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Claiming the Heart

About The Book

Sara Luck follows up her debut romance, Susanna’s Choice, with this sexy novel set in the American West.

Josie Leclede, while working with her father to survey the new Texas and Pacific Railroad, meets and falls in love with Gabe Corrigan, who is supervisor of the track laying crew. Gabe is divorced, the divorce having been arranged by his ex-wife’s politically powerful father. At first, Gabe, who had no input in the divorce, is determined to win his ex-wife back…feeling not love as much as a need to assuage his ego, which was badly bruised by the dissolution of the marriage. But as his love for Josie deepens, he realizes that his first marriage was a mistake, and he no longer wants it reestablished.

When the railroad reaches Ft. Worth, Gabe becomes a wealthy man, and is ready to declare his love for Josie, but his ex-wife and her father come back into the picture. Her father has reversed the divorce, and given his recently acquired wealth, Gabe’s wife wants him back.

Seeing and believing that she was only a diversion, a heartbroken Josie goes to Missouri to take a job with the newly chartered KATY Railroad. But has she seen the last of Gabe?



Fort Worth, Texas

After the storm of the Civil War had passed, Henri saw opportunities in Texas. He sold out in St. Louis, and when Josie was sixteen years old, they and the Lanes, along with the Lanes’ two-year-old son, Julius, moved to Fort Worth, where Henri started the Laclede Grocery and Dry Goods store. They had been in Fort Worth for five years when seven-year-old Julius, who was sweeping the boardwalk in front of the grocery store, looked up to see the stagecoach arriving.

Dropping his broom, Julius ran inside to give the news.

“Miss Josie, the stagecoach is comin’ in! The horses are runnin’ fast!”

Empress Josephine Laclede brushed aside an errant fall of blond hair and walked to the front of the store to look out onto the street. A cloud of dust assailed her nostrils.

“Dooley, why do you have to do this? We know you’re coming,” Josie said aloud to no one in particular. She stepped out of the store, watching the other shopkeepers up and down Main Street hurry to meet the stage.

Dooley Simmons liked to make a grand entry, so the coach rolled down the street with the six horses at a trot far more rapid than their normal rate on the open road. Dust flew from the horses’ hooves and roiled up from the wheels, leaving a long haze hanging in the air behind it.

“Heyah! Heyah!” Dooley shouted to his team, snapping the reins. Children, black and white, ran down the street, keeping abreast of the coach, until it reached Andrew’s Tavern. There, the coach stopped, but the dust did not, and the cloud rolled over it so that when the passengers, three men and two women, stepped down, dust was on their clothes, in their hair, and hanging on their eyebrows. The women were coughing.

“How was your trip, Dooley?” someone called up to the driver as he was setting the brake and tying off the reins.

“No problem, but I’ve got news,” Dooley said as he threw down the mailbag to the postmaster.

“What news is that?”

“The railroad is a’comin’ to Fort Worth.”


“I heard it with my own ears,” Dooley said. “There’s some fellers from the Texas and Pacific that’s on their way to Californey. They’s scoutin’ the route for the railroad, and I heard tell they’s comin’ to Fort Worth.”

“You don’t say. When do you think they’ll get here?”

“I can’t say for sure, but they’ll be pullin’ into Dallas more’n likely by the end of the week.”

“The railroad is a’comin’, the railroad is a’comin’!” several of the children began to shout.

As Josie looked toward the coach, she wondered what had caused all the excitement.

“Good morning, Josie,” John Jennings said, touching the brim of his hat. “Do you know if Paddock is upstairs?”

Paddock was Buckley Paddock, publisher and editor of the Fort Worth Democrat, the town’s only newspaper. Paddock’s office was on the second floor over Laclede’s grocery store.

“I’m sure he is, Mr. Jennings,” Josie said. “I haven’t seen him this morning, but I’ve heard him moving around up there. What’s going on? What’s all the excitement?”

“The most wonderful news you can imagine. The railroad is coming to town.”

“The railroad?”

“Yes, ma’am, the Texas and Pacific. I’m sure you know that a lot of town folks have been trying to get this; now it looks like it’s actually going to happen. You and your pa better get ready for a lot more business. This town is going to start growing like a weed.”

