Favorite Western movies/TV shows (in no particular order)
The Magnificent Seven
Dances with Wolves
No Country for Old Men
News of the World
The Last of the Mohicans
As Caleb started back along the trail, he stopped short.
The braying of the mule and the shouting of Preacher were enough to wake the dead.
Caleb ran hard toward the sound. He rounded a bend and saw them in the distance.
It was just as he’d feared. The minister was shouting like a madman over the terrified sounds of the mule. His arms were up, and he was waving a branch of evergreen at something Caleb couldn’t see. That branch wouldn’t have done a lick of damage to a newborn lamb.
He knew what Preacher was trying to do, though.
Caleb was covering ground quickly, but he was still several hundred paces from them. He ran full speed, leaping to avoid protruding rocks and roots. The trail dipped into a wash, and he lost sight of them for a moment. The hoarse shouts of the minister and the continuous braying urged him on. As Caleb raced up the incline and caught sight of them again, he figured he was still more than a hundred paces away.
Suddenly, tawny fur flashed across the ground. A cougar that looked to be the size of a pony leaped onto the hindquarters of the mule. He barely got his claws into the mule’s haunches, however, when the old beast let go with a ferocious kick using both back hooves, sending the big cat tumbling and rolling across the forest floor.
Caleb’s lungs were burning. Still carrying the coffeepot, he was a good seventy paces away, but he yelled with as much breath as he could muster.
The lion crept into view, his broad face, tawny and white, held low to the ground. Even as Caleb pounded along the trail, he could see the bared teeth and golden eyes gleaming in the murky dawn light. The big cat was moving closer to the preacher. It had clearly decided that the old man—fearless as he appeared with his flimsy weapon of fir—was easier prey than the sharp-hoofed mule.
“Heya! Heya!” Caleb shouted, but the confrontation ahead was focused and deadly.
He was still fifty paces away when the trail turned slightly, and he lost sight of them for an instant.
By the time he saw them again, he was thirty paces away.
This cougar was the largest he’d ever seen. The powerful back legs were quivering, ready to launch him once again. The ears were back, nearly flattened against the head, and the mouth opened with screech that showed long teeth, sharpened on the bones and gristle of a thousand animals.
Twenty paces from them, he shouted again, using the sharp sounds of the seasoned cattle puncher, trying everything he could to divert the fearsome hunter.
But the mountain lion was not to be distracted. He took two smooth steps forward and lunged at the preacher, who threw up his arms as the cat bowled him to the ground. The powerful front claws ripped and grabbed hold, trying to catch the man’s face between those cruel jaws.
Caleb flung the coffeepot at the beast’s head. He saw the lion’s eyes and ear flick toward him, but the animal was intent on finishing the battle with the struggling preacher.
Without slowing his pace at all, Caleb launched himself into the fray. The cat, seeing a more formidable opponent so close, released his prey and spun toward him at the exact moment Caleb found a handhold in the thick, tawny fur. Using his momentum, he leaped over them both, hauling the beast with him.
The lion, dragged off-balance for a moment, was not about to give up the fight. Spinning and slashing at the new foe with lightning-fast swipes of his deadly front claws, it scrambled to regain its footing. It took the predator only a split second to get its rear paws on the ground.
Caleb released the big cat and sprang backward, hoping the combined force of two humans would be enough to scare the hunter off. But the animal was aroused, and blind rage was driving it now.
The lion came with almost unimaginable quickness, leaping with its front legs fully extended. Outstretched claws as sharp as razors reached for Caleb’s neck and throat. He looked into the gaping mouth and fangs, at the jaws ready to crush his head.
Over two hundred pounds of raw muscle and fury hit him, gripping him and driving him back. As the beast surged forward, Caleb threw his hands up, his two fists grasping the fur high on the cat’s chest. The hunter’s front claws had his shoulders, and he could smell the cougar’s foul breath, hot on his face.
Turning and falling backward, Caleb used the animal’s weight and motion to yank the lion toward him, intending to throw it to the ground. But the trail behind him had disappeared.
The two of them tumbled over and over, down the steep slope. Even as they fell, Caleb knew that the cat’s four paws would be quicker at finding a foothold, so he hung on as they plunged and rolled.
When they hit a small sapling and stopped, Caleb found himself momentarily on top. He was not about to surrender his advantage. With the big cat’s body still writhing beneath him, he managed to pin the clawing back legs with his own.
Jerking a hand free, he reached for his boot and drew the hunting knife that had served him so faithfully.
© Nik James, Sourcebooks Casablanca, 2021. Used with permission from the publisher.
The first in a riveting new historical western series from author Nik James. It will take all this lone frontiersman’s skills to save his only friend from murderous outlaws.
Caleb Marlowe carved out his own legend as frontier scout and lawman before arriving in the Colorado boomtown of Elkhorn. Famous for a lightning-quick draw and nerves of steel, he is mysterious, guarded, and unpredictable. Now, he wants to leave the past behind. But the past has a way of dogging a man…
When Doc Burnett, Caleb’s only friend in town, goes missing, his daughter Sheila comes seeking Caleb’s help. Newly arrived from the East, she hotly condemns the bloody frontier justice of the rifle and the six-gun. But this is outlaw country.
Murderous road agents have Doc trapped in their mountain hideaway. To free Doc, Marlowe tracks his kidnappers through wild, uncharted territory, battling animals and bushwhackers. But when Sheila is captured by the ruthless gunhawks with a score to settle, Marlowe will have to take them down one by one, until no outlaw remains standing.
Western [Sourcebooks Casablanca, On Sale: May 25, 2021, Mass Market Paperback / e-Book, ISBN: 9781728233130 / eISBN: 9781728233147]
About Nik James
Nik James is a pseudonym for award-winning, USA Today bestselling authors Nikoo and Jim McGoldrick. They are the writing team behind over four dozen conflict-filled historical and contemporary novels and two works of nonfiction under various pseudonyms. They make their home in California.