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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. 

This story is for Sarah, MAC and Texaries, and Stan Lee, without you all there would never have been a story, thanks for your feedback, your support and your beta reading. 

 

Prisoners of Eagle Ridge

Series

ESCORT OW AU

 

The AU is open.

 

WARNING FOR ADULT LANUGAGE AND SEXUAL SITUATIONS.  M/M  (E/OMC’s) (C/V)  (V/B) (V/OMC) (E/J)

 

In a different America than the one we know, after the Civil War left the country in tatters, Judge Orin Travis was assigned the job of putting together a team of men that would bring justice to lawless New Mexico. 

 

 

Prologue

 

Red Clay – New Mexico

1875

 

Judge Orin Travis sat staring morosely at the pile of papers on his desk, then stood up abruptly and walked over to the window.   He gazed out across the dusty streets towards the scaffold where tomorrow morning three men would meet their lawful deaths. Even though the war had been over for ten years, the country was still caught in a seemingly endless cycle of violence and chaos.  Each town was an island; to venture away from them was to risk your very life, and the gangs that roamed the countryside murdered and took from anyone too weak to keep hold of what they had.

The door to the office opened and Orin’s wife Eve came in.  “Orin, it’s late. Are you coming to bed?”

 “Soon,” Orin tried to smile.

 “Have you found what you wanted?”

 “I think so.”

 As Eve turned to leave, her husband of 40 years called out to her. “If I go down this route I can never turn back. Can the end really justify the means?”

 Eve closed the distance between them and laid her hand on her husband’s arm. “For the greater good, we have to do many things we don’t want to. It is in your power to make a difference to this land and you, Orin Arthur Travis, would not be the man I married if you stood back and did nothing.” She pecked him on the cheek. “Now I will leave you to get back to your work.” She left the room, closing the door softly behind her.

 Judge Travis sat back at his desk and snatched up his pen. For a brief moment his hand hovered above the letter he had agonized over for so long, all too aware that once he signed it, he would set in motion a chain of events that would be unstoppable. Outside, a loud bang startled him from his reverie.  The hangman was testing the trapdoor to the gallows, a grim reminder of why this desperate action was so necessary. 

 

With renewed resolve, his pen scratched across the paper as he signed his name with a flourish and set Chris Larabee on his deadly path.

 0-0-0-0-0

 

Eagle Ridge

 

The Eagle Ridge Brothel was the largest of a dozen state-sanctioned whorehouses dotted across the ravaged lands of New Mexico.  They’d been the brain-child of the recently elected Governor, who’d seen an opportunity to turn the state’s overcrowded prisons into a profitable business that would fill his empty coffers.

 The Warden of the State Penitentiary had been ordered to select a number of prisoners to serve in the whorehouses. He’d chosen young, good looking men, each sentenced to the rope, and they were given a choice - fuck or hang. If they managed to survive for five years without being killed by disease or a violent John, they would get parole.  Once selected the prisoners, or Brothel meat as the guards delighted in calling them, were branded like cattle; a diamond seared into the flesh of the hip that would be altered with a further branding when the prisoner was released.  Any inmate found outside the prison walls without a release mark was shot dead, no questions asked.

 Josiah Sanchez had been a guard at Eagle Ridge for less than a month, but in that short time he’d seen enough depravity and corruption to last him a lifetime.  He’d been assigned as handler for Ezra Standish, a conman and gambler serving a life sentence for murder. Over the days that followed he had also gotten to know Standish’s cell mate, a Texan bounty hunter called Vin Tanner. But that had meant getting to know Tanner’s handler, a filthy depraved man called Dave Harper.  Harper liked his drink and liked the power he had over his prisoner, and took particular pride in his special training sessions that left Tanner bruised and bleeding.

For Josiah it had all come to a head when he had walked into the cell to collect Standish and found both young men naked and covered with blood after Harper and some of his friends had taken them out of the cell for some out of hours work.  

 Shouting frantically for help, he had felt a surge of relief when one of the new guards, Buck Wilmington, had rushed in. He hadn’t known anything about the man, except that Wilmington had appeared out of nowhere a week after Josiah had been hired at the brothel.  It would only be later that Josiah wondered why Wilmington was downstairs among the cells when his job should have kept him at the front gate.  But at the time he’d been too grateful for the help to ask too many questions.

 One thing had registered with Josiah; it was the look of pure hatred that tore across Wilmington’s face when he saw the damage inflicted on the Texan. It was the look of a man planning vengeance.

 Two days later Dave Harper was found dead in the privy of the local Saloon, his neck broken and his pockets emptied. Harper wasn’t mourned at the Brothel and Buck Wilmington was promoted to be Vin Tanner’s handler.

 Since then Josiah had felt a strange kinship with Wilmington, who seemed to watch over Tanner with hawk-like intensity, and although life at the brothel continued to be brutal, he felt at least that Buck had his back. 

 

0-0-0-0-0-0

The Basement Cells

 

Ezra Standish lay on his bunk watching as Vin Tanner pulled himself up against the bar on the window and looked out, trying to get a glimpse of the outside world.  Ezra’s mind went back to when he had first met the Texan in Yuma Penitentiary three months ago, he had been alone in his cell when this snarling, spitting, half wild man had been thrown in, out of his head with fever, blood seeping from a six inch gash to his side where one of his former bounties had tried to kill him.  It had taken all of Ezra’s considerable powers of persuasion to convince Vin to allow him close enough to help.

 Vin had already been in Yuma a month when they had become cell mates and Ezra could still remember being pulled to one side by one of the old timers who tried to warn him off Tanner. The old man had looked as if scared that someone would overhear him. He had put it bluntly, as a bounty hunter Tanner had enemies that wanted him dead. He was also a good looking man, so there was another group that wanted to use him as they would a women, so whichever way you looked at it, Tanner was not a healthy man to be seen with. 

 Ezra couldn’t help smiling  when he remembered the shocked look on the old man’s face as he had thanked him and told him that he would be staying with Tanner.  Vin had survived up until then because he would claw, bite and gouge anyone that tried to touch him, and the homemade knife he had fashioned from a metal spoon handle had spilled more than one man’s guts. Vin Tanner was a dangerous man and once healed could give Ezra the protection that he needed in this vicious place. That had been the original plan, anyway, Ezra thought wryly.  But somewhere along the line Vin had become more than just a protector, he’d become a real friend and the first person Ezra had cared about in a very long time.

