Meet Jimmy—quiet brother, sharp shooter, the dangerous one. To save his family, he must leave them and undertake a mission where the only certainty is death.
When it comes to hitting a target, he’s the man for the job…
They know their enemies are coming for them, and the best course of action will send one of their own on a path for certain death. Jimmy Morning Star volunteers because unlike his siblings, he has no one waiting for him at home. Young Shane refuses to be left behind, so Jimmy must undertake the dangerous task while keeping the young man alive. Together, they leave Dorado and journey north—first to hunt the doppelganger then to kill Adam MacPherson.
When a vision quest rousts her to hunt, she will never miss her target…
Blue Eagle is one of the last of her kind and gifted with Shamanic magic. Plagued by dreams asking her endlessly for help and a vision quest that warns her destiny lies beyond the bounds of her tribe, she fights against the impetus to abandon those she cares for. When Blue narrowly escapes a slaughter, she understands the truth of her quest and strikes out on her own to place herself directly in the path of the hunters.
The closer he looks…
Quanto’s cryptic warning to keep the eagle alive is the only clue Jimmy has to the Cheyenne woman’s impact on his life, but it’s not her skills nor her magic worries him—not when need burns in his veins from the moment he sets his sights on her. He has to finish his task, but is he willing to sacrifice the one woman he could love to save everyone he cares about?
His mission. Her magic. Their migration.
Read the first chapter right now!
Somewhere in Northern Texas, Autumn 1852
Jimmy dropped two pinecones into the fire and the crisp scent of their destruction mingled with the wood smoke. Sitting on his bedroll a couple of feet away, Shane sneezed. “Every night you throw those things in. I don’t understand why.”
After running a hand over the butt of his rifle, assuring himself it lay within reach, Jimmy pulled out the block of wood he’d begun to whittle. It would be a horse to go with the other three he’d already done. The next town he passed, he’d package them up and pay someone to take them back to the ranch. Micah and Jo’s child would be born before he returned—if I return—and he wanted the boy or girl to have toys. He’d made a full set for Scarlett’s children, and a second set of wolves was stowed away with Buck for Cody and Mariska’s children. Noah held a set of high desert animals and buffalo for Buck, along with a dream catcher Jimmy made. Whittling helped him think, and he’d done a lot of thinking over the past couple of years.
“And you do it every night.” The weight of Shane’s regard leaned on him like the oppressive wave of heat they’d ridden through the last several days. Not two minutes passed before Shane shoved a rock with his foot and sent it flying beyond the circle of flickering flames. The horses snorted and stamped their feet, but even they’d gotten used to the momentary displays of temper from the boy. “I don’t get why we keep skirting towns. Do you even know where the hell we are?”
“Yep.” Jimmy dedicated his efforts to shaving the wood carefully. Carving horses took concentration and patience, particularly around the legs. Thinner, fine-boned, they required a steady, yet gentle hand.
A sigh, then another rock flew. “That’s it? Yep? What about towns? I thought we’d actually see some things on this ride.”
“We’ve seen lots of things.” Pausing in his whittling, Jimmy reached for a tin cup filled with tepid water. He’d save the chicory for dawn. For supper, they’d made do with hard tack and what was left of the bread after they pulled off the molded bits. Before they settled into camp the next night, he’d hunt. He hankered for some fresh meat. “We don’t need to see towns to get where we’re headed.”
The boy remained silent for a beat. “Why not? We’re chasing this doppleganger fellow, aren’t we? I bet he’s bunked up in a soft bed, while we’re out here sleeping on rocks.”
Spoiling for a fight, Shane didn’t seem to want to let the topic go. Emptying his cup in three swallows, Jimmy set it aside and fixed his gaze on the younger man. The constant fidgeting, while annoying, was to be expected. The kid possessed a lot of power and a lot of anger—neither bothered Jimmy overmuch. “We avoid towns unless we have to because it’s better to move unseen, something the doppleganger knows.” Especially since Ryan was on the run—running from them, running from MacPherson and, if Jason’s assessment proved right, likely running from himself.
“How do you know?” Another challenge dropped, one burning with a quiet show of temper. When Shane volunteered to follow Jimmy, he’d understood why the boy would offer. He didn’t want to be left behind. The kid grew up hard. Harder than some of the Kanes understood, despite Shane growing up on the Flying K. Evil wore a lot of faces, the worst being the guise of a friend or a trusted confidante.
