When Greed Takes Over (Preview)

Chapter One

The saloon was the only building for miles around, nestled at the foot of a rocky hill that rose up to the blue sky like a sentinel. The sun had just begun to set in the hills, casting long shadows across the dusty plains, and the air was filled with the smell of sagebrush and wood smoke. 

Butch sat at the bar, nursing a whiskey and watching the other patrons with a wary eye. He had been drinking alone. Lately, he couldn’t remember drinking any other way. Sometimes, he and some of the men would play poker, but it had been more years than he cared to mention since anyone had remembered his name or written him a letter.

Butch was a hard man to track down. Part of the job.

The saloon was a rough-and-tumble place filled with cowboys, miners, and other hard men. With a crowd like this, danger was never far away. The walls were rough-hewn timber, the floor was covered in sawdust, and the air was thick with the smell of sweat and alcohol. Butch sat with his back to the wall, his eyes scanning the room.

Just drinkers. No trouble.

In the far recesses of his mind, an alternate remained. He was on the job, after all.

He was only twenty-eight, but the adrenaline of his job was wearing off. Bounty hunting had once been a thrill, a way to make a name for himself and earn a living. But now, after years of chasing down outlaws and bringing them to justice, it was all starting to tire him out.

This land, like all the land in the country, was a fractured place. Every day, it seemed a new crack would appear, and every time he patched one up, another would spring up. This town was no different. 

Butch sipped his whiskey, feeling the familiar burn as it trickled down his throat. How much longer could he keep this up?

He finished his drink and signaled for another. The bartender, a weathered woman with gray hair and a no-nonsense demeanor, placed the glass in front of him and leaned across the bar.

“I’ve seen you around,” she said. “What brings you to these parts?”

Butch shrugged. “Just passing through.”

The bartender snorted. “You folk. Running around from town to town like it’s some kind of game.”

Butch frowned. “It’s not a game. It’s a job.”

“What job is that?” she asked.

He said nothing, just smiled. The bartender raised an eyebrow. 

“Maybe you need a girl. Someone to settle you down.”

Butch shook his head. “I don’t need anyone. I’m fine on my own.”

The bartender sighed and wiped down the bar with a rag. “Suit yourself. You feel like talking, handsome, you know where to find me.”

He raised his drink and thanked her. “I’m usually more talkative,” Butch said with a smile.

The bartender laughed. “No, you ain’t. Like I said, I seen you in here.” She fell silent for a moment, then spoke up again. “You know, I grew up in these parts. Seen a lot of changes over the years. Used to be a quiet little town, but now it’s full of roughnecks. People used to talk. What’s the world coming to?”

“You speaking on this business with that man Sonny and the other fella?”

The woman blinked, looked to the room’s corner, and clicked her tongue. “I don’t know what you mean.”

It was an open secret. The town was knee-deep in a feud. Butch had been here less than a week and already it was clear. The folk in town wouldn’t stop talking about it once they had a drink in them.

“You never told me what brought you here.”

Butch thumbed the paper in his pocket. His bounty. That was the only thing that brought him anywhere. Except the trail had run cold. Soon, he would have to keep moving, chase down a fresh lead. 

Butch looked down at his empty glass. One more drink.

The bartender swallowed her question and poured, seeming to read his mind.

“Tell me about the old days. What was it like growing up here?”

“It was a peaceful place,” she said.

Butch nodded. “Before this whole thing?”

The bartender checked over her shoulder. “You talking about the war, Charlie and Sonny?”

Butch shook his head. “That kind of nonsense doesn’t interest me a mite, darling.”

The bartender’s face softened and she leaned in, eager to share her memories. They talked for a while, Butch listening intently as she regaled him with stories of her youth, of cowboys and Indians, of hard winters and hot summers. But eventually, she grew tired and excused herself to tend to another customer. Butch watched her go, feeling a pang of nostalgia for a time and place he had never known.

The door opened. By now, the night was black as ink.

A group of young men entering the saloon. Angry men. They were dressed in rough work clothes, covered in dirt and sweat, and their faces were red with drink and rage. 

