Under a Texas Sky


By Dorothy Garlock

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Growing up poor and largely abandoned on the streets of 1920s Chicago, Anna Finnegan has struggled her entire life. Until a talent manager discovers her and brings her into the world of theater. Now years later she’s about to start shooting her first movie. Arriving on location in Redstone, Texas, in 1932, Anna steps off the train and collides into Dalton Barnes. He’s lived in Redstone all his life and hates how the big city out-of-towners are gawking at the small-town locals like him.

It doesn’t take long, though, for Anna and Dalton to discover fireworks of a different sort between them. But the movie is plagued by one trouble after another, including a fire that destroys an elaborate set and costumes ruined by huge splashes of paint. Who is sabotaging the film and why? To what lengths will they go? When Anna finds herself threatened, how will she and the love blossoming between her and Dalton survive?



Into the forge's fiery glow I thrust the steel

And bend it into the arc of a wheel.

My hammer strikes; my muscles ache.

This is how I make what I make.


My dearest works with the stuff of dreams

Where nothing seen is what it seems.

Her image flickers, and people sigh.

How can she love my kind of guy?


Still she trembles when we kiss.

Is there hope for a match like this?



ANNA FINNEGAN KNEW she was being greedy. Even as the biting November wind cut through her ragged clothes and gnawed deep into the bare skin of her hands and face, she knew that the two apples she’d already stolen, secreted into the folds of her threadbare coat, should be enough. Taking another was risky. The longer she lingered, the greater the chance that she’d be caught. But she was so hungry that she couldn’t bring herself to walk away.

The corner grocer was busy, even with the weather taking another determined step toward winter. Mothers trudged past Anna with small children in tow, making their way inside through the open door, greeting the shopkeeper, an old woman with a shawl wrapped tightly around her stooped shoulders, her wrinkled cheeks flushed red from the cold. Men tramped up and down the sidewalk behind Anna, some with their noses buried in newspapers, others calling greetings to friends, their voices mixing with the honking horns of automobiles. No one paid much attention to the grubby, twelve-year-old girl standing in front of the bin of apples.

You can do it…  Just take one more…

It had been three days since Anna had last eaten. Even now, her stomach grumbled and groaned, making her feel weak and dizzy. She’d done all she possibly could to feed herself, from rooting through every nook and cranny of her mother’s apartment for any misplaced scraps, to begging outside of the Chicago & North Western train station; for all of that, the only thing she’d accomplished for her efforts was to be elbowed out of the way and knocked to the ground. She’d ended up hungrier than ever. Anna knew that stealing was wrong, but she no longer had a choice. If she didn’t eat something soon, especially with an unforgiving winter approaching, she was as good as dead.

Nervously, Anna licked her lips, took one last glance at the shopkeeper, and, satisfied that the old woman was busy helping customers, shot out her hand, snatched up a particularly tasty-looking apple, and stuffed it down into her coat alongside the others. It was all done in the blink of an eye and no one was the wiser. Now all she had to do was get out of sight and—

“What’n the hell do you think yer doin’, girlie?” a man’s voice boomed behind her.

Before Anna could even think, a hand grabbed her arm and violently whipped her around. Strands of her dirty blond hair flew into her eyes, but she could still see clearly enough to know who had hold of her; it was the shopkeeper’s son. He was a short, squat man, as thick around the chest as a barrel. Glaring at her, his face was twisted into an angry scowl, his eyes narrow and full of fury.

Anna silently cursed herself. She’d spent half the morning waiting across the street until she’d seen the man walk away with a friend. She’d assumed that he would be gone for a while, but her gamble hadn’t been a lucky one. She had not watched closely enough; he’d managed to get behind her. He’d seen her snatch the apple. Now she was caught!

“You lousy little thief!” he shouted angrily, pulling Anna closer, dragging her toward him against her will. His breath smelled of tobacco and alcohol. “Ain’t nobody steals from my family and gets away with it! Nobody!”

By now, every face in the cramped grocery had turned toward them. Anna saw disgust and disappointment flutter across one woman’s features, and a grandfatherly man shook his head.

“Someone get a cop!” the man yelled, looking up and down both sides of the sidewalk, searching for an officer. Glaring down at Anna, he added, “Maybe spendin’ some time locked up with the rest a the trash litterin’ these streets’ll teach you a lesson.”

Panic flared in Anna’s chest. The thought of going to jail for what she’d done was terrifying. She’d taken the apples only because she was starving. Couldn’t anyone understand how hungry she was? Once she was arrested, she knew, no one would come for her, not her brother and definitely not her mother; she’d rot behind bars long before anyone in her family even knew she was missing. After receiving countless beatings at the hands of stronger girls, she’d probably get shipped off to an orphanage. Anna couldn’t think of a worse fate. No matter what it took, she had to get away.

