoever was outside the room knocked again. Mark grinned wider, bowed out his chest a bit and pulled open the door as if he was about to accept an award.

Standing in the hallway was a slender man who was Lynn's height. He wore a rumpled vest and a white shirt with sleeves rolled up to reveal a pair of arms that looked more like twigs hanging from his shoulders. “Is there a problem in there?” the man asked in a grating voice.

“Nah,” Mark replied. “Thanks for askin', though.”

“If you two wouldn't mind keeping it down…I'd surely appreciate it.”

“Yeah? Well I'd appreciate you leaving us alone. I paid for this room and I'll do what I please whilst I'm in it.”

The man in the vest laced his fingers together and rubbed the sweat from his palms back into his skin. “I know,” he mumbled, “but there are other guests and—”

Mark cut the man off by slamming the door in his face. He stayed there and chuckled as if he could see the reaction he'd gotten from the skinny man outside.

“Good, Mark,” Lynn said. “That's real good.”

“Little weasel should've kept his mouth shut. Just like you should've kept your legs closed.”

Lynn rolled her eyes and dabbed a wet cloth on her red cheek. “First of all, we're not married and we never will be. You don't have a claim on me or what I do. Second of all, I didn't do anything.”

“Then why'd you gussy yerself up and buy all that perfume?”

For a moment, Lynn stood there as if waiting for Mark to finish his sentence. When she realized he was done, she shook her head and said, “I don't believe you. I bought some perfume with my own money and—”

“And who d'you wanna smell so good for?” Mark snapped.

“It sure as hell isn't you.”

Reflexively, Mark took another swing at her. This time, however, Lynn was ready for him. She stepped to one side and ducked down, which was more than enough to get out of his line of fire. The momentum of Mark's fist swung through the air carried him to the table that held the washbasin.

He let out a snarling yell as his fist knocked into the basin and sent it clanging to the floor. When he stopped to take a breath, Mark heard more knocking coming from the door. He turned on his heels and pulled the door open to find the man in the vest standing there again.

“Sir, I'll have to insist you keep it down,” the skinny man said. “Otherwise, I'll have to bring the law in here to settle this.”

“You'll what?” Mark growled as he lunged from the room to grab hold of the skinny man by his lapels.

Lynn's eyes widened, but she was pleased to see the skinny man hold his ground. Even though the man was squirming within his vest, he did a fairly good job of keeping his chin up.

“I can't allow this sort of behavior in my hotel,” the skinny man said. “Especially when it's against a woman.”

Mark tightened his grip on the other man's shirt and pulled the fellow closer while leaning in to growl, “You don't get to tell me what to do, especially where this woman's concerned.”

“It…it's not just me, sir. There's been complaints from other guests.”

“Then let 'em complain. All of you can go to hell.” With that, Mark snapped both arms out and sent the skinny man slamming back into the door across the hall. This time, Mark admired his work directly instead of staring at a closed door.

“I hope he does bring the law in here,” Lynn said. “That way, you can go to jail for being such an asshole.”

Although Mark felt Lynn's fist bounce off his shoulder, it wasn't enough to tarnish the smile he wore. Mark continued his slow turn as he shut the door and faced Lynn. The anger etched into her features only made him smile more.

“He won't call in the law,” Mark said. “Just like you won't do a goddamn thing besides get that dress off and lie down.”

Lynn froze until she started to shake her head in bewilderment. “You think I'm going to do anything with you after this?”

“Sure. That perfume you bought smells real good.” When he saw she wasn't moving, Mark added, “You mean you already got your fill from whoever else you opened your legs for?”

Still shaking her head, Lynn told him, “I didn't do anything with anyone else and I sure as hell won't be doing anything with you. Not anymore.”

“What? Because of that little slap? You hit me plenty of times!”

“And you barely felt it. You would have knocked me out if I hadn't ducked out of the way.”

“And now we'll put things straight. You wanna smooth this over, we can do it right now. Come on, I know how you like it.”

“You don't even know how to keep your pecker straight for more than two minutes at a time,” Lynn chuckled.

The smirk on Mark's face remained intact, but an animal hunger showed in his eyes. Without a bit of warning, he lashed out with one hand to knock the washbasin's table against the wall. With his next swing, he threw Lynn onto the bed. “I'll show you just what I mean, bitch.”

Someone knocked on the door.

The instant he heard that, Mark turned and pulled it open. When he didn't see the man in the vest standing outside, he stared with slack-jawed surprise.

“Hey there,” Clint Adams said. “You mind keeping it down?”

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