The following is a work of fan fiction based on the CBS television series, The Magnificent Seven. It is in no way intended to infringe on the copyrights of CBS, MGM, The Trilogy Entertainment Group, The Mirisch Corp., or anyone else who may have legal rights to the characters and settings. This story is strictly for entertainment. There have been series and films dealing with time travel such as The Time Machine (H G Wells), Time Tunnel (Irwin Allen) and Time Cops; any similarity is unintentional and not meant to infringe the copyright of their writers. Sentinel copyright of Paramount and Pet Fly Productions. Without A Trace belongs to Jerry Bruckheimer and CBS.
My thanks to Antoinette and MAC for your help and support.
Wait for no man
Sequel to Tide and Time (general fiction)
Magnificent Seven X The Sentinel X Without a Trace.
C/V E/V E/C
When a time traveler threaten to stop the creation of the Magnificent Seven it is up to Time Agents Jim Ellison and Blair Sandburg to make sure it doesn’t happen.
It had been two weeks since marshal and time agent Jim Ellison and Dr. Blair Sandburg, had rode the Time Wave into the past, in their bid to make sure that an already altered history line remains true and the magnificent seven, formed.
The town of Four Corners was quiet for the moment, its people were scared of the very men that Judge Travis had brought in to protect them, and for that reason the towns people were beginning to fall into three camps. The first was those people openly hostile to the regulators, the second camp, supported them and went out of their way to actually help them in small ways, the third and the largest camp were sitting on the fence waiting to see which way the wind blew. One thing was certain if trouble came to the town, the regulators would be facing it alone.
The seven men took their job seriously, and patrolled both the town and the outlying area. Mrs. Potter, the owner of Potter General Store with her husband, leant on her broom, and watched the ex bounty hunter go past, and favored the younger man with a smile and a “Good morning, Mr. Tanner.”
She got a nod in return, as the young man touched the brim of his hat to her as he passed. The Potters had been the only store in town that had offered them credit until they got paid, and had accepted the promissory notes that the Judge had issued the gunmen with to cover their cost of living. She was annoyed at the way the other people treated the seven. Oh they were alright with Nathan, Josiah and JD, knowing them already as the preacher, the healer and the boy sheriff , but the new comers Larabee, Tanner, Wilmington and Standish, the good people of Four Corners treated them like dirt. Although they would never voice those sentiments to them directly they were too dangerous. Yet these young men were prepared to lay down their lives to protect Four Corners, and deserved better.
Watching the Texan Vin Tanner walking away she reflected he was always so polite and courteous towards women, but no one saw beyond the fact that he was an ex bounty and buffalo hunter, he was rough round the edges but she sensed he had a good heart. Chris Larabee, well Mr. Larabee scared her, there was something so cold and distant about him, and his temper was fearful to behold, his reputation didn’t exactly encourage people to want to get to know the bad element.
Buck Wilmington was a nice man, always ready with a smile and a flattering word; he seemed to take everything in his stride even if he did have a wandering eye were the young ladies were concerned.
Ezra Standish, the gambler, and well everyone knew what they say about professional gamblers, being nothing more that low down card sharp and conmen, the very scum of frontier life. Ready to cheat an honest man out of his last dollar and laugh as he did it. But he had surprised them all be also taking the oath to protect the town just like the others. There was another side to him he was good with children, and she saw that as the window to his soul, still waters ran deep with that one, it was going to be interesting to watch him over the following weeks.
Good men, oh she wasn’t blind, they were killers but at this time and in this place the towns saviors. So she would stick up for them, make sure that they could at least get some basic supplies such as paper and tobacco until they got paid. One thing was certain the slender Texan needed feeding up. So mind made up Mrs. Potter called him back and then disappeared into the shop, to reappear with a slice of pie, and coaxed him into taking it. He muttered his thanks and tucked the wrapped treat into his buckskin jacket for later.
No sooner had he gone that Mrs. Taylor came hurrying up “I can’t believe that you’re encouraging that man, he’s nothing more than, more than” she spluttered, then added “a renegade, men like that should be strung up. Now don’t look at me like that Gloria, he’s not natural, my husband heard that he’s one of those sentinels, unnatural every single one of them, shouldn’t be allowed in a decent town. I.....”
“Elizabeth,” Mrs. Potter cut across here “that young man is risking his life for this town I think we owe him more than a rope, don’t you.” She took a breath to calm her anger, “I have work to do excuse me.” Gloria turned on her heels and walked back into their store. The problem she mused was that a lot of the town shared the same view point. One thing was certain if the seven needed help the townspeople would turn their back on them and would board up the windows and doors until it was all over and that angered her.
Further down the street, the mountain man Big Bill Connor took a pull on the bottle of whiskey, and sneered at the woman that tut tutted at him for drinking that early. The sooner he concluded his business and got out of Four Corners the better he would like it already he could feel the town closing in on him. Bill waited patiently and sure enough he saw Vin Tanner heading towards the livery stable, the younger man was going to go out on patrol it was his opportunity to cut him away from the herd. Shit the way Larabee stayed near Vin, you would think he was attached at the hip to him. Quickly he slide the bottle into his coat pocket patted it and headed towards the livery stable, if it went the way he wanted he would need it to help celebrate getting a certain long haired Texan into his bed.
Vin was tightening the girth on his saddle when Bill stopped in the doorway of the livery stable. .
“What you want Bill?” Vin didn’t sound surprised, but then Bill had a healthy regard for the younger man’s sentinel abilities and he was sure that Vin had him tagged the minute he had arrived at the stable. He slowly closed the distance between them, and reached at hand out to pat Vin’s horse, and then with a curse jerked his hand back as Diablo went to take a chunk out of his hand.
“What that the fuck happened to Major there was a sweet tempered horse, this one, shit Vin I’ve seen snapping turtles more friendly.
“Major got gutted by a mountain lion, got Diablo to replace him, he’s a good horse.” He gave his equine partner a pat, the horse whickered and pressed his head against his master’s chest, at 18 hands Diablo was a powerful stallion with a mean temper, with everyone but his master who he would follow like a pup, be it a ill tempered over grown puppy that would stomp you into a grease spot given a chance. Bill took a step back, reading the warning signs, as Diablo stamped his feet; his ears going flat back to his skull.
“Don’t have time Bill, talk to you now, got to ride a patrol.”
“Make time boy” Bill growled, he wasn’t use to being ignored, and he saw Vin tense at the word boy. Bill shook his head “Sorry Vin I only want what’s good for you” he said trying to adopt a more parental tone to his voice. “You patrol and protect these bastards” he jerked a thumb towards the town. Bill scoffed, “and I see the way they treat you. You really think their come to help you if you got in trouble, hell those shits would hang you given half a chance, how long before one of them decided your $500 bounty is too good to miss and plant a bullet in your back and drag you carcass off to Tascosa.”
“Got me an alpha, and a guide, Bill, got me a pack, to protect me back, I ain’t alone no more.”
“We worked well together,” Bill said reaching out wanting to touch Vin, run his hands through that long hair, and press that sweet body against the wall and fuck him into tomorrow.
Vin shook his head and took a step back , “ that’s the past Bill, things change, people change,” Vin said pointly as he saw the look that flitted across Bill’s face, he saw the disappointment and something more a kinda hunger. “So piss or get off the pot Bill, what you really want? A sharpshooters gun or it something more” Vin drawled.
Bill’s hands balled into fists, as he saw what he took to be pity in Vin’s eyes, and the anger he had tried to suppress came surging up and he snapped. “You call Larabee your alpha, that fast gun killer. He don’t’ care about you, and that southerner, fuck Vin, give him enough money and he’ll follow you, or are you so shit stupid that you think he really cares.”
Vin’s voice went hard and cold “Ez is my guide he’s pack, so keep your mouth off him.”
“See you don’t defend Larabee, Vinnie.”
“Chris don’t need it, he’s the alpha.” Vin said with total conviction.
Bill somehow managed to bit back his anger, Vin could dig his feet when he wanted to, the boy was as stubborn as a mule but he wasn’t ready to give up on him. “I was your alpha, or have you forgotten that boy.” He gave a dry chuckle, “Those good people,” he made the word good sound like the foulest insult “you think they would really want you in town if they knew what you did when you lived with those renegades.”
“Didn’t live with them Bill, I was a prisoner.”
Bill gloated “Shit Vin, you were a slave, a human pack animal earning those scraps they fed you on your knees with your ass in the air.” Just thinking about it made Bill hard. “Larabee ain’t gonna want you after I tell him a few home truths about you, how many men were in that camp? And they all had themselves a taste of you boy. Hell Vin, I even gave you a ride before I brought you off them for 3 bottles of rot gut and an old Spencer carbine. You were sure keen to please me after that Vinnie, stretched over my saddle each night offering up your ass to me, and I didn’t hear you complaining, had you mouth too full of my cock , sucking me off as sweet as any cathouse whore couldn’t get enough of my meat. Begged me on your knees to become your alpha.” Bill’s grin got broader as he fondled himself through his pants “still makes me hard just thinking of you Vinnie, that firm ass and tight hole.” He had to stop himself from laughing as he saw the look on Vin’s face, and he felt his heart soaring, he was right Vin hadn’t told Larabee about the renegades.
Now was the time to play it with a softer touch, so Bill softened his tone making himself sound caring, “You’re a fucking idiot Vinnie if you think that Larabee is going to want you around him once he knows. Alpha’s are possessive bastards, he ain’t going to like it that other men have dipped their wick in you, don’t think he’s going to like sloppy seconds.” Bill couldn’t help pushing the point home, twisting the knife “fuck Vinnie he’s not in the first fifty is he.” Bill taunted, “How many more you fucked since then on the trail or up against a stable wall when you got an itch.”
Vin’s Texan drawl thicker, “You ain’t my alpha Bill, I owed you for getting me out of the camp, but I paid you back for that with the only thing I had, but what’s past is past. Larabee’s my alpha now.”
Bill reached out for him, but Vin had pulled back his hand dropping to the hilt of his knife as he warned. “Not going to happen Bill so fuck off.”
“You got a mouth on you Vinnie, I thought Larabee would have cured you of that with the back of his hand, but then maybe he can use some pointers, seem to remember having to take a belt to your ass a few time.” Bill baited. “Looks like Larabee ain’t a real alpha a real alpha would have taught you some manners, you remember your manners Tanner, so why don’t you get down on them knees and show me what you got, or do I have to make you, just like in the good old days Vinnie boy.”
“Think you can make me Bill” Vin snarled.
Jim Ellison was sat in the jail talking to Chris Larabee when the man in black suddenly came to his feet, his coffee cup slamming down on the desk, and he stalked out of the jail, leaving Jim, following the predator, as he swept down the street.
In the saloon Blair saw Ezra stop up short, throw in his cards scoop his money up, tip his hat to the two whiskey drummers he was playing with and stride out onto the boardwalk. Following behind him, Blair saw Ezra halt and then saw Chris across the street the two men exchanged a look and then the gun man nodded down the street, Ezra crossed over to him and side by side they swept down the street, the towns people moving out of their way.
“You challenging me boy” Bill roared, and then stopped dead in his tracks as he heard the distinct sound of a bullet being chambered into a Winchester.
Stood in the doorway was Tiny Howard, the big Winchester looking like a toy in his hands “You okay Mr. Tanner.”
It was Bill Conner that answered, stamping down his anger, “Just a misunderstanding right Vinnie.”
“Yeah right.” Vin grated back.
Tiny jerked the rifle motioning for to leave as he said, “Unless you’ve got a horse to tend to mister, you’re not wanted.” Tiny took a step forward, making sure that Bill got the message, Tiny was perhaps the only man besides his brother and Josiah Sanchez who towered over Connor. Big Bill backed out of the stable, “no need to get hostile, we’ll talk later Vinnie.”
Tiny was thoughtful as he looked at Vin Tanner, he had heard more than he had wanted to during the tracker’s argument with the other man, and it had sickened him. It had been their fault it had happened to Tanner, and all hell was going to break out when he found out. They were going to have to act soon one way or other.
Just as Chris and Ezra arrived at the livery stable, Vin came out on Diablo, he looked straight at them and then dug his heels into the stallion’s flanks and the big horse took off at a run.
Ezra exchanged a look with his alpha, “Mr. Tanner, had forgotten one very simple fact Mr. Larabee.”
“And that is Ez?”
“He can run but he cannot hide from us. Now I believe I have a card game to return too.” Ezra touched the brim of his hat to his Chris and then sauntered back to the saloon. But even as he acknowledged the people he passed even if he was ignored in return his mind was whirling. They had both felt Vin cut himself off from them and that could not be allowed to stand, they had to find out why.
It was late afternoon when Vin Tanner finally arrived back in town, Tiny Howard watched him but kept out of the way as the Vin had seen to his horse and then walked towards the saloon that in the last few days had become their informal headquarters.
Buck was chatting with Chris, doing what all gamma sentinels do try and keep the peace. But Chris was royally pissed off, a half bottle of whiskey in front of him, Buck didn’t have to be a geniuses to know that he wouldn’t rest until a certain Texan was back in town.
Chris’s head suddenly snapped up, Buck saw Josiah and JD come into the bar, but he knew that wasn’t what had caused that reaction, Vin was back in town. Getting up, Buck met the two men, “I think we should take us a walk round town.”
“Ah, Brother Vin, our lost lamb has returned.” Josiah said the ex-preacher nodded, “Come Brother JD, I think we should take our patrol now.”
“I was going to... “ JD started, only to be caught under the elbow on one side by Josiah and Buck on the other side and all but manhandled out of the saloon, giving Vin a cheery welcome as they passed each other at the door of the saloon. Then under his breath knowing that Vin would hear him he added “good luck.”
The moment he entered the saloon, Vin could feel Chris Larabee, hell he had felt Chris the moment he had ridden into town, like a storm cloud in his mind. He ignored him one of the few people that could do that and went up to the bar, even as people began to leave, as the threat of violence seemed to hang in the air.
Ezra gave a shake of the head as his poker partners quickly threw in their hands and made their excuses. It was then he saw the mountain man come in, and he felt again, Vin cutting himself off from them, where as before he had felt Vin in his head, there was now only an empty void, filled now by the anger of this predator. Ezra eased his chair back slightly and allowed his hand to rest near his gun, the mountain man’s mind was alien to him, warped and swirling as he brushed against it to get the measure of the man.
Bill looked round him and saw Vin stood at the bar with a beer in front of him. “Vinnie, err Vin” he corrected when he saw the glare. “Look, I shouldn’t have said what I did. But hell Vin, I am still your friend,” his mouth quirked into a smile “a stupid friend but a friend.”
Vin didn’t answer, he just looked at Bill. “I owed you Bill but like I said that’s past, now I’ve got my own alpha accept it.”
Bill nodded “Only wanted what was best for you Vin,” he reached a hand out and laid it on the younger man’s arm, Vin turned back to this beer, giving his arm a jerk, so that Bill’s hand fell away, “let it go Bill.”
It was then Bill felt it a chill that ran down his spine, raising the hair on the back of his neck, turning his head slightly he looked into the cracked mirror behind the bar, and saw Larabee in its reflection stood behind him, the duster was pushed back and his hand was resting on the butt of his gun. Bill looked at Vin, and the dark pressure increased around him, it was pure aggression, and for the first time he felt fear squirming in his belly. This was the power of the alpha, Bill’s tongue flicked across his suddenly dry lips as he placed both hands palm down on the top of the counter, making it clear to Larabee that he wasn’t going to try anything. “Didn’t mean no harm; appreciate if you told Larabee that Vin.”
“Moved on Bill accept it.” Vin said levelly, almost sadly. “Think you should leave town sooner than later, best for you that way.”
In the mirror Bill saw Larabee nod once to Vin and then head for what was fast becoming their table, Larabee had his back to him all he had to do was grab for his gun and, it was then he saw Ezra Standish, now standing against his table, fingers tapping the butt of his gun, Bill looked along the bar at Vin and saw the tracker’s hand on the hilt of his Bowie knife, taking the warning he left the saloon, his anger barely suppressed, this was not ended far from it. That bitch that had recruited him hadn’t known about his connection with Vin Tanner, she had offered him the reward on the Texan as an added incentive, but he hadn’t needed it, it was the icing on the cake, when he had finished at Four Corners he was taking Vin with him.
Vin stayed at the bar, nursing his drink, Ezra settled back down at this table, his gaze moving from Vin to Chris and back again, as always he took comfort from his card and they moved effortlessly between his fingers.
The chair opposite him was pulled back, and Blair Sandburg sat down. “Mind if I join you Ezra, I felt a disturbance in the force.” Blair smiled as Ezra cocked his head “Believe me it will make sense 100 years from now.”
Ezra just smiled flashing his gold tooth, “Be as it may Dr Sandburg you are here now, I didn’t expect you to grace my table, but I will endeavor to give you a game.”
Blair hadn’t expected that but was ready to go along with it “I have to warn you Ezra, I paid for my colleague tuition through playing poker.”
“Then we shall have an interesting game Doctor.”
The pasteboard cards made a soft slapping sound as they landed on the table top. Blair gathered his in, and leaned back in his chair.
“You know Ezra I can feel Jim’s eyes burning a hole in my back,” he raised an eyebrow, and “I think you know the feeling.”
“Certainly, between, Mr. Tanner and Mr. Larabee, I am surprised that I ever get a game of cards, as sentinels they are rather over protective, considering that I have spent 28 years on this earth without them. I think that I have survived very well.”
Blair pushed a couple of coins into the pot, “I’ve been meaning to ask you guide to guide, how do you balance two sentinels, not just sentinels but a predator and a feral. I have to tell you that in my time, no one would believe that it could be done.”
“Then it seems that in your time, the people still have things they can learn.” Ezra said as he raised his bet.
Blair shook his head and threw in his hand and watched Ezra pull the winnings in. Waiting until they were into the second hand, Blair asked “bonding with an apex can be eventful, I remember when Jim first claimed me, it was pretty scary, but at the same time I knew I was safe.” He took a sip of his beer, leaving the question hanging in the air.
Ezra just looked down at his cards and pushed two cents into the pot but his mind was elsewhere. A time before he had his sentinels, a time when his life was in danger and he hadn’t expected to see 30, life expectancy for a gambler was short and brutal. Like that day when he had been dragged from a saloon and tarred, the remembered pain and the sheer terror of knowing that he was going to die still shook him, the baying crowd that wanted his death, revenge dressed up as justice. But when his sentinels had rescued him, in that horror, his life had changed for the better. He had fought it at first, but now he still marveled how security for him now was in the arms of Chris Larabee and Vin Tanner, two of the most dangerous men he had ever met.
Suddenly Ezra jerked back to reality at the touch of a hand, and instantly he had the derringer snapping into his hand, but another hand caught his wrist and forced his hand down.
“Easy Ez,” the rasping Texan accent could belong to only one man; the shaken pale faced guide looked up at this sentinel. Once he was sure that Ezra was back with them, Vin released his hold and watched as Ezra pushed the derringer back up his sleeve until the tracker heard the small click of it sliding into place in the rig. Vin’s blue eyes glared at Blair Sandburg, “what did the Doc say,” he accused.
“Nothing Mr. Tanner, just memories,” Ezra put in quickly he tried for a small smile, and patted his sentinel’s arm. “Do sit down, a gentleman does not make a scene, it is most unbecoming.”
Vin did as he asked, but the Texan could see how Ezra’s hand was shaking slightly as he poured himself a whiskey, Ez might not want to talk about it now, but they would talk even if he had to sic Chris on him.
Blair looked up to see Chris Larabee looming over their table both his hand resting on the table as he leaned into Vin Tanner. “Your finished for the night, Ez, collect your cards and Tanner get your ass to the boarding house.”
“I have not finished my game of chance with Dr. Sandburg, and I would be a shame to leave before we have concluded it.” Ezra said, at the same time as Vin started to get up, as he snapped “fuck off Larabee, I go where I want, you ain’t my master.” Only to have Chris’s hand clamp down on this shoulder and hold him in place, even as this young lover glared up at him.
“Remember, Bent Fork Tanner?” Chris said levelly.
“You wouldn’t Mr. Larabee no here,” Ezra searched his alpha’s face for signs he was joking but he could see none. Ezra collected his cards, tapped them in line and then slide them into the inside pocket of the jacket.”Dr. Sandburg, good night, I suggest Mr. Tanner that we accompany Mr. Larabee, I do so hate a spectacle.”
Vin got to his feet, knocking away Chris’s hand, his chair skidding back, he ignored them, and stalked out of the saloon, Buck was waiting outside of the boarding house, he went up stairs first and then stood near the door, the protective nature of the gamma flaring up. He blocked Vin “You alright junior.”
Vin didn’t reply he just pushed past him, Buck stepped back as Chris entered the room, “Ez”.
“We will be fine Mr. Wilmington, but there are things that have to be said. Ezra paused then added “I will call if you are needed, trust me.”
“I’ll be there for you Ez.”
“Always Mr. Wilmington.” Ezra said with warmth, and the door closed behind them.
Chris walked to the small battered table and poured out a whiskey, and then handed the glass to Ezra. For a long moment the glass was held out, Chris waited patiently, finally Ezra took it from him, and knocked the harsh whiskey back.
“I see your tastes haven’t changed Mr. Larabee, you still favor coffin varnish.” He took out his flask and handed it to Chris for him to take a drink. Watching as his alpha savored the expensive scotch; Ezra frowned as Vin took the bottle of rot gut whiskey and took a long pull.
Ezra went on the attack, “Would you mind telling us why you shut down the link Mr. Tanner, the one that ties the three of us together”? Ezra said raising a hand to stop Chris making it plain that he saw this as a guide issue and that he would lead.
Vin shook his head, “Shit Ezra is that why your pissed off,” he met his guide’s eyes levelly, “Got nothing to do with you,” his tone made it clear that their discussion was at an end. But even as he headed for the door, he found it blocked by his alpha.
“Answer him Vin.”
“Fuck off Larabee; it’s none of your business.” Vin said as he tried to push past him, only for Chris’s hands to come up and shove him backwards. “Drop your ass on that chair and talk to me Vin.”
Stood outside of the door, Buck looked up to the heavens as he heard the snarled fuck off, and hauled the door open, grabbed Ezra by the back of his collar and dragged the surprised gambler out of the room, throwing him into the hall way, as he went into the room, the door slamming closed behind him.
Ezra picked himself up from the floor and brushed down his jacket, then leaned back against the wall, and took another pull on his flask, the emotions of his sentinels were rolling over him he took another drink, and winced at the crash of a chair being smashed. The doors of the other rooms were opening and frightened faces peered out at him, “Everything is under control,” he gave them a smile and a wave of the hand motioning them like children back in their rooms. There was the unmistakable thud of the bed collapsing, taking his final deep pull on the flask he screwed the top on placed it back in his inside pocket gave his jacket another tug in place. Then opened the door and walked back into the room.
“I see you gentlemen have settled your differences.” He closed the door behind him. Chris had Vin, pinned face down on the bed; one arm pressed up to the middle of his back, and was nuzzling at the back of his throat, as his other hand was stroking his back and shoulder, in low firm strokes meant to calm him. As Ezra walked past he patted Buck’s shoulder, “I’ll take it from here Buck,” he said giving the gamma a knowing look as he saw the bigger man sucking at the teeth mark in the fleshy part of his hand, Vin was a dirty fighter and it seemed that poor Buck had been suffered for it.
“So Mr. Tanner have you decided to tell us why, you decided to break our link.”
