When Honor Prevails (Preview)

Chapter One

Sitting on her simple chair, fighting the heat, Alison took a deep breath and prepared herself for another wasted lunch.

Her brother Jacob paced in front of the door, rubbing his hands together and bringing them to his bloated red cheeks. Alison stared at the blazing yellow light leaking from beneath it.

Jacob rubbed his face again, pretending he could no longer contain his rage, but Alison knew part of him was fighting with frustrated tears.

“It’s all a darn step too far, I tell ya!” he shouted again, in mid-thought.

Alison brushed her feet beneath her chair. She could smell the whiskey on his breath all the way from the kitchen table.

She had laid the table out with bread, dried meat, and beans, but all of it was untouched. Jacob’s coffee sat steaming on the table. He hadn’t even glanced at it.

As she’d poured it, she had managed a deep breath. He had barely stopped shouting since he entered the room.

Inside their house, everything had its place. Alison didn’t have the most money in the world, but she did her best to keep things neat.

Over the old wooden furniture, she lay whatever neckerchiefs and blankets she could afford to hide the stains and the cracks. The wooden floorboards were old and scratched up, but she kept it swept and clean. She had plugged all the drafts in the creaky old wood with picture frames and flowerpots.

Her grandmother had left her the house, and Alison treasured her memory. She wouldn’t let the place fall into disrepair. She spent much of her days inside, when she wasn’t at the repair shop.

That morning, she had been working on an old leather hat. Jaime, a close friend of her brother’s, had brought it in, and Alison had worked extra hard that morning to ensure she finished it before church.

Jacob looked out through the window.

Outside, it was searing hot, and the midsummer sun took no prisoners—there wasn’t a cloud in sight to hold back the heat. The street outside was dead quiet, as it always was at that time of the year.

Alison hated it. There was no sound, just a few carriages being pulled slowly along the dusty street, the horses moving with a slow, labored pace. There was very little to do out there, and no need to move fast.

She tutted to herself, very quietly, and flexed her muscles one by one, trying to find her feelings deep inside. Jacob hadn’t stopped pacing, not to let her speak, not to let her think. Alison took a deep breath.

Far off in the distance, a horse neighed, and her brother snapped out of his trance. With another tirade of curses, Jacob lifted his heavy boot and sent a chair skidding against the wall.

“Damn them all to hell!” he cried.

“Jacob!” Alison said. “Get a hold of yourself!”

She tutted again and stepped to the corner of the room, inspecting the chair.

“You got it all to splinters…” she mumbled to herself.

With another guttural sound, Jacob grabbed the coffee, then unscrewed his bottle of whiskey and poured it in, downing the steaming drink with ease.

Alison cringed, watching the brown liquid drip from the corner of his lips. When he pulled away the cup, he was still red and furious.

“Can you believe it?” Jacob shouted. “Is it at all fair, or what? That old man, the way he spoke to me.”

She drew breath through her nose. “Honestly—”

“The way he just let me go, like I was some common beast.” Jacob pounded his fist on the table. “Old Hal walks up with his bolo-tie shining like some king of Duke City, and he tells me—”

Jacob leaned forward, his red drunken face screwing up, performing a sloppy impression of the old man.

Eee, listen here, Jacob, we gunna have ourselves a talk, or what?” Jacob said. “Then he tells me in no uncertain terms that it’s high time I packed up my stuff and got out. Like it were nuthin’ to him.”

By now, Alison had already heard the story twenty times. Her brother had been working for Hal down on the ranch for almost six months. It was the biggest ranch in the area, and it had been a good job for Jacob.

Truth was, he’d never had any experience with cattle. The job had always been way over his pay grade, and by all accounts he never should have gotten it in the first place. That he had was all thanks to Jaime.

Alison thought of Jaime, imagined the smile across his great chiseled jaw, the sparkle in his blue eyes. He would never think twice about putting his reputation on the line to help a friend, even a somewhat scruffy character like her brother.

