Monday, May 21, 2018

Good news

I hope those who are interested in the contest are writing like mad. The deadline is creeping up on all of us. Forgive me for not sharing Andi posts. My new computer crashed and it's been a scramble to get everything up and running.
Good news! Starting next Monday, Andi's Journal is coming back. I wonder what she's up to since the Milestones Christmas story. It's spring on Memory Creek ranch, so there might be surprises in the air.

I'm hoping Riley's Ramblings will also make an appearance, now that summer is approaching.

Mrs. M has completely redone her website (again), and here is some exciting news.

I just found a new (and different) narrator to record the Circle C Adventures. I know most of you have outgrown the Beginnings. :-) I skipped the Stepping Stones, as my "target" audience was mesmerized by the samples from both Price of Truth and Courageous Love. (Yeah, even I wanted to keep hearing! She gave the sample from chapter 16, when Procopio is kidnapping Andi, Lucy, and Sammy. Eeks! She's really good.

Here is the sample, just for fun.

Chapter 16 Courageous Love

Yes, I know she's not recording the Milestones . . . yet . . . but I sent her books and she surprised me with a sample.

Friday, May 11, 2018

Photo Friday--Spring Writing Contest

It's May! Just in time for a spring Photo Writing contest. Go to the Contest and Giveaways blog (Spring Photo Writing Contest) to learn about the prizes, the rules, and what Andi and Sadie are up to this spring.

Can't wait to see your stories!

Monday, May 7, 2018

Fan story

I'm sorry there are no more Trouble with Treasure "Lost Story." But all good things must come to an end eventually. Here is a recent POV story I received. Enjoy!

Cory's POV from Trouble with Treasure . . . by Ella

Monday, April 30, 2018

Lost Stories: Trouble at the Lineshack 17

Go HERE to begin this Lost Story.


Lost Scene #17: The Last Scene

This is the last chapter. You may recognize a few more similarities, from where I took the ideas for Trouble with Treasure. But it ends quite differently from the published version. Oh, yes! One can do so much when one can use multiple points of view.   

The cabin was dark and silent. No smoke rose from the chimney, and there seemed to be no sign of life. No one had answered their hail, and Justin and Chad were very concerned.
Mitch and Andi had to be here. This was the final lineshack. They had checked all the others. It was the middle of the day. Somebody should answer.
Chad could easily see the horses in the corral. “They’re Mitch’s and Andi’s all right. Even Charley’s here.”
“Well, where the blazes would they go without their horses?” Justin asked. “I have an uneasy feeling about the whole thing.”
“So do I,” Chad said. “What are we waiting for?”
He tied his horse to the corral fence. Chase immediately touched noses with the other Circle C horses. Taffy whinnied happily at being reunited with friends.
Justin tied up thunder and drew the pistol from his holster. “Something just doesn’t look right. Mitch and Andi would never leave their horses by choice. Where are they?”
“Mitch! Andi!” Chad called out, making his way to the lineshack. Cautiously, he eased the door open with his foot.
There was no response.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Photo Friday: Little Jem and Ellie

I promised I would let you know when I needed some help on a possible Goldtown Beginnings. So, I'm having fun creating covers, but that does not help with the actual stories. What I have done is throw together some titles and summaries. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to write STORIES that I can revise, tweak, and use, to go with anything that might be fun for the ideas I have below.

You will notice that two of the stories have only a title. Feel free to suggest what these books would be about. Feel free to give me any titles and ideas for stories you think would be more fun. I am totally open, and none of these ideas are in stone.

Have fun! See below for what I have so far.

1- Gold Nugget
2- Missing!
3- Strike it Rich
4- School Thief
5- Chinese New Year
6- Copper Penny

1- Gold Nugget
Strike wanders back to the Cripple Creek gold diggings after being gone three weeks prospecting. “Find any gold?” “No, but I found a nugget.” He shows Jem this half-grown dirty, scruffy-looking golden dog. “Can’t seem to shake him. Follows me everywhere.” Kids are ecstatic.
     But Pa and Mama say they can’t keep the dog. Dog full of burrs and brambles. Strike tells the kids how he happened to come upon the dog. Friendly thing but he’s awful hungry. Couldn’t just up and leave him at that abandoned claim. Mama says he’s going to have to stay hungry. Jem and Ellie raise a ruckus. But Mama stays firm. No dog. Dog follows Jem and Ellie home. 

