A Hunter’s Unseen Shadow – Extended Epilogue

“I’m out!” Lucas yelled and watched as Eva dug a box of bullets out of her back pocket and tossed it over to him. She was perched behind a boulder on the back of her horse, her long, fiery red hair blowing in the wind. Lucas caught the box in midair, pulled it open and re-loaded his Colt. He was right across from her, taking cover behind some foliage. Only the dirt road separated the two of them. Eva’s eyes stayed focused on him and as soon as he nodded, they both stormed out from behind their cover.

Fighting alongside Eva took some getting used to, but not as much as Lucas expected. She was more capable than most men he had come across and never let him down. Her determination had no bounds, and with her by his side, he’d captured many more outlaws than ever before.

In the distance, the two outlaws that they’d been chasing broke cover too. Twin brothers wanted for bank robbery and murder. “Let’s get them!” Eva yelled enthusiastically. She had taken to bounty hunting like she was destined for it and truly seemed to enjoy the chase.

“You take left, I’ll take right,” Lucas replied as their horses ran side by side. The twins were running towards them and once they got close enough, the outlaws pulled out their guns. The one of the left fired and Eva and Lucas broke away from each other, running in crisscross patterns. The outlaw fired again, and then his brother joined in.

Lucas kept his eyes on the outlaws, but also on Eva. He did make a promise to Silas, after all. She was more than capable of taking care of herself, though. Lucas had watched her single-handedly take down a man twice her size, and she never missed her target.

The twins were getting closer to them now; it was time to put an end to the chase. It was a good one, but many more outlaws needed to be caught.

Lucas and Lucas dashed closer to each other and then, as if they could read each other’s mind, they quickly split up again, running in opposite directions. Both outlaws followed Eva. Maybe they thought she was an easier target, or maybe they simply did it because she was closest to them. It didn’t matter. Their backs were turned toward Lucas, and that was a big mistake.

He didn’t want to kill them if he didn’t have to. Eva preferred taking her bounties in alive. Aiming his gun at the one outlaw’s shoulder, Lucas pulled the trigger. The sound echoed loudly, bouncing off the mountains in the distance.

The shot hit its intended target, and the outlaw toppled off of his horse. The other twin had his gun pointed at Eva, but at the sound of the gunshot, he glanced at his brother and Eva took her chance. She was steering her horse with one hand, her gun in the other, and immediately pointed it at the outlaw’s hand. She fired and a split second later, his hand exploded. It was a trick she had learned from Lucas, and it worked every time.

With both outlaws incapacitated, Lucas and Eva dismounted their horses and began the process of tying the men up. They had left their extra horses tied up not too far away, so Eva quickly went to go get them and soon enough the outlaws were draped over them.

Not wanting to leave the twins’ horses behind. Lucas gathered them and then they started their journey back to Dustwood.

They had traveled far this time, and it was going to be a couple of days before they got back to town, but Lucas always enjoyed the more complicated bounties, and he knew Eva did too. It took them a while to catch the twins, but the reward would be well worth their time. This time they had two captives return to Dustwood.

Catching the twin bandits was quite a feat. After Silas’s gang had retired, and Dalton, the previous mayor and Blackwood had been imprisoned, criminal activity had dwindled in the surrounding areas. That didn’t mean that there weren’t many outlaws anymore, they were just being more careful.

Lucas always felt good after catching an outlaw, but bringing the twins to justice made him feel rather triumphant.

“We should find a place to camp for the night,” Eva said from beside him. “I think it might rain tonight.”

Lucas looked up at the sky. It was a clear day, but clouds had started to gather up above.

“You might be right,” Lucas agreed. “Should we stop at the same place we camped last night?”

“You think we’ll make it there in time?”

Lucas nodded. The small hill wasn’t too far away and the protruding ledge would serve well as cover. “Yeah, but let’s hurry up just in case.”

They picked up their pace, causing the twins to moan in response. Lucas had bandaged them up to stop the bleeding, but he was pretty sure the bullet was lodged in one brother’s shoulder bone and there wasn’t much left of the other one’s hand. They’d survive, but the next couple of days were not going to be pleasant.

“Keep quiet,” Eva complained. She hated when the bandits they captured acted up.

“Fuck you,” the twin with the shattered hand spat, and Lucas acted immediately. He brought his horse to a stop, jumped down, and punched the man in the face.

“I think he’ll be quiet now,” Lucas commented, causing Eva to giggle.

It didn’t take them long after that to reach the place they wanted to camp for the night, and they quickly dismounted their horses. Raindrops had started to fall, and Lucas didn’t feel like getting wet.

