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Love and Cherish
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This item is a preorder. Your payment method will be charged immediately, and the product is expected to ship on or around April 12, 2001. This date is subject to change due to shipping delays beyond our control.
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A Time Warner Company
LOVE AND CHERISH. Copyright © 1980 by Dorothy Garlock. All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form or by any electronic or mechanical means, including information storage and retrieval systems, without permission in writing from the publisher, except by a reviewer who may quote brief passages in a review.
For information address Warner Books, Hachette Book Group, 237 Park Avenue, New York, NY 10017, Visit our Web site at www.HachetteBookGroup.com.
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First eBook Edition: June 2001
In so many of my previous books, the hero and heroine triumph over the hardships of a westward-expanding America. I've enjoyed writing my Western romances, hope you've enjoyed reading them, and still intend to write more of them.
Yet lately I've been longing to tell a story from a more recent time in our history, the period between World Wars I and II, years when young lovers faced a different kind of hardship: the Great Depression. Drama and romance flowered then as well. Gangsters, every bit as nefarious as western outlaws, made violent headlines while young people danced to new jazz rhythms that shocked their elders. As always, strong family ties were the keys to survival.
With Hope is the first of at least three novels I'm writing set in the 1930s. It tells the story of a woman trying to keep her farm and misfit siblings together after her parents' deaths, and of the strong, kind-hearted man who helps her but can't offer her the one thing he wants to give her the most.
I hope you'll enjoy it when it comes your way in the fall of 1998.
With thanks to all my loyal readers,
Books by Dorothy Garlock
A Gentle Giving
Love and Cherish
Ribbon in the Sky
River of Tomorrow
The Searching Hearts
Sins of Summer
The Listening Sky
This Loving Land
Wild Sweet Wilderness
Wind of Promise
This book is dedicated with love
to my real-life hero,
my husband of many years,
Herb L. Garlock, Sr.
* 1 *
Indian summer lay shimmering along the Kentucky River. It bronzed the trees and filled the air with listlessness. It warmed the skin and tempted the mind to relax and dream vague, beautiful dreams. Beams of bright sunlight slanted down through the trees. The woods were alive with pleasant cheeps and chirps and the rustlings of hundreds of birds. A whippoorwill swooped overhead trailing his melodious repeated cry.
The afternoon was serene and beautiful.
The red-haired girl lifted her face to the sun, breathed in the warm scented air and followed the faint path through the trees toward the river. She had a light, free-swinging stride, and her small bare feet scarcely made a depression in the short grass. Gazing up through the high branches of the spreading oak trees, she studied the drifting clouds, then turned her head to look at the clear tumbling water of the river. Beyond there was nothing but dense forest and behind her the hills glowed golden-red in the autumn sun.
She came to the river's edge, knelt and drank, then stood and gazed intently along the path she had just followed, her small well-shaped head tilted slightly as she listened for any unusual sound. Satisfied that she was alone, she quickly unbuttoned her dress, drew it up over her head, and hung the plain butternut-dyed garment on a tree branch.
Turning back to the river, she stood for a moment undecided, fingers touching the drawstring of her thin shift. Then, after a quick nervous glance over her shoulder, she stepped down into the water and waded out from the shadows of the trees into the sunshine. Here she stood, enjoying the feel of the hot afternoon sun on her bare arms and shoulders, trailing her fingers lazily in the clear water.
The sun was warm, but the water was cool. The girl scrubbed her arms and shoulders briskly and splashed water into her face. She ducked down until only her head and neck showed above the water, then rose and started back toward shore. The thin cotton shift clung wetly to her slender young body, outlining firm, high breasts with their shadowy dark nipples, a small waist, and gently curving buttocks and thighs.
Reaching the riverbank, she searched for a warm place in the sun. She found a huge boulder and leaned back against it to wait for her shift to dry. Her eyelids drooped though she struggled to keep them open. It was pleasant being alone here in this place where the air was pungent with the scent of the pine and spruce trees that lined the bank. The sun was warm. The silence was broken only by the chirping of the birds and an occasional flopping sound of a fish rising from the river. Exhausted from a sleepless, watchful night, she dozed.
