Long Trail Home

Long Trail Home

4.4 9
by Vickie McDonough

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The Long Trail Home is third in a six-book series about four generations of the Morgan family living, fighting, and thriving amidst a turbulent Texas history spanning from 1845 to 1896.  Although a series, each book can be read on its own.

When Riley Morgan returns home after fighting in the War Between the States, he is excited to see his

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The Long Trail Home is third in a six-book series about four generations of the Morgan family living, fighting, and thriving amidst a turbulent Texas history spanning from 1845 to 1896.  Although a series, each book can be read on its own.

When Riley Morgan returns home after fighting in the War Between the States, he is excited to see his parents and fiancée again.  But he soon learns that his parents are dead and the woman he loved is married.  He takes a job at the Wilcox School for the blind just to get by.  He keeps his heart closed off but a pretty blind woman, Annie, threatens to steal it.  When a greedy man tries to close the school, Riley and Annie band together to fight him and fall in love.

But when Riley learns the truth about Annie, he packs and prepares to leave the school that has become his home and the woman who has melted his heart.  Will he change his mind and find the love he craves?  Or will stubbornness deprive him from the woman he needs?

Through painful circumstances, Riley and Annie learn that the loving and sovereign hand of God cannot be thwarted.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"I have thoroughly enjoyed each book in this series, and this one didn’t disappoint. Vickie McDonough brings her expert writing skills to the series with a story that will capture your being and keep you instilled into the pages until the very end. The characters are truly believable and realistic, giving you the feeling that you’ve known them for a very long time! I really encourage you to visit River North, the fiction division of Moody Publishers, and check out the Six books in this series. I will assure you, if you read one, you will have to read them all!" -- Joy, SplashesofJoy.com, 5/17/12

Product Details

Moody Publishers
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Texas Trail Series
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Long Trail Home

By Vickie McDonough, Pam Pugh

Moody Publishers

Copyright © 2011 Vickie McDonough
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-8024-7876-4


Late June in Austin, Texas, 1865

Riley Morgan slid off the back of the freight wagon along with three other soldiers and waved his hand at the driver. "Thanks for the ride, Mr. Anderson."

The old farmer nodded his head. "Glad to help some of our brave soldiers get back home. Wish I hadn't been too old to fight." He clucked out the side of his mouth at his sad-looking mules as they plodded down the road.

Riley was thankful the old man hadn't been in the war, knowing he wouldn't likely have survived the hardships. Every soldier he knew was not much more than skin and bones, including him. He tugged on his baggy pants. He needed to find a new rope to keep his trousers up since the one he was using had nearly frayed through. In fact, he desperately needed a shave and a bath, but he had no clean clothes to change into.

Commerce Street spread out before him, and at the top of the hill at the far end of the street sat the tall courthouse. This was only the second time he'd been to Austin, the first being on his way out of Texas as a green soldier, riding to Houston to join up with the 8th Texas Cavalry—Terry's Texas Rangers—unaware of the horrors to come.

"Sure was nice to have that ride from Houston. My feet still ache after walking all those miles to the Alabama coast." Harley Wayne scratched his beard, studying the town of Austin.

"Just think how your feet woulda hurt if we'd had to walk all the way from North Carolina. Lucky for us we got to hop that ship to Galveston," Allen Harper said. The oldest man in the group removed his hat and swiped his sweaty forehead with his sleeve as his gaze traveled the town. "Woowee! Have a look at that."

Riley followed Allen's pointing finger to where a trio of pretty gals walked out of a store. His heart stumbled at the lovely sight. Pretty women strolling down the street, as if they hadn't a care in the world, wasn't something he'd seen in a long while. The dark-haired one reminded him of Miranda and caused him to sigh. If he could get another ride on in to Waco, he would be seeing his fiancée in the next few days. Excitement swirled through his gut, and he longed to hop on the first horse he came to and race home, but he wouldn't steal a man's horse, not even if he had to walk the rest of the way home.

