Cole Beauchamp is the greatest pistoleer of all time; he's also thoroughly unpleasant and has a habit of scaring away his assistants. But when he is sought out by a devotee with a love of guns that matches his own, Cole finds a new respect for Benjamin Pepperwhistle and the Fantabulous Circus of Wonders.
The air inside the tent was hot, damp and heavy, and it seemed to grow thick like syrup, converging around that gun, as the dark-haired man took careful aim at the target. There was a moment of perfect quiet, when Benjamin found himself holding his breath, when even the dust motes hovering in the light seemed to still. There was only the tanned skin of the man's arm, the damp fabric of his shirt clinging to his back, and his strong hand, cupping the gun with such confidence that Benjamin felt consumed by a deep, wordless yearning.
When the man pulled the trigger, there was an explosion of smoke and sparks, the sulfuric smell of burnt black powder was blasted through the air, so intense and rough that it made Benjamin's eyes water.
That had to be the man he'd come looking for. There was no mistake.
The man swiped his hand over the hammer, reloading quickly. He shot again, and then again, and again—three rapid detonations, three bouts of smoke, three showers of sparks falling on the dry sand beneath the man's leather boots. When he stilled, a cloud of smoke lingered in the tent, seeping slowly from the crack left by the tent flap. Benjamin closed his eyes and inhaled it greedily, loving the sharp tang of it on his tongue. He opened them again, and saw— Saw that the man was staring at him, eyes black and gleaming, just like the gun now aimed at Benjamin's face.
"Don't make any sudden moves, or the last bullet will be for you."
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