Sunday, June 17, 2012

Today I’m posting an excerpt from my novel, Lost Hearts. I apologize that
I have to work a fourteen hours shift and I won’t be able to stop by until midnight. I hope you enjoy this piece of chapter one and I’ll be back next

He's sworn to bring her to justice, though only she can heal his

All the outlaws were now inside. Finally, Brady
issued a low, soft whistle,
signaling Richard to move closer. Adrenalin
pumping, he dashed across the
clearing to take up a new position at the corner of
the corral. Again he waited.

The clank of buckles and the uneven scuffing sound
of someone walking toward
him through the grass tightened every muscle in his
body. In one smooth motion, Richard shouldered his
rifle and dove behind a broken barrel, praying he
hadn’t been seen.

Head down, Johnny rounded the corner of the soddy with a bridle looped over his shoulder, lugging a saddle and blanket in his arms.

The boy tossed the saddle onto the top rail then ducked between the poles. For
the first time Richard caught a glimpse of Johnny’s face.

Something undefined in the boy’s features momentarily captured his attention,
but he didn’t have the time to wonder what, for he became distracted by the ugly
bruise which marred the boy’s left cheekbone. The deep purple and black bruise
had evidently been there a day or two for the skin around it held a yellowish cast
which spread all the way up to Johnny’s eye. In addition, fresh blood
oozed from a cut in the corner of the boy’s lower lip.

In that instant, an urge to barge into the cabin and confront Bodine over his mistreatment of the boy washed over Richard, but he quickly shook it off.

Johnny certainly didn’t deserve any pity. His father was one of the most notorious outlaws in the territory, and from all reports this kid was following
him straight to hell.

“Damn it all, Jack,” the boy muttered softly as he smoothed a Navajo blanket
over the back of a big brown and white paint. “I don’t want to join up with Uncle
Cal. An’ I sure as hell don’t want to be arobbin’ no stage.” He swiped at the
blood on his lip with a quick shrug of his shoulder, before heaving the bulky
saddle onto Jack’s muscular back.

“Why in hell does Paw want me to go?” he asked the horse as he rubbed his left
elbow. “Prob’ly ’cause he ain’t got Henry to tend the horses no more. Shit, Paw
don’t even like me. ’Course he weren’t none too fond a Henry neither.”

Johnny reached under the horse to grab the dangling cinch, then threaded the long leather latigo strap through the ring on the saddle, pulled it snug, and dropped the stirrup back in place.

“Prob’ly end up a-ridin’ hell bent fer leather with some damn posse doggin’ our
heels. Jest promise ya’ll see to it I don’t get left behind, an’ I promise to take real
good care of ya.”

Johnny patted the horse’s neck. He lifted the bridle off his shoulder and offered
Jack the bit. “Reckon we ought’a jest be glad Paw ain’t a-leavin’ us here alone.” Johnny dropped the reins, leaving the horse ground tied while he climbed through the poles and returned to the soddy. After a moment he reappeared, the stirrups of
another saddle bumping against his shins.

Richard hunkered down as Johnny moved in his direction. Damn. As soon as the
kid moved to the next horse Richard would be spotted for sure. Unsure if the boy
had a weapon hidden in his baggy duster, Richard waited until the boy had
turned his back to heave the saddle onto the horse. Richard leaned his Winchester against the side of the barrel and slipped between the rails of the corral fence. The thick dust made his footsteps silent, as he crept up behind the unsuspecting boy.

Just as Richard stretched his arm out to clamp his hand over the boy’s mouth,
Johnny whirled around.

Frozen, they did little more than blink at each other for several heartbeats.
Richard found himself mesmerized by eyes so intensely blue they were violet.
They drew him into their depths and held him captive, though he didn’t
comprehend how.

That moment of insanity cost him. Johnny bolted. The abrupt movement jarred Richard from his daze. He realized his mistake and threw his body forward,
ramming his shoulder into the kid’s lower back. The pair slammed into the
ground, with Richard on top of the thrashing boy.

“Posse!” Johnny yelled as they hit the dirt and rolled across the corral.

The scrappy little outlaw kicked Richard’s legs and pummeled his back with
small fists. The startled horses danced around their rolling bodies.


