Gunsmoke and Redemption (Preview)

Prologue:

“Take cover!”

Jacob’s training took over before his mind registered the words. That was good because a half-second after he and Elias dove behind the small rise where their company currently advanced, seven of their comrades were torn to shreds by an exploding artillery shell.

“Dammit!” Jacob cried, jumping in shock from the force of the blast. “How the hell are we supposed to get past their artillery?”

“We can’t,” Elias said. “We need to take their field guns out or we’ll be slaughtered here.”

Jacob looked at his friend with wide eyes. The older man met his gaze and smiled. 

“Time to have some fun.”

“You have a strange idea of fun,” Jacob groused.

Elias shrugged. “If I have a choice between smiling and crying, I’ll smile.”

Another blast hit them and a half-dozen more Union soldiers cried their last before they were flung a dozen yards backward through the forest. When Elias looked at Jacob again, his smile was gone. 

“No time to argue. We either stay here and wait to die or we take out those guns and win this battle.”

Jacob took a deep breath. “All right.”

“Good man,” Elias replied. “Follow me.”

He ran forward at a crouch, navigating through the trees amid the boom of exploding shells, the crack of musket and rifle fire, and the ever-present screams of the dying. Jacob followed, forcing his fear to the background as his friend led them through the chaos. All around them, the ground erupted and trees spat splinters and mulch as cannon shells and Minie balls zoomed past them.

Some sixth sense allowed Elias to avoid the fire and keep both him and Jacob alive as they worked their way from their own rapidly disintegrating lines toward the emplacement of artillery that was allowing the Rebels to decimate the Union advance.

Without warning, Elias turned and threw Jacob to the ground, lying on top of him. The next instant, a volley of musket fire split the air that only a moment ago was occupied by Elias’s and Jacob’s heads. Elias rolled off of Jacob and came to his knees. He fired his Henry rifle repeatedly, each shot followed by a cry of pain as another Rebel met his fate.

When he emptied his magazine, he quickly reloaded. He glanced at Jacob. “You planning to fight, too, or just sit there and gawk?”

Jacob blinked, and then his training took over again. He shouldered his own rifle and took aim at the first Rebel he saw. The Rebel’s eyes widened when he saw Jacob, and for a terrible, eternal moment, Jacob saw the man realize that he was a moment away from never being able to see his family again, never being able to watch his children grow, never being able to reap the fruits of his labor or hold his wife in his arms.

Jacob squeezed the trigger, and the Rebel dropped his rifle and stared directly into Jacob’s eyes, his hand clutching his breast. His eyes showed stark terror, then understanding, then—worst of all—forgiveness.

Then he toppled to the ground.

It was only Jacob’s training that allowed him to quickly find another target and fire his rifle again.

Then again.

Then again.

Then twice more.

When Jacob fired his seventh round, sending his seventh Rebel to judgment, Elias tapped his shoulder and said, “Come on.”

The two of them left the disorganized Rebels to regroup and continued through the forest toward the artillery. Another volley fired and the ground behind them shook with the force of the shells as they found their mark.

Behind his fear and the horror of the death he had caused, Jacob suspected their company could handle two, maybe three more volleys before they were completely routed. Assuming, of course, that any of them were left alive to flee.

BOOM!

Make that one or two more volleys.

“There!” Elias cried.

Jacob followed his friend’s pointed finger toward a stand of maple trees. Nestled in between the trunks of the maples, Jacob could see the dull gleam of artillery barrels. Rebel soldiers moved among the cannons, priming and loading the guns with powder and shot.

Elias and Jacob shared a look. They nodded, then charged position.

The Rebels never saw them coming. When Elias and Jacob burst into the small clearing where the guns and ammunition waited, they did so with guns blazing, and the enemy never had a chance to recover. It likely wouldn’t have mattered. The Henry repeaters held sixteen rounds each while the muzzle-loaders the Rebels carried could fire only one round before needing to be powdered and loaded with shot via the muzzle, a process that could take half a minute.

