Saddle Up for Vengeance (Preview)

Chapter One

“It’s getting worse.”

Kit shielded her eyes against the glaring sun and looked over her shoulder at her brother’s words.

Sure enough, the small line of smoke they’d seen in the distance was getting larger, darker, and more ominous by the minute. What they had hoped was nothing more than a controlled burn was clearly something bigger.

“Do you think it’s a grass fire?” she asked.

“Could be,” Amos replied. “But regardless, with the direction the breeze is blowing, I’m sure it’s moving this way. Ride back to the house and get Pa, Jake will help me move the cattle closer to the barn.”

“Are you sure?” Kit asked, not at all liking the idea. “Won’t it be faster if I were to stay out here and help you rather than going all the way back to the house to get Pa?”

“It would be faster if you got moving,” Amos countered with a nod toward the house. “We don’t have the time to waste. Let’s go.”

It was pointless to argue with her brother further. He wasn’t just her brother. He was her older brother, and her only brother. They’d grown up together on the ranch and were incredibly close, though there were plenty of times when Amos was rather bossy with her.

“Be back in a flash,” she said, kicking her horse’s flanks and urging him to a gallop.

The trio was a fair distance away from the ranch house itself, as Kit and Amos were showing Jake the ropes. He was the newest hired hand on the ranch, and Amos had always been insistent he personally show anyone new how he wanted things done.

Pa was getting on in years, and he wasn’t able to run the ranch himself like he used to, so he relied heavily on Amos. Kit had taken on the role of helping Amos herself, as she was able to ride and shoot with the best of the men who worked on the ranch.

As she rode Sunday back to the house, she glanced back over her shoulder. She didn’t like the sight of the smoke. It likely meant trouble, and she worried what that might bring.

While it wasn’t out of the ordinary to have grass fires in the heat of the Arizona summer, she couldn’t shake the nagging thought that lingered in the back of her mind that this might not be any grass fire. There was a chance it might be something more sinister. Of course, the odds were in favor of it being nothing more than a simple wildfire, but that didn’t stop her from thinking of all the possible outcomes.

“Pa! Pa!” Kit shouted as she drew nearer to the house. Her voice was weak, out of breath from the exertion. “Pa, come quick! Come out here!”

She hoped he would come through the door and meet her before she made it all the way to the house, but she had no such luck. The door remained closed, and there were no signs of life coming from inside. She didn’t know where the other two ranch hands were, either, but she quickly dismissed that thought from her mind.

She wanted to talk to her father, not the ranch hands.

“Pa!” Kit shouted as she burst through the front door. The ranch house was a decent size, but it wasn’t huge by any means. Whether her father was in the kitchen or the study or even his bedroom, he’d be able to hear her coming through the door.

“Pa!” she shouted again.

“What’s going on? What is it?” her father demanded, bursting through the door of his study and into the hall.

“Amos is asking for you,” she explained, still trying to catch her breath. “There’s a fire on the horizon, and he wants you to know what’s going on.”

“What the blazes?” Pa said as he pushed past her in the hallway and headed for the front porch.

The smoke had grown thick from where the fire burned, and it stretched high into the sky like an ominous black arm. It almost seemed to reach for the few clouds that hung in the air, and the sight of it gave Kit a knot in the pit of her stomach.

“We thought it might’ve been a brush fire or something, but with how quickly it’s growing and coming closer to the herd, Amos wanted you to be aware of what’s going on,” she told him.

She wasn’t sure her father had even heard her with the way he was staring at the thick smoke. He had an angry, almost distant look in his eyes, and he gripped the railing of the porch with both hands. His knuckles were turning white with how hard he was grasping the railing, and she ventured to speak further.

“Pa? What do you want me to tell Amos?”

“Tell Amos?” he asked, as though her words had snapped him out of a trance.

“I’m trying to hurry to get back to him,” she said, but he shook his head.

“You’re not going anywhere near that blaze,” he asserted. “Let the men handle this.”