“Vin was just about to Ez.” Chris drawled, moving slightly so that his knee that was pressed between the trackers legs rubbed up against him, Vin shuddered and struggled, but then calmed as Ezra sat down on the edge of the listing bed, and lightly with his finger tips traced the line of his strong jaw.
“Mr. Tanner no one wants to harm you, but you are part of a pack, it is a hard lesson to learn, I myself am still learning what it means to be pack. We are three bodies but one heart, three minds, but one soul. Mr. Larabee our alpha is merely reminding you, that you are no longer alone; you do not have to fight every battle on your own. We are here for you.”
Vin took a breath and opened his mouth to speak.
Chris cut in “The words none of your business, better not be coming out of your mouth Tanner,” the alpha warned.
Vin closed his mouth, and tried to pull his face away from Ezra’s touch, turning his face away.
Ezra leaned over, “Mr. Tanner you have to talk to me, please it’s not healthy for a sentinel to cut themselves off from their guide.” He paused “is it something that I have done to cause you this pain, if you are uncomfortable with my presence in your mind, we must know that.”
Not trusting himself to speak Vin shook his head, “not you Ez,” he managed to grate out. Vin could felt the link in his head buzzing, he scrunched his eyes closed, trying to fight it, to keep the door closed on his mind, not allow Ez in, pain knifed through his head he bit his lip and tastes blood. Vin was a brave man and life had made him a hard man, but the darkness that had flooded his mind when he had confronted Bill was pulling him down, he was drowning in the self loathing. Bill had brought back memories that he had thought he had buried and he was ashamed. The reassurance he felt coming off Ezra was seductive, the words said on a breath against his ear, made him shiver, “trust me, I will not let you fall.” Vin shook his head, in his mind all he could see what Chris turning away from him in disgust. But suddenly was too hard to fight against it and he let go.
Vin opened his mind, and suddenly Ezra was back in his head, a healing presence that drove the darkness from his mind. Ezra’s breath caught in his throat, as suddenly Vin couldn’t fight any longer and picture after picture flashed through the link, Vin was looking down into a puddle of water, the reflection showed him naked except for a breech cloth, with a rope halter round his throat, loaded up like a mule, carrying fire wood and supplies a human beast of burden. Forced to walk behind his master’s horse, he had stumbled and was whipped back to his feet by him, as his own blood had run down his arms and legs from the heavy blows. The dark smokey inside of a tepee, his hands just visible in the gloom as he gripped the blanket as he knelt on the floor on all fours, the burning pain as he was taken by his master, only for his master friends to take their turn with him as they treated him like they would a woman. Through the link a face was forming, remembrances of Bill Connor, pushing him face down over his saddle, large hands pulling his cheeks apart, the thick finger smeared with grease pushing into him, before he was mounted. Vin tried to slam the connection between them closed, but Ezra was not going to have it, he wasn’t going to allow his sentinel to shut himself away from him, the time of running was over. But this secret was Vin’s he would have to share it one day with Chris, but for the moment he would keep it for Vin. Quickly he reassured Vin that his secret was safe as he cradled the feral in his mind, even as Vin tired to pull back sick and ashamed of himself Ezra wouldn’t allow it. Slowly he felt Vin relax against him, Ezra saw the look Chris gave him the predator knew something was wrong but was willing for the moment to leave it in his hands, but Ezra knew he had to give him some sort of answer.
“It seems Mr. Larabee that Mr. Connor brought back some bad memories for our friend and in deference to my sensibilities he cut himself off from me and in turn yourself, he will not do it again.” Ezra paused, and then winced as pain spiking through his head, he buried his face into Chris’s shoulder , his whole body was shaking uncontrollable, in a reaction to the emotions he had been absorbing from Vin strong arms circled him and pulled him close and Chris nuzzled at this neck as hands smoothing him, running over his body, through his hair, and he felt loved and cherished as he reached out for Vin’s hand and pulled his feral close to him, the worse he knew was passed, his sentinels were one again.
Buck entered the room turned the lock in the key and then pushed the chair under the door handle, before he went over to the bed, for a minute he just looked down at the three men on the bed, he placed his hand lightly on the back of Ezra’s neck, and opened his own mind, and willingly allowed Ezra to draw strength from him, the soft sigh the broke from Ezra’s lips was reward enough to know that he was able to help his guide.
Vin’s accent had thickened with his exhaustion, “promise me you won’t go after Bill, Chris, I’s ain’t worth it,” he cracked his eyes open. For a moment the icy green eyes of the alpha met his, then he saw a small nod of the head, and he allowed his eyes to slide close as his mental exhaustion over took him and he went to sleep, he didn’t hear the softly spoken words.
“You’re worth it.” Chris pressed an almost chaste kiss to the top of Vin’s head and held him close.
Buck caught Chris’s nod and kneeling down carefully supported Ezra’s head as Chris eased out from under Ezra and tugged the emotionally drained Texan into his place, before lowering Ezra down to rest on Vin’s chest. Without opening his eyes, Ezra nestled close to the Texan, wrapping his arms round him. Chris eased to his feet, and went over to the window, pushing back the curtain he looked out across the street, as Buck joined him. “Connor, what are you planning on doing about him Chris.”
The blond reached into his pocket and took out one of his habitual cheroots, stroke the match on the window frame and lit his smoke. “As long as he keeps his hands off Vin nothing for the moment, he touches him, and I’ll plant him in his grave.” Buck nodded in agreement, Larabee as always was short and sharp and to the point. No one outside of their brotherhood of the bond would ever touch Vin Tanner and live.
Ezra eased off the bed, the light coming in through the window showed that it was early morning; Chris was sat in a chair in the corner of the room awake and watchful. “You going somewhere Ez.”
“I am just going to stretch me legs Mr. Larabee.”
“I’ll join you.” Chris said as he got to his feet.
“Mr. Larabee, I have been able to find my way to the privy on my own for many years.”
The man in black just stood there, the look on his face telling Ezra that he was fighting a losing battle. As the door closed behind them, Buck cracked an eye open as he heard the key turn in the lock. He rolled over onto his side and tugged Vin closer to him, petting him when the younger man began to stir. Buck gave a contented sigh as he inhaled Vin’s scent a bewitching seductive scent which was uniquely his own as he buried his face into the long hair and pressed a kiss to the back of Vin’s ear.
Once they stood outside of the boarding house, Ezra shivered in the cold morning air, “As you might have gathered Mr. Larabee, a call of nature is not my true reason for leaving, I have to speak to some people, and I fear that given your appearance.” The gambler paused seeing the slight tilt of the head and the touch of a smile on the handsome gunman’s face. “Half of this town thinks you’re a cold blooded killer, the other half that you’re the Angel of Death in human form.”
“Personally I think more the bad element.” Chris drawled, “So.”
“These people, mean no harm to Mr. Tanner, but might answer a few questions, and I think that your presence would not be helpful or germane at this time.” Ezra began to back away, only for Chris to follow him.
Ezra turned back on him, “Mr. Larabee just his once, and I promise that I will keep our link open, please these people are no bad people, just scared and misguided, let me speak to them, it will help Mr. Tanner, please.”
For a long moment there was a silence between them, then Chris finally said “Were play it your way Ez, but don’t make me regret it, like Brownville.”
“A small flaw in my judgment.”
“They nearly hung you.”
Ezra shrugged, “Uncouth locals, who over reacted, but this time it is different.”
“Speak to them, but Ez.”
The gambler nodded “Yes.”
“Close the link between us, and I’ll shoot you myself.”
As Chris turned to walk back, Ezra called to him “And Mr. Larabee, allow Mr. Tanner to face Big Bill, it is his right.” He paused waiting for him to answer, “Mr. Larabee.”
The gunman stopped in his tracks but didn’t turn round. “You’re a regular pain in the ass Ez, you know that.”
“That is your option Mr. Larabee.”
“Okay Tanner can take him,” only then did Chris turn back, “But if Bill brings a gun to a knife fight, I shoot the bastard.” Reaching up he tugged the brim of his hat to Ezra and went back into the boarding house.
Tiny always enjoyed these early mornings before the heat and dust of the day, he could smell his breakfast cooking, as he met his brother in the barn to feed and water their charges. He heard the door of the barn close and turned just about to ask him what kept him when he saw Ezra Standish stood leaning against the door jamb just behind his brother.
Ezra looked from one man to the other, “Gentlemen, I believe that we must talk, concerning Mr. Tanner.”
“Sorry Mr. Standish, we err, we don’t” Tiny trailed off as his brother finished his sentence, “have any problem with Mr. Tanner, we got the note from the Judge, feed and board for the horses is all covered.”
Ezra shook his head slowly, then raised his hand and gently tapped his own forehead. “I am a guide as you know, and knowledge and memories are shared, some which Mr. Tanner is not aware off. Now I can understand why you are concerned about his reaction, but all I ask is that you tell me your side of the story?”
Tiny shot a look at his brother, and then waved Ezra to the small tack room, once inside he dug out a jug from one of the feed boxes, and took a deep drink, and then handed it to Ezra, the gambler waved it away, and pulled out his own flask. Then to their surprise he offered it to them, Tiny took a small sip and handed it to his brother, “That’s might fine sipping whiskey you have Mr. Standish,” he smacked his lips and handed it back to the gambler.
“A few of the finer things in life never hurts Mr. Howard, but to business.” He looked round saw one of the barrels, and tugged a handkerchief from his pocket and gave it a few flicks with the handkerchief before taking a seat.
Tiny took another drink, “The war was coming to an end, and Colonel Kendall was ordered to collect all the Rebs,” Tiny halted, shot a look to his brother, “Sorry Mr. Standish, Confederate sentinels and guides from the prison camps, and take them North. We were under Captain White, he was told to collect the wild sentinels, they had been sent to a camp on their own. They were considered too dangerous, to be put with the others. That camp was like a living hell, they were half starved, and didn’t have enough blankets, many of them died”
“I take it that Mr. Tanner was one of the wild sentinels,” Ezra’s accent was thicker, as he fought the nausea that was threatening to over take him. As Vin’s memories of the camp came back in a tidal wave of pain and misery, he could feel everything that Vin had felt, the hunger that was an animal clawing at his insides, the burning of the whip that had opened up his back when he had tried to escape. A hand on his shoulder, made Ezra flinch trying to pull away from him. Tiny pushed the jug into his hand, supporting it with a large hand of his own as he took a drink.
Ezra lowered the jug, and wiped a hand across his mouth, “Thank you. Pray continue with your story.
Yosemite said, “There was twenty sentinels in the camp, they were treated like rabid dogs, it was then we heard that the war was over, but they couldn’t be released, White said that like the animals they were, they would just kill and keep killing. And that it didn’t matter our orders still stood. We were ordered to take the fittest of the sentinels, that was five of them, and march them away from the camp. It was then we heard gunshots. The sergeant asked what we were going to do with them, but White didn’t answer he just kept us marching North. When one of them collapsed, White put a bullet through his head and kept us going. It was two days later that they attacked us, and escaped, White said we had to track them down, and that if we failed, we would be shot.” He took another drink from the jug, “We split up, and got on the trail of one of them, it was Tanner. God help us he was a real bastard, turned on us, and began to track us, he was a scrawny half starved kid, not a lot older than Sheriff Dunne. But he jumped me, dragging me off my horse and was on me before I could react, he fights real dirty, and got a knife in my side, before Tiny arrived on the scene, and dragged him off, and got a kick to the balls for his trouble.”
Tiny took up the tale, “It was like fighting a wild cat Mr. Standish, in the end I managed to knock him out, we tied him up, and threw him over the shoulders of my horse.” Tiny paused, “Didn’t mean to hit him so hard, next thing I know he’s throwing up all over my boot and my poor horse. We stopped, and Yose went ahead, only when he got near the camp he saw that White was shooting the sentinels he had found, so we took off with Tanner.”
“Why didn’t you let him go,” Ezra said. “Yet you knew that the war was over.”
“He was a wild sentinel” Tiny shrugged slowly, “he was a handful, and we just didn’t feel good about letting him loose, White might have been a real bastard, but he had a point Tanner was dangerous.”
Ezra saw the look that the two men exchanged. “I take it, there is more?”
“Well it gets worse; we didn’t know what to do with him, that was when we met up with Matt Walker, he was a buffalo hunter, he had keep out of the war, and said he would take Tanner off our hands, and take him back South with him, the man was heading home, so we handed him over.”
It was eighteen months later that we crossed his path again, we had just been discharged from the Army, and had decided to head further West and set up business, together. The locals were talking about the Walker clan that was hunting Buffalo for the Army, we were told they were a bad lot, and that if they came sniffing round the wagons to make sure to see them off with the business end of a shot gun.
There was six wagons in our train, it was a couple of days later that the Walker Clan came across us, they wanted salt and flour, and were prepared to barter fresh meat. There was Matt and two other men, and Tanner. Well Tanner looked like hell warmed up, half starved, filthy like the others, they all stank of blood and death.
It was then I noticed that he wasn’t armed and that he had heavy bruising down his face.” Yosemite brushed a hand a down across his jaw to show Ezra. “He remembered us alright Mr. Standish, he unhorsed one of the men and grabbed his knife and came flying off his horse and took me down.” Yosemite pushed his sleeve up to show Ezra an eight inch scar running from his wrist to his forearm. “Matt came off his horse yelling at him, kicked him in the head, and then just kept on beating on Tanner, then dragged him away. Mr. Standish, we didn’t know why he had reacted like that. But we found out later. We saw one of the men in town, and a bottle of rot gut later, we found out that Matt had told him that we had sold him to Walker, that bastard had then done everything he could to break his spirit. Matt was a mean son of a bitch, and no one was prepared to cross him for the sake of a young sharpshooter.”
“But you did.”
“Yeah it wasn’t right, so we went to their camp, and it was bad it was like riding into a slaughter house, Matt was down he had been gutted like a pig.” Yosemite paused “Mr. Tanner was the one still moving, he had blood all over his face and the side of his head, he was naked blood was smeared call over his body, and” Yosemite paused again as he relived the horror “Mr. Tanner knelt down by the man from the saloon, he was trying to get up, and Tanner just looked us in the eye and then slashed the knife across this throat, shit he nearly took his head off. Tanner wasn’t steady on his feet, and I got down to try and talk to him, and he turned on me. To be honest Mr. Standish, I nearly put a bullet through him, he was that far out of his head, and then suddenly he just collapsed in the dirt.” Tiny, exchanged another look with his brother, Ezra saw the nod, and Tiny took up the story. “Matt had beaten him really bad, then got sloppy and Tanner got him,” Tiny’s face fused red “the only one left breathing was gloating, even as he used his hands to hold his guts in, that they had used him like you would use a woman, and it wasn’t the first time, he laughed all this blood pouring from his mouth when we were helping Tanner, said we should get some of him ourselves that he was a good fuck the other stuff he said” Tiny trailed off into silence with a shudder.
“I put a bullet through his head.” Yosemite said it with a quiet yet deadly tone.
“We brought Tanner back to the wagon trail, only the wagon master didn’t want him traveling with them so we went off on our own, there was no way we could leave him. Tanner came round but it was like he wasn’t there.” Yosemite tapped the side of his head, he was like a wild animal, we had to keep shackled, then one day got free and took off one of our horses and a rifle, but he kept close to us. My wife use to put food out for him, it was always gone and in its place he would leave fresh meat that he had hunted, then one day we saw the renegades, they opened fire on us, and the next thing we had whipped up the horse and making a run for it. The renegades began to drop, and we knew that Tanner was covering us as we made a run for it, then his horse was shot out from under him at a full run, and he went down, he got to his feet, and kept firing. Then they were on him.
Ezra’s voice was hard and as cold as steel, “You left him behind.”
“He was as good as dead, we had our families we had to get them to safety, we went back to bury the body, but he was gone. Can’t say we weren’t ashamed and still are.” He paused “it was one hell of a shock when we saw him in town.”
Ezra took a steadying breath, horrified by what he had heard; it was no wonder that Vin didn’t remember a lot of what had happened. He took a steadying breath “I can understand your concerns gentlemen, and were as I can sympathize with your plight, my main concern is with Mr. Tanner.”
Tiny said “We kinda hoped that you could speak to Mr. Tanner, you being his guide and all.”
Ezra got slowly to his feet, “I will do my best but.” He ground to a halt, it was there at the back of his mind, a shadowing that told him of his sentinels, without another word he walked to the door of the livery stable, and saw Chris Larabee leant against one of the posts of the store opposite, one of his habitual cheroots smoking in his hand. Mentally Ezra checked him off in his head; he knew that Chris wouldn’t leave him alone with the brothers. Then he looked up as he looked down the street, and fixed on Vin Tanner, the tracker was leant on the balcony of the room, and was looking straight at him, Tanner had heard everything, using his ability to locate him to piggy back his hearing onto that.
The look on Vin’s face was neutral, but that could mean anything, Ezra knew that he had to get to him; this had to be taken care of now, because if not the Howard brothers could be in serious trouble.
Seeing the puzzled looks the brothers where giving him he added “I will see what I can do. Now good day gentlemen.”
Buck was sat on the edge of the bed, as he watched Vin come back into the room. With his more limited power Buck hadn’t heard all of it, but he could read his feral pup and knew that Vin was pissed off and that was dangerous.
Getting up he walked over, and wrapped his arm round Vin, he felt him tense, “Easy pup talk to me.”
Vin just glared and tried to shrug him off, but Buck tightened his grip and pulled him close, “Vin.”
“Those bastards, those fucking bastards.”
“Talk to me Vin” Buck gave him a firm shake, “come on junior you need to speak to me. Vin shook his head as he struggled for the words. Buck took it slowly, Vin was never a one for a lot of words, and he could go all day with just a handful of them, the sentinel connection between them made it easier for him to communicate.
Ezra could feed off his emotions and make sure that the others knew what was going on with him. And of course Chris never seemed to need words with his young lover. So Buck did the only thing he knew he pulled Vin into a hug all the maternal instinct of the gamma coming to the surface, the misery was flowing off the younger man waved so that he could almost taste it. Only when he felt the tension ease in Vin’s lean body did he carefully steered him over onto the bed, and sat down next to him, and lightly began to rub his back, reassuring him. Buck looked up before the door opened and Chris and Ezra came in. Immediately, Buck gave up his space on the bed to Ezra, seeing the nod from Chris he collected his things and left the room to hold the fort at the jail.
Stepping out onto the street, Buck looked up at the window and shook his head; as much as he wanted to stay he knew that this could only be handled by their guide and alpha.
Just then his name was called and he turned to JD hurrying across to him, the scattering of crumbs on his jacket showed he just had come from come from Mrs. Lloyds Eating House. “Where’s the fire?”
“There’s a guy just got off the coach asking about Ezra”
“What did you tell him?”
“Nothing, there was enough people in the Eating House to tell him, that Ezra is one of the regulators.”
“Where is he now?”
“Over at the Hotel, getting a room, what you going to do?”
“Have a few words that are all kid.”
JD fell in step with him until Buck turned, “hold down the jail, I won’t be long.”
The young Sheriff was in the middle of protesting when he saw Casey, and the Howard children, he started towards them only for Casey to give him a startled look and then usher the children quickly away. Puzzled JD shrugged and then changed direction and headed to the jail.
Ezra kept his eyes fixed on Vin’s face, the blue eyes were flaming with an anger that was pure feral. He reached his hands out and cupped Vin’s face, only to have them knocked out of the way, as Vin powered to his feet. But Ezra was just as fast and blocked him, even as Chris moved forward. Ezra snapped “Stay back”; it was the snarl of a guide taking control the last thing he needed was Vin and Chris facing against each other again. “Now you will sit down Mr. Tanner, and since I do not speak Comanche or Kiowa, I have no idea of what you’re saying, now sit down.” Ezra met his eyes levelly, “You will do that now.”
Reaching out Ezra placed his hands on Vin’s shoulder, he felt him flinch, but not pull away. Then moving his hands up slowly he ran then up Vin’s neck and then cupped his face in the palm of his hands moving one hand to card through his long hair. All the time, he kept his eyes locked on Vin’s as he pressed against his mind; Ezra had to take deep breaths Vin’s anger swept over him cutting into him like a knife. A small smile touched Ezra’s face as he felt Vin’s hand press against his chest over his heart, keeping his voice low; to sentinel level his accent thickened rolling over Vin like molasses. Now his sentinel was listening to him, “Sit down Mr. Tanner.”
Together they sat down, all the time Ezra retained his contact with Vin, and he felt the Texan tugging at his shirt and waist coat. Ezra forced Vin’s face up, and the gamblers face softened, he could feel Vin’s emotions, his need to bond. “I know what you want Mr. Tanner, Mr. Larabee if you would leave us I will call if I need you.”
Ezra didn’t turn round as the door closed behind him and he heard the key turn in the lock. Instinctively he knew that Chris would not go far, but at the moment he dare not break his contact with Vin, to check on Chris, he needed to be totally on his feral.
The bond was not sex, that was what Burton had taught him after the war when he had spent a year training under the Englishman, but on that Burton was wrong. Sex strengthen the bond, helped sentinel and guide merge and become one with each other, one mind, one body, one soul.
Vin leaned into him, “Chris gonna be pissed you talking to him like that.”
“Mr. Larabee is always pissed about something, but he realizes that you are the most important person in his room.”
“I ain’t important.” Vin dropped his eyes down.
Ezra tilted Vin’s face up so that he could look into the troubled blue eyes. “Then Mr. Tanner you do yourself a disservice.”
Ezra kissed him lightly on the lips and slipped the leather braces off Vin’s shoulders, tugging the washed out shirt out of the pants, undoing the mismatched buttons. “You do know Mr. Tanner that shirt buttons should really match,” Ezra arched an eyebrow at this sentinel.”
“Lucky to get it, lady lost her husband was selling his clothes off, pants were short but the shirt fitted got two for a dollar.” Vin looked down at it and then up at the horrified expression on his guides face at the thought of wearing dead man’s clothes, he cocked his head to one side. “Ez you okay.”
“Life with you Mr. Tanner is an education.” Ezra drawled with a grin, as he kept his hand lightly moving over the trackers body and face. Ezra knew that the feral had never had a guide before they met, and often he would react on an instinctive level, knew what he needed, but not able to put into words that need, small touches; soft caresses kept Vin reassured and grounded. Ezra pushed the shirt off Vin’s shoulders and let it drop down on the bed. Then reaching up he unknotted the bandana that Vin wore round his throat, it was the first present he had ever brought his shy feral. Ezra knew that Vin didn’t have many possessions, and that he treasured each of them, he could still remember the first time that Vin had told him that he thought of him as a possession. The fierce feral had blushed and looked down, unable to meet his eyes, as if worried that he would take offense at his words, it was at that moment that Ezra had felt a feeling of self worth deeper than anything he had ever felt before.
“What you have just heard Mr. Tanner, and what you remember are two different things, we are” Ezra made sure that Vin heard the passion he put in that word, “going to find the truth for you, and when we do, then we will act as a pack, and make sure that you get pack justice, and now Mr. Tanner we will bond.”
Seeing the hesitation, Ezra understood, Vin was over thinking the bond, trying to remember the manners that Buck as gamma was attempting to install in him, the main one being don’t grab the guide. But for the moment that didn’t matter to Ezra, this was about Vin, so he acted, he pushed the feral backwards so that he landed on his back, and straddled, pinning him down. Before claiming Vin’s mouth in a searing kiss that took the tracker’s breath away, at the same time Ezra pushed against the bond making it crackle and flare. Finally he broke the kiss looking down and smiled at the stunned look on Vin’s face, it wasn’t every day that he could surprise him.
