In September, 1879, five-year-old Jamie wakes up from her nap and sees her girlfriend Laura stripped naked and staked out on a hill by renegade whites. She sees her father tortured and her mother gang-raped. She jumps out of the back of the covered wagon and hides in the roots of a huge cottonwood blown over by a storm. In the morning, Jess sees thirteen naked bodies and follows tiny footprints. Jess finds Jamie and 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.”
Kristin was Jess’s one-true-love, but Kristin was sent east and married another man. Her husband divorced her for failure to produce an heir. She knows Jess wants children so she marries another 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. She will beg Jess to forgive her and take her as his mistress.
This is the story of how Jess, Jamie, and Kristin become a family after enduring trials and tribulations.