Chapter 1

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"Lookin' for something in particular, sir?"

Colt Lassiter's head jerked up. He'd been staring at the Wylder Mercantile's belt display for long seconds, his mind roiling about the murders he'd committed just a few nights ago. The events of that fateful evening were never far from his thoughts. Because of his lapse in attention, he'd caught the eye of the man behind the counter, which was exactly what he didn't want to do. The less he was noticed, the better off he was.

After the night Hal and Leo attempted to ambush him, Colt had hightailed it deeper into Wyoming, putting as many miles as he could between their carcasses and him. He'd just arrived in the town of Wylder, hoping to stock up on a few supplies before losing himself in the wilderness. With any luck there'd be a huge snowstorm and Hal and Leo wouldn't be found until the spring thaw. It was possible.

Now he shrugged with what he hoped was a sheepish smile at the man, who was older than him, with kind brown eyes and a thick head of brown hair peppered with a little gray. "Just woolgathering when I should be stocking up." Colt glanced around the busy store, looking for the canned foods in hopes of escaping this man's inquisitiveness.

"Ah. Headin' to Cheyenne, I imagine. Better hurry up. The weather promises to turn nasty soon."

Colt had noticed the gray, chalky sky, and agreed with the other man's forecast. "I'll take that under advisement." Colt pasted a smile on his face before moving further into the store. Hell, he was heading as far away as possible from Cheyenne after the robbery he and his traitorous partners pulled off. At least news of it hadn't reached Wylder yet.

Colt moved through the store quickly, a man on a mission to get the hell out of civilization, luckily avoiding any more conversation with the man behind the counter. After quickly gathering what he needed, he returned to the counter. It was time to move on before he caught anyone else's attention. As he reached into his chest pocket for money, a woman built like a steam engine elbowed her way beside him and addressed the proprietor by name.

"Finn Wylder. Did you get in that red ribbon you promised me?"

Colt glanced at the man whose name was also the town's name. Did his family own the town? Found the town? He studied Finn Wylder. He didn't look rich or uppity. Just a regular man doing an honest day's living. Something Colt hadn't done in far too long.

Wylder winked at Colt as he bagged his cans of beans and jerky. "I did indeed, Mrs. Lowry. Let me settle this young man's account and I'll go get that ruby red ribbon you so desperately need."

The woman huffed a mollified sigh, and Colt couldn't help but grin at the exchange. Lord, he wished he hadn't chosen this path of misspent life he found himself on. Otherwise, he could live in some town like this, own a small parcel of land, maybe have a pretty little wife and a couple of kids. Instead, he was a thief, a ne'er-do-well, and murderer, on the lam for the rest of his days. The thoughts wiped the smile off his face. He gave Finn Wylder a quick nod of thanks after paying, pulled his hat brim low, and gathered his purchases before sidling out of the store.

Bob jumped to his feet where he'd been resting on the boardwalk, nosed the bag of vittles dangling from Colt's hand. "Get outta there." After pushing the dog's head aside, Colt glanced up and down the busy street. Wagons and people bustled along, intent on their own lives and not giving him any attention. While he was glad of his anonymity, the realization that he was invisible drove the point home that he had nothing, no one, he could call his, except for Bob the dog, and Dot, his horse. And a bag full of stolen cash.

Like it or not, that was the life he'd chosen. And now it was time to get moving again. Until he figured out whether he was going to spend the money, bury it, or give it away to an orphanage somewhere, he had to make himself scarce. If the Cheyenne sheriff came out asking about any strangers in Wylder, he didn't want his face to be memorable. Best to hunker down in some abandoned shack out in the hill country until spring.

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