Read an excerpt from
"Garnets and Gypsies"
Justina Watson gently rubbed her injured hand as she glared at the three men who stood on her land. Irritation ran rapidly through her, stirring her temper from warm to boiling in a matter of seconds. She wasn’t sure which bothered her more. Was it because these men didn’t think women should own land, or was it because she was a gypsy?
Either way, she wasn’t about to let these men toss her aside like last night’s leftover stew. If only she had her weapon of choice on hand. Since she was five years old, she had excelled with slingshots. Growing older only enhanced her skills. Unfortunately, the tall man with the beard held a rifle by his side. His weapon could kill someone, whereas hers would just injure them.
“You can pat your rifle all you want, mister.” Justina arched an eyebrow. “This is our land, and you will not take it from us.”
She glanced at Lucy Parsons, who stood next to Justina, folding her arms in a stubborn stance. Although all the gypsies in their camp had welcomed Justina with open arms, Lucy was the one who treated Justina like family, which was something she needed at a time like this.
The tall man with the bushy beard scratched his cheek and slowly shook his head. “I don’t know who lied to you and gave you permission to stay here, but I can promise you that this was my grandfather’s property before he died. I’m John McFarland, next of kin, so now this land belongs to me.”
The middle-aged woman next to Justina lifted her chin in defiance. “I don’t give a rat’s furry backside that you’re next of kin. We have a bill of sale, which means the land is ours. I highly doubt the Homestead Act would sell us this place if it were already taken. So, if you have a problem with this, take your beef with the people at the Homestead Act office.” She motioned toward the west. “It’s a two-day journey, but I think if you ride fast enough, you’ll get there in a day and a half.”
Mr. McFarland grumbled and stepped closer, raising his rifle slightly. Justina was sure he meant to threaten them even though he hadn’t aimed the weapon their way yet. But she wasn’t going to stand for his bullying tactics. She’d been a tomboy as a youngin’. Whipping the thin man’s backside would be easy. Of course, the other two men who hadn’t said much since they arrived ten minutes ago were rounder and shorter, so she might not be able to whoop them because of their weight.
“We aren’t going anywhere,” Mr. McFarland snapped. “There are three of us and only two of you, and we don’t plan on letting you finish building your home.”
His gaze moved to the structure behind Justina. Between Justina and Lucy, they hadn’t gotten very far with building their home, but that was only because neither woman had much patience, and they were determined. But now, Justina realized they should have waited for the men in their camp to assist them with the building. At least they would be here to help defend the land from these no-good trappers.
“And how are you planning on stopping us?” Justina asked as she glanced at his rifle. “By shooting two defenseless women?” She tsked and shook her head. “I’m afraid that shooting unarmed women will only get you thrown in jail. Are you willing to risk that?”
Mr. McFarland’s mouth pursed tightly as he glanced at the man on his right. The short stalky man didn’t appear as threatening. Perhaps it was his baby face, or maybe it was because he was dressed in nicer clothes. All three men looked like trappers, but Mr. McFarland obviously didn’t know how to bathe and clean himself.
“If you stay any longer,” Lucy said quickly, “some of the men from our camp will come over and escort you three rats off our land.”
Mr. McFarland rolled his eyes and snorted a laugh. “You are gypsies, which tells me that you didn’t buy this land. If any of your friends try to harm us, we have the law on our side.”
Lucy growled loudly and unlatched the first two buttons of her blouse before sinking her hand inside. Seconds later, she pulled out a rolled-up document. “This is the bill of sale, signed by the Homestead Act people. We did not steal anything. We have never stolen in our lives!”
The man shook his head. “You must not have heard me. I don’t believe you, and showing me a piece of paper with a bunch of scribbles on it won’t convince me otherwise. This was my grandfather’s land. Therefore, it is mine.”
Justina’s stomach twisted as panic filled her. She took a quick glance over her shoulder at the other gypsies up the road, hoping one of them would realize she and Lucy were in trouble and needed help immediately. Yet, as the sky grew darker, bringing on nightfall, she worried that nobody would see her and come to help.
How could she and Lucy get these men off their land? It was obvious the thick-skulled men weren’t budging. She and Lucy lived here, so they weren’t about to move. If only she had a rifle, but neither she nor her older friend believed in guns.
She looked at Lucy. The woman’s frown deepened, making the woman’s brown eyes darker. Lucy had been a tough woman since Justina first met her approximately one month ago, but her friend looked as helpless as Justina felt. Lucy Parsons was considered a doctor among the gypsies. The woman was full of knowledge, whether it seemed odd or not. Their gypsy family loved Lucy and thought highly of her.
Lucy turned her gaze to Justina. In silence, they communicated their frustration. But what was the answer to their dilemma?
Justina swallowed hard. “If there were a time to have a man in our lives to help us fight off these men, now would be it,” she said softly for her friend’s ears only.
Lucy nodded. “I couldn’t agree more.”
Just then, a man’s panicked yell ripped through the air. She jerked her attention toward the hillside to the left of them. A cloud of dust grew thicker the longer the man’s scream was heard. She gasped. Was there really a man in that dirt? Impossible.