Vengeance Gone Too Far (Preview)

Out on the prairie, the tall grass waved in the slow morning air. Jackrabbits threaded the hills and a sweet breeze passed through the wildflowers. The night before, a frost had kissed the land, but in the blue sky the sunlight was bright and perfect.

Through the terrain, something big and black was lumbering, shooting up dust as it rolled over the hill.

Two lawmen were slung over the front seat of a tumbleweed wagon. The old rickety wooden box chugged and churned its way along the plain dirt path, the jail bars in the back compartment glinting in the morning sun.

The wagon had traveled for two days and a night, and both men’s eyes were round and dark as saucers. 

The two lawmen hadn’t known one another long, about the same time as the criminal they carried in the back, but the bearded man had instructed the younger one to call him Kip.

The young lawman held the reins between his lazy fingers, eyeing the horse’s tails with drooping eyelids. 

He was new to this line of work, having been a farmer most of his life. This had all changed when the railways had come through. They had bought up his farm and stuck train tracks all the way through it. So, with a hungry wife and a newborn baby on the way, the young man had looked for work where he could find it—and just like that, he was a farmer no more.

He sat on the wagon, feeling dizzy from the bumpy road.

 The other lawman was older. He had sat in silence for some time, stroking his long black beard. 

The younger man kept his face buried in a map, flipping it open and closed with frustrated grunts, turning it around and searching the horizon for landmarks.

“You ain’t going to see nothin’ you aint’ seen before,” groaned Kip.

The younger man grumbled under his breath. “That tears it,” he muttered, “we’re barkin’ at a knot here!”

He looked out at the open land before him. They had passed the crossroads for the third time that morning, and neither of them had the energy left to admit that they were lost.

When they had loaded in the criminal, there had been quite a fuss. The entire town had come out to see the outlaw stuck in the back of the wagon and locked up. 

Simeon Vee was his name, and he was notorious across the county. 

He had been turned over in a gambling house after welching on a bet, but he was already being hunted. The lawmen had waited until the man was blink drunk before throwing him in chains.

They had left the town to cheers; the young lawman had been in wonderful spirits. He felt for a moment, for the first time, that he was full of pride. He couldn’t wait to tell his wife when he got home. He would save the story for his son, how on the first day as a lawman, he had dragged in the infamous outlaw Simeon Vee. He would think about ways to make the story a little more courageous on the way back.

As the night fell, a cold snap had driven over the land, and the two had scanned the dark night for their path home. The icy air had become too unbearable for the two, and they had camped out by a waterhole, leaving the outlaw behind in the tumbleweed wagon.

There, they had spoken long and hard of their bravery, how easy their plan had been to pull off, and what a story it was going to make when they returned home.

After a few whiskies, the two had awoken unexpectedly late the next morning. They had gathered up their possessions and returned to the wagon. 

They didn’t mind if they took a little time getting the outlaw back. The man had been wanted for many years, and the trial had been set for the next morning—but the lawmen were only in it for the money. It wouldn’t matter if they were late, as long as they had good reason.

When they returned, they saw that the outlaw had frozen in the night.

His body was stiff and lifeless. They had never seen a dead man before, and the men took a moment to calm their nerves.

The pair had little sympathy for the man, but they had worried what the sheriff would have to say on the matter. So, they’d panicked. They laid a blanket over the outlaw, continuing down the trail with speed. If they were going to square this with the sheriff, they would have to get back soon.

Between them, an argument had broken out about which direction was the correct way—and now the lawmen had found themselves in trouble, circling the prairie like a lost pack of animals.

“Who taught you to read a map, boy?” growled Kip, his great black beard trembling with rage.

He snatched the map out from the younger man’s hands.

“Here.” Kip pointed a shaky finger to the road ahead, where a young boy was standing by the grass, idly staring up at the party.

The wagon came to a grinding halt, dust spraying into the air.

“Hey there, boy!” called Kip.

