Black Rock: A Time For Love - Excerpt
Unedited - May differ from final version


Prologue


Texas, April 1846

Riding hard into the ranch yard, the rider jerked the horse to a stop in front of the ranch house. Opening the door, Joseph hurried across the porch and down the steps. The wind blew the Stetson off his head and across the yard. Ignoring the hat, he rushed to the man in the saddle. The horse was lathered and snorting from the hard ride.

“What is it, Slim? What’s happening?”

“Mr. Joe, you’d better come quick! The men were trying to get a piece of that black rock for the fireplace hearth like you told them and then this here storm came up sudden. One of the men walked up and disappeared inside of that stone!”

“What are you talking about? Have you lost your mind, man?”

“No, sir, I ain’t. I’m telling it just like I seen it. You need to come now!”

“Okay, saddle my horse. I’ll be right there.”

Joseph raced for his hat as it continued to dance across the hard earth. Retrieving it, he planted it firmly on top of his head and hurried into the house. He returned shortly, carrying a shotgun in the crook of his arm. Mounting the horse, Slim led from the stable, he rode fast across the green pasture, heading towards the black rock from which the ranch had taken its name.

Increasing in intensity, the ferocity of the storm nearly knocked them off their feet as they dismounted. Dazed, the crowd of men stood and stared at the monstrous black rock. Huge black clouds swirled overhead, making the day almost as dark as night. Joseph wondered if a twister was coming, but dismissed the idea. The air just didn’t feel right for a twister. Lightening flashed and concentrated itself directly overhead the great stone.

As Joseph watched, one of the ranch hands approached the stone and reached out to touch it. Joseph yelled into the wind for the man to stay back, but he either didn’t hear or couldn’t resist the pull of the rock. Joseph and the other men stared in horror, as the man was swallowed up and disappeared.

The black clouds were suddenly whisked away, replaced by the blue sky and soft breeze of a sunny April day. Silent and unmoving, the men tried to understand what had happened. Joseph shook his blonde head to dispel the fog that seemed to have settled there.

“Get that hunk of rock for the fireplace back to the ranch! And boys, I don’t want any of you coming near this stone in the future. Is that clear?”
Looking in terror at the black monster that had just devoured two of their companions, they readily agreed to never come near the place.

Joseph mounted his horse and rode slowly back toward the house, still not believing what he’d seen. Suddenly, he couldn’t wait to get home and discuss this horrible occurrence with the one person who could ease his mind, his wife, Martha. Kicking the horse to a run, he rode hard to the house. Dismounting, he tied the horse to the porch rail with shaking hands and ran into the house.

“Martha! Martha, where are you?” Joseph ran from room to room, frantically looking for her.

“Joe? What’s happened?” Martha rushed down the stairs. She’d never seen Joseph so upset.

“Martha, a horrible thing has happened.” Taking her arm he led her to the sitting room and pushed her onto the sofa.

“What, Joe? Tell me!” Her face pale, Martha clenched her hands in her lap, afraid of what he was going to say.

“I lost some men.” Joseph swallowed hard, not quite knowing how to tell her. “Honey, I know this will sound crazy, but two of my men disappeared into that big black rock.”

“Joseph! Land sakes, you scared me half to death. I thought something serious had happened. I ought to skin you alive, coming in here and telling me such a tale.”

“Look at me, Martha. Do I look like I’m joking? I’m dead serious. The rock just sort of dissolved and the men went right inside it and disappeared. I don’t understand it, but I’m telling you the truth.”
Martha eyed him doubtfully for a moment before deciding she’d better hear him out.

“Tell me everything.”

Joseph told her all he knew and Martha said it was best to try and keep it as quiet as possible.

“We don’t want people coming around here asking questions and accusing us of unthinkable things, Joe. It could cause us all kinds of trouble. So, don’t be saying anything to anyone and tell Slim to keep quiet.”

“What about the men? They saw too.”

“A few ranch hands may talk about it, but everyone will just assume they’d been hitting the spirits a little too hard. As long as we keep quiet, no one will think much of it. It’s for the best, Joe.”

“You’re right. We’ll keep it quiet.”

Joseph lost several good hands that day, in addition to the two that had disappeared inside the stone. The men refused to stay and work the ranch, saying it was cursed by the stone of the devil. Joseph didn’t blame them and although it had been a terrible sight to see the men disappear, he hoped it had more to do with God than the devil. Only time would tell.




Scheduled for release Jan. 2008 from The Wild Rose Press


Copyright Elizabeth Melton Parsons
All Rights Reserved