Texas Homecoming (Night Riders Series #1)

Texas Homecoming (Night Riders Series #1)

by Leigh Greenwood

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780843949728
Publisher: Dorchester Publishing Company, Inc.
Publication date: 03/28/2002
Series: Night Riders Series , #1
Pages: 384
Product dimensions: 4.58(w) x 6.52(h) x 1.10(d)

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Texas Homecoming



By Leigh Greenwood


Dorchester Publishing


Copyright © 2002

Leigh Greenwood

All right reserved.

ISBN: 0-8439-4972-4



Chapter One


The men formed a tight circle around a fire that was little
more than glowing embers. One tossed dry moss onto the coals,
and flames briefly illuminated their faces. They looked like
haunted specters of the men they'd been. Expressions harsh,
gazes hard and unwavering, faces filmed with sweat. Ragged
Confederate uniforms, the grey filthy with blood and dirt,
gave no indication of the pride with which they had mounted up
four days earlier. They'd spent three years protecting each
other, being the family they left behind, but this night
something less noble had drawn them together.

Revenge.

"Then it's agreed?" The man spoke with a heavy Texas drawl.
Kneeling on the ground it was impossible to tell much about
his height, but he had the aura and broad shoulders of a man
born to command. His intense blue-eyed gaze moved from one man
to the next around the circle. It was important that each man
feel an unshakable commitment.

The men nodded their agreement.

"When do we start?" one asked.

"Where?" another wanted to know.

"They say he's dead," a third reminded them.

"He's alive," the leader said. "I can feel it."

Nobody argued with him. His feelings had saved their lives
more than once.

"A traitor like Laveau doesn't die," their leader said. "He
has to be soughtout and brought to justice. Not for
ourselves, but for those who aren't with us tonight."

Their troop had been betrayed by one of their number. The
magnitude of the treachery, the horror of so many needless
deaths, had turned the survivors into vengeful men.

"What if we don't survive the war?" one man asked. "There's
only eleven of us left."

"Those who survive will carry on for the rest," their leader
said.

The troop had been thirty-six strong, all young, bright, eager
men, proud of their abilities and reputations, impatient to
add to the growing legends surrounding the Night Riders. Then
they were betrayed. They had died like defenseless animals,
pinned down under lethal fire on a small farm. It was a
miracle any of them survived.

But they had, and now they had a new goal, a new reason to go
on living. They would finish the war - their commitment to
that came first - but afterward they would seek out the man
who'd robbed them of far more than the fruits of a successful
raid.

"Does anybody have a Bible?" their leader asked.

A young man got up, walked a short distance away, and came
back with a sword. "Use this," he said, his voice quavering.
"It was my brother's."

The men averted their eyes. They'd all lost something that
night, but nothing so impossible to replace as a brother. The
leader gripped the sword in the middle. "I swear that as long
as I live I will never rest until the traitor is brought to
justice."

One after another the men stood, gripped the sword, repeated
the oath.

"For my brother," the boy from Arkansas said.

They continued until they named all the lost members of their
troop.

"Remember," their leader said. "No matter what happens, always
remember."

Chapter 1

Cade Wheeler pulled his horse to a stop on the low rise that
formed the north bank of the San Antonio River. At least once
a day for the last four years he'd wondered if he'd ever see
this stretch of country again. He'd been born here, had grown
up here, and come to love the harsh landscape as he could
never love the more gentle, greener Shenandoah Valley where
he'd spent so much of the war. He loved the heat, the cactus,
the thickets of thorn-bearing bushes where the wild longhorns
hid. He loved the cedar and live oak-covered hills, the chalky
soil, the blazing sky that burned a man's skin the color of
tanned leather.

"Good God!" Holt Price said. "Is this the country you've been
hankering after for four years?"

"This is it." Cade Wheeler let his gaze wander over the hills
like a loving caress. "This is home.

"It looks more like Hell." Holt wiped his brow with a
handkerchief. "Feels like it, too. This is September. What's
it like in the summer?"

"Hotter than the hinges of Hell," Owen Wheeler said. "Men have
been known to die within sight of water."

"He's never set foot in Texas," Cade said, laughing at his
cousin. "You can't believe anything he says."

"Doesn't look like a place friendly to a Yankee from Vermont,"
Holt said. "No place in Texas is going to be friendly to a
Yankee, no matter where he comes from," Owen said.

Holt was apolitical. He had volunteered as a doctor for the
Confederacy because he'd been in Charlottesville, Virginia,
when the war broke out.

