A Western Romance from Susan Horsnell
Vowing never to fall in love and be at risk of more heartbreak, Sam throws himself into his work at the family ranch.
Then, he finds Annabel. A young girl who life has not treated fairly. She is on the run from a savage Grandfather. Will she ever find happiness? Will Sam be her Savior? How does an orphaned Prairie Dog help?
Sam stood, shoulders slumped and head bowed. A lone tear trickled a path through the stubble, which covered his cheek, while the small coffin was lowered onto the larger one.
His sister, Edith clutched his hand so tight, it was numb. She rested her head against his chest and her small body shook with sobs.
Sam’s mother and father clung to each other, their faces etched with grief.
Moaning echoed through the hills as the coffins disappeared beneath shovel loads of pungent earth. As the final covering of dirt was patted down, Sam released himself from his sister. He knelt next to the fresh mound and gently placed a single white lily, Hattie’s favorite flower, and a silver baby’s rattle atop.
The mourners watched with tears in their eyes before turning and trekking down to the homestead.
Sam was left alone with his grief. He reached out and placed his palm on the fresh grave while his tear filled eyes attempted to focus on the grave alongside.
It had been only two months since they had buried Isaac. Why hadn’t the war ended just one day earlier? Isaac would still be alive and Sam wouldn’t feel like he’d broken his promise and let his brother down.
“Isaac, over here.” Sam whispered. He could just make out the shadow of his brother in the failing light.
Dust and smoke filled the air, swirling around them, as Isaac joined Sam and they crept towards the trees. This battle had been the worst they had been involved in. Bodies of men, some old enough to be grandfathers and others so young they should still be in school, lay strewn across the battlefield. They would not see tomorrow, or, the much hoped for end of this war.
North and South had suffered severe losses. How much longer would this bloody war persist? The brothers, mercifully, had again survived. They had discussed how it was only a matter of time before their luck finally ran out.
Sam had already been shot in the thigh and now walked with a limp. His insistence on remaining in the war troubled Isaac greatly but, Sam steadfastly refused to leave his ‘big brother’.
They took shelter under a small outcrop of rocks surrounded by trees and out of sight of any stray southerners.
Isaac and Sam Miller hailed from Cedar Gulch, up in the Texas Panhandle. They had left their ranch two months earlier to fight for the Union, the cause they believed in, even though most of their friends had joined up to fight for the South. Both men believed strongly, it was past time that slavery was brought to an end. If the cotton crops were affected by lack of labor, then, so be it. They had argued with friends, time and again, that no man had the moral right to enslave another. Opinion in their home town was split down the middle.
Now, here they were, huddled together, grateful to be alive after witnessing such atrocities. They were well and truly ready to go home. It had been two long months of hell.
Isaac pulled out his canteen and took a large gulp of warm, less than pure water. As he wiped his mouth with the remnants of his tattered uniform sleeve, he held the canteen out towards Sam.
His brother took it and drank thirstily. “What are we going to do? Our horses are gone and it’s a long walk back to the fort.” Sam screwed the lid onto the canteen and handed it back.
“I’m not sure but I suggest we wait out the night here. Best to be sure there is no-one around before we move. We’ll make our way back to Fort Cook at first light. Hopefully they might send out scouts to see if anyone is alive and we can hitch a ride.”
Sam shimmied down and lay with his head on his arms, his rifle beside him. As he gazed heavenward at the stars obscured by smoke, he let out a loud sigh.
“What’s wrong, little brother?” Isaac asked as he settled alongside.
“Just thinking about our friends who got killed today. Ma, Pa, Edith, Hattie, the ranch. Do you think we’ll see them again soon?”
“Who? Our friends who were killed or home?”
Sam chuckled despite the seriousness of their situation. “Those at home of course.”
“Phew, for a minute there I thought you meant our dead friends.” Isaac joined Sam in chuckling but within seconds he became serious again. “I surely hope so. I’m kinda hoping to get home in time to be with Hattie when she has the baby. I’ve got two months to get outta here.”
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Previously – Saving Annabel
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