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Story Excerpt: Athena Creek by Jen Cudmore


May 13, 2013 by Jen Cudmore

The Lawmen of Clayton County: Athena Creek (Book 1)

Chapter 1

One last swirl over the top and, “Perfect,” Lynette Ellis said to herself. She slid a finger over the wooden spoon and slipped a clump of the topping into her mouth, savoring the rich, sugary flavor. Chocolate cake was her favorite, but more importantly, it was her fiancé’s favorite.

Folks said Gunner Milburn wasn’t the most handsome man in town, nor the smartest, nor the most sociable. But he did have one claim no one else had. He’d tamed a mustang all by himself in only a few weeks and the whole town considered it the finest horse in the county, hands down. Having moved into a little one room cabin behind his folks’ home, Gunner kept the famous horse in a small corral behind the spot he’d marked out for a barn. Whenever he got around to building it.

But that wasn’t why she was marrying him. He was the first and only man she’d fallen in love with, which meant something for sure, with her being nearly twenty-four years old. Most of the good men were taken, to her way of thinking. Gunner had a lot to offer a girl. He had a nice, comfortable home on his parents’ ranch and he didn’t drink very often. He had all his teeth and even cleaned them once in a while. This was her chance at a happy life, away from her pa.

Lynette dunked the dirty spoon and bowl into the dishpan and sliced off a chunk of soap. She’d baked the cake for Gunner’s twenty-fifth birthday. She’d never done something like this before, but it seemed fitting since they’d be man and wife soon. She could just picture the surprised look on his face when she drove into his yard. A couple times in the past he’d made comments about her lack of affectionate displays. Lynette glanced over her shoulder at the frosted dessert on table and smiled. Wouldn’t he be surprised!

She shoved her hands into the dishpan and began to scrub the bowl. In only one more week she’d have her own home. Their own home. Gunner had courted her off and on for three years and it was high time they tied the knot. She already felt like an old maid. With the shortage of women in the territory, most girls were married off before they turned eighteen, like her ma. Time was a’wasting.

After laying the freshly rinsed spoon and bowl on a towel to dry, Lynette headed out to the rocking chair resting under the shade of a large pine tree.

“Pa, I’m gonna run over to see Gunner.”

Elijah Ellis looked at her with his usual I’ve-had-too-much-whiskey eyes. “You goin’ now?” he grumbled. “I’m not ready.”

“Ready for what?”

“To go to town.” He grunted as he slid forward in the chair.

Lynette’s hands parked on her hips. “You never told me you wanted to go -”

“Yes I did.”

“- and I told you I was leaving by ten so I can be home for lunch.”

“Quit yer harpin’. I’m goin’.”

“Fine. I’ll get the wagon.” Lynette stomped past the row of empty whiskey barrels toward the barn. If her pa came along, she’d be forced to stop by Murphy’s. He could never go by there without stopping.


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