A Lone Star Christmasby William W. Johnstone, J. A. Johnstone
They just wanted to get home for Christmas. . .but fate had other plans.
It's December 1890. A Texas rancher named Big Jim Conyers has a deal with Scottish-born, Wyoming cattleman named Duff MacAllister. Along with Smoke and Matt Jensen, the party/b>/b>
Smoke Jensen, Matt Jensen, Falcon And Duff Maccallister—Together For The First Time
They just wanted to get home for Christmas. . .but fate had other plans.
It's December 1890. A Texas rancher named Big Jim Conyers has a deal with Scottish-born, Wyoming cattleman named Duff MacAllister. Along with Smoke and Matt Jensen, the party bears down on Dodge, Kansas, to make a cattle drive back to Forth Worth. But before they can get out of Dodge, guns go off and a rich man's son is killed.
Soon the drive turns into a deadly pursuit, then a staggering series of clashes with bloodthirsty Indians and trigger-happy rustlers. And the worst is yet to come—the party rides into a devastating blizzard, a storm so fierce that their very survival is at stake.
From America's greatest Western author, here is an epic tale of the unforgiving American frontier and how, amidst fierce storms of man and nature, miracles can still happen.
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A Lone Star Christmas
By William W. Johnstone J. A. Johnstone
PINNACLE BOOKSCopyright © 2011 William W. Johnstone
All right reserved.
Chapter OneMarshall, Texas, March 12, 1890
It was cold outside, but in the depot waiting room, a wood-burning, pot-bellied stove roared and popped and glowed red as it pumped out enough heat to make the waiting room comfortable, if one chose the right place to sit. Too close and it was too hot, too far away and it was too cold.
There were about nine people in the waiting room at the moment, though Rebecca knew that only four of them, including herself, were passengers. Two weeks earlier, Benjamin Conyers, better known as Big Ben, had taken his 21-year-old daughter into Fort Worth to catch the train. Now, after a two-week visit with Big Ben's sister in Marshall, Texas, it was time for Rebecca to return home. Her Aunt Mildred had come to the depot with her to see her off on the evening train.
Everyone agreed that Rebecca Conyers was a beautiful young woman. She had delicate facial bones and a full mouth; she was slender, with long, rich, glowing auburn hair, green eyes, and a slim waist. She was sitting on a bench, the wood polished smooth by the many passengers who had sat in this same place over the last several years. Just outside the depot window, she could see the green glowing lamp of the electric railroad signal.
"Rebecca, I have so enjoyed your visit," Mildred said. "You simply must come again sometime soon."
"I would love to," Rebecca replied. "I enjoyed the visit as well."
"I wish Ben would come with you sometime. But I know he is busy."
"Yes," Rebecca said. "Pa always seems to be busy."
"Well, he is an important man," Mildred said. "And important men always seem to be busy." She laughed. "I don't know if he is busy because he is important, or he is important because he is busy. I imagine it is a little of both."
"Yes, I would think so as well," Rebecca said. "Aunt Mildred, did you know my mother?"
"Julia? Of course I know her, dear. Why would you ask such a thing?"
"I don't mean Julia," Rebecca said. "I mean my real mother. I think her name is Janie."
Mildred was quiet for a long moment. "Heavens, child, why would you ask such a thing now? The only mother you have ever known is Julia."
"I know, and she is my mother in every way," Rebecca said. "But I know too, that she wasn't my birth mother, and I would like to know something more about her."
Mildred sighed. "Well, I guess that is understandable," she said.
"Did you know her? Do you remember her?"
"I do remember her, yes," Rebecca's Aunt Mildred said. "I know that when Ben learned that she was pregnant, he brought her out to the house. You were born right there, on the ranch."
"Pa is my real father though, isn't he? I mean he is the one who got my real mother pregnant."
"Oh yes, there was never any question about that," Mildred replied.
"And yet he never married my mother," Rebecca said.
"Honey, don't blame Ben for that. He planned to marry her, but shortly after you were born Janie ran off."
"Janie was my birth mother?"
"What was her last name?"
"Garner, I believe it was. Yes, her name was Janie Garner. But, like I said, she ran off and left you behind. That's when Ben wrote me and asked me to come take care of you until he could find someone else to do it."
"That's when Mama, that is Julia, the woman I call Mama, came to live with us?"
"She did. You were only two months old when Julia came. She and Ben had known each other before, and everyone was sure they were going to get married. But after the war, Ben seemed—I don't know, restless, I guess you would say. Anyway, it took him a while to settle down, and by that time he had already met your real mother. I'll tell you true, she broke his heart when she left."