Quickly Ezra undid his waistcoat and shirt and let them drop down onto the floor for once not caring about his fine clothes. Rough, calloused hands stroked his side and chest, then pulled him down for another kiss, the next thing Ezra found the world spinning as he was flipped over and Vin was now on top, bending down and nipping at this chin and throat, his sentinel’s emotions flooded through his mind, and Ezra’s breath caught in his throat as he understood, really understood for the first time, what Vin struggled to put into words, and perhaps never could. For the feral home was not a place but lying in the arms of a predator alpha, who scared most people shitless, and being buried deep inside of his guide as they bonded, that for Vin was home.
Chris stood looking out across the street, silently smoked one of his habitual cheroots; the town’s people that passed him gave him a wide berth. But in reality his senses were fixed upstairs with his young lover and guide, he heard soft words of love and reassurance, the hurried sound of clothes being discarded, a smack of a hand against flesh as Ezra pushed away a questing hand as he tried to get his pants off. Gasps and cries as his two lovers came together, the sound of lips meeting of deep passionate kisses, the sound he knew so well as Ezra was prepared and rode on the fingers that teased his body, and then the throaty cry as Ezra was penetrated and the slap of flesh against flesh increasing and then slowing, as the two younger men moved together. Chris shifted so that he could stand more comfortably, very aware of his bodys reaction to the emotions that sang through the bond, he took a steadying breath, pushing the predator inside of him down, when all it wanted to was go back to that room and claim his young soul mate nailing him to the mattress as Vin took Ezra. But for that moment that need would have to wait, Ezra had first claim on him.
Ezra threw his head back onto the pillow his body arching as his hands clutched the blankets his mind fused with Vin as their bodies were joined, the scarred walls in Vin’s mind that had blocked his memories began to crumble under the heat of the bond as Ezra sent it searing through Vin’s mind. As the last strands holding the wall broke Vin screamed pain and pleasure becoming one as he climaxed inside of his guide, at the same time as his lost memories crashed down round him. His body limp and spent he sprawled over Ezra, his breath harsh and ragged. Ezra moved his shaking hands over the naked body of his feral, running them over his head, and down his back in long soothing strokes, drawing Vin close gentling him.
Gradually Vin lifted his head off Ezra’s chest, his blue eyes soft the light in them now muted. “Ez did I hurt you” his voice was just above a whisper, the concern radiated through the bond.
“I am fine Mr. Tanner.” Ezra hugged him and pressed a kiss to his forehead as he settled his sentinel against him to reassure him. Cocooning Vin in his arms and mind, Vin slipped into an exhausted sleep, it was then that the guide carefully felt along the bond, he could feel the raw pathways in Vin’s mind from where the memories had been torn from his subconscious. Ezra was all too aware of what he was going to do, and the price he would pay, as he slowly absorbed the pain, leaving Vin with only the memories, Ezra could feel his head beginning to throb, but he kept going, sorting through them, making sense of what he was seeing coupling it with the Howards story. The pain began to build behind his eyes, a wave of nausea washed over him. Take deep slow breaths, Ezra calmed himself, he still had a job to do, a sentinel to look after. The pain was building, Ezra refused to wake Vin, he could handle this alone, he had done so before, but he lost his concentration, and burning pain knifed through his head, and Ezra threw his head back and screamed no words came from his mouth but it tore through the bond, at lightning speed.
In the jail house, Blair Sandburg was handing his sentinel a mug of coffee, suddenly Jim sat bolt upright, the mug slipping straight through his hand, and hot coffee splashing over the floor as the sentinel powered to his feet.
“Jim what’s wrong.” Blair’s hand was resting on his sentinel’s shoulder. The young guide was worried he had never seen the older man react like that,
“I am okay Darwin,” he patted his guide’s arm to reassure him. “That was Ezra, hell I heard him, it wasn’t his voice, and it was.” Jim trailed off frowning.
“It was what,” Blair looked up to the heaven to give him patience with stubborn sentinels, and “it was what Jim.”
“He was broadcasting it, through the bond, there’s no way he can do it.” Jim looked to Blair, only for his young guide to sink down onto the chair, “Jim there is no guide alive today that can do that, a bond link is personal to the sentinel and his guide. What the hell is going on here”?
“Could it be because of the feral and predator that Ez had evolved”?
Blair just shook his head “I wish I knew, but I can tell you one thing Jim, I have to get to the bottom of it and Ezra has the answers, if I can find the right questions.” Blair looked wistful “what I wouldn’t give to get him into a lab for testing,” he struggled not like that is going to happen but what a waste.”
Buck came flying out of the Hotel, just in time to see Chris disappearing back into the building.
There was a loud click of the lock opening; Ezra was hunched up on the bed, his head buried in his hands. Vin was crouched on the floor, ready to attack not understanding what had hurt his guide, and Ezra was in no condition to tell him, so the feral was ready to take on all comers to protect his guide.
Chris slowed as he came through the door, knowing the danger of the situation and thanking god that Vin wasn’t armed. The feral was out of its cage, Vin powered up from his crouched position, a low guttural growl coming from him. Chris let the predator out, his eyes sweeping over his young lover, to his guide. Buck felt the air around him change, and knew that the Predator was out, and he moved to Ezra slowly, aware that Vin was focusing on him.
“Easy Junior it’s just old Buck. Ez need a bit of help that’s all.”
At that moment Vin went for him, only to be caught and slammed into the wall and pinned against it by Chris, the predator had his hands full it was like trying to hold a wild cat; he only just managed to avoid a knee aimed at his groin.
Buck was torn between coming to Chris’s aid and seeing to Ezra, but the soft cries of pain could not be ignored, he couldn’t let Ezra suffer, a quick glance showed that the predator and feral were well matched.
Reaching out Buck laid his hand onto Ezra’s shoulder, he felt him flinch away. “You did it again didn’t you,” Buck said with a touch of sadness, when was Ezra going to learn that he didn’t have to do everything alone. He could smell the sickness coming off the younger man, and it brought the maternal instinct of the gamma to the fore. “Link with me Ezra.”
The southerner gave a quick shake of the head, Buck swore under his breath, and then regretted the burst of anger as Ezra pulled in on himself even more. The bigger man sat down on the bed and reached for Ezra, and firmly but at the same time with care pulled the naked guide into his arms. “Link with me,” Buck tried again at the same time as he cupped the back of Ezra’s head and eased it down to rest on the gamma broad chest. Buck heard the faint painful whimper, and he knew the headache had to be bad for that to have been forced from Ezra; the guide didn’t like to show any weakness. Feeling him shiver against him, Buck dragged a blanket up round him, a loud crash brought Ezra’s head snapping round, and he gave a cry of pain. “It’s okay Ez, it’s just Chris and Vin, their making a lot of noise that’s all, got a few things to work out.” He said softly, “You and me where going somewhere nice and warm, get you under the blankets, okay. So you’re going to listen to your gamma and link.”
“H h hurt y you.” Ezra stammered.
Gently Buck stroked the sweat dampened hair from Ezra’s face “I’ll be alright Ez, just let go.” The next minute the pain hit Buck, “Son of a bitch,” the big man swore. Ezra had a full blow sick headache; Buck’s ma had suffered from them so he knew how much they hurt. Some days she had banged her head against the wall because that pain was less that the headache. As gamma Buck was responsible for the guides well being, just as he was for the pups, he opened his mind, and concentrated hard, he felt the link with Ezra it was pulsing with pain but this time he was ready for it. He pushed against the link and felt it close off, as he cocooned Ezra’s mind in his. Sliding one arm under Ezra’s legs the other round his shoulder he gathered him up and carried him out of the room, and to his own bedroom knowing that Chris would keep Vin off his back, as the feral howled as his guide was taken from him, and began struggling harder to go to him.
Vin was a dirty fighter, even being naked didn’t hamper him, the feral didn’t care, seeing Buck taking Ezra he made a dive for him, Chris caught him round the waist and slammed him into the wall again, sending a hack painted picture crashing to the floor, as he knocked the breath from the younger man.
With a roar, Chris finally had the wild cat trapped, he forced Vin’s head to one side and bit down hard on his throat, the feral cried out in pain, but the predator worried at the bite. But finally the feral stilled submitting to his dominate alpha
The link between predator and feral flared and there was no need for words, and Vin understood finally that Ezra was going to be alright, the Buck had him. He gave a shuddering breath, and leaned his head forward to rest on Chris’s black clad shoulder.
The predator calmed as the feral submitted his body to him, the scent of sex was heavy in the room from the feral’s coupling with Ezra, and it called to the alpha, he lowered his hands releasing his bruising hold on the younger man, and then wrapped them round Vin’s waist, the feral nuzzled against his throat, and then slide his own arms round his alpha’s neck.
The predator, growled contently, and moved one hand from the younger man’s back down to his hip caressing it before it dipped lower to cup his ass; he squeezed one cheek, liking the firm feel under his hand. He laughed softly as he heard the throats moan coming from the younger man, as Vin grinded against him, it pushed Chris’s need higher, he could feel the heat from the younger man’s body, taste the musk scent of his lovers arousal. The predator caressed Vin’s other hip, before using both hands to lifted Vin up so that the tracker could wrap his legs round his waist. He slammed the Texan hard against the wall, as he plundered his young lovers mouth, leaving him breathless. With Vin pinned by his body to the wall, Chris moved one hand down pulling open his pants to free himself from their tight constrains. Words were now lost to the predator, the thickening musky scent of his young lover told him that his soul mated wanted this, wanted to be taken so with a guttural snarl he pushed at Vin, the younger man understood and pressing down on Chris’s shoulders obediently raised himself up, and then let himself sink back down impaling himself on his Alpha.
Chris began to move hard long thrust up into the hot velvet heat of his lover, their bodies banging against the wall, increasing in tempo as the alpha took Vin each time burying himself deep inside of him. Vin’s senses had increased and the feeling of Chris’s clothes against his skin was a sweet torture, as with each push it rubbed against his chest and over senses nipples, making him moan and writhe on the hard unyielding flesh that impaled him. Until finally with a cry his alpha filling him with his cum, joining them as one. Chris was shaking from his climax as he managed to pulled out of Vin, lowering him to the floor, then leaned into him burying his face against Vin’s shoulder his head turning slightly to kiss his young lover’s neck and root under his jaw. Vin’s arms closed round him, and it was the feral that helped him to the bed, then Vin released Chris, turning to drop back onto the bed, edging himself further onto it. He leaned back resting on his elbows, smiling up sprawling his legs wide, so that Chris could see his cum running from his well used hole. Vin smiled up at him, and moved back against the head board, then reached down and fingered his own hole, all the time his eyes never left Chris.
Chris’s green eyes burned with an unholy light, as he took in his young lover, laid wide offering up his ass to him. In two strides he was on the bed, his hands catching Vin’s hips and pulling him close and burying himself up to the root in that hot clinging channel of his feral as he filled him. Vin cried out at the sudden breaching of his body, but it was a joyful sound. His hands coming down onto the bed, so that he could use them to push his body up, matching each of Chris’s thrusts. Chris gripped his lover’s hips so hard they bit into his skin, marking Vin as his. With a roar Chris threw back his head as he lost control and came hard into Vin’s body for the second time, this time his knees buckled and he pulled Vin onto his side and curled up round him, his softening cock still imbedded in his lover.
Chris reached a hand round to Vin’s still hard cock which was weeping with pre-cum. Vin had held back, refusing his body its own release, until his alpha allowed him tears ran from his eyes and ran down his flushed face, pleasure was now pain. Chris pulled out of him, and pushed Vin onto his back, and then with a grin as old as sin bend forward and took Vin in his mouth, sucking on him, the feral cried out, burying one hand into the blond hair of his alpha, encouraging him, needing him, to finish what he was started. When Chris slide a finger inside of him, Vin arched up off the bed and he came hard, and the world grayed out, he came round to the most magnificent feeling. He cracked his eyes open, and looked down his body, his alpha was licking him clean, he reached a shaking hand down to card through the dirty blond hair that had flopped down into Chris’s eyes, the predator alpha’s head snapped up, pinning his young Feral lover with a glare that softened into a look of tenderness that most people wouldn’t have believed Chris Larabee, predator alpha was capable of. The Alpha moved up his body, and claimed his mouth letting the Vin taste himself in the kiss. Chris felt Vin shiver and alpha pressed a kiss to his forehead and then reach over and pulled the blankets over them as his sated lower curled up round him, clinging as he nuzzled against his alpha’s throat.
Vin tensed suddenly as he felt through the bond, Chris’s guilt as he lightly touched the bit mark, and the bruising on his hips.
“I hurt you,” he started to apologize when a finger was pressed to his lips, silencing him.
Now secure in Chris’s arms, the glow of their love making warming him, he could face Chris and put into words what he had been too frightened to tell him. “There’s things that I’s need to tell you.” Vin lapsed into silence, he felt his alpha’s hand run soothingly over his back and neck reassuring him. “The renegades they used me, like a mule during the day and a whore at night, Bill give them rot gut whiskey and a rifle and he brought my ass. Had to pay him back the only way I’s could.”
“Did he force you?”
Vin gave a slight shake of the head, “Give it up to him, when he wanted it which was most nights, I’s had to c...c...called him alpha when he fucked me, he liked that.” Vin shuddered “but he weren’t my alpha, you’re my alpha, only one,” Vin sounded panicky frightened that Chris was going to reject him.
Chris carefully eased back so that he could see Vin’s face, even as through the link he felt the misery that poured off his young lover. “If I could I would go back and kill every one of them that touched you, but I can’t. All I can say is that I am proud to have such a strong soul mate, someone that could survive all you did and still be here to love me. Because that is what I do, I love you. I swear that on the graves of my family”
Vin just looked at him, his mouth falling open, he had never heard Chris put such passion into his words, and to swear on the graves of his beloved family was earth shattering. He buried his face against Chris’s throat as the first hot tears ran down his face, and his body began to shake, as for the first time in his life he was able to let go of all the hurt and humiliation in the arms of a man that loved him instead of just wanting to use him.
Sitting in the chair in front of the Jail, Jim Ellison had looked up towards the room, and carefully turned his sentinel hearing down, he felt the brush of Blair’s hand, and he looked up into the concerned face of his guide, the man he would die for.
“The boys are letting off a little steam.” He explained.
“Boffing like rabbits you mean.” Blair said with a grin.
“Yeah,” But Jim’s attention was fixed on one of the newcomers to town, the man was in his mid forties, he was dressed like a lawyer, and the man was looking for Standish. Just as he knew he would, Jim saw him heading towards him.
The man saw the badge on Jim’s coat, “Sorry to bother you Marshal. I am looking for a gambler, called Ezra Standish, the name’s Curtis Needham, I am only in town until the Wednesday stage, and I am looking for a high stakes poker game, a gambler in Eagle Bend told me to look up Mr. Standish.”
Jim glanced towards the building opposite, a small smile twisting his lips.
“Mr. Standish is a little busy at the moment, I’ll be sure to send him your way Mr. Needham.” But as the man walked away it left Jim frowning.
“His heart beat was elevated when he was talking to me about Standish.”
“He was lying.”
“Could be.” Jim shrugged “or it could be that he knows his wife will kill him if he loses the money, but I just get a bad feeling about this.”
Buck felt Ezra settling against him, his finally body relaxing as the pressure in his head eased and the pain disappeared, it was then Buck felt it, Ezra was hitching a ride on his senses to check on his other sentinels, using his hearing to listen for them Suddenly Ezra stilled, his mind frozen. Buck swore, and lightly trailed a finger nail over Ezra’s stomach, leaving a light score on his skin, just hard enough to break him free of the black void he had fallen into. Ezra woke up gasping for breath, “N n n not a g good idea Mr. Wilmington.”
“You think.” Buck’s voice was hard, “Don’t try fool stunts like that, or god help me Ez, your be playing poker standing up for the next month.”
“Mr. Wilmington.” Ezra stuttered, “You wouldn’t you.”
“Try me,” green eyes met warm brown eyes, and Ezra knew the truth, his gamma would do whatever he thought was right, and to hell with his guide’s dignity.
“Mr. Larabee and Mr. Tanner, they”
“Clawing great lumps out of each other, hell junior bites like a snapping turtle, but they’re okay now, Chris found another way to sap his energy.” Buck gave a knowing smile
“I see,” Ezra breathed out slowly and slightly shakily, as he lowered a trembling hand and rubbed it against Buck’s crotch, feeling his gamma’s body reacting to his touch. His hand was caught Buck shook his head.
“You’re not in a fit state to fuck Ez.”
“Need you, cold inside, feel so cold?” The misery was coming off Ezra in waves.
Buck began to move away and Ezra gave a cry and tried to pull him back.
“Easy, Ez, I am just getting comfortable, Buck quickly got undressed and took a small tin from his saddlebags and then slipped back under the blanket, and pulled Ezra close. Now Buck loved the ladies, but Ezra was different, he was their guide, and the attraction was strong for that reason, and his sex didn’t matter.
Buck rolled Ezra onto his back and with a smile that had lost more than one woman her bloomers, Buck straddled his young guide, leaned in and kissed him, then began to trail hot kisses from his mouth across his jaw and onto his throat. From there he kissed and licked the hard nipples, as Ezra writhed under him, his hands clawing at Buck’s arms.
Buck eased back catching the younger man’s flaying hands, as he leaned down and kiss, Ezra’s flushed, sweat soaked face, then he guided the gambler’s hands up to grip the metal bars of the headboard of the bed. “Don’t let go,” Buck said as he began to stroke Ezra’s stomach and inner thighs avoiding his hard needy cock. Then with a grin that was pure evil, Buck swooped down and took Ezra in his mouth, and sucked him hard, his hands clamped on Ezra’s hips stopped the younger man from bucking him off. As Buck sucked him, the big man, fondled his heavy sac, and then without warning slid a greased finger inside his ass. Ezra screamed as he came, his body arching upwards then collapsed back onto the bed when he was spent.
When Buck entered him, Ezra had welcomed the penetration of his body, feeling the warmth that fused his body and mind, coming off Buck not lust but love, not fleeting but strong and lasting. The coldness of his body disappeared, as floating on the orgasmic haze he felt the link with his other sentinels return filtered through Buck, a smile touched his lips, as he felt the warmth of his sentinels love making. All was now right in his world, as he lay in the arms of his gamma lover.
Buck cuddled him close. “God, Ez, you’re going to make an old man of me.” He chuckled softly, as Ezra gave a jaw cracking yawn and then nuzzled against his throat before dropping asleep.
Curtis Needham was not a stupid man; he knew that the moment he started to ask questions about Standish it wouldn’t be long before the gambler would hear about it. He had heard some interesting things about the man, depending on who he was talking too. Needham walked along the boardwalk from the hotel to the saloon, the street was dark except for the small bonfire spaced out down the street, casting out a little light. He dropped his cigar onto the boardwalk and ground it out before he entered the saloon; he paused at the swing door and looked round. Due to his red coat even in the dull light of the saloon Standish was easily located at one of the far tables; he was on his own and was waiting for the evening trade to pick up, Needham patted his wallet in his pocket and wondered how much of that he was going to lose in the next hour.
Taking a slight breath Curtis headed straight for Standish, when he got to the table he paused. “Mr. Standish,” the gambler looked up at him, “Mr. Leigh of the Orient said to look you up, if I wanted a high stakes poker game, and that you could accommodate me.”
“I am if anything accommodating, please take a seat Mr.….” Standish paused.
“Curtis Needham.” Standish half raised himself out of the chair and shook hands before sinking back down again.
As Curtis reached into the inner pocket of his jacket to remove his wallet he heard a chair scrap back and for a second he froze as he saw that the black dressed gunman Chris Larabee, had moved away from the table, his hand resting on his gun. Moving slowly, he withdrew his hand from his coat, and placed the wallet on the table, only then did he removed his money and settle into his chair. There was only going to be the two of them playing, and by making it high stakes, Curtis was hoping that it would stay that way, it would allow him to gain an insight into the gambler.
As Ezra began to deal, he was looking at the man opposite him. Curtis Needham was in his mid- to late forties, with black Irish looks; his clothes were well cut which meant that he hadn’t brought them locally. Needham was here for a reason and it wasn’t just playing poker. He knew his fellow gamblers and there was no way that Leigh would have allowed a well heeled mark to escape his clutches, and certainly not send Needham to him. There was two possibilities, Needham wanted a game, and thought that he needed an introduction, Ezra dismissed that straight away, if you had enough money you could walk into any game, or second and more likely, Needham wanted something from him, and he just had to wait and see what happened next. Needham was a reasonable player not given to grand flourishes of play, and resigned to seeing his money slowly migrated across the table during the course of the evening.
The saloon was nearly empty when they finally parted company, Ezra at least two hundred dollars better off, at one time he would have reveled in the money. Okay he still did, something’s didn’t change, but now he saw the money as enabling him to buy things for his family. The very idea of Vin dressing in dead man clothes horrified him. Vin had been deprived of warm clothes and starved too often already in his life; Ezra was determined not to let it happen again. With a yawn he headed off to bed, as he pushed opened the door to the room he sensed someone, the light from the hall way showed Buck waiting for him sat on the bed, a shot glass of whiskey in his hand, which he held out to Ezra, for a moment the gambler just looked at it, then with a knowing smile took it, his eyes still fixed on his gamma’s face he took a drink, “the good stuff Mr. Wilmington,” he cocked an eyebrow at Buck.
“Only the best for you Ez, only the best.” He patted the bed.
Ezra smiled at him and finished the whiskey, “An intelligent person would think that you are trying to seduce me Mr. Wilmington.”
“It’s a good job your intelligent Ez saves a lot of time.” Buck drawled.
Ezra put the shot glass down on the chest of drawers; his eyes alive with mischief fixed on Buck’s face as he slowly began to peel off his jacket, and draped it round the back of the only chair in the room. Then he removed the shoulder holster and derringer rig, and his side arm. Ezra undid the fancy buttons on his waist coat and then let it fall onto the chair, then his hands stilled on the buttons of his shirt. All the times he had been naked with his sentinels at the back of his mind he always waited for their look of revolution, as the saw the burn scars on his body, but it never came. Buck was on his feet in a heartbeat, reached out to him, his large hand cupping the back of his head as his other hand went to the small of his back and pulled him into a kiss, it was light and teasing, and Ezra’s fears were swept away with that tender intimacy. Ezra wrapped his arms round Buck, as he was pulled closer into the gamma’s strong arms, what he needed now wasn’t sex that he knew would come in the morning, what he needed was just to feel. He felt Buck’s mind open to him, and then as he mentally stepped into it, it cocooned him, and a feeling of contentment and peace swept over him.
The early light of dawn was streaming through the window, as Buck lay contented in bed his back against the headboard, his arms round his guide, as Ezra lay sprawled across him. Their love making had been something and Buck found it hard to get rid of the smile on his face, old Ez was a real firecracker in bed and their link made sex mind blowing. He felt Ezra stir, and gentle stroked a hand over his flank and hip, soothing him, and with a soft sigh Ezra slide back into a deeper sleep. It was still early and Buck wasn’t yet prepared to let the young gambler go, so with a yawn he snuggled down into the bed taking Ezra with him and allowed sleep to overcome him.
