Sage & Sand
M/M, Historical, Western, Erotica
[Coming March 31, 2018 / 8000 Words]
Marshall Maddox is no one's hero. Right place, right time, that's all this is.
Bram Caldwell sure as hell didn't expect to need rescuing. But if Marshall wants to stick around after the gunfire fades, Bram's not going to complain.
Originally published in Rode Hard Anthology, Torquere Press 2014.
Bram doesn't really consider leaving when Marshall disappears to retrieve his own horse; but his heartbeat is a confused racket in his chest, and he's none too sure why he stays. He doesn't know this Marshall Maddox. He's got no reason to trust him beyond the fact that so far the man hasn't tried to shoot him. Well, that and the rescue for which Bram is plenty grateful. He wishes it were enough to settle his anxious nerves as he climbs back into his seat, reins in hand.
Marshall returns quickly, on foot, kicking up dust as he leads his horse into the road. Instead of mounting, he simply hitches his horse to the back of the coach. When he climbs onto the bench beside Bram, it's with a freshly loaded shotgun in hand; he looks like a man ready for anything. Bram finds himself staring again, and this time he can't bring himself to look away. He should put his eyes on the road ahead and get the horses moving, but his hands are still shaking.
Somehow, Marshall's proximity isn't helping.
When the stage doesn't start forward, Marshall glances at him—a fleeting look first, but a longer one when their eyes lock. Bram curses inwardly when Marshall's gaze cuts down to Bram's hands; he hates the thought of this man thinking him a coward. He hates not being able to still himself by force of will.
"How old're you, kid?" Marshall's voice cuts straight through him, low and rough. He doesn't sound pitying. There's something straightforward in his tone, some genuine curiosity. He asks the question quietly, and the sound of his voice sends a surprised shiver along Bram's skin. Those eyes feel like they're looking straight through him, and it takes Bram a moment to find his voice and answer.
"You ever shoot a man before?"
"No," Bram admits without thinking. He's never shot anyone. He's never been this close to any kind of death, even traveling with his father. Now, with the violence behind him and calm still out of reach, he's not sure whether it's the dead bandit or Cooper's body in the coach upsetting him so badly. Both. Either. He suddenly doesn't care.
He startles at the warm weight of Marshall's hand at the back of his neck. Strong fingers curl around his nape, not threatening, just a reassuring pressure that—impossibly—steadies Bram and lets him take a firmer grip on the reins.
"Killing ain't likely to get easier for you with practice," Marshall says. "But you'll be all right."
When he takes his hand back, Bram feels chilly despite the dry heat and miles of sand, the parched sagebrush stretching to every horizon.
(Cover by Yolande Kleinn)