While researching this book I came across something called the Cowboy’s Code. Cowboys of the old West had an unwritten code that included such things as being courteous, always saying “howdy,” never riding another man’s horse without permission, and always helping someone in need. I’d like to think it also included being gentlemanly to ladies, but holding them accountable when they stepped over the line.
In Finding Love at the Trail’s End, the cowboys, especially Johnny Billings, all adhere to the cowboy code. It is a little different from my other western books. This period piece details the adventures of the hero and heroine on a cross-country trip along the Oregon Trail. Adventures, misadventures, love, romance, and heartache, accompany them on their journey to a new life.
Lily Rose Cochrane grew up the spoiled daughter of a wealthy Midwestern couple. That is until she was fifteen. Then her life changed dramatically. Her mother passed, and her father turned to the bottle leaving her to pick up the pieces.
Feeling the weight of too many burdens placed on her young shoulders, she is looking for a way out. She thinks she may have found it in Johnny Billings. Johnny Billings, a scout for a wagon train, is smitten with her and Lily tries convincing him to take her with him when he leaves on the next journey. He's not ready to make a commitment to a prickly spoiled girl who has his head spinning, but Lily is determined to get out of Sweet Grass and to find a way to get on the wagon train.
What follows is the story of young love, loss and finding love again.
“I’m John Billings.” He extended his hand to the man. “I’m here to call on Miss Lily Rose Cochrane.” The man ignored his hand and was about to close the door in his face when Lily Rose arrived.
“It’s okay Pappa. Mr. Billings invited me to dinner over at the hotel, and I’m going.” She started out the door.
“You’re too young to go out with a young man without a chaperone. You don’t have my permission, and I won’t allow it.”
“Pappa, I’m not too young to go into the saloon and escort you home when you’re too drunk to make it on your own” She hissed at him. She wanted to embarrass him the way he was embarrassing her. “It’s still daylight, and we’re only going to the hotel.”
“No, you’re not,” he said and tried to pull her back inside. Lily Rose jerked herself out of his grasp and continued out the door. She looped her arm into Johnny’s and started to walk off.
Johnny stood firm. “Miss Cochrane, we’re not goin’ without your father’s permission.” He turned toward her father, “Mr. Cochrane, I would like the pleasure of your daughter’s company at dinner. Since you don’t feel comfortable with her accompanyin' me unescorted, perhaps you would like to join us?”
Johnny watched as the color crept up Lily Rose’s neck. He wasn’t sure if it was embarrassment or anger, but he was about to find out. Her father, on the other hand, seemed shocked into silence. When Mr. Cochrane finally found his voice, he acknowledged the invitation and accepted.
“This young man understands propriety,” he said to his daughter.
Lily Rose sent an evil look to her father. “You’re a great one to talk about propriety. You’re a drunk, and everyone in town knows it. How dare you treat me like a child? You’ve turned over all your responsibilities to this child, and now you’re acting like a pompous ass. Go find your bottle and drink yourself into your nightly stupor.”
Johnny watched Mr. Cochrane shrivel under the caustic barrage of his daughter’s words.
No matter the truth of the situation, he was appalled that Lily Rose would treat her father with such disrespect, especially in front of others. She needed a damn good hidin’, and her mouth washed out with soap.
“You owe your father an apology.”
“Not a chance in hell. Shall we go?”
“To coin your phrase, not a chance in hell. You don’t need dinner; youneed a soaped mouth and a trip to the woodshed. If I were your father or your husband, that’s what you would be getting’.”
“Well, it’s a good thing you’re neither.” She raised her hand to slap his face. He grabbed her wrist.
“I would think twice about that Ms. Cochrane, or you just might get what you so richly deserve.
“The hell with you, Mr. High and Mighty Billings” and she raised her hand again. Her hand almost reached his cheek when she found herself hauled over his hip getting her bottom spanked. Her dress and petticoats didn’t provide much protection from his heavy hand. He rained down spank after spank in a pattern that would leave her bottom sore for a bit. The louder she wailed, the harder he spanked. She was raising such a fuss that people began running out to see what was causing the commotion. When they realized it was just Lily Rose Cochrane getting spanked, applause broke out.
Johnny finally released her. Her bonnet was all askew, and her tear streaked face was probably as red as her bottom. She picked up her skirts and ran into the store, slamming the door behind her. The crowd kept applauding and saying things like “ she had that coming,” or “didn’t happen often enough.”
The throng started to disburse as Johnny stood there wondering what to do. He rang the bell – waited and then rang the bell again. There still was no response. Turning the handle, the door swung open. To prevent anyone else from coming in, he closed and locked the door behind him, and he walked through the curtain to the back of the shop. There, on sacks of flour stacked on the floor, Lily Rose sat whimpering.
She looked so forlorn, he went towards her thinking she needed some cuddling. She looked up and when she saw it was him, yelled at him to get out.
“I only want to apologize, but I’m not really sorry. I warned you and you didn’t listen.”
“Get out, I never want to see you again,” and she chucked an apple at him, barely missing his head. He wasn’t a fool and left before she threw something else at him.
LSF Publications: http://www.lsfpublications.com/index.php?id=688