It added another reason for Jimmy to catch the bastard Ryan and bury him. He’d committed both crimes—replacing Sam’s trusted deputy then shooting Sam. Later he’d worn Jimmy’s face and tried to lure Cody into a trap. If Ryan reached MacPherson with what he knew…no, the shadowy enemy inflicted enough damage on Jimmy’s family. He wouldn’t be allowed to do more harm. None of those thoughts, however, answered Shane’s impatience.
“Because we’re Fevered. We avoid being noticed if we can help it.” Don’t get noticed. Don’t be remembered. Stay in the shadows and out of the light. It kept the family safe and avoided a target being painted on their backs. Hard not to be noticed in Dorado, though, so they’d taken it over and controlled the information.
“No one is going to notice him,” Shane argued. “He can look like anyone.”
“Yeah, but you notice new people in town. He needs something from a person to look like them. New folks stand out, making it harder for him to get whatever the something is. In San Antonio? He has space, opportunities to hide. But we’re not in San Antonio. He’s angling north to get to MacPherson, and he knows he’s being hunted on all sides.”
“Oh.” Shane frowned. “I didn’t think of it that way.”
Therein lay the danger. Shane lived his whole life on the Flying K, as isolated as Jimmy and his brothers on the mountain. While his family had been Fevered for as long as he could remember, Shane still must adapt to his dangerous ability and the need to keep his head down.
Blinking, Shane shot him a frown. “What?”
“The pinecones keep the critters away. Now eat. We need to sleep soon. I want to ride before sun up.” So far, Ryan stayed ahead of them, but Jimmy knew he followed the right trail. He would use the doppelganger to root out MacPherson, then he only needed two shots and it would be over. No more second chances to let the son of a bitch slip through their fingers. Eliminating MacPherson?
Yeah, even if it cost him his life, he wanted the bastard dead, burned, and sowed with salt. Jimmy didn’t know what they’d ever done to the crazy sombitch, but he didn’t rightly care. The man targeted Jimmy’s loved ones.
He had to go.
Snapping awake, Jimmy opened his eyes and listened. An unknown something disturbed the silence. The fire burned low, no more than glowing embers, while fresh wood sat stacked next to it. A few feet away, Shane lay on his side, a gentle snore betraying continued slumber. The horses breathed deep, one foreleg bent and heads hung low as they, too, slept. Unmoving, Jimmy listened, trusting his senses.
Something woke him.
He might not have identified what yet, but when his instincts said pay attention—he did. Without shifting his position, he studied the area. No telltale translucence or shimmer gave away the dreaming. Not Father reaching out from the Mountain to guide me. A mixture of relief and disappointment flooded him. Quanto grew more and more circumspect in the past few months.
Silence stretched around him. Well, as silent as the night ever sounded with the animals, Shane, and the faint sizzle of the fire’s embers. The scuff of a step against the hard-packed earth crashed through him, jarring dissonance electrifying his nerves. The rustle of grass against leather and the faint odor of broken stems tickled his nostrils.
They were not alone.
Jimmy identified the location of both his Colts and his rifle. The rifle lay right next to him and would do maximum damage. The handguns would take a split second to pull from his holster—not much with his aim, but enough if they were ready for him.
How many? The faint scuff of boot leather repeated. The fact he could only hear one didn’t mean there weren’t more. One of the horses snorted, then the other. Shifting hooves against the earth told him the exact location of the intruder.
“Easy.” A harsh whisper rent the night.
A damn horse thief.
Decided, Jimmy rolled to his feet, both pistols in his hand. Two men bracketed their horses. Releasing one sharp whistle, Jimmy told the horses to move, and they responded. Heads tossing, they jerked away while the men tried to draw their weapons.
The world slowed, narrowing to both. He didn’t know them, but their dirty, rumpled clothing stank of sweat. Both hard-eyed men glared at him, promising death with their gazes. Thumbing back the hammer on both guns, he didn’t hesitate. Some distant part of his mind recognized Shane rising from his bedroll behind him. One of the horse thieves focused on the boy, making Shane his last sight on earth.
Energy surged through Jimmy as he fired. He could almost see the bullets slicing through the air until they landed with distinctive thuds. One moment alive, the next found the two would-be horse thieves on the ground—dead.
A gasp in the distance grabbed his attention. Spinning, Jimmy spotted a third man racing to get on his horse. Squinting in the faint moonlight, he saw the same anger and hard edge to the man he’d seen on the others. Holstering the Colts, he snatched up the rifle and braced it at his shoulder before the third man cleared his gun from the saddle’s holster.