One of the Rebels actually did manage to get a shot off, but the bullet sailed harmlessly past Jacob without harming him. When it was over, Jacob and Elias controlled the artillery and thirteen more Rebels lay dead at their feet.

“We need to turn these guns and start using them quick,” Elias said. “The Rebels are about to charge.”

No sooner did he say that than Jacob felt a horse kick his arm. He stumbled and frowned, confused. Where was the horse that kicked him? How could he not have seen it?

Elias pulled him roughly to the ground, and Jacob gasped as pain shot through his arm when he fell. He looked down and saw a red blossom spreading across his shoulder.

He’d been shot. He pulled his Colt Revolver from his holster and grimaced as he forced himself to a sitting position. If the Rebels were going to take him today, he planned to take as many of them with him as he could.

Looking at his friend’s face, he saw by the grim expression Elias wore that he didn’t expect to survive, either. They both readied their weapons and waited, the artillery forgotten, as the sound of the approaching Rebels drowned out all other noise.

 

Chapter One

Jacob awoke with a start, his thumb still working above his loose fist miming a hammer being cocked, his index finger squeezing a trigger that wasn’t there. His breath came in ragged gulps as he gasped and shook with anxiety and fear.

He waited for the charge of Union cavalry that would rescue him and his friend at the last second, but it never came. Nor did his friend. Elias was no longer there. The forest was no longer there. The guns, the Rebels, the wound in Jacob’s shoulder—all gone.

He looked around, momentarily confused. He was in a small room in a log cabin. There was a pine table and chair, a closet, and a small, curtained window above the bed on which he lay.

His room. He was in his room on his ranch in Peaceful, Colorado. It was 1869. The war had ended four years ago, and the battle he dreamed about had taken place nearly seven years earlier.

He took a deep breath and let it out slowly, running his hands through hair damp with sweat, continuing to breathe deeply until the tremors in his body calmed.

He sighed a final time before he rolled out of bed and changed into his work clothes. He headed to the parlor and put his boots and hat on, then walked outside.

The chill of the predawn air sliced through his cotton shirt and drove away the last of his sleep. He inhaled, savoring the earthy-sweet smell of pine and spruce and the clean crispness of the Colorado air.

Peaceful was a small town a day’s ride north of Denver in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. It was, as its name suggested, a peaceful place, and it was for that reason the perfect place for Jacob to start his new life.

He stepped off the porch and walked to the well a few dozen yards ahead of him in the small courtyard of his ranch house. The sun hadn’t yet risen, but the soft gray light in the east was enough for him to navigate to the well and retrieve a bucketful of water. At this hour of the morning, the only sounds were the chirping of the last of the crickets and the soft crunch of the earth under Jacob’s feet.

Peaceful.

He returned to the house with the water and started a kettle boiling on the stove. Scooping the last of his coffee into his tin mug, he made a mental note to buy some more when he went shopping that afternoon. Coffee was about the only habit he’d kept after the war. He smiled as he recalled the first time Elias brewed him the bitter drink. He had grimaced and nearly spit the liquid out, but then had ended up drinking an entire cup.

At least one good thing had come out of that experience.

He made himself a breakfast of eggs and bread, eating efficiently—another habit, he supposed, learned from the war. The threat of an attack at any second meant things like sleep and food needed to be enjoyed rapidly or forever lost.

He hadn’t had a dream about the war in weeks. He’d hoped he might finally be leaving that past behind him, but it turned out his demons still followed him.

He would visit Elias tonight. Talking to Elias always helped him. The older man had become a father figure to Jacob, or maybe an older brother figure since he was only eleven years older than Jacob himself. Whatever the appropriate term, Jacob looked up to Elias, and when the memory of the war grew too much for him to handle, he could always rely on Elias to put things in perspective.

Besides, it had been a few weeks since he had seen his friend. It would be nice to have some company.

