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READ AN EXCERPT FROM THE NOVEL
Nelly has taken in a neighbor’s twins after their parents were victims of a grudge-murder by outlaws. Now the killers have come for the children. Nelly is terrified but has vowed the outlaws will have to take the children over her dead body. The following is the rest of the scene.
“How you gonna stop us, half-pint?” the leader asked with a wide grin. He wore a black shirt with a red handkerchief tied around his neck. Pushing the brim of his hat back, he eyed her up and down. “What a pretty package to have such a big mouth. Ain’t she got a big mouth?” He turned to grin at his men.
“Big mouth!” one said.
The whiskered man beside the leader had hard eyes and a cruel mouth that twitched at the corner. “Bring ’em out, lady, or we’re gonna go in an’ get ’em. With or without your say.” He leaned on his pommel and spat tobacco juice to one side.
“Over my dead body,” she said and lifted her chin higher. Her blood hammered through her veins. They would kill her. Oh sweet Jesus. Give me courage.
The leader took out his gun and cocked it. “Happy to oblige.” He pointed the gun at her feet. “Let’s see if you dance as good as you sass. You good at dancing, lady?”
She trembled, wanting to turn and run, but her feet wouldn’t obey. Their eyes locked. She stared at him defiantly.
He squinted, lifting his brow.
Nelly stood her ground. It didn’t seem to matter. She couldn’t move her feet anyway. “Big man, aren’t you?” she sneered, her mouth twisting. “It’s easy to pick on a defenseless woman half your size, isn’t it? Oh, and don’t forget the little ones that’s never done a thing to you.”
The man with the black hat roared boisterously. “C’mon men, let’s show her how t’ dance.”
His three cohorts drew their guns. Shots hit the ground—whizzing, zinging, ricocheting around her feet—kicking up dirt and debris.
Nelly froze, terrified.
Don’t show fear, Nelly, don’t show fear!
Dust stung her nostrils, and she felt the beginning of a sneeze develop. Then it happened. She sneezed, several times, and covered her nose with her hand. The shooting stopped.
“Well by god, we didn’t make her dance, but we sure as hell made her sneeze,” the man with the red bandana said. He busted into laughter, and the others joined in.
The leader spurred his horse, turned, and with the others following, he called back over his shoulder, “By god, you’re one damned plucky lady. You earned those kids.”
They galloped off, the thunder of horses hooves resounding across the land.
Gone! They were gone!
She collapsed on the ground, trembling, heard the bolt slide back, then Wray was at her side, helping her up. “I was afraid I’d hit you, Mom. I couldn’t shoot with you in the way.” Tears streamed down his face. “I didn’t know what to do. I’m sorry.”
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