Trail Through Time
Liberty Valley Love #5
by Josie Malone
When a suspected murderer escapes from the Junction City jail, the marshal’s younger brother, Kyle Morgan feels honor bound to follow him from 1888 Liberty Valley to the 21st century. From what his new sister-in-law, former homicide detective Beth Chambers-Morgan has shared, Kyle knows a woman he’s only seen in pictures is in mortal danger. Somehow, he must convince her that he’s traveled more than a hundred years to protect her.
The survivor of a horrendous attack, horse rescuer, Nina Armstrong blames herself for the death of her best friend who pursued her assailant and vanished in Mount Baker National Forest. Now, a battle-scarred stranger arrives determined to guard Nina from the serial killer planning to eliminate the sole witness to his crimes. Intelligent, brave, Kyle Morgan talks like an old-time cowboy, but Nina wonders about his claims to be from a distant place and time. Why is she so drawn to him?
Love may prove to be the biggest threat of all when survival is on the line. Will they create a future together in Liberty Valley or will Kyle abandon her and return to the days of yesteryear? What is home and where will they find it?
Release Date: March 8, 2022
Genre: Western | Time Travel Romance
A Pink Satin Romance
Peoria, Illinois – Summer 1871
The train rumbling through the dark, headed west. Fourteen-year-old, Kyle Morgan sat near the open doors and stared out into the night, watching the miles click by. His right cheek still burned under the bandage. He suspected the deep cut slicing his face would infect unless he kept it clean, but that would have been impossible at the farmhouse. His so-called mother tried to come up with a story for him to tell the neighbors and the inspector from the Orphan Aid Society that sent him west on the train two years ago and her husband threatened him with a whipping if he told the truth about their son striking him with a hay hook during chores.
Would the injury have meant a new home if he’d stayed and talked with the old man from New York? Kyle doubted it. This was his third placement and each was worse than the one before. He’d heard that some of the orphans on the train from his original trip had decent homes with real good folks. They even went to school, but not him. He’d worked from dawn to dusk on three different farms, wearing ragged clothes, surviving whippings, and eating food scraps he wouldn’t have given a dog.
None of those homes matched that of the middle-aged couple who originally adopted him when he was barely three, taking him from the orphanage and leaving his older brother behind. After they died in a fever outbreak, their property went to their grown children who returned nine-year-old Kyle to the orphan’s home in New York City. Five years later and not much had changed. Still unwanted, still unloved, still unnecessary anywhere except for the back-breaking labor he performed as not much more than a slave, but nobody fought a war to free him, Kyle thought bitterly.
By the time he was back in the New York home for abandoned and orphaned children, Rad had been long gone to fight in the war for the Union, and once again, Kyle wondered if his brother survived. No way of knowing, but there was a distant memory of Rad talking about going West so that was where Kyle headed now. Somehow, some way he’d find his brother and they’d be a family again. A real family with people who loved and cared for them.
* * *
Liberty Valley, Friday, July 13th, 1888
The ridge rose before them. Huge granite boulders lined the path while smaller fragments covered the trail. A light sprinkling of dirt covered the slick gray stone, and a tiny evergreen clung precariously to the side of the hill. Fog shrouded the top of the ridge, hiding the steepest part of the ascent and the gateway to the future.
Daylight had faded and the moon would soon rise. Bethany Chambers-Morgan sat on her gray Arabian stallion, Tigger, studying the steep hill, and the hoofprints left in the mud by Gary Smith’s stolen horse. She’d hunted the suspected killer for so long. Her German shepherd, Luke, a retired K-9 service dog, sniffed at the trail then trotted back to stand next to her horse, whining softly. Tigger backed up, and she felt the tension in his body. Neither animal wanted to go forward, and she didn’t blame them, not since all three of them died on the trail on the other side of the ridge in 2018.
Goddess chosen, she’d crossed through Time to come here from the future. She hadn’t expected to find her destiny, much less the man of her dreams and she didn’t intend to leave Marshal Rad Morgan and the life they had together. She glanced at his younger brother sitting on a strawberry roan gelding next to her. “I followed my heart when I married Rad. You don’t have to go after Smith, Kyle. I trust the cops from my precinct to capture him.”
