A brother lost in the war brings together grieving Dessa Fallon and reclusive Ben Poole.
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From the upper ring of society, Dessa Fallon heads west when she hears that her brother Mitch, presumed killed in the war, has been seen alive. He may be a notorious gunslinger.
Outlaws attack the stage Dessa is on and kidnap her. She escapes and collapses nearly at the doorstep of reclusive Ben Poole, who returned from the war unable to function with people. He lives alone and drive a freight wagon.
Dessa's grief over the death of her parents brings the two closer as he tries to help her recover and look for her brother.
A mythical journey on the train back to Kansas City to take care of her family business seals their love, but Ben isn't sure he belongs in her world. Can the two find happiness when their worlds are so far apart?
The vision came to her so intensely that she imagined the smell of wet green grass and lye soap.
There will be kids playing out back, laughing and chasing each other, and their mother will come to the door and call out, "Mitchell. Dessa. Come in to supper now."
And the boy will stand straight and tall and look at me when I come up the lane to the house. The wind will blow his dark beautiful hair and his eyes, green like mine, will widen with recognition.
Tears trailed down her cheeks. She forced herself to rise, first to her knees, then to her feet.
"Oh, Mitchell," she sobbed.
The young boy beckoned, reached out, and faded into wavering ripples of heat.
She would follow, she would find him. She would not lie here and die. And so on she trod, marveling that after all these years, the youthful ghost of her dead brother had returned to save her life. The thought didn't seem at all odd. Mitchell's spirit had been with her since the day he left, and despite everything, she felt in the deepest part of her heart that he was alive out there somewhere.
When she told Daddy, he said, of course, Mitchell lived in her heart and always would. But that wasn't what she meant, and he wouldn't listen.
On and on she staggered, fists clenched around wads of her clothing in an effort to hang on to something. Stumble, fall, get up, and move on. Mitchell would have it no other way.
Afternoon came and went, the angle of the sun ever changing until at long last she felt the coolness of its absence and realized it had disappeared once again behind the mountains. And still she had found no road and nothing else, either. But blessed dark-ness, in the end, saved her, for no sooner had dusk melted into night than she spotted a dim glow off to her right. Someone had lit a lamp or built a fire.
She sobbed and veered toward the yellow pinpoint of light, stumbled, and fell. Counting how many times she fell and climbed back to her feet became a deadly game. Her time was nearly up, every ounce of strength almost gone. Soon she would fall and not be able to rise again. She tried to cry out, hail the house, but no sound save a croak could she force from her swollen throat. Surely she wouldn't come this far only to die within sight of salvation.