At least he was done with that miserable war and was back in Texas—and almost home. He leaned on a hitching post, trying to comprehend that the war was really over. No more officers barking orders at him. No more shooting at his countrymen. He'd miss his fellow soldiers and the friendships he'd built, but not the fighting.

Allen walked halfway across the wide street and stood with his hands on his lean waist. "Let's find something to eat. My belly's rubbin' a blister on my backbone."

J.T., the youngest of the group, stepped forward. "Ma'll feed you-all."

All three men, Riley included, stared at the boy. He'd joined their regiment over a year ago and had been so mercilessly teased at first because of his big ears and bumbling ways that the boy had pretty much quit talking. Hearing him speak now was a rare thing.

"Your ma lives in Austin?" Harley asked.

J.T. nodded. "Runs a café not far from here."

Riley felt his stomach letting out a cheer; Allen licked his lips.

"Where is it?" Harley walked down the street hoping to spot the eatery. He spun back around, rubbing his hands together. "I'm starved, boy. What's her place called?"

"Charlotte's Café, and it's two blocks down Commerce and a block north on Pecan Street." He pointed down the street they were on.

Three blocks to home cooking—and, they hoped, some real coffee. Riley's mouth watered, and he followed the men from his regiment. A home-cooked meal would be worth the delay in getting home. Walking home could take a number of days—maybe even weeks, and with the few coins in his pocket, he couldn't afford to ignore the offer of a free meal.

Surveying the town, he walked down the wide street lined with various businesses. He was thankful Austin was intact, unlike so many other southern towns he'd passed through. Women talked in small clusters, and a group of children chased one another around the only wagon on the street. That's what seemed odd about the place—a lone wagon, only a few horses, and almost no men.

Would Waco look as barren? He'd heard that over two thousand men from McLennan County had gone off to join the war effort. How many of those had returned? At least his pahad remained home to take care of his ma. Riley flinched, wishing he could erase the past four years from his mind and could go back to those quiet days of ranching—days he used to despise.

J.T. turned the corner, and the other men followed, Harley limping from a slow-to-heal battle wound he'd gotten months ago. They'd be done wolfing down all the food in the café if he didn't quit his lollygagging.

"Hey, Morgan!"

Riley skidded to a halt and spun around, looking down Pecan Street. Who could have called his name? He knew nobody in Austin except the men he'd fought beside, and in the condition he was in, it was highly unlikely anyone he'd known before the war would recognize him. His gaze scanned the street, but no one was walking his direction. He found a number of the town's men standing in a cluster around a small herd of horses. Disappointment pressed down his shoulders. Must have been some other man with the same last name. He headed back to the café, but something in his gut pulled him back around. He narrowed his gaze and focused on the horses.

His steps propelled him away from the food and toward the animals. There was something familiar in their sleek lines and proud carriage. They weren't the gaunt, exhausted animals he'd been used to seeing the past year or two. No, they were Morgan horses—just like the ones his father raised. His heart clenched. Was it possible his pa had come all the way to Austin to sell some? So many horses had been lost during the war that they were a scarce commodity and would bring a good price, even if they were scrubs, which these definitely weren't.

He saw a man slap another tall man on the shoulder, and both men grinned and shook hands. The man closest to the horses was the same height as his pa. Riley's heart pounded, and he picked up his pace, all but running. The tall man saw him hurrying his way and his hand lowered to his gun, but as Riley drew closer, disappointment slowed his steps. The man was not his father, though he had a similar stature. He glanced at the sleek horses again—yearlings and two-year-olds, if he had to guess. Beautiful animals, just like his pa's. His throat seized up, and he turned back toward the café.

"Hey, you there."

Footsteps sounded behind him. Riley didn't turn, not wanting to explain why he'd been gawking at the man, but to keep walking when someone had addressed him would be rude. His ma had taught him better. He pivoted and waited.