      Background: (not in story, but for me) In 1860, Jem Coulter is almost 8. His sister Ellie has just turned 6. His ma and pa came to Gold Camp (old name) in 1850, one year after the CA Gold Rush. They had high hopes, but nearly starved the first winter in the Sierra foothills. An older miner, Ralph “Strike-it-rich” Morrison, came in 1849 and started off strong. He offered  to help the Coulters learn gold panning. Jem is born 2 years later, and Ellie a year and a half after that.
     When Jem is 7 and Ellie nearly 6, Pa spends all day panning for gold. Mama bakes pies and takes in laundry to earn money. Ellie and Jem take the pies around in a wagon to sell to the other miners, who line Cripple Creek with their tents. A few bigger tents—and a couple of wood frame buildings—have sprung up in Gold Camp, the name of the settlement. Over 2,000 miners crowd the area.
       Opening line for book 1 could be,
Ellie Coulter tugged on her brother’s sleeve. “Jem, do you sometimes wish we weren’t gold miners?”  She looked down at her dress.
Jem looked too. Ellie’s dress was not the same color it was four months ago. There used to be little blue flowers on it. Mama was clever. She sewed the dress out of a flour sack. Now it was sort of a dirty gray-blue. With a tear near the hem. It was short too. Too short for a little girl.  
 “Roasted rattlesnakes, Ellie! That’s a silly question.” Jem kicked a rock. (to establish his favorite saying early on in the book.)

      Family living on the edge. Always hoping to strike it rich.
      Meanwhile, the dog continues to around Strike because he feeds him. But he likes the kids better. Jem sneaks him scraps. Gets in trouble. Strike thinks that under all that dirt, the dog’s coat might be as gold-colored as a nugget.
For gold panning, Ma and Pa use sluice box. Jem uses a pan.
      Life in a gold camp. Mama takes in washing and bakes pies. Kids go around to the other miners selling the baked goods. Mama washes the rich Sterlings’ clothes. They are having their big house built at the time. Deliver the clean clothes. Will is always there to give them a hard time. One time he gets the clothes dirty just to make the Coulters look bad. Another time he knocks the wagon over and spills the pies.
But one day the dog follows Jem and Ellie on their laundry route. When Will comes after them to give them a hard  time, the dog intervenes. Will gets scared and runs off.
In the end, Jem realizes that he has yet to strike it rich in gold, but he has really struck it rich with Nugget, which is the best EARLY birthday present ever, even though his 8th birthday isn’t until September. Pa and Mama decided that the dog is more than worth its weight in gold.

2- Missing! Ellie has gone missing and must be found
Ideas to put into this book:
      Selling frogs. Jem teaches Ellie how to catch frogs. She doesn’t think she needs any instructions. Fall in. Get soaked. Scare away the frogs. Come home with two frogs. Then Jem and Ellie have a big argument about the whole thing. Jem yells at Ellie, and she stomps off crying. And disappears.
     Jem thinks she’s mad and hiding. But she is gone for a long time, all afternoon, in fact. He searches usual hangouts. Feels guilty. Knows he’s in trouble, since he is the big brother and is supposed to look after her to help Mama, since they are so poor.
     Meanwhile, a scruffy prospector has been seen hanging around the diggings. His name is Dakota Joe. Comes back later that day with Ellie’s rag doll in his possession. Questions fly about where he found it. They give Nugget the doll to smell and off he goes. Nugget is instrumental in finding Ellie, proving his worth to Pa and Mama yet again. Ellie has fallen into a coyote hole.