Vin was leaned against the post of the Potters Store; he was munching on a biscuit that Mrs. Potter had given him. His eyes took in the street, as he licked the last bit of butter off his fingers, when he saw Ezra come out onto the street. His guide yawned and then adjusted the cuffs of his coat, every inch the successful gambler. As he crossed to him, Ezra tipped his hat to a couple of ladies walking by, they hurried on past quicker, keeping their eyes averted from him.
Ezra mirrored his sentinel’s position against the post, “Anything of interesting happening Mr. Tanner.”
“Nothing to tell, how much you win last night.”
“Tut tut Mr. Tanner, a gentleman never asks that.”
“I ain’t no gentleman Ez.” Vin dug into his pocket and pulled out one of the newly baked biscuits and offered it to Ezra.
Ezra repressed a shudder at where that biscuit had been. “No thank you Mr. Tanner I have already eaten. You are in more ways that you’re ever knowing Mr. Tanner, and in answer to your question I won $200 off Mr. Needham.” He pointy looked Vin up and down, “For a man that prides himself on his sartorial elegance it pains me that my sentinel looks like he is encased in the carcass of a dead animal, and the other one looks as if he is an undertaker. I sometimes despair I….” Ezra finished in mid-sentence as he realized that Vin had stopped listening to him, and had taken a step away from the post his head snapping round trying to find something.
Suddenly Vin was pulling his mare’s leg chambering a round as two shots rang out in quick succession. The first bullet hit the post near Vin’s head, Ezra began to dive for cover as he was hit, spun round and fall to the boardwalk.
Pain exploded through his shoulder as Vin caught him and dragged him behind a water trough. Before powering up from behind it, Vin fired two shots in quickly at the source of the gunfire and Ezra struggled to pull his own gun. Vin’s bullets hammered into the ground floor of an empty building. Chris came flying out of the jail, gun in hand, and ducked down behind one of the flour barrels in front of the Potters store “Vin.”
“Ez is down.”
The street had gone silent, slowly Vin eased up, gun at the ready, but the shooter had gone, and slowly the people were starting to come out onto the street again.
Buck was by Ezra’s side, he had come out of one of the small houses just off main street, his hat rammed on his head, and his gun belt thrown over his shoulder. He was now holding a squirming Standish down, as the gambler tried to push Nathan’s away from him.
Ezra swore then grated out “I hate getting shot,” he glared up at Buck, “I never got shot before I joined up with Mr. Larabee.”
“Yeah Ez, you just got staked out in the desert, and...”
“You made your point Mr. Wilmington,” Ezra said and then flinched away as Nathan began to pull open his shirt, and tried to knock his hands away yet again only for Buck to catch and pin them in how own large hands.
“Ez.” Chris was looming over Ezra, gun still in his hand, “let him do his job” it was not a request it was the command of his alpha.
Nathan nodded his thanks “The bullet wound took you high in the shoulder, you’re lucky it didn’t cause more damage.”
“Yes Mr. Jackson, I certainly feel lucky at this moment in time, so much so I must write it in my diary.” Ezra drawled, and then gave a gasp if pain as Nathan pressed a pad to the wound to stem the bleeding. “Buck, I am going to need you to give him a hand getting him to the clinic.”
“Sure Nate,” Buck bent down and help draw Ezra up, keeping a strong arm wrapped round the gambler’s waist.
Tiny Howard appeared round the side of the livery a Spencer carbine held in his large hand, the barrel pointed the ground. Vin’s head tilted and he inhaled, then with a curse stalking towards Tiny, he could smell that the Spencer carbine had been fired, “What’s the matter Howard, you shoot that bad you Ez hit instead of me.” Vin snarled at him.
Tiny took a step back throwing up one hand toward the tracker off, “I never shot him, I grabbed the gun when I heard the gunshot, thought I could help.”
Vin grabbed the rifle and pulled it off him, “Gun’s been fired Howard you explain that you son of a bitch.”
Jim Ellison had just arrived back in town Blair when he took in what was happening and swore under his breath as he came up on the men.
“Vin, let me deal with that.” Jim said levelly.
“Gun’s been fired, he shot Ez.”
Jim checked the rife, it had been fired, and he handed it to Blair, and then said “Give me your hand Mr. Howard.”
Puzzled the big man did as he was told; his eyes widened further when he saw the Marshal smell his hands. “He didn’t fire the gun Vin, there is no gunpowder residue on his hands, if he had fired that gun, there would be. So Mr. Howard where did you find the gun.”
“It was by the side of the livery stable, I picked it up.”
“You recognized it didn’t you, a man doesn’t lie except for kin, your brother takes a shot at me Howard and you hit Ez instead.” Vin’s voice was chilling as he baited Tiny Howard.
“He’s not even in town, went out the Logan farm to repair their plough. I …..” Tiny trailed off as he waited to see what was going to happen next.
Vin turned back to his alpha, Chris looked Tiny up and down, “I don’t buy your innocence, but if Ellison said you didn’t fire the rifle, then I have to go with what he says, but a word of warning Howard, I know what you and your brother did to Vin, you go gunning for Vin or Ezra and I’ll kill you where you stand, understand?”
Tiny knew it wasn’t a bluff, Chris Larabee would kill them, and the gunman started to turn away and then paused and said over his shoulder. “And Howard doesn’t try to run, if you do your just piss Vin off, and you don’t want him tracking you down.”
“Don’t have anything to hide Mr. Larabee.” Chris added “the gun Tiny, the marshal will need it.”
Tiny thrust it into Jim’s hands and then went back to the livery, his mind running a mile a minute as he tried to work out what the hell had just happened.
Vin was watching Jim, and his curiosity got the most of him.
“What you doing?”
“Re-creating the scene” Jim walked over to the blood strained boardwalk looked down and then at the building opposite. “Ezra was stood here?” Ellison asked.
Vin nodded, “Yeah why.”
Jim didn’t answer him straight away, but looked towards his guide. “Sandburg, would you say you and Ezra are about the same height.”
“More or less why.” Blair asked.
“Stand just here, Vin I need you to stand where you did when the shooting started.”
“Why, not like there’s anything to see.” The Texan sounded puzzled. But seeing a nod from his alpha, who seemed just as interested as he was in what was happening. “Either the Howards grew some balls and tried to kill me or it was a bounty hunter either way Ez got hit by mistake.” There was self loathing in his voice that was alien to Vin’s normal nature.
“You're taking too much on yourself Tanner.” Jim said, then added “The first bullet hit the post near you Vin,” he put a hand to the splintered would and taking out a pocket knife pried out the bullet and it drop into his hand. Picking up one of the sticks, Jim placed it into the bullet hole, this one came straight at you, no elevation, and you fired back.” Jim moved to Sandburg, “Ezra’s wound is at an angle, the bullet could only take that projectory if it was fired from above. He placed the twig against Blair’s shoulder and then used it as a sighting stick, “top of the feed store, Vin get up there and if there’s a bullet case sing on down.”
Jim could feel Larabee’s glare almost like a physical blow so he explained. “What it tells us is that there were two shooters, one in the alleyway, and one on the roof. The one on the roof had a perfect position to take Vin out, he didn’t he shot Ezra, you got to ask yourself Chris is why.”
“This like the vest.” Chris asked.
“Jim.” Blair started to warn him, but the older Sentinel ignored him, “More of the same” Jim dug a bullet out of the side of the building, trying to ignore the spray of blood from Ezra that was splatter on the wall as the bullet had tore through the gambler. We have this bullet and the one from the post; we fire the Spencer and match the bullet’s, and were known which bullet it fired.”
Chris came closer, “bullets a bullet, unless the shooter put his name on it, it can’t tell us anything” his tone showed that he was dismissing it as useless.
But Jim was going to give up. “Not quite, each bullet had an individual mark on it caused by the unique nature of the gun barrel, we fire a bullet and it will have the same markings as one of the two bullets and we know who the owner was trying to hit.
“They got a name for this sort of thing Ellison.” Chris paused to light up one of his cheroots.
“Forensic Science.” Just then Vin yelled down he had found one shell on the roof from where he knelt, Vin was in a perfect line to the stick that Blair held in place marking the wound angle, the two matched. Now all they had to do was test fire the rifle.
Jim fired one bullet into the water butt behind the livery stable then rolling up his sleeve fished it out, checking it against the two he had retrieved; he felt Blair’s hand on his shoulder as he magnified his sight so that he could see the distinct riffling on the bullet. He handed the one from the post to Chris with the bullet he had fired, “take a look at those two Chris.”
“What am I looking for”?
“The patterning on the bullet, it’s identical.” Jim waited for Chris to nod in agreement, and then handed over the other bullet, this is the one that hit Ezra, and can you see the difference.”
Chris nodded and then handed the bullets to Vin, waiting for the tracker to acknowledge it.
“Those two are the same the other one is different.” Vin handed them back Jim.
“So we know that the shooter or rather the one with the Spencer carbine that Tiny Howard had been after you Vin, the other shooter was after Ezra.” Even as Jim said it he could see the look on Chris’s face it was bad enough that someone was gunning for Larabee’s young lover, the fact they might also be targeting his guide was even worse.
Buck was sat by the edge of the bed, he glanced across of Old Phil who was huddled in the only other bed, the old man had taken a fall, and Nathan had him in the clinic until he was fit to go home. The old man had watched silently as Ezra had been bandaged and laid down on the bed. Once the healer had left the room, Ezra swung his legs of the bed; his bad arm pressed against his body, his complexion was chalky white with pain, and sweat beading his face. Buck leaned forward his hand landing on the gambler’s good shoulder.
“Ez, old son you don’t want to be doing that, you have to rest.” Whatever Buck was going to say was lost as Nathan came back into the room. The healer stood there his hands on his hips glaring at him. “Where the hell are you going”?
“I have decided to vacate your establishment Mr. Jackson, what does it look like.” The words were sharp and clipped, the accent thicker than normal told volumes to the southerners true condition.
“If you can get up, you can leave.” Nathan said levelly.
Ezra took a deep breath and tried to push himself up, but with a grunt of pain flopped back down onto the bed, raising his good hand he tried to brush the sweat from his eyes.
“Rest Ezra” Nathan softened his voice.
“I cannot stay here Mr. Jackson, I need,” he paused then took a breath. “I have to leave.” Seeing the hurt on the healer’s face he shook his head, “It is not slur on you skill Mr. Jackson, but.” He raised a hand and massaged his forehead, “It is a guide thing, to heal I need to be with what is mine.” He shot the old man a look, which spoke volumes; he would not speak of it in front of a stranger.
“Mr. Wilmington, are you going to help me, or wait until I land on my ass.” He cocked his head to one side and glared at his Gamma.
“Might be interesting Ez, but I rather not getting on the wrong side of Chris and Vin? Chris might just shoot me, but junior he can be down and dirty when he wants too” Buck gave a theatrical shudder.
“Sentinels” Nathan said under his breath, “Buck, Ezra needs to rest, and he certainly isn’t going to do it here, and I think that short of tying him down, he is going to try and escape as soon as my back’s turned. So, you get to take him, I want him resting and make sure that he takes fluids, if he starts to get a fever, I need you to call me.”
The healer poured out some laudanum, “If you want out of here you drink this Ezra, no argument” he added as he saw the gambler open his mouth and start to protest, but as their eyes met, a battle of wills took place and Ezra dropped his gaze, and reached out for the glass.
Nathan hovered over him and watched him drink it, not trusting the gamblers not to try a fast one. Only then did go to his working table and measured out two paper twists of a white powder and hand them to Buck, “I’ll come over tomorrow morning and check on him, if he starts to get hot make sure the takes one of these mixed in water, and then get me.”
Buck pocked the pieces of paper, and then turned to his guide, “Ready Ezra.” A grin spread across his face as he saw the look on his face, the gambler was floating he was certainly not feeling any pain. Reaching out got a hand to his good arm and drew the smaller man to his feet, moving into him as he did so, releasing his hold to slide a strong arm round Ezra’s waist.
Heisting, Buck decided to take Ezra out the back way, knowing the gambler would not want to be seen like this, the younger man prided himself on his public image, using it to protect himself, and any weakness would not be tolerated. Buck felt the tug at the back of his mind which told him that Ezra had linked with him, and he couldn’t help but smile as he heard Ezra singing away softly in his head, he was pretty sure that the younger man was feeling no pain.
Just then there was the snap of a rifle firing, Buck found him pushed against the wall of the building and Ezra was in front of him, as there was the click of the derringer snapping out of the carriage that was strapped to Ezra’s forearm and into his hand.
Buck reached out and lowered Ezra’s hand down, “no threat Ez” he tapped his own ear “It’s Ellison trying out the rifle they found that’s all.”
Ezra turned to him slowly, his head cocked to one side, and Buck felt it the passive presence in his mind, become firmer, and he understood what Ezra needed, Buck opened his senses and let their guide piggy back them, when he saw a dreamy smile on Ezra’s face, he had what he needed reassurance that everything was alright with his alpha and feral. Quickly catching hold of Ezra he helped him towards the boarding house, he would keep Ezra safe in his room until Chris claimed him.
It was then he saw JD and Casey, on the main street, only for JD to tug her towards an alleyway, only to have his hand batted away, the two young people were having an argument, he turned his hearing down, giving them privacy, but there was no mistaking the finger that JD was stabbing at the young girl. Even as she spun on her heels and stormed away. JD turned caught sight of the two men, and flushed bright red, and then hurried away.
Buck grinned shaking his head as he mused young love never ran easy, then he turned his attention back to Ezra and saw the gambler swaying heading back towards the saloon down a back alleyway, muttering something about a poker game. Moving quickly Buck snagged him, spinning him round and tugged him in the direction of the boarding house. Until Ezra finally gave into the drug, Buck knew Ezra was going to try the patience of a saint, and Buck would be the first person to admit that he ran short of that.
Big Bill Connor cut back behind the Potters store and rounds by the privies, heading out to where he was camped, a Spencer carbine in his hand, and swore under his breath as he ran, all the bad fucking luck, Standish had moved as he had squeezed the trigger. He was sure that Standish was still alive, which meant he was going to have go back and finish the job if he wanted to see the second part of his money.
In his room Curtis Needham sat down on his bed, and pulled out a carpet bag he had stowed under it, and tugged out a battered journal, and leafed through it, inside it were newspaper clippings, filed under eight names.
Ezra P Standish
In a neat hand notes were written about each of the men. Needham flipped a page this one had the name Ezra P Standish, there was a copy of his wanted poster for escaping from jail in Fort Laramie and a detailed account of the tarring and feathering, with notes scribbled in the margins. Events has conspired against him in the form of a stagecoach loosing it’s wheel , and he had ended up arriving in Four Corners after Standish, which was going to make his job all the harder, ideally he had wanted to get himself established in Four Corners before Standish arrived. But Needham was determined that he wasn’t going to lose another man on his watch, that bullet had been too close, another inch and they would have been burying Standish.
Needham dug a telegram from his pocket and re-read it.
Got your message should arrive on stage tomorrow –
Chris and Vin had called in on Ezra and checked him over, Chris had rested a hand on Ezra’s head as if in benediction, sensing his presence Ezra had tilted his head and in his half sleeping state nuzzled at the calloused hand, a hand that could deal so much death which touching him so lovingly.
Now an hour later, Ezra was on the move again his bare feet slapped on the threadbare carpet as he went to Chris’s door, he hit the door with the palm of his good hand, it opened and Chris stood there, his blond hair was tumbling over his eyes, all he was wearing was a pair of dark pants undone and riding low on his hips. Chris was blocking the door, but stepped back to allow Ezra come in, Buck stood behind Ezra making sure that he reached his alpha without hurting himself further. Looking past Chris he saw Vin naked laying on the bed on his belly, one hand propping his head up, watching them, slowly lowered his hand brought his legs under him, and raised himself up. His lips pulled back against his teeth in a rumbling snarl, the feral reacting to the vulnerability of his guide, and the need to protect. Chris’s head snapped round and he snarled low and guttural at Vin and the tracker went quiet. Chris turned back and reached out and drew Ezra into the room with a nod to Buck, that he was taking charge of the wayward gambler. Buck just contemplated the door as it was closed in his face then he padded back to his room.
Ezra Standish knew that he should see this as a weakness, that his need for his sentinels should be ignored, his mother, would be shocked and disgusted by his need for these men. He had lived through many things, some that he refused to even think of such as when he had paid off his debts with his body or when he had been nearly beaten to dead by an angry loser. The time after the war when he had been sick and unable to care for himself, and he had laid in a shabby room out of his head with fever, left lying in his own filth. Those days were now long gone, he would never be alone again. So when he reached out to them, he was gathered close and tugged down to rest with them curled round him.
How long he rested like that he didn’t know, but when he finally woke, and looked up into the face of his alpha. Chris’s smile was gentle, a smile that most people would never believe possible on the features of the cold blood gunman. It was the same look he gave his young lover, and it was the same look that he once given on his wife and child. Sentinel soft the gunman’s calloused hands cupped Ezra’s face, his thumb rushing across the young gamblers lips, a soft snarl coming off him as Ezra’s white teeth nipped the ball of his alpha’s thumb.
“Don’t start anything guide you will not be able to finish.” The words was said with the hint of a guttural growl of the predator.
Ezra felt the feral nuzzling and nipping at the back of his neck as he lay plastered to his back, with his good hand Ezra tried to swat him away. Whatever he was going to say was forgotten as he opened his mouth and then yawned, his jaw clicking. The pain in his shoulder was throbbing like a bad tooth, Vin would have to wait until tomorrow, the feral still needed a few manners, and he brought his good hand down and gave a stinging slap to Vin’s roving hand. When Chris touched his injured shoulder it was with the feather light touch of a sentinel, Ezra knew what Chris was checking there was no heat from the wound which seemed to confirm there was no infection brewing.
Chris laid down on the bed, propping himself against the creaking headboard and then reached for Ezra, the gambler after some spluttering arguments allowed himself to be positioned by Vin so that he was laying on his good side with his head resting on his Alpha’s chest. Vin lowered the wick on the lamps, and then unrolled his bed roll and pulled on his threat bare draws; Ezra lifted his head off Chris’s chest, and called to him, for a moment his eyes met those of his feral. Vin pulled the Mares’ leg from its holster and padded over to the bed, a quick look showed that Chris’s holster hung off the head of the bed, slowly he eased down, and then settled with his head on his guides lower stomach, his body curling round him and his alpha. Ezra yawned and connected with his sentinel’s mind, his presence in their head, soothing and calming them, but he was well aware that like a fisher man, the Predator and the Feral had thrown a net of their senses round the room; no one could get in without facing the unleashed fury of those two.
The gunshots sounded out loud across the sleeping town, its flashes lighting up the windows of the Clinic. Vin was awake in a heartbeat, he grabbed the Mare’s leg and was in four long strides out of the window of the room, dropping down on a low porch and then dropping onto the street. He saw a figure on the stairs of the Clinic, it was only Vin’s Sentinel abilities that saved his life, an ordinary person would never have seen the gun lifted in the dark. But his abilities gave Vin that vital second to throw himself in a diving roll out of the way of the bullet and behind one of the water barrels, his Mares leg snapped out and he fired two quick shots but the man was already running with Vin on his heels. At the bottom of the stair to the Clinic, Vin forced himself to stop, as much as he wanted to hunt the man down, he knew that he had to check on Nathan, he took the stair two at a time. As he came through the door he saw Nathan struggling to his knees, he caught the healer and hauled him up and into a chair, the same time as he ducked a haymaker of a blow for the disorientated man.
Nathan peered at him, “Vin.”
“Yeah Nathan, I am here.” Vin padded over to the only bed that had been occupied, the killer had fired at the sleeping man, and blood soaked the bed clothes at the head and chest level. When Nathan forced himself up and tried to stagger to his patient, Vin caught his arm. “He’s gone Nate, no heart beat.”
“Who the hell would want to kill Phil, the old coot didn’t have a mean bone in his whole body.” Nathan said as he sank back down on the edge of the bed.
“Buck coming in.” The warning was given before the bigger man tried to enter, it paid to be careful, and no one wanted to catch an accidental bullet.
Buck took in the scene, “Phil, he was near the wall last time wasn’t he.”
“He wanted to see out the window, see the sky why.”
“Ez was in that bed, you know I beginning to think that maybe you weren’t the target after all” Buck drawled, as his finger pointed out the fancy coat that was still thrown round the back of the chair next to the bed.
“Shit” Vin muttered savagely then added “Why.”
“Well Junior, I think tomorrow we should have a word with that guy Ezra was playing cards with the other night, Needham, he’s the only one in town that is asking questions about Ez, seems only right he answers some.”
Vin knocked on the bedroom door, and then slide inside, Chris gun in hand was ready to take the head off the first hostile person through the door. Ezra squirmed under the gun mans knee that was planted in the middle of his back, with enough weight to keep him pinned down on his belly. Unable to use his wounded shoulder, Ezra wasn’t able to push up enough to dislodge the blond.
Ezra could feel the wound throbbing and a wave of nausea sweep through him, he pushed back the pain, and glared at this feral, his eye opening wider as he saw the half naked lithe tracker clad in a just pair of threadbare holed draws.
Vin ignored his Guide, “The shooter took out Old Phil, but we reckon that he was after Ez.”
“Took a gun butt to the head, put him down but Buck’s with him, he was up and moving.” Vin said. He smiled as he saw the way Ezra was pinned. “You have trouble with him Chris.”
“Yeah, wanted out when he heard the gun fire.” Chris gave Ezra a light clip at the back of the head, but it was judged so that all it did was ruffle the dark hair, rather than make contact with the gambler’s head.
Chris straighten up, freeing Ezra who with a hardly suppressed groan, twisted out of the way, ending up on his back, glaring up at his alpha. As Chris holstered his gun, and then reached for his boots, and began to pull them on, “Vin, keep Ez here, while I go over to the clinic.” Donning his gun belt and coat, Chris was gone out of the room, leaving the guide and feral alone.
Ezra gave a mental sign; he had made it very clear from the start that he didn’t subscribe to the mother henning that most sentinels inflicted on their long suffering guides. And have given them more than one tongue lashing, even when he was badly injured from the tarring, he had fought against it. Vin closed the distance between them, the feral reached out almost timidly, and he petted Ezra’s good shoulder heavily. There was nothing about Vin that was usually timid, but Ezra sensed that Vin was always scared that he would let go, and hurt him.
“Don’t tell me you went out the door like that.” Ezra looked up into the face of his young Feral.
“Thank god for small mercies.”
“Went out the window.” Vin drawled.
“What if the town’s people saw you”? Ezra said and then added “A gentleman should never go out undressed it’s not proper.”
“Hell Ez who ever said I was a gentleman.” He laughed “could have been worse.”
“How pray.” Ezra raised an eyebrow.
“Could have been neked.”
Ezra opened his mouth to say something and then just closed it; there was no arguing with this wild child of nature that was his sentinel. Instead he patted the bed, he could feel the emotions that were running through his sentinel, the need to hunt and kill the threat to his guide. That was all well and good, but now the feral needed to be calmed.
Vin turned from the bed and checked that the door was locked, and then came back to the bed and sat down on it, the mare’s leg was kept within reach, as Ezra with his good hand pushed Vin down onto the bed, then reaching down he tugged off the threadbare draws and pulled the blanket up over them, before easing himself down so that his head was resting on Vin’s chest, his injured arm he laid across the tracker stomach. Pushing gently Ezra linked with Vin, his mind a soothing balm to the primal emotions that coursed through the feral. Settled comfortably, Ezra brushed a finger lightly over the healing wound in the trackers shoulder, he knew that Vin sometimes felt a twinge in the shoulder. Ezra frowned, as he remembered how Vin managed to turn the pain down in his mind, something his sentinel had admitted to him he had learned when he couldn’t afford the luxury of being weak. Lost in through it was then Ezra felt Vin’s mind push against his, and the pain throbbing in his shoulder suddenly went, and at the same time Ezra heard the breath hitch in Vin’s throat.