A look of complete absence filled the small boy’s face. He wore cheap clothes and his face was dirty, his bright red hair tangled and unclean.

“I got a question for you fellas,” the boy said.

“Ain’t that right?” called the younger lawman. “But we got a question for you, too. Which way is Branson County? Can’t seem to find our way across!”

The boy walked closer, slipping his fingers around the bars. “But I got a real important question for you, alright?” he said.

The lawmen met each other’s eyes and took a deep breath. They were losing patience.

“Boy,” growled Kip, “are you plumb weak north of your ears? He asked you a question! Which way is it?”

Without a reply, the strange boy slipped over to the back of a wagon. The lawmen stood. The youngest searched the seat for his rifle, finding it was nowhere to be seen.

He scratched his head, yawned, and met the dusty path.

The boy had a single finger pointed through the jail bars.

With a weary step, the young lawman came to the side of the carriage, adjusting his hat so the blazing sun didn’t blind him.

“What is your issue, boy?” he groaned.

“I’m just wonderin’ what’s so special about that weapon?” said the boy.

The lawmen met eyes again. Their faces were blank and tired.

“What are you talking about?” asked Kip.

On his tiptoes, the small boy leaned up and pointed up deeper inside the cabin. 

“That rifle,” said the boy. “What’s so special you need to drag it down this ‘ol road on top of a blanket like that?”

The young man blinked. In a heartbeat, the two men dove to the back of the cabin, fighting each other to catch a glimpse through the metal bars.

Just as the boy had said, atop the blanket sat the rifle.

The bearded lawman turned his hand, rapping the other lawman around the back of the head.

“You’re a damn fool!” Kip spat. “You can’t let that weapon slip back there. Should keep it on your person.”

He shook his head, moving to the back of the wagon, his old iron keys clanging as he walked.

“It’s my first job,” the young lawman whispered to himself.

He took a deep breath and looked up at the blazing sun. Up above, birds circled the blue sky, and the lawman hoped he would be home soon.

“A damn fool,” repeated Kip as he turned the key. “Sheriff’s going to hear about this!”

The young lawman tutted under his breath, turning down to the slack-faced child next to him. “Go on, boy,” he said. “If you don’t know the way, then git!

The boy stared into the cabin, his eyes wide and white.

With a creak of old wood, Kip threw open the doors of the wagon and stepped up into the cabin.

The boy kept staring.

The younger lawman felt a rush of heat. He came down onto his knee, staring into the cabin a little closer.

With the swift brush of the blanket, a white hand slipped out, and suddenly, the rifle inside aimed upward.

The lawman’s heart ran cold. The outlaw wasn’t dead.

“Stop!” he cried.

A shot rang from within the cabin, and Kip’s old brown hat flew back onto the street.

Simeon Vee rose, holding his rifle square at the bearded man’s nose, whose stupefied hands searched frantically atop his head.

“Hold it partner,” drawled the outlaw.

With the hiss of dirt, the child was off toward the tall grass, and the younger lawman found his breath. His eyes flicked to the front of the carriage, where the second rifle lay.

He turned toward it; the outlaw moved.

With a swift arm, the younger lawman met the cabin window with a loud crash. He blinked, searching down. 

The outlaw’s face was alive with an icy smile, his blue eyes burning. He had snatched the man by his collar through the window and pulled him close.

“Don’t do anything stupid now, boy…” the outlaw whispered.

He snapped his attention back to Kip and whistled. He gestured to his chains, holding the younger to the window with ease.

“Just do it!” the young lawman cried.

Kip trembled and made his way into the cabin, slipping his key into the lock. It opened with a grinding clunk, and the outlaw was free.

“Why thank you,” he growled.

The young lawman met the dust. Before he could even register it, the outlaw had thrown him to the ground with a simple push.

He found his feet and scrambled through the dirt, tasting it in his mouth. In his ears, his heartbeat banged like a drum. The lawman reached out to the front of the carriage. The horses snorted, and they looked back at him with cold black eyes.

