Longarm and the Arapaho Hellcats

It's a Trap!

A neckerchief was tied over her mouth, gagging her. Her blue eyes peered up through the screen of her mussed hair, sharp with desperation. The ­girl—­she had to be Casey ­Summerville—­shook her head and fought against her stays as well as the gag, groaning.

Longarm leaned his rifle against the bed and dug into his pants pocket for his barlow knife. The girl grunted and groaned, straining with more vigor, pleading with her eyes. She seemed to want desperately to speak. Long­arm left his knife in his pocket and pulled the gag down onto her chin.

She lifted her head and, staring over his shoulder at something behind him, screamed,
“Look out!”

Longarm wheeled, instantly grabbing his .44. A man behind him was holding a rifle shoulder high, butt forward, the man's dark eyes wide with cunning. He gritted his teeth in a savage snarl as he thrust the rifle toward Longarm's head.

The lawman jerked to one side just in time. The steel butt plate grazed his left cheek a quarter second before he rammed his ­double-­action Colt into the man's gut and triggered it three times.

DON'T MISS THESE ­ALL-­ACTION WESTERN SERIES FROM THE BERKLEY PUBLISHING GROUP

THE GUNSMITH by J. R. Roberts

Clint Adams was a legend among lawmen, outlaws, and ladies. They called him . . . the Gunsmith.

LONGARM by Tabor Evans

The popular ­long-­running series about Deputy U.S. Marshal Custis ­Long—­his life, his loves, his fight for justice.

SLOCUM by Jake Logan

Today's ­longest-­running action Western. John Slocum rides a deadly trail of hot blood and cold steel.

BUSHWHACKERS by B. J. Lanagan

An ­action-­packed series by the creators of Longarm! The rousing adventures of the most brutal gang of cutthroats ever ­assembled—­Quantrill's Raiders.

DIAMONDBACK by Guy Brewer

Dex Yancey is Diamondback, a Southern gentleman turned con man when his brother cheats him out of the family fortune. Ladies love him. Gamblers hate him. But nobody pulls one over on Dex . . .

WILDGUN by Jack Hanson

The blazing adventures of mountain man Will ­Barlow—­from the creators of Longarm!

TEXAS TRACKER by Tom Calhoun

J.T. Law: the most ­relentless—­and ­dangerous—­manhunter in all Texas. Where sheriffs and posses fail, he's the best man to bring in the most vicious ­outlaws—­for a price.

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LONGARM AND THE ARAPAHO HELLCATS

A Jove Book / published by arrangement with the author

Copyright © 2013 by Penguin Group (USA).

All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced, scanned, or distributed in any printed or electronic form without permission. Please do not participate in or encourage piracy of copyrighted materials in violation of the author's rights. Purchase only authorized editions.

Jove Books are published by The Berkley Publishing Group.

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eBook ISBN: 978-1-101-61010-7

PUBLISHING HISTORY

Jove ­mass-­market edition / October 2013

Cover illustration by Milo Sinovcic.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental. The publisher does not have any control over and does not assume any responsibility for author or ­third-­party websites or their content.

Contents

More All-Action Westerns

Title Page

Copyright

Chapter 1

Chapter 2

Chapter 3

Chapter 4

Chapter 5

Chapter 6

Chapter 7

Chapter 8

Chapter 9

Chapter 10

Chapter 11

Chapter 12

Chapter 13

Chapter 14

Chapter 15

Chapter 16

Chapter 17

Chapter 18

Chapter 1

“Is it hot in here, or is it just me?” asked Cynthia Larimer.

The deputy U.S. marshal known far and wide by friend and foe as Longarm couldn't resist. “It's just you.”

“No, I'm hot as well, dear,” said Cynthia's aunt, Mrs. Beatrice Schimpelfinnig, who sat to Cynthia's left in the Union Pacific coach car. “Maybe you could open a window, though the burning cinders from the locomotive are liable to set us all on fire!”