A healthy, well-muscled man probably in his midforties stopped in front of him. His blond hair had tinges of gray at the temples, and intelligent blue eyes studied him. "Don't I know you?"

Riley shook his head. "Sorry, I thought you were someone else." He nudged his chin toward the horses. "Nice animals you got there."

The man scrunched his mouth up on one side and shook his head. "I thought there for a moment you were my brother, but you're much younger than him."

A grief Riley hadn't felt in a long while washed through him. "Nope. Sorry. I only had one brother, and he's dead now."

The man's brows lifted then quickly lowered. "Sorry for your loss. Was it the war?"

Riley shook his head. "Rattlesnake."

"Tough luck. Had a young nephew that died of a snakebite a long while back. Sad thing." The man looked back over his shoulder at his horses. "You're not in the market for a good mount, are you?"

"Morgan horses, right?"

The stranger's head snapped back, and he smiled. "I see you know your horseflesh."

Riley grinned back. "I ought to. My pa raised Morgans. I've tended them all my life."

The man's weathered brows drew together. "There's not too many of us in these parts that raise Morgans. A distant uncle of mine started the breed way back east. What d'you say your name was?"

Riley blinked, trying to comprehend what the man had said. His family, too, was distantly related to Justin Morgan. "It's Morgan. Riley—uh ... Raleigh Morgan."

The man's mouth dropped open and his eyes widened. "Not Calder's boy?"

"Yes. One and the same."

A loud cheer poured forth from the man's lips, startling the horses. "It's me, your uncle Jud." The man, his pa's brother, clapped him on the back, and seized Riley's hand and shook it hard.

No wonder the man had reminded him of his pa. Riley felt tears stinging his eyes. He was unable to recall the last time he'd seen the man, but that mattered not. Riley was back home in Texas, and he'd found his family.

* * *

Riley loped toward home on the horse his uncle had given him, excitement charging through his whole body. The town of Waco took form in the distance, the buildings growing larger the closer he got. As he rode down Main Street, he slowed his horse to a walk and studied the town nearest to his parents' land. There'd been times he didn't think he'd see it again, not that it was all that much of a town. Waco hadn't grown a smidgen in the four years he'd been gone, but that was understandable since the war had sucked funds from everyone's pockets. Other than the majority of the buildings needing minor repairs, it looked much the same.

Several folks turned and stared, but no one lifted a hand in greeting. Had he changed so much that people no longer knew him? He recognized Mr. Petree, the mercantile's owner, and his wife, the town gossip, who stood just outside the store's doorway. He couldn't catch a whiff of her, being as far away as he was, but he remembered how she always reeked of some flowery scent. She stared at Riley then leaned toward her husband, her hand held over her mouth as if trying to keep Riley from reading her lips.

He ducked his head and focused on the road ahead. He nudged the horse his uncle had given him into a trot as he headed out of town and passed the Wilcox School for Blind Children. A woman who looked a few years younger than he was swept the porch, her right hip swinging up each swipe she made. She cocked her head as if hearing Gypsy's hoof beats, lifted a hand in greeting, and smiled. He wasn't sure if she could actually see him or just heard him. Still, he nodded and touched the tip of his hat. She continued her work, again sweeping the spot she'd just done. She was a pretty thing with her waist-length light brown hair tied at her nape and hanging down her spine, swinging back and forth like a pendulum. The blue ribbon holding all that hair captive matched her dress. Was she a teacher? A student who'd grown up while he'd been gone?

She crossed the porch and stumbled over a rocker that stuck out farther than the others. Her broom clattered to the floor. Her arms flailed—and Riley slowed Gypsy, ready to help—but she latched onto the porch railing and righted herself. He shook his head. Too bad such a comely gal was blind.