His instincts kicked in. He scanned their faces.

“You son of a bitch!” a man howled and slapped a younger man around the back of the head. It was all in drunken fun, but Butch could see that the group was ready for trouble.

The man turned, catching his gaze. A burly man with a long mustache. Between his milky eyes, a scar ran across from his chin to his forehead.

Butch tensed, ready to act if needed. But Scarface broke his gaze and the group made their way to the other end of the bar, shouting and laughing as they sat.

Letting out a breath he didn’t know he was holding, Butch returned his attention to his drink. He took another sip, feeling the whiskey warm his chest. 

Frustration tugged at his stomach. He was getting too old for this line of work. Butch remembered the days when he could take on any bounty, any job, without hesitation or fear. Now, with each passing year, it seemed like the world was getting worse, and he wasn’t sure if he could keep up.

Butch shook his head, trying to banish the negative thoughts. A man couldn’t afford to doubt himself, not in his line of work. He needed to stay sharp. He couldn’t let the world beat him down. Not yet.

As the men settled in and began shouting for the bartender, another man appeared from the back of the room. He was tall and slim, with a thick beard and piercing blue eyes. Butch recognized him as the owner of the saloon, and he knew this couldn’t end well.

The owner approached the group of men and cleared his throat. “Gentlemen, I hate to be the one to tug on your ear like this, but maybe you’d best be off down the road. This place ain’t exactly known for its hospitality.”

The leader of the men fired back, his scar rippling as he shouted. “We’ll be the judge of that, friend. We’ve been on the trail for weeks and we’re damn well entitled to a drink in whatever bar we please.”

A small group of men joined the owner, the tension rising. The two sides were drawing a line in the sand, and it wouldn’t take much to spark a fight.

“Come on,” the bartender said. “You know this is Sonny’s place… We aren’t allowing none of Charlie’s boys here.”

Butch looked away, closing his eyes and tightening his grip on his glass. He didn’t want to get involved in someone else’s fight, but he couldn’t just sit back and let things escalate. He took a deep breath and prepared himself for whatever might happen next.

Butch took a sip of his drink and turned to the bartender, hoping to make some polite conversation to pass the time. But before he could say anything, he heard the scar-faced man step forward.

“Then Sonny can come tell me that himself, way I see it.”

The bartender slipped from behind the bar and crept toward the back door, trying to make herself scarce. A tussle was coming, yet Butch couldn’t seem to get up from his seat. His heart raced as he watched in the bar mirror’s dusty reflection the men drawing closer to each other, their voices growing louder and more menacing.

He hoped with all his heart that things would end peacefully and he could have a quiet drink. But this was wishful thinking. Tension. The world was full of it. People were always on the brink of boiling over.

As the men squared off, Butch braced himself for the worst. Things could be really ugly in an instant. He tapped the bar, trying to calm his nerves, but it was no use. The adrenaline was surging through his veins, and he knew that he was about to be caught up in something he couldn’t control.

Shattering glass filled the air. The scar-faced man punched the saloon owner square in the jaw. The force of the blow sent the owner stumbling backward, crashing into a nearby table and sending bottles flying in all directions.

Chaos followed. The owner’s teenage son jumped into the fray, swinging wildly at his father’s attacker. The two of them were locked in a fierce struggle, trading blow for blow as they grappled with each other.

Butch watched the showdown unfold, transfixed by the violence. The other men in the saloon scuffled around them with half an eye on the main event. Tables and chairs came toppling as they brawled.

The air was thick with the smell of sweat and booze, accented by the sound of breaking glass. The floorboards rumbled beneath Butch’s feet as the fight raged on, and he could feel the tension in the room building to a fever pitch.

He stayed fixed on his chair. He knew better than to interfere in a situation like this. As a bounty hunter, he had learned to stay out of trouble whenever possible, to avoid getting caught up in the fray unless it was absolutely necessary.

So he watched from his seat at the bar, his hands gripping his empty glass tightly as the fight raged around him. He hoped someone would step in and put a stop to the madness before it was too late. 