Jaime was a trusting man, salt of the Earth, an old soul. Alison smiled. Maybe he had been a just a little naïve, expecting her brother could keep it.

“What you smiling about?”

Jacob slammed his fist again against the table, hard.

“Stop that!” Alison protested.

Jacob brushed her off, lighting a hastily rolled cigarette and muttering beneath his voice. With a sigh, Alison took the rest of the food and packaged it up in cloth. He hadn’t touched a bite.

Her brother looked down at the broken chair.

“I’m sorry. I’m trying…” he muttered. “Trying too hard to make better a life for us.”

She kept her eyes down on her hands, passing over the food as she put it back into place. He would often speak like this, especially after a drink or two, and sometimes Alison would feel a flash of resentment.

No one had asked him to do it all himself, after all.

When they were younger and their mother had first become sick, Alison had taken over a majority of the housework. She had cleaned Jacob’s clothes, prepared his dinners, made arrangements in town. She had looked after her brother when he got into trouble and been a shoulder for him to cry on.

It wouldn’t take much to say “we” once in a while. She shook it off.

“Didn’t even pay me out for the rest of the month,” Jacob said, vitriol in his voice.

Alison shook her head, sucked in a deep breath, and sat beside her brother. She took a long look at him. He had never taken bad news well, and there was much bad news to take.

Ever since their mother had passed away, the two had been thrust into a kind of early adulthood. She had little choice but to roll with the punches, and it had made her tough.

Jacob, on the other hand, still had a little of the boy left in him. Alison could see that. Yet, he always seemed to act like the man of the house. She supposed he felt he had no choice, and Alison had no choice, herself—she would have to play along.

Lifting his finger with a spray of hot embers, Jacob took a long drag of his smoke.

“Why it gotta be like this?” he said. “Makes not one bitta’ sense why the world gotta’ be this unfair… It’s men like Hal, make everythin’ so darn difficult.”

Alison blinked. Jacob’s eyes flared, and he looked at her as though he’d just seen her appear in the room for the first time.

“What?” he spat. “Got something to add?”

Jacob had switched to Spanish. Their mother was Mexican and had a fiery temper. Alison knew quite well the way things were leading when he spoke to her that way.

She let her mouth open, then stopped, drumming her fingers on the table and choosing her words carefully.

“I just…” Alison stopped and cleared her throat. “I—yes, I agree, Hal can be a little hot-tempered, and a little brash, too—”

“But?” Jacob interjected.

“But,” Alison continued, switching back to English, “even you can admit that it weren’t exactly like you never gave him no ammunition.”

Jacob stood and drew a shaky breath. He turned toward the window, his back hunched over, his body trembling with rage.

“I’m not saying it were your fault, Jacob,” Alison continued. “Not completely. I feel for you, but you was cutting corners here and there a sight, and drinking—but you know for next time.”

“Ain’t going to be a next time,” Jacob said darkly.

“What does that mean?”

“Nuthin.” Her brother seethed.

Alison clicked her jaw. She brought her hand up to her long black hair and combed it back, like she always did when she was upset.

“Maybe if you tried to speak to Hal? Perhaps you could—”

“No,” Jacob barked.

He turned, his eyes aflame, and threw the last of the cigarette into the sink.

“There ain’t no speaking to him, not anymore, and there ain’t no point, I didn’t do nothing wrong,” Jacob said. “I don’t wanna hear none of your smug opinions, sitting on your chair with your hands pressed up like some lady of the church. I don’t want another lecture. You ain’t my mother.”

Alison felt a flush come to her cheeks.

“I lost my job, Alison,” Jacob said. “I got no money, no work, and I’m in my rights to bellyache a little bit without you jumping down on my ever’word… or what?”

A part of her was burning with rage. She looked past it and took in his words, glancing over at her little brother and seeing his hands tremble slightly by his waist.

His mind was made up, like rock. There was no point in trying to change it, and she admitted to herself the logic to some of it.

She flipped over the tablecloth absentmindedly and nodded.

