West (Chapter One, page 1 of 9)

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Take a survey while you wait!

Only three questions!

Free $50 gift card!

Fifty dollars was a lot when my bank account was close to zero.

I stepped out of the stream of tourists strolling along the covered wooden sidewalks of Tombstone, Arizona, and paused before the table with an iPad laying next to the propped up sign. It was over a hundred and twenty degrees in the shade and even hotter in the brilliant midafternoon sun. The stores were packed. The beverage sellers at each corner of the tourist district wore heavy period clothing that made me feel sorry for them, as evidenced by the collection of overpriced water bottles weighing down my purse.

The first page of the survey was pulled on the iPad's screen, just waiting for someone to stop and fill it out.

"Why isn't this place crowded?" No one even glanced this way. Either it was my lucky day or I was the only person wondering how I was going to pay off student loans after graduating college. "My lucky day!" I placed my purse down on the table, picked up the tablet and glanced at the window of the store behind the survey.

It wasn't a souvenir or jewelry shop or western-themed eatery like every other business lining the sidewalks of the popular tourist spot. The pictures in the window were sad - of Old West pioneers burying their dead and Native Americans being marched in chains while flanked by cavalry members on horseback. It was a stark reminder of how gritty life back then had been.

Every kid who was ever forced to take an American History class knew how the Old West was won and the natives suppressed, and I had read every book about the era I was able to find when I was in high school. I wasn't certain why this store was in the heart of a tourist trap, unless the city was trying to keep things more authentic than the Old West souvenirs made in China.

Seeing the photos made my heart hurt for the long dead people.

"Are you interested in the history of the Wild West?" asked a male voice.

I looked over, not expecting the stranger to be as stunning as he was.

He smiled. Tall, trim and sexy, with sparkling blue eyes and dark hair, he wasn't much older than I was, maybe the age of the Masters students in the university where I had recently graduated with my Bachelors in a field unrelated to the Old West: modern languages. He had charming dimples in both cheeks that gave him a boyish appearance, exotically high cheekbones and a tilt to his almond-shaped eyes.

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