Desperately, she tried to pull herself free of the man, but his grip was as tight as a vise; when he felt her struggle, he clamped down even harder.

“Let me go!” Anna screamed.

“Fight all you want,” the man sneered. “It ain’t gonna do you no good!”

“I’ll give them back! I promise I won’t do it again!”

“It’s too late for all that!”

Anna felt the noose closing quickly around her; if she was going to remain free, she had to do something.

Desperate, Anna raised her foot and drove her heel down onto the man’s toes as hard as she could. A sharp yelp burst from his mouth. She couldn’t know if it was because she’d actually managed to hurt him, or if he’d just been surprised that she was still defying him, but it was enough to make him momentarily loosen his grip on her arm. Quickly, she threw a sharp elbow into the soft paunch of his stomach and tore herself free. Without a second’s hesitation, Anna was off, like a rabbit suddenly freed from a snare, running away from the grocer’s as fast as she could.

Behind her, the man bellowed. “Stop! Stop, you good-for-nothin’ bitch! Somebody stop her!”

Anna dodged an old man with a cane, slid on the slippery sidewalk, and nearly collided with a fire hydrant before managing to right herself and race on. At any moment, she expected a policeman to suddenly appear before her, ready to snatch her up as she raced headlong into his open arms, or for some Good Samaritan to grab her and drag her kicking and screaming back to the grocer for her punishment.

But nothing happened. The sounds of the city, the shouts of the grocer’s son, all faded until the only thing Anna could hear was the pounding of her heart.


“Gimme that!”

Anna had only just bitten into the apple, her teeth piercing the skin, the juice deliciously sweet on her tongue, when it was suddenly yanked from her grasp. Before she could react, she was shoved hard in the chest and sent crashing to the floor, landing awkwardly on her side.

Her brother stood above her in the small, darkened bedroom they shared, staring at his newly acquired prize with a sneer of triumph on his face. Four years older than she, at sixteen, Peter Finnegan was well on his way to manhood, but Anna didn’t much like the man he was becoming. While she struggled with the dilemma of stealing food in order to survive, Peter had no such compunction about breaking the law. She’d seen him running around with other boys she knew were up to no good, gambling with a pair of dice in alleyways, and heard rumors of his breaking into people’s homes and stealing, and even running errands for one or another neighborhood mobster, the sort of important, dangerous man she knew Peter hoped someday to become. Most nights, she went to sleep in their room alone and woke the next morning to find he hadn’t bothered to come home. Assuming that she would be alone to eat her stolen treasure had been a mistake, the second she’d made that day.

“That’s mine,” she said evenly, doing her best to ignore the throbbing ache in her arm. “Give it back.”

“How’d you get this?” Peter asked, nodding at the apple. “You ain’t got two pennies to rub together. Did someone give it to you, did you find it, or,” he continued, a sinister grin spreading across his face, “did you steal it?”

“It’s mine,” Anna answered, unwilling to answer his question; she knew her brother would like nothing more than to know she was slowly falling toward the depths to which he’d already sunk.

Peter held out the apple to her. “Come take it.”

Anna didn’t move. She knew that if she was foolish enough to take Peter up on his offer, to challenge him, he’d use it as an excuse to beat her black and blue. There was a time, not so long ago, when she wouldn’t have believed him capable of doing such a thing, but that time had long since passed.

“I didn’t think so.” He sneered, taking a bite and chewing noisily.

There was nothing for Anna to do to stop him, no one she could call for help. As always, she was on her own.

Anna had only been seven years old the winter her father had gotten so drunk that it had struck him as a good idea to lie down and take a quick rest in the middle of a blizzard. By morning, Patrick Finnegan was dead, as stiff as the bench he’d mistaken for a bed, two blocks from home. Anna didn’t remember much more of him than his booming laugh; even looking at the man in the photograph her mother kept didn’t rekindle any memories. His sudden absence had started his family on a downward spiral they still hadn’t been able to stop.

As much as her brother’s life had been changed, Anna was still more horrified by what had happened to her mother. Rather than reacting to her husband’s unexpected death by doing whatever it took to provide for her children, Cordelia Finnegan had largely abandoned them, leaving them to care for themselves. Wantonly, she moved from one man to the next, many of them drunks and some of them worse. She was absent from the apartment more often than Peter was. Occasionally, she would come through the door with a black eye or a split lip. Even less frequently, Anna would return home to find her mother had bought groceries, meager though they’d be. Over time, Anna came to prefer the nights her mother was gone; worse were the evenings when she brought one of her men home with her, and Anna had to listen to their drunken goings-on before covering her head with her pillow so she wouldn’t have to hear them once they’d retired to the bedroom.

