Rediscover this classic romance from bestselling author Tracie Peterson. Jessica is alone in the world except for her infant son. She returns to the ranch where her life began, but Jessica doesn’t know whom she can trust. Will Windridge become the home she has always longed for, or will it be the scene of her final betrayal? Also included is a bonus historical prairie romance from author Joyce Livingston.
|Publisher:||Barbour Publishing, Incorporated|
|Product dimensions:||5.10(w) x 7.90(h) x 1.10(d)|
About the Author
Tracie Peterson, bestselling, award-winning author of over ninety fiction titles and three non-fiction books, lives and writes in Belgrade, Montana. As a Christian, wife, mother, writer, editor and speaker (in that order), Tracie finds her slate quite full.
Published in magazines and Sunday school take home papers, as well as a columnist for a Christian newspaper, Tracie now focuses her attention on novels. After signing her first contract with Barbour Publishing in 1992, her novel, A Place To Belong, appeared in 1993 and the rest is history. She has over twenty-six titles with Heartsong Presents’ book club (many of which have been repackaged) and stories in six separate anthologies from Barbour. From Bethany House Publishing, Tracie has multiple historical three-book series as well as many stand-alone contemporary women’s fiction stories and two non-fiction titles. Other titles include two historical series co-written with Judith Pella, one historical series co-written with James Scott Bell, and multiple historical series co-written with Judith Miller.
Joyce Livingston has done many things in her life (in addition to being a wife, mother of six and grandmother to oodles of grandkids)from being a television broadcaster for eighteen years, to lecturing and teaching on quilting and sewing, to writing magazine articles on a variety of subjects. She’s danced with Lawrence Welk, ice-skated with a chimpanzee, had bottles broken over her head by stuntmen, interviewed hundreds of celebrities and well-known figures, and many interesting and unusual things. Later she became a part-time tour escort and traveled to wonderful and exotic places. Joyce became a widow in 2004. In 2008, she married her Sunday school teacher, Pastor Dale Lewis (who had also lost his spouse), and became a pastor’s wife, serving daily with him in his ministry. She is also very active in the women’s ministry of her church and recently wrote and led a well-received Bible study she called, “It’s All about the Shoes!” Four of her books have been named Contemporary Book of the Year in the Heartsong Readers Poll, and she was voted Favorite Author of the Year 3 times. In addition, her Heartsong book, One Last Christmas, won the coveted Contemporary Book of the Year award given by The American Christian Fiction Writers organization. In addition to writing for Barbour, Joyce also writes for Love Inspired. Her first venture into a larger women’s fiction book was The Widow’s Club, also published by Barbour, which was soon followed up with a second book, Invasion of the Widow’s Club. Joyce has always thought of her writing as a calling of God, and hopes that her readers will be touched and uplifted by what she writes.
Recently God led her to discover “Bible Journaling.” As a result, she organized and teaches a continuing series, showing Women how to “Bible Journal.” Lives are being changed as God speaks to women through this amazing way to get deeply into his Word.
What’s on the horizon for Joyce? Whatever God calls her to do – she’s ready!
Read an Excerpt
The House on Windridge
By Tracie Peterson
Barbour Publishing, Inc.Copyright © 1998 Barbour Publishing, Inc.
All rights reserved.
Jessica Albright wrapped her arms around her nine-month-old son and frowned at the dark-skinned porter. He held her small traveling bag and held out his arms to further assist her departure from the train.
"If it pleases ya, ma'am," he said with a sincere smile, "I kin hold da baby and hand him down to ya."
"No," Jessica replied emphatically. "No one is taking him."
The porter shrugged and then held up his hand. "I kin go ahead of ya. Then iffen you fall, ya'll fall against me." He smiled broadly and jumped down the steep steps ahead of her.
Jessica had no choice but to follow. She gripped the baby firmly against her breast and made her way off the train. The nine-month-old howled at the injustice of being held so tightly, and Jessica could only jostle him around and try her best to cajole him back into a decent temperament.
"Oh Ryan, neither of us is happy with the arrangements," she said, glancing from her son's angry face to the crowd gathered around the depot platform.
"Miss Jessica," a voice sounded from behind her.
Whirling around, Jessica met the smiling face of a snowy- haired man. "Hello, Buck. Thank you for coming after us. I'm sorry for having to put you out."
"Wasn't any other way you were going to get there, short of hiring someone in town to bring you out. Besides, Katie would skin me alive if I refused. This your little guy?" he asked, nodding at the angry baby.