He finished his breakfast and headed out to the stables. While the sun hadn’t yet risen, the sky had brightened considerably, preparing for the heat and energy of the day. The chirping crickets were replaced by singing birds and the cattle had begun to low, announcing their displeasure at the need to move and forage instead of lazing peacefully in their pasture.

Jacob reached the stable and called out, “Hello, Rusty.”

A big bay thoroughbred whickered in the nearest stall and Jacob smiled. 

“Mornin’, Rusty,” he said as he approached the stall. “Ready for work?”

Rusty offered his typical noncommittal snort and Jacob laughed. 

“Well, too bad. We gotta do it anyway.”

Rusty snorted his displeasure but allowed Jacob to lead him from the stall and saddle him.

The chores took longer than Jacob expected. His herd was nearly five hundred strong now, and it took the rest of the morning to coax them to pasture and ride through the herd, making sure none of them were sick or lame. By the time he was able to start his other chores, the sun had nearly reached its zenith and the crisp coolness of the morning had given way to sweltering heat.

Jacob sighed and said to himself, “I need to hire some hands.”

Occasionally, Jimmy Greenwood would help out. He was a bit slow, and more than a bit slovenly, but he worked hard enough and treated Jacob with respect. Maybe Jacob would give him the chance to work full-time. If only Jimmy could stop drinking…

“Help!” a distant voice cried.

Frowning, Jacob turned toward the direction of the voice. His house lay a short distance away, but when he scanned the courtyard, he couldn’t see anyone.

“Jacob!” the voice cried again. “Help!”

A chill ran down his spine. The voice sounded familiar, but he couldn’t quite place it.

“Help!”

He recognized the voice just before he saw Elias’s daughter Emily round the bend in the road and rush toward the house.

The chill in his spine became a pit in his stomach. He spurred Rusty forward and did his best to keep panic from filling his mind as he raced back to the house to meet Emily.

 *** 

Molly smiled at the empty classroom and imagined how it would look when class started. As in many other agricultural towns like Peaceful, the students here came to school in the afternoon so they could help with chores in the morning.

She thought of their smiling, eager faces and how excited they would be when she told them about today’s lesson. When she agreed to be the schoolteacher for Peaceful, she had expected the students would be difficult and challenge her every step of the way. Instead, they turned out to be eager and enthusiastic, and every day was a joy for Molly.

Today, though, Emily was late. Well, later than normal, anyway. Emily Peters had started helping Molly this year, and she was normally at the schoolhouse no later than an hour before class to help finish setting up and go over the lesson plan for the day. It wasn’t a big deal, really. Molly could manage without her. Still, it wasn’t like Emily, and though it was silly to worry, she worried anyway.

Had something come up? Was Emily all right?

Emily’s father, Elias, lived on a small homestead on the outskirts of town. The two of them had moved to Peaceful three years ago, shortly after Jacob Grant arrived and started his ranch. Molly had expected that Elias would join his friend on the ranch, but he’d declined and instead started his own little homestead. It would never be a large operation, but it provided enough for him to take care of himself and Emily.

She blushed as she thought of Jacob Grant. He was so wonderful. The moment Molly saw him ride up with his rough beard, powerful figure and dashing smile, she thought her heart would burst. 

Of course, she had never told him that. He hadn’t shown any interest in her, and Molly hadn’t pressed the issue. They were good friends, and if that was all he wanted, then that was okay with Molly. Still, in private moments like this, it was easy to imagine the two of them dancing together under the moonlight or sitting on a porch swing holding hands or sharing breakfast in the house—their house.

She sighed. Maybe one day he would come around. In the meantime, she was grateful to have him as a friend.

The room was ready for the students, so Molly sat on the porch of the schoolhouse to enjoy the clean air and warm sunshine before they arrived in another thirty or forty minutes. 

