Silver-Tongued Devil

A ROUGH RIDERS PREQUEL NOVEL

Their love story sparked a brushfire that grew into the legacy of Lorelei James’s Rough Riders series. This standalone historical romance is a prequel to the McKay family saga.

The West doesn’t get much wilder than Silas McKay. He’s earned his cowboy reputation not just as a rancher, but as a brawling card sharp who’s short on cash but long on charm. And just as soon as he claps eyes on the pretty new schoolteacher? Well, Dinah Thompson is about to discover what courtin’s like McKay-style—sweet, hot and passionate.

Luckily, Dinah’s got the sass and sense to stand up to Silas’s shenanigans. She relocated to rural Wyoming to teach and become a self-reliant woman, not to spend her nights dreaming about that blue-eyed rogue and his ranchwork honed-body. But Silas McKay’s powerful appeal and tempting promises convince Dinah to recklessly go all in with him.

When Silas’s long-standing rivalry with Zeke West puts Dinah, Silas and his twin brother Jonas in danger, each one is forced to make difficult decisions about taking a chance to build their legacy… and a love that transcends time.

LJLA, LLC
(June 8, 2020)
301 pages
ISBN: 978-1-941869-03-1

Praise for Silver-Tongued Devil »

  • Silas and Dinah are dynamite!

    Lexi Blake, New York Times bestselling author

  • Lorelei is my go-to author for cowboy romance. Authentic characters, a setting so vibrant you can smell leather, and a lot of heat are packed into this prequel, so if you’ve never read the Rough Riders books, this is the perfect place to start. One of her best books yet!

    Larissa Ione, New York Times bestselling author

  • The Wild West just got a whole lot hotter! A sexy, work-rough hero and a headstrong heroine who’s all heart. Get swept up in the story that started it all! 

    Kimberly Kincaid, USA Today bestselling author

Excerpt »

Chapter One

Outside Sackett’s Saloon
Labelle Unincorporated Township
Crook County Wyoming
May 1897

Even in the dark, Silas McKay sensed the attack coming.

Although he couldn’t get his knife out in front of him in time, somehow he managed to turn his head, so the first blow landed on his cheekbone instead of busting his nose.

Still hurt like a son-of-a-bitch.

Then the bastard who’d taken that cheap shot, aimed punches number two and three at Silas’s gut, doubling him over.

Sharp pain sliced through him and he sucked in a quick breath.

An elbow connected with the back of his head and Silas’s hat hit the ground.

But before Silas could straighten up, Zeke West kicked him in the butt with enough force that Silas landed face-first in the dirt. Dust filled his mouth and he started coughing.

“Gimme back my money,” Zeke yelled.

More dust eddied around him, making it impossible to see in the pitch black. Making it hard to breathe—even before Ezekiel changed tactics and kicked Silas in the ribs.
He felt the wetness coating his side.

“Dirty rotten cheater like you belongs in the dirt,” Zeke sneered.

Silas wheezed out, “I won fair and square.”

“Liar!” A flurry of kicks connected. “You’ve never played fair. I’m gonna beat you until you pass out and then I’m takin’ back what’s mine.”

Like hell.

But Silas only managed to grunt in response.

Zeke shuffled until the toe of his boot connected with Silas’s spine, punctuating each kick with insults—dirty, rotten, no-good, lyin’, lily-livered, cheatin’, son of a whore—while Silas attempted to protect his head.

“Ready to give me my money back?” Zeke taunted. “Or should I bring this up with your brother?”

A commotion sounded, bootsteps hitting the wooden planks outside the saloon, then boots thudding across the ground as people shouted and raced toward where the beat-down was happening.

About damn time.

Silas took a chance, uncurling his arms from around his head to glare over his shoulder at Ezekiel. Then he gritted out, “Typical, West, that you were hidin’ in the shadows to jump me. Ain’t man enough to face me head-on—”

The last thing Silas saw was Zeke’s boot heel above his face before everything went dark.

Chapter Two

Jonas McKay reached the scuffle just as that Zeke West tried to stomp on his brother’s face again.

Yelling “Hey!” he shoved Zeke hard, knocking him off balance, away from Silas, who was out cold. Heart racing, he crouched down to see if Zeke had actually done the unthinkable and killed Silas this time.