Ryan continued to howl, and Jessica grew rather embarrassed from the stares. She felt so inadequate at being a mother. Where her friends in the city had spoken of natural feelings and abilities regarding their children, Jessica felt all thumbs and left feet. "Could we just be on our way, Buck?"
Buck looked at her sympathetically. "Sure, sure. Let me claim your baggage, and we'll be ready to head out."
"This here bag belongs to the missus," the porter announced. Buck took up the bag, but Jessica quickly shifted the baby and reached out for it. "It has our personal things." Buck nodded and let her take it without protest.
"I'll go for the rest." He ambled off in the direction of the baggage car, and Jessica felt a sense of desertion. What if he forgot about her? What would she do then? She had very little money with her and even less ambition to figure out how to arrange transportation to her father's Windridge Ranch. No, she thought, it was her ranch now. Her father had died, and there was nothing more to be said about the situation. Still, she'd only been here on three other occasions, and the last time was over five years ago. She'd never know which way to go if she had to figure a way home for herself.
Ryan finally cried himself out and fell asleep, but not until his slobbers and tears had drenched the front of Jessica's plum-colored traveling suit. She couldn't do anything about it now, she realized. Aunt Harriet had always said that a lady was known by her appearance. Was her attire in order? Was her carriage and walk upright and graceful? Jessica felt neither properly ordered, nor upright and graceful. She felt hot and tired and dirty and discouraged.
"Here we are. This all you brought?" Buck asked, one huge trunk hoisted on his back, a smaller trunk tucked under one arm, and a carpetbag dangling from his hand. He turned to include the young boy who followed after him with two additional suitcases.
"Yes," Jessica replied. "That's everything."
Buck never condemned her for the multiple bags, never questioned why she'd needed to bring so much. Buck always seemed accepting of whatever came his way. Jessica didn't know the man half as well as she would have liked to, but Buck was the kind of man she knew would have made a wonderful father.
Buck stopped alongside a mammoth, stage-styled conveyance. Jessica watched, notably impressed, as Buck gently placed the trunk and bags up on the driver's floor, then paused to hand her and Ryan up into the carriage. She arranged a pallet for Ryan by taking his blanket and one of the carriage blankets and spreading them out on the well-cushioned leather seats, while overhead Buck secured the baggage on top.
The opulence and size of the carriage greatly impressed Jessica. No expense had been spared. In fact, it very much resembled an expensive stagecoach of sorts. The beautifully upholstered seats sported thick cushions, leaving Jessica with the desire to join Ryan in stretching out for her own nap. After four days on the most unaccommodating eastern trains, she found this a refreshing reprieve.
Blankets were positioned on a rack overhead, as well as a lantern and metal box that she presumed held other supplies. Outside, she heard Buck instruct the boy to hand up his cases, then figured he must have tipped the boy for his actions when she heard the child let out a hearty, "Thanks, Mr. Buck."
"You all settled in there?" Buck called out, sliding a window open from where he was on the driver's seat.
Jessica thought the window ingenious and nodded enthusiastically. "I'm ready. The baby is already sleeping comfortably."
"All right, then. We'll make for home. I know my Kate will be half beside herself for want of seeing you again."
Jessica smiled weakly and nodded. She could only wonder at what her reception might be when they learned she was coming to Windridge to stay.
Since Buck had pulled shut the slide on the window, Jessica felt herself amply alone and reached inside her purse to pull out a letter. She'd only received the missive a week ago, but already it was wrinkled and worn. Kate had written to tell her of her father's death. He'd suffered a heart attack, or so it was believed, and had fallen from his mount to his death. The doctor didn't believe he suffered overmuch, and Jessica had been grateful for that.
"We'd love to have you home, Jessie," the letter read. Kate was the only one who had ever called her Jessie. "Windridge is never the same without you. Now with your father gone and what with the death of your own husband, we'd like to be a family to you. Please say you'll come for a visit."
And she had come. She had telegraphed Kate before boarding the first available train, and now she was well on her way to Windridge.
But what would she do after that?
She stared out the window at the dead brown grass of the Flint Hills. She had felt fascinated the first time she'd laid eyes on the place at the age of twelve. Her aunt Harriet had figured it was time for Jessica to make a visit to the place of her birth; and sent west with a most severe nanny, Jessica had had her first taste of the prairie and rolling hills where thousands of cattle grazed.
