The Road to Retribution (Preview)

Prologue: Ghosts of the Battlefield

The Badlands, Dakota Territory

May 27, 1870

Jonah gazed across the windswept sands at the tall, flat-topped mounds in the distance. The buttes were the distinguishing feature of this part of the country, and even from a half-day’s ride away, he could see why. They rose, imposing and stark, above a landscape that was as close to barren as a place could be without being entirely lifeless.

The plants that did grow here were coarse bunch grasses and thorny shrubs, hard plants that defiantly insisted on surviving in a land so hostile to life as to seem to actually hate it. The animals were split evenly into three groups: small, furtive prey that breached the surface only for a few hastily counted seconds; scaled predators that crawled and slithered among the shrubs, fangs dripping and eyes gleaming; and tiny, ceaselessly moving insects that ate the remains of the fallen, predator and prey alike.

This was the Badlands, and a place had never been so perfectly named, Jonah thought.

His horse snorted anxiously, affected by the tangible hostility of the land. Jonah reached forward and patted his cheek. “It’s okay, Rooster. Ain’t nothin’ here that’s gonna hurt you.”

Rooster gave Jonah a dubious look before continuing on. Jonah chuckled, but his smile faded when he looked ahead again at the buttes. The old-timers on the steamboat had told him the buttes used to hide Sioux war parties. They would ambush wagon trains heading west to Oregon and leave nothing behind, not even the wagons.

They’d also told Jonah that the Sioux had left Dakota Territory long ago, but Jonah checked the load in his handgun and rifle nonetheless. The rifle was his old Spencer repeater from the war. He preferred it to the Henry because of its greater accuracy, durability, and range. The handgun was new, a Smith & Wesson Model 3 given to him as a gift by a wealthy gentleman whose life he’d saved back in Missouri when three toughs had tried to rob the man of his watch.

Hopefully, he wouldn’t have to use either weapon today. He had a pound of salted beef and a tin of peaches for dinner tonight. Tomorrow, he’d have to hunt for food, but tonight, he was more concerned with finding shelter.

He felt the hoofbeats before he heard them. The hairs on the inside of his ear picked up a slight change in air pressure. He kept moving, knowing that showing alarm would accelerate whatever assault he was about to suffer. He needed to know what he was up against before he revealed his knowledge of his attacker’s presence.

He looked around nonchalantly, trying to appear as though he was scanning the landscape. There was no cover anywhere he looked. Not until he reached the buttes hours from now. It was fully possible that his attackers would try to ride ahead and wait for him there. That would be bad. If they did that, he would have to turn south before he was out of the Badlands, and that would mean days more walking in this parched wilderness. He had enough water for two more days before he and his horse would be dry.

The corners of his lips turned down. He would have to fight.

Then he heard the hoofbeats. Too many to fight up close. He would have to stop some of them from a distance.

Thank God he’d brought the Spencer and not the Henry.

He pulled Rooster to a stop and quickly dismounted. Grabbing the rifle, he dropped to the ground, lying prone and aiming upwind. He heard the hoofbeats increase in pace as the bandits realized their quarry was aware of them.

It was still two minutes before he saw them. The riders rode abreast through the shimmering heat—a typical and foolish mistake. One they would pay for.

He considered shooting them from five hundred yards off, but there was at least a slight possibility that they were innocent. So he sighted down the barrel of his rifle and waited until they lifted their own rifles and shouted as they started toward him.

They were three hundred yards off. He could get some of them with his Spencer before the others got in range of their Henrys, but not all of them.

He sighted the lead rider but held his fire until the man aimed his own rifle at Rooster. He squeezed the trigger, ignoring the pang in his heart when the man fell back off his horse and lay still.

The other outlaws stared in shock at their fallen leader. Jonah gave them a chance to turn and run, but they only increased their pace toward him. He dropped two more before the bandits broke.

But they didn’t run away. They split left and right, the first sign they had shown of anything resembling tactics.

And this was a good tactic, unfortunately for Jonah. He couldn’t fight both sides at once.

Well, he would have to find a way.

He aimed at the lead rider to the left and fired at his horse. He felt another pang at having to kill an innocent animal, but it was the best way he could ensure his own survival. The horse fell, and the three behind it stumbled and threw their riders.

Jonah turned toward the three approaching on his left and fired. Once more, the lead rider fell, but the other two were now within range of their Henrys and fired back. The bullets sailed harmlessly past, but he couldn’t depend on their poor aim to keep him safe. He fired rapidly, and the other two attackers fell. One fell cleanly, dead before he hit the ground. The other shrieked in pain as he went down, clutching his midsection as his rifle clattered harmlessly away.