"Why did my real mother leave? Did she run away with another man?"
"Nobody knows for sure. All we know is that she left a note saying she wasn't good enough for you," Mildred said. "For heaven's sake, child, why are you asking so many questions about her now? Hasn't Julia been a good mother to you?"
"She has been a wonderful mother to me," Rebecca said. "I couldn't ask for anyone better, and I love her dearly. I've just been a little curious, that's all."
"You know what they say, honey. Curiosity killed the cat," Aunt Mildred said.
Hearing the whistle of the approaching train, they stood up and walked out onto the depot platform. It was six o'clock, and the sun was just going down in the west, spreading the clouds with long, glowing streaks of gold and red. To the east they could see the headlamp of the arriving train. It roared into the station, spewing steam and dropping glowing embers from the firebox. The train was so massive and heavy that it made Rebecca's stomach shake as it passed by, first the engine with its huge driver wheels, then the cars with the long lines of lighted windows on each one disclosing the passengers inside, some looking out in curiosity, others reading in jaded indifference to the Marshall depot which represented but one more stop on their trip.
"What time will you get to Fort Worth?" Aunt Mildred asked.
"The schedule says eleven o'clock tonight."
"Oh, heavens, will Ben have someone there to meet you?"
"No, I'll be staying at a hotel. Papa already has a room booked for me. He'll send someone for me tomorrow."
"Board!" the conductor called, and Rebecca and her aunt shared a long goodbye hug before she hurried to get on the train.
* * *
Inside the first car behind the express car, Tom Whitman studied the passengers who would be boarding. He didn't know what town he was in. In fact, he wasn't even sure what state he was in. It wasn't too long ago that they'd left Shreveport. He knew that Shreveport was in Louisiana, and he knew it wasn't too far from Texas, so he wouldn't be surprised if they were in Texas now.
"We are on the threshold of the twentieth century, Tom," a friend had told him a couple of months ago. "Do you have any idea what a marvelous time this is? Think of all those people who went by wagon train to California. Their trip was arduous, dangerous, and months long. Today one can go by train, enjoying the luxury of a railroad car that protects them from rain, snow, beating sun, or bitter cold. They can dine sumptuously on meals served in a dining salon that rivals the world's finest restaurants. They can view the passing scenery while relaxing in an easy chair, and they can pass the nights in a comfortable bed with clean sheets."
At the time of that conversation, Tom had no idea that within a short time he would actually be taking that cross-country trip. Now he was in one more town of an almost countless number of towns he had been in over the last six days and ten states.
This town wasn't that large, and although there were at least ten people standing out on the platform, there were only four people boarding, as far as he could determine. One of those boarding was a very pretty young, auburn-haired woman, and he watched her share a goodbye hug with an older woman, who Tom took to be her mother.
One of the passengers who had just boarded was putting his coat in the overhead rack, just in front of Tom.
"Excuse me," Tom said to him. "What is the name of this town?"
"Marshall," the passenger answered.
"Louisiana, or Texas?"
"Texas, Mister. The great state of Texas," the man replied with inordinate pride.
"Thank you," Tom said.
"Been traveling long?" the man asked.
"Yes, this is my sixth day."
"Where are you headed?"
"I don't have any particular destination in mind."
"Ha, that's funny. I don't know as I've ever met anyone who was travelin' and didn't even know where they was goin'."
"When I find a place that fits my fancy, I'll stop," Tom said.
"Well, Mister, I'll tell you true, you ain't goin' to fine any place better than Texas. And any place in Texas you decide to stop is better than any place else."
"Thank you," Tom said. "I'll keep that in mind."
In the week since he had left Boston, Tom had shared the train with hundreds of others, none of whom had continued their journey with him. He had managed to strike up a conversation with some of them, but in every case, they were only brief acquaintances, then they moved on. He thought of the passage from Longfellow.
Ships that pass in the night, and speak each other in passing,
Only a signal shown and a distant voice in the darkness;
So on the ocean of life we pass and speak one another,
Only a look and a voice, then darkness again and a silence.
With a series of jerks as the train took up the slack between the cars, it pulled away from the station, eventually smoothing out and picking up speed. Once the train settled in to its gentle rocking and rhythmic clacking forward progress, Tom leaned his head against the seat back and went to sleep.
Once Rebecca boarded, found her seat, and the train got underway, she reached into her purse to take out the letter. She had picked the letter up at the post office shortly before she left Fort Worth to come visit her Aunt Mildred. The letter, which was addressed to her and not to her father, had come as a complete surprise. Her father knew nothing about it, nor did she show it to her Aunt Mildred. The letter was from her real mother, and it was the first time in Rebecca's life that she had ever heard from her.