4- School Thief   Jem is blamed for taking things that belong to the other students, and he must clear his name. Theft in the gold fields at the same time. Theft at school. Jem is blamed. Ellie’s first day of school. Clothes from the missionary barrel. Ellie is made fun of. Jem gets in a fight over it. Jem in trouble.
     Will is the instigator. Ellie is ready to fly into her tormentors, but Jem holds her back.
     Mystery of the missing things (Will brought several shiny objects to school and accuses Jem of taking them) is solved when Jem (and Ellie?) decide to keep watch at recess and dinner break  to see who goes inside schoolhouse, as it is always after recess or dinner break  that stuff is missing. Several days pass with nothing taken. Has the thief learned he or she is being watched? Jem persists. (Ellie, too?) Finally, Jem sees crow fly in open window an return with something shiny in his beak. A silver pen? A bright stone someone brought the teacher? Etc.
Jem’s heart pounds. He watches crow fly into the branches of a huge tree nearby, climbs it, and discovers a nest with the missing stuff: a button from Will’s shirt that he had lost, a ring, whatever. 

5. Chinese New Year. Jem teaches Wu Shen to read
Chinese children not allowed to go to school in California. Wu Shen confesses he so wants to be able to read. Jem obliges. Celebration of Chinese New Year. Decorations. Feasting? Customs? Pa and Mama discuss unless there is a lot of improvement in the mining business, they need to pack it in—maybe find a rundown ranch. At least, there would be a place to grow vegetables.

6. Copper Penny: How do they acquire the horse "Copper"?

thanks a bunch!

Thursday, April 26, 2018

Fan Fiction Stories

I promised to repost this every few days, until everyone who wants to share their contest entry with the rest of the group has had a chance to do so. We have a nice handful here so far. Enjoy!

For those who have not done so yet: If you entered the 2018 Circle C short-story writing contest and would like to share your story, let me know by leaving a comment here. You need to include your (first) name, age category, and your story's title. I will post it over on the Circle C Adventures Fan Fiction site, but I will also list the stories here as the requests come in. I will include a direct link from here to the story over on the FF site.

Please leave comments about individual stories over on the FF site on each of their pages. Thanks!

2018 Contest Entrants' Stories:

Abbi G. "He Never Turns a Deaf Ear" (Ages 14-17)

Sandrina "The Easy Option" (Ages 14-17)

Leah "All Things" (Ages 10-13)

Patience "Andi and the Runaway Horse" (Ages 10-13)

Jaylee "Forgiving Johnny" (Ages 10-13)

Marissa "Get Back in the Saddle" (Ages 14-17)

Sydney "Lost in a Nightmare" (Ages 10-13)

Alicia "The Robber Unaware" (Ages 10-13)

Annabella "Andi and the New Girl (Ages 6-9)

Caleigh "Thief" (Ages 10-13)

Grace "Family and Flames (Ages 14-17) 

Kaitlyn K. "Love Needs No Words" (Ages 14-17)

Sadie Parker "A Shadow from the Past" (Ages 14-17)

Belle "Andi and the Horse Catastrophe" (Ages 10-13)

Molly "Straight from the Horses" (Ages 6-9)

Sadie's School Adventure (Ages 10-13)

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

The Last Ride Winner!

"Andi" picked the winner from a bowl of the eleven 100% correct answers. Go HERE to read the correct answers so you can figure out if you were one of the eleven. And I am open to other Trivia Quizzes. But before you suggest, look at the ones I've already done. You can scroll down at the link.

Congratulations, IZZY!

Monday, April 23, 2018

Lost Stories: Trouble at the Lineshack 16

Go HERE to begin this Lost Story.