“I’m sorry, Jacob,” she said. “You’re right. I shouldn’t press you. Believe what you want.”

Jacob kept his eyes on her, and she met his fiery gaze.

“But I ain’t gunna lie to you, brother,” Alison said. “That, I can’t do.”

Jacob sucked his teeth and spun, opening the door with a dull kick. Outside, the sun was blazing and Alison could make out the flat dusty plain and the clay cliffs way behind the town.

Before she could say a word, Jacob plucked up his whiskey bottle and bunched his fist.

“I’m going into town,” he growled.

Alison stood, brushing her hands down her long white dress.

“No, Jacob!” she called. “You shouldn’t go out into town when you’re like this. You’re fixin’ to do something stupid, I can see it in your eyes!”

He turned and sent her one last angry look.

“Just watch me, sister,” Jacob said. “It don’t matter no more…”

With that, the man disappeared into the street with a cloud of dust blowing behind him. Alison stood and rushed behind him.

She had to follow him, and quickly—this angry and this drunk, Jacob was capable of anything.

Chapter Two

It was a slow morning in town, just the kind Jaime liked the best. It was hot as hell, and the dust blowing along the plains was a deep clay red, the sky above him endlessly blue. Mottled cactus clusters gathered as far as the eye could see through the shimmering heat.

Far over the horizon, he could see some men on horseback breaking over a steep hill, and Jaime smiled. He wasn’t going with them, but he knew just who they were, and he quietly wished them well under his breath.

When he made it into town, there wasn’t much around. A few tired-looking men and women were posted outside their houses, stooped on porches, or lazily smoking. A creaky old windmill was slowly turning in the soft breeze. Somewhere, in a house far away, a harpsichord was playing unevenly, and some boys sounded like they were drinking.

He gathered up his sleeves as he walked across the dusty path, moving toward the repair shop. His father’s hat had been trampled on a week earlier. Now, it was ready to pick up.

Jaime had dropped it off the morning before. Alison, his friend’s sister, had taken it from him. He had noted the way she had shyly blushed when she had received it. It had made him smile.

He’d always thought she was sweet, and he had seen her as simply his friend’s sister, but lately she had blossomed into a beautiful young woman. Although he had no plans to do anything about it, he hoped she would be there when he came to pick it up.

He shuddered. Better her than old Mrs. McClusky, who would await him with another lecture about how harshly he treated his clothes, and how frequently she had to repair the same items.

Jaime could never explain to her just how messy things could get out on the ranch. She could never understand the kind of wildness that happened to a man in nature.

The morning his father’s hat had been damaged, Jaime, his father, and Flint had been out together. They had spent the morning searching for a herd of lost Quarter Horses that had broken through an old fence. They were a wild group, young and bold, and put up a wicked chase—plus, they were a man down without Jacob.

Jaime shook his head.

His friend had never been the most reliable fella, but he wasn’t cut from a bad cloth, just a little lost. Jaime had hoped that getting him the job at Hal’s ranch might open his eyes a bit—but again, they had been a man down, and that morning they had needed a fourth.

Chasing down the horses in the spiraling dust, the three had been forced to move quickly, and with nimble footwork they bested the Quarter Horses and got them all bunched up. Jaime’s father had lost his hat in the scuffle, a beautiful broad-brimmed brown leather hat. When Jaime scooped it up for him later, it was beaten out of shape and covered in muddy hoof tracks.

“Leave it there,” his father had said, wiping the sweat from his forehead. “It got me thirty-five years. Everything breaks at some point, I s’pose.”

He had meant what he’d said, but Jaime was hearing none of it. Leaning forward with the whip in his hand, he had scooped up the beaten old hat, and now, he was picking it up from the repair shop, planning to return it to his father’s head.

Nothing breaks, Jaime thought, everything is always fixable. A bit of grit and a smile here can put just about anything back together.

That was to be the last morning that Jacob didn’t show up for sleeping in.

