This Loving Land


By Dorothy Garlock

Formats and Prices




$8.99 CAD




ebook $6.99 $8.99 CAD

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.

After the death of their mother Summer Kuykendall and her brother travel to Texas to live under the protection of Sam McLean, a family friend. They arrive to find that Sam has been killed, but his son Slater will honour his father’s promise.












A Time Warner Company


THIS LOVING LAND. Copyright © 1981 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

A Time Warner Company

The "Warner Books" name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group, Inc.

ISBN: 978-0-7595-2248-0

First eBook Edition: April 2001



Chapter One

Chapter Two

Chapter Three

Chapter Four

Chapter Five

Chapter Six

Chapter Seven

Chapter Eight

Chapter Nine

Chapter Ten

Chapter Eleven

Chapter Twelve

Chapter Thirteen

Chapter Fourteen

Chapter Fifteen

Chapter Sixteen

Chapter Seventeen


Slater's eyes were suddenly like dark glowing coals. They met Summer's. Hers were startled. He had said "belong to me." And she could see he meant it. Suddenly, something had changed. Forever. They both knew it.

Slater took the mug from her hand. Then his arm went around her and she was so firmly held against him that she could feel the hard bones and muscles of his body thrusting through her thin cotton dress. The intimacy of that contact sent waves of surprise and pleasure through her. Strange, tempestuous feelings threatened to swamp her, and she struggled desperately to keep her head.

His lips touched the side of her neck and his hand moved up and down her back, the wild beat of her heart against his. "Do I frighten you?" His lips were against her cheek.

"No." It was scarcely more than a whisper. Her brain commanded her to fight free of him, but her senses ignored the order . . .



"The counterpart to Louis L'Amour in the genre of women's romance set in the frontier West, Ms. Garlock does not disappoint any of her fans!"

Heartland Critiques


"For those who like their romances emotionally complex and brimful of grit, Garlock holds the reins masterfully."

Publishers Weekly





Books by Dorothy Garlock


Almost Eden

Annie Lash

Dream River

Forever Victoria

A Gentle Giving

Glorious Dawn


Lonesome River

Love and Cherish

Midnight Blue


Restless Wind

Ribbon in the Sky

River of Tomorrow

Sins of Summer


Wayward Wind

Wild Sweet Wilderness

Wind of Promise



Published by






Be proud of yourself. You are truly a beautiful person, with a special kind of courage.







McLean's Keep, the Rocking S Ranch and all the characters in this book exist only in my imagination, with the exception of the Kuykendall family—my ancestors—who came to Texas with Stephen F. Austin in 1823 and helped establish San Felipe, the first Anglo-American settlement.

The town of Hamilton Valley, later named Burnet, is not to be confused with the present-day town of Hamilton, county seat of Hamilton County, which is to the north of Burnet County and was established in 1858.












"Sam! Sam . . . !" The girl in the loose, homespun garment ran down the oak-shadowed path, jumped lightly over a fallen branch and threw herself into the man's arms. Closing her eyes tightly, she knew she was blushing with the thrill that leaped through her at the feel of his muscular, pulsing body pressed closely against hers.

"Ye looney lass!" He held her away from him. "And how many times must I be a tellin' ye not to run and leap like a frog? Ach, but ye'll be a fallin' and a hurtin' y'rself . . . or the bairn." The voice was rough and masculine and musical with its strong Scottish accent.

"Sam," she murmured urgently, "I'm so happy! I'm so happy I'm scared, Sam."

"Scared?" he murmured against her ear.

"I'm scared something terrible will happen. This has been the most wonderful summer of my life, Sam. It's been so wonderful, but it's so wrong. . . ." Her voice was muffled against his throat. "J.R. is fighting the Mexicans, and I'm so gloriously happy. A wife should be sad when her husband is gone. Oh, Sam, I find myself, sometimes, hoping he don't come back!"

A growl of protest came from his throat. "Nye, sweet lass, ye don't be a wishin' that."

"Then I think, Sam, about Libby and the boy. Something terrible will happen to me for the wicked thing I've done to Libby."