“You heard me!” he said. He turned and marched back into the house without another word, leaving Kit standing on the porch, feeling conflicted.

She hated going against her father, but she also hadn’t been given any further direction on what he was going to do about the fire. Or what to tell Amos. She couldn’t in good conscience leave her brother and Jake out there with the cattle and no word from the house, but how would she get word to him without riding back to the herd?

Kit hesitated only for a moment.

She slipped back into the house, taking the time to close the door softly behind her. For once in her life, she was glad her father had insisted on putting rugs on all the floors of the house. She’d thought it frivolous the older she’d grown, but now it enabled her to slip through the house almost silently if she was careful.

She crept right up to the doorway of his study before quietly peeking around the corner. Her father’s desk was positioned against the wall, making it easy for her to sneak a glance while he had his back turned toward the door.

There was a small chance she may be caught, but she quickly found her assumption was correct. He’d gone back into the study and returned his attention to the paperwork that was on his desk. He wasn’t going to send word out to her brother about the situation or what he wanted done.

Kit slipped away from the door and made her way down the hall then back onto the porch, moving quickly and as quietly as possible. Once she was off the wooden porch, she rushed back to Sunday and untied him before leaping onto his back.

“Just as I thought,” she said out loud. “It’s you and me here, boy. Let’s get back out there.”

She urged him to a gallop once more, this time riding away from the house. She wasn’t sure what she would tell Amos when she returned, but she knew she’d better come up with something to explain why their father hadn’t come, nor given any direction on what to do next.

Where were the other ranch hands? It was frustrating that they weren’t around to help. They had to be on the ranch, and they had to have seen the smoke. It had grown quite large, and Kit was starting to wonder if they were going to have to plow a fire line or take other action against the blaze.

She burst over the crest of the hill, fully expecting to find her brother and Jake already moving the cattle back toward the house.

To her shock, they were nowhere near where they should have been. If they’d been working to get the cattle back to the house, she’d expect them to be nearly to the crest by the time she got back. Instead, the entire herd was off in the distance.

Then she heard something that made her blood run cold.

Gunshots rang out over the prairie, each one causing her heart to leap to her throat. And there were a lot of them. Too many, in fact.

It wasn’t uncommon for a ranch hand to fire a warning shot if they felt the need. Whether it was toward strangers who seemed suspicious or to scare off wild animals, a single shot into the air would normally do the trick.

But there were multiple gunshots, and even from the crest of the hill where she’d stopped for the moment, she could hear them coming from somewhere outside the herd as well as from her brother and Jake.

Cattle rustlers.

“Come on, boy, let’s get to it,” she told her horse, once again urging him onward.

Sunday was surefooted and brave, which she appreciated greatly. It was difficult enough to drive cattle, but a horse that spooked easily made the task ten times harder. Sunday, however, wasn’t gun shy, nor did he avoid the chaos that could come with herding cattle.

As she rode, she pulled her rifle from where it was strapped to the side of her saddle and rode with it in one hand while she gripped the reins in the other. She could ride without holding onto the reins at all and focusing entirely on the rifle if need be, and she was fully prepared to do so as she rode up to the herd.

The cattle were scrambling, panicked with the gunshots ringing out around them as well as from the smell of the smoke in the air.

Kit often thought of cattle as some of the stupidest creatures on the planet, and with the way they were scattering now, it made finding her brother a real chore. She didn’t see him or his horse anywhere.

“Katherine! Get out of here!” a voice shouted.

It was Amos, and the fact that he’d used her full name rather than her nickname caused her blood to run cold. Amos never called her Katherine unless there was trouble.

“Look out!” Jake shouted.

It was then that Sunday reared onto his back legs, pawing the air madly as two more gunshots rang out. One of the cattle directly in front of her fell to the ground, and for a brief moment she was grateful that the cow had been struck rather than her horse.

But as Sunday came back down on all four feet, she realized Amos was lying on the ground, pinned halfway under his own fallen horse. Jake was lying in the grass, too, and Kit could see with only a glance in his direction that he’d been shot.