Since then, the two of them had been sent to Eagle Ridge and to keep himself sane in the crazy world of the Prison Brothel, Ezra had tried to piece together this quiet man’s history.

 He had learned that Vin had been orphaned at age eight by a massacre at a fortified farm, that had been overrun by a large gang of Mexicans and renegades. He had been found by a  band of Comanche who had seen the smoke from the burning farm and gone to investigate. Their leader, Black Wing, had been  impressed by the young boy they had found there who even though badly injured had still tried to fight them off and protect the dead bodies of his family. Black Wing had taken Vin in, and he had lived with them for the next ten years. Tanner was considered by many people to be barely human, his skin might be white but his mind was Indian, he was the worst possible thing - a white renegade. Tanner had become a sharpshooter during the war, and then later a bounty hunter. Some of the stories Ezra had heard about the man had made his blood run cold.

He watched Vin release the bars, drop back onto the earthen floor and start to pace, reminding Ezra of a caged animal.

 “Sit down Mr Tanner, you make me tired just watching you,” Ezra drawled as he leaned his head back against the wall. “Somehow I never imagined a life like this,” he mused aloud.. “It could have been different for me, Mr Tanner. I truly believed that the court would consider that I was justified in killing Matthew Palmer for murdering my mother. But as you can see, I seem to have overestimated the ability of Lady Justice to remain impartial.”  He raised an eyebrow.” For future reference, never kill a man in a town where the jury is going to be made up of his clan, it can lead to complications,” Ezra said with a wry smile.

 “Could be worse. You could have been hung.” Vin put a hand involuntary to his throat, then swiftly dropped it. But Ezra had seen the movement and frowned slightly.

 “Does your throat still bother you?”

 For a moment Ezra didn’t think that Vin was going to answer him, the Texan just looked through him, then he gave a shake of the head and seemed to realise that Ezra was waiting for an answer. “That was over a year ago Ez, don’t hurt me now. Don’t mind how I die, but I’m not going to ever be hung up like a mangy dog again. I’ll eat a bullet before letting that happen.”

 Ezra smiled trying to lighten the Texan’s mood. “All that we can hope for is a quick and painless death, in bed, preferably with a couple of beautiful women to mop our fevered brows.”

 He saw the smouldering look in Vin’s eyes as the Texan said, “Personally, I am more in favour of a dark haired southerner.”

 Vin sat down on the narrow bed and Ezra reached out to him, wrapping a hand round the back of Vin’s neck as he guided his head down so that he could kiss him, savouring the taste of his lover.  Ezra gave a slight gasp as he felt the Texan’s hand run down his body and fondle him gently through the thin prison issue pants.

 The rattle of keys at the door made Ezra break off the kiss and push his lover’s hand away. The door to the cell opened and two guards walked in, cuffs in hand, ready to take them upstairs for their evening shift.

 

Room 12

 

Buck Wilmington sat in the corner of the room sipping his whiskey, his hand clutching the shot glass tightly. As a handler his job was to intervene if the men fucking Vin Tanner got too rough with him. Already that night he had thrown out a couple of cowboys whose idea of fun had been to try and take Vin at the same time while they pinned him face down on the bed.

  Buck could still hear the scream of agony that had been ripped from Vin’s throat, before he had been able to drag the bastards off and throw them out. He poured another shot of whiskey. At this rate, if Chris didn’t come back soon, he would be crawling into the bottle within a week.

 He’d already spent too much time in this shit hole, barely able to restrain himself while he was forced to watch an endless procession of men fucking Vin.  Doing time at Yuma Penitentiary was one thing; Vin could handle himself there.  But the Eagle Ridge Brothel was another thing altogether and he and Chris had sworn to do everything they could to protect Vin when he’d been transferred here some weeks back. 

 Buck didn’t exactly know how, but when Vin had been moved to the Brothel, Chris had bribed or bullied or blackmailed the right person and Buck had been taken on as a guard.  Since then he’d watched over Vin as best he could, taking matters into his own hands when he saw how sadistically his young friend was being treated.  Chris had been called away to a secret meeting with Judge Travis, but the minute he got back Buck swore that they would do whatever it took, however dangerous, to get Vin the hell out of this damned place.

 The last John of the night was a regular, a giant of a man called Josh Miller, the local blacksmith. The man has an obsession for Vin; he had already had him once earlier in the evening, now he was back for more.

 From the moment he entered the room, Buck could see that Miller only had eyes for Vin, who was lying flat on the bed, one bruised arm flung over his face.

  “On your belly,” Miller ordered.

 Buck watched as Vin crawled tiredly onto all fours then lowered himself down as ordered. The younger man rested his head on his folded arms, his face turned away from his handler.

 Miller climbed onto the bed, his pants pulled down round his knees, he moved between Vin’s splayed legs, then reached out and ran a calloused hand down Vin’s back.

 He rested his hand on Vin’s ass, squeezing his cheeks, then Buck saw the look on Miller’s face, it was a hardening round the mouth, and from experience Buck knew what that meant. Slamming his glass down, the big man was out of his chair, but not before Miller peppered Vin’s ass with hard and fast blows. Buck caught Miller wrist holding it tight as the man tried to swing it down yet again. “You don’t hurt the whores,” he spat at him.

 “No need to take on like that Buck, just having myself a little fun,” Miller said

 “You paid for a fuck so get on with it,” Buck snarled, releasing Miller’s wrist as he stepped back from the bed.

 Buck watched the big man carefully. Miller leaned forward, wrapping an arm round Vin’s waist and pulling him closer , then he tugged Vin’s legs wide.  Josh pulled his cheeks apart to see his centre, then said to Buck  with a grin, “He’s been well fucked, Buck. I like to see him like that.” As he spoke he pushed his thumb into the younger man. Buck saw Vin flinch at the sudden violation of his body. He had to stop himself from grabbing at the John as he heard the low groan that came from Vin as Miller pulled his thumb out of Vin.  

 Ignoring the pot of grease by the bed, Miller spat on his hand and rubbed it on his cock and then pushed into Vin, one big hand clamping tight on the younger mans hip. Buck heard Vin’s half bitten back cry of pain as Miller’s cock breached his body in one hard thrust, not caring at the pain he was causing as he was lost in his own pleasure.

 Buck had to force himself to remain seated. Miller had paid his money; the sooner he finished fucking, the quicker he could be thrown out and Buck could look after Vin. He could see Vin’s teeth clench as the big cock thrust in and out. Sweat was dripping off him as he was battered by the bigger body, his arms seemed near to buckling under the weight of the man who was fucking him.