Shreveport, Louisiana—July 1872

Gabriel Corrigan stood on the platform waiting for the incoming train that would bring Colonel Thomas Scott to Shreveport. Colonel Scott, his immediate superior, was coming to congratulate Gabe on a successful business endeavor that had brought the bankrupt Southern Pacific Railroad under the name of the Texas and Pacific Railway. Gabe had been in Shreveport for the past several weeks, enlisting the help of Loomis Galloway, a former Confederate general. Galloway had helped him find those bankers and investors who would relinquish their rights to the Southern Pacific.

Marthalee Galloway, the general’s daughter, approached Gabe then.

“Captain Corrigan,” she said in a soft Southern drawl, as she pinned a flower to the lapel of his jacket. “When you welcome Colonel Scott to Shreveport, Father”—in her sultry accent the word sounded like fawthuh—“wants you to inform the colonel that he stands ready to provide any help you might need in building your railroad.”

“I’ll tell him that, Marthalee.”

He had met the general’s daughter on the first day he arrived in Shreveport. With long red hair and green eyes, she was a lovely and effervescent woman. Gabe had never met anyone more vivacious, or more beautiful, and she had done much to make his stay in Shreveport pleasant.

But lately, he was beginning to have an uneasy feeling about their relationship. She seemed to be getting more and more possessive. If he had to describe it, he would say that it was cloying.

“Oh, Gabe, darling. Isn’t it exciting? Standing on the platform of your very own railroad?”

“I’m afraid Colonel Scott may find a little fault with you assigning this railroad to me, when he is the one who paid the receivers one hundred and fifty thousand dollars of his own money.”

“You’re just being modest. We both know he wouldn’t own this railroad if it had not been for you and my father.” Marthalee took his arm and began clutching it to her chest, rubbing her barely covered breasts against it. With embarrassment, Gabe glanced toward General Galloway, who was just coming toward them.

“My boy, you’ve got to get used to these Southern belles. They’ll sing your praises, even if you won’t do it for yourself,” General Galloway said, removing an unlit cigar from his mouth.

Then the oncoming train blew a whistle announcing its approach. Gabe disentangled himself from Marthalee and stepped toward the arriving train as it roared into the station, gushing steam and spilling glowing cinders from the firebox. The driver wheels were three-quarters as high as Gabe was tall, and the train was so heavy that it shook the very ground.

Shortly after it came to a stop and sat there wreathed in escaping steam, the passengers started detraining. A man stepped down to be greeted by a woman, apparently his wife, who ran across the platform to take him in her arms. An older couple stepped off the train and stood there for a moment as if confused over what they should do next. Then a striking gentleman, whom Gabe knew to be twenty years older than his own twenty-nine years, disembarked. Gabe smiled, for that was Colonel Thomas Scott.

“Welcome to Shreveport,” Gabe said as he extended his hand to Colonel Scott.

“A job well done,” Colonel Scott said, shaking Gabe’s hand and clasping his shoulder. “And who, pray tell, is this beautiful lady?”

“You, of course, know General Galloway,” Gabe said, indicating the general. “This is Miss Galloway. Marthalee, this is Colonel Scott.”

“I am charmed, sir,” Marthalee said as she curtsied to the colonel.

“Tom. Call me Tom.”

“Why, thank you. I’m sure you and I will become very fast friends, and I will be honored to address you, my future husband’s superior, by your first name.”

“Really! Well, now, Gabe, I didn’t know congratulations were in order. I can see that you have chosen a beautiful woman to be your wife, and that is a business asset that cannot be overlooked. Isn’t that right, General Galloway?”

“When Marthalee told me of this young man’s plans for her, I was a little apprehensive, but I’ve decided he can be a damn Yankee if he’s a rich damn Yankee,” General Galloway said with a chuckle. “I’ve even decided to make him the junior senator from the state of Louisiana if he plays his cards right.”

“But, but…” Gabe was speechless. What was happening to him? He had no intention of even living in Louisiana, let alone being the state’s senator. And marry this woman? What was that about? Gabe had to admit he had enjoyed Marthalee’s company, and he had taken more liberties with her than perhaps was considered proper, but he could testify that this dalliance had not been her first.

