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After a disasterous marriage, Burt Martine refuses to have children of his own. Younger brother, Kenneth, claims he is having a son, but Kenneth is murdered. Burt travels to Texas to bring home an unwilling pregnant widow, Carlie Martine, so there will be an heir for the huge Triple M ranch.
Traveling together with a herd of cattle from Texas to Colorado brings about many changes in both their outlooks.
Kenneth Martine felt himself slide from his exhausted horse and crumple in a heap on the hard ground. Home at last. He heard his mother call out “Get Burt!” to someone he couldn’t see for the blurring of his bruised eyes. Thumping feet hurried across the wooden porch and hit the dirt of the yard. He tried to grin but it hurt too much. Big brother Burt was only five years older, but he could fix anything. He’d be here soon. Ken rolled to his left side, facing the house, but that hurt, and the pain was overwhelming.
Ma stood in the house doorway. With his one good eye he saw her white apron go to her face just a moment before she ran out into the yard to reach him. Ken heard her stifled cry of anguish. Big, sturdy arms lifted him. That had to be Burt. God, it would be good to see him, even with the one eye the outlaws hadn’t pounded shut.
“Put him on my bed,” Ma said firmly to Burt as he hurried at her side. Ma being such a strong-willed woman, Ken knew she’d take care of him.
Pain hit him so hard, dark clouds curled about him. Visions of Carlie’s beautiful face hovered in the fog smothering him. He groaned, knowing he’d never see her again. He heard voices, Burt’s and Ma’s, close above him. They talked across his body while they laid him on a cloud of comfort. The comfort didn’t last; it was only temporary compared to the last days, or could it be weeks, of agony?
“It’s bad, Burt,” Mother said. “I already smell infection. Kenneth, can you hear me?”
He tried to answer, but it required too much effort. He knew his family was hurting by their broken voices, and he couldn’t help them. He could tell by Burt’s voice he was furious. That was good. Burt would take care of things for him. Ken felt like he was eighty instead of twenty-three. His pants leg was being cut as he struggled for consciousness. The trouser cloth popped apart with a snap where the swelling from his bullet wound hurt so much. The sudden lack of constriction gave momentary relief.
“Hot water, Burt, and whiskey.” Lord, it was good to hear Ma’s voice. If only Carlie could be here, too. She knew about nursing from working with Doc Pritch.
“That looks bad, Ma,” Burt said. “Bill has gone for the doctor. If he can find him sober enough to wash his hands, they should be here in a couple hours.”
“I ain’t gonna last that long,” Ken told them. He couldn’t be sure they heard. “Listen.” His eyes closed. He struggled to open them. With his one good eye he stared up through the straggles of his own graying hair, into Burt’s amber colored eyes, so like his own.
“Listen. Jobe Fetters did this. Him and his gang.” Ken knew they’d mashed his nose. He couldn’t breathe very well. He gasped for air and forced himself to go on. “My wife Carlie is in Still Creek, Texas. My wife and baby. Bring...her... here. I promised.”
“Where is Still Creek?” Burt asked. He tenderly brushed the hair back from Ken’s face as he turned it on the blessed softness of a feather pillow.
Ken couldn’t answer. He struggled against the darkness engulfing him. He felt the blood-stiffened clothing being slid from his aching body.
“OMIGOD! What’s this pinned to the skin of his chest?” Ken heard Burt’s anguished voice as though he were miles away. “A deputy’s badge! He’s festered all around it. Wash carefully, Ma, and I’ll pull it free. Poor, damn kid, they’ve tortured him.”
Excruciating pain engulfed Ken as the pin was torn from his flesh. He almost blacked out completely. He had to be able to talk to them. One less pain now, he thought, but the soreness remained. He sighed heavily, trying to get his wits about him.
“Look at his wrists, Son.” Ma said but she still kept scrubbing around the infected leg wound. “He’s been tied. Oh, my poor baby!” Her hot tears fell on him even as she worked.
“Cold water now, Burt. He’s already feverish. He must have ridden a long way without being tended properly.”
Book Publisher: Whiskey Creek Press
No. of Pages: 376
Paper Weight (lb): 15.6
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