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The Guardians:

Regulators: The Beginning  - 1875

Susan Foster

 

AU is Open

 

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. 

Thanks to Sarah my beta,  MAC for all the feedback and support, TexasAries for the great pictures, and for my niece Mary for her original art work for the title banner. 

 

Warning for adult language and situations.  M/M (C/V/B)  (C/V)  (E/OMC’s)  (E/C/V/B)  (E/J)  (E/B)

 

Main characters; Chris, Vin, Ezra, Buck, Josiah.

Carnack is a made up term by me for a half vampire, half human - the name is taken from an archaeological site in France.

 

0-0-0-0-0-0

 

Judge Orrin Travis took a sip of his bitter coffee and winced, putting the cup down. “I can understand what you’re saying Ed, but Four Corners is a town that needs law and order brought to it with a heavy hand.  There are more abominations of nature there than god-fearing Christians.  My own son, your son-in-law, was murdered by those unholy creatures. We must fight fire with fire.”

 

“Orrin, to hire gunmen to act as regulators is a dangerous action. How do you know that they will be any different than the men and those hell creatures that are terrorising the town?”

 

“Then we need to pick carefully, Ed.”  Orrin paused.  “Who would you say is the fastest gun in the territory?”

 

Marshal Ed Burns exhaled slowly.  “That would have to be Chris Larabee, fastest gun I’ve ever seen.  Mean drunk, a real bastard, and he’s got that demonic renegade riding with him.  Shit, that man’s enough to scare a years growth out of you. That’s if Larabee doesn’t do it first.  Name of Vin Tanner.”

 

“Tanner.”  Judge Travis looked thoughtful.  “Wanted for murder in Texas.”

 

“Yeah, that’s the one, carries a mare’s leg and can shoot the balls off a fly with a Winchester - a real sharpshooter. But he can get real personal with a knife; carved up a couple of bounty hunters along the border.”

 

Orrin frowned, not liking the idea of a man like that in the same town as his daughter in-law and grandson. But if he was going to fight fire with fire, it had to be.  “Do you know where to find them?”

 

“I’ll send out some feelers, Orrin, but you’re going to have to offer these guys something more than $5 a day each.  Larabee’s the kind of gun that people pay big bucks for.”

 

Judge Orrin Travis was pensive. “The demon, Tanner.  We can offer territorial sanctuary within my jurisdiction.”

 

Ed nodded.  “That might make the difference.  We plaster the territory with the Sanctuary posters, it gets the bounty hunters – well, the sensible ones – off Tanner’s back.”

 

“Find them, Ed.”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Seven Days Later

Purgatory

 

Buck Wilmington stood in the open doorway, a bottle of whiskey in his hand and a large grin plastered over his face as he watched Chris Larabee thrusting into the man on the bed.

 

“Chris.”

 

Chris pushed into the man and, still buried up to the hilt in him, turned his head. “Buck.”  Then, at a moan from his bed partner, began to move again with steady, strong pushes.

 

Buck entered the room and back-heeled the door closed, then went to kneel down so that he was level with the face of the younger man.  On all fours on the bed, his head hanging down, his long light brown hair fell round his face like a veil.  Reaching out, Buck brushed the hair back from the handsome, sweat coated face.  The younger man’s mouth was open and he was panting and groaning as he pushed his hips back to meet Chris’s thrusts into his ass.

 

“Vin,” Buck said as casually.

 

Buck grinned wilder as he heard the guttural snarl, then reached under the heaving body and began to pump Vin’s needy cock.  The touch made Vin buck backward, impaling himself hard onto Chris.  Vin cried out; whether from pain or pleasure it was difficult to tell.

 

Hearing his almost silent lover yell out was like a surge of raw power through Chris.  “Again,” Chris demanded, tightening his grip on his lover’s hips, enjoying the feeling of the younger man bucking and writhing under him, as Buck started working Vin with relish.

 

“Fuck you, Buck.”  The words were breathless and snarled, as Vin’s head snapped up and the blue eyes flashed at him, hot ice.

 

Laughing, Buck said; “No, fuck you Vin, long and slow, Junior,” as he wiped his calloused thumb across the sensitive head of Vin’s cock, making Vin cry out.  He came across Buck’s hand, as his climax tightened his ass around Chris and brought the other man off.  He came hard into his lover and the two men collapsed onto the bed.