Exhaling, Jimmy fired. One sharp report later, the man crumpled and his horse shied away. Reloading the rifle, he spun in a slow circle and studied the night. Darkness surrounded them, but nothing save the horses moved, not even Shane.
Sparing the boy a glance, he considered his ashen face. Despite having the warning, few were prepared to see Jimmy kill. “Go back to sleep,” he told him. “I’ll take care of this.”
It didn’t do him any favors to hide death from him, but frankly Jimmy didn’t give a damn. They would see plenty of death on their trip—the boy had time.
“You killed them.” Hollow, shock echoed in the statement from a youth whose earlier complaints rode a wave of bravado.
“Yes. They would have killed us. You don’t hesitate when it’s family, Shane. Some people you can save, most you can’t. Family comes first.” It’d been the first rule Wyatt and Quanto taught them all and the most important. “Always.”
Rifle in hand, he checked the first two men. He stripped away their weapons, since firearms and bullets could come in handy later. Nothing about the first two struck him as remarkable; they didn’t even have a coin between them in their pockets.
“You killed them. Three shots. Three men dead.” Shock continued to eddy in Shane’s voice.
“Yes.” He never missed.
Grabbing one of the downed by a leg, Jimmy dragged the corpse towards the third. Shane waited a moment then reached for the second man.
“I said leave it, Shane.” Death shouldn’t be easy.
“I’ll help.” A mulish expression took over his still ashen face.
Jimmy considered him. He needed to strip the gear and set the horses loose. Then they would need to dig three graves, or one big one. “Fine. Go about twenty yards toward the hill and dig us a hole to drop them in.”
“We’re going to bury them?” With a hard swallow, for a brief moment, the sixteen year old looked all of six.
“Just because they’re thieves doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a burial. Life is hard. Death is harder. If you want to go back to sleep, your bedroll is over there.” Let him chew on that one for a spell. Jimmy released the body he’d dragged and took to a knee next to the third man. Eyes open, the dead man stared sightlessly toward the sky.
Jimmy scavenged another weapon, a small wood-handled knife, along with a couple of nickels from his body. By the time he’d finished sorting through their bags, he knew as little about the men as when he’d shot them. Likely drifters, on the run definitely, and unquestionably not talking. Dead men couldn’t answer him, but they couldn’t spread tales either. When he’d stripped the last horse and sent the animals on their way, he found Shane hauling two of the bodies off into the dark. After stowing his rifle, Jimmy retrieved the third and followed.
Shane took him at his word and dug three graves. Not quite six-feet deep, but they’d do—especially as far away from towns as they were and, well, if animals got at the bodies, what did the men care? They were already dead. Dropping his cargo into the hole unceremoniously, Jimmy reached for the second shovel which lay nearby. Too small for such a project, he considered the graves and then Shane.
Sweat glistened on the young man’s brow, and a muscle ticked in his jaw. He’d raised his dander because of Jimmy’s earlier dismissal. Shane’s curse was strength, incredible strength, increasing the more emotionally unstable he became. Someday, he might be able to direct his ability and control it without the volatility.
They weren’t there yet.
“You under control?”
“Yes.” Shane’s voice deepened, the baritone drop a sure indicator his gift ran a little wild on him. Accepting him at his word, however, proved a tacit show of trust on Jimmy’s part. Dangerous gifts, like the boy’s, were fearsome. Left unchecked and untrained, Fevered like Shane could wreak havoc.
The same could be said for all of Jimmy’s siblings, though, so he didn’t let it bother him. “Good work. Let’s bury them and get some sleep. We’ve already lost a couple of hours, thanks to these bastards.”
The younger man didn’t move right away, but by the time Jimmy filled in his grave a third with earth, he went to work. Once they finished, exhaustion replaced the anger in his expression. “I came real close to losing control.” The admission cost the kid, but Jimmy grabbed the second shovel then put a hand on Shane’s shoulder.
“You didn’t lose anything. We ride the line. Sometimes we have to, but you still got the job done, and you didn’t hurt anyone doing it.” Except yourself. Soon, hopefully, he wouldn’t harm either.
The kid nodded, and they made their way back to their bedrolls. Jimmy sluiced the sweat off his face with one of the water skins then tossed another log on the fire. Shane settled on his bedroll and stared at the fire. His surges always left him quiet afterward, as he struggled with his seething emotions. Kid, gifted with emotions, described Shane as a wild summer thunderstorm—blowing up fast and violent before calming to cool the air.