And secretly, she had loved it. She loved the way she could stand atop Windridge when her nanny was otherwise preoccupied and let loose her hair ribbon and let the wind blow through her brown curls. She liked the feel of the warm Kansas sun on her face, even if it did bring her a heavy reprimand from her nanny. Freckled faces weren't considered a thing of beauty, not even for a child.
Now she looked across the vast openness and sighed. I'm like that prairie, she thought. Lonely and open, vulnerable to whatever may come. A hawk circled in the distance, and Jessica absently wondered what prey he might be seeking. It could possibly be a rabbit or a mouse, maybe even a wounded bird or some other sort of creature.
"Poor things," she whispered. Life on the prairie was hard. Often it came across as cruel and inhumane, but nevertheless, it continued. It went on and on whether people inhabited the land or died and were buried beneath its covering.
Jessica felt she could expect little more than this.
Her own life had taken so many different turns from that which she had expected. She had married against her father's wishes. But because he was a man who had never taken the time or trouble to be a real father to her, his hand-written letters of advice had held little sway with Jessica. After all, she scarcely knew her father. Harriet chose the man Jessica was to marry based on his social status and ability to conduct himself properly at social gatherings. It mattered very little that Jessica didn't love him. She was, Harriet pointed out, twenty-two years old. It was time to marry and take her place as a matron of society.
But society wasn't very accepting of you when you ran out of money.
High society was even less forgiving.
It grieved Jessica to know Gus Gussop had been right in his long-distance judgment of Newman Albright. Gus had called him a dandy and a city boy. Called him worse than that, as Jessica recalled. And Newman had been all of those things.
Harriet had died shortly after Jessica's marriage. With her death came the inheritance of a fashionable house and a significant amount of money. Newman refused to move them into the Nelson place. Instead he insisted they sell the place and buy a less ostentatious home. Jessica quietly agreed, having been raised to respect her husband's wishes as law. What she didn't realize was that Newman had managed to get himself deep into debt through gambling and needed the sale of the house to clear his ledgers.
He robbed her of both the fortune left to her upon Harriet Nelson's death and her father's wedding gift of ten thousand dollars. A gift Newman never bothered to mention. She found out about these things after Newman had died. Of course, by that time they were living in poverty, and Newman's only explanation was that Jessica's father had cut them off without a dime, and their investments had gone sour.
Upon Newman's death, Jessica learned the truth about everything. Things she'd much rather have never known. Part of this came by way of her father's request. Gus had sent a telegram asking her to be honest with him about her financial situation. When Jessica had given the pitiful statements over to her father via a long, detailed letter, Gus had written back in a livid anger that seemed to leap off the page and stab at Jessica's heart.
"That blackguard has robbed you blind, Jessica. He has taken the ten thousand dollars I wired to him, which was intended to go toward the purchase of a lovely new home, and has apparently wasted it away elsewhere. He's taken additional money, money he telegrammed requesting of me, and apparently has lost the fortune given you by Harriet."
Jessica knew it was true. By the time Newman's death darkened her life, Jessica knew he had a gambling problem. A drinking problem. A fighting problem. And a multitude of other sins that had destroyed any possible hope of her loving him. He was a liar and a cheat and an adulterer, and Jessica could find no place in her heart to grieve his passing.
He had stumbled home one morning after an apparent night in the gutter not far from their poor excuse for a house. His nose was red, and his throat raw, and he bellowed and moaned about his condition until Jessica, then in her eighth month of pregnancy, had put him to bed and called for the doctor. Within three days, however, her husband was dead from pneumonia, and Jessica faced an uncertain future with a child not yet born.
It was at the funeral for Newman that Jessica realized the full truth of his affairs. Not one but three mistresses turned up to grieve their beloved Newman. None of the women had any idea about the others, and none knew Newman to have a wife and child. One particularly seasoned woman actually apologized to Jessica and later sent money that she explained Newman had given her for the rent. Jessica wanted to throw the money into the street but was too desperate to even consider such a matter. As a Christian woman of faith, she knew God had interceded on her behalf to provide this money. To throw it away would be to ignore God's answer to her prayers.
It had been painful to admit to her father that she was living from day to day in abject poverty, but even more painful to endure his response. He had raged about the injustice, but never once had he suggested she come home to live at Windridge. Jessica never even mentioned the baby to him. She was too afraid of what his reaction might be. Instead, she did as he asked, providing the information he sought on her finances. Then she followed his instructions when a letter came informing her that he'd hired a real estate agent to move her elsewhere and had set up an account of money in a New York City bank so that she might have whatever she needed. Such generosity had deeply touched her. But still, he never asked her to come home.