 Suddenly Josh pulled out, causing Vin to cry out in pain, then effortlessly the big man flipped Vin onto his back and dragged him by his ankles to the edge of the bed. In a series of quick moves he stepped between Vin’s legs, hauling them up round his waist as he buried himself back inside of Vin, forcing his body to arch up so that only his shoulders remained on the bed. Josh began to jackknife his hips, fucking Vin hard and fast, his weight almost bending Vin double as he leaned into him.

 Buck’s vision narrowed to Vin’s face; the long hair sticking to his sweat coated features, his head thrashing from side to side each time Miller thrust into him. Vin’s mouth was partly open as he panted for breath. A few more hard thrusts and Miller cried out as he climaxed, his body sagging forward. After a moment, Miller pulled out of Vin’s body without any thought of the man he had been fucking, and he pushed Vin’s legs away from him, leaving the younger man sprawled half off the bed like a rag doll.

“Whoopee, that was something. Tightest ass this side of the Rio Grande. Got to have some more of that on Saturday, get me another $5 dollars worth,” Josh said as he straightened up from the bed and grinned broadly at Buck.

 Although he felt a searing rage wash through him, Buck forced himself to dredge up a matching grin. Keeping his voice jovial, playing the good old boy to the hilt, he said, “Vin’s in great demand on Saturday nights, usually has a line up, so get your ticket early, Josh.”

 Dressing quickly, Miller chatted to Buck while Vin hauled himself stiffly off the bed and went over to the basin, poured some water in it and washed off Josh’s cum.

 Once the door closed behind Josh, Buck threw the lock and went over to Vin. He slowly reached out a hand and waited patiently for Vin to take it, then he firmly pulled the younger man into his arms. He felt Vin’s body tense against him. Buck let his voice become softer as he said, “Easy Vin, it’s just old Buck holding you.” He ran his hands soothingly over the lithe body, keeping them above the younger man’s waist; this was going to move at Vin’s pace.                 

 Buck allowed his emotions to show as he buried his face in the long hair and whispered softly, “I’m sorry I…”

 Vin raised a hand and pressed a finger to his mouth to silence the older man. “You do what you can, Buck.”

 Buck reached up and took his hand and with a gentle tug pulled Vin towards the bed. “This isn’t fucking Vin, and this is about feeling.” 

 He carefully lowered Vin down onto the bed then knelt down in front of him and looked up into wary blue eyes.

 “Lay back, Vin,” he coaxed. When the younger man reached for him he caught his hand and pressed a kiss to the back of it. “No Vin, this is all about you.”

 Getting up so he could sit on the bed, Buck eased Vin down on his back. He lay by his side, his hands moving in gentle caresses over the lithe body until he could feel Vin relax under his hands. Leaning in, he pressed a light kiss to Vin’s lips, gradually making it more intense until those soft lips opened under his and allowed him into the warm haven of Vin’s mouth.

 He broke the kiss gently and smiled down at him; slowly he raised a hand and brushed the long hair back from Vin’s face. “We only do what you want to do Vin.”

 “Fuck me, Bucklin,” Vin cut in.

 “Vin with you it’s never just fucking.” Suddenly he jolted as a calloused hand closed round his cock through his pants and tugged at it.

 “What the…”

 “Seems Little Buck wants to play.” The words were playful, but the tone was cool.

 Buck found himself rolled onto his back with Vin straddling him, then he leant down, and Buck felt the lick of Vin’s tongue over his lips, until he opened them for Vin to treat him to a searing kiss. At the same time the younger man rocked himself, rubbing his centre over Buck’s hardening cock. Buck reached up and threaded his hands into the long hair, returning the kiss with passion.

 Vin pulled back and tried to undo Buck’s belt. There was an unnatural urgency to his actions that worried Buck. The older man caught his young lover’s hands and held them tightly. “Vin, look up, come on, I need see you.”

 Slowly Vin lifted his head up. Buck knew what he had to do. He coaxed Vin down to rest against him and wrapped his arms round the younger man and just hugged him close, as his strong hands moved over Vin’s body, soothing and calming him. Buck didn’t know how long they lay together. He heard Vin muttering to himself in Comanche and English, as the younger man pulled himself out of Buck’s arms then pushed himself up on all fours looming over Buck, a determined look on his face as he undid Buck’s belt and unbuttoned his flies and tugged Buck’s drawers and pants down to his knees.

Buck gasped as Vin took him in his mouth, sucking until he was hard. Vin looked up, slowly letting Buck’s cock slide from his mouth. As he lifted himself up, his hand went round Buck’s cock and the older man had to fight not to push up, as Vin sank down onto Buck impaling himself to the root. His blue eyes never leaving Buck’s, he began to move slowly and Buck couldn’t stop a moan of sheer pleasure from the sensation of that tight ass clutching at his cock.  

 Buck’s hands gripped tightly at Vin’s hips as he lost himself in the rhythm of sex, thrusting up into the hot tight channel that clung to his cock as smooth as velvet. It was then he saw the look in the blue eyes change, there was a distance in them that he had seen when Vin had been servicing the John’s. Buck caught hold and held him.

  “Not his way Vin.” He eased Vin off him and down onto his left side, guiding the left leg forward so that the knee was resting on a pillow opening Vin up to him. Dipping his fingers into the small pot of grease, Buck, slowly slid his fingers inside of Vin and began to stretch him. Vin’s hand groped backwards to catch his wrist. “No need for this.”

 Buck leaned forward and kissed the back of Vin’s neck. “I’m going to make this good for you Vin.”  The hand dropped away and Buck continued his preparation until he was satisfied that Vin could take him without pain and Vin was beginning to move on his fingers. Covering his cock with the grease, Buck slowly pushed inside his partner. He could hear soft moaning from the younger man, and it sounded like pleasure not pain.

 Buck waited until he felt a slight push back from Vin before he moved again, working his way deeper until he was buried inside.  For a moment Buck stilled, just savouring the sensation and letting Vin get used to feeling filled. His hand caressed Vin’s flat stomach and chest before he reached down and took Vin’s cock in his hand. It was slick with pre-cum and he began to stroke, keeping his touch light as he slowly moved inside of Vin, matching his thrusts and strokes as the younger man softly moaned, his head rolling from side to side as he arched into Buck’s touch and thrust back onto his cock.

