She shouldn’t have touched my dog.
The woman stood a short distance away from me, holding Cain, my new pup. The dog was calm, though if he had any inkling as to who was holding him, he would have died of fright.
She didn’t look like my mother, but when she spoke, and the hate flashed in her eyes, I knew who she was.
“You’ve come far enough, Duncan,” she told me, sitting down on a nearby piece of deadfall and fixing her glare upon me.
“That a fact?” I asked. I didn’t bother going for the Colts. She’d snap the pup’s neck soon as I reached for them, and I didn’t want that. Better she take a bit of my flesh than harm the dog.
My mother gave me a wicked grin as she stroked Cain’s head. “It is. We’ve things to do here, and we can’t do them with you wandering about.”
“You know damned well,” she snapped, and the dog whimpered. Her grin returned. “Quite a few of us have sought refuge in the Hollow.”
“You. Or, if we’ve managed to kill you, we’ve had your father to contend with.” She shrugged. “Sometimes it’s your sister. Others, your brother. On rare occasions, it’s your wife.”
I hid the pain that flared up at the thought of Adelaide.
“Why are you here?” I asked instead.
“I gutted your father one morning,” she smiled. “A much younger version of yourself was hot on my heels when I escaped into my Hollow. I was pleased to meet so many of my sisters.”
The woman set Cain down, and the dog promptly went off to one side to make water.
“Now,” she said, straightening up. Her hand flickered, and I caught sight of a small pistol as she drew it from her dress.
But I’d expected as much from her. She was my mother, after all.
My own Colts cleared their holsters, and I threw myself to the left as I fired. Her bullet passed through where my head had been a heartbeat before, but mine found their mark. Both struck her in the chest, and the spray of blood and bones from her back was crisp and clear in the morning light.
For a moment, she remained upright, then her eyes rolled back, and she tumbled to the side.
Cain trotted to me and licked my face.
He’d grown used to the sound of guns.
He was a hell of a good dog.