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A Time Warner Company
NIGHTROSE. Copyright © 1990 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.
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A mass market edition of this book was published in 1990 by Warner Books.
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First eBook Edition: May 2001
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"I don't play games, Katy.
When I find something I want,
I go after it."
The arrogance of the words sent a thrill of excitement through Katy even while her independent spirit rebelled against it. She made an attempt to get control of her mind, only to find it an impossible task as his lips traveled over her forehead to her eyelids and then down her cheek to her mouth.
"Kiss me. Kiss me like I know you can." He pressed his mouth softly to hers, nibbled, caressed, and possessed. Her lips parted; his tongue flirted with her lower lip, and his hand left her head to stroke gently down the curve of her back. She was breathless when he pulled his mouth from hers.
His whisper was deep and husky. "You are my mate, my love—Don't fight it, sweetheart." His hand moved up and down her back in a soothing motion. "Be still for just a little while and you'll see how right it is."
"You'll find yourself actually there, right in the picture. You can feel the heat of the campfire, you can hear the wagon creaking and the slice and slap of the bullwhip. . . . There's a good reason why Dorothy has been called the 'Louis L'Amour of the romance novelists.' "
—Beverly Hills California Courier
"In Nightrose, the author who brings the West alive and populates it with memorable characters brings a whole new meaning to the word 'timeless.' "
—"Ann's World," Hearst Cablevision
"The lady is an able writer who spins a tale that keeps the reader turning the pages."
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
To Gary Rowe for that great evening
when he gave me the idea for
to his wife, Beth, who puts up with his
"He's out there again! Come look, Katy."
Katy's head jerked up. "What's he doing?"
"I don't know. He moved so fast I only got a glimpse of him."
Katy got up from the rocking chair, stepped over the child sitting on the floor at her feet, and went to the window. She didn't want to act too concerned about the mysterious man whom they had glimpsed from time to time moving amid the deserted buildings. It would alarm her sister even more. Married to that feather-head Roy Stanton caused Mary enough worry.
"He went behind the blacksmith shop. Now he's pounding on something," Mary said as if Katy couldn't hear the sound of a hammer on iron. "His dog is there in the grass by the building."
"I see the big ugly beast. They're a strange pair. From what I've seen of him, he's about as hairy as the dog," Katy said with disgust.
"He hasn't been out in the road since that day he rode in. I wonder why he only moves around behind the buildings."
Katy looked over her shoulder when the child began to rock the chair. It made a loud hollow sound against the rough plank floor.
"Be careful, Theresa, you'll rock over your toes."
"No, I won't," Theresa said stubbornly and continued to rock the chair.
Katy's blond hair was swept away from her forehead and hung down her back in a single thick braid. It slid along her spine like a golden rope as she turned to peer out the window over the shoulder of her shorter sister.
The bearded man had ridden into town five days ago. Since then they had caught only glimpses of him. At first they had hoped that the miners were returning, but when no one else rode in, and the stranger failed to present himself at their door, or even acknowledge their presence, he became a cause for worry.
Katy looked down the rutted, deserted street of Trinity, Montana Territory. Weeds had sprung up in the road since the heavy spring rain. The town looked peaceful, a contrast with the boisterous days of eight months ago when they had first arrived. Then, Trinity had been a mining town filled to capacity with men seeking to fulfill their dreams of making the big strike. The tall, false-fronted saloons with rooms upstairs, the store, the boardinghouse for single miners, the washhouse, and the eateries, all had done a thriving business.
Across the street and farther down was a square log building known as "the girlie house." It, too, had enjoyed five years of prosperity. When the hopes of Trinity's becoming another booming gold-mining town faded, and the miners left to pursue their dreams elsewhere, the good-time girls had followed.
"It's scary knowing he's here and having him ignore us. Oh, there he is. He's carrying a big hammer. The dog follows every move he makes."
"I should go over there and ask him to help us get out of here."
"Oh, no! If he were a decent sort of man, he'd have come and paid his respects." Mary sat down in the rocker. Theresa climbed up into her lap. "He might think we have men working downstream."
"Fiddle!" Katy snorted. "He knows the men deserted this town like rats fleeing a sinking ship once the mine started petering out. And as far as his being decent—we're more likely to find a cow in a tree than a decent man out here."
"Roy will be back, Katy. I know you don't think he's much of a man, but he'd be back here like a shot if he knew everyone had left."
"Wherever Roy is, he must have gotten word that the mine played-out here." What Katy wanted to say was that Roy would be off like a shot to anyplace he had heard of that had a gold strike, no matter how small. His wife, daughter, and sister-in-law were his least concern.