But that was neither here nor there since another beautiful woman filled his mind. Miranda Cooper. He was as anxious to see his fiancée as he was his folks. The six months since he'd received Miranda's last letter had been tense, anxious ones. He tried to explain to her how he'd gotten caught up in the initial excitement of the war, but she'd continued to be upset with him for not returning the first chance he got. She didn't understand why he stayed. He never found the words to explain the camaraderie he felt with the other men in his regiment. He was a soldier—a man—and not just his father's unruly son.

At the fork in the road, he stopped Gypsy. He longed to go see Miranda first—to hold her soft body close and kiss her inviting lips, but after the way he'd left and the pain he'd caused his parents, he owed it to them to return home first.

Home. He swallowed the lump threatening to choke off his breath. He'd dreamed so many times of coming back to the ranch during those awful years of war, and now he was almost there. What if his parents didn't like the man he'd become? War changed men. How much had it changed him?

Gypsy tugged at the bit tightening the reins, as if sensing an end to their journey. Riley glanced down at his hands. They hadn't shaken this much since that first skirmish at Tomkinsville. He'd learned fast that shaky hands could get a man killed and had worked hard to master control of his emotions and his body, no matter what he faced. But he seemed to have left that control on the battlefield. Gripping the reins tight in his fist, he nudged his horse forward across the final miles toward home. He allowed himself to smile at the thought of the whoop his ma would let out when she saw him again. Excitement overcame his jitteriness.

Finally, he reined Gypsy to a halt atop the hill overlooking his family's land. Home.

A grin tugged at his lips. How many times had he wondered if he'd see this piece of rugged ranchland again? The familiar green-brown hills were welcoming. The few trees he'd climbed as a boy had grown taller, just as he had. But where were the cattle? His father's broodmares?

Riley stiffened. Something wasn't right. A tightness clenched his chest. Why was there no garden, heaping with summer's bounty? Nothing flapping on his mother's clothesline? Not even a barking dog?

He yanked out his field glass and squinted shut one eye. Not a soul was out and about as should be on a sunny morning. Narrow sticks jutted from the front of the house like pegs one hung clothes on, except those weren't pegs. Nothing remained of the barn but charred dirt where it had once stood tall and proud. His gut twisted. Where were his parents?

He shoved the telescope into his haversack. "Heyah!" He thumped his knees against Gypsy's side and the animal lunged forward.

At the bottom of the hill, Riley slid off before his horse had completely stopped.

Indian arrows. Comanche arrows. The front of the cabin had seven, and two more lay just inside the broken door. A number of bullet holes freckled the house's chinking. He swallowed hard. What had become of his folks?

His mind wrestled to understand. Many of the Indians living in Texas had been rounded up like cattle and forced onto reservations back in the late '50s or sent across the Red River to live in Indian Territory, but there were renegade bands that evaded capture, ones who still attacked whites and sometimes kidnapped children, like his aunt Billie. One of those bands of Comanche must have attacked his home.

Though the battle had obviously taken place months ago, Riley deftly pulled out the Griswold and Gunnison pistol he'd taken off a dead soldier after the battle at Shiloh and pointed it toward the house. The pistol's brass plating gleamed in the sunlight.

Taking a steeling breath, he stepped inside the cabin his father had built shortly after they arrived in Waco. He barely recognized the place. His father's skillfully made furniture was broken or cast aside. The English china his mother had been so proud of, passed down from her grandmother, crunched under his boots. Leaves and dirt littered the floor, something his ma would never have allowed.


Excerpted from Long Trail Home by Vickie McDonough, Pam Pugh. Copyright © 2011 Vickie McDonough. Excerpted by permission of Moody Publishers.
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.

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Meet the Author

VICKIE MCDONOUGH is the author of over twenty books including the Texas Boardinghouse Brides series. Vickie¿s books have won the Inspirational Reader¿s Choice Contest, Texas Gold, and the ACFW Noble Theme contest. Vickie lives in Oklahoma and is a wife of 35 years. She has 4 grown sons and one granddaughter. Visit Vickie¿s website: www.vickiemcdonough.com.

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