Her first instinct had been to tear it up and throw it away, unread. After all, if her mother cared so little about her that she could abandon her when Rebecca was still a baby, why should Rebecca care what she had to say now?
But curiosity got the best of her, so she read the letter. Now, sitting in the train going back home, Rebecca read the letter again.
This letter is going to come as a shock to you, but I am your real mother. I am very sorry that I left you when you were a baby, and I am even more sorry that I have never attempted to contact you. I want you to know, however, that my not contacting you is not because you mean nothing to me. I have kept up with your life as best I can, and I know that you have grown to be a very beautiful and very wonderful young woman.
That is exactly what I expected to happen when I left you with your father. I did that, and I have stayed out of your life because I thought that best. Certainly there was no way I could have given you the kind of life your father has been able to provide for you. But it would fulfill a life-time desire if I could see you just once. If you can find it in your heart to forgive me, and to grant this wish, you will find me in Dodge City, Kansas. I am married to the owner of the Lucky Chance Saloon.
Your mother, Janie Davenport
Rebecca knew about her mother; she had been told a long time ago that Julia was her stepmother. But she didn't know anything about her real mother, and on the few times she had asked, she had always been given the same answer.
"Your mother was a troubled soul, and things didn't work out for her. I'm sure that she believed, when she left you, that she was doing the right thing," Big Ben had said.
"Have you ever heard from her again?" Rebecca wanted to know.
"No, I haven't, and I don't expect that I will. To tell you the truth, darlin', I'm not even sure she is still alive."
That had satisfied Rebecca, and she had asked no more questions until, unexpectedly, she had received this letter.
From the moment Rebecca had received the letter, she had been debating with herself as to whether or not she should go to Dodge. And if so, should she ask her father for permission to go? Or should she just go? She was twenty-one years old, certainly old enough to make her own decision.
She just didn't know what that decision should be.
She read the letter one more time, then folded it, put it back in her reticule, and settled in for the three and one-half hour train trip.
Fort Worth, Texas
The train had arrived in the middle of the night, and when Tom Whitman got off, he wondered if he should stay here or get back on the train and keep going. Six and one-half days earlier he had boarded a train in Boston with no particular destination in mind. His only goal at the time was to be somewhere other than Boston.
Now, as he stood alongside the train, he became aware of a disturbance at the other end of the platform. A young woman was being bothered by two men. Looking in her direction, Tom saw that it was the same young woman he had seen board the train back in Marshall.
"Please," she was saying to the two men. "Leave me alone."
"Here now, you pretty little thing, you know you don't mean that," one of the two men said. "Why, you wouldn't be standin' out here all alone in the middle of the night, if you wasn't lookin' for a little fun, would you now? And me 'n Pete here are just the men to show you how to have some fun. Right, Pete?"
"You got that right," Pete said.
"What do you say, honey? Do you want to have a little fun with us?"
"No! Please, go away!" the young woman said.
"I know what it is, Dutch," Pete said. "We ain't offered her no money yet."
"Is that it?" Dutch asked. "You're waitin' for us to offer you some money? How about two dollars? A dollar from me and one from Pete. Of course, that means you are going to have to be nice to both of us."
"I asked you to go away. If you don't, I will scream."
Pete took off his bandana and wadded it into a ball. "It's goin' to be hard for you to scream with this bandana in your mouth," he said.
Tom walked down to the scene of the ruckus. "Excuse me, gentlemen, but I do believe I heard the lady ask you to leave her alone," he said.
Tom was six feet two inches tall, with broad shoulders and narrow hips. Ordinarily his size alone would be intimidating, but the way he was dressed made him appear almost foppish. He was wearing a brown tweed suit, complete with vest, tie, and collar. He was also wearing a bowler hat, and he was obviously unarmed. He could not have advertised himself as more of a stranger to the West if he had a sign hanging around his neck proclaiming the same.
The two men, itinerant cowboys, were wearing denim trousers and stained shirts. Both were wearing Stetson hats, and both had pistols hanging at their sides. When they saw Tom, they laughed.
"Well now, tell me, Dutch, have you ever seen a prettier boy than this Eastern dude?" Pete asked. He slurred the word 'Eastern'.
"Don't believe I have," Dutch replied. Then to Tom he said, "Go away, pretty boy, unless you want to get hurt."
"Let's hurt him anyway," Pete said, smiling. "Let's hurt him real bad for stickin' his nose in where it don't belong."
"Please, sir," the young woman said to Tom. "Go and summon a policeman. I don't want you to get hurt, and I don't think they will do anything if they know a police officer is coming."