He centered his shaky breath, slipping his hands around the other rifle with speed.

For a moment, he stayed low, trembling on his hands and knees.

He thought of his child. He didn’t want to die without seeing his son’s face. The lawman thought of his wife.

The rifle seemed heavy in his hand.

His heartbeat thumped in his ears.

The young lawman had heard no second shot, and he thought of his partner. He thought of Kip and his big, long beard, and the lawman knew he had to be brave. In a split second, he waited no more, and the young lawman sprang over the top of the carriage, his rifle aimed out toward the road.

Wind blew through the prairie.

The young lawman scanned the horizon. He saw nothing but the wavy grass at all angles, and his partner leaning over on the ground.

He scanned the road again, holding his finger on the trigger. The outlaw was long gone.

Kip pulled his hat up from the dirt, holding it up to the sky to find the gunshot hole.

“We lost him,” he said breathlessly.

The young lawman closed his eyes, cursing his luck.

A wild wind weaved through the grass, and once again, the prairie grew quiet.

The lawman took a breath. It was his first day on the job, he knew at that moment when he got back to town, he would have to explain this all to the sheriff—and just like that, he would be a lawman no more.

Chapter One

At that moment, sitting on her wicker chair in the crowded room, Winona Sweeting realized she was all alone. 

Her father had chosen to conduct the wake at home. He didn’t want it this way because his wife had taken any particular fancy to the large old house, but simply because it would save him some trouble. 

It seemed the entirety of Webb City had come all the way to the edge of town to see her mother lowered into her six-sided coffin. Some among them had even helped to build it. Yet no one wept as hard or as purely as Winona did that gray morning as she watched her mother wrapped up in the shroud, soon to disappear into the earth. 

Her one friend in the world was gone forever.

The sitting room was grand and bursting with finery. On the inlaid parlor sofas and the Chippendale mahogany chairs sat many guests, all silently inspecting the ornate woodwork on the roof and the lavish broadloom carpet. She recognized most of the surrounding faces. As a child, she had been warm to them, but these days among them she no longer felt the neighborhood warmth she had felt in her youth. 

Since she had become a woman, she saw them all for what they were, as though at just twenty-two, she had already unlocked the secrets that lay behind their eyes. Everyone in this town wanted something, because everyone in this town was desperate. The entire country was desperate.

The times were changing. In all corners of the country, all men were searching for work, and it felt as though the well had dried up. This rot had spread throughout the town, and Winona could feel it climbing around Webb City, slipping over the people from the ground upwards.

Winona looked longingly out to the grass outside. 

Out by the stables, she could make out Clara, her favorite maid, taking Dolly out for some water. Dolly was Winona’s horse, a sleek mustang with a beautiful brown coat. She hadn’t had a chance to ride her for a long time, and Winona watched with a smile as Clara dutifully handled her. 

Thinking of riding was the only thing that took her mind away from the world. Her mother had taught her when she was young, and she had always created a sense of magic around it.

For Winona, being on horseback, with the wind rushing past her ears—that was living. She liked to see the land; she liked the feeling of being one with animals, the freedom. Most of all, Winona liked the feeling of being on her own, controlling the direction of her own destiny.

Her daydreams stole her only temporarily. Before long, she returned to the room. She remembered where she was, and Winona felt a deep sadness descend over her again.

The fire crackled, and the guests had all been silent for the longest time. Many of them were workers at her father’s mine; she could still smell the grease on their skin. The railways had been expanding across Missouri. The more they did, the more they took with them. Most of these men would do just about anything for a moment of time with her father, on the off chance it might bring luck when looking for a few dollars the next winter.

 Lurking in the corners, Winona could see some well-dressed, prominent citizens in attendance. They had been appearing in the house more and more, and her father had forced her to meet many of them. She didn’t remember their names; she had tried her very best not to. Several of them were staring at her. They had a habit of doing that.

People had been coming all morning from all corners of the land. Winona knew only one thing for certain: none of these people had her mother on their mind.

