A Gambler’s Final Gunshot (Preview)

Prologue

Wyatt Cross moved the horses up the side of the mountain, his heart anxious. The wagon rolled hard over the rocks and fallen branches. 

He had been gone from home only four days, but something had been bothering him since yesterday. He didn’t know what occurred to him that made him cut his supply run short. All he knew was that he had to get back home. To his children. His lovely Laura. The farmhouse he’d built with his own hands and the help of his friends in Windy Gap. 

Windy Gap, Arizona, was the name of his hometown. He and Laura had moved there after a rough year of travel with their two children and newborn baby. Whenever he thought of Lana, Annabella, and Malachai, it felt like his heart blew up a couple sizes. The children had struggled while they traveled, and he was happy they had finally settled in the countryside around Windy Gap. 

It wasn’t really a countryside, though. It was more like a desert-side. He’d built his farmhouse to accommodate himself and his family in comfort after the terrible journey to get there.

They’d been in their house for three years now. Their land was prosperous with potatoes, so that’s how Wyatt was earning his living. He hadn’t set out to be a potato farmer. It just happened. He contacted other potato farmers in the area and discovered he’d practically landed on a gold mine. With the help of his new friends, he started bringing in a lot of money—more than he’d ever expected. 

The most recent crop had been magnificent. His potatoes were so big they even surprised him. He wondered what was in the soil that helped them grow the way they did. He thought about harvesting time when he’d enlisted the help of all his children, even four-year-old Malachai, his youngest, to get the potatoes out of the ground and into the baskets. He’d taken them to be sold on the market and was coming back with some good pay. 

Wyatt still had nearly half his stock in the wagon. He’d been in the middle of a sale in a café when he was overcome by a feeling of dread. The first thing that came to his mind was that he needed to get home immediately. 

He’d hurriedly finished the sale and started the journey back home. It would take him twenty hours. He would arrive home at three in the afternoon. The time didn’t matter. All he knew was that it was important that he get home.

He’d been traveling at his regular pace, aware that going faster for the entire trip would wear the horses out, and they wouldn’t be able to maintain. He didn’t want to hurt the animals. The closer he got, though, the more anxious he became. 

He’d set the house in the middle of six acres of land that encompassed the valley flanked by mountains on three sides. The west side of his property was all lake water. Senora Valley Lake was the very reason he’d chosen that property to settle on. It was one of the few places in Arizona that was as green as the eastern states, moisture from the lake filling the air and making the weather perfect nearly year round. They’d never been threatened with any natural disaster in that area; Wyatt had checked before buying the land. After the year of treacherous travel through terrible weather, even experiencing a minor earthquake in Texas, he wanted the family to live in peace for the rest of their lives.

Wyatt came to the top of the mountain and was able to look down into the valley at his house. No one was outside. He moved his eyes along the land as the grass turned into shore and the lake appeared, the water slapping against the sand before washing back out.

His eyes focused on several objects on the shore. It looked like some large fish were beached. He blinked and squinted, trying to see better. Whatever those objects were, they were not moving. He would check the house first and ask whoever he encountered first what those things were on the shore. If he didn’t find anyone home, he would go on out to the lake to see what they were himself. Chances were good if no one was home, they were out on the boat fishing or traipsing through the woods for adventure. 

Laura would be home if the children were out. She wasn’t the kind of woman who would let Malachai run off with his sisters. They weren’t conscientious enough to watch after the precocious four-year-old.

Wyatt turned the horses to go down the path that would lead him home. He kept his eyes on the building, moving them from window to window. Maybe he would see someone looking out. Laura might hear the wagon approaching. The kids might be around back playing in the woods where he couldn’t see them. 

He heard no sound and saw no one when he stopped the wagon in front of the house. His heart thumped in anticipation. Something had told him to come home. What had happened? Where was everyone? 

He pulled the brake lever and climbed down from the wagon, landing hard on the ground. 

“Laura?” he called out, hopping up the steps to the porch and crossing with clinking spurs on the wooden surface. “Laura, where ya at?” 

He pulled on the storm door and pushed the inside door, which was slightly open. 

Wyatt’s heart plummeted into his stomach when he saw the interior of his home. The living room was there to his right, open to the foyer. Decorations had been smashed. A lantern was shattered on the floor. 