“Amos! Jake!”

Kit screamed their names as she leaped from the back of her horse. They had to take care of the cattle, but now she was more worried about her brother and the injured ranch hand.

“Get the cattle. You have to get the cattle out of here before they steal them,” Amos said as she rushed to his side.

He pointed, and she followed his direction to see two men on horseback. They had bandanas over the lower halves of their faces, and their hats were drawn low over their brows. She couldn’t make out any of their facial features, but she didn’t need to.

Not for what she had to do.

She still had her rifle in her hand, and she immediately brought it up to her face. She looked through the scope on the barrel and took aim before squeezing off two shots after the men.

“Don’t let them escape,” Amos said, his voice a hoarse whisper, but Kit threw her gun to the side and rushed back to him.

“What are you doing?” he asked. “The cattle!”

“You’re hurt,” Kit said, cradling his head in her lap. She glanced over toward Jake, but he was lying still. She didn’t want to think about him dying, and rather decided he’d passed out from the shock of his injury.

“I’m going to pull you out from under him,” she said to her brother, nodding to the horse. “You’re going to have to work with me.”

He nodded, and she braced herself in the grass with her hands locked under Amos’s arms. She put one of her boots against the rump of the dead horse and shoved, pulling her brother at the same time. He, too, put his hands on the horse and pushed back, trying to free his legs from underneath the animal.

“You have to get them,” Amos said again, but Kit shook her head.

“Let them go for now. We’ll deal with them later. Right now, you need a doctor,” she said. She tried not to look too hard at the wound she saw on her brother after pulling him free from the horse. Not only had he been shot in the leg, but it was evident that he’d also been shot in the stomach before the horse had died.

She hadn’t been able to see the injury with the horse on top of him, and he was going into shock, so it wasn’t likely he had realized just how hurt he was, either.

“Don’t go,” he told her. “Kit, I’m not going to make it.”

“Don’t say that,” she said, her eyes filling with tears. “You’re going to be fine, you’ll see. We’re going to get you onto Sunday, and you and me will ride back to the ranch and send for the doctor. Just hang on, okay? Hang on.”

“I love you, sis,” he breathed, his voice garbled. She didn’t even want to imagine why.

“I love you, too, Amos,” Kit sobbed. “It’s going to be okay. You’ll be back to yourself in no time, you’ll see. You’ll see.”

She said the words to him over and over again, but she sank back to her knees in the grass as she did. She pulled her brother into her arms and held him, feeling the life draining out of him with each passing second.

So taken in her grief, she didn’t hear the shouts of the other ranch hands as they came riding up to her. She felt numb as Cody, the older of the two hired men, pulled her to her feet.

“We need to get a doctor,” she cried. “Amos is hurt. Jake’s hurt, too; we need a doctor.”

“Easy, easy,” Cody told her, holding her in his arms. “Pete! Over here! I’m taking Miss Katherine back to the house.”

She tried to protest, but it was no use. She was in too much shock to think straight, let alone to resist. Cody led her back to Sunday, and she automatically climbed into the saddle. She took the reins, numb as he held onto the lead attached to Sunday’s halter.

Cody kept his grip on the rope, leading her horse behind his as he took her back to the house.

On the way back, they passed four more men who were heading out to the field, but she didn’t have the words to tell them that her brother needed help.

Instead, she heard Amos’s voice playing repeatedly in her mind.

“I’m not going to make it. I love you, sis.”

The tears fell freely from her eyes, running in trails down her cheeks as they reached the house. Her father was on the porch with his arms folded across his chest, his face stone cold and bleak. Kit didn’t have to look at him long to know he must have already heard about what happened to Amos.

She didn’t know how anyone could have beaten her back to the house with the bad news, but then, she was stuck in a cloud of shock and grief.

She didn’t want to think about anything. She didn’t know what to say. All she could do was sit in the saddle and try not to dissolve into her sorrow.