Blood covered Silas’s face. Jonas couldn’t tell if the blood on Silas’s mouth was from his lip being busted open or just run-off blood pouring from someplace else.

Before he could roll Silas over, Zeke stumbled forward, as if to take another shot.

Jonas held up his hand. “Touch him again, West, and I’m haulin’ you in.”

“I thought you were off duty, Deputy McKay,” he spat.

“I’m never off duty. And I’d arrest any man beatin’ on another man who can’t fight back. Now step aside.”

“Make me. You think that big tin star makes you a big man?”
“No, but this big gun does. Step aside.”

“Do as he says, Zeke.”

Jonas looked up at Zeke’s brother, Zachariah, who’d shoved his way through the circle of onlookers.

Zeke sputtered, “B-but he cheated—”

“Now is not the time.” To ensure his smaller brother complied, Zachariah tugged Zeke back away from the scene. He said, “We’re goin’,” to Jonas but added, “But we ain’t done with this. Not by a long shot,” to Zeke.

Fucking West brothers. They were notorious for tossing out threats, but the hell of it was, they nearly always followed through. Or at least Zeke did.

Silas groaned, garnering Jonas’s attention. Then he started to cough blood.

“Easy. Let’s get you off your back.”

When Silas didn’t move of his own accord, Jonas shoved his brother’s shoulder hard, forcing him onto his side so he didn’t choke on his own blood.

Silas promptly passed out again.

Jonas glanced up and saw Jimmy, the twelve-year-old orphan who worked odd jobs around Labelle, holding Silas’s hat. “Is he gonna be okay, Deputy?”

“I don’t know, Jimmy. Can you run over to Doc’s place and let him know I’m bringin’ Silas in for a look-see?”

“Sure will.” Jimmy raced off.

A snort sounded, then Robbie O’Neil crouched down across from Jonas. “Stubborn lad, yer brother. I be warnin’ him against playin’ poker with Zeke West again, knowin’ that bastard was spoilin’ for a fight since the last time Silas beat him at cards.”

“Appears my brother didn’t listen.”

“Never does.”

“I reckon Silas won?”

“Aye.”

Jonas sighed, studying Silas’s bloodied face. “And to think I’ve always considered him the luckier twin.”

“Bein’s West had just gotten paid from the railroad and Silas cleaned him out, that’s still likely true.”

“Well, at least he has money to pay Doc this time.”

Robbie snorted. “Silver lining, I s’ppose. I’ll help ya carry him to Doc’s place since he ain’t gonna make it on his own.”

“I’d appreciate it.”

They each grabbed one of Silas’s arms and legs. While Silas wasn’t overly heavy, they stopped twice to catch their breath on the trek to Doc’s cabin, which was tucked back in the trees at the crossroads outside of town.

After the third time they stopped, Jonas huffed, “We shoulda thrown him in the back of a wagon.”

“Aye,” Robbie replied, puffing beside him.

Jimmy met them at the tree line, holding a lantern and wearing Silas’s hat. “Doc says to bring him around back.”

Doc Moorcroft and his wife had lived in the area since before Wyoming had become a state. At one time Doc did all his doctoring in the log cabin. These days patients were seen in the addition on the back of the house near the stables, which also had a three-bed recovery room.

For years Doc’s place had been neutral territory. He offered settlers, ranchers, cowboys, Indians, whores, outlaws and law enforcement all equal medical treatment as long as they could pay.

Doc stood in the doorway, a robe thrown on over long johns, his white hair sticking up and his eyes narrowed behind his round spectacles. He harrumphed. “Silas again?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Bring him in.” Doc’s gaze moved to the gun belt hanging on Jonas’s hips, then he locked his eyes on Jonas’s. “Then I’ll expect you to step out and remove that, Deputy.”

Jonas knew the drill—no weapons of any kind were allowed, no exceptions. He gave Doc a chin lift in acknowledgement and Doc stepped aside to allow them to enter.

After hefting Silas up on the table, Jonas retreated and was surprised when Robbie followed him outside. Jonas raised an eyebrow. “You got a knife in your boot or something?”

“Nay. I be thinkin’ you’d rather have me lookin’ after that gun than young Jimmy.”

