I’ve got some new books coming out on Blushing Books in the next couple of months, one of them is called ‘The Hard Handed Sheriff’. I could go into all the whys and wherefores of it, but let me just say I wrote this a couple years ago and had sort of forgotten about it. Having re-read it, I’ve fallen in love with the protagonists all over again. Here’s a little excerpt that will give you a hint as to why that might be…
An Excerpt from The Hard Handed Sheriff:
“Evenin’, Tomas,” Shep Benedict tipped his hat, keeping his flint blue eyes squarely on Miss Delilah Blackheart.
A murmur went around the saloon. Everybody sensed the coming showdown and unlike the previous altercation, the outcome of which had been obvious before it started, this one was uncertain. Sheriff Shep Benedict was still not real well known by the townsfolk. All they knew was that he’d been sent down from Springs Junction with nothing more than a horse, a gun and a badge. Oh, and a reputation for being one of the meanest sons of bitches that ever walked the West. He stopped a few paces away from Delilah and cleared his throat.
“Ladies aren’t allowed in the saloon.”
He was an undeniably imposing man. His face was all square jaw and high cheek bones and he was clean shaven, a rarity for Redwood. Standing there with his jaw clenched sternly he looked like he’d been carved right out of rock. A few lines around his eyes and mouth spoke to mature age and a good temperament, but he wasn’t looking good tempered at that moment. He was looking like the very incarnation of the law itself, harsh and unyielding.
Delilah turned her head, barely looking at him under the brim of her hat. She was making eye contact with his badge, not his face. “Now who says I’m a lady?”
“If you’re not a lady you should be upstairs with the rest of the whores,” he said, flicking her hat up with his thumb and forefinger so she couldn’t hide behind it. It was a mistake for him to have laid hands on her, but he didn’t know that yet.
Delilah scraped her stool back and stood up to face him. At her full height she was still a good foot and a half shorter than he was, in fact, she’d lost some height in getting off the bar stool. Her eyes narrowed as she placed her hat on the bar and turned to face him fully.
“We don’t take kindly to womenfolk who are generous with their affections being called whores,” she said, speaking slowly and carefully. Her voice carried around the saloon, which had gone so quiet you could have heard a bullet drop.
Shep’s eyes bored into Delilah. “I call a spade a spade,” he said evenly.
“And I call horse shit, horse shit,” she replied, looking him up and down.
“You watch your language, missy.”
“You watch yours,” Delilah replied, putting her hands on her hips. For a normal lady it would have just been an expression of exasperation, but when Delilah did it, it put her hands right near the pair of six shooters she kept for hairy situations.
Seeing the movement, a few of the regular patrons edged back from the pair. The sheriff took notice and his eyes flickered around the saloon as he tried to work out what was going on. Delilah caught the moment of uncertainty and took advantage of it. “You’re new in town, boy. Best you learn how we do things before you come crashing in here making a fool of yourself.”
The jibe sailed right past him. He hooked his thumbs in his belt and fixed her with a stern look. “What’s your name, young lady?”
That made her smirk. “Delilah Blackheart, at your service.”
“Shep Benedict,” he introduced himself in turn. “And I’m telling you for the second time. Ladies aren’t supposed to be in the saloon.”
“I go where I please. It’s a free country, Shep,” Delilah said, leaping at the chance to use his first name.
He snorted. “You’ll be wanting the vote next.”
His off-handed misogyny went down like a ton of bricks. Without missing a beat, Delilah drew, cocked her pistol and pointed it square at his chest. “Mr, this here’s my vote. Take one step closer and I’ll blow a hole in you. Ain’t nobody going to miss you around here.”
The tension was supreme, so thick you could have cut it with a knife. There wasn’t an eye in the place that wasn’t trained on the pair. Delilah had her death glare fixed on Shep, but a small smile was playing around the corners of her lips. She’d been looking forward to riling up the new sheriff, but this situation was better than any of the hypotheticals she’d imagined. Unfortunately for Delilah, her glee was short lived. One moment Shep was glowering at her like she were something filthy stuck to his boot, the next there was a flash of pain in her wrist and her gun was gone. Clutching at her forearm Delilah saw that Shep had her gun in hand and was smoothly sliding it into his chest holster. He inclined his head towards the doors, indicating the exit with a flick of his ice blue eyes.
“Move along, little lady.”
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