 

Chris moved to the side and then pressed a kiss to a sweat coated shoulder as he gently pulled out of him.

 

Buck ruffled Vin’s hair and then ran an appreciative hand over the younger man’s firm, well-used ass. 

 

Wilmington was a long time friend of Chris Larabee’s.  They had survived the civil war together and then, like many young men, had drifted until Larabee had found an island of love in the middle of the harsh land.  In the arms of his beloved wife. 

 

The young couple had brought Buck into that family and for the first time in his life, a young man brought up in whorehouses the length and breadth of the west had found a family. Only to have it shattered when Chris’s wife and son were murdered sending the man on a vengeance trail that had nearly destroyed him and driven Buck away, with fists and bullets. 

 

Now, looking down at his blond haired friend, he watched as Chris pulled Vin into his arms, tucking the younger man’s head onto his chest, and pressing a light kiss to his face, as he his hands moved over the sweat-coated body, calming and soothing him.  Chris’s saviour had come in the shape of a lithe, young Texan, a demonic bounty hunter.

 

Taking a pull on the whiskey bottle, he handed it across to Chris, then turned and locked the door and began to undress. Although Chris and Vin were lovers, Vin was also a Tribal Demon and that brought needs that the two men had come to understand.

 

Laying like that, Buck could see the tattoo that covered all of the younger man’s back.  It was in red and black, a Phoenix Rising.  The head of the bird lay at the base of his neck, the wings covering his shoulders and backs of his upper arms and the tail feathers reaching to the base of his spine and backs of his thighs. 

 

 

 

The Phoenix - the most feared and respected of the Demonic Tribes in the West. Vin Tanner had lived among them and not only survived, but been admitted into the Elite Warrior class. For many, the tattoo itself was enough to get his neck stretched. But that tattoo defined who he was.

 

Buck sat on the edge of the bed and then slid in behind Vin.  Brushing the long hair to one side, he pressed a kiss to the back of his neck, then began to caress his flank and thighs, until slowly, the strong, lithe body began to relax. 

 

He guided Vin’s top leg up so that it rested on top of Chris’s and opened the younger man up. Then, making sure that he was greased up, Buck pressed slowly into Vin, all the time whispering in his ear as he took him soft and sweet. 

 

When he finally came it was into a lax body. Gently Buck pulled out and wrapped his arm around Vin’s waist.

 

“Junior asleep?”

 

“Yeah, didn’t even make it to the end.”

 

Chris tugged the blanket up over them; the thin-blooded Texan hated to be cold.

 

“Thanks.”  Chris gathered Vin close to him, his gaze meeting Buck’s over the demon’s head. 

 

“Junior isn’t exactly hard on the eyes and in a killing, demon-like way, is affectionate,” Buck laughed.

 

“And mine,” Chris said softly, as he lowered his head to rest against his lover’s.

 

0-0-0-0-0-0

 

The next morning when dawn finally came, Vin was clutching at the iron headboard.  His face was pressed into the pillow, sweat pouring off his body as he writhed and bucked as he was taken hard and fast and Chris timed his climax to greet the rising sun.

 

Before he let himself sink down, cloaking the lax body of his lover, he bit the back of Vin’s neck, hard enough to mark him without tasting blood.  The shudder that ran through Vin as he did that made him grin; his demonic lover was so responsive.  In his short life he hadn’t been given much affection and love.  More than likely the last person to love him unconditionally was his mother, and she had been taken from him too soon. For that reason, Chris made it his mission in life to show this man how much he loved him.

 

Once certain his young lover wouldn’t awaken, Chris left for the meeting, leaving Buck the job of looking after his own personal Demon.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Buck Wilmington was a jovial man by nature.  Live and let live was his policy for life, and let the good times roll followed as a close second.

He loved Chris Larabee dearly as a brother, but he could cheerfully have strangled the man for leaving him with one pissed off Demon. So far Vin hadn’t vented, but that was about to change.

 

As Buck finished dressing he shot a look at Vin; the younger man was squatting over a bucket and using a rag to clean himself of the signs of his earlier lovemaking. When he straightened up, hands on his hips, he was a picture of naked indignation.

 

“What the fuck are you talking about, Buck?” he snapped, as he grabbed his pants and began to pull them on.