After they had brought the horses safely back, Hal had passed on the news that he was going to let Jacob go. He wasn’t a good fit for the ranch. He wasn’t much good for any kind of work—the boy was lazy, and he drank far too much.

Jaime stretched out his wide shoulders and his rippling back as he walked. The repair shop was just up a few streets. He hadn’t slept in a bed for weeks, and he had felt strange doing it the night before.

His father had often told him he should spend more time leading a normal life. He would advise frequently that it wasn’t easy to look for a wife and start raising kids when you spent your whole life lying out on the sand and sitting atop a horse.

Truth was, Jaime didn’t think much of what went out outside of his pocket of the world. To him, spending his nights under the stars, looking out at the ever-expanding sand of New Mexico—that was not such a small world.

Those folk in the city, held down in little houses and worrying about finding work to feed their children, boxed up in carriages and choking on smoke—that was a small world. He never needed it. The stars were his company. As much as his father would try to change his mind, Jaime knew he never would.

He had his world, and he liked it. No one could take that from him.

Nobody—no matter how many pretty green-eyed seamstresses played on his mind.

As he came around the corner, he saw two figures bustling through the dirt—one a slender angry-looking fellow with a bottle of whisky in his hand.

Jacob, Jaime thought. He wasn’t taking the news well.

The other was a striking young woman with long dark curls. He smiled. It was Alison. He supposed she had read his mind. She was following Jacob, who was on some kind of drunken mission, stalking with his shoulders hunched and his eyes wide and flaring.

He blinked.

Her round face was curled up in a terrified expression, and she was mouthing his name. That was when he realized that Jacob was coming right for him.

“Jacob,” Jaime said, “I was meaning to come by, I heard—”

His voice was silenced by the whip of Jacob’s hands around his collar. His friend’s wide, dark eyes pinpointed on him, Jaime froze in shock. He could smell the whiskey on Jacob’s breath already.

“Jacob!” he called. “Let me go! Or at least close your mouth, please, you reek of—”

“Why’d you say nothing?” Jacob shouted in a drunken slur.

“What?” Jaime said.

He smiled and yanked the drunken man’s hands from his collar, taking a step back.

Jaime furrowed his brow. Though Jacob was a slim guy, he had power in his arms, and he wasn’t afraid to throw himself into a drunken scrap. But Jaime himself had never felt his friend’s hands on him before.

Although far bigger than Jacob, Jaime was not a fighter. He usually preferred to talk, and even the most hot-headed in town usually found a way around throwing fists. Talking was his preferred solution. That was what his father had always told him was the right way to sort things.

Jacob stepped back, baring his teeth. Although he was most certainly already quite drunk, there was genuine anger behind his eyes, and Jaime kicked his boots into the dirt.

“Hold on. We alright, or what?” Jaime cooed.

Jacob smacked his gums.

His sister appeared behind him, putting a hand on Jacob’s shoulder and speaking something soothing in Spanish. Jaime caught her eyes. The wideness of them and the way her arched eyebrows moved up suggested her brother was in a dangerous mood.

Jaime smiled, holding up his palms, winking at her.

“Now, now!” he said coolly. “Let’s simmer down, friend.”

Alison shook her head, chewing her lip.

Jacob was curling back his own lips like an animal about to charge.

“You didn’t do nothin’ for me, friend, when I needed you to,” Jacob said, throwing an accusatory finger in his chest. “You just let the old man cut me aside without standin’ up for me… or what?”

He lurched forward again. Jaime slinked to the left, and Jacob came tumbling past him.

“Hold on, hold on!” Jaime said.

By now, the few people that were posted up around town had come past to see what the fuss was. Jaime smiled. It may be hot, but none of them could resist the sound of a fight.

Jacob’s eyes rolled back for a moment, and he took a ragged breath.

“Explain yourself!” he shouted.

Jaime glanced at the repair shop, taking a breath. He supposed his father’s hat would have to wait a little longer.

