Montana Gallagher Series
The weariness settled in not long after her ship arrived in Boston. The anger, the pain, and the betrayal still consumed her heart. The grandness of the wild territory looming ahead did nothing to assuage these feelings. It seemed so long ago that she held her father’s hand as he lay dying, though barely eight months had passed. She still remembered his final words as though he’d spoken only a moment ago. “Ye’re not alone in the world, me darling girl.” Gazing out the train window, across the expanse of land that marked only the beginning of her journey, Brenna realized her father couldn’t have foreseen where those final words would lead her.
In the countryside of Borthwick, Edinburghshire, Scotland 1869
The mare fought bravely to bring the young filly into this world, and her struggles paid off. The beautiful silver-coated filly glanced around curiously as it sought purchase on its wobbly legs. Her mother nudged the little one until it stood triumphantly and quickly sought out nourishment. The young girl on the cusp of womanhood watched with rapt attention at the miracle, then turned from the stall and raced to the main house.
“Papa! Mama! Come quickly!”
Brenna jumped up and down in the doorway of the parlor, turned around, and headed back for the stable without bothering to see if her parents followed.
Her father chuckled at the retreating girl and his wife smiled. “You did promise her a new filly.”
“So I did.” He laughed again and reached for his wife’s hand. “Let us go and see if that’s what she’ll be getting.”
Duncan and Rebecca Cameron walked along the green grass to the stable that had born dozens of foals and fillies over the years. Brenna had impatiently waited in great anticipation for this one day to come, for this special filly to be born. Her first horse to raise just as she chose and the most perfect gift she’d ever received.
The couple walked up and stood beside their daughter, looking over the stall door at the young filly staring curiously back at them. Brenna stood between them, and sensed their excitement nearly matched her own.
“It will be a bit of time before she can be ridden, but she’s a fine-looking filly, Brenna.”
“She’s beautiful, Papa.”
“That she is,” her mother said, and placed an arm around her shoulder. “What do you say we leave her to her mother.”
Brenna looked up at her father, pleading with him to let her stay out there. Her just-a-little-longer plea almost always worked when she looked at him with her small smile and wide eyes.
“Not this time, darling girl.” He pulled his daughter and wife close to him and walked toward the stable entrance.
“There’ll be plenty of time for ye to spend with her, but yer mother’s right.”
“Well, may I come out tomorrow? At sunrise?”
Her father chuckled again. “Yes, at sunrise.”
Brenna knelt over the recently tilled soil, side by side with her mother. Together they sowed the flower seeds for a new garden they chose to plant near the orchard. It had always been one of her most cherished times, those hours she spent with her mother in the gardens or with her father at the stable. Few young people Brenna’s age lived in their small village, but she didn’t mind.
Her parents and the people who worked at Cameron Manor were her family and friends. She took her school lessons every day after she and her mother tended the gardens; her parents insisted she be educated. Her tutor, Mrs. Parks, a delightful older woman from London, spoke French and even traveled to Africa before her husband died. She encouraged Brenna to think freely and beyond the ideas written in textbooks. Brenna was delighted when her father presented her with a beautiful globe shipped from London. She spent hours asking him about his travels and how he met her mother.
Brenna remembered asking him once about her birth and if she had any other family. Her father grew quiet for a time, smiled at her, and said all the family she needed lived at Cameron Manor. He seemed so sad—she didn’t ask again.
Not long after her tenth birthday, Duncan tried to teach her how to fish in one of the lochs on their estate. Brenna loved being outside, riding horses, and gardening with her mother, but she certainly didn’t like worms or watching fish squiggle and squirm on the hooks. Her father seemed happy, though, so she smiled and tried not to grimace much. Secretly she thought he knew how she felt because he didn’t take her fishing again.
Instead, they enjoyed long walks through the woods as he pointed out the various plants, trees, and wildlife when fortune favored them enough to catch a glimpse of a deer or fox. Her father carefully showed her the boundaries of their land so she wouldn’t wander into areas where hunters may mistake her or her horse for wild game. Over the years, Brenna led a sheltered life at Cameron Manor, but she couldn’t imagine spending her life anywhere else.
In the countryside of Borthwick, Edinburghshire, Scotland 1875
One week after Brenna’s eighteenth birthday, on a rare spring day when the sun shone with enthusiasm, Brenna’s parents hoped she would join them for a leisurely ride. Brenna’s mare, Heather, enjoyed a good run that morning so she opted to ride another mount for the afternoon. Brenna often woke early to ride so her father wouldn’t discover her preference to ride without a saddle. She discovered early on that though saddles offered convenience, she and Heather preferred riding without the confinement. Her mother rode one of the geldings since her mare carried another foal.