 Buck spoke softly against Vin’s ear, “I want to hear you Vin, need to know you want this.”

 “Yyyyyyyyyyyyy esssssss.” The word was drawn out as Buck began to increase his thrusts, angling his hips so that his cock rubbed against the sweet gland. Vin howled as he jerked back, impaling himself hard on Buck. It was too much for the older man and he came with two hard, sharp thrusts, and even in the throes of passion he brought Vin with him, the younger man’s cum spilling over Buck’s hand and splattering over him.

 Buck pressed a gentle kiss to the side of Vin’s flushed face. He pulled out slowly and carefully, not wanting to risk hurting him, then coaxed him to roll over into his arms, and pulled him close, so that Vin’s head rested on his shoulder. The kiss he pressed to Vin’s forehead was chaste as  he cuddled him until Vin drifted off to sleep.

 But for Buck sleep didn’t come easy, and memories came back unbidden;

the first time he and his lover Chris Larabee had met Vin Tanner, when the bounty hunter was fighting for his life against a knife wielding  Mexican in the saloon at Purgatory, the first time they had taken Vin as he braced himself against the wall of the livery stable and the first time they nearly lost him, when he had been strung up by  vigilantes in Texas. So many firsts, each of them attached to strong memories, each of them tying him and Chris to their young lover.

 Vin began to make low whimpering noises in this sleep as the nightmare came. Buck ran his hand over Vin’s side, calming him, as he pressed a kiss to his forehead. As a gunman, and veteran of the War, Buck had killed his fair share of men, but none had given him more pleasure than killing that son of a bitch Dave Harper, breaking his neck and leaving him head first in the privy. The man had been a sadistic bastard, and no one treated their young lover that way and lived. Finally, Buck allowed himself to fall asleep, knowing that for the time being Vin was safe and protected.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

In another part of the prison brothel Josiah Sanchez sat on the edge of a bed, looking down at the man lying on it.  He reached out to stroke Ezra’s face, pushing dark hair back from his eyes. Today Standish had serviced 10 men; his body would be aching from the abuse it had received. Ezra moved slightly to try and ease the pressure on his ass.

 “Roll over, Ezra.”

 For a moment Ezra just looked blankly at him. Josiah smiled. “Easy Brother, I am not looking to hurt you, but you’re in pain and you need help.”

 Reaching out, the big man carefully rolled Ezra onto his stomach.  All the time talking reassuringly, Josiah parted his cheeks and examined him. The gambler’s centre was red and swollen; it would have hurt every time the last few men had taken him. Rubbing Ezra’s back until he felt the man relaxing, Josiah reached for a pot of soothing cream. Taking some he started to ease it inside the younger man. When Ezra tried to move away from the intrusion, Josiah’s rubbed the gambler’s back until he calmed, and then he finished the treatment.

 He had heard the other guards and handlers talking about the former gambler, they said that Standish had the tightest ass in New Orleans and the sweetest mouth, that he could suck cock like others sucked candy. The only one that could come close to him was Vin Tanner and both men where in constant demand.

 The new handler, Buck Wilmington, Josiah mused, had been protective of the Texan from the start, and for the first time Josiah felt that he could relax his vigil slightly. Lost in thought he started as he felt a hand rubbing against him.

 “Not tonight, Ezra.” He started to pull away but Ezra caught his arm,

his green eyes pleading, needing. Josiah understood, nodded his agreement, and leaned back against the headboard of the bed then reached out and welcomed Ezra into his arms, guiding his head down onto his broad shoulder.

 Tonight Ezra Standish would have a safe haven.

 

0-0-0-0-0

JD Dunne stepped out of the Warden’s office and closed the door quietly behind him, breathing a deep sigh of relief.

 “Are you alright, Guard Dunne?”

 JD jumped at the voice and turned to find Josiah Sanchez standing in front of him with a prisoner in tow.  He raised a hand and nervously fiddled with the stand up collar of his uniform..

 “The Warden wants you in his office Mr Sanchez,” JD said, as he avoided looking at the prisoner, unable to meet his mocking eyes. He was sure the prisoners could see how uncomfortable he was around them.

 Josiah nodded. “I’ll take Ezra back to his cell then I’ll…”

  “Err, he wants you now,” JD stammered.

The older man looked at the door to the Warden’s office and then back at the prisoner, and JD heard the man swearing under his breath then say, “You behave yourself Ezra. Don’t give Guard Dunne any trouble.”

 Stabbing a finger into JD’s chest he said, “Dunne, you take Standish back to his cell. If anything happens to him, I am going to nail your hide to the wall, you understand me?”

JD swallowed hard. He had never wanted this job; he’d only taken it to save enough money for a ticket west.  It was a decision he had bitterly regretted ever since.

He watched Josiah stride up to the door, his big fist hammering on the oak panel. JD turned to the prisoner and then almost jumped out of his skin. He didn’t realise that Standish was so close to him. Then he saw his brass keys waving in front of his eyes. The son of a bitch had picked his pocket. JD felt his face blush hot with embarrassment and he pushed Standish hard, sending the prisoner crashing into the wall, as he snatched them back. It was then he heard a laugh from down the corridor and saw Guard Philips leaning against the doorframe of the office.

 Angrily JD grabbed the chain between the cuffs and dragged Standish roughly after him. JD ignored the footsteps he heard behind him. It would only be Philips, one of three guards who had gone out of their way to make his life a misery.

 “JD, wait up,” Philips yelled as he hurriedly caught up with him. “I saw what that bastard did. Standish is a real handful and you know a real Guard would have put him on punishment detail for taking those keys. But then you’re not a real guard are you paper pusher, key tapper.”

 “I’ll put him on report once I get back to the Warden’s office,” JD said, pulling himself up straight, not wanting to be talked down to in front of a prisoner.

 “I could save you the paperwork, Dunne. These whores only know one punishment.” He grinned and the smile sent JD cold. Philips reached a hand out and cupped Ezra through the thin drawstring pants and squeezed him, tightening.

 “Get your hands off him,” JD snapped, knocking Philips’s hand roughly off Standish.  “I have to get him back to his cell.” He pulled the cuffs hard, nearly knocking Ezra off balance, and began to drag the limping gambler down the corridor.

 Once round the corner he pulled Ezra to a halt. “Are you okay?” JD’s voice was hesitant. He watched as the prisoner, no what did Sanchez call him - Ezra, that was it. “Are you okay Ezra?”

 Slowly the prisoner lifted his head.