After all, it didn’t matter how much she cried for her brother. It didn’t matter how much she yearned to turn back the clock and refuse to leave him and Jake alone with the herd while she went back to the house.

Nothing mattered anymore. Her brother was gone, and no amount of tears would save him. It was just her and her father now.

Amos was never coming back.

Chapter Two

The whole world felt empty.

Kit sat in silence at the table the next morning, staring at the food on her plate. She hadn’t eaten anything since the morning before, but after what happened to Amos, she had no appetite.

The entire day before was nothing but a blur in her mind. She’d had a nightmare reliving the events of her brother’s death, so she’d gotten very little sleep on top of her grief.

Jake’s and Amos’s bodies were taken out of the field and sent into town the evening before for autopsies despite her protests, and she still felt unsettled about the entire situation.

“We know how he died,” she’d argued with her father as he spoke with the sheriff. “We know those rustlers killed them both. Why do we have to send their bodies away to have someone else tell us the same thing? Wouldn’t it be better for everyone for us to lay Amos to rest?”

“I know this isn’t easy,” her father told her, “but it’s a formality. It’s 1856, and that’s what the sheriff wants done.”

Kit had let out an exasperated sigh and shaken her head in response. She understood with the changing times that it was important for medicine to be able to study and learn, but she didn’t like the idea of some doctor poking around her brother. Amos wasn’t an experiment and he wasn’t an animal. He’d been senselessly murdered, and she wanted to give him as much dignity and respect possible after the fact.

It didn’t help that the sheriff had little to offer on the matter, too.

“It’s a shame, a real shame,” he’d said to her father. “Two innocent lives lost, and two more men killed on account of what? They ran off with some cattle. Surely that’s not worth the death of any man, let alone four.”

“Senseless or not, I want this situation looked into,” her father had told the sheriff, and the lawman had promised he’d do what he could, though Kit felt he wasn’t clear on what he intended to do.

She worried he would simply keep the case open in the event he got more evidence against those men and wouldn’t go out of his way to track down the people responsible for the tragedy. It would fall to her shoulders to track down some clues as to who may have done such a thing, and she’d have to take that information to the sheriff.

But after the events of the day before, Kit wasn’t sure where to even begin. She hadn’t said more than a few words to anyone since her return to the house after the attack, and even as she sat at the table for breakfast the following morning, there wasn’t much  to say.

The rustlers had managed to run off with over a dozen head of cattle, but that had only added further insult to the injury they’d suffered. It was bad enough Amos had been murdered. That loss in itself would have been crippling to Kit.

To know they’d lost valuable livestock on top of her brother was enough to make her seethe with rage. Justice had to be done in one way or another. That act simply could not go unpunished.

To make matters worse, everything was happening so fast.

Her father had already announced the funeral would take place the next day, and Kit didn’t feel ready. She knew she had to say goodbye to Amos, but the thought of going to his funeral was crushing. It wasn’t supposed to happen the way it had. She wasn’t supposed to be burying him when they’d both barely started their adult lives.

Glancing across the table, she couldn’t help but think how old and tired her father looked. She wished there was something she could say, but nothing came to mind.

Her father ate his breakfast in silence across from her, but she didn’t have the energy to talk to him. There was too much on her mind, and she knew he wasn’t happy with her for going back out into the field the day before. Any talk about the incident could very well turn into a lecture for her disobedience.

After breakfast, Kit intended to ride back out to where the fire had been burning the day before. She wasn’t looking for anything in particular, but she hoped perhaps she’d be able to find some clue as to what started the fire and who was responsible for the attack on her brother.

But just as she reached the barn to saddle Sunday, Kit was interrupted by one of the hired hands sauntering over to her.

Wiley, a hand whom Kit couldn’t hardly tolerate, gave her a small smile as he stepped over to her. She had her reasons for disliking him, with one of her biggest complaints against him being that he was overly nonchalant about everything.

She appreciated a man with nerves of steel, but there was a carelessness about Wiley that made her consider his nonchalance to be a result of laziness rather than confidence. It didn’t help that she hadn’t been able to find him—or anyone else—when she’d needed backup the day before.