“Gabe, darling, isn’t it exciting? We can be married while Colonel Scott—Tom—is here in Shreveport.”

“Oh my dear, has Gabe not told you why I am here? He and I are taking the maiden run to Longview on the newly christened Texas and Pacific Railway. Governor Throckmorton is going to join us there for a cross-country trip that will take us all the way to San Diego. I want to see exactly where this railroad of mine is going to go.”

“Yes, that’s right,” Gabe said. “I’m sorry. I won’t be able to marry—”

“That’s nonsense, my boy. Why, while you’re gone, Marthalee can plan the biggest wedding Caddo Parish has ever seen. We’ll invite everybody who is anybody in the whole state of Louisiana, and, hell, we’ll throw in politicians from Arkansas and Texas to boot. They may as well get to know you if you’re going to be a politician, son. You’ll be here, won’t you, Colonel?”

“I wouldn’t miss it,” Colonel Scott said. He looked back toward the train. “Oh, here’s John.”

“John?” Gabe said.

“John Forney, editor of the Philadelphia Chronicle. I invited him to make the trip with us.” Colonel Scott smiled broadly. “We need people to know that there is more to Texas than the Gulf Coast, and I figure a few good articles can prime the pump. There’s no money to be made from a railroad if there are no people to serve.”

The Texas and Pacific Railway train, appropriately pulled by a 4-4-0 locomotive named Scott, would make the trip from Shreveport to Longview in a little less than three and one-half hours. Gabe stared through the window as he thought about Marthalee Galloway and her determination that they get married.

This trip to the Pacific Coast and back would take over two months, and maybe a little longer. Three months of cooling off. He was sure that in that time a woman such as Marthalee, impetuous, aggressive, and free-spirited, would forget all about him. He made a silent vow to write not one letter to her in the whole time of his absence. Out of sight, out of mind. He smiled. There was nothing to be worried about. He was certain that Marthalee was not the kind of woman who could be kept waiting.

“Why are you smiling?” Colonel Scott asked.

“Because I am here, part of the beginning of history in the making,” Gabe replied, not wanting to even mention Marthalee’s name.

When they reached Longview, the three men left the train. The engine in the background was still but not quiet, emitting loud sighs as the pressure-relief valves made rhythmic releases of steam, almost as if it were a living creature breathing hard from its recent exertion. Overheated bearings and journals popped and snapped as they cooled.

A man stepped down to be greeted by a little girl who ran across the platform, her arms wide, calling, “Daddy!”

“Gabe!” called a distinguished-looking gentleman with chin whiskers and a pinched face as he stepped away from the small group of townspeople who met the train.

“Governor Throckmorton, it’s good of you to meet us.”

James Throckmorton had been brought on board the Texas and Pacific venture at Gabe’s suggestion. The former Texas governor still had tremendous political influence among the state legislators and enjoyed a lot of support from the citizens. Gabe thought if the T&P needed it, the governor’s popularity could sway public opinion in their favor.

Gabe had telegraphed ahead to make arrangements for a private stagecoach to meet them at the depot in Longview. It would be at least a three-day trip to Dallas, then another day on to Fort Worth, the only two towns of any size that the group would encounter as they made their way across West Texas and on to San Diego.

Colonel Scott’s ambition was to construct another transcontinental railroad, this one across the South, where his main selling point was the advantage of better weather year-round.

“I thought you arranged a coach for us, Gabe. What happened to it?” Colonel Scott asked as he and John Forney joined Gabe and Governor Throckmorton.

At that moment a coach, pulled by six horses, came driving up. The coach was painted red, and on its side, in big gold letters, were the words TEXAS AND PACIFIC RAILWAY.

“I believe that is it,” Gabe said.

Scott and the others laughed. “I should never doubt you, Captain Corrigan. I would stake my life on you getting done whatever it is I ask of you. I like it.”

“I thought you would. We may as well let people know who we are.”

“Tell me, Mr. Corrigan, if you ever tire of working for this moneygrubbing railroad tycoon, would you consider coming to work for me at the Chronicle? I could use a good advertising man,” John Forney said. “This is a good idea. No, it’s a great idea!”