"Hush, darlin' lass. Libby is safe in her dream world. She can never really be me wife, and I'll not fault her, for it's not of her own doin'. I love the laddie, and I'll be lovin' this bairn, too." He placed his big hand over her swollen abdomen. "If y'r man don't come for ye, my sweet lassie, I'll be a takin' care of ye and the bairn."

He gathered her against him, his hands stroking her back with long, slow caresses until she was molded so closely against him that she couldn't catch her breath for the excitement that beat through her.

"I want this summer to go on forever. " It came out in a sort of gasping sigh, half-questioning, half-exulting, as suddenly, beyond her control, her body arched against his.

"It couldn't be wicked to love like this," he whispered breathlessly, suddenly lifting her and carrying her to where they could both lie in the soft grass, mouth to mouth, breast to breast. He kissed her tenderly, lovingly, again and again. "Don't be a thinkin' about the right or the wrong of it, think about now, and how I love ye."

All thoughts of being wicked retreated from Nannie's mind before the strength of the force throbbing through her in answer to his passion. And then it was as if a dam, which had been holding back wild, tempestuous waters, broke and washed over her. Her mouth was against his so that breathing was almost impossible, his weight held her pinned to the sweet-smelling grass and it was like drowning as she was swept along on the turbulence of their desire. Through the bursting darkness sudden joy, like a great flashing light, exploded within her. Afterwards, there was the warm, sensuous afterglow, as she curled up in his arms, the wetness of tears on her face and on his. She rested her cheek against the smooth silky hardness of his shoulder. Lying motionless in the kind of peace she knew only when she was with him, she fell asleep.

*    *    *

When she awoke, she felt quite different, and for a while she lay with her eyes closed, wondering why she was so tired, why she was alone. No arms held her comfortingly, no hard, muscled shoulder was beneath her cheek.

It was night-time. She could sense the brightness of the lamp through her closed lids. Gone was the sweet-smelling grass; she could feel coarse sheets on her bare skin. The only thing that was the same was her wet cheeks. Everything else was different. She was different. Feeling lighter than air, she floated like a feather, happy because soon she would be free. She knew what heaven would be like.

Nannie opened her eyes to find her daughter bending over her.

"Mama, you've been dreaming."

"Summer." She smiled a little. "My beautiful Summer."

"Can I get you something, Mama?" Gentle, anxious fingers touched the tears on her mother's face.

"No." It was a weary whisper. She couldn't help but be disappointed at finding herself in another time and another place. She closed her eyes again, hoping to feel the warmth, the ecstasy, to hear the passionate whispers. With a little groan of anguish, she knew the time was not yet. But soon . . . soon. Her eyes filled with anxiety and she lifted a hand to tug at her daughter's dress. "Soon," she whispered weakly. "Soon you'll be alone with John Austin. I want you to go to Sam McLean. Find Sam, Summer, and tell him who you are. He'll help you. He'll take care of you and John Austin. In my little chest is a letter telling you where to find him."

"Mama . . ." Tears brimmed in the violet eyes. "Mama . . . no—"

"Promise me, Summer. Promise me you'll go to Sam. Sam. . . ." The weak voice trailed away and Nannie Kuykendall closed her eyes, never to open them again.




It was unbearably hot in the closely-packed stagecoach, and remembering the deep coolness of home—the Piney Woods—Summer felt even hotter under her cape of blue-black hair. She was pretty, sitting there in her cotton dress, the sun shooting lights through her hair. Small, pretty and determined; she was nineteen years old and she was on her way west with an eight-year-old boy in tow.

The girl's face showed lines of tiredness, but the black-fringed violet eyes refused to close. She was determined to stay awake, using her hat to fan the flushed face of the child sleeping in her lap.

He was very dear to her, this small brother of hers. She had brought him up virtually alone. When he was three, their papa had been killed—a wheel of the wagon he was driving collapsed, throwing him and their mother down a steep incline. Their mother's back was injured, and after that she never left her bed until the day she died. The responsibility of raising the boy and caring for her invalid mother had pressed heavily on the shoulders of the fourteen-year-old girl.

Summer watched the perspiring face of the sleeping child with troubled, patient eyes, as the slight breeze created by the hat lifted the damp hair on his forehead. They had come a long way from the Piney Woods.

