Title: A Score to Settle
Author: Mike Torreano
Genre: Historical Western Mystery with some romance
Broken after his family is murdered, rancher Del Lawson signs on to a cattle drive along the Goodnight-Loving trail in 1870 New Mexico Territory. Unaware he’s also in danger, he falls for a pretty Army nurse and the killers target her. If he’s to recover from his grief and build a new life, Del musts set out on a gritty hunt for the men hunting him.
Meanwhile, Del’s mother, Maybelle, doesn’t know her son survived that murderous night. When she discovers the gold the killers are after, she uses the treasure in an elaborate masquerade to take the murderers down.
Will mother and son’s plans reap justice-or destroy what’s left of the Lawson clan?
Morning found him with his eyes still open as golden sunlight stole through the small window. He’d been careful not to shift much. It hurt, and he didn’t want to disturb his nurse. What was her name? Del reached his good arm to the floor and unbent himself from the curl he’d lain in for hours. Stiff. Painful.
His ribs let him know they weren’t ready to get up. As he pushed to a seat, his head sent only a muted protest. At least that was getting better. He took the splint off his arm and flexed it. Wasn’t broken. Working to a stand, he hobbled to the door. Squeaky hinges betrayed him and he looked back. Her longish hair spread casually on the white pillow. In the morning light, it was as if he was seeing her for the first time. Dark green blanket drawn up to her waist. Stop it. You can’t even remember her name, and you’ll be on your way soon. Those thoughts were interrupted by steps on the porch. He creaked the door open farther to see Rodrigo staring up at him, Kip standing tall behind. He put a finger to his lips. “Shh, nurse is still asleep.”
From behind him, “No, I’m not. I’m just waking, it’s past time to get up. You all turn around while I get dressed.”
Del’s ears pounded. He wondered if she’d seen him staring at her a few minutes ago. He said, “Everyone out for a minute.” On the porch, he whispered to Kip. “Where’s my bottle?”
“Musta misremembered it.”
Del scowled. Rodrigo held a cup of coffee up to him with a grin. Wasn’t hot, but still warm enough. “Why, thank you, son.”
The door opened, and she called out, “All right gentlemen, I’m decent.”
Del limped in with a hand to his ribs. She was so beautiful. He fumbled with his coffee. “Uh, you remember…my nurse. Best I ever had.” She wore a different dress today. Drawn tight around her waist. Soft morning light danced off her hair. She’d let it down this morning, and it framed her face.
“I’m sorry, I must look a fright.”
Del wiped at his moustache. She looked anything but.
Kip broke Del’s spell. “My name’s Kip, ma’am. Yours?”
Del cursed himself for not remembering. “Pardon my bad manners...Miss Lyle.”
Her eyes smiled back at him. “Rose. The patient is doing better, as you can see.”
Kip shook his head. “Don’t rightly know about that. From what I see, he may need lookin’ after a while longer. He’s standin’ there like a downright dope.”
Warmth rose from Del’s neck upward. He usually had a good comeback for Kip’s digs but didn’t have one for that. He glanced down at Rodrigo for safety. “...Uh, you doin’ okay, kid?” An enthusiastic nod. Del snuck a glance at Rose. “I can walk without fallin’ over, which is what you said I needed to do before leavin’.” All of a sudden, his mouth was failing him. He didn’t want to go yet but couldn’t seem to stop his wayward tongue.
She put her hands on her hips and rescued him. “That and when you can ride. You’re not going to walk to where your herd is grazing, are you?”
He hadn’t thought about that. Good excuse for staying. Not that he supposed he could ride yet, anyway. “No, guess not.” He glanced at Kip. “Maybe tomorrow.”
Kip nodded. “Even old Stoney asked about you last night. I told him you were a goner from what I could tell. Those red cheeks of yours say I’m right. Don’t think those are from gettin’ hurt, though.” He chuckled and gave Rodrigo a nudge.
Before he knew it, Del said, “Why don’t you leave the boy with me? Haven’t seen him for a while.”
Kip’s eyebrows arched. “Didn’t know you were gettin’ so attached. You know how to handle a nine- year-old by yourself?”
“A sight better’n you.” He grinned and motioned to Rodrigo to stay put. The boy’s face lit up.
Kip swept his hat in a low bow to Rose and closed the door behind him.
“Let me check your head wound.” Rose made him sit in the room’s small chair and unwound Del’s bandage. Her faint smell went to his head. Wasn’t perfume, it was her. His heart beat so loudly he was sure she could hear it pounding. Breathe. Again. Slow down. Fix on something else. She finished cleaning the gash and wrapped a clean cloth around his head. “There. Healing nicely.”
“I am in your debt, Miss Lyle. Again.”
He beckoned to Rodrigo. “Followin’ me around for a year has been hard, hasn’t it?”
A shake of the head, but the boy’s bottom lip quivered.
Rose cleared her throat. “Uh, excuse me, but I need some things in the post supply. I’ll be back directly.”
Del called after her. “I could sure use a drink, ma’am. Throat’s feelin’ mighty parched.” If she heard, she didn’t say anything as she closed the door. Del drew Rodrigo close. “I been doin’ some pretty stupid things. Pukin’ in saloons, gettin’ whipped in fights, sleepin’ in stables, scroungin’ food for us. You’ve seen all the bad. He kept his voice low. Wasn’t anything to be proud of or said loud. “Want you to know I’m sorry for not takin’ better care of you. Haven’t been takin’ care of myself.” He put a hand on the boy’s shoulder. “Easy to see it’s been hard on you. Losin’ your family...” He thought of his own son and choked up. “Not havin’ a home anymore, no schoolin’, no friends, always on the move, livin’ day to day. You seen more than your share of misery for a boy your age. No wonder you don’t say nothing. Not sure I would either.”
Tears welled in Rodrigo’s eyes. He wrapped his small arms around Del’s neck and laid his head on his shoulder.
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It’s a brand-new year, full of possibilities. Did you make any resolutions/goals for 2022? If so, please share one.
To watch more movies, and less news.
Why is your featured book a must-read in 2022?
If you’re as dismayed by what’s happening in the country today as I am, then you might want to lose yourself in A Score to Settle, where timeless values still abound. Old West men were men, and the women were just as strong. They had to be. Score features loyalty, sweet romance, and twisty turns in a fast-paced story you won’t want to put down.
One lucky reader will win a $75 Amazon US or Canada gift card
Open internationally. You must have a valid Amazon US or Amazon CA account to win.
Runs January 1 – 31, 2022.
Drawing will be held on February 1, 2022.
Mike Torreano has a military background and is a student of history and the American West. He fell in love with Zane Grey’s descriptions of the Painted Desert in the fifth grade, when his teacher made her students read a book and write a report every week.
Mike has three traditional westerns out, published by The Wild Rose Press and a fourth coming early 2022. He’s also had a short story set during the Yukon gold rush days published in an anthology, and he’s written for magazines and small newspapers. An experienced editor, he’s taught University English and Journalism. He’s a member of Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers, Pikes Peak Writers, Colorado Authors League, The Historical Novel Society, and Western Writers of America. He brings his readers back in time with him as he recreates western life in the late 19th century.
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LinkedIn page https://www.linkedin.com/in/mike-torreano-0a407929/