 

“Vin, all I am saying is that-” Buck threw his hands up in the air in frustration. “Chris needed to meet with Marshal Burns on his own.”  Then, letting his voice get harder, he warned; “Now, you put them claws away boy.  I don’t aim on getting bitten and clawed by you.  Chris wants it this way and you’ll do as you’re told for once.”  Even as he said it, Buck made sure that he made no hostile moves. 

 

When Vin was skittish like this, Chris was the only one that could handle him. Hell, skittish was the polite way of saying that Junior was spitting nails and ready to tear someone apart with his clawed bare hands and sink those long fangs into their throat.  Muttering a soft, “Why me?” Buck started forward.  “Well Vin, it’s like this...”

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Wickes  Town.

 

Wickes Town was a town without a soul.  No decent men or women would live there, and those that did preyed on the money and souls of the lawless people that passed through. The buildings were all painted red; the flames of hell some said, a godless place of pain, lust, and death.

 

Some people came to visit, others to make a profit and still another group never left, planting themselves up on the height overlooking the town, on Boot Hill.

 

The Morning Star was the larger of the three saloons and two cathouses that graced the main street. 

 

In one of the bedrooms, Ezra Standish sat on his bed, fully clothed except for his coat and hat, upright against his headboard. A glass in his hand, his green eyes fixed on a rough and ready painting as he allowed his mind to drift.

 

On the dressing table near the window was his money.  $60, and at $5 a bottle of doctored whiskey, he would soon be broke. Then the withdrawal would start and it would feel as if his insides were being clawed out of him. Ezra’s hand tightened on the glass and he tossed back the whiskey as if it was water. He welcomed the burn of it on his throat; it meant he was still alive, still able to feel.

 

Then, reaching out, he picked up the bottle of whiskey and sloshed the liquid around in it.  Half a bottle.  He could drink it now and then would be starving.  With a sigh, he put the stopper back and put the bottle down by the side of the bed.

 

It was 7.30 by his watch; the Saloon would be lit by its French chandelier and Gaiety Girls would be on stage. Slowly, Ezra swung his legs off the bed and pushed himself up. 

 

If he wasn’t down at his table by 8.00 pm he would be punished, and he couldn’t afford to be refused the doctored whiskey. 

 

It was his only lifeline.

 

Ezra shrugged on his jacket and then carefully placed the dark blue pin in his collar.  Then, locking the door behind him, began to make his way down the hallway.

 

Just then, one of the other doors opened.  The man that came out was tall, solidly built with strength in his shoulders. He was in his early fifties, with salt and pepper hair, with a face that couldn’t be called handsome, but that had a strength that women found attractive.  That’s if the working girl was anything to go by.  She was giggling like a school girl as the man scooped up her hand and pressed a kiss to the back of it, with an old world charm. With a broad grin, he went off whistling, nodding his head to Ezra as he left.

 

0-0-0-0-0-0

 

Josiah Sanchez headed towards the bar, putting his money down and with an appreciative sigh downed the mug of beer, then let his gaze drift over the Saloon. It was then that he did a double take; as the young gambler crossed to one of the poker tables, for a split second, he had seen the man pass one of the mirrors. “Damn,” Josiah swore.

 

“See something you like?” the bartender said as he stood polishing one of his glasses.

 

“The gambler, red jacket.  Who is he?”

 

“Got a good eye mister.  That’s Ezra Standish.  If you want him, you better get in fast; once Saturday kicks off, he spends more time on his belly than on his feet propping up the bar.”  Noticing the raised eyebrow of his audience, the bartender leered; “Man’s got the tightest ass this side of the Rio Grande, gonna save up my money and get $10 dollars worth of him next week.”

 

Josiah smiled back, trying to resist the temptation of smashing a big fist into the leering man’s face. But he managed to keep his voice level. “I might just do that.”  Taking his beer, Josiah went to one of the empty tables and sat down so that he could watch the Gambler.  Dipping a finger into the beer, he drew a pattern onto the table top, then reaching under the lapel of his coat, he took out a pin and laid it on the middle of the table. Then he held his hands over it, fingers interlaced and under his breath, muttered an incantation. Slowly, the pin began to move until it was spinning, then just as suddenly, it stopped. 