“Morning,” he said.

“What do you want, Wiley?” she demanded. “I’m busy.”

“Where you headed?” he replied, ignoring her question to ask one of his own.

“I’m going out to the field to see if I can find who did this,” she replied dryly. “Then I’ll be going into town to speak with the sheriff.”

“Why?” His expression looked almost amused.

Fury filled her chest, but Kit bit her tongue. She wasn’t going to take out her anger and grief on Wiley, no matter how much she disliked him. It wasn’t his fault Amos was dead.

But that also didn’t mean she had to humor him.

“Because my brother and a ranch hand have been murdered,” she reminded him. “The sheriff ought to know.”

“Well sure,” Wiley said, leaning against the side of Sunday’s stable. “But what’s he going to do about it? Put a warrant out on the people involved? Pretty sure if they’re who I think they are, that won’t do any good. Just adds to the collection of warrants he’s already got.”

Kit hesitated. The way Wiley was talking, she got the distinct impression he had an idea of who had attacked the ranch the day before. Distrust flooded through her, and she looked at him suspiciously.

“What?” he asked. “You can go to the sheriff if you want, but I’m telling you it won’t do you any good. Or it won’t do much good, anyway.”

“Do you know who did this?” she asked.

“Not for sure, but I’ve got a pretty good hunch,” he said, and Kit waited for him to elaborate. When he didn’t, she raised her eyebrows.

“Well?” she prompted.

“Wildfire Blake,” he said simply, and Kit felt her blood run cold.

She’d heard of the man. He was an outlaw and a cattle rustler who was known for starting fires as a distraction while he and his men stole cattle.

“You sure?” she asked, still not entirely trusting Wiley.

“Who else would it be?” he asked. “I’m not saying I saw him in the act, but there’s a reason he’s got that name.”

“Someone needs to stop him,” Kit said.

“Sure,” Wiley agreed glibly, “but it’s not going to be Sheriff Carter. He’ll take your statement and give you whatever he can to satisfy you, but he won’t do anything about it. You saw the way he was yesterday. Almost like he just wanted to take the official statement so he could document it and forget about the entire situation.”

“Someone needs to something!” Kit retorted. “I don’t care if the sheriff won’t take action. Shoot, I’ll do it myself.”

“What did you say?” Wiley asked, clearly surprised by her pronouncement.

“I said I’m going to stop him,” Kit said. “I’m going after Wildfire Blake, and I’m getting revenge.”

“Are you out of your mind? That man is incredibly dangerous! He’d shoot you without a second thought, just the same he would any man who came after him.”

“So? I’m not going to get revenge on him based on whether he lets me do it. I’m going after him regardless.”

“Alone?” Wiley pressed, and Kit gave him a look.

“You seem to have an awful lot of questions,” she said. “Are you coming with me?”

“I—yes,” he said, and Kit couldn’t hide her surprise. “You’re going to need someone to have your back. I don’t see your father letting you go at all, but if you can manage that much, I might as well step in and help you along the way.” Wiley looked somber. “And Amos was a good man. He deserves justice.”

“Yes, he does,” Kit replied, swallowing the lump that formed in her throat. “Will you do me a favor and ask around with the other hands? I’ll take all the help I can get.”

Wiley didn’t look so sure, but he nodded anyway before turning to walk away.

Kit finished saddling Sunday and led him out to the yard in front of the ranch house before tying him to the railing at the bottom of the stairs. She headed back inside the house, unsure of what she would tell her father but certain she was going through with her new plan.

She knocked on the open door of his study, and he looked up from the work in front of him on the desk.

“Yes?” he asked.

“I need to talk to you,” she said. “I’m going after them.”

“What?” He raised his eyebrows with the question. “Who?”

“The men who killed Amos and stole our cattle,” she said simply. “I think I know who’s behind this, and it’s time someone put a stop to them.”

