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The lean form of Chris Larabee wrapped the ebony gunbelt with its silver trim around his waist and fastened the buckle. Talented fingers reached to tie the rawhide strings around his thigh to hold the matching holster high on his hip. Vin Tanner handed him the bone-handled Colt Peacemaker and after a couple of absent twirls, the handsome blond flipped it expertly into the dark leather.
A black flat-crowned western hat sat on his head and an ebony duster billowed slightly around the long legs clad in tight black pants. Silver spurs jingled softly on ebony leather boots as the impressive figure moved gracefully and a dark bib-fronted shirt with silver snaps clung to the well-muscled chest in the opening of the calf-length coat. Piercing, icy green eyes took in his image in the mirror.
"How did I get talked into this again?" the unique voice asked Tanner softly, gaze moving to the sky blue one reflected in the glass behind him.
"Well, after we all shared a 'hidden talent' for JD's game when we were iced in at the ranch that time, reckon the kid ain't forgotten that you were an old west gunfighter at the tourist town ya talked about. He's been itchin' to get to see ya do a gunfight ever since," answered Vin's slightly raspy drawl, accompanied by a wide grin and bob of the sandy brows.
Larabee gave the sharpshooter a wry look. "Yeah, but why did I agree to do it here?"
Vin glanced at the rough wooden walls around them where they occupied a small room at the back of an old-time saloon. The smile got even broader.
"JD's got that powerful 'puppy dog' look for one thing, and ya didn't want to disappoint him. And I reckon the kid wasn't the only one of us who wanted to see ya in action, Cowboy."
The tall gunman's look became a mild glare as he turned to face his friend, who was dressed in fitted tan pants and a blue bib-fronted shirt much like his own dark one. Tan boots and spurs rested on the slender sniper's feet, and a cavalry hat and cut-off rifle called a Mare's Leg, along with a caped hide coat, rounded out the long-haired form's period clothing.
"Tanner, did you just call me a cowboy?" Long fingers danced lightly over the butt of the pistol in mild threat.
The brows bobbed again insouciantly. "Yep! I ain't your opponent in the gunfight though, so ya'll just have to wait to shoot me." One sparkling eye winked at the mock scowl his dark-garbed companion wore.
Broad shoulders gave a resigned sigh as the hand dropped away from the revolver.
"One of these days, Tanner . . . ."
"Yeah, yeah, Cowboy. Ya say that at least once a week . . . ."
Chris sucked on his teeth a minute and then shook his head in resignation. Settling his hat firmly on his head, brim tilted so that it shadowed his eyes, the dangerous-looking figure reached to push the shorter man out the door in front of him.
"Alright, if I can't shoot you, get out of the way so I can go take out someone else," murmured the soft tones with a menacing purr. A smirk of anticipation curved the sculpted lips as the long legs carried him into the saloon with feline grace behind the languidly ambling form of the sharpshooter.
The rest of Team Seven were assembled at one of the round wooden tables, also in period attire. Big grins adorned each handsome face as they turned to greet Tanner and Larabee.
Ezra Standish preened unashamedly in the emerald green jacket and brocade vest that he wore with a ruffled white shirt and soft charcoal gray pinstriped pants. Leather boots and gunbelt complemented the black riverboat hat he wore, and his gold tooth gleamed in pleasure as he practiced with the spring-loaded derringer rig up his sleeve.
Buck Wilmington was finger-combing his luxurious mustache that went well with the tan pants and blue calico shirt he wore. Brown cowboy boots with spurs graced his feet and a matching gunbelt held a walnut-handled Colt .45 similar to Chris' bone-handled one. A tan plainsman coat and hat, with a blue print bandana tied around the lean throat, finished out the lanky figure's ensemble.
Josiah Sanchez was attired in gray pants with a gold stripe down the outside seams, leather cowboy boots, a white shirt, and blue-gray wool vest. A tan ten-gallon hat sat on his head, and a leather gunbelt with the holster fixed for a left-hand draw encircled his waist. A long coat with striped blanket-material yolks hung on the back of the chair as the muscular figure sipped a beer contentedly.
Nathan Jackson sported gray pants, a cream-colored shirt and dark vest, and a striped wool coat. Cowboy boots graced his feet and a black rounded-crown hat adorned his close-cropped head, while a brown leather gunbelt was situated for a cross-draw. The handles of three throwing knives in a leather sheath on his back peeked above the collar of the jacket.
JD Dunne was the only one of the group who didn't look completely thrilled with his outfit. A brown check three-piece Eastern-style suit and dark bowler hat covered his body, worn with short brown leather boots. However, the kid was pleased with the twin Colt Lightening pistols that rested in brown leather dual holsters on his hips.
As Chris and Vin walked up, Buck was slapping at the bowler that rested on Dunne's dark hair.
"Get yourself a real hat, Kid!"
Wilmington's surrogate little brother grabbed the headgear before it could fall to the dusty floor and then placed it back on his head at a particularly annoying angle.
"I ain't changin' my hat, Buck. Bat Masterson wore one just like it. Besides it's all they had in my size."
The ladies' man rolled his eyes and reached to swat the younger man on the back of the head this time.
"You ain't no Bat Masterson! You ain't like none of 'em." commented the attractive voice in regard to JD's fascination with old dime novels and the famous gunfighters they often represented.
JD stuck out his tongue at the taller man. "Well, I still ain't gettin' rid of my hat."
Larabee stood hip-shot and shook his head at the byplay between the two. Apparently Wilmington and Dunne were the same no matter what time period they occupied!
About that time the owner of the old west tourist town strolled up and slapped Chris on the shoulder.
"It's about that time, Son. Is my most impressive gunfighter ready to show folks why you were the best when you worked here?"