“Stay away from my main man, Forney, or I’ll send you right back to Philadelphia before we even start this trip,” Tom said.

“You can’t do that, because we both know you need my articles to sell this crackbrained idea of yours.”

It had taken quite an effort on Gabe’s part to get the coach, but he prided himself on his resourcefulness and his persuasiveness. He had made arrangements with Wells Fargo to provide replacement teams, replacement drivers, food, and some sort of lodging—even if it meant pitching a tent—for the entire fifteen-hundred-mile trip to California.

As the coach got under way, the men returned to conversation. “Disabuse yourself, Governor, of the notion that you are the only politician aboard. Captain Corrigan here could be the next senator from Louisiana,” Colonel Scott said.

“Really? You didn’t mention that, Gabe,” Governor Throckmorton replied.

“I think Colonel Scott is putting the cart before the horse,” Gabe said.

“Not too far before it. As soon as you marry Marthalee, I’ve no doubt you’ll be made a Louisiana senator.” Then, to Throckmorton, Scott explained, “Gabe’s fiancée is the daughter of General Loomis Galloway.”

“Ah, yes,” Throckmorton said. “I know the general quite well. And I know what political influence he has in the Louisiana legislature.” He stuck his hand out. “I know that congratulations are premature, my boy. But if you marry the general’s daughter—”

“Who is one of the most beautiful women I have ever seen,” Scott interrupted.

“—then you are truly to be congratulated,” Throckmorton continued.

Gabe smiled at the governor, not wanting to give credence to this scenario by refuting the suggestion or accepting it.

“I’m all for it. With all the stink of Crédit Mobilier, we are going to need all the influence and goodwill we can muster in Congress. Right now, it’s the devil’s own task to get any railroad money from them,” Colonel Scott said, making known his own reason for promoting the marriage.

As the coach continued on its journey, Gabe stared out the window, oblivious to the conversation going on among the other three. He had only met Marthalee a few months earlier when the T&P had acquired the Southern Pacific Railroad, which ran between Shreveport and Longview. He had gone to Shreveport to inventory the stock and supervise the takeover. Why hadn’t he just tended to business?

Fort Worth, Texas—July 1872

Fort Worth was known as a cow town, not because it had so many cows of its own, but because it was the last town of any consequence where cowboys driving cattle could reprovision and raise a little hell before entering Indian Territory. The cows trailed through Fort Worth, entering through the south end of town, where the Chisholm Trail became Rusk Street, following the street through town, then crossing the Trinity River just east of the Courthouse Bluff.

Once the cows were across the river, the drovers would rest their herds for a few days, during which time they would return to Fort Worth. Not only would they stock up on supplies—coffee, flour, beans, dried fruit, and bacon, among other items they would need before crossing the Nations—they would enjoy whatever pleasures the town had to offer.

Being a focal point on the cattle drives was a two-edged sword for Fort Worth. Everyone depended on the business the cattle herds brought, not just the saloons and brothels. Grocery stores such as the one owned by Henri Laclede, leather and boot shops, gunsmiths, all commercial enterprises were enriched by the money brought in by the cowboys and cattlemen. On the other hand, when the cattle came through town, they had the absolute right of way. All horses, carriages, and pedestrians had to be off Rusk Street for up to an hour as up to fifteen hundred cows passed through. Mounted cowboys herded the cattle, and if nothing spooked them, all went well.

“Won’t they ever get through?” Buckley Paddock said, the tone of his voice showing his irritation as he watched a herd of cattle ambling down the street raising a cloud of dust. “Let’s hope the railroad people aren’t trying to get here right now.”

“Be of good cheer, Buck,” Henri Laclede said. “You know that without the cows, there’d be no reason for Fort Worth to be here and no reason to even get a railroad. And if there was no Fort Worth, where would your newspaper be?”

Outside, the sound of the passing herd and the whistles and shouts of the cowboys continued to fill the streets.

“Where are we going to hold the meeting?” Paddock asked.

“We’re going to hold it right here, in my store,” Henri said. “Khleber Van Zandt, Ephraim Daggett, J. J. Jennings, Judge Hendricks, John Peter Smith—all of them know to come here.”