“True enough.” Jonas slid the leather strap free of the clasp and passed the gun belt to Robbie. “You don’t mind waitin’?”

Robbie fastened the belt around his own waist before he answered. “No sir. Nice night. I’ll just sit over there in the shadow of the rain barrel and keep me eyes open.”

“Fair enough.”

“What about me, Deputy McKay?” Jimmy asked.

The last thing Jonas needed was Jimmy back at Ruby Red’s Boardinghouse or Sackett’s Saloon, running his mouth that the deputy was unarmed. Trouble rarely came to Doc’s place, but Zeke West was a whole different kind of trouble. “You stay here on lookout with Robbie and hold onto Silas’s hat. If Doc needs anything, I might send you back into town.”

“Sure thing.”

When Jonas returned inside, he noticed that Doc wasn’t alone. Miss Dinah Thompson was setting out supplies as Doc instructed her. Rumor was Doc’s wife had taken ill, and Miss Thompson—their boarder and the local schoolteacher—helped Doc out when she wasn’t teaching.

From what he could see in the dim light, she was a pretty little thing, with honey-colored hair pinned up to reveal a slender neck and a strong jawline. Jonas had heard that Miss Thompson suffered from shyness, but bein’s he wasn’t a church-going man, and Miss Thompson wasn’t the type to set foot in Sackett’s Saloon or act in a manner to get herself arrested, their paths hadn’t crossed this closely in the past year that she’d lived in Labelle.

Her voice held a soft twang when she inquired, “Deputy?”

“Yes, Miss?”

“Would you kindly help adjust your brother’s clothing so Doc can examine him?”

Naturally she wouldn’t be stripping Silas down to his skin. Even in the lamplight Jonas noticed the red tinge to her cheeks and she wouldn’t meet his gaze. “Of course.”

Then she moved to the end of the table to set a bowl of water and a stack of cloths next to Silas’s bloodied head.

Doc removed Silas’s vest and tossed it aside.

That’s when Jonas noticed the blood stain spreading across the bottom of Silas’s white shirt.

“What the hell is that from?”

“Language, Deputy, there’s a lady present.” Doc said, “Dinah, dear, could you hand me the scissors? It’ll be easier to cut this shirt away than peel it off.”

“Yes, Doc.”

He sliced the shirt straight down the middle of Silas’s torso. The blood hadn’t clotted yet, since there wasn’t an open wound for the fabric to stick to because a small knife was still lodged in the flesh above Silas’s hip, clean through his shirt.

Christ. Had West stabbed him? Then Jonas’s eyes narrowed on the hilt of the knife—a familiar-looking knife.

Doc sighed. “Well, this is unexpected.”

“Yeah, especially since that knife belongs to my brother.”

“You’re certain?”

“Yes, sir, I have one exactly like it. I’m guessin’ he pulled it out, intending to defend himself and ended up stabbin’ himself instead.” Jonas had begun to think maybe he was the luckier twin.

Doc leaned down to examine the area closer. “It’s mostly a superficial wound. Not too deep. I suspect the jiggling when you carried him caused the blood to leak out around the edges of the blade. He’s not suffering from excessive blood loss. I recommend cauterizing the puncture rather than stitching it. Less likelihood of infection. What say you?” Doc glanced up at Jonas for confirmation.

“Do whatever you think is best, Doc.”

Jonas watched as Doc directed his assistant. At the bench laden with supplies, she lifted the globe off the lantern and increased the size of the flame as Doc chose a flat, wide knife.
Turning the knife over the flame, Doc said, “I’ll need you to hold his legs, Deputy, while Miss Thompson immobilizes his upper body.”

Jonas frowned. “She’s a little bit of a thing, Doc. Shouldn’t she—”
“I’m stronger than I look,” the schoolteacher interjected, “and no stranger to this procedure. How about you worry about your half, Deputy, and let me worry about mine?”

Without waiting for his response, she wedged Silas’s limp left arm against his body and pinned it in place with her hips as she leaned across his chest to clutch the other side of the table, pressing her elbows into his right arm, holding him down.

Well, that worked pretty slick. Guess she did know what she was doing.

Jonas took the same position with his brother’s legs.
Doc quickly removed the knife lodged in Silas’s side with one hand and pressed the red-hot cauterizing knife over the wound with the other hand.