That broke her heart.
Then her life grew even more complicated when her best friend, Esmerelda Kappin, began to suggest Jessica give Ryan over to her for raising. Essie, as Jessica had once affectionately called her friend, was barren. She and her husband had tried every midwife remedy, every doctor's suggestion, and still they had no luck — no children. Essie took an interest in Ryan that Jessica didn't recognize as unhealthy until her friend began to suggest that Ryan preferred her care to Jessica's. Then Essie's very wealthy mother appeared on the doorstep to offer Jessica money in exchange for Ryan.
Of course, Jessica had been mortified and from that point on began guarding Ryan as though the devil himself were after the child. The Kappins grew more insistent, showing up at the most inopportune times to remind Jessica that she was alone in the world and that Ryan deserved a family with a mother and a father.
Jessica looked down at the sleeping boy. He did deserve a father, but that wasn't to be. She had no desire to remarry. Perhaps it was one of the reasons she'd decided to come to Windridge. Running Windridge would keep her busy enough to avoid loneliness and put plenty of distance between her and anyone who had the idea of stealing her son.
The prairie hills passed by the window, and from time to time a small grove of trees could be spotted. They usually indicated a spring or pond, creek or river, and because they were generally the exception and not the normal view, Jessica took note of these places and wondered if their gold and orange leaves hid from view some small homestead. Her father had once prided himself on having no neighbor closer than an hour's distance away, but Jessica knew that time had changed that course somewhat. Kate had written of a rancher whose property adjoined her father's only five miles to the south and another bound him on the west within the same distance. The latter was always after Gus to sell him a small portion of land that would allow him access to one of Gus's many natural springs. But Gus always refused him, and the man was up in arms over his unneighborly attitude.
Jessica wondered at her father's severity in dealing with others. Kate told her it was because he'd never managed to deal with life properly after the death of Jessie's mother. But Jessica thought it might only be an excuse for being mean tempered.
Her conscience pricked her at this thought. She didn't know her father well enough to pass judgment on him. Her Christian convictions told her that judgment was best left to God, but her heart still questioned a father who would send away his only child and never suggest she return to him for anything more than a visit. With this thought overwhelming her mind, it was easy to fall asleep. She felt the exhaustion overtake her, and without giving it much of a fight, Jessica drifted into dreams.
* * *
Her first conscious thoughts were of a baby crying. Then her mind instantly awoke, and Jessica realized it was Ryan who cried. She sat up to find the nine-month-old trying to untangle himself from the blankets she'd so tightly secured him inside.
"Poor little boy," she cooed. Pulling him from the confines of his prison, Jessica immediately realized his wetness.
Looking out the window, Jessica wondered how much farther it was to the house. She hated to expose Ryan to a chill by changing him in the carriage. Wrapping a blanket around the boy, Jessica shifted seats and knocked at the little window slide. Within a flash, Buck slid it open.
"Something wrong?" he asked, glancing over his shoulder.
"How far to the house?" she questioned.
"We're just heading up the main drive. Should be there in five minutes. Is there something you need?"
Jessica shook her head. "No, thank you. I'm afraid the baby is drenched, and I just wondered whether to change him in here or wait. Now I know I can wait and not cause him overmuch discomfort."
"Kate will probably snatch him away from you anyway. That woman just loves babies."
Jessica cringed. What she didn't need to face was yet another woman seeking to steal her child.
"Sure wish you'd told us about him sooner. Kate would have come east in a flash to help you out and see the next generation of Gussops."
She didn't bother to correct Buck by pointing out that the baby was an Albright. She thought of him as a Gussop as well. Despite the fact they both carried the Albright name, Jessica considered both herself and her son to be Gussops.
Buck left the slide open in case Jessica wanted to say something more, but she held her silence. She was nearly home, and the thought was rather overwhelming. Home. The word conjured such conflicting emotions, and Jessica wasn't sure she wanted to dwell on such matters.
"Whoa!" Buck called out. The carriage slowed and finally stopped all together. Jessica looked out and found they were sitting in the wide circular drive of Windridge. The house stood at the end of a native stone walk, and it was evident that her father had sorely neglected the property in the last five years.
Excerpted from The House on Windridge by Tracie Peterson. Copyright © 1998 Barbour Publishing, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Barbour Publishing, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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