Katy glanced up at the rifle that hung on the wall out of the reach of Theresa. She had placed it there when they had moved down from the shack on the hill into this building— the most solidly built in town except for the small stone jail. The man who had built this structure had been a carpenter and funeral director. The big, black-lettered sign in front said: GROG'S FUNERARY. Here, Grog had put together tables, chairs, wardrobes, beds, burial boxes, and laid out the dead when they were brought to him. He had left a box behind when he moved on. It was now Theresa's bed.
"Deliver me from a man with gold fever," Katy said crossly. "We can't wait here much longer. If not for the supplies we bought from the store man before he left, and for our scavenging the deserted houses, we'd starve. Thank goodness we've got ammunition for the rifle."
"How can we leave? We don't have a horse."
Until recently, Mary had always looked younger than her twenty-five years. Now, the years of following her husband from mining camp to mining camp, and the loss of two children who had not come to full term had taken their toll. Faint lines of strain had appeared between her brows and at the corners of her eyes and mouth. Her face often had a pensive look, and shadows of worry ringed her eyes.
"We have the cow the Flannerys left behind when they rushed off to the next gold strike," Katy said. When she saw big tears flooding her sister's eyes, she attempted to lighten her mood by adding, "We'll hitch Mable to the wagon."
"Oh, poo!" Mary hugged her daughter to her. "Your Aunt Katy can say the silliest things."
"Mable ain't a horse." Theresa looked at her aunt with a puzzled expression.
"Isn't a horse, honey," Mary corrected absently.
"We may have to walk. That would mean leaving everything behind except what we can carry. If we go due south, we may reach a stage station. If we go northwest, we may reach Bannack."
"We may run into Indians," Mary said softly, her hand over her daughter's ear.
"Sister, we're in a hell of a mess."
"Oh, Katy! Let's not allow ourselves to be crude."
"Crude, my foot! I'm twenty-one years old. I've the right to be crude if I want to."
Katy's wide mouth, its lower lip fuller and softer than the upper one, turned down at the corners as her blue-gray eyes, deep set and slightly tilted at the outer corners, roved over her sister and niece. It hurt that her gentle sister, with her love for reading, writing, and music, should come to this. Here they sat in a deserted town waiting for Roy Stanton to remember where he had left them.
"We'll have to bring up more water tonight. We can't allow the cow to go dry."
"We can lead her down to the stream and let her drink her fill."
"We could, if not for bushy-face."
"Do you think he's waiting his chance to . . . have his way with us?"
"If he is, he's in for a surprise." Katy patted her pocket. She had used the little pistol more than once to discourage amorous, woman-hungry miners.
Katy looked around the funeral parlor they had made into a home. It was as comfortable as the rooms they had in Laramie, thanks to all the discards left by the gold-seeking crowd. They had two beds, a sheet-iron cookstove, table, chairs, a rocker, a round potbellied stove for heat. They had a good assortment of nice, heavy china and a variety of cooking pots. At first they had been hesitant about taking anything from the deserted buildings. But after they had been alone for a month, seeing what they could find became a game. They had even found a sack of potatoes that Mary eyed and planted in a little patch. Gathering firewood and bringing water up from the stream was an everyday chore, because the rope and pulley were gone from the well.
Katy held her hand out to Theresa, and the child jumped from her mother's lap. "Come on, ladybug. Let's go out and pull some grass for Mable. She's been feeding us; we've got to do our best for her."
"Do you think you should go out with him out there, Katy?"
"He's been here all this time and hasn't bothered us."
"Maybe he hasn't been here all this time. Maybe he goes someplace and comes back."
"Where would he go? There isn't a town within fifty miles of here. Don't worry. I tied Mable near the side door. The front door is barred and the rifle is loaded in case you should need it. You can watch out the window, and if you see him coming, you can yell."
"Leave the door open."
"I don't think he'll bother us. He's probably some old prospector scavenging for what he can find."
"He didn't look like a prospector when he rode in. He had a good horse."
"He also had two pack mules."
"Why are we scared of the man, Mamma?" Theresa's small hands cupped her mother's face and turned it toward her to get her attention.
"We don't know him, honey."
"Maybe he's seen Papa. Can I ask him?"
"No. If he had a message from Papa, he'd have come and told us. Papa will come for us soon." Mary looked at her daughter with a sympathetic smile. "Maybe he'll bring you a pretty."
"I want a music box."
"You've got your sights set high."
"Cow in the tree again," Katy muttered and turned her face away, knowing the dislike she felt for Roy Stanton was mirrored there. "why don't you write in your journal while we're gone?"
"I don't know why I keep writing in it. There hasn't been anything good to write about for a long time."