“Damn” Ezra swore under his breath, his hand dipped and he slide his hand down the tracker’s belly and caught hold of him, Vin’s breath came in a gasp, and Ezra found the throbbing pain hit him like a wave. “Now I have your attention Mr. Tanner, desist from do that.”
“Hell Ez, just wanted to make you sleep easy.”
“There are other ways to do that Mr. Tanner without inflicting pain on yourself” Ezra broke off and then tipped his head slightly and nipped at the underside of Vin’s jaw, making the feral start, but before Vin could pull back, a strong hand was buried in his hair, gripping his head and holding it in place as Ezra began to nip and lick at the trackers jaw. Ezra hooked his leg over Vin and pulled himself up so that he was covering the lean tracker, and then felt Vin’s hands moving over his body. Ezra slide back into Vin’s mind, and the hands began to slow, into less frenzied and more soothing caresses. This was not about sex, this was about giving comfort.
Ezra smiled softly, the connection between them was calming and restful, and the pain in his shoulder was only a dull ache now. He was just leaning in to kiss Vin when he suddenly yawned; he felt the Texan chuckle, as it reverberated through his body. A rough calloused hand stroked up his body and touched his face. Ezra saw the smile quirk Vin’s lips, the blue eyes soften, that made the Texan look more like his true age. In bed and in the bond, there were no masks between them.
Ezra slowly eased himself down so that he rested on Vin’s chest, tucking his head under the other man’s chin, and laying his injured arm across Vin’s hip, another yawn and Ezra closed his eyes, he could feel Vin throwing out a net of senses round him and the room, if anyone came into his net Vin would feel them. Giving another yawn muffling it against Vin’s warm skin, he felt one of his sentinel’s hands stroking his neck and head, feather light touches to his face. His mind settled inside of Vin’s mind passively accepting the shielding from his sentinel and he drifted into sleep.
While he slept the regulators patrolled the town, any citizen that had ventures out, to see what the gunshots had been about were given short shrift, and had quickly hurried back inside
Early the next morning.
Jim Ellison was seated in the jail with his first cup of coffee of the day, he was lost in thought he waited his turn to take over the patrol. Last night he had woken up from a sound sleep when he had felt it; it was like a tingle of nerves up his spine to his head that send his ears ringing. He had recognized it, it was a sensory firewall, that ignited his own senses, and he was impressed. He had seen experienced sentinels back in the 21st Century do it after careful training. But he sure as hell didn’t expect an instinct driven sentinel to be able to do it, but then he shouldn’t have been surprised Vin Tanner hadn’t stayed alive with a $500 bounty on his head by not using all his god given gifts, he would have to ask Vin how he achieved it.
Jim didn’t have to turn round to know that Chris Larabee was stood near him; the man gave off an aura that was unmistakable, dark and deadly, a predator correction a pissed off predator. “So how are we going to play it, it’s sad to say that Phil isn’t going to be missed, straight away, we can put out that Ezra was killed in the attack,” Jim said. Even as he floated the idea Jim was all too aware that it wasn’t going to work. They couldn’t guarantee that someone hadn’t seemed Ezra being moved from the clinic earlier. But the choice was Chris’s someone had attacked his guide and as alpha he had the last word and he sure as hell wasn’t going to butt heads with him over this.
“We won’t be able to keep Ez hidden, there’s a big game tonight, and no way is he going to miss it.” There was a flare of a match, and then the glow of a cheroot, as Chris leaned against the post, the gunman savored his smoke, when Jim asked him “When did you ever hear of a gambler passing on a mark to another gambler Chris.”
“Then why would Needham have been sent here to play Ezra, by Leigh any gambler worth his salt would have tried to fleece Needham himself.” Jim broke off as the early stage came into the town, there was only two passengers that got off, one Jim recognized as Bart Nelson, a local farmer, his store brought suit shiny with age, a morning back band round his arm. The other man was young, of Hispanic decent; he looked round getting his bearings, and then headed to the hotel. But not before Jim had seen Curtis Needham looking down into the street from his hotel window and signal him. Jim sniffed and then started to get up, the man might as well have advertised where he had come from with that distinct scent coming off him. “I think we should have a word with Needham, Chris, you coming?”
Chris pushed himself from the doorjamb he had been leaning against, dropped his cheroot to the ground and stepped into the street; Jim fell in step with him as the gunman headed to the hotel.
Danny Taylor, had felt it the minute he stepped off the stage, it was like a thunderstorm, a heaviness of the air that seemed to settle around him. His head snapped round and he focused on the black dressed man, stood in the doorway of the sheriff’s office, his gaze shifted to the other man he could see sat just inside of the office. Sentinels both of them, and from the vibes he was getting they were both alphas. Danny took a steadying breath, not a good situation for him, he caught his Gladstone bag as it was tossed down and then seeing Needham signaling from his room he hurried into the hotel, wanting to get as far away from the alphas as he could. He had his own sentinel trouble without buying into more.
Five minutes later he was knocking at Curtis Needham’s door, it opened on the first knock, and he was ushered in. “Two maybe three sentinels” was the first thing out of Danny’s mouth as he saw his boss.
“At the last count three alphas, one gamma and two guides, pity you didn’t bring Fitzgerald with you it might have done Martin some good.”
“Don’t go there Jack, I am not bonding with Martin, even if his father is Deputy Director of the FBI.”
“He’s a good man and a damn good investigator.”
“I don’t argue that,” Danny shook his head, before adding “But I am not getting forced into a bond, and Martin sure as hell isn’t battering down the doors to bond.”
Danny looked at Jack Malone alias Curtis Needham seeing the barely suppressed amusement on the older man’s face as Jack shrugged, getting his wayward stubborn team mate to take on the prim and proper Martin Fitzgerald as his sentinel was going to be a mission all on its own, but both men would gain from the joining. He just had to get his two mules headed subordinates to see it. But that was going to have to wait for the moment he had to deal with Standish first. Needham began his update.
“Right Danny, so far I have made contact with Ezra Standish through a poker game, he’s one hell of a poker player, and by the way, he would have the shirt off your back given a chance. Yesterday he was shot, he was lucky to get away with just a bullet in the shoulder. An attempt was also made at the same time on Vin Tanner. On the surface it looked like it could have been for the $500 bounty on his head.
“But you don’t think it was do you Jack.”
“No, of all the times to take a shot at Tanner, they wait until Standish has stood right near him, and he accidently gets hit in the crossfire I don’t think so.” He paused then added “by the way the old poster doesn’t do Tanner credit, he’s the walking image of Martin. That’s if Martin ever left off the suits, didn’t stand too close to his razor and took to wearing a hide jacket you would be looking at Martin’s twin.” Jack couldn’t help but laugh as he saw the shocked look on Danny’s face.
It was at that moment that the door to the hotel room crashed open.
The door exploded inward under a kick from Chris Larabee. As Danny’s hand went for his gun, Jack Malone caught it, “Don’t Danny, he’ll kill you.” Jack said, Larabee’s gun was cocked and looking into the black dressed gunman’s face, the eyes, Jack had to suppress a shudder, in his time he had faced down, bank robbers, serial killers, but at this moment he had never seen anyone as dangerous as Chris Larabee.
Moving very slowly Malone turned his head and a look of relief flooded his face as he saw Marshal Ellison stood there carefully he raised his hands.
“Marshall Ellison” his gaze flicked back to Larabee and back again, “I think there had been a misunderstanding.”
Jim inhaled and he gave a knowing look at the man in front of him. “When did you wave in Needham, who ever paid your ticket did a good job with the clothes, but your gun oil is strictly 21st Century, just the same as his.” He jerked a thumb at the younger man, “smelt it the moment he got off the stage.”
Jack wasn’t going to argue with a sentinel; “Three weeks ago” he glanced quickly at Larabee, as he added “how much does he knew.”
“Chris knows about the wave, so you can talk freely. Who are you”?
“I am just going to get my ID, Agent Ellison so don’t shoot me.” But Jack aimed his words at the gunman rather than the Marshal.
“Just keep your hands where we can see them” Jim warned, Chris was letting him take the lead for the moment, but there was no way he could know how long the predator would allow him too if he didn’t get answers quickly.
Jack handed his ID to Ellison, who read it through, then said “Put the gun down Chris, meet Jack Malone, FBI, a type of lawman from the future, I take it that he’s also a Fed.” Jim nodded towards the young man.
“My subordinate Danny Taylor, Missing Person’s Department, New York Office.”
The gun in Chris’s hand didn’t waver “So what’s your interest in Ezra,” Chris asked.
Malone aimed his answer to Ellison, knowing that Larabee wouldn’t understand much of what he was going to say, but wasn’t going to insult the man by saying it to his face. He had heard all about the gunman and people that insulted Chris Larabee had a very short life expectancy.
“My team was assigned to find Ian Worth” he saw the look of disbelief written on Ellison’s face. “I am sorry about this if he’s a friend, but his financial situation had caused red flags to appear, the tracking computers had picked up on several anomalies. Worth has been doing some heavy investing there, including buying up future prime real estate that in the 21st Century would net him at least 45 million. We also believe that he has married here which is against all the regulation, and that it is with her help that he is manipulating history.”
“How many of you are there.” Jim asked, if it was that bigger investigation it was unlikely that Malone would have just waved in with Taylor.
“I have agents Martin Fitzgerald in New Orleans with Samantha Spade and Vivian Johnson, looking at things that end.” He trailed off pointly looking at the gun, Chris was still holding.
Anyone else Jim would have put a hand on their arm and pressed the gun down, but Chris Larabee wasn’t anyone, and he was more than likely to put a bullet in anyone that tried to touch his gun. Jim tried to explain for Chris “The FBI is a type of lawmen, like Marshals they are not restricted to one town or city.” Jim’s voice and face hardened “It would have been professional curiously to have contacted me when you arrive here.”
“I couldn’t afford to do that, Worth is your contact back here, and we know that he is known to your guide Dr Sandburg, and we didn’t want to tip him off.”
“So why are you here, and what does it have to do with Ez and Vin” Chris’s voice had gone ice cold.
Jack saw the nod from Ellison and continued we have been tracing five men.
All five of them had business dealings with either Worth or his wife, a woman by the name of Ella Gaines.”
Jim’s head snapped round as he heard the gunman’s heart beat increase at the name. He turned back knowing that Larabee wasn’t going to say anything; the man was a closed mouthed as a clam.
Those five men all died within the last two months. They all have one thing in common with Ezra Standish, in that they were all the survivors of a pre-war tontine. The money for the winner was invested so that when the war came instead of being used for the cause, or lost afterwards, in the reconstruction, they invested in real estate. Now the only member of the Tontine left alive and the winner is one Ezra P Standish if he dies before he has a chance to inherit the winnings, the money reverts to the bank. The main banker is a man named Charles Gross, Fitzgerald, Spade and Johnson are following lead, which make us believe that it is one of Iain Worth’s identities, one that he established before the war, on a previous visit. With his back ground he would know which banks in the south survived the war and which went bust. Now it appears that the killer is targeting Standish.”
“And you didn’t think to warn him, that he had a killer on his back.” Chris snarled,
Danny Taylor took a step back he could feel the power of the predator whipping round him, suffocating under the weight of it.
Jim put in quickly, trying to defuse the situation, “Special Agent Malone wouldn’t have put Ezra in danger deliberately Chris. It was a miscalculation.”
“Getting my guide shot is not a miscalculation, it’s rank stupidity,” Chris said almost too calmly which sent all the alarm bells ringing in Jim’s head.
“Miscalculation indeed” the southern accent was thick with sarcasm. “Being late for a poker game is a miscalculation, nearly having mine and Mr. Tanner’s head blown off is more than that.” Ezra came into the room, Vin was flanking him, the mare’s leg held in his right hand the barrel of the cut down resting in the crock of his left arm.
Danny took a step forwards and the gun snapped round to cover him. The blue eyes that burned into him were so familiar but so different, the aggressive power coming off the lithe tracker buffeted him mentally as if he was stood in the middle of a high wind, his breath coming harshly. Standish had moved in front of the man with Martin’s face.
“Mr. Tanner is not your sentinel, guide he’s mine. If you want him then you have to go through me.” The last words were said with a cold possessiveness that made Danny Taylor’s breathe catch in his throat. It was at that moment that Jack Malone realized that they were facing three dangerous men, and that Ezra Standish was quite willing and able to kill to protect his ownership of his sentinels.
Danny breathed out slowly, it was as if the air round him was bending, he was an empathic bubble cut off from the normal background static he felt when he was near a sentinel. His eyes widened slightly Standish was strong, hell he was in a whole different league. One word was tearing through and echoing through Taylor’s mind, “MINE.” As hard as it was, taking his eyes off someone dangerous, Danny dropped his gaze back down, submissive to the dominate guide. Suddenly it was as if his ears had popped as sound came flooding back loud and clear, the emotions of the sentinels flood him.
“Now I want to hear it all from the beginning,” Ezra looked round and took the only chair in the room, with a soft sigh, and none of them missed the slightly shake of the head as Vin moved with him, to stand guard at his right shoulder, and Chris moved to his left. The lean black clad gun man’s hand rested on his gun, his fingers tapping the butt impatiently.
“It’s a long story but this is what we know.” Malone said. “Before the war, in Baton Rouge, ten men joined together to create a Tontine, one of the first children died within the first year of the Tontine, the war accounted for another five of the boys. Leaving only six remaining, including Mr. Standish. Now the money for the Tontine was never just left in a bank, it was invested in land, that land is currently worthless.”
“Just my luck” Ezra muttered.
“But in our time that land is worth around” Jack stopped in mid-sentence, “ a lot of money, we believe that Worth, had you shot to prevent you getting the deed that would give you ownership of the land.
“Why not just hit the bank and steal them” Chris put in levelly.
“The bank has the best safe a Brooker 404; no one has ever managed to break into one of those, not even using dynamite.” Jack put in the puzzled when Ezra laughed.
“What’s so funny Standish,” Jack added.
Ezra just waved him away, “You would not appreciate it, please continue.”
“I believe that your shooter or one of his friends will contact you soon, now that the first attack was unsuccessful offering the chance to barter your life for the deed. We believe that this was not the first attempt on your life, Worth we think was behind your attack, when you where tarred and feathered, he was in town at that time and could well have orchestrated it. Now at that time two of the other Tontine boys were still alive. He was simply removing you from the picture, only it backfired when you were rescued he then turned his attention to the two other boys, possibly believing that you wouldn’t live through the tarring, but in fact, leaving you the sole survivor. Cold blooded, but it worked.”
Danny Taylor was listening but found that he couldn’t take his eyes off Vin Tanner, hell the man looked so much like Martin it was unbelievable, he could feel the vibes coming off Tanner. He had the undercurrent of an alpha but it was raw and savage, unlike the feelings he felt from Martin which was passive, Martin had yet to discover the power inside of him. He and the rest of the people in the room, jumped when Tanner levered a shell into the mare’s leg. Danny felt himself being pinned by the hardest blue eyes he had ever seen, Martin’s eyes were the same blue but held compassion and a certain shyness, but Tanners, he tried to suppress a shudder.
“Mr. Tanner” Ezra said the name sharply
“Mr. Taylor is a guide; therefore I would appreciate if you didn’t kill him. Even though he appears to covert you for some reason; I have made it clear that you are my sentinel. Now it appears Mr. Taylor that I have to tell you again, this will be my final warning. Next time I will kill you.” At no time as he spoke did Ezra’s voice change its matter of fact tone. But the force of the words rocked Danny to the core.
Taylor glanced to his boss then back to Ezra. “I am not after Mr. Tanner, it’s just he looks so much like Martin, my,” he paused, aware that all of the people were looking at him, he held his head up higher meeting their glaze one by one. “My sentinel.”
“Then where is your sentinel?”
“We are unbounded, but that will change as soon as I am reunited with him.”
He tried to ignore the grin on Jack’s face as he finally was forced into making his commitment to Martin, even through the younger sentinel wasn’t present to hear it.
Ezra nodded “that is understandable guide, but my warning still stands.” The gambler paused and returned to business. “So how are we going to catch this miscreant that wishes my future demise”? Ezra asked.
“We use you as a decoy Mr. Standish.” Jack Malone said.
“Over my fucking dead body,” Chris snarled, and Jack had to stop himself from taking a step back, the predator was out in force, and the darkness that emanated from the gunman was overwhelming, the gun was in his hand in a heartbeat, Jack had never seen anyone move that fast.
“Mr. Larabee” Ezra pushed himself up from the chair, and stumbled at a head rush as he moved too quickly, his hand flashed down to support himself against the back of the chair. “We will hear this gentleman’s plan, before you shoot him.”
The gun whirled on Chris’s finger and then slapped back down into his holster.
Jim said “We give Ezra one of our vests, you saw the way one stopped the bullet when you shot Bedford, Chris, and it will do the same for Ezra. We will catch the shooter.”
“You have two, Vin gets the other vest.” Chris said his tone telling everyone that it wasn’t up for discussion he wanted his young lover protected as well.
Even so Vin began to open his mouth to protest, but shut it words unsaid as he was pinned by the glare of his alpha. “Alright Ellison, but if this fails,” Chris didn’t have to finish the sentence the threat was there, not a threat a promise.
Ezra reached out the aggression from his alpha was barely controlled, he had felt this level before and it was usually followed by people dying. Ezra knew he had to act quickly. Chris was the undisputed leader of their pack, he would not allow any loss of face but he had to defuse the situation. “Mr. Larabee I am sure that Marshal Ellison will take all possible care of me, as a peace officer and as a sentinel.”
“He better, because I am going be all over him if he isn’t.” Chris stalked out of the room, with a look to the heaven, and a sigh of the long suffering Ezra said “Mr. Larabee he.”
“Ez get your ass out here.” Chris snarled from the hallway.
“Our master’s voice.” Ez quipped, and followed him out with Vin shadowing him.
Once the door was closed behind them, Jim turned on the two FBI agents, “We best get this right because if we don’t it’s not only going to history that is going to get screwed.”
Jack nodded “Where keep that in mind, Agent Ellison, now we best get down to business.”
Chris was angry, Vin leant against the side of the window frame where he could watch the street and kept out of the way as Chris got right into Ezra’s face.
Ezra knew that both sentinels could hear his heart beating hard and fast, he saw the smile flicker on Larabee’s face, and that got to the gambler. His good hand shot out and he pushed Chris back with the flat of his hand.
“Step back Mr. Larabee, I am not JD to be intimidated by you I…..”
Ezra didn’t get to finish as he the predator decided to put that smart mouth to a more pleasurable use. The kiss was aggressive, and demanding, Ezra’s mouth opened to it, and all he could do was hang onto Larabee with his one good arm. Even the throbbing pain from his shoulder was lost under the fire that was ripping thorough his body as he rode the predator’s passion. He felt himself hardening and all he knew was that he didn’t want the kiss to stop and he rubbed up against Larabee’s thigh. When Larabee broke the kiss, Ezra made a panicked noise deep in his throat and he tried to claw Chris back.
With a chuckle Chris caught the front of Ezra’s shirt, and was just about to drag him into his bed when there was a knock at the door came at the wrong time, the gun was in Chris’s hand in a heartbeat and the bullet ploughed through the door, the gunman was in no mood to share with anyone other than Vin.
“Chris.” There was the indigent yell of Buck Wilmington; muffled slightly by the fact the gamma had his face pressed into the threadbare carpet. “Put that gun away before I shove it where the sun doesn’t shine.” He snarled.
The door flew open and Buck found himself looking at a pair of black boots, slowly he pushed himself up, ignoring the gun held in Chris’s hand. He turned and pressed a finger into the bullet hole in the wall behind him. It had missed him by six inches. “That was a bit close stud; lot of ladies would have been mourning if you had shot low.”
“Don’t temp me Buck.” Chris snapped back at him, and spun on his heels and went back into the room, after minutes later, Vin sauntered slowly out of the room, a grin on his face, his eyes flashing with barely suppressed humor, as the door slammed behind him that hard it rattled the door frame.
In the hall way Buck looked piously up the heavens, “Lord give me strength, I have a feeling I am going to need it.”
“Saloon” Vin asked
“Saloon,” Buck agreed, as they left he saw a woman peering out from behind her door, he touched a hand to his hat “Ma’am.” The woman opened her mouth to say something when there was a loud bang from the room, Vin laughed and clapped the big man’s shoulder, and laughing took off down the hall. Buck didn’t have to think about it he had a feral to catch.
Nettie Wells sat in front of the livery on her wagon bench, reins in hand, and a Spencer carbine laid across her lap. She was watching JD and Casey having a very animated conversation. She had observed their relationship blossom with equal degrees of frustration, laughter and tears, as they ran circles around each other. She had never seen two people so well suited to each other.
It had all started when JD had rushed up her missing Spencer carbine in his hand, Casey had gone into her game of one up man ship that she always played with the young sheriff, but for once JD wasn’t interested in playing. He had dragged her to one side, and now Nettie was more than curious about what was causing the argument because her niece looked as if she had suddenly gone on the defense, as JD got right into her face. When she tried to flounce off back to the wagon JD’s hand had lashed out and grabbed her arm, Casey had tried to squirm out of JD’s grip but the young man wasn’t going to have it, he pulled her round to face him. Nettie opened her mouth to demand to know what was going on, and then her mouth closed words unsaid as she saw the look on Casey’s face that was as guilty as sin.
It was then Nettie saw Vin Tanner, she had heard the talk about the ex-bounty hunter, but put more store in the fact she had seen him risk his life for a girl he hadn’t known and the fact that her old friend Gloria Potter was quite vocal in her support of him. But for all that she was well aware that this quiet long haired man was also very dangerous. She slipped her finger through the rifles guard and rested it along the trigger.
“Can I help you Mr. Tanner.” Her voice had the desired effect and JD spun round pulling Casey behind him, putting himself between the tracker and his girl.
“JD,” the Texan said levelly ignoring Nettie. “When were you gonna to tell me.”
“It’s not what you think Vin” JD fell over the words. His hand slowly moved to rest on the butt of one of his colts. Nettie cut in “Mr. Tanner.” Trying to turn Vin’s attention back on herself, but Vin was fixed on JD and her niece, as his own hand dropped down onto the mare’s leg.
“Don’t want no trouble Miz Wells, but someone took a shot at me with that rifle, need to know who did it and why JD seems to think he had to steal it.” Vin nodded to Casey, “Ellison showed us a trick, said that you can tell when someone has fired a gun, he called it resa err res….”
“Residue Vin”, Buck supplied, as he made himself known coming up to flank his feral.
“Yeah, that’s it, said that you can wash your hands till they’re raw, but some of the powder is caught in the skin, you think Casey mind if I checked her hands JD.”
“Casey” Nettie turned to her niece; the girl was headstrong to the point of being foolhardy. “Tell Mr. Tanner what he needs to know.” It didn’t take a lot of brain power to know that her niece was at the bottom of this, guilt seemed to ooze from every pore.
“But Aunty he’s” she trailed off her face getting even hotter.
“A sentinel, Miz Wells.” Vin said as he met her keen gaze levelly.
