Prairie Rose Publications is proud to announce the release of The Gunfighter's Girl by Cheryl Pierson.
This is a Western Romance short from the award winning author of Gabriel's Law and Sweet Danger. Formerly titled Scarlet Ribbons, this is one of Cheryl Pierson's favorite Holiday stories. ~
Men avoid meeting the eyes of Miguel Rivera, El Diablo, (The Devil) for fear of his gun. Upon returning to a town where he once knew a brief happiness, Miguel makes a foolish holiday purchase; two scarlet ribbons which he hides away.
When Catalina, his former lover, allows him to take a room at her boarding house, Miguel discovers a secret. Realizing he needs the scarlet ribbons after all, he is stunned to find them missing. Will a meeting with a mysterious priest, an unusual child, and the miracle of the Scarlet Ribbons set Miguel on a new path?
He didn't know why he bought them. The man they called El Diablo was not given to any kind of sentimentality. A devil had no soul, no heart.
But, by his small purchase, Miguel thought, he had shown himself, and the world, that was not entirely true.
When the street vendor had made eye contact, Miguel knew something odd was about to transpire. Most men glanced away quickly if they chanced to meet his eyes, afraid of what he might do—or what they might see. Many men had seen their deaths reflected in the dark blackness; too many, he thought with disgust.
But the street vendor—he'd looked at Miguel and had not turned away. He had actually smiled and given a friendly nod. Miguel had been drawn to the vendor, not understanding why. Obviously, the merchant had not known who he was; a hired gunman wanted on both sides of the border; a killer. The vendor had given Miguel an even wider smile as he neared, holding up a handful of trinkets that glittered in the warmth of the sun for a moment like diamonds.
As Miguel came closer, they lost their sparkle, and the vendor laid them back on the rough wooden display table. Miguel's hand hovered near the butt of his low-slung pistol for a moment as he gave a quick look around the market square of the small village.
"Hola, Senor," the vendor greeted him. "Como estas?"
"Bien," Miguel responded automatically, hearing the coolness in his tone. No need for that, he thought.
The man was genuinely friendly. And as Miguel returned his gaze to the vendor, he saw a flicker of recognition in the heavy-set man's eyes. But there was no censure or fear. Unusual. How long had it been since he'd looked into another man's face and not seen one emotion or the other? Or both?
"Christmas is tomorrow. A special gift for your lady, perhaps?"
Miguel's lips lifted in sardonic amusement. Christmas. He had not had a lady for a very long time. "You know who I am?"
"Oh, yes." The merchant nodded. "Who doesn't?"
"Then…you must know that El Diablo doesn't celebrate Christmas, old man." His tone was sharp and he turned away. "And I have no 'lady.' Keep your trinkets." He started back down the street toward the decrepit hotel.
"As you wish."
The response was so smugly complacent, Miguel couldn't help turning back to the vendor. The man smiled and nodded at him, as if he'd just wished him a pleasant good afternoon. A hot wind kicked up the dust in the street, and as the vendor squinted into the whirlwind, Miguel felt a niggling of recognition in the back of his mind.
"You were born here, weren't you, Miguel?" The old man went on without waiting for an answer. "Your mother was a friend of my youngest daughter. They always had their heads together, plotting and planning—as young girls do." He smiled in remembrance. "I was…surprised when Elena married—your father."
The censure had come at last, Miguel thought. He wanted to laugh. This man cared nothing for the fact that he was a hired killer; only disapproving of the choice his mother had made—to marry an American.
"It broke your grandfather's heart."
Miguel gave a short, mirthless chuckle. "I guess so. He disinherited her. I never met him." The admission sent an unexpected shot of disappointment through him. It was something he'd lived with since birth. Why should it begin to hurt now?
The vendor shrugged, looking down as he carefully rearranged his wares. "Things change."
The merchant's head came up swiftly, his eyes hardening. "You've much to learn, Miguel Rivera. Or is it Michael Rivers on both sides of the border now?" He nodded at Miguel's surprise. "You use a name that's not yours. As I say, you have much to learn, if you can find the soul you lost so long ago."
Miguel shook his head, amusement at the man's words warring with the disbelief at his audacity. He better leave now, he decided, and put an end to this strange conversation. "I've taken enough of your time. If you'll excuse me—"
"How about these?" The vendor held up two beautiful red ribbons that gleamed in the sunlight.
For some reason, he felt compelled to taunt the merchant. "Those will be perfect for my horse's tail."
The round-faced vendor laughed companionably, as if nothing were amiss. "I'm sure you'll find a better use than that for them. They are lovely, aren't they, these scarlet ribbons?"
Miguel put a finger out to touch the satiny smoothness. "Lovely" wasn't adequate to describe them. They were woven of the finest silk, a deep, rich crimson that bespoke a high quality dye. Ribbons he had absolutely no use for.
"How much?" he heard himself asking.
"Twenty pesos." The vendor raised a gnarled finger. "Not one peso less. These are of the very best quality."
"No doubt," Miguel muttered caustically. "They're worth the cost, but they are useless to me."
"Trying to haggle, eh?"
"No, I just—"
The vendor shook his finger, his bronze brow wrinkling like old leather. "I won't bargain."
"I'm not asking you to. I don't have any need for—"
"Fine then. Be gone." He turned back to his display, dismissing Miguel.
Good manners would dictate a purchase, Miguel knew. He'd taken up much of the man's time. "Here." Sighing, he reached into his pocket and drew out the pesos, counting them into the merchant's hand. The vendor rolled up the ribbons, wrapped them in brown paper, and tied them with a flourish.
"You won't be sorry," the old man said, handing the package to Miguel.
I already am.