In the flickering candlelight of her cramped room, Grace studied the wanted posters she had draped over the washstand and the chair and tacked against the wall. Not that she needed to. Every detail of the faces of her family's killers had been burned into her mind. She had memorized each feature, each scar, the hard look in each eye, and the twist of each sneer. Yet even then she couldn't help staring at the shadows flitting back and forth across the images of the Guiltless Gang, making them appear even more sinister. Desire for revenge smoldered like a constant flame inside her, burning around her heart.
In the weeks since Grace had left Tombstone and arrived in Bisbee, not a whisper of their whereabouts had circulated. Not one clue had made its way into the gossip floating around town, and she had no idea where the gang was holed up. Last she'd heard they'd fled like the cowards they were. It was as if they'd completely disappeared. One thing was certain — if she got even an inkling of where to find any one of them, she wouldn't hesitate to hunt them down.
Stretching out on her narrow bed in the tiny attic room, Grace swallowed bitterly at her thoughts. Below her, the cacophony in the saloon swelled, the boasts and laughter growing more raucous, chasing off sleep and underscoring her loneliness. The ache of loss and regret spiraled up, reminding her how isolated she was, and how unprotected.
Her hand snaked out and curved around her father's revolver, tucked under her pillow, and more memories fed painfully into her mind. Pa had taught her and Daniel to shoot, to protect themselves from the dangers of the desert — rattlesnakes, slinking coyotes, rabid animals. He'd never expected to be ambushed by humans.
Nightmares of the past closed around her. She was back in the root cellar, peering through the tiny slit, helpless while the Guiltless Gang slaughtered her family one by one. Ma crumpled on the ground, tiny Abby beside her, and her brother Daniel too. Pa's eyes had warned her to be still, to save baby Zeke, before a murderous bullet took him too. Then as her family's cabin burned, Grace had fought her way through smoke that clogged her lungs, constricted her breathing, desperate with hope. But it was no use. Zeke's small body lay in her arms, lifeless . . .
With the palms of her hands, Grace pressed away the tears that began to roll down the sides of her face, and the horror of the memory dimmed — though it would never fully disappear. The candle burning low on the table beside her came into focus, and she rolled over and snuffed the flame, then lay rigid in the darkness as the bangs and shouts downstairs intensified. The scuffling and shouting crescendoed into crashes, curses, and threats, and soon she heard the saloon doors bang open, followed by screams and gunshots.
Her hand tightened on the Colt's grip. Yes, Pa had trained her to kill wild animals, but did outlaws fit that description? Would Pa ever have believed his daughter capable of killing a man?
She squeezed her eyes shut, and there was Guiltless member Doc Slaughter, pinning a helpless girl against the hay bales in a dark alley. Grace had acted on instinct to save that girl — and, if she was honest, to avenge the murder of her brother Daniel. But could she do it again if she faced another of those criminals? In a way, she was more worried she might never get the chance.
Although she'd marched through the crowd at the Bird Cage Theater and declared herself a bounty hunter, she was now alone and near penniless and beginning to doubt her choice. The reward money she'd received for killing Slaughter had seemed a fortune, but after a few months without much work, the money in her pouch had dwindled to almost nothing. And the townspeople made it clear they weren't likely to hire a sixteen-year-old female to track down criminals. If she didn't get work tomorrow, she'd find herself on the street.
She considered returning to the Ndeh tribe who had shown her such kindness, but that would mean facing Joe. Grace knew she wouldn't be able to look him in the eye; she wouldn't be able to explain why she'd left without him after the kiss they'd shared. Too afraid to love someone after everything that had happened to her, and fearful love would keep her from her mission, she'd bolted. Still, in spite of herself, most nights she relived each moment they'd shared. But tonight she couldn't — wouldn't — think of Joe. Memories of him only brought more pain.
Heavy boots stomped up the stairs.
Her fist clutched at the covers. She'd paid extra for this tiny attic room with its smelly mattress and its bugs and mice that crawled over her in the dark, because the room's location offered a bit more protection. Few people climbed the stairs — until now. She listened hard. She knew her rent was overdue, but those boots clunking up the stairs weren't her landlady's. Had Miz Bessie sent someone to throw her out?
Grace's muscles stiffened as the doorknob rattled, but though it twisted and turned, the lock didn't give way. A loud, angry exhale was followed by fists banging the wood so hard the center panel bowed inward, and she knew the flimsy door couldn't withstand more pounding. Miz Bessie would blame her if the wood shattered, and she had no money to pay the rent, let alone replace the door.
Clutching her revolver, Grace slipped out of bed and flicked open the lock, then stood to one side, gun aimed, as she yanked open the shuddering door.
YOU ARE READING
Her Cold RevengeTeen Fiction
Grace Milton has only one goal: bring to justice the Guiltless Gang, the outlaws who slaughtered her family. Now she's making her living as one of the only female bounty hunter in the Wild West, despite the doubts and protests of others. Rumors su...