Lost Scene #16

A sharp, tingling pain woke Andi with a start from a fitful, restless sleep. Finding herself no longer bound, she ignored the needles and pins in her hands and arms. Diving under the covers, she burrowed down into the mattress, curling up into a ball without even opening her eyes. Just a few more minutes . . .
She was so tired!
Andi’s reprieve was short-lived. Duke yanked her out of bed by her shoulder. “Enough beauty sleep, Angel.”
Andi was so groggy from lack of sleep and nothing to eat the night before that she staggered against the table to get her bearings. Her knee slammed into a table leg. Ouch!
“I’m starved,” Duke growled. “Fix me some grub.”
Andi looked over at Mitch, who remained tightly bound. He appeared asleep, but it was hard to tell. His head was lolled forward against his chest, and he looked still as death. 
“I . . .” Andi began, turning back to Duke.
“I need to use the outhouse,” she finished lamely.
“By all means,” Duke consented. He slid his gun from his holster and pointed it at Mitch. “But remember. If you’re not back in five minutes, big brother gets it in the other leg. Understand?”

Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Fan Story

Please let me know (I have no doubt you will) if I have not posted your story. It's been a crazy couple of weeks with running around at conventions. I'm posting them as fast as I can.

I think this is the last one of the most recent. I love these "the rest of the story" kinds of fan stories, where you grab old friends (and enemies) and return them to the Circle C world.

A Specter from the Past . . . by Ella

Monday, April 16, 2018

Lost Stories: Trouble at the Lineshack 15

Go HERE to begin this Lost Story.


Lost Scene #15

[Duke’s POV]

Duke watched Andi leave to bring back his sacks of bank money. Then he turned back to Mitch and grinned. “That sister of yours. She’s a keeper.”

He reached into his pocket and pulled out a stub of fresh chewing tobacco, bit off a hunk, and replaced it. “You know I can’t just leave you here, don’t you, Carter? I can’t stay either.” He sighed. “I know that where’s there’s one Carter, there’ll eventually be more. Your family does manage to be all over the place. I’m gonna have to light out of here—probably tomorrow.”

He paused, pondering his next move. “I plan to take the girl with me when I go.”
“No, you aren’t,” Mitch forced out between clenched teeth.
“There ain’t one solitary thing you can do about it,” Duke said. “Consider it payment for killing my kin.” He chuckled. “Don’t worry none. I won’t let nothin’ bad happen to her. She’s worth too much to your family. I figure about five or six thousand dollars.” He grinned. “What do you think? Maybe more?”
Mitch glared at him.
“It’ll be a pleasure finding out.” He laughed. “If you were in better shape, I’d think about taking you along, too, but with that bum leg, well . . . I reckon I can get more than I need from your sister.”
“You won’t live long enough to enjoy the money, Dylan,” Mitch warned.
“You think not? What? You gonna stop me?”
“Oh yes. Somehow I will.”

Sunday, April 15, 2018

Sunday Stories

It's Point of View Sunday. Two fan stories telling alternate viewpoints from the books. 

1. A tear-jerker: Cory's POV in Courageous Love. CORY LOOKS AHEAD by Sadie S.

2. A mystery fan: Katherine's arrival on the ranch from her (and other family members) point of view in Family Secret. If this is your story, please tell me. I don't think I've posted it before, but I found it in my file and thought, "Oh, no, I forgot to post this." KATHERINE ARRIVES

These are amazing stories from other characters' points of view. You authors have totally kept everyone in perfect "character."

Saturday, April 14, 2018

Spring Trivia Contest: The Last Ride

By the way . . .  the Chat Box vanished on me. I was in the middle of a convention and I did not pay the six-month payment in time. I have noticed, however, that hardly anybody uses it, so I think I should save the $$ and leave it off for a while. However, if there is a huge outcry of "bring it back!" I will investigate and see how I can get it back. Okay, moving on to the contest . . .

It's spring and the perfect time to launch the last of the Milestones Trivia Contests. I hope you are enjoying the challenge. This time it's The Last Ride, and the winner can choose any one of the five available new ANNIVERSARY editions of the Circle C Adventures.

This time there are 31 questions! But for your sake, I have put them in order. Thanks again to reader Ellen's help, or there would be no trivia contest (as I've been busy with creating activities for the last two Stepping Stones books and don't have time to think up challenging trivia questions).

Send your answers to As before, the one with the most correct answers will win their choice of an autographed book (comes with a sticker and a bookmark too). In the event of multiple winners, a random drawing will determine the winner.

