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Excerpt from "Unexpected Calamity" by E.E. Burke

The same thing that had drawn her to him in the first place had lured her back, even though she’d known he wouldn’t be there. Deadwood was all she had left of him.


"Unexpected Calamity" is included in Wild Deadwood Tales, a collection of original short stories spanning the eras from Deadwood's untamed past to its exciting present. This limited edition anthology is written by USA Today and Amazon bestselling authors to benefit the Western Sports Foundation, which provides a wide range of assistance to athletes competing in Western Lifestyle Sports. Contributing authors include: E.E. Burke, Zoe Blake, Paty Jager, Teresa Keefer, Megan Kelly, Sylvia McDaniel, Amanda McIntyre, Peggy McKenzie, Angi Morgan, Nancy Naigle, Jacqui Nelson, Terri Osburn, Ginger Ring, Maggie Ryan, Lizbeth Selvig, Tina Susedik, A.C. Wilson.

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by E.E. Burke

ABOUT THE TIME she’d finished rinsing her hair, she heard a man clear his throat.

She spun and lunged for the revolver she’d left beside her clothes, then jerked to a halt when she saw who was sitting there on a boulder beside the stream. “What the blue blazes are you doin’ here?”

Wild Bill gave her a speculative once over. “Thought you might need someone to scrub your back.”

Death hadn’t diminished his wise-ass sense of humor. A full week she hadn’t seen him, and he picked now to show up.

She turned her back on him to finish rinsing. What did it matter if his ghost watched? He couldn’t do anything—certainly not scrub her back. “You had your chance and you didn’t take it,” she reminded him. “Steve did the honors.”

Two years ago, Wild Bill had made a deal with her. He’d loan her money to put toward a new wardrobe if she would bathe and wash behind her ears. Along with the outfit, she’d purchased some scented soap and had asked him if he might help her wash her back. He’d remained sitting on the bank, while Charlie’s brother took her up on the offer. “I’m a married man,” Wild Bill reminded her.

In fact, he’d wed Agnes Lake just a few weeks before he’d set out with the wagon train for Deadwood. His wife hadn’t come along. Jane reckoned if she’d been married to him, she wouldn’t have let him out of her sight. Wild Bill, handsome devil, couldn’t help the effect he had on women…her included.

“If that’s the case, you got no business sitting there, gawking at me.” He shrugged. “Not much else for me to do these days.”

She sloshed up to the bank and got dressed. The hand-me-downs fit her better than she expected. She’d lost weight from not eating…and not drinking.

“You haven’t touched a drop of whiskey in five days,” he observed.

Was the rascal reading her mind?

She narrowed her eyes. “I don’t much like having you following me around.”

“I don’t much like it either.”

“Then stop doing it!”

He shifted and stretched out his leg, but made no move to leave. “It’s a good thing you’re doing, nursing those poor souls suffering from smallpox. I never took you for a compassionate woman.”

His backhanded compliment caught her by surprise and she flushed. “You didn’t take me for a woman a’tall.”

Wild Bill drew back with a reproachful expression. “I did when you looked like one. Men who prefer women prefer them to look like women, not men.”

“What you prefer ain’t my concern. I wear what makes sense to me, not what some man thinks I ought to wear.” She spoke as she combed out her hair, using her fingers to untangle the knots, and wished she had a mirror to see if her brown hair had a reddish cast in the sun. Although clean would be an improvement. She glanced at her bare arms before slipping them into the sleeves of the shirt and noticed her skin looked a few shades lighter. Even still, she was plain and she knew it, and Wild Bill had never considered her as anything but a friend. As she wove her hair into a braid, she pondered that thought. Men trusted their friends more than their lovers. That might explain why he was haunting her. “Do you blame me for not being there?” The crushing guilt over it had never left her. “You were good to me, always willing to help. But when you needed me, I was out gettin’ drunk.”

“I don’t blame you for not being there.”

“Then how come you’re here?”

Again, he shrugged.

“You don’t know?”

He removed a pack of cards from his pocket and started shuffling them—cards in the hands of a ghost; she’d never seen the like. “Martha Jane, why did you come back to Deadwood?”

If he really could read her mind, he would know the answer. The same thing that had drawn her to him in the first place had lured her back, even though she’d known he wouldn’t be there. Deadwood was all she had left of him.

End of Excerpt

Copyright © 2018 by E.E. Burke

Learn more about this book and order a copy by visiting the author's and website. WILD DEADWOOD TALES released May 1, 2018.

AUTHOR BIO: E.E. Burke is a bestselling author of historical and contemporary romances that combine her unique blend of wit and warmth. Her books have been nominated for numerous national and regional awards, and she was also a finalist in the RWA's prestigious Golden Heart® contest. Over the years, she’s been a disc jockey, a journalist, and an advertising executive, before finally getting around to living the dream--writing stories readers can get lost in.


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"Unexpected Calamity" by E.E. Burke

Genre: Historical Western Romance/Western Short Story

Tyep: Short Story in a Short Story Collection

Heat Level: 1

Language Level: 2

Violence Level: 2

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