Across from her sat a ranch woman in her forties or fifties; it was hard to tell a woman's age in this country where the wind and dust ate into the skin, making it old and wrinkled after only a few years. The older woman sniffed and looked out the window. Summer knew what the gesture meant. She was piqued because she hadn't opened up and told her their family history. The woman had been explicit with her inquiries, and Summer had told her no more than that a family friend awaited them in Hamilton.

"It's a good thing. Hamilton's no place for a girl alone."

Summer didn't tell her about the letter she had received signed simply S. McLean, or that the letter had contained the startling news that she and her brother owned a plot of land with a cabin on it. The letter had been short and curt, without warmth or welcome, but it was a letter nevertheless, and Summer's hopes clung to the security of the written words.

They rode on in silence as still as the land they were passing through. The land looked lonely, Summer thought wistfully. She understood loneliness, because she had often been lonely herself—in between dilemmas, that is. And there had been dilemmas. Every day. What to do on a cold, windy night when she thought her mother was going to die? Should she run for help, leaving the five-year-old to watch his dying mother? Her mother, whose days were numbered, or the small boy with his life before him? It had not been an easy decision. She had stayed, and her mother had lived—to die three years later, under the very same circumstances. Her sweet, patient mother, who had suffered in silence, had left her and John Austin scarcely three months ago.

Summer smoothed the hair from the boy's face with long, slender fingers. He has no one but me, she thought sadly. Then her eyes widened and the sadness was replaced by hope. No one but me and Sam McLean.

A nagging recollection of the hill country where she had lived as a small child with her mother until her papa came back from the war tugged at her memory. She vaguely remembered someone squatting down in front of her and saying: "Don't cry, summertime girl. You go on with your ma and get all growed up and then I'll come. I'll come and fetch you home."

The shadows were longish across the road as the horses sped through their own dust cloud, and into the new town of Hamilton that had sprung to life in 1850, just two short years ago. One rider raced ahead of them down the rutted road, hallooing to announce the arrival of the stage. The big Concord creaked to a halt in front of a lean-to with a shiny tin roof. Grubbi1y dressed men swarmed around the coach from all sides, craning their necks to see who was inside.

"This is Hamilton, John Austin," she whispered to the tousled boy.

He did not reply. He was watching the dust as it lifted and drifted away, and wondered why he couldn't see the wind that carried it. There must be a reason. He wished he had someone to ask. Summer was too busy taking care of them to think about the wind. He was so absorbed in his own thoughts that he didn't hear what his sister was saying. Her voice drifted over and about his head, like the wind, but he knew well enough what she said: "Stay close to me, give me your hand."

Summer stood beside the grimy coach and waited with the other passengers for the driver's helper to hand down her trunk. She held tightly to John Austin's hand, in case he saw something that interested him and tried to wander away. She glanced shyly at the people lined up to meet the stage: cowboys, drifters, soldiers from Fort Croghan. No one came forward to speak to her, but their interest was so embarrassing that she turned her eyes toward the stage driver and kept them there. In that brief look at the bystanders, she saw no one she would take for Sam McLean.

The driver climbed down, then reached up and swung their trunk to the boardwalk.

"Someone a meetin' you, miss?"

"I don't know. Ah . . . arrangements were made for us to stay at the hotel." Her voice, which had begun strongly, coolly, faltered to a near-stop under the steady gaze of the driver.

Summer let her eyelids drop over her eyes and failed to see the expression of softness come over the weathered face.

"Wait right here. I'll take you up there myself soon as I'm done. Ain't no call fer you and the kid to be a walkin' up there by yoreself."

Summer hadn't known how apprehensive she was until she realized how much his words relieved her. Pride made her cover up quickly.

"Thank you. Arrangements have been made for us," she repeated, lifting her chin, shaking her head a little.

Hamilton, Burnet County, Texas, was not much of a place from what she could see. The wind blew dust clouds through the early darkness and drove grit into her eyes, making it just that much more difficult to see it. But as they waited for the driver, she was able to take a quick look around and her face fell. She'd seen quite a few new towns on the journey west, but she'd not set eyes on one as primitive as this. It was a hodge-podge of unpainted buildings and lean-to's like the one used as the stage stop, and was strung out along a rutted track. Very few lights glowed in a street that swarmed with men, teams and wagons, saddle horses and soldiers.