“Will you start the fire?” I’ll set up the tarpaulin.

Thunder roared in the distance, followed by a flash of light. “Sure, but we’re going to have to hurry,” Eva agreed.

Lucas jumped off his horse and quickly got to work. First, he found a spot to tie up the horses, leaving the bandits hanging from their backs, and then he removed their bags and bedrolls.

Placing their things under the protruding ledge, next to Eva, Lucas grabbed the tarpaulin and climbed up onto the ledge, where he secured it with big rocks so that it acted as a makeshift wall to keep out the rain.

Another roar filled the air, and with that, the clouds exploded, and rain came crashing down. Lucas jumped down and slipped in behind the tarpaulin.

“Thanks,” Eva said, smiling up at him. He loved it when she smiled. While he was busy with their shelter, she had started the fire and put some water to boil.

Lucas sat down next to her in the confined space and pulled his gunny sack closer. “What are we going to have for dinner?”

Eva sighed. “We really need to get to a shop. It’s going to be rice and beans again.”

“It’ll fill the whole.” Lucas wasn’t a fussy eater. As long as he didn’t starve, he was happy. Not having a decent meal every day was the one thing about bounty hunting that Eva didn’t enjoy, but it was part of the job.

Lucas helped her make the food and then they had some coffee before laying down on their bedrolls. It was storming outside, and a cold breeze was coming through, but the tarpaulin was keeping the rain out.

“Come here,” Lucas said, opening his arms. “Let me keep you warm.” Eva didn’t hesitate as she scooted closer, pressing her body tightly against his.

Lucas woke early the next morning. It was still dark out, so he left Eva to sleep while he boiled some coffee for them and checked on their prisoners. The twins weren’t happy, but they were alive.

Once the sun started to rise, Lucas woke Eva, and soon they were on their way again. Eva was in a good mood, and they laughed and talked as they made their way to their next campsite.

It took them three days to get back to Dustwood, but Lucas felt happy when the town finally came into view. They never stayed too long, but it had become one of his favorite places.

***

Martin stood in front of the full-length mirror. He had just taken a bath and was busy getting dressed when the scar on his chest caught his attention. Taking a step closer to the mirror, he ran his fingers over the discolored raised skin. A smile formed on his face as he remembered the days leading up to, as well as the days after he was shot.

Most people wouldn’t associate getting shot with good times, but Martin remembered those days fondly. He always wanted to be a bounty hunter growing up, but decided on becoming a lawman instead. He used to wonder if he made the right decision, but after he had gone on a long mission with Lucas and Eva, he knew he did.

Martin had a lot of fun and learned a lot along the way. He also realized that being a bounty hunter wasn’t for him. He’d happily leave that to Lucas and Eva. The days leading up to the shootout were stressful and when the bullet hit him, Martin thought he was dead. It was Lucas that had found him, but he couldn’t remember any of it.

After falling to the ground, clutching his chest, Martin had passed out. He woke up in the hospital the next day. Lucas told him he had to carry him to the hospital, but Martin wasn’t sure that he believed him. After he woke, Lucas and Eva came to visit him in the hospital every day. He could see their relationship bloom, even though they seemed to be blind to it.

Lucas, along with Eva and Silas, had become some of Reynolds’s dearest friends. Lucas and Eva were away chasing bounties most of the time, but they always came back to Dustwood, and when they did, they stayed with him. Silas came to visit Martin whenever he could get away, and Martin and Rose loved visiting him and Sarah-Ann at the trading post. Thinking of his friends brought a smile.

“You’re daydreaming again,” Rose said with a smile as she placed her hand over his scar. She was truly beautiful, inside and out, and Martin was convinced that he owed his quick recovery to her.

“I was thinking of how you saved my life,” Martin replied as he turned around and pulled her into his arms. Her light blue eyes found his, and she leaned forward and pressed her lips against his.

“You are so sweet,” Rose whispered, her pale skin flushing pink.

“And you are gorgeous,” Martin replied as he ran his hand through her pitch-black hair.

The first thing Martin saw when he opened his eyes in the hospital after being shot was Rose. She looked like an angel and from that moment; he knew he was going to marry her.

***

“I can’t wait to get a decent meal,” Eva said as they entered Dustwood. She had come to think of the town as their home away from home. No matter how far they went or for how long they were gone, she always felt happy when they returned.

It had been four years since she met Lucas and her life changed forever. She never thought that she would become a bounty hunter when she insisted on joining Lucas and Reynolds on their mission to find her brother, but it was the best decision she had ever made. Growing up, Eva had always loved to explore and hunt. She learned how to track animals and shoot. Back then, she didn’t know how useful those skills would be.