"Someday you can write a book about two beautiful sisters and a golden-haired child who were left in a deserted mining town." Katy threw her arms wide in a dramatic gesture, bowed to her audience, and began to speak. "Friends, let me introduce myself. My name is Katherine Louise Burns, and I'm here to tell you a tale written by Mrs. Mary Theresa Burns Stanton."
Mary and Theresa clapped their hands as they always did when Katy was play acting.
"Alas!" Katy continued. "The ladies were the only residents of the town of Trinity in Montana Territory." Katy clasped her hands to her breast with an expression of deep sorrow on her face. "One day they heard the sound of a bugle, and lo"—she shaded her eyes with her hand and turned from side to side—"a knight with a purple plume on his helmet came riding into town on a white steed. Behind him came a coach drawn by . . . six pink cows."
"Cows aren't pink," Theresa shouted. "You're silly, Aunt Katy."
"Who said that cows can't be pink, ladybug?" Katy stood with her hands on her hips and glared at her niece. "I can have pink cows if I want to. Just for that I'll not let you ride in my coach. So there!"
"I will too ride in your coach."
"You will not. You can ride on one of the cows. Come on, we'll practice on Mable."
"Be careful," Mary called as they went out the side door.
Mary went to the window again. Her soft brown eyes searched up and down the rutted street where already the weeds were growing. At first she failed to see the dog who lay as still as a rock in the shade next to the stone building that had served as a jail. She saw him when he snapped at a pesky fly and knew the man was nearby. If he was in the jail, she reasoned, he would not see Katy and Theresa pulling grass for the cow.
Mary was still wondering about the bearded man when she lifted the lid of her humpbacked trunk and took out the journal. The book was an inch thick, and more than half the pages were filled with small, neat script. It was one of Mary's most precious possessions. The first entry had been made eight years ago when she and Roy Stanton were married in Montgomery, Alabama. She had recorded the first few happy months of their marriage. Later in the journal she had mentioned her husband's inability to adjust to the New South. Another entry told of the Stanton Plantation going on the auction block and falling into the hands of a Northerner. That was the final blow to Roy's pride. His dream of making enough money to go back and reclaim the house and land had brought them to the gold fields. All of this was neatly recorded in the journal.
Pulling the chair close to the window, Mary sat down with the book in her lap.
"Oh, Mamma, you wanted me to marry into a fine Southern family, and look what it got me into." She did not realize that she had spoken aloud until she heard her own voice. Roy was not prepared to take responsibility for a wife and a child. He'd always had everything he wanted without lifting a finger. He had even paid for someone to fight in his place during the War. Now he was off chasing a dream of finding riches, and she and Theresa would be here alone if not for Katy.
Mary seldom let herself think about how disappointed she was in the man she had married, or how different her life might have been had she married another man or remained a spinster. She had chosen Roy, for better or for worse, and her marriage vows were sacred to her. She could thank him for Theresa. Her child was worth all the heartache she had suffered. Mary turned from those dark thoughts, opened the journal and began to read an entry she had made almost five years ago.
Cripple Creek, Colorado Territory, June 14, 1868.
Today I received the news that Mamma is gone. Oh, but I wish I could have been with her at the last. Katy said she didn't suffer as Papa had. I'm grateful for that. Katy and I are all that is left of the family. My dear brothers, Roger and Clifford, died at Gettysburg, a place I never heard of before, and Papa died of apoplexy brought on by a broken heart. Katy wants to come out here to be near me. I'm so ashamed to have her see this hovel we live in. But, oh, I want her to come. I'm so lonesome that at times I could die.
Black Hawk, Colorado Territory, May 5, 1869.
Katy has arrived at last. It is so good to see her that I keep looking at her and touching her to make sure she is really here. She is so fresh-looking and beautiful. Some of the men here in the camp have shaved and even put on clean shirts hoping that she will notice them, but she pays them no mind. I know she is shocked by the living conditions here, but, bless her, she hasn't let on. Roy was angry when he found out my bleeding had stopped. I hope he will stay here at least until the baby comes.
Mary continued to thumb through the journal, reading entries she had made in places called Breckenridge, Bonanza, Myrtle Gulch, Laramie, Virginia City, and finally Trinity.
Trinity, Montana Territory, September 5, 1873.
This is the wildest place we have ever been. There are two saloons and a girlie house. The women parade themselves out front all hours of the day and night. As many people are on the street at midnight as at noon. I don't understand why Roy brought us here. We should have stayed in Laramie. Katy had a teaching job at the orphanage. Mrs. Gallagher said I could stay and help with the children. Roy was embarrassed that his wife would work for wages. He insisted that Theresa and I come with him. I think it was because he didn't want to go back and face the Gallaghers after Pack told him the mining camps were no place to take a family. Katy came with us, although I know she is seething with resentment. Roy found a place for us in a crude log-hut up above the town.