“Well, Jacob,” Jaime said, “you’re right. I didn’t stand up for you, that’s true, and I’m sorry about what happened to you…”

He flicked his chin with his fingernail and smiled as he stepped forward, coming in close so that Jacob was forced to look in his eyes.

“The old man was furious,” Jaime said. “He was breathing fire that you weren’t up there over the hills with us, and how you still weren’t there when we got back…”

Jaime slipped a finger onto Jacob’s shoulder.

“What should I have done?” he continued with a smile. “Pointed over at the thin air and said, ‘Aw, well, that’s Jacob standin’ just over yonder, Hal?’ Or what?”

Jacob gritted his teeth, his eyes burning. Jaime could see his joke wasn’t going over as well as he’d hoped. He took a step back and lifted his palms high.

“Easy, I’m just pickin’ Jacob,” he said.

Around him, some of the onlookers hissed with laughter, and Jacob dropped his whiskey bottle to the dust and rolled up his sleeves.

“You could’ve stood up for me!” Jacob said. “You could have tried to remind Hal that I’m a hardworking man. You could’a told him to give me a second chance.”

Jaime shook his head. “He already gave you a second chance!” he said assertively. “A second chance, and a third chance. Truth is, I wouldn’t think twice about standing up to Hal if I didn’t agree that you were letting down the company, but you were slipping, and you’re fired up at me now because you know I’m telling the truth.”

Alison ducked forward, calling her brother’s name. Jaime understood why when he saw Jacob’s bunched fist rising.

You ain’t going to hit me, Jacob, he thought.

With a dull squelch, his friend’s fist came across his cheek, and Jaime blinked, his vision flashing red for a moment. He sped back, his head spinning.

“What?” Jaime said aloud.

Without a moment’s thought, he leaned forward on his foot and dove at the man. Jacob reached back and threw another punch, but he was too slow. Jaime clapped his arms around his shoulders and the two tumbled into the dust.

Jaime fought to get the boy’s shoulders down, using his weight for all it was worth, but Jacob was scrappy and fought off his arms with desperation.

“Stop!” Alison called above them.

For a moment, there was nothing but dust. Jaime and Jacob tussled in the dirt, trying to free their arms and biting the surrounding dirt.

Jaime’s head was spinning. He couldn’t believe Jacob had hit him; he had talked his way out of fights before, but never with a friend, and he had secretly hoped that Jacob was posturing more than anything.

As they rolled, Jaime’s body crunched up against Jacob. He caught himself and unrolled, kicking his legs and pinning Jaime’s shoulders against the dirt road.

He’s little, but he’s so darn strong, Jaime thought. “Cool down!” he said.

When the man stopped wrestling against his grip, Jaime pounced from him and took to his feet, shaking the dust from his long blond hair and flexing his fingers. His head was spinning, and his cheek was throbbing with pain from Jacob’s fist.

“Whoa there!”

Alison caught his eye, her pupils dilated, her face contorted in tense concentration. She pulled her brother up from the ground. His face was covered in dust, and Jacob stood, throwing off her hands with a flick of his finger.

“Go on home, Jacob!” Jaime said sternly,

His bulging eyes were still full of rage, and after a solid three seconds of staring without another word, Jacob spun and stormed down a nearby road out toward the fringe of town.

Jaime took a deep breath and shook his head.

The surrounding crowd murmured disappointedly, returning to their homes until the street was almost empty, but for Alison.

She was watching her brother walking into the distance, holding her hands to her hips, her long black curls waving in the wind.

Jaime sucked a deep breath, finding he was still a little breathless.

He would talk to the girl that morning after all, he supposed.

Chapter Three

Alison sucked a deep breath inward. She could hear behind her that Jaime was approaching as she watched Jacob disappear down the street.

Her brother was hurting, real bad, and she knew this was something that would take a while to blow over. It had been so surreal to witness him and Jaime down on the ground, wrestling that way.

Jaime was always such a nice guy. The whole thing didn’t sit right with her.