“My Pa used to beat me.” The quiet words spoken in the darkness represented a confession and a confidence. Jimmy let him say his piece. “Used to beat Ma, too. He was real careful about it, but once, when I was four, Mr. Kane caught him hitting her.” Mr. Kane, old Jed, Sam and Kid’s father, owned the Flying K. “He gave Pa a whooping something fierce. Mr. Kane was real quiet about it. He knelt down next to Pa and said, ‘We don’t beat women, we don’t ever touch women. You remember that.’”
Shane avoided Jimmy’s gaze. Instead, he fed wood into the dying fire. “Pa never touched Ma afterward , at least not where as people could see him do it. He was good at it, hitting so it hurt, but in a way to be sure he didn’t leave a mark.”
Shane blew out a breath. “Every time I get mad, I think about him. I think about him hitting my Ma…hitting me and not being able to stop him. Now I’m like him.”
Checking his rifle once, Jimmy reached for his hat and then eyed the boy. The flickering flames threw a lot of shadows on his face. “You ever fixing to hit a woman?”
“No.” The boy’s denial came swift and vehement.
“You ever going to beat some kid just because you can?”
“No.” Anger lit the word.
“You almost lost control, is what you said, but you didn’t. The way I reckon it, you’re already a dozen steps ahead of your pa, Shane. He didn’t have control, or he would never have touched you and your ma.” Damn good thing the bastard died when the Fever swept through the ranch, ‘cause Jimmy suspected he wouldn’t have just beat him down, like Mr. Kane, if he’d known.
He’d have ended the problem altogether.
“Those men looked at you the way Pa looked at me and my ma.” Shane rubbed at his chest, a frown tightening his eyebrows. He wasn’t looking at Jimmy or the fire. Likely, he saw his past.
His bastard father.
“Yeah, well, the look promises death. You remember it. Some folk you can reason with, others you can’t. When you can’t, you put them down before they harm you or someone you love. Think you can handle defending yourself?”
The younger man jerked his eyes up and met Jimmy’s gaze. “Yes.”
“All right, then I reckon that’s all we need to know.” He settled back against the bedroll and tucked his hat over his eyes. “Get some sleep. Dawn will be here soon.” They had a hunt to get on with.
“Um, mind if I ask you a question?”
“You know you shot those men in the dark, right?”
Jimmy almost smiled. “I was there.”
“But in the dark. I couldn’t even see the third one.”
No, probably he couldn’t. Jimmy saw him, though. He’d seen him, seen the other two, seen the way their blood spattered the air when his bullets hit. He didn’t miss much. When he focused, he could see for nearly a half mile, sometimes more. “Go to sleep Shane.”
“Don’t sir me, Shane.” Jimmy closed his eyes. “It’s Jimmy, remember?”
A moment of silence then the boy couldn’t seem to resist asking, “How did you see them in the dark?”
Jimmy sighed then smiled. The boy recovered quickly, at least. Now, if he could only stop yammering and sleep.
Somewhere north of the Red River
The door opened with only the lightest of pushes. Inside, the wreckage of the room spoke of neglect. Churned dirt made up the floor. What remained of the wood floor showed in ragged, torn away chunks. Smashed old furniture, only a portion of a table and a section of headboard, left behind to lean against a discolored stone hearth. Soot blackened the walls around the fireplace, while ash and debris filled the mouth, still faintly warm.
Quinn studied the layout. The striping along the walls. The destruction. The sense of waiting—waiting, not emptiness. Heat marks? Scorching? A firestarter, maybe. Not Quinn’s target.
A metal cup perched on the edge of the hearth, a single curl of steam rising from the liquid inside. Outside, a sneeze echoed and a hard boot slammed onto the porch. Standing, Quinn pulled a gun from the leg holster and turned to face the door.
It burst inward. “What the hell are you doing in my house?”
The wild-maned man glared with blazing eyes and a wave of heat billowed forward. Quinn didn’t flinch. “Control it.”
“Why are you in my house?” He roared and charged forward riding a second wave of intense, blistering air.
Twenty minutes later, Quinn stepped out of the house and limped to the horse. After mounting, Quinn waited until the flames began licking up the wood, consuming the ramshackle building. No evidence could be left behind.
Nothing to mark Quinn’s presence or of the wild man still inside.
A pity. If only he’d listened…
Once finished, Quinn turned the horse south. They had a day’s ride until they crossed the Red River into Texas. If all the information Quinn gathered proved correct, the target was there.
In a town called Dorado.