“Assuming the cows get out of the way,” Paddock said.

When the leading businessmen of the city began to gather, the noise had diminished somewhat because the herd was now considerably farther up Rusk Street, though the bawling, snorting, and whistles could still be heard.

“Are we sure they’re coming?” Judge Hendricks asked. “Our only confirmation is what the stagecoach hearsay tells us, and we all know how Dooley likes to spin yarns.”

“It’s real,” Paddock said. “My newspapers from Austin and Galveston came on today’s stage, and both say there’s a T&P delegation coming. And then there’s the Waco paper. Those folks are still bellyaching because they think the road should pass through McLennan County.”

“Do we know just who it is that’s supposed to be coming?” Khleber Van Zandt asked.

“Well, you can’t get any higher up than the president of the company. They say Colonel Thomas Scott is coming and he’s bringing someone named Gabriel Corrigan. He’s supposed to be an ‘executive administrator,’ but I’ll just bet he’s some horse-holding flunky for the colonel.” Buck Paddock paused for a moment. “And John Wien Forney is coming, too.”

“And what do we know about him?” Henri coaxed.

“Well, I hate to admit it, but he’s probably one of the best newspaper columnists in the country.”

“Don’t sell yourself short, Buck. Since you took over the Democrat, we’ve got a fine newspaper the whole town can be proud of,” Van Zandt said.

“Thank you, sir,” Paddock said. “I’ve saved the best for last. All of us will be happy to see our old friend Governor Throckmorton.”

“Good.” Jennings said. “If you agree with the man or not, and most of us didn’t when he voted against secession, everybody knows the former governor stands on principle, and he’ll do what he thinks is best for Texas. I guess it can’t hurt that Fort Worth named a street after him.”

“We should have a gala reception and invite the whole town. Maybe even have a dance.”

The men as one turned toward the unexpected source of the comment.

“Josie, this is a meeting for men only, and it is most inappropriate for you to be caught eavesdropping. Gentlemen, I apologize for my daughter’s interruption,” Henri said. “Don’t you have business to attend to at the counter?”

Josie lowered her head. “I’m sorry, Papa.” She turned toward the front of the store.

“Josie, no, don’t go, let’s hear what you have to say,” Major Van Zandt said with a chuckle. “After all, gentlemen, didn’t we read just last week that the Equal Rights Party has chosen a woman to run for president? So we all better get used to listening to the women whether we want to or not.”

“A woman? For president of the United States?” Daggett asked. “I’ve not heard that.”

“Khleber is right,” Paddock said. “Victoria Woodhull is running for president.”

“Oh, that woman. I’ll bet ole Grant is shaking in his boots over her entering the race,” Jennings said.

Josie had read about Victoria Woodhull and her sister. Newspapers called them “the lady brokers of No. 44 Broad Street” when they were being nice, and “prostitutes” when they were being nasty. Josie blushed in embarrassment at the thought of being compared to such women.

“Just a minute, Josie, I’m serious,” Van Zandt called out. “The reception and dance seems like a good idea. What do you have in mind?”

Josie looked at her father before she answered, and with a smile, he nodded.

“I would say that we clean the first floor of the courthouse, decorate it with bunting, and paint a few signs that say WELCOME TEXAS AND PACIFIC. I’m sure we can get the band to play, and we can have a square dance. We’ll get the word out to Birdville and Johnson’s Station for sure and maybe even as far away as Grapevine, so we’ll have a big crowd. With that many people here, the railroad folks will see that Fort Worth and the whole area really are interested in having the line come through our town. And more important to them, it will show that we have a big enough population so that if they do decide on us, they’ll know they can make the road profitable.”

“You’ve been hiding this young woman in plain sight, Henri. She makes a lot more sense than many of us do, and with the head for business she seems to have, why, who knows?” Van Zandt said.

“And,” Jennings suggested, getting into the spirit of the event, “we could charge a fee and use the money for a special fund to be used by the town in preparing for the railroad.”

“No, no fee. That might leave some people out. I think everyone should be welcome,” Josie said.