Unlike the first few times Eva and Lucas brought in bounties, people weren’t staring anymore when they saw them. Instead, they greeted them with enthusiasm and friendly smiles.

Eva wanted to go to the general store, and she was craving pie, but first they had to drop off their bounties at the sheriff’s office. Standing on the front porch was none other than Sheriff Martin Reynolds. He was talking to a lawman, but as soon as he noticed them a huge smile formed on his face, and he ran towards them.

He might have worked his way up the ranks to become sheriff, but he was still the same Martin Eva first got to know. He always welcomed them with open arms and made sure they knew how proud he was of their accomplishments and their dedication to upholding the law.

“What do you have for me today?” Martin asked as they brought their horses to a stop.

“The notorious twins,” Lucas replied as he dismounted his horse. At times, Eva still couldn’t believe that Lucas was her husband. Their relationship started off rocky, and it took her a while to figure out that he liked her. Lucas wasn’t the easiest person to get to know. He was closed off and didn’t trust people, but once he let her in, things had started to change between the two of them.

He was rugged and came across as hard, but he was the best man she had ever met. He truly cared about her and always tried to make sure she was happy. Lucas was a pretty great husband, and that he was incredibly handsome didn’t hurt.

“We’re going to have a whole bunch of criminals locked up in jail without a hand,” Reynolds chuckled as he lifted the one twin’s arm to survey the remains of his bloody and bandaged hand.

“Sorry, this time it was me,” Eva said as she got down from her horse.

Reynolds shrugged. “Don’t ever apologize for serving justice, Eva.”

Reynolds was still the same friendly and funny man, but Eva could see how much he had grown and matured. He took being the sheriff of Dustwood incredibly seriously, but at the same time he never looked down on anybody. Eva was glad that somebody like him was in charge of keeping the peace in the town she thought of as home.

“Have you eaten lunch?” Lucas asked, as they started untying the bandits.

Reynolds’s eyes grew big at the mention of food. “Not yet. Rose packed me a sandwich, but I’ll have it later. Why don’t we go to the saloon?”

“Sounds good,” Eva replied happily. She was starving.

“Let me get us some help,” Reynolds said as he dashed into the law enforcement building. A few seconds later, he reappeared with two lawmen by his side.

With all of them working together, it didn’t take long to get the twins securely cuffed to their beds in the infirmary. Reynolds instructed his deputy to keep an eye on the outlaws, and then asked one of his men to go call the doctor before they headed off to lunch.

Making their way through the saloon, Eva noticed that the atmosphere was different. The patrons usually ignored lawmen, but all the men greeted Reynolds. “You must be doing something right,” Eva pointed out.

“I’ve known most of these people my entire life. They have no reason not to trust me.”

Reynolds’ words were true. He was born and raised in Dustwood, and he seemed to make friends easily. The people were lucky to have him as their sheriff.

The three of them sat in the back at the same table as they always did. Being in the saloon brought back so many memories. Most of them were good, except for a few that involved a beautiful blonde bartender. There was a different bartender now. She had dark hair and was a little older. She’d been working there for a while. Eva preferred her. The blonde hadn’t completely disappeared from Eva’s life though, and she hated the idea that she couldn’t get rid of her.

“Eva,” Reynolds laughed. “I’m talking to you.”

Eva shook her head as if to rid herself of her thoughts and focused her eyes on her friend. “Sorry, what did you say?”

“I asked what you would like to drink.”

“Oh, just water, please,” Eva replied.

Reynolds looked a little confused by her choice since she usually ordered whiskey but didn’t comment. Instead, he got their drinks and then they happily talked while they waited for their food.

“How’s Rose?” Eva asked. She liked Reynolds’s wife from the moment she met her at the hospital and was delighted when Reynolds told her and Lucas that Rose was moving to Dustwood to marry him.

“She’s perfect,” Reynolds replied as a lovesick expression washed over his face. It was sweet, but not what Eva meant.

“I actually agree with you on that,” Eva laughed. “But I’m asking how she’s doing?”

“You think Rose is perfect?” Reynolds asked, ignoring Eva’s question.

Eva nodded. “Yes. She’s beautiful, friendly and caring. Unlike somebody else I know.”

“Oh no, here we go again,” Reynolds laughed. “I thought you’d be over it by now.”

Eva shook her head. “Let’s just talk about something else. I don’t want to think about her.”

Their food arrived at that moment, and they all dug in hungrily. Nobody mentioned the blonde bartender again and Eva was grateful, but it didn’t solve the problem.

