WesternWind, Book Five Reaper Bevyn Coure had never wanted a companion of his own. He didn't need a woman because they complicated things. For one of his kind, women were trouble and that was trouble he had no intention of taking upon himself. But after the death of a friend, in a low moment in a seedy bar, in a town smack dab in the middle of nowhere, Coure came up against the one woman he could not resist. Lea Walsh had been minding her own business, sweeping the floor of the bar, trying to ignore the handsome man whose deadly eyes were staring at her from the mirror behind the bar, whose strong hands cupping the whiskey glass made her body clench. When he demanded she accompany him to his room, she knew her life would never be the same. Reader Advisory: While this story is a standalone, it is recommended the WesternWind books be read in order for better reader enjoyment and understanding.
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Ellora's Cave Publishing, Incorporated
November 13, 2009
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Excerpt from Her Reaper's Arms by Charlotte Boyett-Compo
Riding into the rundown town with its beaten-down citizens, Bevyn smiled grimly as those civilians scattered, rushing to hide behind locked doors and pulling draperies rather than garner the notice of a Reaper. Dismounting in front of the saloon, he glanced around, not surprised to find himself alone on the dirt street, to hear the eerie silence as breaths were held and lips mumbled in silent prayer that he would not stay long in their town.
Hitching up his gun belt, adjusting the dragon claw handle of his laser whip in its thin leather sheath, he tied Pr�ach�n to the hitching post and stepped up on the boardwalk, his spurs jangling against the weathered gray boards. Putting his hands on the batwing doors leading into the saloon, he was keenly aware that all noise inside the establishment had ceased and knew those inside had either scrambled out the back door or were waiting for him with trembling knees. Out of habit, he swept the interior of the building with his psychic powers and detected no threat to him. He pushed the doors open and went inside the smoke-filled, stale-smelling, darkened interior.
Lea Walsh stood beside a sticky table she'd been cleaning when Luke Desmond had come rushing in to tell them a Reaper was headed their way. She'd glanced at Mable, the saloon owner, who had hastened to tell the working girls to stop what they were doing and stay put. She winced at the noise of chairs scraping across the floor as the patrons of the saloon had run for the back entrance, not wanting to be there when the Reaper came in.
Mable was behind the bar and Lea could see her trembling, her red lips quivering. She had snatched up an unopened whiskey bottle and a shot glass and put them on the bar. The white feathers adorning her silk gown were fluttering at the neckline as the older woman swallowed convulsively.
The other saloon girls--Merrilee, Keesha and Su Lin--stood flanking the roulette wheel, their faces drawn, their bosoms rising and falling rapidly. Their eyes were locked on the saloon entrance.
"He ain't a bad sort if you leave him to what he wants," Mable said quietly. "Most likely he won't ask for one of you but if he does, don't look him in the eye, don't speak to him lest he asks you a question and do whatever he tells you. Do it quickly and you'll be all right. I ain't never heard tell of him hurting a woman but with his kind, you never know what might set him off."
Lea had not been at the White Horse Saloon the last time the Reaper assigned to the Armistenky Territory had come through town. In her twenty-three years, she'd never seen one of the infamous lawmen, and she had hoped she never would. When she heard the clink of his spurs on the boardwalk, she began twisting the bar rag between her hands, her heart pounding fiercely in her chest.
The saloon doors opened and the black-clad warrior came striding in as though he owned the place. His six-shooter was strapped low on his right hip and the handle of the fabled lightning whip lay strapped to the other. His black felt cowboy hat was pulled low over his forehead, the silver concho band on the crown catching the light. He walked with a swagger that was unmistakable as he bellied up to the bar.
Bevyn's gaze flicked to the woman standing off to one side, swept over the three huddled together and then settled on the blowsy tramp behind the long, rough bar. He strode purposefully toward her, ignoring the tremulous smile of greeting on her painted face. He glanced down at the bottle then back into her frightened face, waiting for her to pour the rotgut. She was quick to oblige him and he picked up the shot glass, knocked back the potent liquid and then set the glass down for another round.
"Be about your business, ladies," he said quietly to the other women, not liking that they were behind his back. He could see them in the long sweep of mirror behind the bar but he was never comfortable with anyone lurking at his back.
Merrilee, Keesha and Su Lin made themselves scarce, taking the stairs to their living quarters without a backward glance at him. Mable stayed where she was like a deer caught in a spotlight.
Bevyn propped a foot on the tarnished brass rung that ran along the bottom of the bar and hunched over with his elbows on the nicked top, pushing his once again empty glass toward Mable to refill. "Anything I need to see to while I'm here?" he asked the saloonkeeper.
"I think there might be, milord," Mable said as she poured his third whiskey. "I can send for the sheriff."
He nodded, swept his glance past her to the mirror to watch the girl behind him as she moved to another table with her bucket and rag. "I don't remember her being here last time," he said.
"She wasn't, milord," Mable said. "If you want me to send her upstairs..."
"Leave her be," he said, and continued to watch the girl as she worked. It surprised him that she'd stayed and it intrigued him that she didn't cop furtive looks at him as she went about her job. His curiosity was further piqued that she was dressed for what she was doing and not decked out in whore finery as the other women.
Lea could feel his eyes on her from the mirror. His steady stare was unnerving. She knew if she left the room, Mable would dock her for the day's work and she desperately needed the pitiful wages she got for cooking and cleaning at the White Horse. Thankfully the men in town left her alone and she wasn't expected to turn tricks like Merrilee, Keesha and Su Lin, although she'd had more than her share of men groping her since she'd been working for Mable.
"I'll need a room," she heard the Reaper say.
"Of course, milord," Mable readily agreed. "Lea, get upstairs and make sure our best room is made ready for Lord Bevyn."
He had not taken his eyes from the girl as he spoke. Despite the faded blue calico she was wearing--the cuffs and hem and neckline frayed--she was the prettiest thing he'd seen in a long, long time. Her breasts pressed against the tight bodice but he figured that was because she had outgrown the dress rather than making an attempt to emphasize the lushness of her chest. As she hurried for the stairs, he turned his head and lowered his gaze to her boots. They were badly scuffed, the soles coming away from the uppers, and when she lifted her skirt to climb the stairs, he could see her stockings had holes in them.
He continued to drink steadily--his shot glass never empty for long--until the girl came back down the stairs. He went back to observing her in the mirror as she took up a broom and began sweeping.
"She got a man?" he asked Mable as he rocked the shot glass between his fingers, staring down into the dark liquid.
"No, milord," Mable said.
He drained the glass and set it down. He straightened, his hands on the rolled edge of the bar. "Is she clean?"
Mable's eyes widened. "She's not one of my girls, milord," she said, her gaze snapping nervously to Lea. "She just cooks and..."
"Is she clean?" he repeated, his voice hard.
"Aye, milord, but..."
"I want her."