Nettie smiled, “Don’t see any cloven hoof, so I guess that you’re a man not a demon.”
Casey angrily looked first at JD and then her aunty. , “Aunty Nettie said that I had to carry the rifle when I went in town, and well,” she trailed hesitating but a firm “Casey” from her aunt prompted he and she continued. “I left the rifle in the wagon when I went into the Potters store, when I got back it was gone, aright, I lost the rife, some drifter must have taken it.”
“Liar” Vin drawled he could hear her heart pounding and almost taste her lies.
“I ain’t no liar mister, you….”
“Kid your heart beat, when you lie it goes faster, yours is like a humming bird. Buck said gently, “give it up Casey; you need to tell us the truth?”
Vin took a step forward, “So why did you take a shoot at me, think to claim that bounty.” Vin was all too aware that it was an open secret that he had a price on his head.
“Vin back off I don’t want to have to draw on you,” JD warned as Vin took another step nearer to them.
“Don’t try it JD,” Buck put in his own hand resting on his gun, “you try it and I am going to have to throw down on you, and kid you ain’t fast enough to take me.”
“Casey, girl, I need to hear the truth and hear it now,” Nettie said firmly, “Because if you don’t people are going to be hurt here.”
Casey took a deep breath, “I was in the stable with Polly, the stable cat had some kittens and Aunt Nettie said I could have one. We heard you.” Her young face became fused with anger as she looked at Vin with a look of total disgust, “We heard all about what happened, when you talked to that other man, how he laid down with you, and you let him do those things to you,” she spat at him
“Casey.” Nettie snapped her name.
“But he did, he said he……” Casey broke off, her hands balled into fists at her side. “Polly was with me, we both heard him talking, it was after that she told me that her and her brother had heard their pa’s talking about Tanner, that he was dangerous and they had to do something. Polly and Pete were talking wild I knew they were planning on trying to do something about him.” Casey’s head came up higher, “so I decided to do something first, and I took the rifle and I shot at Tanner, only sorry that I missed,” she said defiantly.
JD tensed as Vin said, “Don’t lie to me girl,” his voice cold and deadly, his patience wearing thin, “remember what Buck told you about us, I’s can hear your lie.”
It was then that Vin turned back towards the boarding house, Buck hear the low rumbling of voices that were just below his hearing, and looked up and saw Chris was at the window, Buck saw him nod once and then disappear back into the room. If he was honest he hated it when they did that, it was downright spooky as hell, but it linked Chris with his soul mate, and it couldn’t have happened at a worse moment, the last thing they needed was a pissed off predator with a hair trigger temper.
“Looks like Chris is on his way son, so I would move that hand from your gun, before old Chris feeds it to you barrel first, you might think you can give me a run for your money, but with Chris you’re a dead man.” Buck told JD. At that moment Chris emerged from the boarding house, with Ezra in tow, the gamblers expression mad Buck grin despite the seriousness of the situation, Ezra looked as pissed off an a wet hen.
“Casey, your still lying to us, we need the truth kid and we need it now,” Buck said, “because Chris isn’t the sort to play games, and your lies are just going to piss him off.”
Casey looked at the black dressed gun man as he walked towards them, and she was unable to suppress a shudder.
“Okay, okay,” she said quickly as Chris Larabee got closer, “my rifle went missing,” seeing their looks she added “that’s the god honest truth, I knew what Polly was up too, I saw Pete disappear down by the side of that old building, and went to stop them. I made a grab at the rifle only it went off, and …. and then him fired at us. We all ran I had the rifle, if anyone saw me with it they would think that I did it, I managed to hide it, and…..” She shrugged as she lifted her head up, and tried to glare at Vin, but had to look away unable to meet the look in his eyes that pinned her in place.
Ezra took in the scene in front of him, and drawled suppressing a yawn, “Mr. Larabee got your message Mr. Tanner at a most importune moment,” His southern accent thicker showing how annoyed he was. “And he saw fit to drag me with him, against my direct wishes out of bed and down onto this fly blown street.” He gave his cuff a tug getting it in place, as he added “So I am here Mr. Tanner, what did you want.”
JD swallowed hard, as he watched Chris Larabee, he hadn’t really got to know Chris that well, sure Buck was the gunman’s oldest friend and Buck had all but adopted him, and he had the feeling that Chris tolerated him, but Chris was like a shadow, he couldn’t get to grips with who the man was. The way he drank and his violent volatile temper made him dangerous and at times JD was sure that only the fact that Buck liked him kept him from getting shot. Now he had done the worse thing he could ever have done he was ready to draw on Vin Tanner.
“The Howard kids tried to put a bullet in me Ez.” Vin told him calmly.
“And why pray would they do that Mr. Tanner, other than the fact that they got down wind of you.”
There was a ghost of a smile, twitching Vin’s lips, yup Ez only got this pissed when he missed out on getting laid, he tilted his head slightly and inhaled, the scent of musky sex was pouring off the gambler which spoke of arousal .
“Don’t know about that Ez, seems this little lady and Howard’s kid heard me talking to Bill, they got themselves some ideas, decided I had to die.”
“A deplorable turn of events Mr. Tanner.” Ezra took a step in front of Chris, “first Mr. Dunne, I suggest that you move your hands away from your gun, you’re not going to pull it, and although it is credit to you that you’re so protective of the young lady, I am distressed that you who have worked with us so closely would think that we would hurt a lady.”
“Sorry Ez, Vin,” JD muttered and shame faced let his hand dropped away, he noticed that Buck relaxed his stance, but Larabee still looked as if he was ready to kill him.
Ezra was all too aware of the danger in the girl spreading her bile round the town, the townspeople had accepted that the rumors before had been at the instigation of Bedford to destroy their reputation as regulators. But one of their own with firsthand knowledge, it would be her word against Vin’s and the town would go with her every time. He had to control the damaged.
“I don’t know what you thought you heard Miss,” Ezra paused.
“Wells, Cassandra Wells” Nettie supplied the name, interested to see what this fancy man was going to do.
“I heard him,” she jabbed a finger at Vin, “what he did with that man and I.”
“Then you have to include us in your tale Casey,” Tiny said as he and his brother Yosemite stepped out of the livery stable, “you see it’s all our fault, it was us that left Mr. Tanner to die when he protected our families from renegades. He paid a price he should never been made to pay. Our cowardice caused this, for a man to survive as their prisoner is a tribute to his strength of will Casey. We will not see Mr. Tanner brought down by this, not now.”
“But, but….” She trailed off, and then suddenly added “Your kids did it for you.”
“Then do this for us, we have a life here, as does Mr. Tanner, this finishes now.” Tiny looked across at Vin, “are you in agreement Mr. Tanner.”
For a long minute Vin just looked at the two brothers, he knew the truth now, he nodded “don’t have grudge against you, what’s past is past.”
“Your word on it.” Yosemite asked.
“My word as a Tanner.” Vin answered, Chris’s hand moved away from his gun, if Vin was going to let them get away with it, then he would honor his lover’s decision. But that didn’t mean that if it was broken he wouldn’t take blood vengeance on the people left standing.
“Casey” Tiny said the girl nodded
“My word on it Mr. Howard,” the sheepishly she added “Mr. Tanner.”
Tiny nodded “good enough for us Casey, and Mr. Tanner, we will speak with Polly and Pete, they won’t be spreading stories to anyone else, and I promise you that.”
The tension seemed to ease now that the threat of violence was abated but it opened up some questions that Ezra wanted answering. He could hear them voiced through the link, he was thankful that Chris was leaving it up to him.
“Miss Wells, you were on the ground floor of the building when the children ambushed Mr. Tanner, therefore you must have seen my attacker.”
Casey was puzzled, “Your attacker Mr. Standish, they only fired at Mr. Tanner.” Buck wasn’t the only one to notice that Casey referred to Mr. Tanner and not just the derogative Tanner that she had used earlier.” Casey frowned and bit her lip as she thought back, “There was someone, I heard a door being banged closed, but we were too busy running. I left the rifle stashed behind the water butt.”
Tiny cut in “I picked it up, recognized it as Miz Well’s rifle, thought the kids had taken it, the other night when we had been talking we thought we heard someone outside the window, thought it was them. There our kids; we just wanted to protect them.” Tiny looked from Chris to Vin and back again. All too aware that Chris Larabee was the one that with the final word.
Buck could feel the connection between them buzzing; he saw the small nod from Vin and the seconding from Ezra. Slowly Chris fished out one of his habitual cheroots, and struck the match on the on hammer of his gun, and took his time lighting it, finally inhaling the smoke. “What’s past is past, what was said here ends here.” He took another long pull on his cheroot and then fixed JD with a look “You threaten Vin and I’ll plant you kid.” He paused “Ez, we have business to conclude, Vin, you’re with me.” He turned on his heel and walked back towards the boarding house. Chris paused without turning round, “Don’t hear you walking Ez, and Vin move that scrawny carcass, Buck your on duty with JD.”
Buck finally let out a breath he hadn’t know he was holding, “your one lucky son of bitch JD, hope you know that.” He turned to Nettie, “Sorry for the cussing Ma’am. You heard the man, JD you don’t want him coming looking for you.”
Ezra caught up with his alpha, “Mr. Larabee, I am no one’s pet dog to be called to heel.” The words had barely left his mouth when Chris turned on him, that fast that he nearly collided with the man in black. Chris didn’t say anything he just looked at him then turned on his heels and stalked back towards the boarding house, Ezra was thrown forward as Vin clapped him heartily on the back and sauntered past him in the wake of his alpha, as he said “way to go Ez, piss him off won’t you.”
“No Mr. Tanner I leave that in your capable hands.”
Danny Taylor came out of the telegraph office, a several forms in his hands, and came to a halt as he saw Vin Tanner, something deep inside of him kicked into overdrive, the need to bond, to become one.
“It’s getting hard isn’t it?”
Danny turned to the speaker, and recognized Dr. Blair Sandburg, “I don’t know what you mean.”
“Mr. Taylor, Jim told me about your run in with Ezra, over Vin. I think I know what’s going on, if they look alike then they have to be related, since we know nearly nothing about the seven, we don’t know how. What you’re picking up is a ghosting, the same DNA runs through these two guys, but because Vin’s a feral it’s stronger. You want to bond and Agent Fitzgerald that’s his name isn’t here so you’re drawn to Vin, simple really.”
“And it could get me head blow off.”
“Always a possibility if you put your nose where it’s not wanted.” Both guides spun round to see Jim stood behind them. “Worse thing you can do is try to jump the bones of another guide’s sentinel.”
“You don’t think that I want that with Martin,” Danny was flustered.
“Quick question is Agent Fitzgerald on line.” Jim asked.
Danny looked down at the crumpled up telegrams one in particular from Viv Johnson, the team’s second in command, two words he read them out “Martin’s overloading.”
Blair exchanged a looked with Jim, “You best get back to him and fast, he’s coming on line, it’s something to do with this place, and being in the same time as Vin, my guess is that Fitzgerald had a feral streak in him.” Blair said.
“But,” Danny’s concerned was plain to see. “He’s never tested as feral.”
“That’s because he’s never been here before, it’s hardwired in him right to his core, this,” Blaire waved a hand round him to encompass the west “ just allowed it to come out cut through all the repressed feelings, that society makes a sentinel hold back on.” Blair looked to his sentinel, then back at Danny Taylor, “nothing to be scared of Jim let go and our bond is the strongest for it.”
Danny opened his mouth to ask THE question, Blair nodded “the answer to that is yes when we bond,” he cocked an eyebrow at the other guide, as he saw Danny’s mouth drop slightly. “You have to work out for yourself what is more important Martin or,” Blair didn’t get a chance to finish as Danny said “Martin.”
Blair smiled broadly, “Once you make your mind up, and accept then your find it easier to approach Martin,” Blair felt the surge of possessiveness run through Danny when he used Fitzgerald’s first name, all was looking well for their bond if Danny’s feelings were this strong. “As I said easier to approach Agent Fitzgerald,” Blair felt the other guide calm, oh yes this was going to prove interesting, it was just a pity he wasn’t going to be able to witness the bonding of this pair
Big Bill had made his way back into town, he kept to the rear buildings out of sight, he stopped and dragged a bottle from his pocket and took a deep pull, coughing as the rot gut whiskey burned a way down his throat. He went to the one place he knew that no one would ever look the run down house he had taken a shot at Standish from; it was located in the middle of the row of businesses and would allow him a good view of the main street. As the day wore on he took a few more drinks, and watched Vin Tanner took his turn patrolling the town. Bill imagination took hold and he slide a hand into his pants and began to bring himself off as he watched Tanner he could almost taste his need for the younger man, the feel of his body, as he twisted under him as he rode him hard and fast. The sound of flesh on flesh, the gasping groans that he rung from that fine body, as he mounted that tight ass, the feeling of power over the younger man. Knowing that he would give up his ass, when he demanded it because Vin believed he was paying back a debt. Bill had thought it all through, Vin was a wild one, he would survive the death of Standish, because everyone knew that wild ones didn’t need a guide. As for his alpha, that black dressed son of a bitch, he would gut him and then take Vin right in front of him, show him what an alpha should be like. Then he grunted as his cum spilled out over his hand, and brought him back to the present. He looked up into the sky it was getting late and the evening was pulling in.
The bonfires had been lit on the street, to give some light as darkness descended on the town of Four Corner.
Buck patted his mouth, brushing the last of the crumbs off his moustache as he came out of the Russell Eatery and he saw Ezra coming out of the saloon, as he got close to the gambler he scented him, and grinned at the annoyed look on the younger man’s face, it seemed that being a regulator was intruding into Ezra’s gambling time. But what had made him grin was that to a sentinel Ezra smelt of sex, that subtle musky scent that told of his claiming by his sentinels and his own release. Yeah looked like someone had been staking their claim on their guide.
“Mr. Wilmington, I believe that it is my turn to patrol this fair hamlet.” Ezra was playing it nonchalantly, as if he hadn’t had his brains fucked into mush by his alpha and feral, well two could play that game.
“Nothing to report, it’s been nice and quiet Ez, might even give you a chance to put your feet up, you look a little drained,” Buck said as he let his gaze pointly drop down to look at his guide’s crotch, then smirked as he heard Ezra’s heart beat increase and he felt the heat increase in the gambler’s face.
Ezra gave him a piecing looking, “then I shall relish the peace, while we have it Mr. Wilmington.”
“Well I best be going said I would see Josiah, and it looks like Nathan’s here now.” Buck gave Ezra’s back a pat as he greeted Nathan warmly and headed to the saloon.
Nathan was thoughtful he knew that Chris had put the two of them together, the ex-slave and the southerner from the slave states because he want the friction between them smoothed out. If Nathan was truthful he was shocked to hear that Ezra’s first sentinel was a black union soldier, he had picked up bits of the story from Ezra. It seemed the man and his brother had saved his life in one of the hell hole POW camps, and the oldest brother had bonded with him, until his death. That had kicked all his preconceived ideas about Standish into a cocked hat. Now he was trying to get to know Ezra, the man, but it was hard as he hide behind the gambler’s façade that he put on. It was too easy to take him on face value as a money grabbing professional gambler.
There was a sudden pounding of horse’s hooves, and Ezra spun round in time to see a big masked man on horseback coming straight at him, with a shot gun held in one large hand. In that split second he pushed Nathan down and out of the way as he drew, but Bill got there first the shot gun load hit Ezra in the chest lifted him up and threw him backward through the Potter’s front window. There was a crash of glass and Bill gave a union battle yell and kicked his horse into a gallop. Nathan pushed himself up for a moment everything seemed to stand still, “oh god Ezra.”
Quickly Nathan scrambled through the window and was laying face down, his body draped with fabric that had been displayed in the window. Nathan could hear feet pounding on the boardwalk, the marshal arrived with Vin and Chris close on his heels. Jim pushed past him, his hands tearing open Ezra’s waistcoat and shirt, and Nathan found himself looking at some sort of tabard. Quickly Jim undid some sort of fastening at the side and pulled the vest over Ezra’s head, he pressed his fingers to the pulse point in Ezra’s neck, and swore under his breath, tilting the gamblers head back with one hand, and then with the other pinched his nose, and leaned over him covering his mouth with his own, the marshal began to breath into Ezra’s mouth, and the gamblers chest moved as the air was forced back into his lungs, then as Nathan watched Jim Ellison was pushing down on Ezra’s chest, he repeated the breaths to Ezra’s mouth. Jim straightened up as Ezra began to cough and he held him down as Ezra tried to sit up but sank back down with a cry of pain. “It’s the impact of the rounds hitting him, that close to the heart the shock stopped it, he should be okay now, but he’s got some cracked ribs, and is going to be sore and black and blue for a while. You best look him over Nathan.” Jim eased back and looked up into the black dressed fury that was Chris Larabee, the man wanted to kill and it wouldn’t take much to have that fury directed onto someone.
Ezra could feel the anger, and the guilt that tore through his alpha, it was frightening in its intensity. He knew that Chris carried with him daily the guilt of his beloved wife and son death, and the fact that he had been unable to save them. Chris would have felt him die through the bond, and that had brought him to a real bad place, which could sending him spiraling into a bottle as a way out of the pain, or something could trigger him to violence and people would die. He needed to direct that violence onto the one person that he couldn’t hurt, and that was his guide. Ezra had learned in the bond, secrets that he would take to his grave, and he was about to use one of them now, god help him.
Carefully he pressed against the bond, it was on fire, anger from his alpha was almost breathtaking he clutched at Chris’s wrist, and held tight, needing the physical contact to support his mental connection. The anguish from this alpha was frightening, words could be powerful, and the one that he was going to use had the ability to hurt as well as to ultimately heal. “I am alright Christopher, I am alive.” Ezra said softly, Chris suddenly stiffened and then jerked his hand out Ezra’s grip, and straightened up, shaking his head, and walked away, he turned and glared at Ezra, the anger was like knives slashing into him, as he snarl “your not her Standish, how fuck can you ever think you could replace her.”
“Chris,” Ezra called after him, for a heart beat Chris froze and then turned away, and just shook his head and kept walking; one of the townspeople got in the way and was sent flying to the ground as Chris stalked past.
Vin hesitated wanting to go after his lover, but at the same time needing to protect his guide, and slowly he took Chris’s place his hand clumsily petting his guide, but Ezra caught it, “Mr. Tanner, I am alright, or rather I will be alright, Mr. Larabee needs you, his soul mate, only you can bring him the peace that he needs. Peace of the mind and the soul. I am in Mr. Jackson’s capable hands so go.” Ezra gave Vin a push, but the feral still didn’t move. “Mr. Tanner, I knew what would happen when I called him by his full given name, his anger had to have a focus, and I gave it to him, please go to him NOW.”
“Ellison you look after him”, only when Jim nodded did Vin follow his alpha, and Ezra finally give himself over to the pain.
Mr. Potter had rushed down from their living quarters above the store when they had been awoken by the gunfire and the crash of glass and wood. He had stopped short when he saw the injured gambler and the other members of the seven. Only now did he come forward, “Is Mr. Standish alright.”
“He’s going to be okay,” Nathan told him as he helped Jim Ellison get Ezra to his feet just in time for Josiah to arrive along with JD, the big ex-preacher scooped him up even as the gambler protested and was carried to the clinic. JD stayed behind to talk with Mr. Potter and help him secure the shop, as Buck was kept busy herding the gawkers back into the saloons.
Vin found Chris with a bottle, in his room in the boarding house, “get the fuck out of here Vin.”
“Not until you talk to me pard,” Vin said as he closed the door behind him.
Vin ignored the threat of violence that was coming off his alpha, and he suddenly understood, Chris was a man that kept his privacy closely guarded he had only opened up to him because he was his soul mate, and to Ezra because he was his guide.
“Mind telling my why Ez is hurting and you’re here climbing into a whiskey bottle.”
Chris was on his feet, “Get the fuck out Tanner,” but Vin didn’t back down. There was a silent battle of wills, and then with a muttered curse Chris sank down back into his chair, the bottle in his hand suddenly becoming the most important thing in there. He rolled the bottle between his hands, “memories, they come up and bite you in the ass.”
“And your ass was bitten,” Vin drawled, he saw a ghost of a pained smile.
“Sarah,” Chris said the name quietly, “she was a good woman; she had to be to put up with me. She would call me Christopher when we were together she was the only one. Hearing Ezra, call me that,” he shrugged not able to put the feelings into words, as his hand tightened on the bottle. When he looked up into Vin’s eyes the Texan could see a mile of hurt, “I hadn’t been able to help them and they were murdered and I suddenly realized that I couldn’t stop Ez being cut down, if it wasn’t for that future vest he would have been dead just like them. Some alpha Vin,” Chris mocked himself.
Vin knelt down in front of Chris, his hand resting on one of this alpha’s knees, as with his other hand he reached out and took the bottle away from him, and placed it on the floor. Through the link Vin understood, reached up and cupped Chris’s face, “I know what you need Chris.”
“I don’t want to hurt you.” Chris’s voice was so unlike his usual voice, there was desperation in it.
“You won’t”. Slowly Vin, removed his hat, jacket, and gun belt and then stripped naked, before returning to his knees in front of his alpha, he raised himself up and kissed him, lightly on the lips, only to be grabbed and pulled hard against Chris, the kiss was brutal, then he was half carried and half manhandled to the bed and thrown down on it he landed on his back, only to have Chris’s body land on him, covering his, the animal need of the alpha over powering, leaving only the knowledge they had to be joined. As the clothed alpha ground his body against him, as lips ravished his mouth, a hand moved over his body, forcing his legs apart and hard fingers pressing against his center. Suddenly Chris gave an anguished cry and rolled away, curling up into a ball in the bed. Vin leaned over him, his hand lightly brushing the dirty blond hair from the green eyes that showed so much pain as tears ran down his face. Chris tried to push his hand away but Vin wouldn’t let him.
“God Vin, I nearly raped you.” Chris’s voice was breaking.
“Not rape Chris, I’s the one that came to you.”
“I, god Vin”, there was a sob to his voice, as he clutched at his soul mates hand.
Carefully, Vin curled round Chris and coaxed him to turn into his arms, tucking his alpha so that he could scent against his throat, as his arms encircled him in a tight hug.
“You weren’t taking anything I wasn’t giving”. He pressed a kiss to Chris’s forehead.
“I was going to use you.”
“Chris” now he had his alpha’s attention, Vin leaned in and claimed his mouth in a sweet and gentle kiss, he kept his kisses light as he stripped his alpha, then turning on his side, he pulled Chris so that he older man was spooned up against him as he laid on his left side. He bent his right knee and rolled slightly forward, like this he was open, reaching out for the pot of grease that Chris had by the side of his bed he handed it to him, when his alpha hesitated he pulled his head down for another light but lingering kiss. “I’s giving you all I have Chris, only got me to give.”
Chris clutched the small pot of grease, but at the same time, kissed Vin, peppering light kisses to his mouth, his face his eyes, and jaw. He continued even as his fingers deftly prepared his younger soul mate. Finally when he entered Vin it was done slowly and gently, and he reveled in the sigh of pleasure that came from his lover, as he buried himself deep in his lover. For what seemed eternity Vin laid like that his lover in him deep, the feeling of being filled and loved was overwhelming, through their link he could feel Chris’s emotions the peace that had descended on him from there joining, the love that was welling up in his alpha for him. Carefully he pushed back, heard Chris gasp and then his alpha began to move, strong but slow thrusts into him, that soon had him moaning his head rolling on the pillow as he was lost in the sensation of being taken, he reached one hand back only for it to be caught and held close by Chris. When he reached for himself, Chris released his hand and caught his needy cock, and began a counter point caress, until finally their passion swept through them, and then came together, not in screams but in gasps muffled by their shared kiss.