As expected, that woke Silas up.

“Son-of-a-bitching, cocksucking, mother of a whore—”

“Pipe down, Mr. McKay,” Miss Thompson said through gritted teeth as Silas tried to arch his back. “And for all that’s holy, please hold still!”

Silas went so motionless that Jonas assumed he’d passed out again.

But as soon as Doc said, “Done. Let him go,” and Jonas released Silas’s legs, he glanced up to see Silas had one hand gripping Miss Thompson’s throat and his other hand circling her wrist.

Silas demanded, “I’m dead, ain’t I?”

“Please—”

“I’m dead and in heaven because I’ve got a beautiful angel like you fussin’ over me.”

Oh for the love of god, Silas…really? Flirting the second you open your damn eyes?

“I assure you that you’re very much alive,” she said softly, “but if you don’t release me right now, I might kill you myself.”
Silas’s smile turned into a wince. “I take it back. I’m dead and I’m in hell, bein’ tempted by a fallen angel with flashing eyes and a feisty tongue.”

“You are the very devil, Mr. McKay. Or you’re very drunk.”

“I’m neither. But I am feelin’ light-headed when I look at you.”

“Cut it out,” Jonas said sharply. “And let her go.”

“But she smells like spring and sugar and all good things.”

“Silas!” Jonas snapped.

Silas released his grip on her and squeezed his eyes shut. “I ain’t gonna apologize for puttin’ my hands on you, darlin’. I was afraid you were tryin’ to get away from me.”

Doc chuckled. “If he didn’t already have a head injury, Dinah dear, I’d allow you to cuff his ears. He’d be easier to deal with.”

“I remember exactly how to deal with him, Doc.”

“Good. Then I’ll let you coax him into drinking this tincture.”

Jonas watched as Miss Thompson murmured to Silas, urging him to finish the entire glass, which he did in one long gulp as she held onto the back of his neck.

His brother didn’t put up a fuss—which wasn’t like his stubborn twin at all.

What in the devil was going on?

Doc continued his exam, asking Silas questions about where he had the most pain. Testing Silas’s ribs for breaks, half-rolling him onto his left side to check his back. After he finished, he gently patted Silas on the shoulder. “Got bruises up and down your spine, no protrusions that I can see, but you’ll be sore for several days. Same with your ribs, maybe a fracture or two. We’ll wrap you up tomorrow before you leave. It’d be best if you remained overnight. Just in case I missed something.” He pointed to Silas’s head. “Once Dinah gets you cleaned up, I’ll take a closer look at that hard noggin of yours.”

“Thanks, Doc.”

“One of these days, Silas, you ain’t gonna be so lucky.”
“I don’t feel lucky today.”

“Well you are lucky,” Miss Thompson declared. “Especially since Doc isn’t lecturing you on the dangers of fighting.”

“Hey. I didn’t start it.”

“This time,” she sniped at him. “And don’t bother pretending there won’t be a next time.”

Jonas addressed the feisty schoolteacher, who seemed way more familiar with his brother than he’d imagined. “You’ve seen to Silas before?”

“Twice. But never for an injury this serious.”

His jaw dropped. “But…you weren’t here the last time I brought him in.”

Miss Thompson finally met his gaze.

Good lord. Her eyes were the pale blue of a winter Wyoming sky.

She lifted her chin. “Then logic would dictate, Deputy, that you’re unaware of your brother’s most recent escapades.”

Dressed down by a school marm? Huh-uh. Not happening on his watch. He was the damn law around here.

“Or logic would dictate that my brother is sweet on you, Miss Thompson, and his previous injuries were so minimal that he didn’t mention them to me, lest I see right through his ruse to charm you with that silver tongue of his while you’re doctoring on him,” Jonas countered.

She blushed and turned away.

“Leave her alone, Jonas,” Silas said groggily.

“Deputy, if I could have a word with you outside while my assistant cleans up the patient?” Doc said.

Neither Silas nor Miss Thompson glanced his way—or at each other—but Jonas got the distinct sense they wouldn’t keep their distance when both their chaperones were gone.

LJLA, LLC
(June 8, 2020)
301 pages
ISBN: 978-1-941869-03-1

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