 “As fine as I can be,” he paused, “and thank you for your assistance back there.”

 JD felt himself drawn to the southern accent and found himself smiling. “Just trying to do my job. I best get you back to your cell. You’ll be safe there.”

 The bitter laugh jolted JD to the core. “What’s funny, Ezra?”

 “With great respect, you are. I’ve been raped more times in my own cell than out of it.”

 “No one is going to…” JD blushed bright red, “violate you,” he stammered.

 “This is a Brothel what do you think goes on here? They get fed up with the usual and want what’s not on the menu.”

 JD saw the smile, but it was fake, there was no warmth to it.  He gave the cuffs a tug and lead Ezra towards his cell. Coming towards him down the corridor were Bob Ryan and Mark Weir.

 The two men blocked their path and without thinking, JD moved protectively in front of Ezra.  Weir was a tall weasely looking man, his side kick, Ryan, was short and stocky. The two went everywhere together and they liked to take their fun together. JD had heard stories about the two men that had sickened him.

 “Guard Dunne, Handler Sanchez wants us to take Ezra for him. He’s got a private client.”

 “Sanchez said to take him straight to the cell,” JD said firmly.

 “Well the plans have changed.  If Sanchez loses out on the $10, he’s going to take it out of your hide, kid.” Weir shrugged. “You really want Sanchez pissed off at you over this piece of ass?”

 “He’s a prisoner…” JD started to object.

 “He’s a fucking whore, a piece of ass, been had by more men than you have had hot dinners kid.” He gave JD a hard poke in the chest that made him stumble back a step. “So get off your fucking high horse, Dunne and get down and dirty like the rest of us.” He smiled coldly., “And don’t think to go running to the Warden. He likes his cut too much, so just fuck off back to your key tapping kid.”

 JD was barged out of the way by the bigger men.  He slammed into the wall and slid down onto the floor, his head swimming. When his vision finally cleared, he climbed slowly to his feet, swaying. He looked round him, the prisoner and the two guards were gone. JD swore loudly. He had to find Ezra and get him back. Where the hell would Ryan and Weir have taken him?

 JD began to get worried as he checked the different doors and drew a blank. He didn’t even want to think of what Ryan and Weir would do to the Southern prisoner if he didn’t find him fast.  He twisted the handle of another door and it swung open, hinges creaking noisily. JD went in and ground to a halt. Ezra was cuffed to an old metal framed bed, and Ryan was mounting him as Weir thrust his cock into the Southerner’s mouth.

 Weir’s head snapped round. “Get the fuck out of here Dunne, unless you want to join the party and dip your wick in some choice ass.”

JD stumbled out of the door, to the laughs of the two men. He took off at a run, praying that he could find Sanchez quickly. He took the steps two at a time hoping that Sanchez was in his room, and not still with the Warden. But Sanchez’s room was empty, he had to still be with the Warden. JD waited outside the door, moving from one foot to the other with nervous energy, knowing that every minute he wasted, Standish was being hurt. Finally the door opened and Sanchez came out. He was still closing the door behind him when JD grabbed his arm. “You have to come with me, now,” and he began to tug at the older man. 

 “JD.” Josiah looked surprised at the frantic youngster. “What’s wrong?”

 “Ryan, Weir,” JD gasped.  “They have Ezra. He’s ...they’re … I…” He broke off, and took a deep breath. “They have him in stockroom 5, they’re hurting him. They’re ….” Before he could finish the sentence, Josiah pushed past him, fury etched on his face.

 JD knew then he had to leave this disgusting place. He reached into his pocket and pulled out a yellow telegram.  He had been on the way to deliver the message to the Warden when the Chief had told him to get Sanchez. JD re-read the message. One name stood out - Chris Larabee. The man was a dangerous gunman, wherever he was going it would be an adventure and JD wanted an adventure. He had his own horse and guns, he was fast on the draw and more than able to look after himself.

 When Larabee left town, JD was going to make sure that he was with him..

 

0-0-0-0-0-0

 

The door to the stock room was locked and a hard kick from Josiah broke it down.  Ezra was handcuffed to a metal bed, two men bent over his naked body, one holding his ass cheeks apart as the other one fucked him with a night stick.

Josiah bellowed with rage and ploughed straight into them, fists thudding into flesh as he beat them down, their bodies hitting the floor. One of them moaned and tried to move, but Josiah’s boot lashed out and the man didn’t move again.

 Josiah was breathing heavily as he sank down on the bed, looking from his bloody knuckles to the man stretched obscenely out on the bed. He could see the pain in Ezra’s green eyes and when he reached out to touch Ezra, the younger man pulled back from him. Josiah made himself move slowly as he reached out for the cuffs. It was then that Josiah heard the click of a gun being cocked. Turning his head, Josiah saw a man filling the doorway. The man was dressed all in black, holding a Colt 45 trained straight at him.

0-0-0-0-0-0

 

Brothel Warden’s Office.

 

Josiah watched as the man in black sank down into Warden Taylor’s seat. The last few minutes had been an education for Josiah, as the gunman had dismissed the Warden from his own office with a few curt words while thrusting a fistful of official papers in Taylor’s face leaving the Warden fuming, but unable to do anything but accept the dismissal, Taylor had marched out of the office, slamming the door behind him. The gunman leaned back in the chair, his green eyes glaring at Josiah. He moved several pieces of paper in front of him with his fingertip. His introduction was short, sharp and to the point.

 “My name’s Chris Larabee. So Handler Sanchez, you always this protective, or was it the fact they hadn’t paid you that pissed you off?” The voice was cold, the words hard and callous. “Warden Taylor says that you have an attachment for that whore.  Is that true, Sanchez?”

 “They’re not whores, they’re people,” Josiah snapped back, his brown eyes flashing with ill concealed anger.  He was shocked to see a shark like smile touch Chris Larabee’s lips.

 “I was told you used to be a Preacher,” Larabee paused then added, “so why is a Preacher working in a whorehouse?”

 Josiah held Larabee’s cold green eyes without flinching. “That, Mr Larabee, is what I ask myself every morning. My answer is simple, I am my brother’s keeper, and that means keeping my charge as safe as I can.” Josiah added, “you could say I still have a flock, albeit a mightily reduced one.

 Josiah saw a ghost of a smile on the gunman’s face as he said, “I think I can use you. After all, when you plan to ride into hell it always pays to have a preacher.”