"Don't expect anything like the big houses we saw in the
valley," Cade said, prodding his horse into motion again. They
headed down a worn cattle trail to the river. Cade's
grandfather's ranch was on the other side.

"I wasn't expecting a mansion," Holt said.

"Cade'll be lucky if there's a cow shed left standing," Owen
said. "There's nobody left to look after the place except two
old men."

"My grandfather and his brother," Cade said. "My family has
fought three wars since we came to Texas. There's not many of
us left."

"But that's how you got your land, wasn't it?" Holt asked.
"Fighting for Texas independence in 1836, then to join the
United States in 1848?"

"That and a little bit of thievery."

"The spoils of war," Owen said. "You can't expect people to
fight for nothing."

Cade didn't, but in this case it might have been easier if he
hadn't known the people from whom his family had taken the
land. It didn't bother his grandfather. It hadn't bothered his
father either, but it had always bothered Cade. Until now.

The fourth person in the group spoke for the first time. "The
strong always take from the weak."

Rafe Jerry usually contributed little to their conversations,
and what he did contribute was usually gloomy. Something had
made him bitter and cynical, but he didn't talk about his
previous life. Not even Owen had asked. Rafe just wasn't the
kind of person you asked personal questions.

"We got to go through a lot of rivers?" Holt asked as they
descend the trail, dust spiraling up under their horse's
hooves. Holt said people in Vermont built bridges over creeks
and rivers.

"We don't believe in bridges in Texas," Cade said. "Flash
floods just wash them out."

Holt's uneasiness disappeared moments later. "You call this a
river?" He pushed his horse into the shallow trickle that was
the San Antonio River in late summer.

"If we had as much rain as you get in Vermont, this wouldn't
be cow country." Cade wasn't blind to the differences between
Texas and the rest of the country, but he was tired of Holt
complaining about them. It had been a long ride from Virginia.
"Wait until you see it after a heavy winter rain."

"Will it take that long to find Laveau?" Owen asked.

"I don't know," Cade said. "He may not have come home yet."

"He doesn't need to come home," Holt said, "not after stealing
Ivan's money."

Laveau diViere had grown up on the neighboring ranch, but he
and Cade had been separated by a long-standing family quarrel.
After the Texas war of independence in 1836, Cade's
grandfather had carved his Wheeler 36 ranch out of land
Laveau's Spanish grandmother inherited. Cade's father had
taken still more during the Mexican war, claiming the diViere
grant wasn't legal under Texas law. The diVieres tried to
prove their claim in court, but Texas courts rarely upheld
Spanish grants.

Laveau and Cade had joined the Confederate army when war broke
out in 1861. Because of their backgrounds, they'd been chosen
to be part of a mounted troop specializing in night raids,
their targets primarily ammunition depots, payroll wagons,
railroads, or supply trains. They rode in, struck, and rode
out on the same night. They had been remarkably successful
until Laveau betrayed them to the Union. Two-thirds of the men
had been killed.

The Union casualty list showed Laveau among the dead, but no
one remembered seeing Laveau right before the attack, and two
horses had gone missing along with Ivan's money.

"He'll come home," Cade said, as his horse lunged up the
opposite bank of the river. "I figure what he did is tied to
getting the Union Army to recognize his grandmother's grant."

"How can they help him in Texas?"

"Once Reconstruction sets in, the army will control Texas for
years to come," Cade said.

Cade had taken a route that kept them west of the towns where
troops were stationed, but the Wheeler ranch was close to San
Antonio, where he was certain there would be troops.

"I don't see many cows," Owen said.

As they rode through the hilly, dry country west of the San
Antonio River, Cade kept a careful watch for the cows that
were his family's only source of income. "They prefer to bed
down in the thickets during the day and graze at night."

"They're smarter than we are," Holt said. "Why don't we find
us a nice, big shade tree and wait until this killing heat is
gone before continuing to your hacienda in the desert?"

"I don't live in a hacienda," Cade said, "and this isn't
desert."

"You couldn't prove it by me. I hope your house is close to
that miserable trickle you call a river."

"It's close to a stream that empties into the river."

"Which you said is dry most of the year," Owen reminded him.

"We have a well," Cade said. "You don't have to worry you'll
die of thirst."

"I'm sure I won't," Holt said. "I'll die of heat stroke
first."

"This isn't half as hot as the battlefield at The Wilderness."

As tired as he was of the complaining, Cade immediately
regretted he'd mention that horrific battle. The smoke at The
Wilderness had been so thick soldiers on neither side could
tell whether they were firing at the enemy or their own men.
Dry underbrush and trees had caught fire. Cade could still
hear the cries of the wounded as they perished in the smoke
and flames.