 

Josiah nodded as it confirmed what he had thought.  It was pointed straight at Ezra Standish.  Josiah drained his drink and then left.  What he had to do next needed quiet, and no witnesses.

 

0-0-0-0-0-0

 

Purgatory

 

Marshal Burns was as jumpy as a cat on a hot tin roof.  If any of the gunmen at Purgatory found out he was a lawman, his life wouldn’t be worth spit.

 

Pushing open the door of the saloon, Burns paused and then looked round, and repeated the process.  It was with a start that he realised that Larabee was seated in the corner, his all black clothing merging into the dark.  Although a brave man, Burns’ stomach soured and he could taste real fear. Pulling himself up to his full height, he headed towards Larabee, even as his gut feeling was telling him to run and get the hell out of there.

 

He paused at the table, but before he could say a word, a shot glass of whiskey was pushed across the table at him and a chair was kicked out for him to sit.

 

“I’m here, now what do you want?”  The voice was ice-cold and deadly.

 

Burns tossed back the whiskey and felt it burn on its way down.

 

“Judge Travis has a job for you.”

 

“And why would he do that?”

 

“The town of Four Corners in New Mexico is wide open.  He’s willing to pay for regulators to police it.”

 

“What’s he paying?”

 

“One dollar a day for each man you recruit.”

 

Burns waited for the reaction.  A gunman like Larabee was good for a high price; what he offered was insulting and he knew it.

 

The silence between them hung heavy.  Burns had to break it.  “If you accept that job, Judge Travis will give Tanner territorial sanctuary.  He can’t revoke the wanted poster, but he can make it damned hard for anyone to collect the bounty within his jurisdiction.”

 

“What’s so special about Four Corners?”

 

For a moment Burns hesitated, and then the Marshal decided to go with the truth.  “The Judge’s daughter in law,” he paused again, trying to meet Larabee’s gaze, but the flat brimmed hat shaded the upper half of his face, making him seem more like part of the shadows, more of the dead than the living. Burns tried to repress a shudder.  “My daughter, lives there.  Her husband is one of the many decent, god-fearing people that have been killed, butchered.  Your job is to stop this from happening.”

 

Larabee’s head came up fractionally and Burns was nailed by ice cold green eyes, then the gunman pushed back his chair, and got to his feet.  “We’ll be in Four Corners on the 18th and the wanted poster on Tanner is lifted completely when we finish the job.  No discussion, otherwise we’re riding on the 19th.”  Then Larabee was gone.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Wickes Town

 

Josiah Sanchez went to the livery barn and into one of the empty stalls.  Brushing the straw away, he began to scratch out a pattern in the dirt, then sat cross-legged in the middle.  He held his hands so that the backs of them rested on his knees and he began to chant as he reached out across the town. The power emanating from him was like a wave, brushing over the people and then it was brought to a halt. Wickes Town had strong magical wards placed around it.  No one who was not one-hundred percent human would be able to escape the town. Another piece of the puzzle slotted into place.  Standish was unable to leave the town, as were at least twenty other nonhumans. When the Brotherhood had sent him to Wickes Town, he had thought he would discover a foul nest of demons, but now he believed that he was facing the direct opposite.  A hell town, made so by a human, using nonhumans to service his clients, trapping them in their own prison. If they tried to escape, the ward was strong enough to burn the very flesh from their bodies. By the rules of the Brotherhood, he should leave, nonhumans being no concern of his. But Josiah Sanchez would go his own way and innocent people - human or no - deserved better than this, as did the gambler. Josiah slowly got to his feet, then scuffed out the markings in the dirt and headed back to the Saloon.

 

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Josiah spent the next couple of hours exploring Wickes Town.  Not that there was a lot to see.  More to feel out the underlying power of the place, looking for a weakness in the wards.

 

Then he found it.  A smile touched his craggy face.  The old church; it was boarded up, and like the rest of the town, painted red, but the paint was fading from its weathered boards faster than the rest of the town. Whoever had built the church had consecrated it; he could feel the power as a faint humming in the background.

 

Slipping round the back of the church, he forced a couple of the planks aside and then entered the building. The church was thick with dust, and there were cobwebs hanging across the doorways.

 

Kneeling, Josiah lowered his head and then reached out with his mind to feel the wards.  He nodded slowly.  He understood, but for a nonhuman to cross it, even in this weakened state, it would need a faith that he was sure that many of them lacked.