 “Hell,” Josiah said, puzzled and then he smiled back, a wolfish smile. “A journey I would gladly take, Brother Larabee, if it took my charges away from this place.” Seeing three pieces of paper in front of Larabee he added “and would we be collecting our flock?”

 Larabee tapped the other papers. “Flock, Josiah?” It was the first time the gunman had used his first name. “I’m thinking more a wolf pack.”

 There was a sharp knock on the door and Chris snapped, “Come in.” The guards manhandled Standish and Tanner into the room, one of them giving Standish a hard hit round the head when he stumbled which drove the southerner down to his knees. The guard hauled him back to his feet and gave him a shake. Josiah was on his feet when Larabee snapped at him, “Sit down, Sanchez,” and then he turned his attention to the two prisoners, looking them up and down, his expression hard as stone.

  “Release them and get the fuck out of here,” Larabee growled. The guards nearly fell over each other in their hurry to do as he ordered.

 As soon as the door was closed behind them, Chris Larabee got up from behind the desk. As far as Josiah could see, Larabee only had eyes for the long haired renegade. In four strides Chris was in front of him, his hand lashed out, caught Tanner by the back of the neck and pulled him into an earth shattering kiss.  Josiah smiled as he saw the way Vin’s arm went round the gunman as he leaned into their embrace, his hands fluttering over the black dressed body as if he didn’t know where to touch Larabee first.  Finally Chris broke the kiss and eased back, then snarled at  Vin, “Next time you get caught I am going to shoot you myself.”

 “Knew you would come, Cowboy,” Vin drawled in his soft rasping voice. Leaning forward Chris touched foreheads with him and then to Josiah it seemed that he reluctantly released the younger man, only then turning his attention to Ezra.

 “This is Ezra, he’s a friend, Chris,” Vin put in.

 “I know all about Standish,” Chris drawled, as Josiah got up and steered the young gambler to one of the chairs, concern showing on his face when Ezra winced as he sat down, his face paling. Ezra waved a hand almost absentmindedly at Larabee as he acknowledged Vin’s introduction.

 Josiah could see that Ezra was at the end of his tether. Without asking the big man went to the row of bottles on the Warden’s sideboard and poured a large whiskey. Laying a hand on the southerner’s shoulder he felt him flinch under his touch. He leaned over and instructed, “drink this down.”  Ezra turned to look up into Josiah’s face, and with a shaking hand accepted the glass and downed it in one quick gulp then pressed the glass back into Josiah’s hand with a  nod of thanks. Instead of returning to his seat, Josiah leaned on the back of Ezra’s chair.

 “You have something you want to tell me ‘bout you and Vin?” Chris asked, his eyes boring into Ezra’s.

 

“Chris…” Vin started, but Chris waved him off.  “Want to hear it from Standish,” he said sharply.

 

Ezra swallowed noisily but his gaze remained fixed on Larabee.  “Mr. Tanner and I shared each other’s company,” he said, his voice steady, although Josiah could hear the slight catch of breath that betrayed Ezra’s nervousness.  “But then, I suspect you know that already,” he continued slowly, his eyes darting between Vin and Chris.

 

Vin shrugged.  “Chris knows,” he confirmed.

 

“May I ask how?” Ezra said tightly.  Josiah watched as Vin traded glances with Chris. 

 

“Chris has an inside man,” Vin replied softly.

 

Ezra frowned momentarily then his face cleared. 

 

“Buck Wilmington,” Josiah cut in as the truth dawned on him in a sudden flash. 

 

“Buck,” Vin said, almost simultaneously.  “Sorry, Ez, I couldn’t tell you before.  Couldn’t put Buck’s ass on the line.”

 

“And you didn’t think you could confide in me, even after everything we shared together?” Ezra asked a bitter edge to his voice. 

 

Vin opened his mouth, obviously in protest, but Larabee jumped in.  “I told him to keep it quiet,” he said.  “Prison ain’t a place to be giving away trust. Don’t matter who you’re fucking,” he added coldly.

 

Vin sighed loudly.  “Wasn’t my confidence to share, Ezra,” he said. He threw Larabee a hard look “But I’d have told you anyway.  Couple more days in this place and I’d have told you everything.”

 Larabee was looking at Ezra with a thoughtful look on his face. Josiah wasn’t too sure he liked the look the man was aiming at the southerner. 

Finally Larabee said, “I owe you for looking after a certain hard headed scrawny assed Texan I know, and I need a cheat and a conman.”

 Ezra cut across Chris. “I am a professional gambler, Mr Larabee, and I don’t need to cheat.”

 “You could almost make me believe that.” Chris picked up the paper, and flipped it open to the second page.  “But the cons you ran with your late mother tell another story. So, are you in?”

 “Do I have a choice”?

 “Sure do.  You can stay here and take your chances,” Chris smirked.

 Ezra shuddered under Josiah’s hand. “I believe I might join you after all, Mr. Larabee.”

 At a knock at the door Chris snapped, “Yes,” and the guard entered. “Jackson is here.”

 “Send him in and then get out.”

 Chris Larabee didn’t waste any time. “Nathan Jackson.” Chris picked up one of the papers as he looked the black healer up and down.  “You’re serving a life sentence for the murder of a woman. Can you give me a reason why I should let you out of here?”

Josiah could see that Nathan looked stunned by the question, but before he could cut in Nathan answered for himself.

 “I didn’t kill her, that hack of a doctor did when he tried to do away with her baby. He cut her up inside, really badly, then left her when he knew she was going to die. I did what I could for her, but there isn’t a day goes by that I don’t see her face, and know that I failed her.”  Nathan’s  head  came up. “I might have failed her as a healer, but I didn’t murder her.”

 The man in black tossed the paper he was holding back onto the desk.

“I believe you, and I  can get you out of here. I can’t promise you a long life, odds are we’ll all be dead by Thanksgiving, but it’s your choice Healer, rot away your life in here or go out there with us and do what you’re good at.”

 Josiah could see the uncertainty on the Healer’s face. The man wanted his freedom but at what cost? He knew that Nathan was a good man, treating Vin and Ezra with respect and dignity when he had tended their most private parts rather than the doctor of this hell hole that had blamed the whores for their injuries. They needed Nathan, and he didn’t want to leave the Healer in this place, but it was up to Nathan to make his choice.

 Ezra cut in smoothly. “Mr Larabee has told us very little, Mr Jackson, to be precise he had told us nothing. But I feel somehow that your skills would be greatly appreciated and needed at sometime in the future. And I for one would follow Satan and all his minions if it meant getting out of this hell hole and back to the saloons and gambling houses where I belong.”

