From the book
Early December, 1914
If the spark-throwing screech of iron-on-iron hadn't wrenched Clay McKettrick out of his uneasy sleep, the train's lurching stop--which nearly pitched him onto the facing seat--would surely have done the trick.
Grumbling, Clay sat up straight and glowered out the window, shoving splayed fingers through his dark hair.
Blue River, Texas. His new home. And more, for as the new marshal, he'd be responsible for protecting the town and its residents.
Not that he could see much of it just then, with all that steam from the smokestack billowing between the train and the depot.
The view didn't particularly matter to him, anyhow, since he'd paid a brief visit to the town a few months back and seen what there was to see--which hadn't been much, even in the sun-spangled, blue-sky days of summer. Now that winter was coming on--Clay's granddad, Angus, claimed it snowed dust and chiggers in that part of Texas--the rutted roads and weathered facades of the ramshackle buildings would no doubt be of bleak appearance.
With an inward sigh, Clay stood to retrieve his black, round-brimmed hat and worn duster from the wooden rack overhead. In the process, he allowed himself to ponder, yet again, all he'd left behind to come to this place at the hind end of beyond and carve out a life of his own making.
He'd left plenty.
A woman, to start with. And then there was his family, the sprawling McKettrick clan, including his ma and pa, Chloe and Jeb, his two older sisters and the thriving Triple M Ranch, with its plentitude of space and water and good grass.
A fragment of a Bible verse strayed across his brain. The cattle on a thousand hills...
There were considerably fewer than a thousand hills on the Triple M, big as it was, but the cattle were legion.
To his granddad's way of thinking, those hills and the land they anchored might have been on loan from the
Almighty, but everything else--cows, cousins, mineral deposits and timber included--belonged to Angus Mc-Kettrick, his four sons and his daughter, Katie.
Clay shrugged into the long coat and put on his hat. His holster and pistol were stowed in his trunk in the baggage compartment, and his paint gelding, Outlaw, rode all alone in the car reserved for livestock.
The only other passenger on board, an angular woman with severe features and no noticeable inclination toward small talk, remained seated, with the biggest Bible Clay had ever seen resting open on her lap. She seemed poised to leap right into the pages at the first hint of sin and disappear into all those apocalyptic threats and grand promises. According to the conductor, a fitful little fellow bearing the pitted scars of a long-ago case of smallpox, the lady had come all the way from Cincinnati with the express purpose of saving the heathen.
Clay--bone-tired, homesick for the ranch and for his kinfolks, and wryly amused, all of a piece--nodded a respectful farewell to the woman as he passed her seat, resisting the temptation to stop and inquire about the apparent shortage of heathens in Cincinnati.
Most likely, he decided, reaching the door, she'd already converted the bunch of them, and now she was out to wrestle the devil for the whole state of Texas. He wouldn't have given two cents for old Scratch's chances.
A chill wind, laced with tiny flakes of snow, buffeted Clay as he stepped down onto the small platform, where all three members of the town council, each one stuffed into his Sunday best and half-strangled by a celluloid collar, waited to greet the new marshal.
Author: Linda Lael Miller
In 2006, New York Times bestselling author Linda Lael Miller left the Arizona horse property she's called home for the past five years and listened to the call of her heart. Packing up her dogs, Sadie and Bernice, and her four horses, the author of more than seventy novels bid farewell to her home in the desert and returned to the place of her birth, Spokane, Washington.
The daughter of a town marshal, Linda grew up in Northport, WA, a community of 500 on the Columbia River, 120 miles north of Spokane. Her childhood remembrances include riding horses and playing cowgirl on her grandparents' nearby farm. Her grandparents' spread was so rustic that in the early days it lacked electricity and running water.
As delightful as this childhood was, Linda longed to see the world. After graduating as valedictorian of her high school class, she left to pursue her dream at the age of eighteen. Because of the success of her writing career, Linda was able to live part-time in London for several years, spend time in Italy and travel to such far-off destinations as Russia, Hong Kong and Israel. Now, Linda says, the wanderlust is (mostly) out of her blood, and she's come full circle, back to the people and the places she knows and loves.
Before Linda begins her writing day, she takes her first cup of coffee while enjoying the scenic view of the wooded draw behind her new home. The first morning there, a snowfall blanketed the pine trees, something she had missed in the desert outside Scottsdale. Still enamored with the people she came to love in Arizona, she says she will still set books in that starkly beautiful area, and, of course, Washington.
Devoted to helping others pursue their dreams, the author will launch her seventh round of the Linda Lael Miller Scholarships for Women in May 2007. A talented speaker, she donates all her speaking honoraria to her scholarship fund. The stipends are awarded to women who seek to better their lot in life through education.
It's no wonder the protagonists in Miller's novels are women her readers admire for their honor, courage, trustworthiness, valor and determination to succeed, despite overwhelming odds. "These qualities make them excellent role models for young women," Miller explains. "The male leads possess equally noble traits that today's woman would be delighted to find in her life's mate."
The author traces the birth of her writing career to the day when a Northport teacher told her that the stories she was writing were good, that she just might have a future in writing. Later, when she decided to write novels, she endured her share of rejection before she made her first sale.
"Linda Lael Miller creates vibrant characters and stories I defy you to forget." - #1 New York Times bestselling author Debbie Macomber
"Miller tugs at the heartstrings as few authors can . . ." - Publishers Weekly
"Likable protagonists, a wealth of memorable secondary characters, and a... heart-touching plot make this warm, family-centered, information-rich 1910 prequel to Miller's 'Montana Creeds' trilogy a good choice for series fans and new readers as well." - Library Journal on A Creed Country Christmas
"Completely wonderful. Austin's interactions with Paige are fun and lively and the mystery that began in Tate's story ends with Austin's love story and adds quite a suspenseful punch." - RT Book Reviews on McKettricks of Texas: Austin