Retribution:Dark-Hunter Series #21By: Sherrilyn Kenyon
WILLIAM JESSUP “SUNDOWN” BRADY MAN. MYTH. MONSTER. 1873
WRITTEN BY SOLACE WALTERS
They say the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. In the case of William Jessup Brady, it’s been hand carved with a lever-action Henry rifle over his shoulder and a Smith & Wesson six-gun strapped to his hip.
At a time when the world is at its most violent, he’s the meanest of all. Untamed. Uncivilized. A half-breed mongrel dog spawned from the bowels of the Devil’s lowest pit, he is the worst of the scourge that haunts our towns and kills indiscriminately. No one is safe or immune from his wrath. No one is safe from his aim. A gun for hire, he doesn’t shirk from any target. Man, woman, or child.
If you have the cash, he has the bullet. A bullet he will deliver to his victim right between the eyes.
There are those who would make a romantic hero of this villain. Some who think of him like Robin Hood, but Sundown Brady takes from everyone and gives only to himself.
He is truly soulless.
The bounty on this man is $50,000—a fortune, to be sure—and still people are terrified even to try to bring him in. In fact, authorities continue to find the scattered remains of the poor, virtuous marshal who made the mistake of shooting at him in Oklahoma when Brady was robbing a bank. Not one shot hit its mark. Is there any doubt Brady sold his soul to Lucifer for immortality and invulnerability?
Though Brady takes pity on no one, this reporter wants to know if there is anyone out there with the temerity to end Brady’s wickedness. Surely one of you fine, upstanding, decent men would like the fame and money that would come from ridding the world of the most sinister being ever to walk it. I pray you courage, good man. Straight aim.
Most of all, I wish you luck.
* * *
“Everything changes today.” Unable to believe he’d lived long enough to see this undeserved dream, Jess Brady stood outside the church in his best, itchiest clothes. This was the last turn he’d ever expected for his miserable life.
He’d been robbing banks and staring down experienced men in a gunfight without flinching or breaking a sweat since he was thirteen years old. Yet here, right now, he was as nervous as a one-eyed buck in a barn fire. Every part of him was on edge. Every part of him fully alive, and for the first time since his birth, he was actually looking forward to the future.
His hand shaking, he pulled his old, banged-up gold pocket watch out to check the time. In five minutes, he’d leave his brutal past behind him forever and be reborn a new man. No longer William Jessup Brady, cardsharp, gunslinger, and hired killer, he was about to become William Parker, farmer.…
Inside those bright white church doors was the most beautiful woman in the world, and she was waiting for him to come inside and make her his.
Dreams do come true. His precious mother had told him that when he was a boy, but his harsh life and drunken father, who’d been consumed by jealousy of and hatred for the entire world, had kicked that out of him by the time he was twelve years old and standing over her pauper’s grave. Nothing good had happened to him since the day she took sick, and the years of her suffering had left a deep-seated bitterness inside him. No one so pure of heart should ever hurt so much.
Not a single thing had ever given him pleasure or made him think for even a second that the world was anything but utter misery for the fools unfortunate enough to be born into it. Not until Matilda Aponi had smiled at him. She alone had made him believe that the world was a beautiful place and that the people in it weren’t all vicious animals out to punish everyone around them. Made him want to be a better man. The man his mother had told him he could be.
One free of hatred and bitterness.
He heard the sound of a horse approaching. That would be his best man, Bart Wilkerson. The only other person in his life he’d ever trusted and the one who’d taken him in when he was a thirteen-year-old runaway. Bart had taught him how to survive in a cold, hostile world that seemed to begrudge him every breath he took. He’d taken bullets for Bart on three separate occasions, and the two of them had been through more turmoil together than two demons scaling hell’s thorny walls.
Like Jess, Bart was dressed in a long dark coat suit with his graying hair freshly combed. No one would ever be able to tell, looking at them right now, that they were two notorious outlaws. They looked respectable, but Jess wanted more than that. He wanted to be respectable.
Bart slid from his horse and tied her up beside Jess’s buggy, which he’d bought just for this day. Hell, he’d even decorated it with lilies—Matilda’s favorite flower.
“You ready, kid?” Bart asked solemnly.
“Yeah.” Scared though he was, there was nothing else in this world he wanted.
He’d already given all his ill-gotten gains away so that Matilda wouldn’t find out about his past. For her, he’d do anything.
Even be honest.
Jess started for the doors with Bart one step behind him. He’d just reached the steps when a gunshot rang out.
He sucked his breath in sharply.
Sudden pain invaded every part of his body as the impact of the shot knocked his hat from his head and sent it flying. It landed a few feet away and tumbled until it got caught in a nearby bush. Jess tried to take a step forward, but more shots followed the first. And all of them hit various parts of his body.