What struck her most of all was how little she could do to prevent it from happening. Jacob had thrown her off with ease, and it frightened her a little bit.

Footsteps sounded in the dust behind her, and she took a deep breath.

“Are you okay?” Jaime’s cool voice came.

She wondered how to answer. Her brother was drunk, the news was all still fresh. It would all take time. But Jaime’s voice seemed to simmer her down somehow.

“I’m alright.”

“I’m glad to hear that.”

Alison turned to see Jaime in front of her. His muscle-bound frame and great height towered over her, but he wasn’t bearing over her, simply standing there, smiling as though nothing had happened.

Behind him, the sun was shining brightly, peeking from behind a cloud, and his golden hair and blue eyes sparkled.

“Do you always smile, Jaime?” Alison asked. “Even when you catch a punch to the jaw?”

He nodded. “I suppose so,” he said. “He got me pretty good, I gotta hand it to him.”

Jaime rubbed his jaw with a hand and stepped out into the road, his face turning like the tide into a mix of concentration and concern. He slipped a hand over her shoulder.

“I didn’t like the way he threw you off like that,” Jaime said. “That ain’t like him.”

Alison turned her tongue on her cheek, shrugging.

“Mmhmm,” she said. “He can get like that when he’s upset.”

Jaime nodded. “I never knew,” he said wistfully.

For a moment, he stared off into the horizon, his eyes unfocused as though he was far away from the street where they both stood.

Alison took a moment to admire him. He was handsome, but that wasn’t all that drew her to him. It was his strangeness, his otherworldliness, like he was stuck in some kind of daydream. Like he was always out in the desert somewhere, lost in the wilderness, in a simpler world.

She blinked. One day, she would like to see it herself, but she knew she could never. She had Jacob to look after while he tried his best to look after her. Alison let the silence sink in.

Jaime didn’t speak for another few moments.

“Well, I’m glad you’re okay,” he said seriously.

“Thank you,” Alison replied.

A wind came through the street and blew a wave of yellow dust along with it. The two stood, their eyes meeting.

Alison cleared her throat.

“Did you come for the hat?” she asked. “I got it stitched up for you.”

Jaime’s eyes sparkled, and he smiled again. “You read my mind.”

They turned and walked toward the repair shop. Alison smiled, seeing that Jaime’s back was coated in red dust.

“Look at you,” she said. “Mrs. McClusky won’t let you in looking like that!”

She brushed a hand over his back, feeling his burly shoulders rippling beneath it. Jaime laughed.

“Shoot. I forgot that old hag is in today.”

Alison stepped back. “Hey,” she said. “That’s not nice. She’s not all that bad!”

Jaime spat out a torrent of laughter. Alison shook her head. He was really still a boy in some ways.

“Sorry,” he said.

“You been out there with those boys in the desert too long…”

He smiled and patted her shoulder as they made their way into the repair shop.

Inside, the shop was full of clutter and fabrics. All over were dusty picture frames, the shelves busy with flowerpots and stacks of old paper.

Mrs. McClusky was perched over the counter, her fingers tented up and her chalky face turned down in a permanent smile. She was a hard old woman, and many of the men in town had been on the receiving end of a scolding from her.

Alison admired her. Though she was strict and not the most pleasant person, she had to fight tooth and nail to keep things afloat, and she never let anyone slip by her undetected.

“Alison,” she said, her Scottish accent purring on her lips, “I did nee know you were working this morning. I thought you might be at church?”

Jaime appeared behind her, the doorbell ringing overhead.

“Ah,” Mrs. McClusky said, her eyebrows high, “I see.”

Alison shook her head with a smile. “I was there already,” she said. “I was out with Jacob, trying to air him out a little.”

Mrs. McClusky didn’t listen to a word Alison said. She simply kept her sharp eyes glued to Jaime like he was the devil himself.

“Uhh,” Jaime said, “hello there, McClusky—”

Mrs. McClusky, dear boy.” She turned her attention to the lockers behind her.