Trinity, December 25, 1873.
I'm lying abed. I lost another babe. Oh, the poor little thing. It is so cold here that I don't know if it would have lived anyway. Theresa has to stay in bed with me to keep warm. Roy gave me a blue-ribboned bonnet and Theresa a pair of slippers for Christmas. When will I ever wear a ribboned bonnet? Theresa will outgrow the slippers before spring. Roy is so impractical. He and Katy had cross words again this morning. She is angry at him for spending so much time and money down at the saloon. We're almost out of firewood. It isn't fair that Katy must do so much. Oh, I wonder where we will be when another Christmas comes around again.
April 5, 1874.
Roy used the last of our money to buy supplies to go into the hills and look for gold. He's sure that he'll find it this time. I'm so ashamed. I know now why he wanted us to come with him. He knew Katy would come. She has a little money, and he knows that she'll not let me and Theresa go hungry. He says the mine here is playing out and that he wants to get the jump on the others. He has promised to be gone only a few weeks. He is like a small boy looking for the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. He wants riches without working for them.
Mary turned the pages, scanning the entries where she told about their first few days alone in the deserted town, and how frightened they were when they heard a cougar scream in the night. When she came to a blank page, she moistened the lead of the pencil with the tip of her tongue and began to write.
June 5, 1874.
Roy has been gone for two months. I'm afraid that he will never come back, although I don't let on to Katy. I don't want to think that he would leave us here deliberately, without even a horse to pull the wagon. Now I'm wondering if something could have happened to him. Oh, I know he's selfish, but he wouldn't leave his baby daughter. At least I don't think he would. I feel terrible about Katy being stuck here with us. She has devoted the best years of her life to me and Theresa. As far as I know, she has never had a serious beau. She could have had her pick of men this past winter, but she wanted nothing to do with any of them. She said she would stay single for the rest of her life before she'd marry a miner. Today we saw the stranger again. He is big with a coal black beard. I can't tell if he's young or old. I've not seen his horse or his pack mules since he rode in, but we've smelled his cookfire several times, and the fresh meat he was cooking smelled so good. We've not had fresh meat since Katy shot a baby deer. She cried because the mother was so frantic. We didn't know anything about skinning it, so we cut off a leg. Something carried the rest of it off in the night.
Mary closed the journal and sat for a while, gazing out the window. She could have written more, but she had to be saving with the paper. The prospects of getting another book to write in were small, if not nonexistent; that is, if they ever got out of this lonely place. A mouse scurrying across the floor drew Mary's attention, and she wished for a cat. Rats and mice were becoming a problem, but a minor one, she admitted silently, compared to their other concerns. She got up to make sure the lid to the flour tin was in place. She was returning to the chair by the window when she heard Katy shout.
"Mary! Get Theresa. I'm bringing in the cow!"
"What in tarnation—!" Mary ran to the back and out the door. She grabbed Theresa who was standing with her finger in her mouth as if she were thunderstruck. Mary darted back to the door, shoved the child inside, and went to help Katy tug on the rope around the neck of the bawling, frightened cow. "Is he out there?"
Katy was too busy to answer. "Get in there, damn you!" she shouted and whacked the cow on the rump with the palm of her hand. "You stupid, brainless creature, I'm trying to save your flea-bitten hide!" She got behind the cow and shoved. The cow lifted her hind foot threateningly. "You kick me and I'll brain you," Katy yelled.
The frightened cow had become tame during the last two months, but she was reluctant to go inside the building. The doorway was narrow and the sound of her hooves on the plank floor terrified her. She balked, bawled, shook her head, and tried to break free.
"Yeeeow!" The primitive scream of a cougar came from close behind them. Ingrained fear of the beast caused the cow to lunge, her forelegs collapsing, and she sprawled half-in and half-out of the doorway, almost knocking Mary off her feet.
Katy looked over her shoulder to see the large, slick cat move with effortless grace along the rim of the slanting cliff behind the building. Its head jutted forward; its long sweeping tail hung close to its powerful hindquarters; its yellow eyes gleamed as it viewed its prospective prey.
"Oh, blessed Father!" The words came from Katy's stiff, dry throat. The cat's huge eyes glared fixedly at her. The big body arched, and a powerful growl exploded from its huge mouth.
- On Sale
- Apr 1, 1990
- Page Count
- 384 pages
- Grand Central Publishing