Contest begins Saturday, April 14, and ends Monday, April 23. I will be at conventions the month of April, so it might take me a little longer to look over the answers and determine the winner.

Have fun!

      1. Where is Andi at the beginning of the story?
2. What is the main reason why Andi has forgiven Justin for marrying Lucy?
3. Who is the new wrangler Chad has hired to train the colts?
4. When does Andi resolve to ask Chad about Shasta’s training?
5. What does Andi have to wear to the train station when Justin and she meet Aunt Rebecca 
           and Daniel? 
      6. How old is Sammy?
7. What’s Andi’s biggest temptation, one in which she often fails?
8. Who knows where Aunt Rebecca’s pills for her heart are kept?
9.  Into whose orchard does the buggy with Andi and Daniel crash?
10. Which part of the buggy breaks?
11. Which of Andi's schoolbooks flew out of the buggy and onto the road?
12. What does Andi fear Cory will do when he learns about the wrecked buggy?
13. Who accompanies Aunt Rebecca to San Francisco?
14. How long is Justin gone searching for Daniel?
15. Where does Justin finally find Daniel? 
16. Name two of Daniel’s punishments for his behavior. 
17. After catching Daniel snooping in her journal, where does Andi put her journal for
18. Who does Andi ask to go riding with so she can share the secret she has discovered about
      their cousin?
19. What is the secret Andi discovers about Daniel?
20. What makes Taffy sidestep close to the edge of the draw?
21. What does Mitch promise Andi just before she takes Dr. Weaver’s laudanum?
22. What is the wheelchair’s added luxury? 
23. Who ends up breaking the news that Taffy has been put down? 
24. Who actually puts Taffy down?
25. Where does Riley take Andi the first time he coaxes her somewhere?
26. How long has Andi been unable to walk after her accident?
27. How old was Riley when Midnight died?
28. When Andi and Riley return home, who is the first brother Andi talks to?
29. What is the surprise waiting for Andi in the house?
30. What does Mr. Foster present to Andi?
31. What gift does Riley give Andi?

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Fan Stories

As promised, I am delivering another story from the stash. This is the sequel to the Milestones Christmas story, where Andi comes home with a cougar cub and gives it to Chad for Christmas.

Here Kitty, Kitty by Abbi G.

Monday, April 9, 2018

Lost Stories: Trouble at the Lineshack 14

Go HERE to begin this Lost Story.


Lost Scene #14

I think you will have to agree that this "Lineshack" story no longer resembles Trouble with Treasure very much. There is no bad-guy deputy, just bank robbers (well, we are down to one bank robber, thanks to Mitch's good aim earlier in the story).
And you might as well know that this story goes very differently for Andi and Mitch than Trouble with Treasure, but that's not for a few more chapters, and you will find that some of the "Duke" conversations are similar to the "Hugh" conversations in Treasure. I actually did use this Trouble at the Lineshack as the original template for Treasure.

The sharp sound of a pistol cocking froze Andi to the spot. Her heart rose to her throat. She dared not turn around. Instead, she steadied herself against Taffy and breathed a prayer to still her pounding heart.
“Now take it easy, girl,” a man’s rough voice warned. He reached out and helped himself to the rifle that was leaning against the corral post. “Turn around real nice and quiet-like, so I can take a good look at ya. No tricks, you hear me?”
Andi slowly turned to face the man. Her stomach clenched as she recognized him from the bank robbery a couple of weeks ago. The horrible memory of this beast shoving a gun into Justin’s side. The sound of his voice. His rough appearance.
He looked worse now. He was tall and heavy-set, with dark, hooded eyes, a sharp nose, and a mean-looking mouth. A dirty, unkempt beard was beginning to grow, framing his face in a wild way. He was chewing a generous wad of tobacco, and his clothes showed definite signs of trail-wear.
Duke Dylan. Andi shivered. The third member of the Dylan Gang.
“Well, ain’t this a happy coincidence!” Duke clearly recognized Andi too. “We meet again. Howdy there, girl.” He let loose a stream of tobacco juice to his side, then returned his gun to the holster. “Mighty far from home, ain’t ya?”
Andi’s throat felt dry as dust. She stood there and stared at the man, not saying a word.
“Don’t ya remember me? We met a few weeks back at the bank.”
Andi didn’t answer.
Duke chuckled. “Well, no matter. I appreciate a gal who knows how to keep her mouth shut.” He indicated the horse. “Might as well unsaddle that horse, girl. You ain’t goin’ nowhere.” He turned toward the cabin and cupped his hands. “Eli! Rob! Get your filthy hides out here and introduce me to your friend!”
Andi’s blood boiled. He thinks I’m a friend to a couple of dirty bank robbers? Not likely!
Her anger helped her unsaddle Taffy without keeling over in terror. She loosened the cinch and let the saddle drop to the ground. Her hands shook too much to carry it.
Duke lifted the saddle and tossed it over the top railing. He waited while Andi unbridled Taffy and led her mare back inside the rough enclosure. When she returned, Duke was grinning.