“Josie is right,” Van Zandt said. “If we put you in charge, will you get some ladies to help decorate the courthouse?”

“I can do that.”

“How long do you think it will take you to get it ready?”

“If we start right away and work in the morning, we could have it done by noon tomorrow.”

“That sounds good, because we want to be ready anytime they get here. And, Josie, if you need to buy anything, come see me.”

“Thank you, Mr. Van Zandt.”

Late that afternoon Josie and four other women—Jenny Welch and her daughter, Hannah, Mary Daggett, and Mattie Van Zandt—were working on the first floor of the unfinished courthouse. The hard-packed dirt floor had been swept and the windows washed until they sparkled. The women hung swags of red, white, and blue bunting.

“The only thing left to do is hang the banner, and that has to be a job for you youngsters,” Mrs. Daggett said.

“I guess that means us, Josie,” Hannah said. “Some people think that an unmarried woman of twenty-one is a spinster, but these ladies call us youngsters.”

“Speak for yourself, I’m not twenty-one yet,” Josie said, and she smiled broadly.

“Until tomorrow, that is.”

“Girls, girls, let’s get this done,” Mrs. Van Zandt said, unfurling a large banner that read FORT WORTH WELCOMES THE TEXAS AND PACIFIC RAILROAD. MAY IT BRING PROSPERITY TO ALL

“I’m sure Ephraim will furnish a steer, if we can get someone to cook it,” Mrs. Daggett said.

“If the steer is butchered and prepared, Uncle Willie will cook it,” Josie said. “He’ll spit it over a fire. He does a wonderful job.”

“Will he cook it out behind the store?” Hannah asked.

“I suppose he will. Why do you ask?”

“Because the smell makes me so hungry.”

“Willie Lane does make the best barbecue in Fort Worth,” Mrs. Van Zandt said.

The women worked out the menu, each of them taking on the responsibility of preparing a dish and then finding others to help. Hannah and her mother would fix German potato salad; Mrs. Van Zandt, boiled eggs; Mrs. Daggett, a big pot of beans cooked with bacon and molasses; and Josie would bring Ida Lane’s fried peach pies.

“I’ll have someone deliver the steer today,” Mrs. Daggett promised.

“Thank you,” Josie said.

“Oh,” Hannah said, after her mother and the other two women left. “This is going to be so much fun!”

“Yes, it is,” Josie agreed.

“Have you ever ridden on a train?” Hannah asked.

“Yes, I have.”

“Is it frightening? I mean, don’t they go so very fast?”

“It isn’t frightening at all. Why, when you’re sitting inside the cars, it’s almost as if you are sitting in your very own parlor. The only difference is you get to see the countryside just passing by the window.”

“Oh! How wonderful that sounds!”

Josie and her father lived in quarters behind the grocery store. It was nearly dark when Josie walked out into the alley behind the building. Willie and another man had built a huge fire that had now burned down to glowing coals. Four huge quarters of beef were spitted over the coals, and Willie was carefully rotating one of the quarters.

“This seems like an awful lot of meat. How long will it take to cook?” Josie asked.

“It should be done by about noon tomorrow,” Willie answered.

“You mean you’ll have to be out here all night?”

“Yes, ma’am, but don’t you be worryin’ none about that, Miss Josie. Sam is here with me, and we brought us a bedroll. We’ll take turns cookin’ and sleepin’ all night long. Tomorrow, when the folks bite down into this, why, they are goin’ to say this is the best thing they’ve ever tasted.”

Josie laughed. “I don’t doubt it, Uncle Willie.”

Once, during the night, Josie got out of bed and pulled the curtain aside to look out through the back window. She saw someone basting the meat, which now was glistening in the light of the fire. As she crawled back into bed, she wondered if the people who would be enjoying the beef tomorrow would fully understand what had gone into preparing it for them.

About The Author

Sara Luck taught school in Alaska for six years, spending much of that time 200 miles north of the Arctic Circle. Married to a retired army officer (also a novelist), Sara and her husband live on the beach in Alabama with a Jack Russell terrier named Charley.

Product Details

  • Publisher: Gallery Books (April 12, 2014)
  • Length: 400 pages
  • ISBN13: 9781476787220

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