He shrieked again and Jonah shivered as a flashback of the war came to him. Thousands of bodies, some whole, some in pieces, most dead.

Not all. The shrieks had kept Jonah awake long after the last of them was silenced by a Union bayonet.

Rooster cried out and Jonah snapped back to attention just in time to see the other three outlaws rushing him. They leveled their rifles and Jonah leaped instinctively toward Rooster. The men were aiming at him and not his horse, but considering their aim, he wanted to be safe and not sorry. 

He slapped Rooster hard on the rump and shouted, “Go on! Get!”

The horse bolted dutifully and Jonah swung his rifle around, shooting one of the outlaws at point-blank range as he tried to turn his horse. The man fell to the ground and Jonah threw his empty rifle at a second. The outlaw shrieked and fired his Henry harmlessly into the air.

Jonah fired his pistol less harmlessly and the man’s shriek was cut off by a .44 Russian slug to his throat. He slumped forward, dropping his rifle and flopping limply on the back of his horse as the animal bolted toward the horizon.

The final attacker stared at Jonah with shock and horror. Jonah steadied himself, wincing as a twinge of pain shot through his left knee.

The outlaw interpreted that wince to mean that Jonah was defeated. The mistake cost him.

He reached for his handgun, but Jonah’s bullet caught him in his shoulder. He cried out and dropped the weapon. He stared at it and started to dismount, then looked back at Jonah.

“Go on,” Jonah said. “Get off your horse. But don’t get stupid and reach for that weapon.”

The man sat atop his horse a moment longer. He glared at Jonah, but his gaze faltered quickly. He slid off the horse and tried to put his hands up, wincing at the wound in his shoulder.

“That’s all right,” Jonah said. “You stay nice and still, you can keep your hands down.”

“Who the hell are you?” the outlaw asked.

“Nobody,” Jonah replied.

“You for sure ain’t nobody. You just killed eight men!”

“Well, you were trying to kill me first.”

“Yeah, but… no one can do that. Nine against one? That’s impossible.”

“Well,” Jonah said, limping to the outlaw’s handgun and stooping to pick it up, “guess it ain’t.”

The handgun was a Colt 1861, the same revolver Jonah had carried until the old-timer in Missouri gave him the Smith & Wesson. It was in decent shape. He could sell it for food at the next town.

“Hey,” the man said, “what are you doing?”

“I’m taking your weapons,” Jonah replied, limping toward the nearest fallen outlaw. His left leg was on fire.

“But how will I protect myself?”

“You’ll go back to where you came from and choose better company,” Jonah said. “Those boys you were riding with, they got what they deserved. You’re lucky you didn’t.”

The outlaw lowered his eyes and didn’t protest further. Jonah took the outlaw’s rifle as well as the rifle and pistol from his fallen comrade. He also took half the salt beef left in the fallen horse.

He loaded his take in the saddlebags of the other horse and the outlaw started. 

“Hey, wait! That’s my horse!”

“Mine now,” Jonah said, shouldering his rifle and mounting the strange horse with an effort. He started toward Rooster, who browsed at a shrub a few hundred yards distant.

“I’ll die if you leave me alone out here.”

“I’d have died if I’d left you alone five minutes ago,” Jonah said.

He reached Rooster a few minutes later and dismounted, transferring his pack to the other horse. He would use it as a pack animal and sell it when he got to Taos. Or maybe he’d keep it. He could always use a good horse.

He mounted Rooster and looked behind him at the outlaw kneeling in the dust. The man stared forlornly at Jonah, and Jonah felt another pang in his heart.

Dammit all to hell.

He turned Rooster and headed back to the outlaw. The man watched him warily as Jonah took his bag of ammunition and emptied it into his larger pack. When Jonah pulled out the Colt, he flinched and held up his hands. 

“Hey, mister, look, today was just business. I ain’t gonna come after you or nothin’.”

Jonah broke the cylinder of the Colt and shook out the rounds. He placed them in the ammo pouch and cinched the string. Then he threw the pouch as hard as he could. It sailed through the air, landing in the dirt eighty or so yards away.

Jonah handed the Colt to the outlaw. “You look real careful, and you’ll find that pouch before nightfall. Creighton’s a day’s ride north. You tell the sheriff there you were attacked and had to escape on foot. Then you find something better to do with your life.”

