No Rest for the Wicked: Chapter 14 Teaser

“That’s not the problem really,” Bonnie dithered. “It’s that…Tobias is here, too, isn’t he?”

“Yes. He’s here. He’s always here.” Vi deflated in disgust; domestic drama once again rearing its ugly head. “You should talk to your husband,” she groused. Tobias watched the exchange in silence, sorrow deepening the haze of his form from white to gray.

Bonnie sighed. “Yes, I probably should. It’s just…Oh it’s selfish. I shouldn’t even think such a thing.”

“Well now I’m curious,” she replied, sitting forward. “Though frankly, I doubt anything you have to admit will be much of a scandal after my little confession.”

The widow hesitated, chewing over her words with her next serving of brie. “If it’s wrong to speak ill of the dead, it should also be wrong to be feel cross with him.”

“Should and shouldn’t, right and wrong? That sounds an awful lot like religion.” Vi pulled a face. “I don’t really think in those terms, myself. As you can imagine, my line of work didn’t exactly lend itself to a ‘godly’ state of mind. What I do know is that if it were me, I’d rather stop being angry. Not for my soul, but for my own peace of mind.”

Peter’s mumble broke into the conversation. “You’re one to talk.”

“I came all the way out here to escape my demons,” she reminded him pointedly. “They simply found their way to my doorstep again.”

No Rest for the Wicked: Chapter 13 Teaser

The spirit of her former partner nodded at Vi from over Bonnie’s shoulder. Oblivious to the weight of the name, her friend tried to follow her gaze and asked in bafflement, “Who’s Peter?”

“Hello, stranger,” the ghost said silkily, then gestured at her companions. “Is this a bad time?”

“That’s him!” cried Tobias, his outburst unnecessary in both content and volume. “That’s the guy who told me where to find you!”

A long-suffering sigh escaped the reluctant medium’s lips. “Thank you, Tobias.”

No Rest for the Wicked: Chapter 12 Teaser

“Are we ever going to start?” Hank’s whine cut through the quiet conversation. “It feels like we’ve been standing here forever.”

“I guess that’s what you get when you are dealing with women. Hassles, hassles, hassles,” Jeb replied, his cigarette dangling from his thin lips. His crew snickered in agreement.

“Does that explain why you’re all single, then?” she yelled back. Several of the people ranged around the scene oohed appreciatively.

“If you’re such a catch, where’s Mister Viola I wonder?” Hank cackled. Anyone who hadn’t been paying attention before was now being elbowed by their neighbors.

“You’ve got me there. I make a terrible wife,” Vi admitted. As the crowd murmured she milked the pause, then chuckled. “But it seems I’m getting awful good at being a widow.” The gnarled man turned pale behind his stringy beard and didn’t say any more. She jerked her thumb at him and called over to Jeb. “So, in the immortal words of this fine fellow, are we ever going to start this race?”

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No Rest for the Wicked – Chapter 11 Teaser

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“Where were you when all that fighting was going on, I wonder.” Vi made a show of scrutinizing his torso as she stood back to her full height. “Or do I detect a hint of yellow on that belly?”

There were a few scattered gasps from the people gawping on the sidelines. Jeb glowered, then grabbed the top railing to swing up and stand on the edge of the platform. His nose came within inches her face but she held her ground and smirked. What showmanship—in another life, they probably would have been friends. 

“Looks like he’s not the only one who needs to learn a thing or about how he addresses people.” He hopped back down to the street and addressed the crowd. “How’s this for a lesson? I believe my friends and I should take this beautiful horse of yours to help you with that education.”

“I didn’t do anything to you,” she retorted. “You don’t have anything even in the same neighborhood as proof that I did.”

His Adam’s apple bobbed. “I don’t see as that matters much anymore. The bottom line is that I like that horse and I don’t like your attitude. So, I’m taking him.”

Vi’s fingers found the knot of Smithy’s lead rope and tightened around it. “You can’t do that!”

“I can,” Jeb replied and pulled out a shiny six-shooter. “And I will.”

Several members of the audience took a step back and ducked out from the fringes, their errands suddenly much more important than they’d first thought. A few sympathetic folks met Vi’s eye, but nobody seemed willing to do anything to help her. Not that she expected much in the way of help; prudence had made her work rigorously not to make much of an impression on anyone for some time.

An idea sprang to mind and before she could do anything about it, it sprang to mouth as well. She raised her voice and called over the din. “You want proof it wasn’t me?”

The bandit turned back to face her with a wry smile. “Sure. Try me.”

“You think my horse is too tired to race? Let’s see if you’re right.” She made her way through the nearest break in the railing and over to Jeb’s side, her hands raised up to her shoulders to show she offered no threat. “I say I’ve been here all day and Smithy is fresh as a daisy. So, let’s settle this. If you win, I won’t even put up a fight when you take him, but you’ve got to give me a chance to show you that you’ve made a mistake.”

