Friday, June 01, 2012


By Vickie McDonough

He won a ranch in a card game. She claims the ranch is her inheritance.

He's not leaving—and neither is she.


Endorsement: Far more than your ordinary cowboy story, End of the Trail touches a place deep within you, a place where lies, betrayals, abandonment, and broken promises live. A place where two young people must overcome all of those things and find family, loyalty, faithfulness, and above all, love. You'll cry, you'll laugh, you'll feel. But most of all, you'll enjoy.

MaryLu Tyndall, author of Legacy of the King's Pirates Series

About the Book: Brooks Morgan is quick on the draw, but his weapon of choice is his smile. He's smart and witty and has charmed his way through much of life, but now that he's growing older—and a bit wiser—he wants to stop drifting and settle down. He sees his chance when he wins Raven Creek Ranch in a poker game, but when he goes to claim his prize, a pretty, young woman with a shotgun says the ranch belongs to her. Brooks isn't leaving his one and only chance to make something of his life—but neither is she. Can they reach an agreement? Or will a greedy neighbor force a showdown, causing them both to lose they want most in life?


Waco, Texas


"You're a good son, Brooks, but your father is right."

Brooks stared at his mother, halfway stunned that she'd sided with his pa against him. "You don't feel I do my share of the work around here either?"

Annie Morgan winced and gazed out the parlor window, not looking at him. She might not admit in words that she agreed, but that tiny grimace told Brooks she did. He ducked his head, hating the feeling of disappointing his mother. He'd always been her favorite—her first son. He craved her warm smile, but that was hard to be found just now. Still, he pushed aside disturbing feelings and retrieved his charming smile—the one his ma said could make a die-hard Texas cattle rancher invest all his money in a herd of sheep—and squeezed between his ma and the window.

She flicked a glance up at him then it swerved away. "Don't try to charm me. This is all my fault. I shouldn't have coddled you so much."

His grin faltered. Now she sounded like his father talking. "You didn't coddle me."

"Yes, she did. She still does." Melissa's voice sounded from upstairs, followed by quick footsteps on the stairs.

He spun around, glaring at his bossy older sister. "Nobody asked you."

"I'm getting married soon. That means you'll be the oldest child at home." She reached the bottom of the stairs and shifted the basket of dirty clothes to her other hip, cocking her mouth up on one side. "It's time you start acting like you're sixteen instead of six."

Brooks clenched his fist. As much as he might like knocking that know-it-all look off Melissa's face, he would never hit a female.

"That's enough, Missy. Get the laundry started and then check on Phillip. I'll be out in a few minutes." Ma turned her gaze on him as Melissa—smirking—slipped out the door. Ma's brown eyes were laced with pain and something he couldn't quite decipher. "Your sister is right, but she shouldn't have said what she did. After you nearly died in that fall from the hay loft when you were four, I kept you close. Too close. Wouldn't let you out with your father to do chores anymore. I blamed him for not watching you. He warned me not to be so overprotective, but I was stubborn and wouldn't listen."

"No, Ma—"

"Let me finish." She held up one hand, palm out. "You know how much I love you, but my coddling you has made you soft. Spoiled."

Brooks winced. Never had his ma said such a thing to him, and he didn't like the uncomfortable emotions swirling around inside him because of it. She really thought he was spoiled?

"You're nearly a man now, and you need to start acting like one. Quit taunting your brother and help your father more."

"But I do—"

She closed her eyes and shook her head. "Not nearly enough." She looked deep into his eyes. "What if something happened to your father? Would you know enough to take over running the ranch?"

"Of course I could." He stated the words with vibrato, but inside, he felt less sure. Not sure at all, in fact.

"Well, I've said what needed to be said, now it's up to you. It's time you grow up, son."

Brooks stared at his mother. She'd never talked to him so firmly. So harshly. He felt betrayed by the person who loved him the most. He stomped outside, slamming the door behind him. If he'd been eleven, like Phillip, he'd probably have cried, but like his ma said, he was a man now—or almost one.

He did his share of work. Hadn't he just filled the wood box in the kitchen and hauled in a bucket of water? She had no call to lay into him like she did.

Just because he and his pa had argued after breakfast.

Because he didn't want to mend fences and shovel horse flops. He glanced at the barn then back at the house. Maybe it would be worth cleaning the stalls to get back on his ma's good side—and maybe then she'd make some more of those oatmeal cookies with raisins and nuts that she'd baked for the first time last week. His mouth watered just thinking about them.

Blowing out a breath, he moseyed to the barn. What he'd really like to be doing right now was fishing or swimming in the pond with Sammy or visiting pretty Sally Baxter. He ambled into the barn, dragging his boots and wrinkling his nose at the smelly hay in the floor of the stalls. His pa had left the muck there just like he'd said he would.

Jester lifted his head over the side of one stall and nickered. Brooks strode over to the black gelding and stroked his nose. "Nobody understands me, boy. I'm not like Pa. He likes working hard, getting sweaty and smelly, but I don't."

The horse nodded his head, as if agreeing with him.

"Hey, you want to go for a ride?" Casting aside thoughts of work, he bridled and saddled Jester and led him out of the barn. A long, hard gallop would do them both some good.

"Just where do you think you're going?"

Brooks jerked to a halt at his pa's deep voice. "Uh…riding."

