“TRACKING AMY” BY SAMANTHA ST. CLAIRE
“RETRIBUTION ROAD” BY CHRISTI CORBETT
Montana Territory, 1867
Graham Patterson, an accomplished veterinarian, is leaving Seattle and heading east to start a new life for himself. Opportunities abound for men who understand how to make the land work for them, rather than work the land. But after he overhears two scoundrels plotting to take advantage of a lonely spinster, his well-laid plans go awry.
Willow Bennet lives just outside the town of Whitcomb Springs with only her beloved dog to keep her company. It’s a predictable life, until late one night when she foils an attack and her dog is wounded as revenge.
Can she trust the mysterious stranger who insists he can help?
Friday, November 1, 1867
GRAHAM HID IN the shadows, his hand resting on his pistol while he considered the rising flames. Normally he’d take a wide path around a stranger’s camp, but the glowing coals promised warmth and the pot the two men had hanging over the fire smelled of beans. Eating nothing for three days made a man consider a lot of things.
Even worse, he was lost.
In Seattle, taking a wrong turn had meant simply backtracking or trying another street. Deep within the wooded and ankle-busting terrain of Montana Territory, it meant he could die.
His stomach growled again, and he took another swig of icy water from his canteen to quiet the rumbling. Graham’s numb fingers fumbled with the metal cap and a clang broke the silence.
The younger man leapt to his feet. “Pa, did you hear something?”
The older man rose and swung a Henry rifle into firing position. “Who’s out there?” he demanded, his voice raspy from years of hard liquor and harder living.
Graham sighed. Unless he wanted to start a fight with strangers, he’d best answer. “No need to get riled up. I’m just passing through.”
“You alone?” shouted the younger man, planting his legs wide while shucking off his coat.
“Yes,” Graham replied, his fingers lowering to test the knot securing his holster to his leg.
They exchanged whispers, then the older man called out, “You cold?”
“Yes.” Graham grimaced. Late fall out here was a lot colder than his brother’s letters had led him to believe. The frigid winds seemed to blow right through his clothes—a blanket-lined coat, flannel shirt, wool pants, long socks, and high boots—and settle deep in his bones. He’d been cold for the past month.
“Better come in then. Keep your hands where we can see them.”
Christi Corbett had an early love for the written word. As a child she could often be seen leaving the library with a stack of books so tall she used her chin to balance them in her arms.
Over the years she’s put her love of writing to good use; in addition to writing over three hundred television commercials, she earned the position as head writer for a weekly television show. She left her television career when she and her husband found out they were expecting twins, but she couldn’t leave writing altogether.
She’s now an award-winning author, writing stories of brave men and spirited women settling the American west.
Montana Territory, 1865
Cooper McCord enjoyed a solitary life. When he first showed Daniel and Evelyn Whitcomb the beautiful mountain valley in Montana, he didn’t expect to stay. After the War Between the States began, Cooper remained close and helped build the town, not realizing he was building a home for himself. When an unexpected arrival to Whitcomb Springs makes him question his reclusive life, will Cooper retreat to his wilderness or allow himself to take a chance and risk happiness?
Whitcomb Springs, Montana Territory
May 30, 1865
SHE NEVER imagined dying at the hands—or paws—of a bear. Either she’d end up dead like the poor driver she hired in Bozeman or find a way to escape unscathed. Considering the layers of skirts and petticoats she wore, Abigail wasn’t going to bet on her ability to outrun the great animal.
She remained still in the low branches of a tree. Unable to climb higher unless she removed her skirts, Abigail controlled her breathing so as not to alert the animal. The past few years of her life had been in pursuit of an education. Her work in the war relief had kept her busy for four long years, but she found time in the evening hours to consume knowledge. The more she learned, the more she wanted to know.
Abigail read most of the leather-bound volumes of work in her family’s library, from philosophy to geography to history, and everything in between. Unfortunately, not a single text had explained what to do when confronted by five hundred pounds of bear. Magnificent though the animal was, Abigail didn’t want to become dinner.
Poor Mr. Tuttle had fallen from the wagon and broken his neck when the horses spooked and ran off. She’d been unable to drag him away, let alone pull him up a tree. Even now, she watched as the massive brown bear sniffed around the body. She dispelled a deep breath when she realized it wasn’t going to eat Mr. Tuttle. It looked around instead, smelling the air.
Abigail swore it stared directly at her. Too late, she recalled that bears climb trees. Her first thought had been to escape, and unable to outrun the creature, she went up. She calculated if the bear stood on its back legs, it could reach the low-hanging branches where she hid and knock her from the tree with one swipe. She grabbed the nearest branch above her head and pulled herself up. Abigail ignored the loud rip in her skirt and the sudden gush of cool air that hit her legs and climbed higher. Two more branches put her out of swiping distance.
The grizzly sauntered toward her and stood, staring and studying. She imagined it thinking of all the ways it could rip her apart and savor her like a delicious meal. The stays on her corset would be no match for those great claws, and the teeth . . . Abigail shuddered and reminded herself that most living creatures weren’t vicious by nature.
Abigail knew the animal was aware of her location. It landed back on all fours and approached the base of the tree. The heavy breathing and snorting filled the silence.
MK McClintock is an award-winning author devoted to giving her readers books laced with adventure, romance, and a touch of mystery. Her novels and short stories take you from the rugged mountains of Montana to the Victorian British Isles, all with good helpings of daring exploits and endearing love stories. She enjoys a peaceful life in the Rocky Mountains where she is writing her next book.
If you’d like to know when MK’s next book will be out, please visit her website where you can sign up to receive new release updates.
“TRACKING AMY” BY SAMANTHA ST. CLAIRE
Riley Buchanan knew he’d been in the mining camps too long when he mistook the pretty Amy Sutton for a boy. Why she kept her gender disguised puzzled Riley. Curiosity put him on her trail. Destiny placed him in her life. Would Riley become the missing piece to the puzzle that was Amy?
WITH A SATISFYING “clunk,” the can flew up from the fence rail. Amy lowered the carbine and turned to smile at her daughter. “I think we may yet have some venison on the table.”
Rose grinned at her mother and asked, “Do you want me to set them up again?”
“No, I think that’s enough practice. Tomorrow, I’ll head back and see if I can find the deer I wounded. I’ll try find him before some cat or bear tracks him down.”
“Can I come this time?”
Amy looked down into her daughter’s imploring eyes. “Rose, you know the livestock need someone to care for them.”
Rose’s face fell into a sullen pout. “I’m a good shot, too.”
With a finger, Amy lifted her daughter’s chin and waited for Rose to meet her gaze. “I know you are, even better than me. But until we can hire another hand to help us, we are all we have—you and me. Besides, when you are older, I’ll send you out hunting. Agreed?”
Her countenance lifting, Rose nodded. “Agreed.”
Samantha St. Claire was born in 2016, the alter-ego and pen name of an author of historical fiction born a few decades earlier. She may have found her niche in western historical fiction, served up sweet. Never faint of heart, her signature protagonists face the hazards of the frontier with courage, wit, and a healthy pinch of humor. She divides her time between her homes in Idaho and the Olympic Peninsula.
Follow her to read more about the research that has helped develop the characters, towns, and stories of the Sawtooth Range Series.