Authors: Mary Connealy
THER BOOKS BY
Lassoed in Texas series:
(a romance collection)
© 2009 by Mary Connealy
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means without written permission of the publisher.
All scripture quotations are taken from the King James Version of the Bible.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are either products of the author’s imagination or used fictitiously. Any similarity to actual people, organizations, and/or events is purely coincidental.
Cover design by Lookout Design, Inc.
Published by Barbour Publishing, Inc., P.O. Box 719, Uhrichsville, Ohio 44683
Our mission is to publish and distribute inspirational products offering exceptional value and biblical encouragement to the masses.
Printed in the United States of America.
Gingham Mountain is dedicated to my mom, Dorothy Moore. She and my father, Jack Moore, raised me and seven other children in a two-bedroom home. I love all my brothers and sisters (Ruth, Nila, Don, Lois, Dwight, Linda, and Jackson Jr.) and am proud to be related to them.
Two bedrooms was a bit of an exaggeration though. It was actually a
home with a fold-out couch in the dining room. When my sixth sibling, Dwight, was born, my parents added on to our house—but they also quit using the teeny attic as a bedroom until Don moved up there a few years later. So the
two-bedroom home became a (brace yourself for the excitement)
Though we lacked in material things, we never lacked in love. My mother’s greatest gifts were her beautiful ability to love us and the gracious life of faith she lived in God.
“Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this,
to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction,
and to keep himself unspotted from the world.”
Sour Springs, Texas, 1870
artha had an iron rod where most people had a backbone.
Grant smiled as he pulled his team to a stop in front of the train station in Sour Springs, Texas.
She also had a heart of gold—even if the old bat wouldn’t admit it. She was going to be thrilled to see him and scold him the whole time.
“It’s time to get back on the train.” Martha Norris, ever the disciplinarian, had a voice that could back down a starving Texas wildcat, let alone a bunch of orphaned kids. It carried all the way across the street as Grant jumped from his wagon and trotted toward the depot. He’d almost missed them. He could see the worry on Martha’s face.
Wound up tight from rushing to town, Grant knew he was late. But now that he was here, he relaxed. It took all of his willpower not to laugh at Martha, the old softy.
He hurried toward them. If it had only been Martha he would have laughed, but there was nothing funny about the two children with her. They were leftovers.
A little girl, shivering in the biting cold, her thin shoulders hunched against the wind, turned back toward the train. Martha, her shoulders slumped with sadness at what lay ahead for these children, rested one
of her competent hands on the child’s back.
Grant noticed the girl limping. That explained why she hadn’t been adopted. No one wanted a handicapped child. As if limping put a child so far outside of normal she didn’t need love and a home. Controlling the slow burn in his gut, Grant saw the engineer top off the train’s water tank. They’d be pulling out of the station in a matter of minutes.
“Isn’t this the last stop, Mrs. Norris?” A blond-headed boy stood, stony-faced, angry, scared.
“Yes, Charlie, it is.”
His new son’s name was Charlie. Grant picked up his pace.
Martha sighed. “We don’t have any more meetings planned.”
“So, we have to go back to New York?” Charlie, shivering and thin but hardy compared to the girl, scowled as he stood on the snow-covered platform, six feet of wood separating the train from the station house.
Grant had never heard such a defeated question.
The little girl’s chin dropped and her shoulders trembled.
What was he thinking? He heard defeat from unwanted children all the time.
Charlie slipped his threadbare coat off his shoulders even though the wind cut like a knife through Grant’s worn-out buckskin jacket.
Grant’s throat threatened to swell shut with tears as he watched that boy sacrifice the bit of warmth he got from that old coat.
Stepping behind Martha, Charlie wrapped his coat around the girl. She shuddered and practically burrowed into the coat as if it held the heat of a fireplace, even as she shook her head and frowned at Charlie.
“Just take the stupid thing.” Charlie glared at the girl.
After studying him a long moment, the little girl, her eyes wide and sad, kept the coat.
Mrs. Norris stayed his hands. “That’s very generous, Charlie, but you can’t go without a coat.”
“I don’t want it. I’m gonna throw it under the train if she don’t keep it.” The boy’s voice was sharp and combative. A bad attitude. That
could keep a boy from finding a home.
Grant hurried faster across the frozen ruts of Sour Springs Main Street toward the train platform and almost made it. A tight grip on his arm stopped him. Surprised, he turned and saw that irksome woman who’d been hounding him ever since she’d moved to town. What was her name? Grant’d made a point of not paying attention to her. She usually yammered about having his shirts sewn in her shop.
“Grant, it’s so nice to see you.”
It took all his considerable patience to not jerk free. Shirt Lady was unusually tall, slender, and no one could deny she was pretty, but she had a grip like a mule skinner, and Grant was afraid he’d have a fight on his hands to get his arm back.
Grant touched the brim of his battered Stetson with his free hand. “Howdy, Miss. I’m afraid I’m in a hurry today.”
A movement caught his eye, and he turned to look at his wagon across the street. Through the whipping wind he could see little, but Grant was sure someone had come alongside his wagon. He wished it were true so he could palm this persistent pest off on an unsuspecting neighbor.
Shirt Lady’s grip tightened until it almost hurt through his coat. She leaned close, far closer than was proper to Grant’s way of thinking.
“Why don’t you come over to my place and warm yourself before you head back to the ranch. I’ve made pie, and it’s a lonely kind of day.” She fluttered her lashes until Grant worried she’d gotten dirt in her eye. He considered sending her to Doc Morgan for medical care.
The train chugged and reminded Grant he was almost out of time. “Can’t stop now, miss.” What
her name? How many times had she spoken to him? A dozen if it was three. “There are some orphans left on the platform, and they need a home. I’ve got to see to ’em.”
Something flashed in her eyes for a second before she controlled it. He knew that look. She didn’t like orphans. Well, then what was she doing talking to him? He came with a passel of ’em. Grant shook himself free.