 

But it was a starting point.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

On the trail from Purgatory.

 

Marshal Ed Burns put the spurs to his horse and tried to outpace his pursuers, but they were gaining on him.  Bullets whipped around his head, then suddenly, there was the sound of a rifle and cry of pain.  Twisting his head round, he saw three of the men knocked out of their saddles.  As the others slowed and then turned back, Burns began to ease back and rein in his panting horse.

 

Ahead of him was Chris Larabee, riding a black horse that seemed part of him as it merged with his black clothing.  Next to him was another man that he guessed must be Buck Wilmington.  The man held the reins of another horse in his hand.

 

“Good shooting, Vin,” he called out.  Ed Burns turned and from the rocky outcrop he saw a man making his way down, jumping from rock to rock like some human mountain goat, dressed in an old buckskin jacket.  A mare’s leg strapped to his thigh, a Winchester rifle over his shoulder, the battered slouched confederate cavalry hat pulled down shielding his eyes, the wanted poster in his bag identified the man easily. Vin Tanner.

 

“Thanks.”  Ed nodded to each of the men in turn. “That was close, I-”

 

“A law dawg should know better.”  The raspy Texan accent cut across what Ed was saying.

 

“Riiiiiight...” Ed drew the word out.  “How did you know I was in trouble?”

 

“Knew, that’s all,” Vin said as he climbed onto his horse.  Then, as one, the three men turned their horses and began to head away.

Ed hesitated and then nudged his horse forward to join them.

 

“Four Corners is that way.” He pointed toward the foothills.

 

“Got business,” Chris Larabee said, not offering anymore on the subject.  Ed shook his head.  Orrin was certainly going to owe him big time over this. 

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Saturday Night

Wickes Town

 

Josiah was watching the gambler, Ezra Standish.  The man had been playing high stakes poker most of the afternoon and into the early evening. Then, one of the bartenders had gone over and tapped his shoulder, and whispered something into his ear, nodding towards the bar. Ezra finished up his hand, pocketed his money and bought a round of drinks for the cowhands at his table.  Then he headed to the bar.

 

A cowboy drained his beer and followed the gambler up the stairs to the rooms above.  As the night wore on, Josiah sat nursing his beer and watching the dancing girls, and saw a steady stream of men follow the gambler up stairs. Late in the evening, Josiah’s attention fixed on two of the rowdiest tables.  There were about eight cowboys sitting there, well on their way to a good drunk.

 

Two of them had just taken Ezra upstairs when they reappeared.  They were grinning widely and each took a pull on the whiskey bottle as Ezra made his way back to the bar and accepted a double whiskey.  For a moment his poker-face slipped and the big man could see the pain etched on it. He pushed the glass across to the bartender to fill it up again when three cowboys from the table came over.  They formed a circle round the smaller man.  Ezra ignored them and knocked back the drink. One of them, a tall, gangly man, groped Ezra’s ass.  The gambler turned fast, knocking his hand away, eyes blazing.

 

Whatever he said was lost in the noise of the saloon. But the cowboys just laughed as the gangly man pulled out some money and slammed it onto the counter.

 

The bartender scooped the money up and jerked a thumb to the stairs and Standish had no choice but to head back upstairs, the laughing cowboys following, pushing and shoving each other. 

 

“Gonna ride that ass hard.” 

 

The words filtered their way to Josiah.  Rough trade.  Josiah knew it was none of business; his interest in Ezra Standish was professional. But as the minutes went by, Josiah was getting more agitated. Finally, he got up and took the stairs two at a time.  The cowboys’ yells brought him to the room. The door did not stand a chance as with one kick it broke and flew open, and the cold fury that was Josiah came into the room. With one look he took in the scene in front of him.

 

The gambler was naked on the bed on all fours, his mouth wrapped round the cock of one of the cowboys as the other two took turns thrusting into him.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

The cowboys were yelling Standish on; to move his ass and suck that cock, the words flowed together in a steady stream of filth.  So lost in their pleasure, the men were slow to react to the whirlwind that came into the room. Bellowing in rage, Josiah caught hold of the cowboys, pulling them off the bed and away from Standish.  A large fist put one of them down and he moved in to finish them off.