Scarface leaned over the young man, pounding his fist down on him hard. The kid shouted. Butch winced. He was just a young boy.

He heard a sound from the hallway where the bartender was still crouched in the corner, grabbing something in her hands in the dark. A rifle.

Butch took a breath. He had to step in.

He stood, throwing down his glass. “Stop it. Right now,” he bellowed.

Scarface stood, sliding up from the bloody boy. “And who are you?”

The group all looked toward him. Butch smiled. 

“I’m the guy that tells you when your fight is over. That’s who.” 

Scarface’s boys jeered and howled. The rough man flexed his hands, his bloody knuckles clicking. 

Butch waited for the anger, but it didn’t come. Sadly, this was nothing new. He wanted to be anywhere but where he stood.

The boys called him forward, and Butch approached. Heat radiated from the two men, their sweat mixing with the musty smell of the saloon. The broken glass crunched underfoot. Other men continued to tussle, but all eyes were really on Butch. The wooden floorboards creaked and groaned under the weight of his footsteps.

Scarface made the first move, throwing a wild punch. Butch felt it swing by him, dodging it with ease. He responded with a quick jab to Scarface’s gut. The man doubled over, shrieking. Butch hadn’t blinked yet.

His enemy’s boys were all shouting, but Butch blocked them out. Then, like a wounded animal, the man with the scar sprung, throwing another fist. Butch felt it pound in his palm. He grimaced, threw the arm away, and came back.

Smack!

Butch staggered backward, momentarily stunned, clutching his jaw as Scarface lunged forward. The man was wielding a knife. It came through the air with a slick sound. Butch reacted with lightning-fast reflexes, grabbing Scarface’s wrist and twisting it until the knife went flying out of his hand. The blade glinted in the dim light of the saloon, landing on the table with a loud clatter, wobbling precariously on its tip. 

Scarface was momentarily stunned, staring at his empty hand in disbelief. “What in the—”

Butch didn’t let him finish. His punch connected with Scarface’s jaw, sending him stumbling backward. The other men in the saloon paused their own brawls to watch the spectacle unfold.

Feeling the sweat trickle down his neck, Butch advanced on Scarface, who tried to put up a fight, but he was no match. Butch landed several more blows, each more punishing than the last, until Scarface was reeling and barely standing. He grabbed him by the collar and the seat of his pants, hefted him off his feet, and carried him toward the door.

Butch could barely see, the blood was running down his face from a cut in his forehead. He was moving on pure instinct alone.

He threw the man out into the rain. Scarface landed in the mud.

Inside the saloon, there was nothing but whispers.

Butch turned and snapped his fingers, his eyes locking onto Scarface’s companions. They hesitated for a moment, unsure of what to do, before Butch’s commanding presence convinced them to follow their leader out the door. The crunching of broken glass and the groans of the injured permeated the air.

A click. Butch spun.

From the corner, the bartender tossed the rifle, and it landed in the owner’s hands. The man looked like he had murder on his mind.

Butch stepped in front of him. “No need for that,” he said, his voice firm but not threatening. “It’s done.” 

The owner, wiping the blood from his face, looked hesitant, but he ultimately put down the rifle. His son groaned in the corner.

“There a doctor here?” Butch asked.

Snapping out of his murderous trance, the owner nodded, picked up his son, and pulled him to the back door.

Butch took a deep breath and returned to the bar. “Where were we?”

The bartender stared at him in amazement. “Who are you?” she asked, finally finding her voice. 

Butch shrugged. “I told you. I’m just passing through. Now, you were telling me about this town, weren’t you?”

He motioned for her to continue. Her mouth stayed wide open.

A slow clap came from the corner of the room. 

Butch looked up to see a silver-haired man standing there, tall and broad-shouldered, with a menacing look in his eye. His ringed finger gleamed in the dark, pulling back his jacket and casually revealing the biggest pistol Butch had ever seen.

“Well, well, well,” he said. “Looks like we’ve got ourselves a hero.”

 

Chapter Two

Butch had met Sonny a couple of times now but knew him far better from overhearing the stories the townsfolk would trade in the dark corners of the bars.