Chris reached down and tugged a blanket up round them both, and cuddled Vin close to him, words were not needed, but three were said “I love you,” then with what was a chaste kiss to the back of his neck, Vin whispered “love you”, and then clinging to his alpha’s hand holding it close to his heart, he went to sleep.
In the clinic, propped up against the pillow to help his ribs, Ezra put a hand up to block the cup that Nathan was offering him.
“Come on Ez, you know you have to drink it, make you feel better,” Buck said as he sat near his guide, his hand resting on Ezra’s knee through the blanket, he gave it a little shake.
But Ezra was ignoring them, he was feeling along the link, he felt his sentinels come together, the soothing of the alpha’s torment as he took his mate, and the feral’s loving support given so freely to him. It was only armed with that knowledge that Ezra finally turned to Buck, “I think I will have that drink now Mr. Wilmington.”
Buck took the drink off Nathan and nodded his thanks to him, having had Josiah talk to him about sentinels and guides, Nathan understand a little of the complex nature of the sentinels and he handed it over with instructions for Ezra to drink it all down or he would have him to deal with. It didn’t take long for the pain killer to help Ezra get to sleep. Buck drew his gun, and put it on the table close to hand, if the wrong person came through the door he would kill them it was as simple as that.
The next morning Chris woke first, he nuzzled the back of Vin’s neck and pulled him closer, his hand rested over the shoulder wound, he had received at the hands of Jim Ellison a few weeks ago, the wound had healed well, but was still pink against his tanned skin. A contented smile tugged at Chris’s lips as he remembered why Vin was so well tanned all over, lightly he ran his hand of the trackers lithe body, and the smile turned to a frown as it always did as his sentinel sensitive fingers detected the faded scars that marred Vin’s body, along with the ridges on the ribs that spoke of ribs that had been broken then healed, the possessive nature in Chris came to the fore it didn’t matter that he hadn’t known Vin then, his mate had been hurt and he had been unable to be there to protect him. Chris knew that it was illogical but he couldn’t stop himself, the alpha protected his mate and his guide, and last night he had nearly lost Ezra, he cuddled Vin closer needing to feel the living force that was his mate.
“You alright cowboy?”
The soft rasping honey toned Texan accent was like a balm to Chris, he pressed a kiss to the side of Vin’s jaw as he tilted the younger man’s head slightly so that he could make his way across his jaw to claim his lips in a long and lingering kiss. Vin rolled slowly onto his back, as he pulled Chris on top of him, his leg parting to cradle his alpha, the groan of pleasure vibrated through the kiss, as Chris lowed himself so that Vin could feel a little of his weight for Vin that was security, the only security he had known since his mother had died. Then Chris rolled onto his side and pulled him up into his arms, and their bodies intertwined closely, and he was held close, and tenderly, this was the side of the infamous Chris Larabee that no one else saw, this was his secret, Chris liked to hold his lover, all too well Vin remembered the first time Chris had opened his heart to him.
The sex had been wild, they had been apart for three weeks, while he had been visiting with the People, and Chris had been on edge the whole day after they had arrived in the small town. Now he lay in Chris’s arms, basking in the afterglow of their coupling. Chris was gently stroking his side, and hip, soothing rather than touches meant to arouse him. The gunman’s voice as he had spoken for the first time about his much loved wife and son had been choked.
“Chris, I’s so sorry” he reached a hand out and gently stroked the Chris’s face, feeling the gunman lean into his hand. “Know I can’t replace them, don’t expect you to love me like.” But whatever he was going to say was halted as Chris stopped him with a touch to the lips.
“Love you Vin, never thought I could love another” Chris halted taking a steadying breath, “need you Vin” he buried his face against him, and Vin had felt the shudders that had run through his lover, and he had wrapped his arms round Chris.
The joy that he had felt when he had heard those words has warmed Vin, Chris had been the first person to say that they loved him since his mother had died. He had felt Chris’s love through the connection they shared, but this was the first time that Chris had said them out aloud.
“Talk to me Chris”, Vin had said gently.
“Need to hold you, keep you safe.”
Instead of becoming an angry after all he had survived this long without a minder, he had been humbled by the fact that Chris wanted that. But that didn’t mean that he was going to let Chris walk right over him, but it was kinda nice to be held.
Vin snuggled up closer to him.
Suddenly Chris tensed, “sonofabitch,”
Yawning Vin said “what I do cowboy.”
“Not you Vin, Ezra, that conniving son of a bitch.”
“Finally figured it out did you?” Vin grinned, “Took your time Larabee. You’s was ready to kill, had to take the fight out of you.”
Chris sat up and gave Vin a shake, “I could have hurt you, I……”
Vin shook his head, “You think I would let you, I’s love you, but ain’t your bitch Larabee, even you don’t touch me, lessing I want you to.” He looked his blond lover in the eyes, the glare he met washed over him. “Don’t bother trying Larabee, ain’t gonna work on me.”
Chris swore and let himself drop back onto the pillow, and Vin moved on top of him, looking down his long hair veiling his face, Chris reached up brushing it from Vin’s face, before cupping the back of his head and pulling him down into a kiss.
“That make an impression,” Chris said as he broke the kiss.
“Not as big as that old cock of yours pushing into me.” Vin drawled as he swooped down to take Chris into a melting kiss.
Chris rolled Vin under him, and slid into his welcoming body and lost himself in his young lover.
Ezra woke up and groaned as he moved and the events of last night made themselves known.
“Easy Ez, you need to lay still.” Buck said as he leaned over him.
“Help me sit up Mr. Wilmington,” the movement made him break out in sweat, but soon he was propped up against the pillows against, he closed his eyes as he breathed hard, trying to push the pain back. “N…n…now, I need your help to leave this accursed place.”
“Your ass stays in that bed Ez.”
“Mr. Wilmington, I….” Ezra halted and his head snapped round to the door, “Shit.”
Now that got Buck’s attention, because on the heel of the word the door came open and Chris came in, immediately the gamma was on his feet, the alpha was pissed, he looked past him and saw Vin sauntering up behind Chris.
“Nice trick Ez.”
“I wasn’t aware that I had done any tricks Mr. Larabee.” Ezra said levelly. Through the bond he could feel the anger, but it was tempered, this was the alpha showing his displeasure to his guide. Then Ezra felt a shiver run through his body, and saw the slight twist of Chris Larabee’s lips as the predator made itself known. Ezra met Chris’s gaze “I will not apologize for doing what is need to protect you or Mr. Tanner or Mr. Wilmington, I am not just a guide, I am YOUR GUIDE, and I will do everything in my power to protect you even if it’s from yourself.”
“I won’t be manipulated, by you or anyone.” Chris all but snarled at him.
Ezra nodded slowly, “Unfortunately, this particular point is un-negation able.” He knew that some alphas would see his defiance as a challenge that could be handled only one way in blood and pain. “I will stand by what I did.” He paused “But I will apologize for using your given name in that way, using information from the bond, but it had to be done in your emotional state you would have killed.”
“Could have.” Chris said.
“No would have killed, I mealy gave your anger an outlet.”
“I could have raped Vin.” Chris grated out.
“No you would not, because he is your soul mate. Predator, alpha, or man, you know that and would rather hurt yourself that Mr. Tanner, you may not have trust in yourself Mr. Larabee.” Ezra paused again, “But I do.”
“Big Bill entered town, this time making no effort to hide, this was his official entrance into town and he wanted as many people to see him as possible. A smile curled his lips as he saw the broken store window, boarded up with wood. He saw Vin Tanner came out of the jail, that black dressed devil by this side, Vin carried on walking after first sending him a piercing look, but Larabee halted, his hand rested on the butt of his gun, Bill tried to suppress a shudder that ran through his body, and he hated Chris Larabee for making him feel that way.
JD came up behind Chris, “Chris I…” he broke off as Larabee looked at him, and he had to stop himself from taking a step backward.
“I wanted to know if it was alright to go and see Ez.”
Bill’s head snapped round towards the kid sheriff, Standish was alive how the hell could he have survived that. His mind made up he dismounted and went into the saloon; one of the men at the bar was all too ready to tell him what had happened.
“Seems this drunk fired at Standish, my guess” he leaned into Bill, “the gambler scammed him of his money, anyway, he hit him with a scatter gun, only it had rock salt and it sent him through the Potters window, and I bet he’s as sore as hell. But,” the man shrugged “he’ll live, bruised, but alive, seems that bastard not just luck at the poker table.” Bill drained the beer, wiping the back of his hand over his mouth, caught hold of one of the saloon girls tossed flipped the bartender a dollar and took her upstairs, but he was soon storming out of the room taking the stairs two at a time as her laughter rang out, as she leaned against the balcony overlooking the saloon floor, her gestured making it all to clear the other men that he hadn’t been able to take her. Bill sent one of the men flying as he barreled out of the saloon, his anger raising his blame focusing on one man, Vin Tanner, the Texan was in his blood, the only relief he would get was when he was once again buried deep inside of him.
Jack Malone sat on his bed, the telegrams had been coming in fast from his agents in New Orleans, Ian Worth had been busy, and he had purchased all the land in the area surround the future muti-million dollar development, as he read the purchases out Danny marked them off. Worth was putting together a formidable portfolio, and the problem was that in the future all the land was legally owned. They job was to track him down and arrest him and bring him back to the present, and at that moment they were none the nearer to doing it.
“Danny, you got the telegram about Martin.”
Danny nodded “If we got Martin out here.”
“Can’t do that, Tanner is wanted, and we could land Martin right in the middle of a bounty hunting frenzy. Jack paused “You need to go to him and bond, this can’t wait, and I am not losing an agent on my watch.”
“You pledged your bond in front of witnesses.”
“We could wave Martin out of here.” Danny made a vague wave of the hand that encompassed the west.
“The only reason that Martin would wave in was because he was not on line, this”. Jack picked up the latest telegram, says that he’s coming on line, if he tried to wave out, it would over load him cause a cascade of his senses. If.” Jack took a breath “If you’re not sure as Sandburg what would happen, he could go red code coma on us, and locked in like that unbounded it would be more humane to put a bullet in him than leave him locked in his own mind for the rest of his life. Your choice Danny.”
Danny ran a hand through his hair in frustration, “the stagecoach”.
“Leave on Thursday, let Viv know you’re on your way. And Danny I didn’t expect less of you.”
The rue smile on Danny’s face was as far as Jack Malone concerned said it all. Danny sighed, “I can just see my ma’s face when she meet’s Martin for the first time.” He put a hand up to stop Jack, “Oh she is going to love him, and I am going to get it in the neck for not choosing him earlier,” it was then Danny ground to a halt, “shit.”
Jack raised an eyebrow, and waited, “Jack one thing, Martin, he won’t bond with me.”
“Then you underestimate Mr. Fitzgerald.” Jack said, “Trust me on that Danny.”
Bill hauled himself onto his horse and used his spurs on its flanks the bitter taste of humiliation welding up inside of him, he would be back.
It was early evening when he returned to town quietly and on foot, he looked up at the clinic, and pushed out his sense, two people were in the room, he fingered the knife, Standish was worth good money to him, but in his mind that now took second place to Vin Tanner. He went up the stairs banging on the door his voice panicked and Nathan opened it, and walked straight into a fist the size on a ham, that would have dropped him if Bill hadn’t caught him, spinning him round as a human shield. As he found himself looking into the barrel of Standish’s Remington.
“Mr. Connor.” Ezra said, “I thought that I felt you earlier, it seems that you want to speak to me, or is it more personal,” Ezra eyes flicked to the knife that was in Bill’s hand pressed to the groggy Nathan’s throat.
“Lady paid me to off you Standish, but son of bitch you have more lives than a cat.”
“The luck of a gambler, Mr. Connor.” Ezra cocked the gun, “Why do you want me dead.”
“Not me, I am doing it for the money, you’re in the way Standish, Ella wants you dead, and the man, a real fancy talker he wants to destroy the seven. Nearly did it a couple of times so I heard, killed Larabee’s bitch and the whelp and nearly got Tanner hung and you tarred and feathered.”
“Chris’s family.” Ezra said, the shock showing on his face, making him drop his usual formality in that moment.
“Yeah, burned nice and crispy so I heard from Fowler.”
“You sick bastard” Ezra spat back at him as he lifted his gun, up and started to pull the trigger, at that moment Bill threw Nathan forward blocking Ezra’s shot for a big man he was quick on his feet and he was out of the clinic and down the stairs vaulting over the rail half way down to make his escape, before the others could arrive. .
Nathan was pushing Buck’s hands away as the ladies man helped him to a chair. He looked up at Chris, and met his gaze levelly, as he struggled to stand up. “It’s my fault Chris, I thought someone was hurting, that’s why I left the room, I could have got Ezra killed.” The healer wasn’t sugar coating his mistake, but Chris surprised him by dropping a hand onto his shoulder.
“You’re a healer, you did what was true to your nature, Nathan.”
Buck gave a surprised look and then smiled, that was the Chris that he had thought was lost, a man that recognized that people were human and could make mistakes and Buck knew that he was looking at the two people in the room that had made those changed to the brooding darkness of fury that was Chris Larabee, Vin Tanner, and a cocksure brash gambler called Ezra Standish.
“Vin, Buck, Josiah, check the town, if that bastard Connor is still here I want him.”
Chris narrowed his eyes as he looked at Ezra, there was something the gambler wasn’t telling him, he could feel the tension in the young gambler and it had nothing to do with Bill trying to kill him it was something more.
Ezra turned to Josiah, and “Have JD get Marshal Ellison and what did they call themselves agents, from the hotel, you all need to hear this.”
Jack Malone, stood round the bed with Danny, and the others, “You wanted to see us Mr. Standish.”
“First I need you to answer a question about this wave.” Ezra said levelly. Then seeing the nods from Ellison and the agents, he asked. “Could you change history, I mean change what has happened?”
Jim shook his head, “No, you see there was an original time line.”
“My family did they die.” Chris asked his voice low and cold.
“I am sorry Chris” Jim said, “ they died, the seven of you met up for the first time, in Four Corners. Ian Worth was an observer, and when he came back we have since found out that he changed your history, to what you know now. There are certain consistencies that seem unchangeable.”
Ezra nodded “Bill had to talk and he said that a woman Ella had hired him, and talked about a fancy talking fellow, which is this Ian Worth.” Ezra took a deep breath, and closed his eyes, he could feel the tears beading on them and reached out for Chris, the alpha went to his side, sitting on the bed and drawing Ezra to him, the pure misery he could feel in his guide called for him to comfort him. Vin rested a hand on Ezra’s shoulder giving him support as the emotions shook Ezra.
His voice a low whisper he told Chris what Bill had said, he clung tightly to the gunman even as the blond tried to get up, and then Chris sank back down, one arm tightening on his guide and his other reached out and caught Vin’s arm. Jim spoke softly “we best go now Jack.”
“But” At that moment Chris looked up and Jack nodded “Come on Danny.”
Buck closed the door behind them and sat down on the edge of the bed here if he was needed but for the moment he let Vin and Ezra take care of his old friend.
Once the door had closed behind them, Chris’s body began to shake, the anger was resonating through him, , all the bitter memories and hatred flowed from him, all that time and he never had a chance to save them. It didn’t matter what he and Buck had done, Sarah and Adam were doomed to die for something that they would never have been able to comprehend. Vin was kneeling by the side of the bed, his arms reaching out to encircle him, and he felt the weight of Vin’s head resting against his back, as Ezra pulled him closer. Now only now cocooned in the arms of his soul mate and guide could Chris finally let go of the soul destroying sorrow. Ezra the tears rolling down his face, comforted his sentinel, the depth of the loss of his family to Chris was overwhelming, and in the bond he had learned what Chris couldn’t put into words, now as Chris mourned them again, he and Vin mourned with him, as finally with a heart breaking sob, Chris buried his face against Ezra shoulder. Through their bond, Ezra joined with Vin, and together they tried to sooth the pain. Ezra understood before Chris had never had a name or a reason for their death now he did, it had nothing to do with him, or his pass, but instead it was his future that had killed them. Two time lines and in both he had caused the death of the woman he had loved, and nothing could change it, it was almost more than a man could bear, but Chris was not alone, he was loved and they would get him through this, Ezra vowed.
Buck could feel the pain, and his memories of those dark days come flooding back, when Chris had finally beaten him nearly to a pulp to drive him away and he had had to give up on him, knowing that Chris was lost to him. Each day expecting to hear that Chris had died in some gunfight, until that day when Vin Tanner had walked into the saloon and Chris had back his play and re-entered his life. How long the three of them remained cocooned together Buck didn’t know, but finally, Vin head eased up, and reached a hand out to Buck, the big man didn’t hesitate and joined them, through Ezra he felt the emotions of the bond fully not just the echoes of it like he usually did. Bill’s words came clearly to him, and when he met Chris’s eyes, blood shot and misty he knew that he would move heaven and earth to bring some peace and closure to his friend. Bill Connor would die, but not before he told them all about who hired him, they would have names and those people would die for their crimes.
The next morning Chris had woke, Ezra was in his arms. Vin was sleeping his head resting on his thigh, and Buck was in the chair his gun next to him, the protector. Buck hadn’t slept all night keeping watch over them. His memories of Sarah and Adam had played through his mind. Sarah had been a feisty brunette who had taken on the lethal Chris Larabee and won, she had given him a life, they had planned together, and then when he had arrived she had welcomed him into their life. She had mothered him, and scolded him about his womanizing, but never turned him away, and when Adam was born he had been a proud uncle. Now they had the name of the woman that had masterminded their death, Ella Gaines, a prostitute that had clawed herself to be the madam of one of the most lucrative brothels in San Jose. She had been obsessed with Chris, and it seems that she and her husband had joined forces to destroy him. Buck had never killed a woman in his life, but Ella Gaines he would make an exception for.
Chris carefully laid Ezra down and eased Vin off him, but not before he ran a light hand over the handsome young man that he called his soul mate. “Watch over them Buck, I am going to talk to Ellison, and see what he knows.”
“You’re not going to try anything stupid are you?”
Chris for a long moment didn’t reply and then shook his head, “Vin can track Connor, I am not going to lose him.”
Nathan came into the clinic his headache from last night gone, and apart from a little stiffness in his neck he was feeling better his arrival , allowed Buck to go to the privy, Vin was awake and had sank down into the chair Buck had vacated and Ezra eased onto his side to look at his feral and asked.
“Mr. Tanner, are you alright, you look pensive.” When he saw the look Vin gave him he added “thoughtful.”
Vin leaned back in the chair next to the bed, balancing it on it’s rear leg, his feet resting on the frame of the bed, he was rocking slowly back and forward, fingering the harmonica one of the few things that he possessed. Then the chair came down with a bang and he handed the harmonica to Ezra, as he reached down gently cupping and tilting Eza’s face so that he could kiss him, his lips a light caress. He turned his back and walked out of the room. Ezra called out to him, but he was ignored it was then Ezra felt it as Vin severed the connection between them.
Ezra strugged out of the bed, the pain in his ribs, knifing through his body, the pain seeming to ignite the shoulder wound, but he managed it, and staggered out to the door of the clinic, even as he grabbed his gun. Vin was already rounding the corner of the alleyway when he got there, it was then Ezra screamed Chris’s name, it blazed through the link.
Jim and Chris were in the jail, with Blair, the young guide sat near his own sentinel, if someone had ever told Blair that he would be frightened of a sentinel he would have laughed at them, sentinels were the guardians the protectors. Suddenly Chris was on his feet, the book he had been reading dropped from his fingers, as Jim did the same. Chris only said one word “Ezra,” then was running out of the jail, with Jim and Blair chasing after him.
Josiah was coming out of Potter’s store, he turned round pushed the parcel back into Mr. Potter’s hand and took of after his leader, with Nathan on his heels.
Ezra stumbled into Chris’s arms, “Vin he’s gone after Bill Connor.”
“What.” Chris demanded.
“He was guarding me, and he suddenly shut himself off from me, and he gave me this”. Ezra showed him the harmonica, he doesn’t expect to come back from this.” Ezra closed his hand round the smooth metal.
Chris pulled Ezra close to him, one arm wrapped round the young gambler, not minding who saw him, this was his guide. “That scraggy assed Texan won’t have to worry about Connor, I am going to shoot his ass when I find him.” The predator was in full force and his voice was a low deadly whisper.
“Find him Mr. Larabee.” Ezra begged, I can not lose either of you now.” It was rare that Ezra could put in words what he was feeling too many years of hiding his emotions, he trusted the bond to let his true feelings be felt, but now he needed to voice them as he pressed the harmonica into his alpha’s hand.
Chris turned from Ezra, his head coming up the green eyes glittering under the brim, his face was as if it was carved from stone, his hand clutched the harmonica. Jim grabbed Blair’s arm and hauled him back behind him, the young guide peering over his shoulder. Jim could feel it, and so did Buck, and Danny was forced to his knees in the hotel room, it was a power dark and as primal as any force of nature. It seemed to spread from Chris Larabee rippling across the town, the man in black, went down the stairs two at a time, Buck falling into place behind him. Jim waited a heartbeat and then followed with Blair trying to keep up.
“Danny,” Jack was gripping his young agents arm tightly, as finally he seemed to get his breath back. But even he was shocked when Danny looked up, there was horror on his face. “That’s not possible, Jack, a sentinel can’t do that?”
“Who, and what.” Jack was puzzled, but concerned for the younger man made him concentrate on getting Danny onto the bed, answers could wait for the moment.
“Larabee, he just, Jack he just put threw out a sensor net, like nothing I have ever felt before, it was….” He trailed off slowly, “god help us if anything happens to his guide, or Tanner, because there is going to be no force on earth that is going to be able to control him.
“You’re in no condition to get up Ezra,” Nathan stood there as Ezra reached up and tried to dress.
“Mr. Jackson, I am a guide, I will not let me sentinels go into battle without me, I have lost one sentinel, and will not lose another. Now help me or get out of my way.”
“Were go with you Brother, or you don’t go.” The ex-preacher said as he went forward to help Ezra dress. Nathan threw up his hands in despair but all the same helped, “You’re going to need me when you finally keel over Standish.”
“You can find them Brother.” Josiah asked.
Ezra tapped his forehead with two fingers, “Mr. Tanner, may have tried to sever our bond, but Mr. Larabee is still with me, and…” he took a steadying breath “I can find him anywhere.”
Nathan wrapped a supporting arm round Ezra, helping him down that stairs from the clinic to the boardwalk. “Why did Vin cut the bond.”
Ezra paused, and there was a sadness on his face that he made no effort to hide. “Because he thinks that he is going to die and doesn’t want me to feel his death.”
Buck was already in the barn saddling the horses, he had seen Vin take off like a bat out of hell, and Chris was at that moment saddling up, his face like the wrath of hell. He had opened his mouth to ask, only for Chris to nail him with a look that made him close his mouth the words unsaid.
Bill sat on a fallen tree trunk, his fire was nearly out, he hadn’t bother to run, because he knew that Vin would come after him, and if he ran, the younger man just hunt him down, and shoot him out of the saddle. Instead he had decided to wait for Vin, and then play the cards as they fell. He sensed Vin even if he didn’t hear him, but then you never did know that Vin was there until you felt his knife in your flesh. He didn’t have to turn round. “Standish told you, Vinny.”