Cherish came awake with a start the instant rough hands seized her. Loose wet lips pressed hers. In an agony of terror she stared into a whiskered, bestial face.
"Wal, now! What've I got me here?"
She gasped and struggled, but the man held her down effortlessly against the rock while his eager gaze roamed over her, taking in the beauty of her breasts and buttocks revealed by the still-damp clinging shift. He seized her hands when she tried to cover herself, and bent his face toward hers again. His stinking breath nauseated her. She rolled her head from side to side in an effort to escape his repulsive lips, and she managed to let out one loud, piercing scream before his dirty hand covered her mouth.
"Shut up, bitch!" he snarled. "Don't ya tell me ya ain't lookin' for somethin' undressed as ya are."
Terror gave her strength.
She kicked and clawed but he held on, breathing rapidly, yellow teeth exposed in a leering grin, letting her wear herself out.
"Please . . . don't! Let me go—"
"Stop fightin'. Ya was waitin' for me. Ya been givin' me the eye all along, ain't ya?"
"I seen ya. Ya know what I got in my britches, gal? Hit's been a rearin' for ya."
"Let go of me," she shouted. "Roy will kill you!"
"He ain't comin' back. Hear? I ain't givin' out nothin' for no pay. Ya'll pay fer yore grub on yore back."
So intense was his excitement that he failed to hear the call that came from the edge of the woods. It came again, closer this time.
"Pa! Whatcha doin', Pa?" The young voice rang with alarm.
The man sprang back and glared at his son.
Thirteen-year-old Jerd Burgess stood wide-eyed with astonishment, looking from his father to the girl. Almost as tall as his father, he stood with his big hands hanging from shirt sleeves too short for his long arms; his feet and legs protruded from pants too short for his lanky body. His eyes clung to the near-naked girl as she broke away and raced to the tree where she had hung her dress.
"Get back to camp!" his father ordered harshly.
The boy reluctantly tore his eyes away from the girl, who had slipped the dress over her head and was hastily buttoning the row of buttons that reached from neckline to waist.
"Ma wants ya. She wants ya, now." Jerd's voice was high-pitched with the strange excitement he was feeling at finding his father with the half-dressed girl. She was standing with her back to them, still fumbling with the buttons on her dress.
Jess Burgess scowled and spit in the grass at his feet.
"What she wantin'?"
"I dunno. She said fetch ya . . . now."
"A man ain't got no time to hisself a'tall," Jess grumbled. After a moment's hesitation while he looked from the girl to his son, he moved toward the path leading to the camp.
"What ya lookin' at?" he snapped at the boy. "Ain't ya knowin' a man's got ta dump his load from time to time?"
"Yeah, Pa. But, Miss Cherish is . . ."
"A slut is what she is. Ya'll keep yore mouth shut 'bout this, and I jist might let ya have a go at 'er. Ya'd like that wouldn't ya, boy?"
"Wal, yes, Pa. But—"
"Ya mind me, hear? Else ya'll be feelin' the strop on yore back," Jess growled threateningly as he passed his boy.
After his father left, Jerd took a step toward the girl. He wanted to tell her he was sorry, to explain that his pa had always been mean around young girls, that he knew she wasn't a slut. But his courage left him. He turned awkwardly and followed his father back to camp.
As soon as she was alone, the girl wrapped her arms around a young sapling and sobbed. She cried until she was drained and could cry no more. A cool breeze came up and passed over her, ruffling her hair. She turned and peered anxiously into the forest downriver.
The girl was Cherish Riley. She would be eighteen that autumn of 1779. Slightly built, she looked too frail to have coped with the long trek across the Smokey Mountains and the long ride down the Ohio River on the flatboat into the Kentucky wilderness. But cope she had, admirably so, until now.
Five days had passed since her brother had gone on ahead, scouting for a new campsite from which they could hunt and supplement their meager food supply. Cherish had waited with growing anxiety for his return. This morning she had awakened in black despair, certain that she would never see Roy again, that something terrible must have happened to him and that she was alone in the wilderness at the mercy of the disreputable Burgess family.
