The Hero's Best Friend
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by Elise Dee Beraru
Description: The Sidekick and the Schoolmarm: Two people destined to go unnoticed through life, overshadowed by their more attractive best friends. When Sam Blake and Prudence Hofheinz meet that Spring in Rincon, Texas, it seems an extraordinary love is possible. Individually and together they must face an illegal conspiracy, a partner's betrayal and Sam's serious injury that threaten to tear them apart unless Prudence can convince Sam she will stay with him through thick and thin.
eBook Publisher: Awe-Struck E-Books, 2001
eBookwise Release Date: November 2001
80 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [694 KB]
Reading time: 455-637 min.
"The Hero's Best Friend is two romances in one. The characters are deeply developed, and I grew to care for each of them. The love scenes heat up the pages, almost burning your fingers as you turn the page."--Carol Durfee, Romance Reviews Today
"The plot held many surprises. As soon as you were sure where the story was heading it would suddenly reveal a red herring and divert onto an unexpected path ... The Hero's Best Friend kept me entertained the whole way through and was a delight to read."--Sandy Cummins, Writer's Exchange Ezine"
Chapter 1 The Texas Panhandle--1885 The mayor of El Molino stood by the hitching post next to the jail and held out his hand to the duster-clad man who had just finished putting a sizable sum of money in his saddlebag and lacing it closed.
"Mr. Randolph," said the mayor, "I don't know what we would have done without you, clearing out the Black Hole Gang."
Clint Randolph shrugged and turned to perfunctorily shake the mayor's hand. "It was a job and we did it."
"I've been authorized by the town council to offer you the position of sheriff of El Molino."
"Thank you, but no, Your Honor. I think it's time Sam and I were moving on."
Clint sighed. "Never mind. We'll be off, I reckon."
Swiftly, the range detective swung himself into the saddle of his black stallion and, touching the brim of his hat with his fingers, nudged his mount into movement. A moment later, a huge dun gelding followed, its equally large rider in rhythm.
About an hour later, far outside town, Clint pulled his horse to a halt and dismounted. The other rider also stopped and dismounted. Clint unlaced his saddlebag and pulled out the money. Leafing through the greenbacks, he divided them and handed a portion to the other man.
"Here you go, Sam. Fifty-fifty, as always."
Sam Blake smiled bitterly, though the turn of his lips was barely visible behind the soup strainer mustache and bushy beard. He yanked off his camel-colored Stetson and ran splayed fingers through his thick, black, unruly curls before clamping the hat back down on his head. "Yeah, fifty-fifty. Did you hear the bastard? 'Sam who?' Why do I put up with it year in, year out?"
Clint shrugged and looked up into his friend's face. If Clint Randolph was six feet two, Sam Blake was more like six feet five. Four years older than Clint, Sam was built like a bear contrasted with his broad-shouldered, slim-hipped partner. Clint was as smooth-skinned and bronzed as the Indian grandfather whose blood he carried, while Sam was bearded and hair-matted.
Friends since boyhood, they became partners when both were in the Texas Rangers, but even then folks never quite noticed Sam's contribution. Those that noticed him often failed to see the intelligence in the dark brown eyes behind the round, wire-framed spectacles, never suspected the college education behind the taciturn façade. Also unnoticed when compared to Clint Randolph's lightning draw were Sam Blake's far more accurate skills. Sam might not be as fast out of the holster, but he almost never missed what he was aiming at.
"We really should have wired the money to our accounts," Sam said. "I don't like traveling with this much cash."
"I don't exactly have an account," Clint responded.
Sam rolled his eyes toward heaven. "Where the hell do you put your money, then?"
Clint looked indignant. "Reckon I put about 95% of it into whiskey, women and good times. The rest I just waste."
Sam sighed again. "You plan on riding the range forever?"
Clint shrugged. "Reckon one of these days I'll get myself a small spread and run some horses."
"With what down payment? You can only get 160 acres free if you homestead. That's not enough for running livestock. Clint, you're what--coming onto thirty? I've seen those old saddle tramps, fifty, sixty years old, owning nothing but their tack and a change of union suits..."
"Thank you, Mother." Clint swung back into the saddle as Sam wrapped his share of the bounties on the rustlers in a clean bandanna and shoved the packet to the bottom of his saddlebag. He could wire the money, save perhaps $500.00, in the next town they passed through. He would feel a lot better once the remaining $4,500.00 was safely earning interest in the Bank of Santa Fe.
"We'll be in Rincon in a few days. Ought to be able to find a ready woman or two there," Clint mused.
"I can hardly wait," groaned the bearlike man as he remounted.
"Just because that whore in Santa Rosa got scared when she saw that big cock of yours is no reason to swear off women."
Sam flushed to the roots of his unruly hair. Until that moment he was unaware that his best friend knew his shame.
"Jeez, Sam, you been keeping it buttoned up since then? That's got to be a couple years ago already."
Two years, five months and fourteen days, Sam thought to himself, but who's counting?
"Can we talk about something else?"
"Sure." Clint began to slap at his pockets, then reached inside his duster and felt around. "Sam, you got any tobacco? I could sure handle a smoke right now."
Almost inaudibly, Sam replied, "I stopped smoking nearly a year ago."
"Oh ... yeah," Clint responded awkwardly.
"Why Rincon?" Sam asked. "Is there a job?"
"Yeah, got a wire forwarded while we were in El Molino. Seems there's some rustling going on. Ranchers are offering a nice sum to clean them out."
"Did you agree?"
"I'm your partner, Clint. Do you think it might be appropriate to discuss a job with me before taking it?"
Clint's brow rose. "God Almighty, Sam, the telegram was addressed to me. You always get your share."
"I just wish that you'd remember that I'm your partner, not your sidekick. Just because idiot mayors in dirtwater towns think you're the brains of this outfit doesn't mean you should start going around thinking you are, too."
"If it wasn't for me there wouldn't be any jobs. I may not be the brains, but I am the one they hire. What would you be without me?"
The two men rode along for a long time before either spoke again.
"Sam, do you ever think about settling down?"
"Define settling down."
"You know, buying a place, marrying, having kids?"
"Yes, no and no. Why, do you?"
"Yeah." Gesturing to his shoulder, Clint said, "I'd like to find a pretty little girl who comes up to about here and raising a whole passel of kids."
"That's a nice dream. Takes money, though."
"Yeah, but you've got money. I've never seen a man so stingy with a buck as you. Why bother if you don't want to get married?"
Through gritted teeth, Sam said, "I never said I didn't want to get married."
Clint turned to look at Sam. "But you won't?"
"Why the hell not?"
"Because I've looked in the mirror lately."
"Shit, amigo, don't let one little whore put you off women."
"I'm not, but at least she got as far as seeing my cock because I tossed two bucks on the table. No good woman ever got past my face and form. Hell, even my name is dull as ditch water. Samuel Blake, nothing to recommend that. Some of us were just never meant to be married, I suppose."