Cynthia and her aunt were facing Longarm, who sat directly across from the beautiful, ­stygian-­haired Miss Larimer, bearer of the sexiest pair of ­cobalt-­blue eyes and the richest ­ruby-­red lips that the legendary lawman had ever known up close as well as down and dirty.

“I'll do it, Mrs. Schimpelfinnig,” Longarm said, dutifully rising from his fair-to-middlingly comfortable, ­plush-­covered seat. As he turned to the window, he felt Cynthia press one of her knees against his left leg.

The girl's flesh burned like the sun through a window in the middle of a summer heat wave.

Longarm glanced down at her, sitting directly in front of him, facing him. She was staring up at him with a schoolgirl's innocence. She wore a dark tan straw hat bedecked with a modest trim of fake pink flowers. Her silky black hair, gathered in a thick ponytail, curved down over her left shoulder to curl up against her full, round bosom pushing out her ­puce-­colored, ­lace-­edged, ­gold-­buttoned traveling dress.

The lie was given to the innocence of the lovely girl's gaze when she very slowly tucked her lower lip under her upper lip, poked the tip of her tongue out from between them, and ran it very slowly back and forth against the inside of the upper one.

At the same time, she pressed her knee a little harder against Longarm's leg. She let her gaze flick down past his belly to his crotch, knowing, of course, the effect her leg and her lips and her eyes were having on him, and enjoying every second of it.

“Excuse me,” Longarm said, glancing down at their touching legs and then smiling sheepishly at Mrs. Schimpelfinnig, who was frowning reprovingly down at the touching limbs, as well. “Tight confines, here, don't ya know,” he said to Cynthia's plump, doting chaperone. He gave the ­middle-­aged woman another witless grin, feigning innocence, and then turned his attention to the ­soot-­ and ­smoke-­streaked window.

Longarm opened the window to the warm but fresh summer air rushing past the coach car, bearing occasional feathers of coal smoke kicked out of the locomotive's giant, ­diamond-­shaped stack.

“Oh, that's too much!” Mrs. Schimpelfinnig declared, leaning back from the window as though a mountain lion had just poked its snarling head in the window. “Please, open it just a little, Deputy Long! You're going to set us all on fire!”

Cynthia's aunt brushed at the cinders that the portly, immaculately attired and coifed woman imagined had blown in on a few small snakes of coal smoke. She brushed her ­white-­gloved hands at Cynthia's dress, as well, and Longarm couldn't help imagining his own hands doing the same.

And going even farther, of course. Working on those gold buttons until he had her dress open and pulled down to her waist, exposing those full, round, pink-
­tipped . . .

The federal lawman shook his head to rid his mind of the torturous thoughts as he pulled the window down to within two inches of the varnished wooden sill that was a maze of ­knife-­carved initials. He noticed in passing that there was also one rather deft line etching of a man bending a bosomy woman over a rain barrel.

That didn't help ease the storm of nasty thoughts raining down on Longarm's incorrigible mind.

He glanced solicitously at Aunt Beatrice. “How's that, Mrs. Schimpelfinnig?” For his own selfish, lascivious reasons, he wanted nothing more than to not ruffle the woman's feathers. Only if Mrs. Schimpelfinnig let her guard down was Longarm ever going to get Cynthia off alone.

“That'll do, Deputy, that'll do,” Aunt Beatrice said, waving an impatient hand in front of her face.

Longarm sat down and glanced at Cynthia. The beauty was now biting down on her lower lip as she stared out the window and tried not to laugh at his obvious discomfort. She knew from experience all that was on his mind. For Longarm's part, he knew from his own experience what was on her mind, for he had learned since falling under the girl's spell at a Christmas party at the Larimers' mansion two years ago that she was no less robust in her desires than he was in his.