The man stared at Jonah in shock for a moment. Then he practically wept with relief. “Oh, thank you!” he said. “Oh, thank you, sir, thank you!”

“Go on now,” Jonah said.

He turned Rooster and continued south. For a time, he heard the scratching of the outlaw digging feverishly for the ammo. Then he heard only the soft skittering of the windblown sand.

 

Chapter One: Return to No Home

Taos, New Mexico

June 17, 1870

“Stand tall, son. Let me look at you.”

Jonah lifted his chin and squared his shoulders. He looked at his father’s face, grayer and more wrinkled than it had been a few years before, but still strong. His eyes were misty at the sight of his son now grown. Jonah’s mother wept openly, with pride just as much as fear. His heart nearly broke, but he kept his posture tall and proud and met his father’s eyes.

His father nodded approvingly. “You’re a man now, son. That means you have to do what you know to be right. Even if your mother and I wish you wouldn’t.”

A lump formed in Jonah’s throat. When he’d first told his parents he was going off to war, they had protested vehemently. His father had asked what a war fought a thousand miles away had to do with them, and his mother simply begged that he stay home and not leave her childless.

But he was going anyway. As his father said, he was a man now. He had to do what was right. The United States of America was about freedom for everyone no matter the color of their skin. He couldn’t sit in comfort while others died to protect that right.

“Now listen,” his father said, his voice growing stern. “You sign that paper, boy, you’re making a promise. You’re telling the world that you’re going to fight and keep fighting until the battle’s won, no matter the cost.” 

His mother sobbed once at that but collected herself and nodded for her husband to continue. 

“You’re a Maddox. When a Maddox makes a promise, he keeps it. You stand tall, you stand proud, and if the time comes for you to meet God, you meet Him with your head held high knowing you did your duty. You understand me, son?”

Jonah tried to swallow the lump in his throat, but it remained. “Yes, sir,” he said. “I will.”

“Oh, Jonah!” his mother cried, her self-control finally breaking. She rushed to him and held him tightly, weeping against his shoulder. Jonah returned her embrace, tears streaming down his face.

She held him for a long moment before finally releasing him. Forcing a smile through her tears, she lifted her hands to his cheeks. “I’m so proud of you,” she said.

He smiled, his lower lip trembling a moment before steadying. “I love you, Ma.”

“I love you too, son.”

He turned to his father. “I love you, Pa.”

“I love you too, Jonah. God be with you.”

He embraced his father, mounted his horse, and started east. When he reached the top of the small hill that overlooked his family’s ranch, he saw his parents still standing there watching him. He lifted his hand in farewell, and they both raised their hands in return.

“God be with you,” he said softly.

That was the last time he ever saw them.

The headstones were crude, nothing more than large rocks that had been placed over their graves and etched with the names of the dead. The one on Jonah’s left read SARAH MADDOX, BORN 1821, DIED 1865. The one on his right read JACOB MADDOX, BORN 1817, DIED 1865.

Both contained one more word, etched underneath the years of their death. Jonah stared at that word and tried once more to understand how the two strongest people he had ever met could have died so suddenly and so cruelly.

SMALLPOX.

He recalled his mother’s last letter, delivered a week before the end of the war.

I’m sorry for not writing sooner, son. We’ve been fighting hard to stop the disease, but it’s taken too many of us. I’m afraid it will soon take your father and me.

Your father is too weak to get out of bed, which is why I’m writing this letter and not him. He wants me to tell you that he loves you and he’s proud of you. I love you too, son, and I’m proud of you more than you know. You are a fine man, and the best time of my life was the time I got to spend raising you.

I know you’ll want to come pay your respects in person, son, but you can’t come home. Not yet. Not while this disease is raging. Wait at least a year, then come and say goodbye. Until then, my darling, know that we will always watch over you.

We love you.

Ma and Pa

He hadn’t come back the next year. Or the year after that. Or the one after that. For a time, he wasn’t sure he’d ever come home. He wasn’t sure he could handle his parents’ absence. And now that he was here, he still wasn’t sure.

He’d seen people die before. He’d watched as their eyes lost focus and their lungs emptied. He’d seen bodies torn, mangled, and shattered. He’d even watched a few die of fever, their bodies slowly paling and wasting as the cold stole their soul little by little.

But somehow, not seeing was worse. Not knowing what his parents looked like, how they suffered. That, somehow, was more painful to bear than watching them die. He was left to imagine all of that, and his imagination was colored and enriched by his memories of war. He could imagine terrible things.