Sonny was a wealthy man. His skin was tanned to perfection even when the sky seemed always gray. He was dressed in a tailored suit, complete with a pristine white shirt and a silk tie. His slicked-back gray hair was perfectly coiffed, and he wore a gold watch that glinted in the dim light of the bar. He had a certain air of arrogance that was unmistakable, but it was mixed with a charm that could disarm anyone who crossed his path.

As Sonny laughed, the sound echoed through the bar, and heads turned toward him. He strode confidently, his polished shoes tapping on the floorboards.

“Sit,” he said. “Drink.”

Butch chewed his tongue. He snapped at the bartender and she quickly obliged, pouring him a generous measure of whiskey. 

Sonny smiled. Butch knew his smile. In their encounters, they hadn’t traded many words, but they had played cards. Butch always learned people’s mannerisms over a game of poker, and there was something about Sonny that ate at him, something he couldn’t place.

Sonny leaned in, putting an arm on Butch’s shoulder. “There’s just too much fighting in the world.”

“As far as he was concerned, the fight may have been over you, Sonny.”

Butch turned, catching Sonny’s smile fade in the corner of his eye. The man laughed dryly and wished him well. But as Butch headed to the door, he kept his hand close to his gun, just in case.

Emerging from the bar, he was greeted by a refreshing wave of cool night air accompanied by the sensation of raindrops on his skin. He paused to take a deep breath, savoring the contrast with the heat of the saloon. 

The town had a different character at this hour. Despite the lateness of the night, people still thronged the streets, moving to and from saloons and brothels. The sounds of music, laughter, and the occasional horse clopping down the muddy streets filled the air. Despite his search, he had not been able to locate his target. This realization persisted, plaguing him as he stood outside the bar.

Butch, as it often was of late, had no clue where he was going.

He slipped his hand in his pocket, searching for coins. There were none. Only his tobacco. He rolled up a smoke. He had hoped to find some work or at least a warm bed for the night, but now it seemed like a hopeless prospect. 

Around the corner, the sound of singing caught Butch’s attention. A man and a woman. He watched as they came stumbling into the street, rainwater dripping down their drunken faces. He felt a twinge in his stomach and wondered what home they would return to. A warm fire. A family. He took a breath and kept walking, shaking off the booze. He needed to keep a clear head if he was going to survive the storm. This bounty hunt had been dragging on for far too long.

As he lit the match, he inhaled and started walking. He barely took a step before sensing someone behind him and turning to see Sonny following him. 

“You still looking for that mark, Butch?” 

Butch jumped. He turned and growled. How did he know?

“What mark?”

Sonny chuckled. “Relax, you told me. At the game. Remember?”

Butch chewed his lip. He’d been drinking a lot lately, but he wasn’t known for telling anyone his business. He kept walking.

Sonny followed him down the street, his boots crunching on the gravel. He caught up to Butch and matched his pace. Sonny offered a sly smile. “I might have a job for you.”

Butch turned, surprised. “What kind of job?”

Sonny pitched him, telling him that it would entail protecting his ranch and recovering his stolen cattle when necessary.

Butch hesitated. “I already have a job,” he said.

Sonny didn’t miss a beat. “If your mark comes through again, you can leave at any time. No harm, no foul.”

Butch silently considered the offer as they walked. He had been struggling to find his mark and was running low on funds. Plus, the idea of protecting a ranch and possibly getting help with his bounty was appealing.

“See you at the cards.”

As Butch walked away from Sonny, he could feel the other man’s gaze burning into his back.

“I’ll see you on the job, Butch. You don’t have a choice.”

Butch kept walking, ignoring him. He had made the right decision, but a small voice in the back of his head wondered if he was being too stubborn.

The rain was coming down harder now, drenching him to the bone. He wrapped his coat tighter around himself and looked around for a place to spend the night. The streets were busy, even in the rain, with people hurrying to their destinations. A few saloons and boarding houses lined the street, but he had no money to spend on a room.

