In September, 1879, five-year-old Jamie is on her way with her family in a wagon train going from Granada to Santa Fe. They left Cincinnati by train so her father can go to Santa Fe for his health and set up a brewery. Jamie hears rifle shots and screams and wakes up from her nap and sees her eleven-year-old girlfriend Laura stripped naked and staked out on a hill by renegade whites. She sees Laura's father dead on the ground. Jamie sees her father tortured and her mother gang-raped. Jamie is terrified. Jamie grabs her pink blankie, jumps barefoot out of the back of the covered wagon, crawls away from the massacre, and hides in the roots of a huge cottonwood blown over by a storm. Jess is on his way home to Pueblo, Colorado to take part in the big poker game at the end of September. He was the big winner last year and is obligated to be there again this year. He left New Orleans and heads back to Colorado by way of Texas. Jess sees the smoke from a burning wagon. Jess thinks marauding Indians may be to blame. He hides and keeps watch. In the morning, Jess sees evidence that seven other wagons have been stolen from the thirteen scalped and naked bodies. Four women and an eleven-year-old girl have been stripped naked, raped, scalped, and mutilated. Jess is sickened by the sight but investigates anyway. Jess sees tiny footprints and follows them as far as they go. Then he rides his horse in circles looking for the missing child. Jess finds the terrified Jamie among the roots of the tree. Jess sits down nearby and sings nursery rhymes until Jamie comes out of her hiding place and curls up in his lap. Jamie says, Daddy, I thought you were dead. Jess becomes Jamie's father because he doesn't kw what else to say to the terrified Jamie. Jess loves Jamie as his own little girl the moment Jamie calls him Daddy. Since Jamie is afraid to be left alone, Jess takes Jamie everywhere on his back, like a papoose while Jess buries the thirteen naked bodies. Jess plans to take Jamie to Cincinnati to get evidence against the wagon master who was the leader of the renegade whites who murdered Jamie's parents. Nine years ago, Kristin was Jess's one-true-love. Kristin loved to be touched and kissed by Jess, but Kristin wasn't as sure about the meaning of love as Jess was. Jess and Kristin get caught in a sw storm. The next day Kristin's father finds them. They were in bed together to keep warm. Her father sends Kristin away to school in Philadelphia. Jess and Kristin write to each other for six years. Kristin finishes high school and college in Philadelphia. And Kristin falls in love with ather man who will t kiss or hug Kristin until after they are married. Kristin comes home to Colorado and tells Jess. Jess cries and they spend ather night together making love without intercourse. Then Kristin goes back east and marries the other man and discovers that her husband never kisses and hugs. All he wants is for her to have his children. She tells Jess about it in a letter, but she doesn't believe in divorce so she will stay married to this other man. Jess is a drunk for two years before settling down and becoming Pueblo's best gambler which gets him an invitation to participate in the annual poker game with the wealthy men of Pueblo. He wins and goes to New Orleans. After three and a half years of marriage, Kristin's husband annuls his marriage to Kristin because she failed to produce an heir. Kristin goes home to Colorado but she kws Jess wants children so she marries ather man rather than be a burden to Jess. But her second husband is worse than the first. So Kristin goes home to her parents and waits for Jess. Kristin will beg Jess to forgive her and take her as his mistress. Even if he marries someone else, Kristin will be his mistress if Jess will have her. This is the story of how Jess, Jamie, Kristin, and Molly become a family after enduring trials and tribulations.