***

Silas showed the man to his room and headed downstairs to the parlor to tidy it up. All the rooms at the trading post were fully booked, and he knew the men were going to want drinks in the afternoon. Business had been great, and the trading post had become a favorite stop for many travelers.

Since Dalton and Blackwood were arrested, criminal activity had dwindled around Dustwood and there were many more travelers. It was good for business, but it also meant that Eva and Lucas were traveling further and further away on their quest to rid the world of outlaws.

At first, it was a huge adjustment for Silas. He had grown so used to looking over his shoulder that it felt strange to go to bed without worrying about who was keeping watch. That night, after saying his goodbyes to Eva and Lucas, he headed out to the caverns on his horse.

All his men were waiting for him. They were confused and wanted to know what happened. Silas had no idea how they were going to react when he told them the truth, but he couldn’t put it off any longer. He asked them all to sit down around the fire and he told them his story. He started right at the beginning and didn’t leave anything out. They deserved to know the truth.

They were all shocked, but some were more understanding than others. Shadow, being loyal even in challenging situations, pulled Silas into a hug and thanked him for his freedom.

“So, what, you just expect us to walk into town and ask for a job?” Dynamite asked, as if it was the most ridiculous thing he had ever heard. “First you lied to us about who you are and now you want us to get a job where we’ll have to slave away the whole day. No way. I’m doing that. I’m out of here.” Dynamite collected his things and stormed off. Three men agreed with him and left too. The others all stayed. Some weren’t sure how they felt about not being outlaws, but most of them were grateful for a second chance at freedom.

Silas still saw Shadow from time to time. He had taken up bounty hunting and was doing well. He saw Rock once in a while, too. The big man had gotten a job driving a stagecoach and stopped by whenever he came past. Silas was happy that they had chosen to live an honest life and to make the best of their freedom.

Silas stayed with his men that night, talking and laughing, but when morning came, he headed to the trading post. Eva had given him the keys, and it was time for him to start his new life. He grew up helping his parents and knew how to run the place. It was an easy life compared to being a wanted criminal, and Silas found himself enjoying the peace and quiet. It was nice, but it was also lonely. Many guests and customers came past, but he wanted somebody who’d stay.

As the trading post grew busier, Silas tried to distract himself from his loneliness by building a house. It didn’t really work, but he loved his new house and since he wasn’t staying in the trading post, he had an extra room to rent out.

Silas tried other things to distract himself too. He started a vegetable garden and built a chicken coop. He even got a dog, which helped a little, but he was still craving human companionship. He wanted a wife and children. He wanted a family of his own.

The sound of crying snapped Silas out of his thoughts, and he made his way to his house. Sarah-Anne was in the living room, her long blonde hair framing her face as she lovingly stared down at Roland while she fed him.

Silas still couldn’t believe that she was his wife, and that they had a newborn son. He thanked God for her every single day. He could still remember the first time he saw her in the saloon. Everybody thought she was just a flirty girl looking to make a buck, but he saw more.

Silas didn’t know much about her except because Eva hated her with a passion. He didn’t let that stop him, though. He had no idea if she was even still working at the saloon, but he felt an overwhelming urge to see her, so he headed into town.

Fortunately, she was still working there and as soon as their eyes met for the second time; he knew she was the one.

“Have I told you today how beautiful you are?” Silas asked as he walked over to his wife and sat down beside her.

“Only about five times,” she giggled. “But I never get tired of hearing it.”

“Good, because I’m going to keep on reminding you.”

***

“Can’t we just invite Silas to come have dinner with us at Reynolds’s house or the saloon?” Eva asked, as they walked up to the front door of the trading post.

“It’s too late for that,” Lucas replied, as he knocked on the door and then pushed it open. “Just relax, it’ll be fine.”

Lucas knew Eva wanted to see her brother. He also knew why she didn’t want to be at his house. He’d told her many times that she was going to have to accept that Silas loved Sarah-Ann, but Eva was stubborn.

“Silas!” Lucas called softly as he peeked into the Parlor. There were six men and four women in the room, enjoying drinks and talking.

“Lucas, Eva,” Silas greeted as he rushed towards them from the kitchen. He looked happy to see them. Lucas shook his hand, and Eva gave her brother a hug.

“Let me just check in with my guests and then we can head over to the house.” Silas quickly slipped through the Parlor door and made his rounds, talking to every guest.

Five minutes later they were making their way into Silas’s house. It was a nice house, big enough for a big family. Lucas liked it.

“We’ve already eaten, but I can warm some leftovers for you,” Silas offered.

“That would be great,” Lucas replied. “In fact, I was wondering if we could stay here tonight?”