“Laura!” he yelled, taking off through the rest of the house, searching for his family. He checked every room, but there was no one in any of them. The living room was the only one in disarray, and he saw no signs of injury, as there was no blood.

He bolted out the front door and headed for the beach. Those objects. 

Wyatt slid to a stop when he was nearly there, his eyes focusing, his heart thumping. His children. His wife. Bound at the wrists and ankles. Shot dead. 

He dropped to his knees in the sand, the angry chill of sorrow sliding over his skin. He held his head in his hands and sobbed until he could barely breathe. 

Who had done this? Why? Why would anyone murder his family?

 

Chapter One

Wyatt looked at his cards. This night was proving to be one of the most profitable yet. 

Two years had passed since Wyatt lost his family. He was on the hunt for the man he suspected was guilty of the crime. 

He reached up and scratched his trim dark brown beard, flipping his eyes up to the table of men surrounding him. He was amused by the tense looks on their faces. They were intimidated by him, and rightly so. He was on a winning streak. It didn’t matter how much whiskey he put in his body, the right hand was constantly dealt to him. He couldn’t believe his luck. If he’d known it would be like this when he was with Laura and the kids, they wouldn’t have had to struggle through that traveling hell on earth. They’d have taken a train and would have been wearing fancy clothes, the ladies with their jewelry, him and his son with their new boots purchased long before the old ones wore out.

The resentment Wyatt had felt at the beginning of his journey after the loss of his family had festered and grown inside him. He was an angry man. The Wyatt people knew before no longer existed. If he was, that part of him was hidden deep inside, and it wasn’t even trying to get out. 

Wyatt was content being angry and bitter. He didn’t see why he had a reason to be any other way.

“I call,” he said, sweeping his eyes around the table. 

Groans came from several of the men who laid their hands down one at a time. The spread of cards in front of him didn’t disturb his delight. He grinned at them, keeping his eyes on them as he laid down his royal flush. 

Wyatt was hoping the men would react to his win. He was itching for another fight. The last time he’d beat on another man was four days ago, and his knuckles were fixing to pound on someone’s face as soon as he got the opportunity. 

Ben, the obnoxious drunk who had challenged Wyatt to join them, was the one Wyatt was paying attention to. He’d been sure he would win, obviously not looking for a friendly game of poker. He wanted to win and smother Wyatt’s face with it. A man he didn’t even know.

Wyatt had taken pleasure in winding them all up. He had an excellent deadpan face and never revealed what he thought of his cards or the cards of his opponents. He was good at the game, better than most, and he didn’t have to employ any cheating tactics at all.

When Ben leaped from his seat, his arms stretched out, Wyatt grinned wide and stood up, pushing the chair he’d been sitting in with the back of his knees, then giving it a kick. It went flying and smashed against another unoccupied chair nearby.

He lifted his hands so his palms were to the ceiling, curled his fingers, and flicked them toward himself, daring Ben to come across the table at him. 

“Come on,” he hissed. “Let me see what you’ve got.”

There were several men holding Ben back, but when Wyatt dared him, they let Ben go. One of them yanked the gun from Ben’s holster beforehand, though. Seeing this, Wyatt kept from reaching for his own. 

The man tackled him, but Wyatt was ready. He grabbed Ben by the waist and flung him to the side, making the average-sized man slam into a nearby table. The people sitting at the table had already jumped out of the way. Ben slid on the floor a few feet, pushing the table on its side as he went. 

Wyatt spun around, sensing there were more men coming his way. He saw a fist approaching and ducked. The man who’d thrown the punch was put off-kilter by the miss and fell forward. Wyatt caught him and used the momentum to shove him against another man. 

The last of the bunch, a short, older man with white hair and glasses, left the table and moved off to become a bystander himself. 

“You’re a lyin’ cheat!” Ben yelled from behind him. 

Wyatt turned to him. He’d gotten to his feet and was coming back for him. Wyatt shook his head, putting out one hand in a “stop” motion. To his utter surprise, the motion actually worked. Ben halted and stood there, huffing and puffing, his round face red as a beet, making his short blond hair stand out even more. 