He sighed and stood, grimacing as his left knee protested the movement. The wound ached on the best of days and throbbed on the worst, but Jonah didn’t mind. Of all the scars he bore, that was the least of them.

He mounted his horse and started into the town proper. It was surreal, seeing it again. It looked the same as it had  when he left nine years ago. The buildings were all of mud adobe, a technique the Pueblos had taught the Spanish when they arrived and that the Americans had picked up from their Mexican descendants.

There was the boardinghouse, the livery, the general store, and Bart’s Guns & Ammo, where Jonah had bought his Spencer and a box of ammunition. There was the post office, the church, the saloon, and the apothecary. Jonah noticed Doc Irving called it a clinic now.

There was one new building, a dentistry. He’d seen a dentist once before when a Rebel had hit him in the jaw with the butt end of his rifle and shattered one of his molars. The man hadn’t even offered him whiskey before forcefully yanking out the tooth fragments. Hopefully this dentist was kinder.

Jonah had lived nine years in this town. His parents had left Virginia when he was ten, when the abolitionist riots were beginning in earnest. They had settled here with nothing and built a home with a few other brave souls who hoped to start a community where everyone could live in freedom.

He had been gone for as long as he had lived here, and he felt like a stranger. He rode slowly down the street, noticing the people walking by. He recognized most of them, but they didn’t seem to recognize him. He didn’t blame them. He was a far cry from the boy who had left this town nearly a decade earlier.

He rode to the saloon and hitched Rooster to the post in front. He headed inside, smiling briefly as he imagined what his mother might say if she knew that the second thing he did after he arrived in town was get a drink at the saloon.

His smile disappeared as quickly as it came. His mother wasn’t alive to say anything.

When he walked inside, the conversation immediately stopped. The men all turned to him, measuring him. Once more, he knew most of them, but they didn’t recognize him. He nodded politely and headed to the bar. 

He didn’t mind that they didn’t recognize him yet. It would be a while before he felt like enduring the condolences and questions and well-meaning attention. He needed time to adjust.

Clive Porter, the bartender, walked over and nodded. “Beer or whiskey?”

“Whiskey,” he said, “double.”

Clive filled a glass and Jonah laid two half-dollars on the counter. Clive passed his hand over them and they vanished, disappeared to wherever bartenders spirited their coins off to.

Jonah sipped the whiskey, allowing the warmth to soothe his aching muscles. Long travel was hard on him these days. He sipped again and swirled the bitter liquid in his mouth before swallowing it. The burn of the alcohol lingered, sharpening his senses as he listened to the room.

Garth Hollister and Daniel McCoy sat at the table nearest him. Garth ran the livery and Daniel McCoy had owned the town’s only dairy farm since he arrived with the same wagon train as Jonah’s parents. Jonah remembered how Daniel would always smile and sneak him chocolates when he was young. The man’s chestnut hair was silver now, and his eyes were a little more tired than they had been, but they radiated the same kindness they always had.

He didn’t know Garth as well, but his father had respected the man. They would occasionally play cards together on Friday night when the working week was over. Garth was a surly type, but decent as far as Jonah could tell.

Now, Garth sipped his beer and said, “I heard Gabe Carter’s going to propose to the Wilson girl.”

“That so?” Daniel said, “Good for them. Julie’s a sweet girl.”

Garth scoffed. “Gabe’s an idiot.”

“No, he ain’t,” Daniel scolded. “He’s a good man.”

“He’s soft,” Garth countered.

“Well, some folk are a little less lean than others. My Portia’s just as beautiful as anyone even if she is a little heavy.”

Jonah chuckled slightly at that.

“Now why do you have to go and say something like that?” Garth said in a wounded tone. “I didn’t say anything about Portia.”

“I’m not sore,” Daniel insisted. “I’m only saying it’s not fair to judge Gabe just because he’s carrying a few extra pounds.”

“Well, he’s still an idiot. Talking all day about cakes. What kind of man spends all day talking about cakes?”

“Who’re you trying to fool?” Daniel said. “I saw you eat a whole raspberry pie at the bake sale last month.”

“In point of fact,” Garth said, “a pie is not a cake. And anyway, I ain’t saying there’s anything wrong with cake. A man just oughta have more on his mind than baking.”

“You see, that’s your problem, Garth. You need to broaden your horizons.”