Alison and Jaimie made quick eye contact. His tongue was resting on his lip. Alison shook her head, trying her best not to pay any mind to him. Though she had to admit, she was wrestling with laughter.

“Aye,” Mrs. McClusky said, “’tis good as new noo’—Alison here has gone to great lengths to assure it.”

She dropped the brown hat on the counter. Her eyes flashed, and Alison felt her cheeks flush. Jaime smiled and took it into his hands.

“She’s done a mighty fine job!” he said with a smile.

Alison hoped she wasn’t as red as she felt she was, and the two turned and left back toward the street. Outside, the sky was blue as could be and swallows were painting the sky in the distance.

Jaime took the hat in his hands, turning and catching Alison’s eye again.

“Alison,” he began.

She gulped, wondering what was about to come out of his mouth.

“I’m sorry,” he said.

Alison blinked. “Sorry?” she said. “Sorry for what?”

Jaime smiled. “Jacob,” he said. “I should have let things go and not tussled with him.”

“Oh,” Alison said. “Don’t worry, Jaime, he was asking for it.”

She turned to the street, a slight smile on her face.

“No,” Jaime said. He had softly taken her hand.

Alison turned back, seeing the same serious look in his eyes.

“It wasn’t right,” Jaime insisted. “Your brother is hot-headed, but there’s nothing good coming from meeting his anger with more anger.”

She nodded. “Jacob is tough work sometimes,” she said. “I love him, but I can’t imagine it’s easy to stay friends with him.”

Jaime smiled and took a seat down on the dusty steps. He patted the wood with another smile. Alison blinked.

She slowly leaned down, brushing the dust away with a tentative palm. Jaime looked at her curiously again, like he was a million miles away.

Alison sat, laughing to herself quietly, surprised to find herself on the dusty street this way.

“I don’t mind his temper, for the most part,” Jaime said. “My father always says you have to watch a man like that, but I know better. Everything can be resolved with a little work.”

“Anger isn’t always simple, Jaime,” she said. “Hard to work something out when someone don’t want it to be so.”

Jaime smiled, taking a handful of dirt in his hand.

“You’d get along with my daddy,” he said. “But no. Anger might be hard to resolve, but anger always comes from something else, and that can be resolved.”

He smiled his characteristic puppy dog smile and winked.

Alison shook her head. Things really seemed that simple to Jaime; she didn’t feel condescension in his words. He talked to everyone the same way, like he was from a different world.

“That’s very sweet,” Alison said. “I suppose there’s some truth in that.”

She looked out at the horizon.

“He’s unsure that he can find work around here,” she said, “and so am I.”

Alison met Jaime’s gaze, and he nodded sadly.

“Not a lotta work to go ‘round,” he said.

She shrugged in agreement.

“It’s not like we don’t got family left,” she said, “He could always go South, find work with the family. I think he’s too proud.”

Jaime let the dust slip into the wind.

“Would you go with him if he did?” he asked. “Or would you stay here?”

Alison felt a flush climbing down the back of her neck.

“Don’t have much of a choice,” she said, “do I?”

She met his baby blue eyes.

“Of course you do,” Jaime said.

Alison felt her mouth become suddenly very dry.

“Not without a man,” she said.

Jaime smiled. He leaned forward slightly.

“Why?” he asked.

Feeling quite dizzy, Alison felt her body become very stiff. She brushed her hands over her dress, feeling his eyes baring on her.

“Because,” she stammered. “Just the way things are, you know?”

“No, I don’t,” Jaime said.

Alison brushed her hands back through her hair.

Dios mio!” she said. “Of course you do, don’t be coy.”

Jaime laughed, a deep warm laugh. “Well,” he said, “maybe I do. But it ain’t gotta be like that, not if we don’t want it to be. Ain’t no master but ourselves.”

He stood and stretched his great frame. Alison shook her head, feeling a sadness come over her suddenly.

“Maybe for you,” she said quietly to herself.