Her mother had grown weak for some time; it had begun almost out of nowhere. The sickness had come quickly, and from day to day, her condition had worsened. It wasn’t long before she spent the entirety of her days in bed. 

She had spent the last month bedridden in a small room upstairs. Her brother and father would attend to her in the evenings after their business in the mine was looked after. They did so with the utmost lack of care, a repeating cycle of hollow questions and vague gestures. It was only Winona and the maids who had sat with her night and day, attending to her dear mother who seemed to grow unexplainably fainter with each passing hour. 

Together, she and her mother had spoken deeply, and often of matters of love. Winona had a feeling in her guts that her mother’s poor health was the result of neglect. She was just another woman who had been shrunken by the world, cast aside by her uncaring husband. 

Over her life, her mother had been forced to the corner, shut out and ignored. Winona had seen it as she grew, a silent guest to the deepening pain in her mother’s eyes. It was as though her mother’s body had just faded, that somehow, a lack of love was sapping from her the very essence of life.

One morning, Winona had gone to town on an errand from the doctor. She had walked the streets slowly, finding that she was beginning to lose herself. It had been so long since she had a moment to herself, Winona had drifted for some time.

When she finally returned to the house, the handmaidens were standing out in the garden, their faces red and shot with concern.

She had rushed toward them, hitching her dress and bolting to the house. Winona knew something was terribly wrong.

They told Winona what had happened. 

Her mother had gone against the advice of the doctor and something terrible had happened. Winona had immediately asked for Clara to come.

The old maid had coaxed Winona up the stairs with a grim, pale face. Clara was usually full of words, but for the first time in her life, she was speechless. Winona had followed her up the stairs toward her mother’s room, her blood running cold.

Clara stopped her by the door, telling her what had happened. Her mother had tried to get out of bed. She had awoken in a daze, saying only that she needed to get out of the house and nothing more. The doctor had pleaded with her, but it was too late. 

Her mother had barely left the room when it happened. The heart attack had taken her life in an instant.

A small funeral had been arranged. It had passed by in the blink of an eye.

Her father entered the room, a top hat positioned over his balding head. He looked down at his pocket watch, it wasn’t the first time Winona had noticed his eye on it, as though he was waiting for it all to be over.

The wake was almost coming to a close; afterward, the guests were to be served a small meal. 

The room had been silent for almost an hour, punctuated by the ticking of the grand clock. Some guests whispered to each other. In the hall, children were screaming. 

Out the window, the grass played in the wind. Winona kept her eyes stuck to it, fighting off tears.

***

When the party traveled out to the yard, Leonard didn’t even wait to cross the threshold of the house before mingling with the guests. Winona’s brother had moved close to a rather distinguished gentleman. She had noticed the man’s eyes, covered by his glass spectacles, had been fixed on her throughout the morning.

“It’s high time,” Leonard said, “high time. It takes terrible moments to make priorities crystal clear…”

Winona stepped toward them.

“High time for what, Leonard?” she asked.

She had spoken loudly. She could feel several icy stares on her from the ladies amongst the guests.

Her brother turned. His dark eyes were empty, his face stern. A chill rolled down her spine. Winona could feel her father standing somewhere behind her. 

Leonard leaned forward, loosening his necktie. The distinguished gentleman to whom he had been speaking wandered off into the garden, taking his place at the table of chattering guests. 

When they were children, Leonard and Winona had been close. He had been a shy boy at first, full of imagination and ideas. He talked endlessly of the places he would like to see and what he would do when he got there. 

As he had grown older, her father had kept him closer, pulling him into matters of business. The more time he spent with her father, the less he would speak of the far reaches of the world, talking only of his matters in Webb City, as though his world had shrunk. 

The more time he spent at the mine, attending to business, the less he would smile. Soon, Leonard had melted into her father’s shadow.

Her brother blinked his brown eyes, full of disgust.

“Watch your tongue, Winona,” he said. “Do you know who that man was?”