As he walked, he thought about Sonny’s offer. It was tempting, but he couldn’t afford to give up the hunt for his mark. He had been searching for weeks, finding nothing but stale leads. But he couldn’t risk losing his target, not when the bounty was so high.

Mick Cole was the name, and Butch had been on his trail for what felt like an eternity. Mick had robbed a bank and, during the heist, blasted someone. A young woman. The bounty on his head was substantial. Butch had been following every lead, asking around and trying to piece together where Mick might have gone.

Finally, his persistence had paid off when he’d gotten word that Mick had been spotted in a small town on the edge of the Frontier. Butch arrived in town dusty and tired from his travels, but focused on his task. He had gone from saloon to saloon, listening for any news of Mick’s whereabouts.

It didn’t take long for him to hear whispers that Mick had been seen up in the mountains just a few months earlier. Butch had felt a glimmer of hope—he was getting closer. He’d asked around some more, showing the wanted poster with Mick’s face on it, and had eventually gotten the name of someone who might know more. The man ran the local livery stable. Butch had gone to see him and, after a few shots of whiskey, he finally opened up. He’d said he had seen Mick riding out of town just a few days earlier, headed south toward the border with a group of men. He’d named a town—the town that Butch now found himself in.

He cursed under his breath—he had come so close only to miss him by a few days. But he couldn’t give up now. He would return. 

No one in town would give him up. So, he would wait. Any day now, the man would crawl out of whatever rock he hid beneath.

Butch continued into the muddy street. Well, not in this rain, he thought.

He turned a corner and saw a small alleyway. It was dark, but it offered some shelter from the storm. He hesitated for a moment before deciding to take his chances. He huddled into a corner, trying to stay dry, and closed his eyes. Despite the cold and the wet, he managed to fall into an uneasy rest against a fence, his mind still wrestling with Sonny’s offer.

How did I end up here?

It wasn’t long before his clothes were soaked through, his boots were muddy, and he was shivering. 

Then, he saw something.

A flame in the dark.

He leaned forward.

Through the rain and the darkness, he could just make out the faint glow of a fire. Without hesitation, he headed toward the open door, hoping to find some kind of shelter.

Butch sucked a breath and slipped in. He found himself in what appeared to be a stable. A couple of horses were munching on hay in one corner, and a fire was crackling in a small hearth in the other. He scanned the room and his eyes settled on a small patch of hay. It wasn’t much, but it would have to do.

As he lay down on the hay, he let out a sigh of relief. The warmth of the fire slowly began to seep into his bones and he closed his eyes, grateful for the shelter. He could feel himself beginning to drift off to sleep when he heard a voice.

“Is someone there?” 

The young woman standing in front of him looked of Irish heritage, with fiery red hair that framed her freckled face. She was fierce. Beautiful. Butch found himself silent, but he kept his composure and responded with a gruff, “Just passing through.”

The girl shot back, “Passing through? You’re an intruder!” 

He smiled. “I—”

“Leave,” she said, her blue eyes burning. “Or I call out for my daddy, you hear me?”

She gripped something close to her. Butch noticed what it was. A bag, so packed with items that it was almost going to burst at the seams.

He laughed softly and called her bluff. “You’re a runaway.” 

She opened her mouth but didn’t answer.

Butch took a good look at her. “You’re a rich girl, ain’t ya? What you got to run from?”

Her eyes flared. “Maybe that’s none o’ your business. Maybe I call the guards and wipe that bloody smirk off your face, eh?”

Butch blinked. He was shocked. There was a toughness to her that he could understand. 

The young woman calmed. She didn’t alert the guards, and instead took a seat when Butch offered her a smoke.

“Alright,” Butch said, “let’s just sit then.”

She inhaled.

He shook his head. Laying back with him in the stable, she looked just like any of the other boys deep into a corral—men that had spent their entire lives facing down the barrel of a gun.

“You smoke like you’ve had some hard years.”

“Maybe I have,” she replied with a glare. Then she smiled. 

They sat for a moment in silence, each lost in their own thoughts. The rain tinkered on the iron sheet above. 

Butch couldn’t help but admire her strength. He let his head run wild and found his eyes starting to drift closed.

