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Goodnight Robicheaux had rode into Las Mesas, Texas late one afternoon in 1867. He’d been gone from home for just over a year at that point, and he had been making his way nicely by taking high-priced bounties. Point of fact, he was on the trail of one right now for the Northern Pacific Railroad, and a hundred dollars would not only suit him nicely out here but would be pleasant to send back home.

True, Maman T and Maman Essie and Daddy didn’t really need the money, but he liked to let them know he was doing well for himself by sending back a little of his earnings.

And this Billy Rocks person sounded to be an interesting quarry.

Goodnight reined in Adelaide, patting the sweet bay mare on the neck as she slowed to a walk then stopped in front of the saloon. He climbed down from the horse and rubbed her nose before tying her reins to the hitch.

“I won’t be too long, sweet girl,” he told the mare, who nickered at him and nosed his pocket for the bit of dried apple she knew was there. Goodnight chuckled and gave her the treat before turning and walking up the steps to pass through the bat-wing doors…

…and came up short at the sight of an Asian man knocking a giant bear of a human being flat out on the floor.

A quick look around revealed more big ol’ Texans on the ground, a couple of them getting up and making another go at the petite son of a bitch in the middle of the room, only to have their asses soundly handed to them a second time.

“Goddamn you, stay down!” the Asian growled when he knocked a third man down for likely the second time, and just like that, Goodnight knew he was in trouble.

Because when he had turned, the man doing the ass-kicking was revealed to be the very same one he was tracking down.

Goodnight, he mused to himself, still watching the show in awe, this is not a man to arrest. This… this is a man to befriend.

When it finally looked like the Texans were done trying to fight Mister Rocks, the man himself breathing hard in the center of the room as he bent to pick up his hat — and the gentleman was definitely a sharp-dressed fellow — Goodnight cleared his throat. His former quarry stopped dead still, head whipping around to focus sharp, deep brown eyes on him.

And oh dear.

Their eyes locked almost immediately, and Goodnight realized he was in even more trouble than he’d initially realized, because he was pretty goddamn certain that this was what Maman Essie had meant when she said she knew from the first that she and Maman T were meant to be together.

He honestly felt like he hadn’t even really been alive until he made eye contact with Billy Rocks, and from the expression of shock and awe on the other’s face, the feeling was plenty mutual.

Rather than keep staring like the lovestruck fool he was, Goodnight schooled his expression into a pleased smile. “Pleasure to make your acquaintance, Billy, ain’t it?”

“It is,” the other answered, and his voice was smooth as silk, and he wanted to hear it say his name every day for the rest of his life. “You have me at a disadvantage. You would be…?”

And there was his cue. “Goodnight’s the name,” he replied easily, his own smile brightening at the tiny one that slipped across Billy’s face. “And I do believe we could become very good friends.”

“‘S that what white men call it?” Billy asked, obviously amused by this new person in his life, but pleased as anything to have met him. “My parents called it teulio… but never just with two.”

Goodnight chuckled. “Well, we call it something similar, mon cher, but it took my mommas ‘bout a year or two ‘fore my daddy found ‘em, so sometimes just pairing off for a spell ain’t a bad thing.” He grinned again and offered, “So, shall we pair off, see how long it takes ‘em?”

Billy gave a sharp, amused grin and bent to retrieve a long knife from the floor, sheathing it before stepping over one of the men he’d laid out on the floor. “I see no problem with that. I need to go steal my horse back, though. Someone,” and here he kicked at a different man on the floor, “snagged her and took her to the livery while I was trying to buy a drink.”

The older man laughed brightly. “I think we can do one better and just buy her back,” he offered. “Keep things on the level.”

Goodnight Robicheaux rode out of Las Mesas, Texas early one evening in 1867. He was accompanied by the first member of his triad, Billy Rocks of Sacramento, California.

It would be twelve years before they met their third.