In almost every way, Anna was all alone.

“Thanks for the apple,” Peter said with a laugh. At the sound of the door slamming behind him, Anna’s lower lip began to tremble and her eyes to fill with tears, but she steadfastly refused to give in and cry. She was no longer a child, hadn’t been for years, and besides, what would giving in to her emotions get her?

“Nothing,” she whispered.

Not for the first time, Anna swore to herself that she would make something of her life. No matter what it took, no matter how much she had to struggle, to whatever lengths she had to go, she refused to walk down the same path her mother and brother had taken. She’d be better than that. She wouldn’t allow herself to be mistreated, live in squalor, or run with the wrong crowd. But that didn’t mean she’d allow herself to starve, either; if she absolutely had to, she would steal again if it meant the difference between life and death.

In the dark and silence of her dingy bedroom, Anna pulled one of the other apples she’d stolen from her coat, one of the two she’d managed to keep hidden from her brother, and took a ravenous bite.

I’m going to be somebody.

Chapter One

ANNA FINNEGAN GASPED in both horror and surprise, a hand rising to clutch helplessly at her chest, as the man who’d suddenly appeared before her out of the darkness pulled a knife from the inside of his coat. Even in the gloom all around them, there was still enough light to glint off the long blade. Slowly but purposefully, he moved closer, causing her to take a couple of staggering steps backward.

“Who…who are you…?” she stammered fearfully. “What do you want?”

“I want everythin’ you got,” the man answered, his voice a deep, threatening growl as he looked her up and down, “and I’m gonna be takin’ it.”

Anna’s eyes grew wide, her breathing ragged, her actions hesitant and panicked. Quickly, she turned one way and then the other, as if indecisive as to what she should do next. She kept slowly moving away from the stranger, but then, suddenly, her heel caught on the ground and she tumbled down, turning sideways to break her fall. As fast as a gunshot, the man raced across the space between them and loomed over her. Cackling devilishly, he slashed the knife back and forth through the air, mere inches above Anna’s face.

“Oh, come now!” he shouted, spittle wet on his lips. “You can do better than that! Here I was hopin’ you’d be worth a chase! It won’t be no fun if you ain’t runnin’. How’m I supposed to—”

As hard as she could, Anna kicked out at her attacker with her foot, striking him square in the thigh. With a loud grunt, he lost his balance and fell onto one knee, but he still managed to hold on to the knife. Before the man had touched the ground, Anna scrambled back to her feet, running in the opposite direction.

“Help!” she shouted as loud as she could. “Somebody help me!”

But there was no answer.

“That’s it!” the man yelled, filling the silence. “Let me know how afraid you are! Let me hear your fear!”

Anna ran a few steps, stopped, moved tentatively the other way, and then stopped again, all the while looking, unsure of where to go. Finally, she turned and raced back straight toward the man. He was already back on his feet, his arms spread, knife poised, waiting for her. At the last second, she dodged quickly to the side, avoiding him. But for the second time, her foot caught and she fell.

“Now you’re mine!” the man bellowed.

Anna watched as he dove toward where she lay sprawled, bringing the long blade down in a deadly arc. She screamed as the knife landed just short of her, hitting the ground hard enough to make it fly from her attacker’s hand, bouncing away into the dark.

Just as it was supposed to…


Anna ran quickly off the stage of the Cooper Theater as the heavy curtain began to descend from the rafters, signaling the end of the first act of Misery’s Company and eliciting a hearty round of applause from the audience. From their place in the small pit in front of the stage, the orchestra began to play a fast, suspenseful piece that masked the sound of her footfalls but couldn’t begin to drown out the prideful pounding of her heart. Finally making her way offstage, Anna received warm smiles and praise from her fellow actors.

“…was just wonderful, Anna!”

“…made me want to go out there and rescue you myself!”

“…best performance yet…”

Even as she smiled at all of the comments, Anna was already turning to look at the actor hurrying along behind her. Peter Holmes had the role of the production’s villain, the man who had attacked her with a knife. Anna was awestruck by how convincingly Peter’s normally soft, friendly face could be twisted into that of a blood-crazed maniac. He met her gaze with a smile, once again the soft-spoken man she’d been rehearsing with over the last couple of weeks.

“Are you all right?” Anna asked him with genuine concern. “I didn’t kick you too hard, did I?”

“I’m fine,” Peter assured her. “It was just like we practiced.”

“It felt worse to me.”