“You got a name, gal?” He spit another stream of tobacco juice and waved toward the cabin. “Where are those lazy brothers of mine? Probably drunk and passed out.” He grabbed her arm. “I’m talkin’ to you, girl. I asked for your name, and you’d better tell me.”
“Andi,” she whispered.
“That ain’t no name for a lil’ angel like you.” Then he frowned. “There’s somethin’ fishy going on around here. Are Eli and Rob in that cabin?”
No answer.
He squeezed her arm harder. “Answer me.”
“No, they’re not,” she whispered.
“Well, I reckon we should mosey on inside and see who’s squattin’ in my cabin.” He pulled out his gun and laid the cold steel against Andi’s neck. “If there are any surprises, Angel, you will be very sorry.”
Andi felt herself dragged along by the stranger. She hoped Mitch had been able to hear when the man had called out for his brothers. Would it be too much to hope that he would do them both the favor of blowing this awful man’s head off as soon as they walked through the door?
They came up on the porch, and Duke stopped. “Hey, you in the cabin! I’ve got this little angel of a girl here. I wouldn’t aim nothing at me unless you want her to get it. I’m coming in to swap howdies.”
Duke burst into the cabin, pushing Andi in front of him. He took a sharp breath. “Who’s that?” He waved his pistol at Mitch, who lay motionless on the cot. 
“My brother,” Andi answered. “He’s . . . sick.”
“Too bad.” Duke led his captive over to a chair. “Sit.”           
Andi sat, puzzled. What was the matter with Mitch?           
Duke headed straight for the bed. He threw back the covers, and his eyes grew wide at the sight of the half-healed gunshot wound. He grinned at Andi. “Your brother don’t look so good for a fact. What’s his name?”
“Mitch what?”
“Mitch Carter.”
Duke's eyes opened wide. “Not the Carters who run that big spread some miles out of Fresno?”
Andi nodded.
“Wake up, Carter.”Duke shook him.