The complaining ceased, and they fell into a silence bred by
long-standing companionship.

"There's the house," Cade said half an hour later.

A roofline was visible over the top of live oaks that
surrounded the ranch buildings. Cade resisted the impulse to
kick his mount into a gallop. He'd been patient for four
months. He could be patient a little while longer. "I hope
you've got lots of shade trees."

"We don't believe in shade in Texas," Cade said, grinning.
"Trees use up too much water."

Owen pulled up alongside Cade. "Race you to the house."

"Not on these horses. Wait until we catch up some of the old
ranch stock."

The four mares they rode were Virginia and Carolina bred with
some thoroughbred and Morgan blood. Cade had traded with
members of the cavalry until he got the best horses he could
find. They'd make poor cow ponies, but they'd be good
bloodstock for the future.

They broke from the thick brush onto a trail through the range
that led to the ranch.

"Anybody left at the place?" Owen asked.

"Don't know." Cade's grandfather wasn't one to write.

"Squatters?" Rafe asked.

"Could be," Cade replied. They were all silent for a moment.
They knew what that could mean.

Laveau had always blamed Cade for any trouble that befell his
family. When he got the letter telling him squatters had taken
over his ranch, he jumped Cade. When Cade wanted to know what
happened to his sister and grandmother, Laveau exploded into
curses, would hardly speak to him after that.

Cade hadn't seen many signs of cows beyond worn paths through
the brush and trails to water, but he hadn't seen the
carcasses that would be evidence of cows killed on the range,
the best cuts of beef taken away, the rest left to rot. He
hoped his grandfather was still alive. Cade disagreed with the
old curmudgeon in just about every way possible, but he was
fond of him. Cade's father had died years before, and his
mother had abandoned him. His grandfather was about the only
family Cade had left.

"Stop right where you are," a voice called from the oak
thicket that crowded the trail as it dipped into a dry creek
bed. "One step farther, and I'll put a bullet through your
brisket."

The voice didn't sound exactly like he remembered, but it was
close enough to cause a smile to curve Cade's lips.

"Let's rush him," Owen half whispered.

"If he can't, I can well enough," came a voice from their
other side.

"Damnation!" Owen said. "I didn't come all the way to Texas to
die in a crossfire."

The second voice was even more changed, but Cade was sure his
uncle and grandfather were in the brush, determined to defend
their ranch against invaders.

Cade looked over his shoulder. Holt waited, but Rafe had
melted into the thick brush. Cade's grandfather obviously
didn't recognize his grandson, and he'd never seen Cade's
friends. As far as he knew they were dangerous strangers.

"Gramps, I'm Cade, your grandson," Cade shouted. "Come out of
there before somebody gets hurt."

Cade was relieved to see the brush back along the trail stop
waving. Apparently Rafe had heard and was awaiting the
outcome.

"How do I know you're who you say you are? We've had lots of
scallywags through here claiming to be who they wasn't."

"Stick your ugly face out of that catclaw and see for
yourself, if you still can."

"I can see good enough from here to blast you to kingdom come
if you ain't who you say you are," the gravelly voice
announced. "And don't think to draw down on me when I step out
of this here tangle. I got kin on your other side can shoot as
good as me."

"You can come out, too, Uncle Jessie." Cade grinned and winked
at Owen. "The old codger likes to think he's as dangerous as
he remembered being forty years ago."

"My old grandpa was the same," Owen said. "Must be a Wheeler
trait."

The bushes parted, and an old man stepped onto the trail about
ten yards away. His clothes were thin and worn, but they
appeared to be clean. He was as sinewy as a drought-hardened
longhorn, his sparse hair white as cotton, his eyes bright and
alive.

"Now don't you go moving none," he said as he inched forward,
his rifle held in front him. "If you're who you claim you are,
I don't suppose you'd look a lot like you did when you left
here."

Cade didn't think his face had changed much, but he knew the
man inside bore little resemblance to the one who left this
ranch four years earlier. "You haven't changed much, Gramps.
Looks like you're still eating."

"Better'n than most people hereabouts," the old man said.

He was about ten feet away when he came to a stop. Cade
thought he saw recognition - and relief - in his eyes, but the
old man didn't let down his guard. "Who's that young coyote
with you?"

"Owen, your brother Harvey's grandson. There's not much left
of his place so he decided to sponge off us for a while."

Cade was certain of his grandfather's reaction this time. He
lowered his rifle, and his eyes got a little brighter. "So
you're one of Harvey's crowd," he said to Owen. "Who's your
daddy?"