Blinking away fresh tears, she moved back toward the river. It was a pretty river, the Kentucky. It did not frighten her as the Ohio had done. She had been happy to see the last of that vast river with its endless convoys of flatboats carrying families and soldiers that Major George Rogers Clark was bringing into the country. She had been glad to leave it, but sorry that Roy had decided to join the Burgess family when they struck inland to make their way up the Kentucky to Boonesborough. The family was lazy, shiftless, and ill-equipped for the journey. But Roy, stubborn and full of pride, refused to take the advice of older and more experienced travelers to wait for a larger party before venturing into the wilderness.
With tears stinging her eyes, Cherish thought now of the home she had left behind in Virginia. The comfortable cabin had been nestled in the shadow of the big mountain. She had been born within its walls and had never lived anywhere else. She had swept its floor, tended it and kept it, had seen her parents die there. Her father had obtained his land title under Virginia law, but Pennsylvania claimed the country and, after his death, Roy had wearied of trying to get clear title to the land. After hearing about the free land in Kentucky, and the village at Boone's fort, he decided to go there.
It had not occurred to Cherish to object. Carefully she had sorted through their belongings. They would take the iron cookpot and her mother's pewter spoons. The axe, a hunting knife, and their pa's long rifle were necessities if they were to survive the trip. Along the way, Roy had said, they would pick up a hand gun. They would take two wool blankets, the small horde of silver, and a small bundle of seeds carefully tied in squares of cloth—squash, corn, pumpkin, turnip, and apple seeds. They would leave the feather beds, the rocking chair, the big loom, and the spinning wheel.
Now, walking along the bank of the Kentucky, Cherish thought nostalgically of the lilac and rose of Sharon bushes growing behind the stout little cabin with its stone fireplace. She thought of the graves of her mother and father and baby sisters on the hill where her father had planted the apple trees. The spring-fed creek at home had never ceased to flow, no matter how dry the summer or cold the winter. It had been a never-ending pleasure to her. She had drunk from it, bathed in it, and it had given her back her reflection.
She knelt now beside the Kentucky and freed her shimmering hair from its knot at the top of her head, letting it fall about her shoulders to her waist. Having no comb, she shook her hair and ran her hands through it to remove the snarls, then rewound it and slipped the thorn pins back in to hold it in place.
An evening fog was beginning to rise from the river in wispy patches. Reluctantly, Cherish turned back toward the camp, drawing on all her courage, unconsciously straightening her back as she made her way among the trees toward the smoking campfire.
On reaching the camp, she was relieved not to see Jess Burgess's gross body lounging beside the fire. Motioning to a blanket-wrapped figure under the low roof of a makeshift shelter, she spoke to the woman squatting beside the fire.
"Is Unity feeling any better this evening, Mistress Burgess?"
"I'm thinkin' so. She et," the woman answered crossly, and hoisted herself heavily to her feet.
Mrs. Burgess was an older edition of her fifteen-year-old daughter, Unity. Fat and slovenly, she was forever grumbling and complaining about something. Unity had come down with a fever and was the reason why they had been camped here for almost a week.
"Don't think yore brother's comin' back, dearie," Mrs. Burgess remarked. "Been gone most five days now."
"He'll be back," Cherish replied with a confidence she didn't feel, and moved on to the brush shelter Roy had erected for her before he left.
She spread a blanket on the ground, sank down on it and unrolled the only other blanket to check her meager possessions. Everything was there—the extra dress, the shawl, shoes, comb and the chewed willow stick she used to clean her teeth when she had salt. Now all their foodstuffs were in the Burgesses' possession. She felt deeper into the blanket roll and touched the familiar shape of the hand gun, the powder pouch and shot. A small sigh escaped her. At least she still had the protection of the gun, if she should need it.
"Oh, Roy, how could you have been so foolish?" she whispered in despair as the full impact of her desperate situation suddenly hit her.
A poignant wave of homesickness overwhelmed her. Tears filled her eyes, and she longed with all her heart to be back in Virginia. She pressed her lips together to stop their trembling and vowed that somehow she would get back home. The cabin was lost to her forever, but if need be she would marry one of the neighbors. Of the three who had come courting, she hadn't been able to decide which one to accept. All three had been sincere enough, but dull and uninteresting. None of them had ever so much as touched her hand.