“Name Vin, Bill.”
“You’ll answer to what I tell you boy.” Bill got up throwing the cup he had been holding to the ground and spun round to face the younger man. But if he expected Tanner to flinch away from him he was sadly mistaken, the slight smile was ice cold and it was then he remembered that Vin had lived with the Comanche and the Kiowa , and that the younger man was more Indian than white, and he knew just how lethal Vin could be he would have to be careful.
“You shouldn’t have gone after Ez like that Bill, you should have walked away”.
“Gaines paid me, promised me more when I killed him, fuck Vin, he’s a gambler, a slime sucking cheat, you don’t need him or that black dressed devil, you got me, your alpha.” Bill said trying to provoke the younger man, but Vin just stood there.
“Where I’s find this Gaines woman.”
Bill hooked a thumb into his belt, “Now you want that, you’re going to have to give me something for it. What you going to give me,” he leered at Vin, letting his eyes track over Vin’s body.
“Promise to kill you fast, Bill, if you don’t talk, I’ll make you, whichever way you ain’t walking away from this.”
“You think you can take me.”
“Easy as licking butter off a knife.”
Bill pulled his knife “Goanna gut your alpha and.” Bill’s voice faded away as he realized that Vin wasn’t going to back down and his threats were falling on deaf ears.
The two men circled each other, looking for an opening, each man aware that if he acted to rashly he could open himself up for a killing blow. It was Bill that lost his nerve first and he launched his attack, a thrust straight at Vin’s stomach, but Vin pulled his body back the knife missed him, but he caught it on his own knife, there was a clash of metal as he deflected the knife blade away from him. This brought Bill close enough for Vin to attempt a side kick into the bigger man’s groin, but slightly off balance he missed his target catching him on his upper thigh, but it was enough to make Bill stagger, and he managed to twist his knife clear of Bill’s blade, and cut Connor across the arm, making him howl in pain, even as Vin backed off, giving himself more room.
Enraged Bill, slashed at Vin, but none of them got close, the younger man was too fast on his feet, he was biding his time, darting back in when he saw an opening under Bill’s guard to inflict slashing cuts to his arms and thighs. Bill was starting to breathe hard, his adrenaline pumping; slowly it began to sink in that he wasn’t going to win this. He launched another attack, Vin stumbled and his managed to get his first hit, but the younger man jumped back and only the tip of the blade caught him, cutting through his shirt and across his chest. But it didn’t slow Vin down he moved clear of his next attack, refusing to let Bill box him in.
Bill was forced to increase the speed of his attack as he heard the horses heading towards them, soon help would be on hand for Vin, now he could no longer afford to kill the younger man, if he could injure him, the others would stop to help Vin and it would allow him to escape. But he was also aware of his many wounds, the blood flowing down his arms and legs, and knew that he was weakening, if he allowed Vin in close, then Vin would hamstring him, and he would be totally at his mercy and that Indian loving bastard didn’t know the meaning of the word.
Ezra was clinging to his horse’s mane with one hand, his reins in the other, pain was crashing through him, but his need to get to Vin was keeping him in the saddle. He knew that Buck was keeping close to him and he would expect nothing else from his gamma, but ahead of him rode his alpha, a dark dressed fury that was Chris Larabee.
“You going to kill me Vinny” Bill was slowing his breath was coming in gasps, so far he had still been unable to score any decisive hit to the younger man, “you do that and your alpha isn’t ever going to know where that bitch Gaines is, you think he’s going to want you then. You’re nothing to him, a quick fuck and a warm body. Gaines was his whore and Larabee fucked her, so much for that slut wife of his.”
“She thinks she owns him.”
“Shit yes, the bitch wanted Standish dead because of some scrap of paper, and when she heard about you, she near on had a fit.” He made another lunge, but Vin side stepped, and Bill barely avoided the knife thrust to his groin.
Bill kept circling, “Nasty Vin, but you always were a mean son of a bitch.”
“My ma was no bitch.” Vin grated the words out.
“Bitch putting it out to any man with a dollar.” Bill gloated, “Died rotting from the inside.” The anger that flashed across Vin’s face was frightening, and Bill found himself fighting off a flurry of attacks as Vin went for his blood. But Bill was too slow and he bellowed like an enraged bull as Vin’s knife found its target, with a surge of strength fueled by pain and fury he lashed out with a mighty fist and sent Vin flying backward, his knife still lodged into Bill’s chest. Vin hit the hard ground and twisted onto his side, groggy from the blow, but somehow he managed to scramble away from the bloody lumbering Bill Connor as he bore down on him. But his head ringing Vin stumbled and ended up on this back, trying to protect himself the best he could as Bill loomed over him, his massive hands going to his neck, Vin punched upwards, rocking Bill’s head back, but he didn’t even slow him down, even as his knee thudded into Bill’s body, only the groan from the big man showed it had landed. Lights began to flash in front of Vin’s eyes; Bill’s face blood staining the teeth, as he grinned down at him as he started to strangle the younger man, “Die you bastard,” Bill snarled his bloody spittle splattering Vin’s face.
“Bill looked up, then there was the crack of a gun and Bill was thrown backwards by force of the bullet that hit him in the head.
Vin yelled “No”, as he rolled to his knees, taking deep breaths trying to push the darkness back; he scrambled on all fours after the dying Bill. He turned to look at Chris, “What you do that for.”
“He was going to kill you.” Chris said his voice level his face grim.
“I’s not worth it.”
In four strides Chris was on him, he caught hold of Vin and pulled him to his feet, shaking the younger man violently. “What the fuck’s wrong with you Tanner, you got a death wish.”
Vin tried to break his hold on him, and finally gave up, knowing the Chris wasn’t going to let him go. “No I ain’t but you could have ended it all if you let him live, I’s would have made him talk.”
“Lost one love ain’t going to lose another.”
“Got a name and them lawmen in the hotel, they’ll track her down, when they do, I’ll get to her first.” Chris slowly released his hold on his lover.
“We could go now.” Vin said.
“No, we need to have you cleared; I ain’t losing you to some bounty hunter.”
Vin shook his head, “I ain’t important, I.”
Chris loomed over his young lover, and Buck tensed, as he watched the standoff between the two men, he could hear the low sub vocal rumble that meant that he two of them were talking, he saw the change in the tension Vin’s body at whatever Chris was telling him, then out loud Chris said “I hear those words come out of your mouth again Tanner, that you ain’t important and so help me, I’ll shoot your scrawny ass and haul it to Tascosa myself.” Buck saw the flicker of a smile on Vin’s face and the answer in Larabee’s as Vin drawled in soft rasping voice, “You can try cowboy,” a challenge given.
Chris snarled back but his eyes were flashing with an unholy light as he added “I’ve got plans for that ass and planting lead in it isn’t one of them. So don’t push your luck Tanner.”
Ezra leaned into Buck, the gamma’s strong arm wrapped. “Now Mr. Wilmington is the time to heal.” Pushing himself away from Buck, Ezra slowly made his way to his Alpha and feral.
Then Ezra added “But first, Mr. Tanner this is going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt you. But what the hell.” Ezra swung his fist crashing into Vin’s jaw, it made the feral stumble back, his heel caught on a rock and he went crashing down onto his ass. Ezra cried out in pain as he pulled his bruised ribs, doubling over as he fought against the pain, slowly he straightened up enough to look at Vin, and he gave him a rue smile, “it was worth it for the look on your face Mr. Tanner. I am mealy pre-empting Mr. Larabee, you broke our connection for that to paraphrase our alpha your ass is grass Mr. Tanner.”
“What you say Ez,” Vin said as he looked up in disbelief at his guide.
“Mr. Tanner, I.”
It was Buck that cut in, “Vin, Ez said that he hit you before Chris got a chance to do it and you’re in trouble junior.”
“Knew that, then why didn’t he just say it.” Vin groused as he rubbed his jaw with his hand, and started to get up, only to have Josiah haul him to his feet, all the time Vin was muttering under his breath about ten dollar words. “Oh shit.” Vin swore as he saw Nathan blocking his way there was no way that he could avoid him, the healer caught his other arm and walked him over to the tree trunk that Bill had been using as a seat, pushed him down onto it and then kneeling down he began to pull Vin’s shirt up carefully so that he could see the knife wound on his chest.
Buck looked down at Bill Connor’s body, “What we going to do with him?”
“Leave the bastard to rot.” Chris told him simply.
“No” Vin tried to get to his feet, only to have Josiah pin him in place. “Owe him, saved me life.”
“Vin” Chris tired to reason with his young lover, but he knew even before he started it was pointless, Vin was loyal to a fault, the man had used him and abused him, but the natural honor of the young Texan stopped him from leaving the man, who had saved his life to be taken by wild animals.
“I ain’t having him in town, “Chris ruled, but relented, “we can bury him out here, if you have a mind.”
Vin nodded “Mind to do that, he wasn’t always like this.”
“Chris was about to argue, but seeing the look on Buck’s face and the shake of the head he let it drop, all that mattered was his young lover and his guide.
Jim and Blair stood under the porch of the jail along with JD, the young sheriff’s face finally splitting with a grin when he saw the other members of the seven returning, but that smile faulted as he saw the blood on Vin’s shirt and the grey faced Ezra Standish.
Buck shook his head as JD opened his mouth, “leave it JD, I’ll tell you later,” he relented.
Taking one look at Chris and Vin, Jim pulled Blair back and behind him, making a human shield, at this moment both men were at their most dangerous, he would learn later what had happened, but for the moment guide and sentinels needed each other, questions could wait, and by the look of the towns people gathering outside of the boardwalk, he wasn’t the only one who was curious about what was going on.
Ezra batted Buck’s hands away as he tried to help him off his horse, “Mr. Wilmington the day I cannot get off my own horse is the day that.” He broke off as Chris snapped at him “get off the damn horse Ez.”
Opening his mouth to reply, Ezra closed it deciding not to press his luck.
As they entered the boarding house, Josiah fished a bottle of whiskey from his pocket and pushed it into Buck’s hand, “I think your going to need this brother.”
“Josiah I think you’re right,” Buck drawled as he followed them, he would keep watch at their door, if they called he would come but not until then.
All the way riding back to town and now going up the stairs to his alpha’s room, Vin had felt Chris through their link a dark brooding force, that was almost smothering him, he bridled against it, but waited until he was in the room, he turned fast on this alpha so that he was in his face. Vin jabbed a finger into the black shirted chest, “Live with it Larabee, I ain’t your bitch, don’t have to do what you say. Bill was a danger I did what I had too.” He glared at Chris making his point, “ain’t going to apologize for it you got a problem with that Larabee?”
Chris knocked his hand out of the way, and caught Vin by the front of his jacket and pulled him up so that their faces where only inches from each other, his teeth bared in a snarl, it was then that Ezra stepped into the fray.
“Gentlemen, gentlemen, Mr. Larabee put Mr. Tanner down. We need to talk and it’s more conducive to honest conversation if you are not half throttling your mate” Through the link Ezra could feel the emotions that the two men were broadcasting, they seemed to batter his very soul. Two men so much a like it was a surprise they didn’t tear each other apart, but instead they formed a whole.
“Keep the fuck out of this Ez.” Chris snarled at him as he gave Vin a hard shake, then gave a grunt of pain as Vin brought his boot heel down on the instep of Chris’s foot making him release his hold. But even as he did it, Chris lashed out and a back handed blow sent Vin reeling back against the wall.
The two men faced off against each other, the feral and the predator out of their cages, the predator pissed off that his soul mate had risked his life and broken from him, the feral running true by trying to buck the control of his alpha.
Muttering under his breath “I am too old for this,” Ezra derringer snapped into his hand and he fired the bullet ploughed into the floor board in front of Chris, causing both sentinels heads to snap round and focus on him, but Ezra didn’t even blink even as he was nailed by the fury filled eyes of his sentinels.
“This ends now gentlemen”, he heard the low rumbling coming off his predator, “no Mr. Larabee now, Mr. Tanner has learned his lesion you have made your feelings on this matter abundantly clear.” Ezra tossed his hat onto the chest of drawers and sat down on the bed, his back to the headboard, one foot swinging “we are going to move on from this unfortunately incident, we will wait in this fly speck, dusty back water town.”
“Sure Ez tell us what you really think of it,” Vin drawled.
Ezra fought the grin, “believe Mr. Tanner, there are no hours in the day long enough to express me displeasure at this town, but we will get your bounty lifted, and to paraphrase Mr. Larabee those words, I’s ain’t important better not being voiced or the second bullet will be heading your way. Now where was I, yes, those future lawmen will find this Gaines woman and you will have your revenge Mr. Larabee.”
“You think they’ll find her.”
Through the bond Ezra felt his need like a raw wound, “Yes Mr. Larabee, like the vest that saved my life or the medicine they gave Mr. Tanner in the prison cell that killed the infection in his wound, they have means of doing things that we can only dream off. But when the time comes lawman or not it will be your hand that will take her life.”
It was only then did Ezra lower the derringer, and then reached out with his good hand towards his sentinels, knowing that his injuries would gentle them down, in his mind he felt them shift into the mother hen condition, and he couldn’t help but smile when he thought of these two deadly men like that.
“Ain’t no hen,” Chris drawled.
“More of a cock I think Mr. Larabee, king of our particular barn yard.”
“Mr. Tanner,” Ezra put in quickly as he heard the feral sniggering, and felt the hot sexual surge of emotion that flooded the bond. “I can’t take you anywhere.” Then he gave up all pretense and laughed, he knew that the sex later would be hot and hard, but that was later for the moment they needed to embrace their bond and Ezra became serious again.
“Now, gentlemen you are going to bond, and we are going to regain our balance. Mr. Tanner you have to learn that we are one, and that you are no longer alone. I have told you that before, when you shut us out of the bond after your first alercation with Mr. Connor, but it seems that you have still to learn that lesion. We are, one heart,” as he said the word, Chris placed his hand over Vin’s heart, “one mind,” Chris cupped Vin’s face and brushed his thumb over his cheek and across his lips, then tilted his face forward and pressed a kiss to his forehead. “And finally Mr. Tanner, one body,” Chris trailed his hands down the lithe body of his lover and cupped one ass cheek squeezing it gently.
“One heart, one mind, one body Mr. Tanner and you broke our Covance, no matter the reason, our link is what ties us, and will tie us in this life and the next. I will be honest you did hurt me by attempting to break our link, for me it as if my heart was pulled from my body, where there was warmth, there was cold. It was as if I had lost you. I can understand why you severed the bond you did not want me to experience your death. You went out to kill that man or die trying. But as you can see, the bond was not broken, I would still have felt you die. In here,” Ezra touched his forehead and in here, he touched pressed a hand over his heart.
“Never meant to hurt you Ez.”
“I know that Mr. Tanner.” Ezra said softly as if coaxing a wild animal, he put his hand out and gathered Vin’s hand in his and tugged him to sit on the bed near him Ezra carefully opened his mind so that he was cocooning Vin’s and he allowed the feral to feel what he couldn’t put into words, he anguish and pain. The remorse he felt from Vin flooded through his mind, but he also knew that Vin would do it again if he needed to protect him but that was something he could work on late. Somehow no matter what he felt through the link saying the words made it more real. “You went after Mr. Connor you could have been killed,” Ezra accused.
“Would die for you Ez.” Vin said it there was no bravado in his words, just the honest truth.” Ezra felt humbled by it, and looking at Chris he felt those same emotions coming from his alpha. These two men would give their lives for him without a single thought; he had never known such love.
“Then I will have to endeavor to live forever.”
He pulled Vin closer and pressed a soft kiss on his lips, the feral was careful not to put any pressure on his guide that would cause in pain because of his injuries but he couldn’t stop a groan of pain of his own as his knife wound caused him to wince. Chris was immediately by Vin, hands that could deal such sudden death supporting his young lover, and eased him down onto the bed on his side next to Ezra so he could rest his head on their guides lap. Ezra’s petted Vin’s hair, shoulder and face, soothing him until he rested easy. Ezra caught Chris’s wrist, when he was about to pull back “Mr. Larabee, you have to face what you feel.”
“Sure you do cowboy.” Vin drawled almost sleepily under the influence of his guide.
“Liar.” Ezra said only the second person that could say that to the volatile gunman and live. “I felt your emotions, Mr. Tanner did, words spoken out loud give them power and that today is what is needed total truth between us. You said that you could not lose another love, that speaks volumes for your feelings for Mr. Tanner he is that love.” Ezra felt Chris tense, the gunman was not use to speaking his feelings for his young lover out loud, because Vin was a man few words, they were well suited to each other. Ezra kept his hold on Chris’s wrist, his mind didn’t push against his alpha but lightly caressed it as he made him aware of his unspoken support through their unique connection, so that Chris could vocalize perhaps for one of the few times in his life what he was feeling.
“I lost Sarah, and Adam, they were my world,” Chris paused, taking a long slow breath, his hand began to move from Ezra’s arm to Vin, “Buck tried to hold me together, but I drove him away, nearly beating him to death during one drunken rage. I had to be dragged off him; I can remember it was as if I was looking at someone else. I felt lost, and hollow inside, darkness seemed to over take me, and there was a black rage that I couldn’t control.” He looked toward Ezra wanting, needing him to understand.
“The black rage was I believe the predator inside of you coming forward. After the war I studied with a Mr. Burton, he said that a sentinel couldn’t survive the death of his guide. You Mr. Larabee survived it by metamorphism into the predator sentinel. You no longer needed a guide, but what you sort out was your soul mate.”
“Sarah was my soul mate.”
Ezra looked saddened, “Your love for your wife is understandable and her memory.” Reaching up a hand Ezra bit back the pain the motion caused him and stroked Chris’s face, “your memory of her is sacred to you, but she was not your soul mate, had she been so you could not have claimed Mr. Tanner, because a feral and a predator cannot co-exist together unless they are soul mated. As a sentinel honors their guide so your memories are honored.”
“I loved my wife.” Chris was shaking his head trying to deny what Ezra had said.
“Mr. Larabee, I am not saying you didn’t love her, anyone can see that you did, and I feel it in here, and here.” Ezra touched his heart and head. But a soul mate is different, look into your heart and tell me I am lying.” Ezra waited patiently, he could feel the turmoil in his alpha, if they were going to hunt down the woman that caused the death of Chris’s family, when the time was right they needed to get beyond the pain. He knew it wouldn’t happen overnight but now the healing could start.
“You’re not lying” Chris said faulting, “Sarah was my past, Vin is my future.”
“Then Mr. Larabee we will now bond.”
Sat near the door, his back to the wall Buck felt the tears beading his eyes, as he witnessed Chris Larabee’s redemption. Buck wasn’t a fool he knew it wouldn’t happen overnight, but all the same Chris had finally started to heal, and that it was all down to a scrawny assed Texan and a smooth talking gambler, and he would owe them both until he day he died for giving him his friend back.
On the bed the three men their bodies carefully intertwined because of their injured, lay together, through Ezra their three minds as one touched and opened to each other, emotions and words tumbled soundlessly between them as they bonded deeper than ever before. The senses of the sentinels opening up, until they needed to touch and taste their guide and each other, the silence of the room only broken by soft moans as they brought pleasure to each other, and in doing so reaffirmed their commitment. It was with tears in his eyes that Ezra ran his hands over his alpha and feral as the two men came together in a tender loving coupling that transcended all others, as their minds swirled and joined as their bodies joined. Ezra rode their emotions his own climax causing him to cry out only for his mouth to be caught in a kiss by his alpha that stole his breath as the feral’s hand took his seed. Slowly as one they sank back down on to the bed, one heart, one body one soul.
Jail four hours later
Jack Malone picked up the grubby piece of paper that Jim gave him as the sentinel explained. “Jack this was retrieved from Big Bill Connor, by Josiah, Connor was a former mountain man, buffalo hunter; he was hired by Ella Gaines to kill Ezra. Now Connor wasn’t able to read and write, but he was given this, and I guess he must have been told that once the job was completed he was to give it to the telegraph operator and have him send this message to her. If you move fast you might be able to get onto her tail.”
“I would have through that Larabee would be on her.”
“He would but the deal is clear, he can’t leave the territory until they have completed the job or Vin loses his chance of an amnesty.” Jim paused “so you have a head start on him, if you want to take Ian Worth in alive, you best get to him before Larabee and his gang, because you’re not looking at a clan like we do in the future,” he paused and Blair finished “Agent Malone you’re looking at a hunting pack, and one totally without mercy.”
Jack nodded slowly, “It makes senses but it also means that were under the gun on this one.”
Jim looked round “I don’t see Danny.”
“He’s getting ready to ship out tomorrow, and get back to Martin.”
“Your think they’ll bond.”
“If they know what’s good for them both, Viv, is in charge of the New Orleans side of the investigation and” Jack grinned “a regular mother hen if anyone can do it she will, since Martin nearly got killed in action, she’s been keeping an eye on him. Danny will make a good partner for him.”
“What’s he like.”
“Martin is a good agent, younger than Danny, around Tanner’s age, looks just like him. He came to us from blue collar crime, a qualified accountant, but can handle the grunt work just as good as Danny. Prim and proper his father’s the Deputy Director of the FBI, but he don’t curry any favors, there’s some history there that Martin is keeping close to his chest. So think chalk and cheese,” he paused “well more like oil and water.” Jack said.
Jim smiled “I get the picture and I thought that Blair and I were mismatched. Pity I can’t be around to watch it sounds like it should be fun.” The two men exchanged grins.
Josiah was leaning against the door jamb, “our missing brothers have reappeared Marshal.”
Chris came out of the boarding house with Vin to his right and Buck to his left and Ezra tucked into the middle of their flying wedge formation. Jim got up with Jack following to stand with Josiah out on the porch. Chris stopped in front of them, “You find her,” he didn’t have to say who, “and then she’s mine.”
Vin fanned out to lean against the porch post in his habitual slouch, “this is blood vengeance, Ellison, you know that that mean.”
Jim swore under his breath, blood vengeance was ageless and could only be canceled if the accusers died, or the prey was killed pure and simple.
“Yes Tanner I know what it is.” Jim said.
Jack knew just like Jim did they should argue that the Gaines woman and Worth needed to be taken alive to face trial, but they knew that it was an argument they could have later, he knew a little about sentinel blood vengeance pacts, and needed to know more before he could work out how much danger he and his men where in, but at this point in time it would be futile to alienate their only ally. “My team will contact you when she’s found Larabee.”
“I have your word on that.”
“My word” Jack said. But he found that Chris was looking past him at Jim Ellison.
“Your word as a sentinel Ellison.”
Jim stood up straighter, “I will promise to do my best to find her and deliver her for justice, my word as a sentinel.”
Chris turned and headed towards the saloon Ezra following him content to allow his alpha to issue the warning; Buck gave them a nod of the head and followed, leaving Vin. The feral pushed himself away from the post. “You boys better be telling the truth, because old Chris will be mighty pissed off if you’re lying to him, and those fancy badges mean nothing here.” He touched the brim of his hat to them and followed his alpha to the saloon. Chris stood in the saloon doorway watching him, not entering until his feral lover had caught up with them and entered first.
Jack exchanged a look with Jim “It seems the stakes have just been raised.”
“Then your team better get to work, because once Larabee and his gang are free of their contact here, all bets are off, and the one place we don’t want to be is between Gaines, Worth and Larabee.
Jack turned back into the jail, “I’ll drink to that.”