Pa shook his head. "No, you're not. There's work to be done. Get back in there and muck out those stalls."

Hiking his chin, Brooks glared at his pa. "Maybe I already did."

Riley Morgan stared at him with those penetrating blue eyes. "I wish you had, but I can tell by your reaction that you haven't." He shook his head, his disappointment obvious.

Brooks gritted his back teeth together. It wouldn't matter if he had cleaned the stalls, his pa wouldn't be pleased. Nothing he did made Pa happy. "I'm sorry to be such a disappointment to you."

Phillip trotted around the side of the barn. "Pa, Pa, look at the frog I caught."

Brooks glared at his little brother. How come he couldn't do stall duty? He sure had to do it when he was Phillip's age.

His pa's harsh expression softened, and he tousled Phillip's light brown hair. "That's a mighty fine frog, son. Did you finish weeding the corn like I told you?"

Nodding like a little cherub, his brother smiled. "Sure did, and I got some of the beans weeded too."

"Good job, son. Go in and show that nice frog to your ma."

"Look at my frog, Brooks." Phillip held up the commonplace critter.

"Ain't nothin' special about it. Just a dumb ol' toad."

Phillip's happy expression faltered.

"Go in the house, Phillip."

The boy nodded and shuffled to the house.

Brooks ire mounted. When was the last time his pa had told him he'd done a good job?

The smile on Pa's face faded as he spun back around. "That was a cruel thing to do. Just 'cause you're upset doesn't give you the right to hurt Phillip's feelings."

Brooks shrugged, feeling only a tad bit guilty.

His pa reached for Jester's reins but Brooks yanked them away and scowled, matching his father's expression.

"I want that barn cleaned out, or you can go without dinner. The Good Book says if a man doesn't work, he shouldn't eat."

"Fine. I'd rather not eat than mess with that muck."

"I guess I was wrong in giving you that gelding. A man who can't clean up after his horse doesn't deserve to have one. Give me the reins."

"Why?" Brooks backed up another step, tugging Jester along with him. The horse was his best friend.

"You stuffed yourself full of your ma's cooking this morning, but did you even give a thought to feeding your horse?"

Brooks hung his head at that comment. He'd forgotten again to feed Jester.

"Harley Jefferson came by earlier asking if I had a good riding horse for sale. I've just about decided to sell him Jester."

Brooks's eyes widened, and he felt as if he'd been gut shot. "You wouldn't."

"I don't want to, but obviously it will take something drastic to get your attention. You've got to learn to pull your weight and tend this place. It will be yours one day."

"I don't want it. Give it to Phillip since you love him so much." Brooks's frown deepened.

Pain creased his father's face, but Brooks hardened his heart against it. He was sick of being told he was no good. And he wasn't about to let his father sell his horse.

"I love you too, son, and that's why I'm working so hard to teach you to become a man. I just hope it's not too late." He shoved his hands to his hips and stared out toward the plowed field. I joined the war when I wasn't much older than you. It's time you grow up, son."

Tears stung Brooks's eyes in spite of his resolve to not allow such sissy behavior. He was so sick of hearing how his pa had fought in the war. It wasn't his fault there was no war for him to fight in. He was sick of being bossed around. Sick of his whole family.

He threw the reins over Jester's neck and leaped into the saddle. He kicked the horse hard, causing him to lunge away from his pa's frantic attempt to grab the reins.

"Get off the horse, boy. You hear me?"

"I'm no boy. And since no one here realizes that, I'm going somewhere else where I'll be appreciated." He kicked Jester hard in the side again, and the horse squealed at the unusually harsh treatment, but he leapt forward.

"Brooks. You come back here right now. Stop!" Fast footsteps chased after him.

Sitting straighter in the saddle, Brooks ignored his pa's ranting and squeezed away the moisture in his eyes. He'd stay away a few days—maybe a week—and when he returned, everyone would be happy to see him again. And ma would bake those oatmeal cookies to celebrate his return.

At least he hoped they would.

But he knew the truth—they would all be happier without him. All he'd ever done was cause them trouble.

He turned Jester to the west. Maybe by the time he visited every town in Texas his family would forget how much trouble he'd been and welcome him home.

And maybe Houston would get a foot of snow this winter.

Note from the Author: Thank you so much for sending the past few minutes with Brooks Morgan. I hope you enjoyed his cocky personality and his story and will want to read more. God bless! Vickie McDonough

About the author:

VICKIE MCDONOUGH is an award-winning author of 25 books and novellas. She is a finalist in the inspirational category of the 2012 Booksellers' Best Awards, and her books have won the Inspirational Reader's Choice Contest, Texas Gold, the ACFW Noble Theme contest, and she has been a multi-year finalist in ACFW's BOTY/Carol Awards. She is the author of the fun and feisty Texas Boardinghouse Brides series from Barbour Publishing and author of Long Trail Home and End of the Trail, books 3 & 6 in the Texas Trails series by Moody Publishers, in which she partners with Susan Page Davis and Darlene Franklin to write the series which spans 50 years of the Morgan family. Vickie is currently serving her third year as the ACFW treasurer.





End of the Trail is available at,,

and at your local Christian bookstore.

Copyright © 2012 by Vickie McDonough

ISBN 978-0802404084

(River North Fiction by Moody Publishers, copyrighted material)

(Not final file. Not for resale or distribution.)

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