He'd been able to tell from the look in her eye and in the pressure of her knee against his leg that she was as eager to be alone with him as he was to be alone with her . . . and to roll that ­tailor-­made dress up around her belly, to pull her under frillies down around her knees, and to go to work on the scrumptious vixen from behind.

The ­twenty-­three-­year-­old beauty was, of course, the niece of Denver's founding father, General William Larimer and his portly, pale, but stately wife known to all who knew her as “Aunt May.” Cynthia was on her way to participate in the wedding of a dear childhood friend who was about to marry a dashing young sheriff in the small, eastern Wyoming Territory town of Arapaho.

Since respectable young ladies not yet married were required to travel in the company of a chaperone, Cynthia had solicited the accompaniment of Aunt Beatrice, who often shadowed the precocious, adventurous young heiress on her travels across North America as well as abroad.

It was a good thing that she did, too. Who knew what trouble a girl with Cynthia's hot blood and wild heart would get into? Longarm, of course,
did
know. And he'd like to be ­reminded—­the sooner the better.

That's why this was one time that he wished that Aunt Beatrice had stayed back in her stately Sherman Avenue digs in Denver, just down the road from the Larimers' own sprawling mansion. Longarm, too, was headed to the wedding at Arapaho, for as chance would have it, he'd been good pals for a long time with the dashing young, soon-to-be-­married-­sheriff's father, Thrum McIntyre, who'd been sheriff before turning the job over to his son, Ryan.

Since Longarm and Cynthia were headed to the same place for the same reason, it was only natural that General Larimer had asked Longarm to stick close to Cynthia and sort of act as the girl's unofficial bodyguard. Of course, the General had no idea just how closely the deputy U.S. marshal had been “guarding” the girl's body.

Longarm had no problem with doing so now at the General's behest. He just hoped he'd get to see as much of it as he had multiple times in the past, though if the vigilant Mrs. Schimpelfinnig continued to watch over her niece's honor like a hawk over its freshly hatched young, he doubted he'd get anymore than a flutter of the girl's smoky blue eyes and an occasional, furtive press of her knee.

Longarm was beginning to wonder if the cranky old bat had some inkling of the true nature of Longarm's and Cynthia's relationship. More than once since their train had left Denver's Union Station, he had caught Aunt Beatrice giving him the evil eye out one side of her fleshy face.

“I'm still a little warm,” Cynthia said, waving a folded newspaper in front of her face. “I think I might step out onto the vestibule to get a little air, Aunt Beatrice.” The ­raven-­haired beauty arched innocent brows at her bodyguard. “Care to join me, Marshal? I'd imagine you'd like a cigar.”

Before Longarm could answer, Aunt Beatrice said, “Those cigars are bad for a man's constitution. Besides, he'll just come back smelling like a saloon. I'll join you, dear. Deputy Long can wait here and make sure no one takes our seats. It took me long enough to find one that wasn't so badly soiled. Good Lord, what do these commoners ­do—­transport their livestock in cars meant for
people
?”

Mrs. Schimpelfinnig had heaved her bulky frame, swathed in several yards of ­summer-­weight gingham and capped by a plumed picture hat the size of a serving tray up from her seat, and stood holding on to the luggage rack above her head while catching her breath.

“Oh, never mind, Aunt Beatrice,” Cynthia said. “It just occurred to me how windy it is out there. We'll both likely lose our hats and muss our hair. I'm fine right here. I might just doze until we reach Cheyenne, in fact.”

“Oh,” Aunt Beatrice said, glancing furtively and with an unmistakable look of shrewdness at Longarm, “that sounds nice, dear. I could do with a nap myself. We're so lucky to have the good marshal along so that we can feel safe enough to sleep amongst so many”—she craned her neck to look around the ­car—“unwashed souls. Why, to me they all look like train robbers.”

Longarm felt crestfallen, but he managed to smile in spite of himself. “Well, now you got me thinkin' about a cigar, Miss Cynthia. If you and Mrs. Schimpelfinnig will excuse me, I do believe I'll head on out to the vestibule and indulge in one. Don't worry, ma'am, I'll make sure I smoke downwind so I won't come back smelling like a saloon.”