The driver nodded to Summer and shouldered her trunk. She picked up her valise and, pulling John Austin along beside her, followed closely as he stepped off the boardwalk into the dusty street. It was all very new to her—this rawness, wildness, newness. Music, played on a twangy, out-of-tune piano drifted from one of the buildings they passed, a dance hall where men could have a rousing gallop around the plank floor with one of the girls employed there. There were only three or four horses tied in front of the building; but then, the night had just begun.

Her first look at the hotel told Summer why the driver had elected to escort them. One of the town's four or five wooden buildings, it was hard to distinguish from the saloon. Split log steps climbed to a board porch lined with benches, occupied by an assortment of men of all ages and, from their attire, all occupations.

A handsomely-dressed man in a dark frock-coat and ruffled white shirt lifted his bowler hat as she passed. His dark eyes roamed her figure boldly, and he showed even white teeth beneath a trim black mustache when he smiled, knowingly, at the crimson that flooded her face. He moved to approach her, bowing slightly, then whirled away, as if suddenly changing his mind.

There were two slatted, swinging doors leading off the porch into the saloon and a tall, narrow door that opened into the long, thin hotel lobby. A fat-faced man sat behind a counter eating a bowl of stew that reeked of chili powder. He wiped his mouth on his sleeve and got to his feet.

"Ya got lodgers, Bill?"

"You got room for 'em?"

"If'n they's the Kuykendall kids I do." He grinned at Summer, showing that most of his upper teeth had been removed.

"Well, one of 'em ain't a kid, so watch yore manners."

"Is them the Kuykendalls, Bill?" A short, bowlegged, gray-whiskered man came puffing in through the saloon door. "Ain't ya in a mite soon?"

"No, I ain't a mite soon. And you ain't neither." Bill eased the trunk off his shoulder and lowered it to the floor. "You ain't never been on time in yore life, Bulldog!"

"Well . . . I . . ." Bulldog's expression was of surprise, then pleasure, as he stopped speaking and looked at Summer.

Summer looked back with interest, then shook her head, an unconscious habit of hers when confronted with curious eyes. The lamplight caught the movement, and her hair shone blue-black against the walls of the room. Dust clung to her face and dress and her hair was disheveled, but no one noticed, least of all the man called Bulldog. He thought she was the most beautiful woman he had ever seen.

"You were expecting children? Didn't Mr. McLean tell you about me and my brother?"

"Well, yes'm, he did. But he didn't say nothin' 'bout one of ya bein' so growed-up."

"One of us is indeed growed up, as you can see." Pride added a touch of hauteur to her voice.

"Yes'm. He tol' me a boy and young lady. I jist never give it no thought you'd be so growed and purty."

"You got a room or don't ya?" The stage driver was impatient to be on his way.

"They got a room. Give me the key." Bulldog picked up the key, lifted the trunk, and started up the stairs.

"He'll look after you, miss. Don't pay no never mind to how he looks, but listen to what he says." The driver chuckled.

"Thank you," Summer called after the ambling form of their driver.

The room at the end of the upstairs hall was small, but had a good-sized bed and a cot. A bureau and washstand with a blue-glazed pitcher and bowl were the only other furnishings.

Bulldog set the trunk at the foot of the bed, and John Austin went immediately to the window to look down on the busy street.

"Ma'am, I'm just plain old sorry I warn't thar to meet ya."

Summer smiled. Her heart was lighter than it had been in months. This man, this small, grizzled cowboy, was her first link with the Sam McLean who would take care of them. All she had to do, her mother said, was tell him who she was. He would take the responsibility for John Austin.

"It's all right. The driver looked after us." Her mouth curved in a lovely, sweet smile and her eyes sparkled with excitement. "Will Mr. McLean be coming for us?"

Bulldog looked uncomfortable. "No, ma'am."

It was the expression and not the words that affected her. She went quite still, as if she were suddenly depleted of all strength. Her hands pressed down the sides of her dress.