Tsitsistas Winter Encampment
Onsi snapped awake from the dream. Voices floated past the flap. Mothers already rose to tend the fires and begin preparations for an early meal. The first hunters already headed out to patrol and gather smaller game. They’d pulled the last of the buffalo needed for the coming month, their efforts turned to repairs, curing hides, and gathering supplies before they dug in for the harsher winter moons.
Her breath came in harsh, swift gasps as though she’d been running, not sleeping. She did run, in the dream. Persistent in his warnings and requests, the old Shaman called out to her regularly. For more than a year he’d insisted she was needed in the south. Rubbing a hand over her face, she rose from her bed and reached for her doeskin dress. The soft leather slid over her bare skin and gave her a barrier against the invasive dreams.
Fending off the Shaman took nearly all of her strength, yet she perceived no threat from him. If anything, she longed to grant his wish, if only to ease his suffering and upset. Padding barefoot to the opening of the teepee, she pushed back the flap and stepped out into the sun, the connection to earth grounding her.
A pair of bare-skinned children raced past, laughing. An older woman tended the fire nearby, and she grunted a greeting, the lines in her face deepening with her half-smile. Further still, horses grazed in and around the encampment. Her people came first. The river bend where they settled offered them fresh water and fishing. Meat was plentiful in the region and they were far from the iron tracks bisecting the plains. Further still, beyond the river, she knew the buffalo grazed.
They, like the Tsitsistas, would rest here a while.
“You look fierce, Little Mother. What enemy do you seek beyond the river?” Minninnewah—the Whirlwind—was chief and warrior to The People as well as being her dearest friend. He came to stand next to her and, like Onsi, he stared across the river.
“I know not.” The winds changed in the night. They now carried the chilling bite of winter’s promise, yet the sun drenched the land and bathed it in a golden hue. The ripened grass swayed beneath the breeze, a great body of flowing land. Travelers told of great oceans in the distant west and east. Further north, she had seen the icy lakes, but nothing compared to the great Earth around them with father sky’s benevolence gleaming from above.
“You are troubled, Little Mother. You have been for some time.” It seemed Minninnewah would no longer afford her the courtesy of keeping her secrets—his right to ask for truth from her. Like her, he guided the Tsitsistas and protected them. Also like her, he would bleed for them, if need be. “Walk with me,” he added.
The wind pulled at her hair. She often braided it, yet had not bothered before leaving her teepee. Unlike so many, she shared her dwelling space with no other, yet she welcomed those who needed her. Shaman. Medicine Woman. Little Mother.
As the last of her line, her tribe needed her. She could not grant the ancient shaman’s dream request, regardless of how many times he asked.
Together, she and Minninnewah walked clear of the playing children and chattering mothers. The encampment roused swiftly to meet the day. Skins must be stretched and scraped, equipment repaired. Children would head out to gather berries and other herbs. Stews would be cooked. The hunters would return carrying bounty with more work for them all.
The People had much activity to do before the first snow fell. At the river’s edge, they turned to follow its banks. “What troubles you Little Mother?”
“Change is coming.” Saying it aloud didn’t make it so, yet she knew it also meant she’d accepted the portent of her dreams, even if she refused to answer the content. “I fear for us.”
“I don’t.” Minninnewah flashed her a rare smile. Though young for a chief, he was an accomplished warrior and succeeded his father when the wise man passed from their world two winters before. “We will survive in this, I have every faith.”
His tone echoed confidence, but she experienced none of the same. “The Fever took another encampment.” A dying people, the Tsitsistas tribes dwindled, family groups broke away or worse—died. The Fever, much-feared amongst them, cropped up time and again. Soon, they would have no Shamans to combat it. The lack of others gifted in medicine would have kept her from taking the ancient Shaman’s request, if nothing else barred her journeying away. She was the last.
“I know. Scouts brought word yesterday. We burned the remnants. Our people are safe, Little Mother. We have you.” Onsi glanced at the chief then past him to their people. Where once perhaps hundreds, even thousands gathered, now they numbered fewer and fewer. Each winter, they lost more. Every summer, fewer births increased their tribe.
No women carried children as they went to winter camp, none.
Yet, she kept the recording of the oddity to herself. For Minninnewah, believing they were indestructible embedded within his very soul. A young chief, perhaps, but one hardened by time and loss. He didn’t disbelieve in danger, he simply refused to acknowledge it and give it power.
But what he failed to comprehend and what she couldn’t bear to say aloud—he didn’t have to believe in the danger.
Like the Fever, she had a feeling it would come for them all.
When it does, I will stand with my people. Die with them if necessary.