 “Never could resist your sweet talk, Ez,” Nathan grinned, and said, “I am in.” Then added “Larabee, just never thought to see a legend made flesh.”

 Vin grinned. “In the flesh, Cowboy. I like the sound of that.”  His words died off as his eyes fixed on the branding iron that Larabee took from the fire and handed to Nathan. Josiah could see the look on both of the younger men’s faces. He tried to reassure them. “It has to be done. If you’re going to leave this place, we need to alter the brands.  You’ll be shot on sight if anybody sees them like that”. 

 Ezra stood up. “I am not into pain, Mr Jackson, but I think you should brand us now. Waiting is not going to make it hurt any less.” 

 Nathan had done this many times before, branding every prisoner that came into the Brothel and the lucky few that actually got to leave. Once the branding iron was ready he looked to Ezra. “You first.”

Josiah could see the way Vin was looking ready to bolt, and he hoped that he was up to the challenge. It had taken five guards to hold Vin down the first time Nathan had branded the bounty hunter, and Vin had torn open the wrist of one of the men with his teeth and nearly gouged another guard’s eyes out.

 Ezra walked over to the desk and lowered his pants. Dried blood flaked his thighs and dark bruising was beginning to show on his body. Nathan placed a calming hand on his naked hip. “Once we’re out of here Ezra, I’ll check you over. I would have come if I had known.”

 The gambler covered Nathan’s hand with his own and squeezed it gently, and then let it go as he used both his hands to brace himself.

 

Josiah could see the tension in Ezra’s body as the younger man prepared for the pain that was coming.  The smell as the hot iron bit into Ezra’s skin made Josiah’s stomach lurch and it took all his will power not to bring his lunch up. Then as quickly as he applied the iron, Nathan pulled it away. Ezra swayed and Josiah grabbed hold of him, just in time as the young gambler’s legs began to buckle.

 

“Hold him while I get the burn dressed,” Nathan said quickly as he dug in the small cloth bag he had carried over his shoulder. He took out some cotton wadding and broke it open, then a small bottle of castor oil. Looking across at Josiah he said, “hold onto him.” He placed the wadding straight onto the burn. Ezra flinched and tried to pull away, but Josiah held him, speaking softly to the younger man, and rubbing his back reassuringly.

Nathan said, “Okay Ezra, I’m going to pour castor oil over it, it’ll stop the burn from drying out. Now, I need you to leave the dressing in place until it comes off by itself.  I’ll check on it later.” Then bending he eased Ezra’s pants back up his thighs and over the bulky wadding, then left Josiah to help Ezra back to his chair.

The Healer returned the branding iron to the fire, his back turned to the struggle of wills that was taking place.

Josiah had seen that look on Tanner’s face before; he would swear blind the younger man was part mule when he wanted to be. Vin was standing hands on hips, glaring at them.

“Vin.” There was a warning growl to Larabee’s voice. “Drop your pants and get on with it.”

 

“Fuck you Chris, I’ll take my chances,” Vin spat as he turned his back on Nathan and went toe to toe with the man in black.

 

“I am not losing you over this. Drop them.” The green eyes bore into the blue ones and lightening seemed to flash between them. A fist lashed out and Vin went down on his ass on the carpet. Before he got a chance to react, Chris was on top of him, pinning him face down as he yelled at Josiah to get his legs.

 

Suddenly Vin began to struggle, his fingers clawing in the carpet, his head thrown backwards trying to hit Chris in the face. Chris swore under his breath and managed to get a hand behind Vin’s head, pressing his face into the carpet so that he could lean close. “Easy Vin. Vin you have to listen to me.” But the younger man just kept on struggling, as he spat out the vilest of curses at them in three different languages.

 

Slowly Chris moved his body weight so that it was just him pinning Vin down; he nodded at Josiah to release his hold. Vin bucked trying to throw him off, but Chris held on. His voice was low so that only Vin could hear him as he spoke words that his young lover needed to hear, words of love and protection, telling Vin he understood what this was doing to him, that it would soon be over. Finally with a soul-wrenching sob, Vin lay still. Only then did Chris gradually ease up enough to undo the drawstring and push the pants down to the top of Vin’s thighs, and then lightly he began to rub his back, as he spoke to him, softly and lovingly.

 

“Jackson,” Chris said softly all the time stroking Vin’s back under the tattered shirt.

 

Nathan worked quickly, pressing the red hot brand to the pale flesh, and then throwing it aside as he reached for the dressing to cover the burn. Chris eased up and reached out and pulled Vin to his feet, and took a fist to the jaw that staggered him back a step. But the smile on Chris’s face was broad; he had expected nothing less from his feisty lover.

 

0-0-0-0-0

 

Half an hour later, after Josiah had brought Vin and Ezra’s clothes from the Brothel store room and the men had changed out of the flimsy prison pants and shirt, the four men walked out of the front door. Three horses were hitched to the rail. Vin greeted his horse with a pat on the nose and a hug of the neck as it whickered its greeting and butted gently against his chest.

 

“Thanks.” The word was heartfelt; his horse had been one of his few possessions.  Then he hauled himself up onto the saddle. As they started down the street, they heard horse’s hooves coming up quickly behind them, it was Josiah, and he slowed and took his place by their side.

 

From the darkness another rider appeared and blocked their way. A big man on a grey horse,  holding a Winchester at the ready, , Buck Wilmington grinned broadly and kneed his mount forward so that he came up next to Vin,  then almost pulled him off his horse into a one armed hug. “Good to have you back where you belong Junior,” he said, and gave him a sloppy kiss.

 

Vin burst out laughing as he pushed Buck away, wiping the drool from his face. Buck patted the younger man’s thigh affectionately.

 

Doing something that would have gotten any one else killed, he gave Chris Larabee a hard clap on the back. “Well you old dog, seeing as Vin’s back, you’re not going to be needing that other blanket tonight.” He wiggled his eyebrow, and saw the look Chris gave him, it was almost evil and as sexy as hell, and it looked like Vin was going to be in for a night to remember.

 

Buck turned his attention to the other three members of their group, Ezra Standish, his former handler, Josiah Sanchez and Nathan Jackson the healer.

 

Josiah was looking at him as if he was the final piece in a puzzle, Ezra had a knowing smile on his face, and Jackson frowned momentarily then shrugged, quickly accepting this change of events. 

