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The big cat might have been nothing more than a shadow, a concoction of moon and clouds, had it not been for the faint scent of lilac.

Gabe had been in the saddle for hours, and the trail leading west from Harpton was gritty and rough. His body throbbed, and his mind was smokey, but the ache in his heart and the gnashing in his belly were almost too much to bear.

Gabe never expected Harpton to be anything more than a spot in the road to make a little money when he rode into town three months earlier. He’d work the spring planting season there on the edge of the frontier, then be on his way.

But a sweet waft of lilac hit him square in the nose his first night in town, and it led him, like a siren’s song, to the prettiest girl he ever saw. At the first glimpse of Lily’s impish face, Gabe knew he’d met the last woman he’d ever love.

They fell into a fast and easy romance, but Lily was young and her daddy was Larry Bates, sheriff of Harpton . The lawman had no appetite for surrendering his daughter to a grizzled drifter.

And so, one lonely night on his way back from Lily’s house, Gabe found himself surrounded by the law — Larry and six deputies. The posse banished him to the desert with the warning that he’d be shot on sight if he ever returned to Harpton .

All was lost, until lilac once again woke him from his stupor. There on the road in front of him, a massive black cougar skulked in the moonlight, a delicate white something draped across its jaws, unmoving.

Lily had come to save Gabe’s heart. Now, it was his turn to save her.

Published inFlash Fiction

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