Harlan Stubbs was in a pickle.
There he was, caught red-handed trying to steal a horse from the back alley of some dusty little desert town he couldn’t even remember the name of. A hulking, angry blacksmith stood in front of him, some sort of gnarly iron bar raised up over his head.
The man could strike him down, and no one would even know. Heck, it was probably what Harlan deserved.
“Now, just a minute,” Harlan started. “This ain’t what it looks like.”
“No?” the big man grumbled. “It looks like you’re stealing my horse!” He took a step closer, and Harlan had to make a decision.
He already had a foot in one stirrup — he could hop down and try to reason with the man, or he could swing on over and try to ride off.
“Why, you!” The blacksmith grabbed at Harlan’s leg and caught hold.
Harlan thought his goose was cooked when a shrill voice sounded from the head of the alley.
“You unhand my brother!”
Both men turned to find a beautiful young blond woman in a pleated dress stomping their way, one hand behind her back. Harlan had no idea who she was. Evidently, neither did the blacksmith.
“Who are you?” he said, not letting go of Harlan’s leg.
“I’m the girl who did this!”
The woman swung her unseen hand forward and smashed a brick into the blacksmith’s mouth. The huge man grunted, then crumbled to the ground.
“What’d you do that for?” Harlan asked, shocked.
“Well, looked like you were in trouble, and I thought I could profit from the situation.” She smirked and winked at him. “Now, what’s my reward?”
Harlan’s heart pounded like the pistons on a steam engine. He had never encountered a woman like this before, and his future flashed before his eyes.
He saw adventure and sunsets and houses … and babies.
Didn’t seem like much of a reward, though, and he didn’t want to chance getting brained before they could even get started.
“How about a ride on my new horse?” he said, and offered her a hand.
She pushed it away but vaulted up on her own, landing in front of Harlan.
“Alright, mister. But I’m driving!”