“Gonna try the three-legged race later, Miz Callie?”
Callie West turned with a smile toward the voice. She continued carrying her double-crust peach pie over to the red-and-white checked, oil-cloth covered picnic tables lined up under the Texas umbrella trees bordering the meadow behind the livery.
“No, Sheriff, I don’t think I will. I have enough trouble on my own two legs without adding somebody else’s wobbly third!”
Her white-toothed smile brought an answering grin from Sheriff Benson as he ambled over to the table to take a look at the pie Callie set down.
Pursing his lips to emit a low whistle, the sheriff glanced up into Callie’s mint green eyes, his own warm brown ones twinkling as he commented, “That’s a mighty fine looking pie you have there, Miz Callie. Reckon I may have to bid on it. If I bid high enough, will you throw in a kiss to the winner?”
Callie looked down instantly, not quite sure, as always, whether to take the sheriff serious or not. Sheriff Benson was handsome and single, and had never made it a secret he wanted to court her; now that Callie had been a widow for over a year, the sheriff’s advances had become a bit more pronounced. Callie just wasn’t sure if she was ready for another man in her life yet.
Raising her eyes back to meet his, Callie smiled and opened her mouth to reply when a gravelly voice from the side interrupted, “If you do, I might just bid on that pie myself. Beggin’ your pardon, Ma’am.”
Both Sheriff Benson and Callie turned from the table to face the owner of the voice.
“Hello, Sonny. I heard you were back in town. Staying at Marge’s boarding house, aren’t you?”
Sheriff Benson’s voice dropped twenty degrees as soon as he identified the owner of the voice.
Callie’s eyes shifted between the men, recognizing Sonny McQuade as the former gunslinger the entire town had tried to force out of Round Rock, Texas. Fortunately for him, unfortunately for the town, old Marge needed money more than the town’s goodwill, so Sonny McQuade had been living there for the past week, since he’d returned from prison, or parts unknown; no one knew which.
This was Callie’s first real look at the gunslinger; at any gunslinger, for that matter. Honestly, he didn’t look as vicious as all the townspeople made him out to appear, what with his shaggy, blond-streaked, brown hair hanging to his collar, and his black Stetson riding low over his face.
Standing with hip cocked, slim legs covered in Levi Strauss’ new jeans, dusty boots, and his gun belt slung around lean hips and tied down around his thigh, Sonny McQuade resembled just about every other man here at the Round Rock Fourth of July town picnic.
Until you met his eyes.
Callie found herself caught in that penetrating blue gaze, piercing and hypnotizing in its intensity. Refusing to be one of those so mesmerized, Callie shook her head, dragging her eyes away and over to the Sheriff, realizing McQuade’s spellbinding stare was how he won gunfights. A person caught in his scrutiny lost the ability to think, to react, much like a rabbit and a rattlesnake, with similar results.
Callie was only able to break their connection because after her bastard of a husband, McQuade was a kitten. Or so she thought.
Deciding not to react like the majority of the faint-hearted women in Round Rock might, Callie tossed her unbound blonde hair and replied off-handedly, “May the best person win, then. As long as you have the coin to back the bid, I’ll decide if a kiss will be thrown in or not. Good day, gentlemen.”
Callie turned from the table, sashaying away in her plaid seersucker gown, trying to erase the gunslinger’s suddenly narrowed gaze as he watched in disbelief how Callie West dismissed his presence right along with the sheriff’s.
Both men met each other’s eyes, lips nearly curling, until Sheriff Benson straightened in preparation to leaving, saying, “Watch your p’s and q’s, McQuade. This is my town’s picnic, and I won’t have it turned into a blood bath.”
As the lawman departed without giving Sonny time to formulate a reply, the gunslinger shrugged absently, dismissing the sheriff’s threat for what it was: empty.
And then McQuade turned his silvery, speculative eyes to the retreating figure of the widow West, and then back to the sheriff. The gunslinger smiled a shrewd smile.
|Daniel Craig||as Sonny McQuade|
|Reese Witherspoon||as Callie West|
|Ben Affleck||as Sheriff Micah Benson|
|Jason Dolley||as Noah Lawson|