“Sometimes he stays unconscious for hours,” Andi lied, hoping Duke would believe her. In reality, Mitch had been improving marvelously the last couple of days. What was he up to? Why did he pretend to be asleep?      
“Is there anything in this dump to eat?” Duke demanded. He tossed the blanket over the sick man and looked around. Cans of beans and sacks of cornmeal rested on a shelf. “I’m starved,” he told Andi. “What do you say you fix me somethin’ t’eat?”
Andi ignored him. She felt sick.
“Hey, I’m talkin’ to you.” Duke yanked her up from the chair and shoved her toward the supplies. “I want you to fix me something to eat, and I want you to do it quick. Got it?”
“All right,” she replied, reaching up to the shelves.
Duke’s gun shifted until it was pointed right at her. “I’ll keep this gun on you, just in case big brother wakes up and has any stupid ideas.”
* * *
[POV Mitch]
Mitch lay as still as he could, pretending to be asleep. He would eventually have to wake up, but he didn’t want to do that until he had a plan. Right now his plans were foggy. The outlaw never put up his gun. He seemed to enjoy waving it around to frighten Andi.   
Mitch wondered if having his own gun hidden under his pillow was such a smart idea after all. In a shack this small, and with the dizziness he kept experiencing, there was about as much a chance of hitting his sister as there was of hitting the man.
It was a bad situation all the way around. He hated to lie in bed and listen to the comments that came from the man . . . but he had no choice for now.         
“You’re not very talkative, girl,” Duke commented as he watched Andi finish up the hastily prepared meal. She had found the last of the trout from that morning and fried it up along with heating up some canned beans. 
She brought the food over to him and tossed it onto the table, where it clattered noisily down on the table.
Duke grabbed Andi’s arm. “I like my food served cheerfully, girl.”
“Let go of me,” Andi said between clenched teeth, yanking her arm away from him.
Duke picked up his fork and pointed it at her. “You, Angel, are not very friendly. Not friendly at all.” He stabbed at a piece of fish and stuffed it into his huge mouth. “But,” he conceded with a smile, “You can cook fish. I’ll give you that.”
“I hope it chokes you,” Andi mumbled.
Duke chuckled. “You’re kinda sassy too.” He raised his huge hand. “But I got a cure for that, so if you don’t want to feel the back of my hand, you’d best learn to talk polite.”
Andi turned around and headed toward the cot.
“Nope.” The gun came back up. “You stay away from big brother, hear me? I don’t trust either one of you.”
He motioned her back over to the table. “You sit down right here by me, where I can keep a close eye on you. I don’t like tricks, and I hear the Carters can be mighty tricky at times. You obey me, hear?”
 Andi sat down hard in a rickety chair across from the man.
“That’s better.” Duke grinned. “We can get better acquainted, you and me. Can you do anything else besides cook fish?”
“I can shoot pretty good,” Andi lied boldly.

“Do tell!” He laughed and slapped his knee. “Yep, you an’ me are in for some interesting times, I think.” He nodded at Mitch. “Tell me something, Angel. When’s that brother of yours gonna wake up? I want to talk to him about a few things.” He lowered his voice. “You wouldn’t have happened to find any . . . well . . . sacks, would you have?”
“Nope.” Andi stood up. The rich odor of the trout she’d cooked Duke sent her stomach grumbling. It was time to find something to eat.
“I told you to sit down, and I won’t tell you again!” He pulled her roughly back into her chair. 
Andi winced and rubbed her wrist. Her heart drummed her fear. She blinked back tears and glanced at Mitch. What are you waiting for? Why don’t you pull out your gun and shoot this awful person?
“Why do you keep looking at that poor fellow like that?” Duke laughed. “Anytime I like, I can give him a matching hole in the other leg—or through the heart.”
“He’s my brother,” Andi answered in a shaky voice. “I’m worried about him.”
“You should be worried about yourself, Angel. What if he dies? Then you’d be stuck here with me.”
“He’s not going to die,” Andi snapped. He’d better not! she amended fiercely.
“Well, I won’t kill him, if that’s what you’re worried about—leastways not unless he gives me cause.” He pushed back his plate. “Where’s the whiskey?”
“It’s all gone. I used it on Mitch’s leg.” Andi took a deep breath. “When are you going to let us go?”
Duke leaned forward. “Appears to me that your brother ain’t ready to leave any time soon. What’s the rush? Ain’t I good enough company for the high-and-mighty Carters?”
Andi looked down at the table and didn’t answer.
Duke stood up and stretched. He glanced at Andi, then shook his head and turned toward Mitch. “I don’t think anybody can sleep that long, sick or not.”
Duke prodded Mitch on the sore leg with his gun, and he woke up with a start. “Howdy, Carter. How did ya get that wound? Shoot yourself in the leg?”
Mitch opened his eyes and held Duke’s mocking gaze.
“You don’t look so good.” Duke leaned over Mitch and shoved his gun into his chest. Andi watched in horror. “Now, Carter, I want to know exactly what happened to my brothers. I’ll tell you this much. I found blood outside behind the rocks, and here you are--all shot up.”