 

With a smile that lit his face up, he reached into his saddle bag and dug around, throwing a dirty pair of drawers to Vin followed by a couple of ripe shirts for the younger man to hold as he finally found what he wanted and dragged out a Mare’s leg.

 

“Chris has been carrying this fool thing around since you got yourself arrested, seems like you might as well have it back now.” Buck caught his clothes as the bounty hunter threw them back and then Vin grabbed the Mare’s leg and its holster, quickly buckling them on. Buck knew that feeling. He had felt naked himself without his gun in the Brothel. He waited for Vin to tie the holster down then handed him a wicked looking Bowie knife that the younger man habitually carried.

 

“Don’t worry Ezra, I haven’t forgotten you.” He dug around and handed Ezra a gun and holster.  The gambler shook his head, “Personally Mr Wilmington I prefer a Remington, but that can be put right at the next town.”

 

Buck shook his head “Aren’t you forgetting something Ezra? You don’t have any money.”

 

“A small set back. I…”

 

Josiah reached across and pushed a ten dollar bill into the gambler’s pocket.

Buck saw the look that passed between the two men. Lord oh Lord, this was getting interesting and he should have seen that coming. Well Josiah was going to have his work cut out for him, pinning down the quicksilver gambler, but it was going to be fun to watch.

 

He was pleased to put that hell hole behind him. He fingered the draft telegram in his pocket. The Warden was going to know his own type of hell once the Governor got that telegram about what he had being doing in his Brothel.

 

“How long have you know them?” Buck turned back to Josiah, and saw the big man wave towards Chris and Vin. He looked back  in time to see Vin taking off at a gallop with a Rebel yell, with Chris giving a very un-Larabee whoop as he took off after him.

 

“Chris, must be around twelve years. Junior there one year, but it feels longer,” he grinned as he added, “Vin can really age a man, he’s hard on the nerves, but soft on the eye, and we wouldn’t change him for the world, he’s ours,” Buck said allowing the possessiveness and protectiveness he felt for the young Texan to come through. Feeling Josiah touch his arm he turned back, and accepted the bottle of whiskey his friend held out to him. He took a deep pull on it, pleased at last to be washing the taste of the Brothel out of his mouth.

 

0-0-0-0-0-0

 

Later on the trail

 

JD took a drink from his lukewarm canteen to wash away the dust coating his throat. He was hot and tired and his uniform was itchy and soaked in sweat. He pulled his horse to a halt and was in the middle of pulling the jacket off when hands suddenly latched onto it and he was hauled roughly off his horse. He hit the ground hard, jarring the breath from his lungs. Before he could recover, he found himself pinned under the body of Vin Tanner, a knife pressing painfully against his throat.

 

Buck came up slowly. “JD, you might want to tell Vin why you’re following us. That pretty uniform of yours won’t look too good once he’s carved you into strips.”

 

“Didn’t mean any harm.” JD tried to keep his breathing shallow as he felt the blade of the knife scratching against his throat.  “Wanted to join with you. Had my fill of the prison, thought I would go West. That’s all I ever wanted.” He gave a cry of pain as the knife bit into his skin, just enough to cause the blood to run down his neck.

 

Buck was all too aware how fine an emotional edge Vin was balancing.  He was on a hair trigger, and the uniform the kid was wearing was going to tip him over the edge. Buck cocked his gun and pressed it against the back of Vin’s head.

 

“Okay, Junior, you’ve had your fun and near on scared the shit out of JD here. So what say you back up and let him go?”

 

“Move the gun, Bucklin, or I’ll feed it to you barrel first.” Vin snarled.

 

“You can try, Vin, aint afraid of you, so let the kid up.” He gave the former bounty hunter a smile. “You can always kill him later.”  Buck holstered his gun and reached a hand out and pulled Vin to his feet and gave him a quick hug. Then he hauled JD up. “Let’s see what Chris wants to do. At least he’s in a better mood than last month when we met up with Pete Sunderland.”

 

“Pete dead?”

 

“No. Chris was pissed off and half way through his second bottle of whiskey when old Pete came up and began talking up a storm, and well Chris shot him in the ass.”

 

Vin chuckled. “He always said Pete talked out of his ass, must have been the Larabee way of shutting him up.”

 

“Talking of which, Chris was looking for you and you don’t want to keep the old dog waiting.” He waited for a heartbeat, hoping the JD would take the hint and keep quiet. For once his prayers were answered. There was a long pause, and Vin gave a slight nod and headed back to their camp. 

 

Chris was sitting by the fire smoking a cheroot. He took one last pull of it, flicked it into the fire, and asked, “You got him?”

 

“Didn’t you think I would?” Vin challenged.

 

“Never doubted you, Vin.” He reached a hand out and drew Vin down next to him on the bedroll, handing him a whiskey bottle.

 

Buck guided JD away from the two lovers, throwing an arm round the young man’s shoulder. He had taken to JD in the time he had been at the prison recognizing the kid had a good heart.  “You know JD, I think there are a couple of things you should know. Old Chris has the temper of a pissed off mama bear where Vin is concerned, and he’s libel to haul off and shoot you if you look at him and Vin the wrong way. Now I suggest we go over here and let them get let them re-acquainted.”

 

0-0-0-0-0

Next Morning

 

Buck watched as JD pulled himself up onto his horse. He had told the kid that he could ride with them and he had seen the boy’s face light up. But now as Chris kneed his horse forward and then leaned on the saddle horn, Buck saw JD pale. A smile twitched Bucks lips; old Chris must have treated the boy to one of his glares.

 

 “You can ride with us, Dunne, but get in the way, and I’ll shoot you.” Larabee turned his horse away and fell in beside Vin as they started to ride away.

 

Seeing the shocked look, Buck joined JD, and clapped him on the back, nearly sending the younger man flying out of his saddle. “There you go kid, as good as a gold edged invite.”

 

“He said he would shoot me,” JD yelped.

 

“That’s Chris for you, a regular marshmallow.”

 

Buck laughed and kicked his horse into a trot so that he could catch up with the others, leaving JD to follow them. He had the feeling that boy was going to make life interesting, that’s if he could keep him alive long enough without Chris shooting him or Vin carving him into jerky. Buck grinned and caught up with Vin, gave the bounty hunter a hearty clap on the back that nearly sent him flying off his saddle, then kicked his horse and took off, he heard a yell and Vin was after him.

 

God it was a good day to be alive.

 

 

The end