The outlaw nodded smugly and put his gun back into its holster. “I’m sure that can be arranged. But I’ve got to warn you, Clementine is the fastest horse I’ve ever seen. This probably isn’t really a fair competition even if your horse really were fresh.”

Vi returned a shrug and a lopsided grin. “I guess that’s a risk I’m willing to take.”

 

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No Rest for the Wicked – Chapter 10 Teaser

The temptation to reach out to taste the auras around her built as the feeling changed from a chilly tickle to an acidic burn.

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Despite her serpentine route, the sensation continued to grow, the same way it had when Tobias approached her the night before. The temptation to reach out to taste the auras around her built as the feeling changed from a chilly tickle to an acidic burn. But this time she refused to give in. Experience had shown the more she employed those abilities, the stronger they’d grow, and she’d somehow already gotten herself committed to helping Bonnie and Tobias settle whatever it was they needed settling.

When she reached the half-darkness of the alley behind the saloon, she slipped around the corner and put her back to the wall, taking comfort in its solid bulk against her body. People came and went, and she watched them for a few minutes from the safety of the passage. No one approached her or even paused as they bustled along.

The sting of paranoia receded as she forced deep, steady breaths in and out of her lungs and the more she thought about her panic the sillier she felt. The stranger’s vague description didn’t even necessarily apply to her; it wasn’t as if she were only woman with a black horse in all of Sacramento. In the face of something so trivial as a poor night’s sleep and an empty stomach, she’d almost lost control and relapsed, almost taken that next fatal step. Falling back into the old ways would be so easy, but she already knew that path had no peace to offer.

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No Rest for the Wicked – Chapter 9 Teaser

“Someone was looking for you.”

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“Thank you ever so much!” she called after him, employing her best damsel voice. As soon as he turned the corner, her impatient glower returned and she leaned against the counter. Her stomach rumbled loudly and grew even more anxious. Bonnie would be coming back to the saloon any minute, and Vi wanted to make sure she beat the other woman back. Not that she needed to keep a trip to retrieve the post a secret, but old habits told her not to leave anyone in her apartment unattended for too long, and Peter’s strange behavior only served to strengthen the conviction.

“Never fear!” the clerk called. “Your friend Annabelle won’t have cause for any complaints.” He swept back into the room clutching a plain, tawny envelope in his wizened fingers.

“Really?” She couldn’t keep the incredulity out her voice as she straightened and stared dumbfounded at what he held in his hand. “Annabelle Sinclair” had been the last name on the list, the one she’d included even though she’d only ever used it for one job—the biggest one, and the last.

“Yes ma’am,” he replied and slid two letters through the slot. Vi snatched up the envelopes and checked the undisturbed seals. The smaller envelope bore Peter’s name as the sender, but the larger one came from an address she didn’t recognize. She caught a glimpse of the official-looking emblem in the glob of red wax as she turned it over.

“That little one came in with the load a day before yesterday. I filed it myself,” he continued. “The other one’s been here a while, maybe a few weeks? Got a batch going out tomorrow morning if your friend needs to send an answer. Otherwise, it’ll be a few more days before we collect enough for a run.”

“Day before yesterday, you say?” she asked distractedly. That would put the letter’s arrival around the same time Tobias died, and she still didn’t know the full story of the connection between Peter and the ghost. Time to ask good old Toby a few more questions.

The old man cleared his throat. “Pardon me, ma’am. But you don’t own a big, black horse, do you?”

She gave a murmur in the affirmative but couldn’t tear her eyes from the envelope from Peter in her hand. It felt oddly heavy and her searching fingertips found a strange lump as she ran them along the bottom.

“Someone was looking for you.”

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No Rest for the Wicked – Chapter 8 Teaser

The book in the other room whispered, begging her to find out what message was so important that Peter had employed a messenger only she could see to deliver it.

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Part of Vi longed to rush over to the bookshelf the moment the door clicked shut, but evidently that part wasn’t in charge of her feet. Instead, she left the sitting room and set about making herself presentable enough for the public eye. People could tolerate a woman owning her own saloon as long as she made sure to be pretty about it. It was an old game and she knew it well, but a little rouge and a fancy dress were hardly the worst of her deceptions. Besides, bustles suited her.

The book in the other room whispered, begging her to find out what message was so important that Peter had employed a messenger only she could see to deliver it. Yet she dragged her brush through her hair and pinned it up in a tumble of coils at the back of her head. She straightened the seams of her emerald dress in the long mirror and touched up her eyeliner while the weight of dread and the burn of curiosity tore at her insides. A final spritz of perfume and there was nothing left to do; she couldn’t stall anymore.

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