“It’s my blood,” Mitch said softly, looking into the man’s eyes. “The gun went off unexpectedly. That’s all. Haven’t seen anyone else around these parts.”
Duke’s meaty fist made contact with Mitch’s jaw.
“Leave him alone!” Andi threw herself at Duke. She grabbed his arm. His gun flew from his hand and landed by the door.
Mitch grabbed at the chance. Shaking his head to clear it, he reached under the pillow and brought out his gun. “Andi! Get away!” He cocked the gun, but he couldn’t bring himself to pull the trigger. It was too close.
“Hold it, Carter.”
Andi knew Mitch had lost his chance—because of her. She had clawed at Duke, putting herself in the line of fire. She doubted Mitch would get another opportunity.
Duke reacted faster than Andi could blink. He wrapped his arm around Andi’s neck and tightened his grip. Andi yanked at the meaty arm but it was no use. She couldn’t breathe; she couldn’t get loose.
He was choking her, breath by breath, and it hurt.
“Toss your gun on the floor, way over there.” He nodded toward the door.
Mitch flung his pistol. It landed in the dirt at Duke’s feet.
Keeping a firm grip on Andi, he reached down and picked it up. He handed it to Andi, who was still trying to catch her breath. “Open it and get rid of the bullets.”
She did as she was told, snapping the cylinder shut.
Duke took it from her and put it up on a high shelf. “I believe in having only one loaded gun at a time.”
“All right,” Mitch said. “You’ve got my gun. Now let her go.”
“When I’m good and ready,” Duke barked. He sounded furious.
Andi knew why. Duke should have searched his helpless prisoner. He’d have found the weapon at once. He seemed jumpy and insecure now, and he clearly needed to show them who was boss.
“Now tell me what I want to know! Where are my brothers?”
“All right,” Mitch replied. “They’re dead. But I killed them in a fair fight. Self-defense. One of them shot me in the leg.”
“Where are they?”
“In the ravine.”
“Well.” Duke’s voice turned quiet. “I’ll get you for that, Carter. Nobody does in a Dylan without gettin’ repaid. You won’t like it, I’m sure. But we’ve got lots of time to worry about that.” He let up on his choke-hold of Andi.
She coughed and gasped, drawing in deep breaths of air. Her whole body shook.
“One good thing, though.” Duke laughed. “All that money from the bank job’s mine now.”
“Let my sister go,” Mitch repeated.
“Like I said when I’m good and ready.” He held her securely, yet loosely, then turned back to Mitch. “You haven’t got a gun anymore, and I’ve got your sister.” He bored his gaze into Mitch’s until the younger man nodded.
“What do you want to know?”
“The money, of course. Where is it?”

Mitch shook his head. “I really don’t know. I was unconscious the first few days. I haven’t seen or heard—”
Duke pushed Andi away. He towered over Mitch, rage in his eyes. He raised his fist and brought it down on his wounded leg.
Mitch gasped. Andi turned white.
Duke brought out his gun. With careful deliberation, he rested the barrel against Mitch’s good leg, at a point just opposite his wound. “Now, Mitch Carter, if you don’t tell me what I want to know by the time I count to ten, I will place a bullet in your other leg. You will be a cripple for life.”
He took a deep breath. “One, two, three.” He looked at Andi, who was biting her lip to keep from crying out. “Four, five six—”
“Stop it!” Andi jumped up. “He really doesn’t know where the money and gold are. He told me to hide it and not tell him where.”
Duke pulled the gun away from Mitch’s leg. “Where?”
She turned to Mitch, her face wet with tears. “I don’t care about the money. I only know that if he shoots you in the other leg, you’ll die. Maybe if we give him the money, he’ll go away and leave us alone.”
“It’s possible,” Duke agreed with a grin.
“I’ll get the sacks,” Andi said.
“If you don’t come back, this gun will go off. I promise you.”                                
“I said I’d get it,” Andi snapped. “You don’t have to threaten me.”
She left to find the sacks she had hidden only a week before.