In truth they had been awed by the beauty of the girl—eyes the azure blue of a summer sky, hair the color of a maple leaf in autumn curling softly around a heart-shaped face, porcelain skin and cameo features. The fact that Cherish was totally unaware of the effect her beauty had on people was part of the charm that made her different from other beautiful women.
She was jarred out of her reverie by the sound of Mrs. Burgess's voice calling Jerd to bring water so she could start the evening meal. Cherish grimaced as she saw the woman reach into a sack with dirty hands and take out a handful of coarsely ground meal. She added a pinch of salt, wet the mixture with river water and quickly shaped it into small cakes. These she set on a flat stone which she moved into the heat of the fire.
Out of another pouch she took strips of dried meat; laid them on a piece of bark, poured water over them and left them to soften. When the meat was ready to cook, she stretched the strips across the prongs of a forked stick. Hunched by the fire, she held the stick over the burning coals, letting the heat dry and cook the meat. When it was done to her satisfaction, she pulled the meat off the stick and onto another piece of bark. Using the tail of her dress, she slid one of the pone cakes off the stone and onto the bark with the meat.
Cherish made no move to go to the fire, but Jerd hurried to stretch his meat on the stick and hold it over the coals.
"Best eat, dearie," Mistress Burgess called. "Ya'll need yore strength, 'cause ya'll have to tote yore brother's load now."
"I'm not hungry," Cherish lied. "I ate some berries this afternoon."
"Ya found berries and didn't bring poor Unity none?" The woman's voice was harsh and accusing.
"There were just a few and most were too ripe anyhow," Cherish explained, wishing she had used another excuse for not eating. She sat as far back in the shelter as possible and reached for a sack that held a few pieces of dried jerky. The meat was tough, but if she held it in her mouth for a while it would soften enough to be chewed.
Jess Burgess still had not returned to camp. Cherish dreaded the thought of facing him. She wouldn't dare go off by herself anymore and run the risk of having him catch her alone. She would have to stay in sight of Unity and Mrs. Burgess from now on. But she had a sick feeling that somehow Jess Burgess would find a way to get her out of the camp and away from his wife and daughter.
She would be ready for him, Cherish vowed. Taking a quick look to make sure that no one was watching, she unrolled the other blanket and took out the hand gun, the powder and shot. The gun was too large to conceal in her dress, so she made a sling from her shawl, placed the gun, powder and shot inside and looped the shawl over her shoulder. She sat back then, feeling a small measure of security.
* 2 *
It was dusk when Jess Burgess came back to camp. For one delicious moment hope sprang into Cherish's heart that Roy had returned when she heard Jess laughing and talking with someone. Her joy died quickly when he came into view followed by two heavily bearded men dressed in soiled buckskins. They had large awkward packs of furs strapped on their backs.
"Irm," Jess called. "Get some grub on."
Mrs. Burgess came out from under the brush arbor scratching her stomach.
"Where ya been?" she whined. "Who ya got there?" The small eyes in the fat face squinted against the smoke raised by the too-green wood that had been placed on the fire.
"We got us some callers. Fix 'em some grub."
"Grub's gettin' low, Jess," she complained. But the chance to listen to the men talk was irresistible, and she went without further protest to the meal sack and once again formed the soft, wet cakes.
The trappers left their shoulder packs at the edge of the camp, but placed their rifles on the ground near at hand where they squatted by the fire. They looked openly at Cherish. From the way they smirked at her, she guessed that Jess had been discussing her with them.
He passed a jug around and each man took a swig, wiping his mouth afterward with the back of his hand. A couple more rounds and the trappers were laughing and elbowing each other, having a great time regaling Jess and Jerd, who sat crosslegged near his father, with tall tales of their exploits in the wilderness. Mrs. Burgess passed out pone cakes and went back to sit beside her daughter. The jug made the rounds again . . . and again.
The talk became crude and the men grinned inanely across the campfire at Cherish, who, filled with a growing uneasiness, edged as far away as it was possible to go and still remain in her shelter.
The light was fading and so were Cherish's spirits. Numb with fatigue, she sat silently and listened to the talk. She knew instinctively that she must not fall asleep, that she must keep her wits about her if she were to survive the night.