Richard clamped his hand over Johnny’s mouth, pressing the back of the boy’s
blond head firmly into the ground. But doing so left Richard vulnerable to the
kid’s clawing fingers.

A shot rang out from the front of the sod house. Brady’s deep voice carried across the prairie. “Pierpont Bodine! This is U.S. Deputy Marshal Martin Brady! I have
warrants for you and your men. Put down your guns and come outside!”

Johnny tried to scramble free, but Richard yanked the kid down and straddled his
hips. Leaning forward, Richard pressed his right hand against Johnny’s left
shoulder, pinning him to the ground.

Gunfire began in earnest.

“Give it up, Bodine!” Brady ordered above the din.

With his free arm, the boy landed a weak punch to Richard’s jaw, but because of
his missing arm, he was unable to block further onslaught. With gritted teeth, he suffered pounding abuse to his ribs, back, and head.

“The water’s out here, and we got you surrounded!” Brady yelled. “Surrender or
we’ll fire the house!”

Just as the boy heaved his upper body toward Richard’s face, Richard lifted his
head. Instead of Johnny driving his forehead into Richard’s nose, the kid
slammed into Richard’s chin instead, knocking his teeth together with a sharp

“Okay, Marshal!” Bodine’s gravelly voice rang out. “We give up!”

At that moment the kid turned his head and chomped down on Richard’s forearm.

“Sonofa—” Richard reared back, releasing the kid’s shoulder, while still
managing to maintain his position across the boy’s hips. Spots of blood had
already seeped through the sleeve of his faded blue shirt.

The instant Richard lifted his weight off the kid’s shoulder; Johnny twisted onto
his stomach and tried to crawl away. Richard forgot about his bleeding arm and
lunged for a fist full of linen duster. “Oh no, you don’t.”

“You men,” Brady commanded. “Line up right along that wall. Hands up.
Bennick! Get over here!”

The kid snatched up a fistful of loose dirt, churned up by the horses and threw it
over his shoulder into Richard’s face. Immediately, he slapped his hand over his burning eyes as Johnny squirmed to free himself from beneath Richard’s weight.
At the end of his patience, he grabbed the kid by the back of his collar and
hauled him to his feet.

Spewing curse words with every breath, Johnny wriggled around under his layers
of baggy clothes, trying to escape, even as Richard, while maintaining his hold,
pushed the boy across the corral.

“Give it up, kid.” Richard squinted through the well of tears, against the painful
glare of the sun. Then, whether it was fatigue or resignation, Johnny ceased his struggles. At the corral fence, Richard grabbed his Winchester and used it to
gesture the kid toward the front of the sod house. Johnny glared daggers at him.

Though tears leaked from the corners of his eyes, Richard found himself strangely exhilarated by their little tussle. As he met the spitting-mad glare of his opponent, he couldn’t suppress the mischievous urge to provoke the kid a little bit further. He flashed him a quick grin and winked.

Johnny’s eyes narrowed into slits. He drew his small frame up, shoulders square,
his chin high. “What the hell are ya a-laughin’ at lawman? Ya didn’t whup me.
Why yer friend there had to call ya off afore I ripped off the rest a yer sorry hide.
So stop a-standin’ there a-lookin’ so… so…”

“Smug?” Richard finished, amazed that he was enjoying himself.

“So goddamn happy.” Johnny whirled around and stomped off.


Tina Donahue said...

Lost Hearts sounds like a lovely read, Kathy. Thanks for giving us a glimpse into it. :)

jean hart stewart said...

Love excerpts...they always leave you wanting more. Which is the point, of course. This sounds intriquing.

Kathy Otten said...

Hi Tina and Jean,
Thanks for stopping by and posting comments. Johnny and Rab are two of my favorite characters so far. Hopefully I'll have excerpts from something new soon.

Sarah J. McNeal said...

Kathy, I'm so sorry I'm late commenting. I read Lost Hearts and positively loved it. I laughed at some parts and felt such deep sorrow at others for a young woman who feared to reveal her gender for so long. Thoroughly enjoyed it.

Kathy Otten said...

Thank you so much Sarah. :)