"Duane."

"I told Harvey that was a stupid name. Don't know how he could
saddle one of his kids with it." He seemed to recollect
himself. "Where's the other one?" "Come on out, Rafe," Cade
called. "Gramps has decided not to shoot us after all."

"Don't be too sure of that. I might change my mind yet."

Rafe rode out into the trail.

Cade's grandfather looked him over carefully. "You planning on
setting up your own gang of outlaws?"

"Putting together a roundup crew," Cade said as he dismounted.
"I knew an old corncob like you wouldn't be any help."

His grandfather rebuffed Cade's attempt to hug him. "None of
that! I won't have a grandson of mine acting sentimental as a
woman."

"Nothing sentimental," Cade said, hoping his eyes didn't
glisten too much.

"I just wanted to see if there was anything inside that shirt
besides skin and bones."

"I got a lot of miles in me yet. Your uncle Jessie and me kept
them damned squatters off our land. That's more than most
people around here can say."

A man emerged from the brush behind Cade. He turned with a
smile to greet his uncle and had to struggle hard to control
his expression. He would never have recognized Jessie Wheeler.
His right sleeve was empty, and he walked with a bad limp. He
seemed to have aged at least twenty years.

"One of them damned gangs of scallywags caught him," his
grandfather said. "Woulda killed him if I hadn't come up on
them. They's all dead now, the sons-of-bitches. I didn't bury
them neither. Let the varmints have 'em."

Cade felt guilty he hadn't been here to help his great-uncle.
This wasn't his ranch. He shouldn't have had to suffer to
protect it.

His uncle also backed away from Cade's attempt to hug him.
"When did you start taking up women's ways?"

(Continues...)





Excerpted from Texas Homecoming
by Leigh Greenwood
Copyright © 2002 by Leigh Greenwood .
Excerpted by permission.
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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Texas Homecoming (Night Riders Series #1) 4.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
stanhope3234 More than 1 year ago
Loved this book! Cade Wheeler came home after the war with what was left of the Night Riders with vengeance in mind. He'd promised his men a job and money to start new and a chance to hang the traitor who killed 24 of their men, Laveau diViere. His grandfather was alive what he didn't expect to find was the beautiful Pilar diViere. The woman of his dreams and the sister of his sworn enemy. Being run off her ranch Pilar and her grandmother have lived and worked for the Wheeler ranch. Having no one to turn to Pilar did what she had to and and asked for mercy from the ones they hated the most and wait for Labeau to come home. Now with Cade home it's getting harder and harder to keep their animosity for each other from turning into something they never thought would be possible friendship and trust and love. But lies may be the one thing that will destroy everything. This story started out a bit slow but when it took off I could hardly put it down. Pilar and Cade had such chemistry and heat that it broke my heart that there were so many things keeping them apart. Cade's grandfather was such a old cranky man you just had to like him. The other Night Riders are great secondary characters that I can't wait for them to find thei HEA.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Very good story. Worth the $3.99 268 pages
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The Night Riders series is very good. Texas Homecoming, Texas Pride, and Heart of a Texan was my favorite, but read all of the series.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I am a devoted fan of Leigh Greenwood but I was disappointed in TEXAS HOMECOMING. The plot line was repeated over and over with no new exciting ''twists''. I plan to read the next Night Riders books - hopefully they will be more exciting!!
Guest More than 1 year ago
By 1864 Confederate Captain Cade Wheeler is tired of the war and the successful raids he has led. Perhaps his wariness is born of the treachery suffered by Cade and his men when one of their alleged most loyal followers diViere betrayed them, leaving many dead from the Northern ambush. The war is over so Cade leads the survivors back to their Texas home to start anew in a radically different world. However, foremost in most of their minds is vengeance on diViere.

Cade takes over his family ranch from his feisty grandfather. Already staying at the spread is diViere¿s sister Pilar and their grandmother because squatters have forced them out of the family home. Cade plans to use Pilar to get to diViere, but as Cade and Pilar argue they fall in love. However, she is the sibling of the person he detests so much that he wants to personally kill the man.

Leigh Greenwood raises the heat and tension with his latest tale, TEXAS HOMECOMING. The story line is loaded with action and two strong lead characters. Cade struggles between his obsessive thirst for vengeance and his need to nurture his beloved. Pilar is a fiery individual who loves her captain, but when she learns why he courts her, all hell breaks out. Few authors provide a vivid descriptive Americana romance filled with realistic angst-laden protagonists as this author can.

Harriet Klausner