Sometimes she actually found the conversation interesting. Jess was curious about the Indians. One of the trappers, older, heavy-set and with a scar near his right eye, had been in the area longer than the other one. He told about the Cherokee Indians being the finest thieves in the world.
"Why, they can steal yore pack right out from under yore nose," he said. "They can sneak up on a body and be not more'n spittin' distance before ya know it. That is, down wind." The trapper laughed loudly. "God, them Injins do stink."
"The only one I know of that beats an Injin in sneakin' is that Frenchie and his damn dog." The other trapper wanted to get in on the telling of the tale to the gullible Jess. "I swear he can move through the woods like a haint in a thicket. Injins don't pay him no mind, him bein' blood brother to some high muckamuck. Hit beats all, but they let him be."
Cherish was even more tired than she knew. She sat with her knees drawn up, arms hugging them. Gradually the men's voices became a hypnotic drone in her ears. Her head began to nod—she jerked awake. She nodded off again—then jerked awake. Finally she gave in. Resting her head on her arms, she fell asleep.
The snap of a twig woke her. She stirred ever so slightly, but did not raise her head. Jess had come to the edge of her shelter and stood looking down at her. Satisfied that she was asleep, he returned to the campfire. He leaned toward the trappers and began to talk rapidly, keeping his voice low. But not low enough. The drift of his conversation froze Cherish's blood.
He was talking about her.
"Ya can have her for a price," Jess was saying. "No more and no less'n a bag a powder, one a shot, ten pelts and that thar skinnin' knife."
"Yo're wantin' a heap."
"She'll keep yore bed warm on a cold night. Ain't sure, but don't think she been busted yet."
Cherish tried not to move, not to let them know that she was awake and listening.
"Ya ain't never seen no woman like 'er," Jess said. "Ya ort to see her standin' up in just her chimmy. Prettiest sight ya ever did see. Skin's white as milk." He paused to let them drink that in.
"How'd ya know that?" The younger of the pair was eager to hear more.
Jess laughed. "I touched it. Today. Down by the river. Kissed her too. Would'a done more, but my kid came bustin' in. She got lips sweet as sorghum."
Cherish writhed inwardly.
"I ain't ever had me no white-skinned woman."
"Hell, I'm thinkin' yore ma warn't even one. Think ya was had by a grizzly bear." The men laughed uproariously. "Iffn we get horny, we can buy us a woman from the Injins at the slave market."
"Not like 'er, Seth. They's usually broke down."
"We might get us a young'un. They catch 'em and sell 'em all up along the Lakes, those that last long enough to get thar. Some's real pert lookin'. Kind'a hard for us to get up there, though. Then we'd have to get 'er back past that Frenchie—"
"But this 'n's a real beaut!" Jess insisted.
"Hit don't make no difference in the dark." The older trapper shook his head. "'Sides, she don't look big enough to tote much," he grumbled.
"She ain't big, but she's stout when it comes to totin' a load," Jess insisted. He added craftily, "But if you ain't satisfied, you won't have no trouble sellin' 'er."
"Ol' Mote'd have 'er wore down to a nubbin in two day flat. Huh, Mote?"
"Ya ain't no slouch even if yo're purt-nigh forty year old," Mote retorted, and the other man laughed as if he had been paid a high compliment.
Cherish's nerves screamed as she listened. She sat tensely, her head on her arms, waiting for them to stop talking so she could think about getting away.
"At your price we ort to see what we're a gettin'," suggested the younger of the trappers. He glanced toward the place where Cherish sat seemingly asleep.
"No," Jess said quickly. "Not in front of my old woman. She's hell on wheels when she's riled. Not that she cares 'bout the gal—thinks she's a snooty bitch—but would think it her duty, ya know." He jerked his head toward the place where Mrs. Burgess and Jerd had retreated long ago.
The fire had burned low. Cherish chanced opening her eyes a slit to peek at the men. Actually she could smell them better than she could see them: a rank, greasy, rancid odor that she didn't think even the Kentucky River would wash away. She peered at them sitting by the fire. They stank and acted like animals. Except that animals, she thought with disgust, were more decent and a lot cleaner.
Almost sick with fear, she heard Jess tell them:
- On Sale
- Apr 12, 2001
- Page Count
- 352 pages
- Grand Central Publishing