Friday, 29 April 2016

Friday, April 29, 2016 -

Finding Love at the Trail's End

by Leigh Smith
Published: Mar 29, 2016
Words: 42,047
Category: western, romance, domestic
Orientation: M/F
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Lily Rose had been living in Greystone for over a year but it wasn't home. What do I have to show for all that time? she asked herself. She picked up her journal and began to read. How she missed having someone to love and someone to love her, someone brave and true like her Johnny. Would she ever find that again, she could only hope.


Chapter One
Little Johnny Billings and his family had headed west to start a new life. The promise of vast open spaces and nothing but wilderness waiting to be tamed called to many, and wagon trains began crossing from east to west quite regularly. Unfortunately, some of those wide open spaces either crossed through, or were, Indian territory. Promises and treaties made between the US Government and the Indian tribes were continually broken as more and more settlers headed west. It wasn't long before the fragile peace forged between the white man and the Indian vanished along with the broken promises.

In spite of the many hazards, wagon trains filled with settlers hoping for a better life continued their westward journey. They traveled at their own peril. While some trains traversed the entire breadth of the country from east to west without a single Indian sighting, others were attacked and vanquished, not only by Indians but by disease, cattle thieves or outlaws in general. Some managed to complete their journey while others were decimated, leaving behind only the unburied dead and burned out wagons strewn across the land to mark their passing.

Unfortunately, the Billings' wagon train was one of the unlucky ones. Johnny and his friend, Luke, who had been away from the wagons hunting when the train was attacked, were the only survivors. They returned to find their families dead and very few possessions left to salvage.

Horse soldiers out on patrol arrived too late to ward off the band of renegades. They found the two boys searching for anyone or anything that might have survived the onslaught. Some of the soldiers left to try to catch whoever was responsible for the attack while a few stayed behind and helped the boys bury their families and gather whatever was salvageable. Sgt. Francis William Culhane, a wily old coot who had been with the cavalry since he was a young lad, was in charge of the soldiers left behind. He led the remaining members of the patrol, along with the boys, back to the fort. Since the boys were only eleven at the time, they were too young to be left alone but not old enough to be treated as men. The commanding officer would decide what was to become of them until other family members could be contacted.

Care of the boys was left to Sgt. Culhane. He had always been assigned the newest recruits, so to him, it wasn't much different.