Jonah’s anxiety eased as he listened to the two old friends talk. He even smiled a little as he sipped more of his whiskey. Not everything was as it had been, but more or less, Taos seemed to be the same as it always was: a quiet place with good people.

That was exactly what Jonah needed.

“Did you hear Silas Mercer’s going to tear down Jacob Maddox’s house and put in a new barn?” Garth said.

The floor seemed to fall away from Jonah. Silas Mercer? Was tearing down his house?

“Yeah,” Daniel said, his tone tensing somewhat. “I heard.”

“I’m guessing you’re not happy about that.”

Daniel didn’t answer right away. 

“It’s been five years, Daniel,” Garth said. “You have to let them go.”

“I let them go,” Daniel snapped. “I held Sarah’s hand as she passed. I saw them go with my own eyes.”

“I know. I’m just saying, tearing down the house won’t hurt no one anymore. There aren’t any Maddoxes left to claim it.”

Jonah’s eyes widened. What? No Maddoxes left? Did they think he was dead, too?

Well, of course they do. You didn’t come home for five years after the war ended.

He frowned and sipped his whiskey as he continued to eavesdrop.

“I think Silas Mercer’s a good man,” Garth said.

“You have loose standards,” Daniel replied.

“Well, what does that say about you?”

Jonah heard the twinkle in Garth’s voice, but Daniel showed no humor in his response. “Silas is a businessman, Garth. You call it smart, I call it ruthless.”

“Now hold on, he didn’t wrong anyone.”

“Maybe,” Daniel said.

“I’ve known you for twenty-five years, Daniel. If you say maybe, it means no.”

“Maybe.”

Garth sighed. “You’re no fun when you’re sober. Hey, Clive! Get Daniel another whiskey!”

Clive dutifully poured the drink and walked to the table. Jonah felt the hairs on the back of his neck prickle as Garth’s gaze fell on him. 

“Hey, stranger.”

Jonah turned to him and nodded. “How do you do?”

“Fine enough. What brings you to town?”

His eyes fell to the badge pinned to Garth’s chest. It looked like Garth wasn’t just the owner of the livery anymore. His smile was friendly, but his eyes were hard as he regarded Jonah.

Jonah hesitated before answering. He’d come to take over his father’s ranch, but it seemed his father’s ranch wasn’t his anymore. That shouldn’t surprise him, and it shouldn’t seem suspicious, either, but something about the conversation between Garth and Daniel seemed off. What did Garth mean Silas Mercer hadn’t forced anyone to do anything? Why did Daniel seem to distrust him so much?

Who was he in the first place?

He decided not to tell Garth who he was. He needed to figure out what had happened between his parents and Silas Mercer and how this man had managed to take over his home.

And he had an idea of how to do that.

“Looking for work,” he said.

“Here? Why here?”

Jonah shrugged. “First town I came to after I left Mexico.”

“And what were you doing in Mexico, if you don’t mind me asking?”

“Worked a ranch. Got kicked out when the don’s daughter got sweet on me.”

Garth stared at him a moment. Then he and Daniel started laughing. Clive grinned, and Jonah smiled a little to keep up appearances.

“Oh boy,” Garth said, wiping tears from his eyes. “That sounds so crazy I actually believe it.” He chuckled once more. “Well, son, if you’re looking for ranch work, Silas Mercer’s hiring good men with strong backs. Now, I saw you limping when you came in here, but if you pull your weight regardless, Silas’ll hire you on. I wouldn’t bet on his daughter growing sweet on you, though.”

Daniel chuckled at that. “If she does, it’s time to move on from here.”

“Don’t let Silas hear you say that,” Garth said. “His daughter’s about the only thing he loves more than money.”

“I ain’t lookin’ for trouble,” Jonah promised. “I just need work.”

“You’ll get it,” Garth said. “Say, I didn’t get your name.”

Jonah thought a moment and remembered a soldier he’d met during the Vicksburg campaign. The young man was the best poker player he’d ever met. He’d won over twenty dollars from the others before a Rebel sharpshooter bored his left eye out with a minie ball.

“Callahan,” he said. “Nate Callahan.”

“Callahan,” Garth repeated. “It’s a pleasure to meet you. I’m Garth Hollister, the sheriff. This here’s my friend and sometimes deputy Daniel McCoy. He runs the dairy farm. Best cheese you’ve ever eaten.”

Daniel smiled and tipped his cap. “I’ll have Portia set some aside for you as a welcome.”

Jonah nodded. “Thank you, kindly.”

“Where are you staying?” Garth asked.

