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Though actual locations may be mentioned, they are used in a fictitious manner and the events and occurrences were invented in the mind and imagination of the author except for the inclusion of actual historical facts. Similarities of characters or names used within to any person – past, present, or future – are coincidental except where actual historical characters are purposely interwoven.


For my daughter Kate—

creative, confident, and a stubborn Irish lass in her own right. And for Chaco, wolf-dog, inspiration for Bart— although he no longer walks the earth he continues to live in the hearts of those who loved him.


CHAPTER ONE


Northern Arizona Territory

May 1893

“Smells like trouble, Whiskey.”

Ethan Barstow reined in his horse and the mare shook her head. From the cover of a band of pine trees, he had an open view of a clearing just below their hillside lunch break. A light breeze caressed the yellow tufts of grass and a startled coyote ran for cover in the distance.

Whiskey snorted and flattened her golden-brown ears. Ethan adjusted the brim of his hat and waited.

The distant sound of hoof beats became audible and a head bobbed into view over the crest of the open countryside. A torso soon appeared and then a donkey, toting the whole package and doing its best to move quickly.

Ethan frowned. It was a woman. She wore a hat with a string cinched tight to her chin; her bouncing upper body was covered with a dark blouse and brown hair flowed behind her. She would have been a vision to behold if she hadn’t been moving up and down in the animal’s saddle like a woodpecker attacking a virgin tree.

The woman’s head whipped around to look behind her and Ethan followed her line of sight. Three men on horseback materialized.

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