Molly’s family had moved here ten years ago during the height of the Pike’s Peak Gold Rush. Like most of the prospectors who tried their luck at getting rich, they didn’t find anything, and when the rush ended three years later, they’d moved west to California. Molly had stayed behind as an assistant schoolteacher in Denver. She’d worked with Miss Henrietta for four years before moving north to the new town of Peaceful at the request of the sheriff, another former resident of Denver. She’d thought for a moment that Sheriff Gunnerson might be sweet on her, but he married Felicia the week before they moved to Peaceful.

Molly wasn’t jealous of Felicia. Michael was nice enough, but she’d never felt anything more for him than friendship.

Jacob, though… that was a different story.

She could still recall the day she saw him ride into town on top of his bay thoroughbred, Rusty. The sun cast a shadow across his chiseled features, lighting his rough red-brown beard so it seemed to smolder with fire. He had shaved the beard shortly after, but his eyes still blazed with that quiet strength that left Molly weak in the knees every time she saw him.

He wasn’t just strong. He was kind and caring and sweet. He’d helped Molly rebuild and refinish the schoolhouse so the old, rundown building became sturdy and attractive. And he hadn’t stopped there, either. He and his friend Elias had helped spruce up nearly the whole town until now, Peaceful was the most comfortable little town in Colorado Territory.

At least, Molly thought it was. She loved the smiling, friendly neighbors, the beautiful setting of the Rocky Mountain foothills, and most of all the peace after which the town was named. Molly enjoyed living in Denver, but the West was a hard place for a young unmarried woman, and Denver dealt with its fair share of outlaws.

Molly had never suffered at the hands of any directly, but she was glad to know that she could walk the streets of Peaceful alone without fear that some drunk cowboy was going to accost her.

Well, there was Jimmy, she supposed, but he was harmless. He drank too much and bathed too little, in Molly’s opinion, and his eyes wandered places a gentleman’s eyes shouldn’t wander. But he kept his hands to himself, and he never made overtures to Molly or Emily or any of the other single women in town. Besides, he was sweet on the seamstress, Delilah.

Molly wished Jacob would look at her the way Jimmy did. Maybe not exactly like Jimmy, but like he wanted her, at least. He was so kind and strong and—

She stopped herself before her imagination ran away with her again. There was no point digging for gold in the same place twice. If Jacob felt anything for her, he would tell her in his own time. Otherwise, she would just have to—

“Molly!” a familiar voice cried.

She jumped and looked up to see Felicia Gunnerson rushing toward her, the hem of her dress lifted primly off of the ground as she ran up to the schoolhouse. Her eyes were opened wide with anxiety, and when she stopped in front of Molly, she wrung her hands.

“What is it, Lise?” Molly asked. “Is Michael okay?”

“Michael’s fine,” Felicia said, “But Elias Peters has gone missing!”


“Gunsmoke and Redemption” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

In the heart of the rugged Colorado frontier, Jacob’s violent past haunts him like a relentless storm. Scarred by memories of the war, he seeks solace in the tranquillity of his peaceful town until tragedy strikes, shattering every sense of security. A gunshot wound, a grizzly bear attack, and a suspicious death bring turmoil to this once-serene settlement. By the side of his ally, Molly, he will try to uncover the mystery behind his closest friend’s death, as his world turns again into a nightmare.

He needs to bring justice for his friend…

With danger threatening the locals’ peaceful existence, Emily, the daughter of Jacob’s late friend, unveils a shocking revelation—a sinister secret that could cost them their lives. As Jacob confronts his darkest fears to protect those he holds dear, Molly stumbles upon a perplexing conversation that raises their awareness about the deadliest betrayal of all. Soon, everyone’s lives will be at risk…

Will peace find its way back to this gloomy old town before it’s too late?

Jacob and Molly soon find themselves navigating treacherous paths of deception, revenge, and unexpected alliances. In this battle, only gunfire and blood will have the last call… Can Jacob and Molly’s love and stand against the looming threat? In a town where trust is scarce, the question remains: Who can they truly rely on when the West reveals its untamed and unforgiving heart?

“Gunsmoke and Redemption” 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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