“Are you out of your mind?” her father demanded. “I already lost my son, Katherine. Are you going to rob me of my daughter as well?”

“If we don’t do anything, they’re going to come back,” Kit argued. “They already stole from us and killed some of our own; are we really going to just pretend like nothing can be done and wait for them to do it again?”

Her father opened his mouth to reply, but closed it again and shook his head. “It’s no use arguing with you, is it? You’ve made up your mind to go, and you’re going.”

“I am,” Kit confirmed with a nod. “It would mean the world to me if I could go with your blessing.”

Her father shook his head. “I can’t in my right mind give my blessing when you’re planning such an impossible feat, but I’m not going to stop you, either.”

“I’m not going alone,” Kit said, hoping to alleviate some of his fear. “I’ll be careful, Pa, I promise.”

He snorted. “You can’t be careful when you’re dealing with people like that.”

“I’ll have men with me who know how to handle themselves,” she said, hoping against hope more men than just Wiley would be joining her. “We’ll be okay, Pa, I promise.”

“You can’t promise,” he said. “But again, I won’t stop you.”

She nodded, hesitating for only a moment longer before walking back outside.

Kit knew her father wasn’t happy about the idea, but she was glad she’d taken the time to tell him she was going. She’d never felt stronger about anything else in her life as she did tracking down that outlaw and getting revenge. She simply had to do it.

She grabbed Sunday’s reins after untying him from the railing, and she was just about to climb into the saddle when she heard Wiley calling to her from the barn.

“Did you talk to everyone?” she asked before he had the chance to say anything.

“I did,” he said with a nod. “Holt and Redmond have both agreed to come along.”

“Excellent,” she said. “Tell them to pack their things and get any affairs they may need to tend to in order. I don’t know how long we’ll be on the trail, but I’m not stopping until we catch Wildfire Blake.”

Wiley nodded. “When are we leaving?”

“First thing,” she said, but hesitated. “First thing the day after tomorrow. I’m not missing Amos’s funeral.”

Wiley nodded and promised he’d tell the others, and Kit set off.

She rode in the direction of where they’d been attacked the day before, hoping to come across something useful. She didn’t expect to find anything, but it was only responsible to go back out to the scene of the attack and look around before moving on.

It gave her some peace of mind to know that Redmond would be going with her. He had worked for her father for the past ten years, and he was like an uncle to her. And Amos, too, for that matter. Perhaps he felt that he, too, could only make peace with what happened if he were to go after the man responsible for Amos’s death.

“Saddle Up for Vengeance” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!

In the gritty heart of the Old West, Katherine “Kit” Carson, a fiery redhead known for her unyielding spirit and masculine garb, faces the greatest trial of her life. Following the merciless killing of her beloved brother Amos by cattle rustlers, Kit is driven by a relentless quest for justice. Raised in the shadow of men on a rugged cattle ranch, she has become as tough and capable as any cowboy, yet her path is fraught with danger…

Can she navigate the perilous journey that lies ahead?

Alongside Kit stands Lee, a rugged Texas Ranger, driven by his vendetta against the same gang that took Amos’s life. His life of solitude and dedication to the law makes him an unlikely ally for Kit. Together, they form an uneasy alliance, uniting their singular quests for vengeance against the notorious outlaw, “Wildfire” Blake. But as their journey unfolds, Lee’s honorable nature and hidden vulnerabilities become increasingly apparent, weaving a complex bond between him and Kit.

Will Lee’s unwavering resolve and sharpshooting prowess be enough to vanquish the lawlessness that sprawls across their path?

As Kit, Lee, and a band of loyal companions pursue Wildfire Blake across treacherous territories, they encounter betrayal, hardship, and the harsh realities of the West. In a world where trust is a rare commodity, and justice comes at a steep price, Kit must confront the ultimate question: is vengeance worth the sacrifice, or will the quest consume her very soul?

“Saddle Up for Vengeance” is a historical adventure novel of approximately 60,000 words. No cliffhangers, only pure unadulterated action.

Get your copy from Amazon!

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