“I want to see your world and know for myself that killer is under lock and key.” A frown creased Kyle’s forehead and he rubbed the jagged scar on his right cheek. “If it doesn’t work, I’ll come home the next time the door is open.”
“I don’t know that I can open the portal for you next time,” Beth said. “It may take both me and the Guardian in 2018. And I don’t know who she is. All I can do is tell you again to see my father, Will Dawson. Tell him that I’m all right and ask him for help. Maybe, he will be able to help find the Guardian. He knows more than he acts like he does.”
Kyle nodded. “I’ll find him as soon as I arrive.”
“Fair enough.” Beth leaned over to hug him. “I promise I’ll try to bring you home in September of 2019. That will give you a little more than a year. You can see to it that Smith gets arrested and stands trial for his crimes, at least the ones in the twenty-first century. Don’t tell anyone other than Will where you come from.”
“I know. You’ve told me that three times already. They’ll think I’m crazier than a bedbug if I say I rode in from 1888. Anything else?”
Beth hesitated for a moment remembering the night she’d shown him a photo of a petite brunette in jeans and a bright red western blouse standing next to the light-yellow Appaloosa horse. “Do you remember my friend, Nina? The one Smith attacked? The reason I came looking for him?”
“Yes. He left her for dead and took the horse she’d nursed back to health, the one belonging to Trace Burdette.”
“That’s right.” Beth lifted her chin. “See if you can find a way to let her know Wonder is back home and I’m happy too.”
“I’ll do my best,” Kyle said.
“Okay then.” Beth reined Tigger to the left and concentrated on the hill. In a few moments, silver moonlight shone on the trail, lighting the way up the hill. “The way is open. Go carefully if you wish.”
“It’s what I want,” Kyle repeated. “Take care of Rad and name the first baby after your pa and me.” Obviously eager for a new adventure, he urged his horse forward.
* * *
Kyle Morgan turned in the saddle to check his back trail. He hadn’t heard anyone or anything since he rode over that strange hill at dusk, but the winding trail didn’t take him anywhere near what he expected to find in Beth’s world, after reading the books his older brother gave him. Yet, Kyle couldn’t shake the feeling that someone or something lurked behind him, pursued him. Why? Gary Smith should be hours and miles ahead of him.
He reined S.O.B. back onto the moonlit path between the evergreens. The strawberry roan Appaloosa pinned his ears, crow-hopped twice, and then stomped down the track. The horse seemed angrier about traveling into the dimming light than fearful. A breeze rustled through the pine boughs. Off to Kyle’s right, a creek chuckled over rocks. A squirrel chattered.
And the fog rolled past the giant cedars. Vapor cloaked the trees in foggy shrouds. The gray cloud thickened, and Kyle made his decision. He’d stop for the night. He swung out of the saddle and led the gelding forward. Eventually, the trees parted on a clearing. Knee-high grass would provide a meal for the horse. And there was water from the creek.
Well, since he wasn’t getting anywhere, he might as well set up camp. Maybe, he’d catch a fish for supper. Perhaps, he was stuck in this place for a reason. It could be like the elevator he’d ridden in New York City. The door to Beth’s world might take a while longer to open. So, he’d read the books that Rad gave him again, the ones Beth’s adopted cousin wrote. Maybe, there would be time to work on his own story of a gunfighter who had a secret.
He’d settle for a cold camp tonight. Smoke from a fire would draw Smith to him and Kyle wanted to be ready for the killer, not end up one of his victims. Being left as a carcass for the coyotes to eat didn’t figure in his plans. He had places to go and a new adventure to pursue. Hunting his older brother for nearly sixteen years hadn’t ended the way Kyle believed it would back when he was a boy. Neither had living with Rad on the Morgan ranch for the last year.
He’d ride careful, Kyle thought, just as he promised his new sister by marriage, Bethany. He was almost thirty-one years old and somehow, someday he’d find a home, a life he was meant to have, even if he didn’t know the details yet.