|Hunter - Double Feature - by C. Marie Bowen|
The persona of Hunter originated in Prophecy, Book 2 of The Soul of the Witch series. During the first draft, I thought the release of a demonic evil into the world would draw the interest of the Church, and they would hire a bounty hunter to find and destroy the witches. As usual, my characters had other ideas.
From the first, Hunter was a dynamic, romantic individual—more concerned for the welfare of others than for himself. He is a driven, haunted man, who decided to find the witches and warn them of the evil headed their way. So much for plotting the story, once he stepped onto the page, Hunter changed the entire second book on his own.
Not long after I finished the first draft of Prophecy, I discovered an open submission post on Facebook for western Halloween short stories. Hunter immediately came to mind. He had already whispered several haunting stories into my ear in his low, Cajun-French accented voice.
My submission to Prairie Rose Publication for their 2014 Cowboys, Creatures, and Calico Halloween Anthology was titled Hunter and Lily Graham. To my amazement and delight, Cheryl Pierson, the Acquiring Editor, accepted my submission.
A younger Hunter spun the tale for PRP’s Valentine Anthology, Cowboy Kisses.
In Hunter’s Gamble, Hunter discovers his desire to help others, and uses his inherited magic to solve a mystery.
I’m very excited to have my two first Hunter’s stories under one cover in Hunter, Double Feature.
Hunter’s Gamble excerpt:
Iris Piler wiped the perspiration from her forehead with the back of her hand, then slid the wooden clothespin over the corner of the bed-sheet to fasten it to the line. The ache in her arms shot down her back and into her hips from lifting the wet laundry. She wound her dark braid on top of her head and pressed the other hand into her lower back. She sighed as the cool breeze caressed the moisture on the back of her neck.
She looked over as William Lowe led one of the breeding mares around the house and down the turn from the corral. Their gazes met, and his slow smile sent butterflies coursing through her stomach and curled her toes in her shoes. He tipped his head toward the barn and winked, then brushed the honey-colored hair from his eyes.
Her breath caught as she grinned back at him. His denim trousers were tucked inside his boots, and his shirt was unbuttoned far enough she could see moisture glisten on his chest.
His seductive smile changed to alarm as his head came up, and he halted in place.
Iris turned and followed his line of sight. A dust cloud rose on the east road. The porch screen slammed behind her.
“Iris, leave that and go inside.” Mrs. Lowe crossed the yard to the clothes line. “Give me those.” She took the pins from Iris's hands, untied the laundry apron and pulled it from Iris, and then fastened it to herself. “Hurry, child—hide under the pantry with Mattie.”
Iris cast a quick glance at William, but his gaze remained fixed on the approaching dust. She picked up her skirt and ran to the porch, through the door, and into the front parlor.
Mattie, William's sister, stood on the steps to the refuge beneath the pantry. “Iris…hurry.”
Iris paused near the front window and looked out. Gray uniformed cavalrymen had ridden into the yard. William and Mrs. Lowe stepped close to speak with their leader. The Captain waved commands to his men and two horsemen headed toward the barn; two more riders rounded the side of the house.
The discussion between the Captain and William grew heated. When two of the men dismounted and grasped William, Iris felt her stomach drop. “Oh, no…”
“They're coming in the back, Iris—hurry!” Mattie hissed.
Mattie's plea reached Iris just as the butt-end of a rifle slammed into William's forehead. Shaken to her core, Iris raced into the kitchen and down the steps in the pantry. She lowered the hinged floorboards above her head as the back door flew open with a bang.
Hunter and Lily Graham excerpt:
Hunter stood and touched the door. It moved. He drew his revolver and glanced toward Lily. She was pinned to his side. He tipped his head to her, she nodded, and then he pushed open the door with the barrel of his Colt.
They moved into dark interior and Hunter stepped sideways, away from the door. From the back of the house, a chair scraped across the floor. Dim light spilled from the doorway ahead. He stood still and allowed his eyes to become accustomed to the dark front room. Senses extended, he could feel the room ahead, one man seated at a table. To the left, through the opening was another room. Susan would be there. He slid his gun into his holster.
Hunter stepped around a chair and put his back to the wall beside the opening. Wind blew the front door ajar and leaves skittered across the floor.
“Hummel?” the man in the next room called. “You back?”
The scrape of the chair again. Hunter watched the light from the doorway dim as the man stepped into the opening.
Hunter slammed his fist into the man's nose, and felt it dissolve beneath the blow. He followed the man as he stumbled into the kitchen, reaching for his gun. A quick slice across the man's windpipe, and he fell onto the table, and then slid to the floor. Hunter knelt and cleaned his blade on the man's pant-leg. He caught a glimpse of Lily's skirt as she disappeared into the adjoining room.
He rose, slid his knife into the sheath at his back and followed Lily into the room. The light from the kitchen lantern illuminated an empty cot.
“… she's gone.”
I will give an E-BOOK of Hunter Double Feature to one of today’s commenters.
Be sure to leave your contact information at the end of your comment so I can contact you. Here's the question - what is your favorite accent?