“Oh son of a turkey…” The shot went wide over her head but pinned down the way she was it was still too close for comfort. Beca tempted fate and peeked around the barrel, pulling back only just in time as another bullet came her way. “Sorry I called your mother a sow!” Another shot and she winced when it went right through the barrel just over her left shoulder. “Okay I’m NOT sorry I called her a sow you stupid cow fucking son of a bitch!” Beca shot off a few of her own rounds from around the
There were another couple of shots and then it got quiet. Beca looked for a way out of her current situation but she was well and truly stuck. There was no cover she could get to without taking a huge risk of being shot. It was her own fault really. She had gotten drunk before the sun had even risen, saddled her horse and rode to the furthest corner of the territory that she could get to before…
But she hadn’t gotten far. Not nearly far enough away before her horse went lame. She’d walked the rest of the way to a town she didn’t even know the name of and decided she was too thirsty to leave. And that’s where all her troubles started. Well. Not all. She wasn’t too drunk to realize she was running as fast as she could away from laughing blue eyes and a smile that had always made her weak. Beca tipped up the bottle she had forgotten she was holding in her free hand.
The whiskey slid down her throat in hot wash that normally made her cough and sputter but now just felt like a welcome pain. Beca rested the bottle on the ground and spun the cylinder on her revolver. There was one bullet left, and by her standards only one chance to try and get out of this. Beca raised the bottle again but a bullet shattered it in her hand. She looked at it mournfully then tossed the broken neck aside. “Well damn.”
“C’mon out you coward!”
“Hey! I am not a coward. Jesse…now he’s a coward. Can you believe that horse’s ass left me to die?? After all we had been through?”
There was silence for a moment and then a chuckle. “Shame. You seem like a real peach!” More masculine laughter rang out and Beca rolled her eyes. Ha fucking ha. “You’re outgunned three to one, so you might as well give it up.”
Another shot but she suspected it was only meant to punctuate the statement that she had run out of time. She bumped her head back against the wooden side of the barrel and took a deep breath. Beca closed her eyes against the bitter image of Cutter Beaufort on bended knee in front of Chloe, asking her so earnestly to be his wife. She was always running out of time. The days after he’d proposed had been a blur and she had thought she’d have more time….
But there had never been enough time for her to work through it. To learn to trust the way she had trusted Jesse with her heart. And now there wasn’t enough time for her to survive let alone speak all her close held secrets to the only person that ever really mattered. Beca gave the cylinder another spin to let the single round fall where it may. It didn’t really matter, her heart wasn’t in the fight, not anymore.
Beca rose up from behind her cover, screaming as she pulled the trigger. Her aim was oddly perfect and the first target in her sights went down hard. It was just muscle memory that made her swing her arm to the right to sight down her next target and pull the trigger. Her eyes widened in surprise when a man she wasn’t even aiming at fell to the ground dead. She looked at the gun in her hand and shook it as if that would somehow explain what had just happened. She had been momentarily distracted and the last man took aim and fired, the shot ricocheted off the ground at her feet and she danced back in fear. “Jesus Christ!”
A gunshot echoed out and the last man fell without her ever pulling the trigger. She blinked blearily at the gun in her hand then let it drop to the ground. It went off with a loud bang and she jumped. “If I’ve told you once, I’ve told you a thousand times. Don’t take the Lord’s name in vain.” Beca whirled to face the low drawling voice and sighed.
It was a second before Aubrey’s heavy hand slapped the crap out of her. Beca stumbled back and fell to the ground under the stinging blow. She raised a shaking hand to her cheek as Aubrey stared down at her with cold green eyed fury. “That was for making me leave my best friend on her wedding day. Now get up.”
“Are you going to hit me again?”
Beca scrambled up but took a cautious step back to keep out Aubrey’s reach. “Ow.” Aubrey gave her a sharp look and she realized that she was toeing a very thin line. Beca worked her jaw, the sting in face made her wince but she didn’t dare complain again. “What are you doing here, Bree?”
“That is the very question I am asking myself right now.” Aubrey glanced around at the people starting to peer out of windows and doorways now that the commotion was largely over sighed. “We need to go. Before this becomes a bigger problem than you running your mouth faster than you can pull a gun. Again.”
She hated it when Aubrey was right but Beca nodded and followed along because she didn’t think she had any other choice. The blonde whistled shrilly for Rowdy and mounted him easily when he trotted up to them. The blonde looked down at her expectantly and Beca kicked a small stone with her foot, unable to meet the hard stare.
“I can’t Bree… I can’t see her marry someone else.”
“Then tell her how you feel Beca. Because she’s set to marry Cutter because he’s not afraid to tell her what she means to him.” Beca’s shoulders hunched at that, feeling Bree’s words like a sucker punch to the gut. It was hard to hear the truth of things and she balked at the idea of what Aubrey was suggesting she do.
“Yeah well by the time I get there it’ll be too late. And what if she lea…oh Jesus! Put that away will ya!”
Beca had looked up just as Aubrey had drawn her gun and pulled back the hammer. She had no doubt that the blonde would pull the trigger and shoot her where she stood. “Gimme a reason, Bec. I swear by the Almighty I will put you out of all our misery right here and right now.” Beca took a deep breath and Aubrey’s eye twitched as if she were itching to do exactly what she said. “I get that you’re afraid. You been hurt bad, hurt in a way that ain’t easy to fix. But if you think for one second that Chloe would betray you…”
“I don’t.” And she didn’t. She knew it in her soul that Chloe would rather take a bullet than hurt her in any way. “What if….what if it’s too late?”