“Why you hiding out here anyway?”

Butch took a drag from his cigarette, studying the young woman in front of him. “Seems like a good enough spot.”

She snorted.

“What’s the problem with this town?” he asked.

The young woman shrugged. “I never knew another one.”

Butch nodded understandingly. He had met many like her, sheltered from the outside world, trapped in small towns. 

“I envy that sometimes,” he said, “not knowing anything else.”

She looked at him, intrigued. “What do you do?” 

Butch leaned back in his chair, taking another drag from his cigarette. “A vagabond, I guess. I go where the wind takes me.”

She smiled wistfully. “I’m jealous. I wish I could leave this place.”

There was a brief moment of vulnerability in her eyes as she looked at him, and he felt a pang of something he couldn’t quite place. He quickly brushed it off and returned to his cigarette.

He gestured out to the rain. “It’s not the night to escape. You’ll get bogged down in the mud.”

She nodded, taking a final drag from her cigarette before stubbing it out. “I’ll keep that in mind.” She stood up and brushed off her dress. “I should go before someone sees me.”

Butch watched her go, feeling a sense of longing he hadn’t felt in a long time. He quickly shook it off and got up from his own chair, ready to face the rain once again.

Standing by the door, he watched her turn and look at him once more.

“What’s your name?”

He tipped his hat at the young lady, “I’m Butch, ma’am.” 

She smiles back, “Evelyn. It’s an old-fashioned name, I know.”

He nodded “It’s a fine name, ma’am.”

Butch walked away from the stables and into the rain, taking a few steps down the street before glancing back over his shoulder to see the young woman slipping away again. He stopped in his tracks, considering for a moment before turning around and walking back toward her. 

He approached the stable door just as she did, and they nearly collided. She looked up at him, surprise etched on her soft features.

“Lord!”

Butch tipped his hat to her again with a devilish smile. “Evelyn,” he said, testing her name on his tongue. “You’re tough as nails.”

She nodded curtly, her expression guarded. “Likewise,” she replied, still eyeing him warily.

 

As Butch started to walk away again, he heard her call out.

“Where will you stay in this rain?” she asked, her tone softer now. “Will you follow your own advice and find somewhere dry?”

Butch turned back to her, a small smile playing at the corners of his mouth. “Don’t worry about me,” he said. “Take care of yourself, Evelyn.”

He watched her disappear into the rain. He silently wished her well, butted out his cigarette, and headed back toward the saloon.

Evelyn was right. He had to find himself a home. Just for now.

He walked through the mud, his mind full of thoughts about the stubborn redhead he had just met.


“When Greed Takes Over” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

Butch had always dreamed of a quiet life, far from the dusty plains and violent skirmishes of his bounty-hunting days. Yet, life in Montana has other plans when a chance encounter at a saloon entangles him in a treacherous web of deceit and danger. After a bar brawl that leaves him facing the barrel of a gun, Butch meets a local businessman, who unwittingly thrusts him into a blood-soaked turf war. After accepting the stranger’s proposal to watch over his ranch, lingering unease persists as rustlers target the livestock. Would accepting this job prove to be his most fatal mistake?

The town’s escalating tensions ignited a bitter feud, plunging the community into turmoil…

In a twist of fate, Butch crosses paths with a spirited young woman whose heart he desires but can never truly possess. She challenges him in unexpected ways, and together they navigate a brutal frontier where lives are sacrificed, and loyalties are tested. As the stakes rise, Butch finds himself in a race against time to right the wrongs that have befallen those around him. Only time will unveil the outcome as the sun sets on a world of lawlessness and the shadows grow darker around him.

Will Butch emerge as the hero of Montana’s heartland, or will the shadows of the past consume him and the town he’s come to call home?

Butch and his beloved must tread treacherous terrain and confront a merciless adversary as well as their own haunting pasts. Against the silver-tongued sheriff, and a torn town, they will discover that the odds are stacked against them. Will they manage to restore balance and peace in town, or will they pay their involvement with the ultimate price?

“When Greed Takes Over” 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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