Merciless by Lori Armstrong

Book: Merciless by Lori Armstrong Read Free Book Online
Authors: Lori Armstrong
    “It’s too damn warm out to let these hang once we get them back to the ranch,” he
     said. “We’ll have to get the meat cleaned up and frozen as soon as possible.”
    “I’ll bow to your expertise. To be honest, I’ve never butchered my game.”
    “Never? Why not?”
    I rubbed the end of my nose. “My dad usually struck a deal with someone at Baylor
     Brothers Meat Processing.” That wasn’t the whole truth. For some reason, it hadn’t
     bothered my father to watch me kill something, but it’d bothered the heck out of him
     to watch me butcher it. In fact, counting this antelope, I’d only gutted a kill three
     times. My father had taken over, gutting the animal himself. Which seemed strange,
     because Dad never treated me like a girl who might be squeamish. I hadn’t been, but
     that hadn’t mattered. Every time we’d gone hunting, I made the kill shot; someone
     else cleaned up the mess.
    It struck me, then, how I’d carried that mind-set with me during my sniper years.
    Dawson made a disgruntled noise and pulled me back to the present. “It ain’t that
     hard to butcher. There’s not that much meat on antelope anyway.”
    I finally scooped the last of the innards out and rolled my buck to let the blood
     drain out.
    He crouched down and scrutinized my kill. “This is one plump little sucker. He’ll
     have more meat on him.” Then he said, “Hold still,” and took out a handkerchief. “You’ve
     got blood on your face.” He dabbed at it. “It’s gone.”
    “You want that hacksaw now?”
    Really didn’t take much effort to lob off the head.
    We both pushed to our feet, and he handed me another hankie to use on my hands and
     arms. “Seems crazy that we both got our bucks on the very first shot.”
    I shrugged and wiped at the blood. Didn’t seem that odd to me. The one shot, one kill mantra had been drilled into my brain during sniper training.
    “Did you bring another gun?” Then he laughed. “Of course you did.”
    “You wanna have a little shooting contest? I gotta redeem myself somehow since you
     whipped my butt in quick field dressing.”
    “What’d you bring?”
    “H&K P7. Nine mil.”
    Dawson shook his head. “I’m not easily intimidated, but Christ, woman, you have a
     lot of guns.”
    “Think of it as the equivalent of other women’s obsession with shoes.”
    He laughed again. “Show me.”
    I let him go first.
    I still won.
    By a lot.
    Even with my bad eye.
    Luckily, my man was a good sport—even if I was a much better shot. We wrapped and
     strapped up the kills, then started toward the ATVs. Packing out the animal was probably
     the worst part of hunting. I was surprised birds weren’t already circling above the
     two piles of guts, waiting for us to leave so they could fight over a quick-and-easy
     meal. The birds would get the first go, and then the bigger predators would come in
     and chase them out.
    Circle of life and all that shit.
    Dawson shouted, “Double time, Sergeant Major, you’re lagging behind.”
    •   •   •
    At the ranch, we had to lock up the dogs.
    I watched Dawson part out the carcass. He’d rinse and cut and rinse some more. Antelope
     were hairy creatures, and nothing ruined a piece of meat like a bunch of hair frozen
     to it. But luckily, antelope hair was very fine, and once it floated to the top of
     the water, it could easily be skimmed or poured off.
    His expertise didn’t surprise me, but his efficiency did. He had both bucks skinned,
     butchered, cleaned, and parted out in two hours. I helped as much as I could—or as
     much as he’d let me. I was secretlyhappy I wouldn’t have to walk past an animal kill for several days waiting for the
     meat processors.
    As soon as he finished, he hit the shower. By the time I cleaned myself up, Mason
     was packed and anxious to go. It’d take at least seven hours to reach Denver.
    “Are you sure you don’t want to come?” he

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