“Were you not talking about me?” Winona said. “I have the distinct feeling you were. Do I not have the right to be included in conversations pertaining to my own life?”

Several of the gentlemen were staring at her, the ones without families in attendance. She brushed back a lock of auburn hair from her face.

Leonard hadn’t moved an inch.

“It’s high time you were married, sister,” Leonard said. “You’re not doing us any good here. An affluent connection could help the company.” 

Winona felt a flush of anger. “Spare me, Leonard,” she spat.

Her brother put a hand on her shoulder. “Sister, let’s not quarrel,” he said. “Now that Ma is gone—”

The swooping of Winona’s hand silenced Leonard’s dreary voice. She clicked her dress-boots down the stairs and walked toward the garden, her elegant black dress bobbing behind her.

“Fool!” Winona tutted. “Money is the only thing you think about, and at a time like this…”

She felt her voice bounce through the garden and whirled around to see her brother turn a shade of pink. Her father stood behind him, a stern, concentrated expression beneath his top hat.

“It could be necessary, Winona!” Leonard said.

Winona dropped her hands from the frills of her dress, letting her skirts fall into the mud.

“I won’t spend my entire life with a man I don’t love,” she said. “I’ve seen the kind of misery a life like that leads to.”

Her eyes met her father’s.

“I saw what happened to our mother,” she added, defiance in her words.

Leonard pursed his narrow lips, stepping toward her. “Oh, sister,” he sneered. He approached Winona, patting his stiff hand on her shoulder.

“You might have to,” he said.

He snapped his step toward the table. Winona stood perfectly still, watching as the guests took place at the table under the muted sky. They had all turned their heads away from the quarreling.

She took a jagged breath, wishing her mother was still standing beside her.

This subject of her marriage had been on her brother’s lips for some time, but she knew it was her father’s words coming out Leonard’s mouth. 

Her father was a self-made man, and like any self-made man, he thought only of money. Winona was just another commodity to him, and many suitors had expressed interest since she had grown into such a strikingly beautiful young woman. 

As her mother grew weaker and weaker, unattended in her bed on the top floor, the gentlemen callers had come night after night. All of them had insisted on introducing themselves, entering the room upstairs without pause to even look at her frail mother. Winona would hardly respond to their introductions if she could help it. Her father might think of her as a commodity, but her heart was not for sale.

Up in the sky, a flock of birds circled the old church tower.

Winona felt her anger fizzle out. She approached the table in silence, taking her seat amongst the others.

She felt a presence behind her.

“Winona,” came her father’s stern voice, “I need to speak with you, now.


“Vengeance Gone Too Far” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Due to the color of his skin, Gabe never had a chance at a normal life. Becoming a hired gun adds even more danger to his life, but what truly breaks him is the brutal death of his parents. Even though Gabe is determined to seek revenge, his moral code keeps him from slipping into the path of an evil person. But when he discovers one of the outlaws who killed his parents is still on the loose, he must find a way to stop him…

When his back is against the wall, how far will he go to get justice while staying true to his heart?

Winona Sweeting is in the prime of her life—yet she feels that her life is about to come to an end. When her father tries to marry her off, she knows she must run but she has no idea what lies in store for her. Witnessing a brutal murder will bind her to a mysterious gunslinger and she will suddenly find herself being hunted by a terrible outlaw. Winona must trust Gabe, a man who promises to protect her…

How far will she go to trust a stranger when faced with the reality of losing everything?

Gabe and Winona will find themselves tied together by fate. When Winona’s fiery independence and Gabe’s stubborn drive combine, the two will have no choice but to follow the river and discover where the water stops flowing. Will tragedy consume them, or will a miracle save them?

Tumble into the rolling hills of Missouri in a story that combines both fiery romance and fast-paced adventure in a time where fate was not a guarantee, and danger was always just around the corner.

“Vengeance Gone Too Far” is a historical adventure novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cliffhangers, only pure unadulterated action.

Get your copy from Amazon!

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