"You're taking us to him?"

"No, ma'am . . . yes'm . . . thar aint nothin' but a creek a'tween the two places. Yore place is fixed up real good fer ya, and ya can have a Mex woman to come and stay if ya wants." His hard hands twisted his hat. He sensed her disappointment and didn't know what to say.

Disappointment wasn't exactly the word for what Summer felt. Heartsick might have described her feelings better, or anger at herself for her impossible dreams. And dream she had, because she needed hope badly. She had built up an imagined figure; a tall, strong rancher, hard from life on the prairie, but kind. He would be someone of their own . . . a second father, a friend. Was it possible her mother had been mistaken? That Sam McLean didn't want to be responsible for them? How could she and John Austin make a living out on a homestead, even if it was just across the creek from Sam McLean's?

Summer swallowed the lump in her throat and blinked. Her small, round chin tilted, her dignity returned in the guise of very stiff, proud posture.

"It was kind of Mr. McLean to see us to our . . . ah . . . homestead. Please express our appreciation and tell him we'll try not to be a bother." Summer's lips pressed together, revealing more in silence than in words.

Bulldog scratched his head and looked down at his feet.

"Can I trouble you for one more thing?" Summer was sorry now, impatient with herself for her cool words. "My brother will be hungry, and I don't know if we should go down on the street alone."

"No, ma'am, ya ain't better. Anything happen to ya and I'd have my hide took right off." His faded blue eyes crinkled when he grinned. "I think it best to have some grub sent up fer ya and the boy. And—ma'am, I'll be here in the mornin' to take you all out to the Keep. Ain't no more than twenty-five or thirty miles out. McLean's Keep reaches way out to Spider Mountain. Now, that's a fer piece."

"McLean's Keep? Is that Mr. McLean's ranch?"


It was clear he was not giving out any more information about his employer than he had to.

"I'm sorry, Mr. Bulldog. It isn't your fault that Mr. McLean didn't choose to meet us. There must be a reason, and I'd rather he not know of my disappointment and think us ungrateful for what he's already done for us."

John Austin, leaning forward, elbows on the window sill and chin cupped in his hands, was not listening. He was watching the street, and particularly a fight in progress in front of the saloon. He always left everything to Summer. Summer would know how to handle things. She always did.

"The one with the whiskers will win," he announced suddenly.

"Win what, John Austin?" Summer was glad her brother had said something.

They moved to the window and looked over the boy's head to the street below. Bulldog chuckled.

"No, he won't, boy. That's ol' Cal Hardy down thar. He's a fightin' son-of-a-bitch. He can whip his weight in wild cats afore breakfast. Yup, that ol' Cal's a fightin' bastard."

Summer gritted her teeth to keep from saying the words that sprang to her lips. Nothing passed John Austin's ears and eyes!

"He won't win this time, Mr. Bulldog. The other man is not as strong, but when he hits he puts all his weight behind the blow, while that man, Cal, only uses his arms, and he's making himself tired, too, the way he struts around. The other man don't waste his strength a'tall. See, see how he comes up on one foot when he hits?"

"Dad-burnit! Ya just might have somethin' thar!" Bulldog slapped John Austin on the back. "It's 'bout time someone whupped that bastard s ass."

"Please. . . ."

Bulldog was so wrapped up in the excitement of the fight that- he didn't hear the word that burst from Summer's lips.

"How do you know that Cal's mother didn't marry his father, Mr. Bulldog?"

"John Austin!" Summer's face crimsoned. She was used to her brother's insatiable curiosity, but strangers were sometimes put off by him. But she needn't have worried about Bulldog. He was too interested in the fight to have noticed what the boy said.

John Austin looked up at his sister, inquiringly, to see what caused her rebuke.

"A bastard is the child of a woman who ain't married, Summer. I read it in the dictionary. I just wanted to know if Mr. Bulldog was a friend of Cal's mother."


On Sale
Apr 12, 2001
Page Count
288 pages

Dorothy Garlock

About the Author

Dorothy Garlock is the author of more than 50 novels that have sold 15 million+ combined copies and are published in 15 languages. She lives in Iowa.

Learn more about this author