Book 1 in the Northern Horizons series
General Release Date: 15th March 2022
Word Count: 92,758
Book Length: SUPER NOVEL
Genres: ACTION AND ADVENTURE, BONDAGE AND BDSM, COWBOYS AND WESTERN, EROTIC ROMANCE, GAY, GLBTQI, HISTORICAL
How far would you travel for one man?
The very last thing Jimmy Downing needed was a skinny traveling partner who acted half his age with a chip on his shoulder and no idea how the real world worked, because Jimmy had a lot of experience with the world and he wanted no part of it anymore.
He was trying his best to be an honorable man after two decades of being outside the law. He’d stolen things. He’d killed people in the name of survival. He’d helped other men do horrible things. But now he was keeping his head down and trying to live under the radar. T’wasn’t his fault that Oscar needed someone to show him right from wrong, give him something to eat on the regular and try to keep him out of trouble, so he didn’t end up making a mess of his life the way Jimmy had. Maybe that was what being a good man was all about.
Except the things Jimmy wanted from this twenty-one-year-old man were far from respectable, and he couldn’t stop thinking about them, especially when Oscar Yates of the big brown eyes, cackle of a laugh and insatiable appetite for anything grilled over an open fire insisted on pushing all his buttons.
How was Jimmy going to last the 760 miles to Port Essington without giving in to those needs Oscar called to with the hint of a smile and a smart-assed curse? Because if Jimmy did give in, it would mean both of them living outside the law and never having the chance at a decent life again.
The stench of Dawson City hit me before anything else. My wagon full of supplies for Mr. Henley had merged with more traffic several miles before, so I must have been getting close to civilization—or what passed for civilization in these here parts.
And by more traffic, I only meant there was one other wagon and a couple of horses with riders on the road ahead of me. Most who traveled this country in the summer months used the river systems instead of picking their way through the tricky overland passes and uneven ground.
I liked the risk of it, seeing as how this was a safer way of living than anything I’d done o’er the past twenty years. I was traveling the straight and narrow now, trying to be an honest, hardworking man. I’d wasted the glory of my youth with a band of no-good thieves and murderers, doing their dirty work for nothing but a smile and a kick to the trousers. Yeah, I’d had a place in the world, but it hadn’t taken long to realize t’wasn’t a good one. Problem was, it had taken more time to figure out how to leave that life behind than it had to realize that I wanted to.
But I had found a way out, and my theories on how much I was worth to them had been correct. Nobody had lifted a finger to find me. I was nothing to them and always had been. Spook, Whitlaw and the gang were rotten, immoral men who used folks then tossed them aside when they weren’t of use no more—or simply didn’t care if those people decided to quit them.
Even though it stung, since there’d been a time that I’d imagined they’d liked me and maybe thought of me as a valuable addition to their circle, t’was a blessing. Because if either of them had decided t’was in their best interests to get me back into the gang or to make sure I didn’t go joining any other gangs, I would have been disposed of a long time ago. But I figured they didn’t care one way or another what I was doing now, and they’d probably rounded up a couple of greenhorns to train into the life the way they wanted, doing their dirty work and being witness to more cruelty than they could ever imagine.
Now I was hauling supplies on the regular by way of the Overland Trail and doing it for less money than Mr. Henley would pay a riverboat captain. It didn’t leave much extra for me, but it paid for keeping up the horses and the wagon, gave me something to do that I enjoyed and a way to be my own boss. My life was my own, small as t’was, and I was eternally grateful for that.
T’was rough terrain I traveled, and there were wild animals that would kill me if I wasn’t on the lookout. But I loved this country, and I knew it from twenty years of roaming and outlawing with the gang before I’d left that life in the Yukon dust.
The gold rush that had mobilized half the continent was long o’er, and most of the folks left were simply hanging on. To what, I wasn’t rightly sure. I’d been delivering supplies to Mr. Henley for a couple of years, since 1904, and ‘The Paris of the North’ had long since failed to live up to its name. The city just kept getting dirtier and the people more desperate. What little economy was left centered around small shops and mining operations that remained, trying to make sense of a world where towns were built up then abandoned in the blink of an eye, when better offerings were found elsewhere.
The city was on the decline and full of desperate people.
There were one or two decent hotels left, so after I’d unloaded the wagon at Mr. Henley’s store with the help of his son, I made my way to the Miner’s Rest Hotel on Front Street in the middle of all the action. By ‘action’, I meant the dubious operation of a number of saloons and cathouses that were left o’er from the gold rush days. But, where they might have enjoyed a brief time of luxury and the illusion of respectability, now they languished in a sorry state of lefto’er offerings and a dank sense of necessity.
There were still miners in and around Dawson City with gold to spend, but they were few and far between, and a far cry from the gold dust that had flowed for a few years at the end of the century. That gold had made this city, and now t’was dying without it. T’was a shadow of its former self, and I knew that because I’d seen it at its height, back when I’d been with the gang. We’d make the occasional trip into town after a good job and spend our money on whores and liquor.
The whores in those days had been personable, intelligent and outspoken women—lots of them pretty, many of whom were in Dawson to mine the gold out of the miner’s themselves, make their fortune on their backs and head back to the places they’d come from, to lead respectable lives with no word as to how they’d gotten their money. They were a special breed, these young women, hardy and enterprising. But they’d left to follow the gold and the miners to Alaska when the pickings got slim in Dawson, and now the only ones left were the ones who had no other choice but to do the work they did. I’m not saying a man couldn’t find a good one, and some of the cathouses had higher standards than others in terms of cleanliness and the way they did business.
But things were different now, and the town was dying of neglect.
Even as I stabled the horses and left the wagon in the care of a stableman at the hotel, I saw a young fella in grimy clothes and worn shoes swipe an apple from where it sat on the wagon bed, where it must have tumbled out of one of the boxes I’d delivered to Mr. Henley. T’was hard to guess his age under all the filth—probably an adult, although barely. He looked awful young to me…and scraggly.
I met his gaze, and he froze like he thought I’d go after him or mention him to the stable hand. But I wasn’t gonna do that. I held his wary gaze for a whole second, trying to let him know I didn’t have anything against him, and I wasn’t gonna tell anyone about the apple. He narrowed his eyes at me as his grimy hand tightened around the bruised fruit, and he took it and turned tail, moving fast into the street so he wouldn’t get caught if I changed my mind.
A shiver snaked down my spine because I’d seen a desperate look like that before. Those eyes knew pain and abuse, hunger and hopelessness. I hated everything about those eyes and what they meant—that this youngster was reduced to the most basic of human needs and even those weren’t being met. But I shook it off, because there was more than one desperate, starving fella in this town, and I couldn’t do anything about it. And there wasn’t no use worrying about any of them.
In the hotel, I paid for a large room with a double bed because I had the money and I was sick of camping on the ground. Mr. Henley had paid me and given me a bonus because he was pleased with my punctuality and the quality of the goods I’d delivered. So, goddammit, I was gonna spend a few days living in style.
First off, I needed a bath then a meal. Then I was gonna get myself a whore and fuck all the hardships of the past few weeks of rough travel out of my system.
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About the Author
AE Lister/Elizabeth Lister is a Canadian non-binary author with a vivid imagination and a head full of unique and interesting characters. They have published 10 books, one of which received an Honorable Mention from the National Leather Association – International for excellence in SM/Leather/Fetish writing.
“Sensual and visceral BDSM.” – Amazon.ca
Find out more about AE Lister at their website, and follow them on Instagram and Patreon.
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