Jaime turned, sun catching his eye. He extended his arm down, taking her hand.

Alison flushed as she received it and stood, following him to the street. Above them, a flock of blackbirds were calling, flying somewhere fast.

South, Alison thought.

Jaime flipped his father’s hat atop his head with a smooth flick of his fingers.

“Mighty fine job, young lady.” He winked. “I could spend the day chatting with you! Sadly, I gotta be somewhere…”

He smiled again, and Alison smirked.

“I’m older than you, boy,” she said.

Jaime slapped the dust from his pants.

“I suppose so,” he said, chuckling lazily. “I suppose that’s true.” With a slow breath, he glanced down toward her house. “You headed home?”

She said she was, and Jaime agreed to walk her home before he went onward to the ranch. Now, the street was filled with people, and many of the young girls were posted up by the windows, eyeing Alison with great jealousy as the pair made their way down the street.

Alison felt rather embarrassed, but silently a little thrilled to spend quite so much time with this cocky and rather strange boy.

They said very little as they walked, and somehow Alison got the sense that he was waiting for her to speak. She could think of nothing to say—she was a little choked up, and decidedly nervous.

He seemed to be getting a great thrill out of it. She smiled, almost rolling her eyes.

Always playing games, this one, she thought. Cute, but still a little boyish.

They arrived outside her house, and Alison was guiltily relieved that there was no sign of her brother around. She kissed her teeth as they made it to the porch.

“I wonder where he’s got to?” Alison asked aloud.

“I’m sure he’s goin’ turn out just fine,” Jaime said. “He’s embarrassed for sure, but everything’s going to work itself out. Always do.”

Alison let a thin smile appear on her face. Then, with a loud call that sounded like a strange otherworldly scream, the blackbirds above were flying south again.

Strange, Alison thought.

Jaime noticed nothing, and he squeezed Alison’s shoulder as he guided her up to the door.

“You be alright, Alison,” he said rather commandingly. “You be just fine.”

Alison blinked, trying to figure out just what he meant.

He let out his familiar dopey, deep laugh and smiled from ear to ear.

“I enjoyed talkin’ with you,” Jaime said. “When I get back from the ranch in a few days, can we do it again?”

Fighting a blush, Alison nodded. “I’d like that.”

Jaime nodded, turned his big blue eyes out to the road, and started walking. Alison shook her head, trying to force her attention away from him as he wandered around the corner and out of sight.

Then, across the perfect blue, blackbirds were flying again toward the purple fringe of the oncoming evening.

Suddenly, without quite understanding why, Alison had the feeling that something terrible was going to happen.

She took a deep breath and slipped back through the door.

“When Honor Prevails” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Spending his days working alongside his father and friends at a big ranch in the New Mexico heat, Jaime was a happy man. The waters of his quiet life are stirred though when a friend of his is let go by the ranch owner. This disruption will take a wild turn when a brutal killing occurs and shakes Jaime’s world to its very core. After Jaime’s father is falsely accused of this killing, Jaime has no choice but to clear his name.

How far will he go to prove his father’s innocence and what price will he have to pay?
Alison never had much joy in her life. She is stuck in a dead-end town, looking after her brother who grows more and more distant each day. After he loses his job, things start to boil over, and Alison sees a new side of her brother emerging, one that scares her… When her brother flees town, she’s convinced that he has some hand in the horrible crime for which Jaime’s father is being accused.

Can she ever carve out her own life when the actions of her brother seem to draw her further into his?

Alison and Jaime need to work together if they are to find answers and discover the truth. Venturing into Mexico and back, this unlikely pair will face a dangerous gang, a town in need, and a man whose dark side threatens to suck them both under. Do they have any chance of succeeding on this high-stakes mission for redemption and honor?

A pulse-pounding drama, which will make you turn the pages with bated breath until the very last word. A must-read for fans of Western action and romance.

“When Honor Prevails” is a historical adventure novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cliffhangers, only pure unadulterated action.

Get your copy from Amazon!

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