Welcome to Sara Walter Ellwood’s Sneak Peek Sunday! Today is another peek at A Touch of Camelot, a lighthearted historical western with a Camelot twist.
Gwin and her ten-year-old brother Arthur are the only survivors of the murder of their troupe after playing a tent revival in San Francisco. They’ve fled California in fear for their lives but have since been apprehended by the authorities.
Cole Shepherd is a brand new Pinkerton detective. His first assignment? Escort the beautiful con artist and her precocious brother across country by train to testify.
Last week, we peeked at the conclusion of their second grueling day aboard the Union Pacific Express. Cole has thwarted more than one escape attempt by his lovely charge, not the least of which was her attempt to convince him that if he didn’t let her and Arthur go before they reach San Francisco, Cole would be delivering them into the hands of corrupt authorities intent on seeing them dead before they ever set foot in a courtroom.
Cole isn’t stupid enough to fall prey to the pretty con artist’s lies. At least, not until tonight, when Gwin vanishes after visiting the ladies wash room in their sleeping car. All that’s left behind in the deserted aisle is her damp towel and a shattered perfume bottle. Cole gets a very bad feeling as he searches the moving train, not because he thinks she’s finally eluded him, but because he knows she hasn’t.
She would never flee without her little brother . . .
Cole paused at the door to the baggage car, his fingers tightening on the doorknob. Through the door window, he saw them, and what he saw confirmed all the fears that had nagged at him since discovering Gwin’s shattered perfume bottle. It was not Monroe, but the Chinese man.
The man was on his knees, leaning over Gwin’s sprawled, unconscious form. Cole’s stomach lurched at the sight of her lying so deathly still. Keep your wits about you, Shepherd.
He twisted the knob only to discover the door had been locked on the other side. The man’s head jerked up at the first rattle, and Cole knew he had to move fast. He stepped back and kicked. The heel of his boot landed squarely against the wood just above the doorknob. Luckily, the flimsy connecting door had not been made to withstand such punishment. It splintered and flew back on its hinges, cracking into the wall behind it.
All of this took less than five seconds, but it was plenty of time for the other man to react. Still on his haunches, he pulled Gwin’s limp body up and around to front him like a shield. The lamplight caught and glittered on a sliver of steel at her throat—a stiletto poised at her jugular. Her eyes were closed and she didn’t move. Cole couldn’t tell if she was breathing.
His eyes flicked back to the Chinese man’s face. They recognized each other in that instant, the way one professional recognizes another. This was no immigrant imported from the Orient as cheap labor for the railroads. This man had come here for a very different reason.
When the man spoke, Cole was surprised by a British accent. “I’m impressed by your timeliness, Mr. Shepherd, but then, they say if you want a job done right, call the Pinkertons.”
Uh oh. Cole’s first assignment for the Agency just got a whole lot more complicated. Is he up for it?
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