Chiseled lips gave a one-sided grin. "I guess so, Clay. Especially since you called everyone you know who used to come watch me when I was here."
The older man gave a wolfish smile.
"Hell, Chris . . . some 'a them ladies used to call ahead to see if you were doin' the gunfights that day. You had regulars that came every time you were scheduled. Made a lotta money off those folks, so who am I to deny them the chance to see my best gunman ever when he decides to return for a day?"
The blond gave a wry shake of his head while the rest of his team hooted in approval and Buck whistled. He then followed the owner outside. The others got up and trailed along behind.
A crowd was gathering along the boardwalks on each side of the street as the dark-garbed figure prowled through the batwing doors. The fight chorographer was standing with some new employees of the town. He pointed to the dangerous form with a grin.
"In case you don't know who that is . . . the feller in black . . . that's Chris Larabee! The best damn gunfighter we ever had around here!"
One of the men who was going to face Chris looked the lean figure over in consideration.
"Heard you were fast."
Larabee's mouth curved up in a smirk as he hooked his thumb in his gunbelt next to the Colt.
"I heard that too!"
Clay and the chorographer both laughed out loud.
"Reckon you're about to find out just how fast he is!" answered the owner with a pat to the other form's shoulder.
Jack, the fight chorographer, gave a wicked grin. "Just die well, Russ! 'Cause everyone who goes up against Larabee ends up hittin' the dust."
Chris' opponent gave a resigned sigh. "Guess I'm gonna get dirty then, huh?" One eye winked at the slim blond.
"He actually tried to slow his draw enough to take his turn 'losing' when I first hired him, but he just couldn't do it. No matter how hard he tried, he was always too fast. We all more than half believed that he really was the incarnation of an old west gunfighter," answered Clay with pride evident in his voice.
Jack moved over to discuss which scene the dark-garbed form wanted to use, giving a bob of his eyebrows as he did so.
"You still got it, Larabee? I hope so, 'cause we've been talkin' this up real big since you said you wanted to come."
The sculpted lips quirked up in a genuine grin.
"Guess we'll see!"
About ten minutes later, the impressive blond was leaning against the wall of the saloon with his right foot up resting on the weathered wood. The ebony duster was tucked behind his pistol and his right hand rested on his thigh near the holster. His head was tilted down almost as if he was half asleep, only the slash of the attractive mouth visible beneath the hat brim. Anyone who knew him however, was aware that he was keeping track of what was going on around him.
The figure of Russ, his opponent, came ambling down the street. Seeing the relaxed form in black, he stopped to heckle the gunman.
Larabee's head rose slowly, the handsome face coming into view as he did so. The icy gaze took in the figure in the street and then raked the assembled crowd as if making sure no other threats were around. Soft gasps involuntarily escaped the group of avidly watching women who clustered across the street in the best vantage point. Apparently dangerous as hell could also be sexy as hell, judging by the entranced expressions on each face as they watched the feline ripple of movement of the quiet gunman.
As Russ continued goading him, Chris rose fluidly to his full height and then stepped out into the street.
"You sure you wanna do this, son?"
"You afraid?" sneered the younger figure as he nervously twitched his fingers to the side of his gun.
Broad shoulders shrugged, making the edges of the duster swirl around the ebony-hued legs like the wings of a crow settling.
"Nope. Just hate to have these fine ladies see you die." The tone was flat and assured, causing Russ to give a visible shiver of apprehension that didn't appear to be totally fake.
However, he didn't give up.
"Well, I think I'm as fast as you are and I aim to prove it!"
Again the flutter of the duster.
The dark form stood easy in the dust of the street, waiting until his opponent dropped his hand to to his .44 before he drew. When he did, the movement was simply a blur of motion as the Peacemaker appeared in his grip almost as if by magic. The barrel glinted in the light as it appeared to point directly at the smaller figure's heart, and then a puff of smoke was followed by the bark of the shot.
The brown eyes across from Larabee grew wide in genuine shock, then looked down as if truly expecting to see a hole blossom with red in the calico-covered chest. Instead the blank landed harmlessly in the dirt about two inches to the trembling form's left, but it was barely noticed by the watching crowd.
Suddenly remembering that he was playing a part and was supposed to 'die', Russ let his own unfired revolver drop from suddenly nerveless fingers and land in the street with a puff of dust. His gaze came back up to the rock-hard countenance of the dark gunman, and then he slowly slumped to the ground in a boneless heap.
Chris held the pose for a couple of heartbeats and then prowled up to the 'body'. Giving it a light kick to make sure the other man was 'dead', he then motioned the bystanders out of the way and strode into the saloon, holstering his Colt as he did so. Those watching heard the low voice call calmly for "whiskey" and then everything froze for a few minutes.
Larabee then returned to the batwing doors, hands holding onto the top as the impressive gaze roamed over those assembled outside. Loud applause and calls of approval greeted the move, some of the women blowing kisses to the gorgeous figure and others looking like they might swoon as his booted feet as he stepped outside.
Walking up to Russ, one hand reached down to help the 'dead' man rise. When the smaller form did so, the applause continued as the two shook hands.
Clay and Jack came up beaming with pride, slapping both gunmen on the shoulder in congratulations. The rest of Team Seven and the other spectators joined them, all chattering excitedly. JD was practically bouncing he was so enthused with the exhibition and so pleased with his hero's talent.
Chris turned to Jack with a sly grin.
"So, do I still have it?"
The older man chuckled.
"If possible, you're even faster now than you were when you worked here! That was damn impressive, Son!"
Jack turned to look at Russ. "Now do you know who this is?"
Russ gave a wink. "Hell, yeah! That's the famous gunfighter, Chris Frickin' Larabee!"
The rest gave delighted laughs and Russ leaned up to speak in Chris' ear.
"So when can we do another gunfight??"
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