“Ride fast.” Aubrey gave her gun a twirl and slid it back into her holster. She kicked her heels into Rowdy’s flank, launching into a strong gallop. Beca raised her hands and let them drop to her sides.
“My horse is lame!”
“You a thief or not?”
Oh. Right. Beca gave a frustrated huff and ran to the nearest saddled horse tied to a hitch post. Someone came out from the general store but she didn’t dare wait for them to demand their horse back. Beca tightened her legs around the horse’s middle after a swift kick to get the mare going. She leaned forward behind the horse’s head as she struggled to catch up to her friend.
They rode hard for hours, long enough for the sun to make its slow decline toward the horizon and she knew that they were cutting it mighty close. The church loomed up before them, the doors already closed. Beca skidded to a stop and slid off the back of her mount, pushing its shoulder to nudge it out of the way. She almost hesitated but the too casual way Aubrey stroked the handle of her gun led her to believe that it was in her best interest to stay the course.
“Now or never Beca. Choose.”
Beca gave a nod and ran up the three steps to the door. The whitewashed wood was rough under her hands when she pushed in the doors and stumbled into the small church. “Wait!” Everyone turned in their seats to watch her as she panted more from the stress of the situation than exertion.
Cutter sighed heavily from the pulpit and held on to Chloe’s hands tighter. He wasn’t the bad sort and for any other person she’d be thrilled that they’d managed to find a good man that was handsome and rich. But this was Chloe and no one would ever be quite good enough, not even Beca herself.
“Beca Mitchell…of course. I almost thought you’d bow out gracefully.” Cutter’s voice was deep and clear and the disappointment is heavy in his words.
“Well thank God for tiny miracles.” Beca looked over her shoulder at the tall figure leaning against the back wall of the church. Stacie tipped her head up just enough to grace Beca with a smirk as if she had always known Beca would make an appearance. “What happened to your face?”
Beca brought her hand up to touch her tender cheek and realized she must have a hell of a mark. “The hand of God.”
Stacie chuckled and glanced over at Aubrey who had slipped into the church behind Beca. “And what a skilled hand it is.” The look in her eyes was so much more than the salacious words coming out of her mouth. It filled Beca’s heart with warmth and a longing to feel that kind of love without wondering when it was going to be stolen from her.
“You’re sweatin’ like a hoor.”
Stacie broke her gaze from Aubrey and chuckled with a shrug. “Well I am in a church, might catch fire any second now so you best hurry and state your piece.”
Beca nodded and started up the aisle that seemed to be getting longer with each step. Chloe had yet to look at her and she knew that there was a chance that it was already too late. She was to the foot of the pulpit before Chloe raised her head and met her gaze. She looked beautiful and for just a second Beca had forgotten how to breathe. “Chlo…”
“Cutter.” They both turned to him and he gave a soft unhappy chuckle. “Don’t suppose you’re here to give your blessing.”
“No…no I’m not. I’m sorry Cutter, I am. But I love her. I have always loved her.” There was a quiet sniff from Chloe and Beca swallowed hard. “Even if it’s too late…I have to be honest. I’m not as good with my words as I am with my knives but, I love you Chloe. I think maybe I always have. Even when I was with him…it was you. It’s was always you in my heart. I can’t see nothin’ but you and I know Cutter can give you things I can’t. Money, safety…a family.”
As much as she hated the idea of Cutter and Chloe getting married, she hated what she was doing to him just as much. He didn’t deserve it and the more she spoke the more she realized what she was asking of Chloe.
“The only thing I got is all my love. But my whole heart is yours if you want it. An’ I’m sorry I never said it before, sorry I waited until you were at the altar before I found my words. And I’m sorry to you Cutter because it’s not fair and…if I were in your shoes I’d have shot me the second I ran through the door.”
“The thought may have crossed my mind.” The rows of town folk behind her chuckled in nervous amusement. “Truth of it is, I don’t rightly blame you. Much. Chloe, darlin’, you’re awful quiet. You can put your guns down and live the life of a well-cared for wife. Or…”
It seemed the whole church was holding their breath waiting. Beca risked a glance at Chloe. “Or a life of fighting, but I swear it’ll never be boring.”
A tear tracked down Chloe’s cheek and she wiped at it absently. “I’m sorry Cutter. You’re everything a girl dreams of but…”
“She’s the only one I ever dream about.”
Cutter let out a deeply disappointed sign and kissed her cheek before placing her hand in Beca’s. He held their hands a second and levelled a meaningful look at Beca. “Don’t you break her heart Mitchell, or I will hunt you down and put you in the ground.”
“No sir, I won’t.”
He gave a short nod and gestured to the door. “Well g’wan then. Git. Before I change my mind.”
Beca wasn’t going to give him the chance for that, her grip on Chloe’s hand tightening as she tugged them toward the doors at a good sprint. For once she had been right on time. “Beca…what happened to your face?” Beca laughed as they burst out the doors to her new horse waiting so patiently.
“Let’s just say Aubrey gave me a heavy helping hand.” Chloe gave a musical laugh and Beca’s heart swelled. They had plenty of time now that they were together.