“What really hurt was smashing that darn knife into the stage.” He frowned, wriggling his wrist back and forth in obvious discomfort. “It felt like I almost snapped it clean in two. I shouldn’t have brought it down so hard but I wanted everything to look convincing for opening night.”

“I thought you were great,” she said.

“We both were,” he replied, taking her hand and giving it a gentle squeeze before hurrying off to the changing room to get ready for the next act.

All around Anna, the hustle and bustle of the play’s production continued: A couple of burly stagehands pushed elaborate backgrounds into place while others arranged a long dining room table and chairs; up in the rafters, men moved enormous riggings of lights to their assigned places; and a woman went from actor to actor, freshening makeup and corralling loose hairs and untidy clothing. Through it all, Dwight Wirtz, the play’s director, steered people and props to their positions as calmly as if this was the hundredth time they’d done it for paying customers instead of the first.

Moving to the front of the stage, careful to make sure she was out of everyone’s way, Anna pulled the old, worn curtain back just far enough to see out into the theater’s hall. In the years since she’d begun acting formally, it had become something of a tradition for her to steal a quick look, an opportunity to gauge the crowd. Tonight’s audience was large, but Anna was disappointed to see a scattering of empty seats here and there. She’d hoped for a sellout for opening night, but she consoled herself with the fact that those people who were there seemed rapt with the performance; she’d looked out on other nights, in other cities, during other productions, to find people sound asleep, their heads tipped back, snoring loud enough to be heard onstage.

Still, she’d wanted tonight’s performance to be different, for there to not be a single empty seat in the house, for there to be people standing in every aisle, shoulder-to-shoulder in the back.

Tonight was special.

This is the first time I’ve ever been the star of the show…

Anna could still remember that cold November night in Chicago when she’d first stepped onto a stage, the glare of the lights momentarily blinding her, her mouth as dry as cotton, her heart in her throat. As she’d stood there dumbstruck, she’d wondered if she hadn’t made a huge mistake. But after those first, hesitantly spoken lines of dialogue, it had all become easier, like the gears of a clock sliding perfectly into place. Over the coming months and years, the stage had begun to feel comfortable, the theater like home.

And it had all led to this night.

She’d worked hard for this moment, spent countless hours going over her lines, practicing all of the ways she would move about the stage, looking into the cracked mirror in her apartment to see how best to portray her emotions, determined to become a better actress. Tonight was the culmination of everything she’d ever wanted.

Finally, the frenzied work on the stage was finished. On cue, the orchestra’s tune began to slow, to change its pace, letting the audience know that the performance was about to resume.

Calmly and confidently, Anna strode back out onto the stage to take her rightful place.


“Are you sure you won’t come out for a little while?” Marnie Greenwood asked. “I just know you’d have lots of fun. Pretty please?”

Anna swiveled in her chair in front of the large mirror in her otherwise small dressing room and looked at her friend. Through the doorway behind Marnie, all of the other girls in the play were hurrying to change out of their costumes, and Elizabeth Parsons was holding up a compact and carefully applying a fresh coat of lipstick. The room was bursting with laughter and playful shouts as they all prepared to head out for a night on the town.

“I haven’t even started getting cleaned up,” Anna explained, running her hand across the collar of the costume she was still wearing and then up to her hair, fastened with pins and tied up at the back with a ribbon. “By the time I finally finished, you’d all be mad at me for taking so long.”

“You could hurry!”

“It’ll take me at least an hour.”

Marnie frowned. “Only if you’re trying to look perfect.”

“I don’t want to look like a clown,” Anna said with a laugh, thinking about how much makeup she was still wearing. “People would start to wonder if the circus was in town!”

“Just come out for one drink,” her friend insisted. “Sarah has this friend who knows of a place near the railroad station that’s supposed to be great. A quiet speakeasy with room for dancing, too. Besides, if there was ever a time to go out and celebrate, it’s opening night!”

“It sounds like you’ll have a great time.”

Marnie realized now that she wasn’t going to get the answer she wanted. “All right,” she groaned. “I may be stubborn but I’m not a fool, either. I know when I’m licked. But next time, you’re coming. No excuses!”

“I promise,” Anna replied.

“Don’t think I won’t be holding you to that!”

Within minutes, Marnie and the rest of the girls had raced out of the dressing room, taking all of the noise and commotion with them, and leaving Anna in silence. She watched them go, making a few more apologies, waving and telling them to have fun. Finally alone, she turned back toward her mirror.

“It’s just you and me, now,” she whispered to her reflection.


  • "Every Dorothy Garlock book is synonymous with a great read."—Janet Dailey
  • "There is nothing better than Dorothy Garlock at her best."—Sandra Brown, New York Times bestselling author

On Sale
Aug 6, 2013
Page Count
384 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