“I figured I’d rent a room at the boardinghouse for the night, then go see Silas Mercer in person and ask about the job.”

Garth nodded. “That’ll do. They should have some rooms available. Girls, too, if you feel like taking your mind off of the don’s daughter.”

Jonah smiled. “I think just a room will do.”

Garth lifted his hand. “Hey, none of my business.”

Jonah stood and tipped his hat. “Pleasure to meet you, Sheriff.”

He started toward the door, and Garth said, “Oh, Callahan?”

Jonah turned back to him. Garth smiled apologetically, but his eyes were hard once more. 

“One thing that is my business. I need to confiscate your weapons.”

Jonah’s eyes narrowed. “Why?”

“Town policy,” Garth said. “Had some incidents a few years back. Town council decided it would be prudent to ban weapons inside the city limits. Silas may choose to arm you, and if he does, you may return for your weapons and keep them with you. Otherwise, the sheriff’s office will hold onto them until you move on.”

Jonah wanted few things less in life than to disarm himself, but one thing he wanted more was to know what happened to his parents’ ranch, so he nodded and handed Garth his gun. 

Garth’s eyes widened in appreciation. “That’s a nice gun. .44 Russian, right?”

Jonah nodded.

“Only other gun I’ve seen like that is owned by Silas Mercer. Cost him one hundred dollars. How’d you get one?”

“It was a gift.”

“From the don’s daughter?”

He laughed and Jonah smiled politely. “I’ll bring you my rifle.”

He looked around when he left the saloon. The sun was nearly set, and almost everyone was already indoors. He frowned at his Spencer as he brought it to Garth.

“Nice rifle, too,” Garth said. “Most people use Henrys, but the Spencer is more accurate.”

“I’ve found that to be true.”

Garth nodded. “Well, all right, Nate Callahan. Welcome to Taos.”

Jonah tipped his hat again. “Thank you, Sheriff. Mr. McCoy.”

“Pleased to meet you, Nate,” Daniel said, extending his hand.

Jonah left the saloon and mounted Rooster. He was keenly aware of the absence of his gunbelt and rifle as he headed toward the boardinghouse.

The boardinghouse also had a saloon, and Jonah recognized most of the patrons here, too. They were among the less-savory citizens of Taos, a few of his former classmates among them.

Half of them hunched over their beers and glared in his direction. The other half pawed drunkenly at bored girls, some of whom Jonah was disturbed to identify as more of his former classmates.

The boardinghouse had never been a church, but it had definitely grown seedier in Jonah’s absence. He negotiated a room for a dollar and refused the offer of a girl for another dollar.

“You want help with your pack?” Boris Stefansson, the proprietor, asked in English that wasn’t quite as thickly accented as Jonah remembered.

“No thank you,” Jonah said, shouldering his pack and bedroll.

Boris watched dubiously as he limped toward the stairs. “Are you sure?”

“I’m sure. Thank you.”

Jonah made his way slowly but steadily up the stairs. The room had a bed, a table, and a candle, and nothing else. He set his pack on top of the table and lit the candle. He unrolled his bedroll, kicked off his boots, and placed his hat on top of them by the door. He lay down to sleep, but it was a long time before he found it.

Silas Mercer. Whoever he was, he now owned the home that Jonah had grown up in. Tomorrow, Jonah was going to find out exactly who he was.


“The Road to Retribution” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Jonah Maddox returns to the homestead he vowed to reclaim after his parents fell victim to the unforgiving grasp of smallpox. However, he soon discovers that the family ranch is now under the merciless control of Silas Mercer, a cruel and sadistic landowner who will not tolerate opposition. If Jonah wants his home back, he’ll have to earn it the hard way…

An undercover mission begins with Jonas getting a job at the ranch under an alias…

Annabelle Mercer, confined to a life of oppression under her tyrannical uncle Silas, yearns for freedom. When a mysterious stranger starts working on the ranch, Annabelle finds herself torn between the allure of love and the fear of betrayal. Can she trust him, or is he just another pawn in the ruthless game orchestrated by Silas and his vengeful daughter, Evelyn?

Can she gamble her freedom on this stranger?

As Jonah and Annabelle grapple with their doubts, they realize that their only chance at victory lies in joining forces. Riding through the dust-choked trails of danger, they must confront their deepest fears and embrace the love that grows in a perilous quest. Will Jonah be able to save the only thing left from his family? Can his mission for justice and retribution win over hatred and deception?

“The Road to Retribution” 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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