"I think it may be too late for that," Tom replied. "These gentlemen seem rather insistent. I'm afraid I'm going to have to take care of this myself."
"Ha!" Pete shouted. "Take care of this!"
Pete swung hard, but Tom reached up and caught his fist in his open hand. That surprised Pete, but it didn't surprise him as much as what happened next. Tom began to squeeze down on Pete's fist, putting vise-like pressure against it, feeling two of Pete's fingers snap under the squeeze.
"Ahhh!" Pete yelled. "Dutch! Get him off me! Get him off me!"
Dutch swung as well, and Tom caught his fist in his left hand. He repeated the procedure of squeezing down on the fist, and within a moment he had both men on their knees, writhing in pain.
"Let go, let go!" Pete screamed in agony.
Tom let go of both of them, and stepped back as the two men regained their feet.
"Please go away now," Tom said with no more tension in his voice than if he were asking for a cup of coffee.
"You son of a ..." Pete swore as he started to draw his pistol. But because two of his fingers were broken, he was unable to get a grip on his pistol and it fell from his hand. The young woman grabbed it quickly, then pointed it at both of them.
Excerpted from A Lone Star Christmas by William W. Johnstone J. A. Johnstone Copyright © 2011 by William W. Johnstone. Excerpted by permission of PINNACLE BOOKS. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Meet the Author
William W. Johnstone is the USA Today and New York Times bestselling author of over 300 books, including PREACHER, THE LAST MOUNTAIN MAN, LUKE JENSEN BOUNTY HUNTER, FLINTLOCK, SAVAGE TEXAS, MATT JENSEN, THE LAST MOUNTAIN MAN; THE FAMILY JENSEN, SIDEWINDERS, and SHAWN O’BRIEN TOWN TAMER. His thrillers include Phoenix Rising, Home Invasion, The Blood of Patriots, The Bleeding Edge, and Suicide Mission. Visit his website at www.williamjohnstone.net or by email at email@example.com.
Being the all-around assistant, typist, researcher, and fact checker to one of the most popular western authors of all time, J.A. Johnstone learned from the master, Uncle William W. Johnstone.
He began tutoring J.A. at an early age. After-school hours were often spent retyping manuscripts or researching his massive American Western history library as well as the more modern wars and conflicts. J.A. worked hard—and learned.
“Every day with Bill was an adventure story in itself. Bill taught me all he could about the art of storytelling. ‘Keep the historical facts accurate,’ he would say. ‘Remember the readers, and as your grandfather once told me, I am telling you now: be the best J.A. Johnstone you can be.’”
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Christmas is a time of family, tradition, love, and my goodness don't we all know it....miracles! I absolutely love our new release "A Lone Star Christmas" because it captures the sheer essence of this time of the year. I hope you get yourself a copy if you haven't already. It is certainly a treat!
This is one of the better books written lately so enjoy.
One of My favorite Johnstone Books. I read this book faster than any book of his because I just couldn't put it down....
A Lone Star Christmas by William W and J.A. Johnstone This book first appealed to me because of the cover. It has snow and horses, blizzard looking. After reading the back of the cover I was convinced I just had to read this book. I've read other series of books about cattle runs and thoroughly enjoyed them. The lifestyle, the hardships and having to survive by what you did mattered. Book starts out with a female who is traveling back home after visiting relatives and there's a mystery as to her birth mother. She meets up with a man who sticks up for her when she arrives and he handles the problem men in his own way. He's left his past in Boston but proves himself to her father who gives him a job on the ranch. They part ways, her to find her bio mom and him to learn about cowboying. Things are going just too smoothly for the ranch and the cattle drive but it will be in December and a different type of cattle than what they are used to. The cattle even appealed to me as my dad was in charge of an experimental cattle here in our hometown when he was young. A lot of different things happen in a specific order that play havoc on everything to follow. Revenge for things done in the past: sometimes to friends, sometimes to family that trigger events. The weather plays a major part in all that happens, it's just so unpredictable in the winter to begin with. The book talks of many different types of storms. The generosity of people overwhelmed me and made this a true Christmas book to read. Love the scenery, people, story line, time frame and had a hard time putting it down at the end of my day. I do rate this a 5 and wish the rating system was higher as my rating would then be higher as well. As this is the first time reading the authors I will search out more of their works and read them as I know I will not be disappointed in the books.
Great read and has a little romance
One of the best that W. Johnsone has written must read
Lots of action and even some romance. I liked it.
You'll enjoy this book if you're interested in reading about ranching in the early West. Other than that, too many close calls to believe.