One Pink Rose

By: Julie Garwood

The Rose - book 2




Prologue

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Long ago there lived a remarkable family. They were the Claybornes, and they were held together by bonds far stronger than blood.

They met when they were boys living on the streets in New York City. Runaway slave Adam, pickpocket Douglas, gunslinger Cole, and con man Travis survived by protecting one another from the older gangs roaming the city. When they found an abandoned baby girl in their alley, they vowed to make a better life for her and headed west.

They eventually settled on a piece of land they named Rosehill, deep in the heart of Montana Territory. The only guidance they received as they were growing up came from the letters of Adam's mother, Rose. Rose learned about her son's companions from their heartfelt letters to her, for they confided their fears, their hopes and their dreams, and in return she gave them what they had never had before, a mother's unconditional love and acceptance.

In time, each came to know her as his own Mama Rose.

After twenty long years, Rose joined them. Her sons and daughter were finally content. Her arrival was, indeed, a cause for both celebration and consternation. Her daughter was married to a fine man and expecting her first child, and her sons had grown to be honorable, strong men, each successful in his own right. But Mama Rose wasn't quite satisfied just yet. They had become too settled in their bachelor ways to suit her. Since she believed God helps those who help themselves, there was only one thing left for her to do.

She was going to meddle.

Time of Roses

It was not in the Winter

Our loving lot was cast;

It was the time of roses—

We pluck'd them as we pass'd!

—Thomas Hood (1798-1845)





Chapter One


Rosehill Ranch, Montana, Valley,

Travis Clayborne was thinking hard about killing a man.

The youngest brother had only just returned home from the southern tip of the territory and planned to stay one night before he resumed his hunt. Thus far, his prey had managed to stay a step ahead of him. He had thought he had him good and trapped near the gorge, but then the elusive devil had vanished into thin air. Travis grudgingly admitted he would have to tip his hat to this stranger who had outwitted him. He might also have to compliment him on his survival skills. Then he'd shoot him. He'd taken to the notion of doing in the culprit right away. The enemy's name was Daniel Ryan, and the sin he'd committed wasn't forgivable by a son's measure. Ryan had dared to take advantage of a sweet, innocent, genteel old lady with a heart of gold—Travis's own Mama Rose to be exact—and in Travis's heart and mind, killing him was almost too good for him. Now Travis was trying to convince himself that justice would be on his side.

That evening he waited until their mother had gone to bed to discuss the atrocity with his brothers. They sat side by side on the porch with their booted feet propped up on the railing, their heads tilted back, and their eyes closed.

Harrison, their brother-in-law, joined them a moment after Rose went upstairs. He thought the brothers looked content and was about to tell them so when Travis declared his intentions. Harrison sat down hard in the chair next to Douglas, stretched his long legs out, and then begged to differ with Travis. He said that the law should take care of the thief, and that this person, like every other man and woman in this fair country, was entitled to a trial. If he was proven guilty, he would be sent to prison for his punishment. He shouldn't be murdered in cold blood.

None of the Claybornes paid any attention to Harrison's pontificating. He was an attorney by trade, and it was in his nature to argue about every little thing. All of the brothers thought it was kind of sweet the way Harrison believed in justice for everyone. Their little sister's husband was a decent man, but he was from Scotland and, in their minds, naive about the laws in the wilderness. Perhaps in a perfect world the innocent would always be protected and the guilty would always be punished, but they didn't happen to live in a perfect world, now did they? They lived in Montana Territory. Besides, what lawman in his right mind would take the time and trouble to hunt down a garden snake when there were so many deadly rattlers out there just waiting to strike?

Harrison refused to bend to the Clayborne way of looking at things. He was appalled by Travis's decision to go after the culprit who had robbed their mother, he reminded Travis that he had a duty as a future attorney to behave with honor. He also suggested Travis reread Plato'sRepublic . Travis wouldn't be deterred from what he proclaimed was a sacred mission. He leaned forward to look at Harrison when he gave his argument.

"A son's first duty is to his mother," he declared.

"Amen," Douglas muttered.

"It's clear to all of us that Mama Rose was duped," Travis continued. "He asked to see the gold case and the compass, didn't he?"

"I wish she hadn't told him about it," Adam interjected.

"But she did tell him," Douglas said. "And I'm guessing as soon as she mentioned it was gold, that's when he asked to see it."

"He knew he was going to steal it then," Cole said.

"It was clever of him to let the crowd separate them," Adam said.

"Mama Rose told us this Ryan fellow is well over six feet tall. He's bulky too," Douglas reminded them.

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