“I would appreciate that, Deputy.”

Longarm winked at the old bat and pinched his hat brim at Cynthia, holding her gaze for a beat, silently expressing his desire to throw her dear aunt off the train and into a deep gully where her stout corpse would feed the wildcats for days.

He rose, shuffled out into the center aisle, and moseyed out the coach's rear door to the vestibule, muttering under his breath, “Cranky old bat.”

On the platform at the end of the car, the car itself shielded enough of the wind that Longarm had no trouble lighting one of his prized ­three-­for-a-nickel cheroots. He didn't necessarily prize the stogies for their taste but for their price. A federal badge toter wasn't paid much more than a ­barman—­he knew some Denver barmen who made more than he did, in ­fact—­so he had to consider such things as money.

One thing he did not skimp on, however, was the quality of his whiskey. Longarm preferred Tom Moore ­Maryland Rye to any other tangleleg he'd ever sampled. It was a small, ­leather-­covered tin flask of the precious liquid that, after he had the cheroot drawing to his satisfaction, he slipped from an inside pocket of his ­tobacco-­brown frock coat that matched the brown of his skintight twill trousers and ­low-­heeled, ­mule-­eared cavalry boots.

“Be careful, old ­son—­you don't want to return to the coach smellin' like a saloon,” he mockingly remonstrated himself with a wry snort as he blew smoke out his nostrils and removed the cap from the flask.

Leaning back against the coach car's rear wall, his string tie buffeting in the breeze blowing past the gap on either side of him, he lifted the flask to his lips and took a liberal pull. He swallowed, grinned. He enjoyed the rosy glow the busthead instantly visited upon him so much that he took one more liberal pull before capping the flask and returning it to its pocket and following up the pleasant burn of the rye with another deep draw from the cheap cheroot.

He'd just turned to enjoy the view of the Front Range of the Rocky Mountains sliding past in the west, beyond the blond, gently rising prairie, when the train began to slow. He turned to gaze north along the tracks and saw a large wooden water tank propped on stilts. It stood just beyond what Longarm recognized as the Sandy Wash depot building, just east of the cavalry post, Camp Collins, where they'd be stopping for water soon.

It was a little jerkwater stop out in the middle of nowhere between Denver and Cheyenne. Longarm had stopped here countless times before on his way to and from assignments that had taken him north to Wyoming, Montana, or to the Dakota Territory, and he usually welcomed the chance to stretch his legs and palaver with the depot agent and the old ­half-­breed who tended the place and acted as courier.

But today he did not welcome the delay. It looked as though the trip to and from the little town of Arapaho was going to be a tedious one indeed, and he'd just as soon get on with it.

Probably the only enjoyment he was going to get was when he met his old pard, retired sheriff Thrum McIntyre, and saw Thrum's oldest boy get hitched to one of Cynthia's friends. Longarm had never met Thrum's future daughter-in-law, but he had a feeling that since she was friends with Cynthia, she was most likely beautiful as well as precocious, just as Cynthia herself was.

A nice combination.

Seeing Thrum and watching Thrum's boy get married would under normal circumstances be worth the trip to Arapaho in and of itself. But having the intoxicating, ravishing Cynthia within arm's reach while he made the trip was no ordinary circumstance, though so far it had certainly been a frustrating one.

Thanks to ­eagle-­eyed Aunt Beatrice.

When the train stopped, many of the passengers from the three coach cars left their respective cars to stretch and to breathe some fresh air. Longarm was about to disembark himself for a ­frustration-­relieving stroll when, taking a deep drag off his cheroot as he leaned against the vestibule, someone poked a wet finger in his ear.

A soft, low, sexy female voice said into the opposite ear, “She's asleep, Custis, and I don't know about you, but I'm more than just a little bit randy. What do you think we should do about that?”

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