The family coveted such beautiful days. Scotland’s weather could change abruptly, so they took immediate advantage of glorious weather.
An hour into their ride, a light sprinkling of rain began. Brenna thought nothing of it because the sun still shone brightly through the clouds. When the wind picked up, she turned a worried look over her shoulder toward her parents.
“We’d best head back in!” Her father’s shout carried across the howling wind. “The storm’ll have us soaking before long!”
Brenna turned around to answer her father, but shouting against the wind proved fruitless. She quickly closed the distance between them when a crack of thunder shuddered through the sky and frightened the animals. They started back as quickly as they could without causing injury to anyone, but another crack of thunder sounded close by and she watched as her mother’s horse frightened. Rebecca couldn’t calm the animal and it reared back, dropping her off the saddle before catching its leg in mud and falling over on top of her.
Duncan shouted for his wife, dismounted, and ran toward her as quickly as his legs allowed. The gelding had broken his leg and couldn’t move, pinning Rebecca under its heavy mass. Brenna jumped off the mare and ran toward her parents, shielding her eyes from the pelting rain, which began to fall in earnest. She ignored the stinging pain as heavy drops made contact with her skin.
“Mama!” Brenna knelt down next to her mother’s head and watched as her father tried to encourage the animal to move enough so they could pull Rebecca out from under it.
Brenna held onto her mother’s cold hand and covered her with her body as best she could to shield her from the downpour.
“Brenna!” Her father looked at her and shouted over the storm. “Go, as fast as ye can and bring help.”
“Papa.” Brenna felt like a little girl again, uncertain what to do.
“Brenna, go! I’ll stay with yer mother!” He shouted over the sounds of clapping thunder and gusting winds. “Go!”
Brenna mounted the mare and raced toward home, pleading over and over that they’d make it there without further injury so she could get help to her mother.
“Iain!” Brenna raced toward the stable, shouting Iain’s name. He and his wife, Maggie, loyally served the Camerons for more than twenty years, and Brenna considered them part of the family. If anyone could help, it was Iain.
“Iain, please!” Brenna dismounted and turned, shouting his name again when he raced toward her.
“Brenna lass, whatever is wrong?”
She stood with rain-soaked hair and clothes and could not hide the panic from her eyes.
“Where are yer parents, lass?”
“Near the cliffs by Fowler’s Cove.” Brenna bent over, her breaths coming in short gasps. “Hurry, please. Mama’s trapped under her horse.”
Under different circumstances, Brenna could have admired how swiftly the older man moved into action. He rang the emergency bell by the stable door, which brought the few other servants outside. Maggie and the stable boy, who had been carrying wood inside, rushed across the grounds to the stables. Iain waited for the boy with saddled horses.
Brenna moved to remount, but Iain laid a strong hand on her shoulder.
“Stay here, lass,” he said, even as she shook her head.
“Ye’ll hurt them more if something happened to ye. Stay.”
Brenna couldn’t take that risk. Iain’s wife wrapped an arm around Brenna’s waist, and they watched the two riders race into the storm.
Two weeks passed since the afternoon when the storm swept through and carried away bits of Brenna’s heart. An accident. Everyone called it a terrible accident, but Brenna didn’t want to think about it. She couldn’t because her father needed her to be strong. He refused to leave Rebecca’s side from the moment they finally pulled the horse off of her body. Brenna didn’t have a chance to say good-bye to her mother. By the time they brought her home, she had been unconscious. When the doctor finally arrived, Rebecca had passed.
“Papa?” Brenna softly closed the door behind her as she walked into her father’s study. The room remained dark, much as it had been since her mother’s death. He rarely left that room and rarely ate or slept.
Brenna walked quietly over the thick rug and knelt in front of the heavy chair, where her father spent many hours. She took his hands off his lap and held them softly in her own.
“Papa?” Brenna spoke in hushed tones, but this time he lifted his eyes to hers.
“She’s gone, Brenna.” His voiced sounded painfully hoarse, and she pulled the blanket up higher on his chest. “Me beautiful Rebecca is gone.”
“I know.” Brenna held back the tears, which threatened to fall. “But she’s still with us and she would not want to see you this way.”
This time Duncan leaned forward and wrapped his arms around his daughter. “I know, me darling girl. I can hear her now telling me to put away me whiskey and open the windows.”
“I can hear her too.”
“We’ll be all right, won’t we, lass?”
“Yes, Papa, we’ll be all right.
Excerpted from Gallagher's Pride by MK McClintock. Copyright © 2012 by MK McClintock. Published by Trappers Peak Publishing. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the author or publisher.
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