Eva stabbed him in the ribs with her elbow. He knew she wouldn’t like the idea, but it was already late and he was tired. She was going to have to learn to get along with her brother’s wife at some point, anyway.

“Of course,” Silas agreed happily. “I’ll go call Sarah-Anne now.”

“Oh, that’s not necessary,” Eva objected. “We don’t have to stay. We can just have a quick bite and be on our way.”

Silas turned to face his sister, a frown between his eyes. “Will you at least just give her a chance?” he asked, causing Eva’s cheeks to turn as red as her hair.

“I just… uhm,” Eva stuttered.

“I know you two didn’t meet under favorable circumstances, but she’s amazing and I wish you’d allow yourself to see that.”

Lucas took a step closer to Eva and wrapped his arm around her waist. “Just try,” he whispered as he softly pressed his lips to her forehead.

“Fine,” Eva gave in. “But I can’t promise we’re going to become best friends.”

“Of course you will,” Silas said, looking happy again. “And anyway, there’s somebody I want you to meet.”

“She had the baby?” Eva asked, her eyes growing big with excitement.

Silas nodded. “She sure did.”

“I thought I heard talking,” Sarah-Anne said as she appeared at the kitchen door with a little baby wrapped in a blanket in her arms. She looked the same as Lucas remembered, but also different. She looked happy.

“I’d like you to meet your nephew,” Sarah-Anne said as she walked over to Eva.

“What’s his name?” Eva asked, her eyes focused intently on the little baby.

“Roland,” Sarah-Anne replied. “Would you like to hold him?”

Eva looked uncertain, but nodded. “Yes, I think I’d like that.”

Sarah-Anne handed the little baby to Eva and for the first time, Eva smiled at her brother’s wife. Lucas understood why Eva didn’t like Sarah-Anne, but he wanted them to get along for Silas’s sake.

Silas warmed the leftover food for them and made them all some coffee while Eva and Sarah-Anne spoke about the baby. It was strange to see them getting along, but it was a pleasant surprise. Silas couldn’t stop smiling.

As they gathered around the table, Sarah-Anne excused herself. “It’s getting late. I’m going to feed Roland and put him to bed.”

Silas nodded and gave her a quick kiss. “I’ll be up shortly,” he promised, and with that, she left the kitchen.

“So, what have you two been up to?” Silas asked, sitting down next to Lucas.

Eva took a sip of her coffee and dug into a piece of cornbread as she looked at Lucas.

“We actually brought in the twins this morning,” Lucas replied with a sense of pride.

“That’s impressive,” Silas said with a smile. “But what’s your plans for the future? Are you going to continue bounty hunting or settle down now that you’ve been married for a while?”

That was actually something Lucas and Eva had spoken about a lot recently. Eva turned toward Lucas and he met her gaze as they smiled at each other knowingly.

“We’re thinking about buying a ranch in Dustwood,” Eva replied.

Lucas had never considered settling down until he married Eva, but now he was excited by the idea. He grew up on a ranch and knew what needed to be done to make it work.

“A ranch?” Silas asked, looking surprised.

Lucas nodded. “Yes. I think it’s time for us to settle down.”

“I honestly wasn’t expecting that,” Silas replied as he looked between the two of them. “What made you decide that?”

“May I tell him?” Lucas asked, glancing at his wife. Eva nodded, giving him permission.

Leaning closer to Eva, he tenderly touched her belly. “Eva is expecting.” She wasn’t showing, and it was still early in the pregnancy, but Lucas had never felt so excited and happy about something in his entire life.

When he lost his family, he thought his life was over, but since he met Eva, he realized he could be happy again. Dustwood was a good place. It was safe now with Reynolds as the sheriff and if they stayed there, they’d be close to their friends and to Silas. Their children could grow up together and have a strong foundation.

Lucas would always be a bounty hunter by heart, but it was time for a different adventure.

THE END


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6 thoughts on “A Hunter’s Unseen Shadow – Extended Epilogue”

  1. A great western adventure with some well thought out plot twists that kept it from being just another good versus evil, good triumphs and the good guy gets the girl. He does, but it certainly doesn’t go in a typical manner for sure.

  2. The story line was delightful; plot twists were engaging characters had depth and were believable… but the foul, even vulgar language was unnecessary and reduced the book to a Dime Novel. I don’t recommend it.

  3. I was hoping that I found a new author to follow because I enjoy reading westerns. But due to the unnecessary use of the “F” word that I don’t encounter in other western books, I won’t follow this series.
    That word is thrown around way too much these days and I don’t appreciate reading it in my western books.
    You might consider dropping it as a word you use in your books.
    Also sometimes the narrative doesn’t read smoothly as it should. It’s a bit choppy.

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