 

A gunshot brought Josiah spinning round.  He found himself looking down the barrel of a Colt, held in the hand of Ezra Standish.  The naked gambler was standing by the bed, his hand steady as a rock.

 

“Now Sir, I don’t know why you came crashing in. But a gentlemen takes his turn, and these gentlemen,” his lips twisted in a cynical smile, “still have to have their pleasure.  We can do it the easy way or the hard way, Sir. Easy way - you pay your money to Freddie and we get to fuck.  The hard way - I put a bullet in your rapist hide. Your choice?”

 

“I was trying to save you,” Josiah put in levelly and took a step towards Standish.

 

The gambler cocked the hammer back on the Colt.  “As you can see, I am not in need of rescue.”  His voice became harder, his Southern accent thicker, as he added, “Back off Gentlemen, you came up here to fuck, not fight, and this Holy Roller is leaving now.”

 

Standish indicated the door with his gun.  “After you, Preacher.”

 

Josiah shook his head and walked out.  Halfway down the corridor he paused and looked back at the door as it closed with a slam.

 

Ezra lowered the gun.  “Where were we, gentlemen?”  His smile was professional and empty of any emotion as the men came up, surrounding him.  The gangly cowboy reached out to fondle him roughly as one of the other men caught his face and brutally kissed him, his tongue pushing into Ezra’s mouth, even as the gambler felt the third man behind him, his hands on his ass.  His only warning was the rough parting of his cheeks and then a cock was rammed hard into him.  His cry of pain as his body was breached was lost in the other man’s mouth as the body behind him humped against him.  The man thrust hard and fast as a calloused hand pulled at Ezra’s own cock, bringing him off so they came together.  The young gambler bit back the pain as the sated man pulled out of him and he was pushed back on the bed.  Flipped onto his stomach, his hips were pulled up and another hard cock pushed into him as his head was pulled up and a cock was forced into his mouth. 

 

Ezra knew he was in for a bad time.  All he could do was survive it.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Josiah threw the money down onto the counter and paid for his beer.  The bartender had heard what had happened from one of the working girls. “You shouldn’t have tried to jump the queue like that, mister.  You see those men over there?” He nodded to the table where the other cowboys were sitting.  “They have all paid for a piece of Standish.  You want his ass, you pay and wait your turn.”

 

The bartender wiped the counter, spreading more dirt than he cleaned off it. Seeing the fury in Josiah’s eyes, he added;  “Wickes would have taken it out on Standish if he didn’t do right by his customers.”

 

A commotion erupted as the cowboys came down.  The others got up, passing a whiskey bottle and clapping them on the on the back as four of them got up and went up the stairs.

 

“Looks like Standish is in for a hard night.”  The bartender chuckled at his own joke.  Josiah didn’t answer him and took his beer to a corner table.  It was going to be long night.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

It was late when Standish finally came down.  The Saloon was nearly empty.  The young gambler looked exhausted; he moved stiffly, his abused body making its self known. He downed a whiskey in one gulp and then headed over to Josiah, sliding into a chair opposite him.

 

Josiah met his gaze levelly.  “I know what you are.”

 

“Gambler and a whore, very astute Mr -” Ezra brushed the remark aside.

 

“Josiah Sanchez.”  Josiah put his hand out.  For a moment Standish seemed to hesitate, but then he accepted it.  “Ezra Standish.”

 

“I need to talk to you, Mr Standish.  I think you need a friend.”

 

“Ahh, well, Mr Sanchez, it will still cost you, because I don’t fuck my friends.”

 

Josiah swore and got to his feet, his chair skidding across the floor and falling over.  He strode to the bar, pulled out and banged a handful of notes onto the bar and then went back, looming over the seated gambler.  “You’re mine, Standish, so get your ass up those stairs.”

 

“I am finished for the night.”  The smile was condescending.

 

Josiah leaned into him, favouring him with his own knowing smile. “You think that Wickes is going to like you turning down $20 dollars, Standish?  I am sure you’ll do really well in the tent village.  Those miners can’t be too picky what they do with a fuck.”  Josiah made his voice hard, his big hand clamping down on a shoulder and he hauled Ezra to his feet. He allowed the gambler to knock his hand away and then stalk back up the stairs with Josiah trailing behind him.

 

End of Part One.