“I ain’t a cheat,” Wyatt said. “I just have the luck of the cards. I want my money. You will give me what you owe me.” He glanced to the floor around the table they’d been sitting at. “All that.” He waved his hand, indicating the chips and coins that had fallen off when Ben lost his mind. “You can pick all that up. We’ll settle up right here and now, and I’ll leave. I don’t like bein’ called a cheat when I ain’t one.”

“You ain’t gettin’ that money!” Ben roared, taking a step forward before halting when Wyatt put his hand up once again.

“You attack me, and you’ll find the trouble you’re looking for. I don’t cheat. I ain’t got a need to. I’m takin’ my money and gettin’ out of here. I don’t like to play with sore losers.”

Ben looked like he was going to pounce, but at that moment, the bartender, Angus, popped up in between them. Wyatt hadn’t even seen him coming. It was a good thing he didn’t punch automatically. 

“Ain’t neither of you gettin’ in any more trouble in my establishment tonight. This is a respectable place, and I don’t wanna go replacin’ any tables or chairs or mirrors or nothin’. Take yer beef outside. And this money here is his, Ben. You know it, and everyone at that table knows it. Just pick it up and send ‘im out with it so we don’t have to take anybody to the undertaker.”

Wyatt wasn’t sure Angus was on his side of the matter, but he liked what he was hearing. “Sounds good to me, Angus,” he said, his voice coming out a growl, even though it was a positive statement. 

“But—” Ben was about to make another mistake. Wyatt had lost all his patience during the months after his family was murdered.

Wyatt leaned forward slightly, his eyes narrowing on Ben. Angus snapped his head from one to the other and held up the rifle he had in one hand, his fingers splayed toward Ben. “Don’t make me use this, Ben. You gather up that money and give it to this fella. You know he won fair and square.”

“How do you know that!?” the man roared resentfully. 

Angus scoffed. “Because he ain’t a cheater. I watched him careful. There was nothin’ he could have done to cheat. No cards up his sleeves. I thought he was takin’ a nap at one point.”

Ben sneered. “Bah! You just like him. You’re his friend.” Ben said the last word as if it was a bad thing. 

Wyatt, however, didn’t know what Ben was talking about. He and Angus had never palled around as friends. They had never done anything together. Wyatt came in and drank the beverages Angus offered, and that was the extent of it. A few casual words between them. 

Angus lifted his eyebrows, probably thinking the same thing, and shook his head at Ben. 

“You don’t know what you’re talkin’ about, son. Get on to it so this gentleman can leave. No more fightin’ in my place.”

Ben grumbled as he gathered the chips and coins, placing them all in Wyatt’s hands without looking at him directly. It was funny, but Wyatt wasn’t laughing. He maintained his poker face.


“A Gambler’s Final Gunshot” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Wyatt Cross, a man who once had it all, finds himself consumed by darkness after the horrific death of his wife and children. With vengeance burning in his veins, he returns to the treacherous world of poker… determined to uncover the truth behind their brutal fate. Playing the cards with a skill honed by pain, Wyatt becomes entangled in accusations of cheating, itching for a fight that may reveal his enemies…

With no room for sore losers, will his dangerous quest lead him closer to the elusive killer?

As Wyatt’s quest intensifies, a mysterious figure named Earnest emerges, recognizing his extraordinary card-playing abilities. Earnest makes an enticing proposition: an invitation to a high-stakes poker tournament hosted by an enigmatic man with the answers to Wyatt’s deepest secrets. Fueled by an unwavering determination, Wyatt accepts the invitation, determined to confront the hidden enemy responsible for the worst day of his life. With time running out, Wyatt’s path intertwines with that of an unlikely ally, and together, they will embark on a perilous journey…

Will he manage to face the truth behind the most revealing poker game of his life?

Every move counts as Wyatt fights for justice, unwilling to back down until the truth is unveiled. The high-stakes game of life and death will either leave him victorious or on the cusp of another tragedy. Will he expose the murderer responsible for his family’s demise, or will he pay the ultimate price, forever lost in the chaos of an unsolved mystery?

“A Gambler’s Final Gunshot” is a historical adventure novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cliffhangers, only pure unadulterated action.

Get your copy from Amazon!

One thought on “A Gambler’s Final Gunshot (Preview)”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *