The Captive is the story of the red headed Bridget O'Keefe, a twelve year old Irish immigrant, the daughter of Irish immigrant farmers, captured in an Indian raid on her family's farm. A raid which saw her father savagely scalped and butchered and her mother abused, before being butchered. Hiding in the outhouse, Bridget is discovered by Running Bear, the Lakota Sioux Chief's brother and a himself a powerful man in the tribe. He binds her hands behind her and throws her across his horse's back. As he rides off. the last thing Bridget sees is her house in flames, the flames that were her parent's funeral pyre.
Bridget is carried into captivity and slavery by Running Bear, abused and beaten by his two wives. She is forced to do every menial tasks Running Bear's wives order her to do. She sleeps in the teepee of Running Bear's two wives. Bridget's life in the Lakota Sioux village is one of pain, torture and abuse.
Word of the captured red haired white woman circulates over the plains by word of mouth from trapper to another. Tom Roberts, a winter trapper and a farmer the rest of the year hears the story of the woman. One of his last stops of his trapping season is to Running Bear's village. Running Bear and Tom Roberts became blood brothers when Tom saved the Indian's life from a mountain lion attack and could talk freely and honestly.
Tom discovers the red haired woman, now sixteen years old, is in Running Bear's village, in his wives' teepee. Tom agrees to buy the woman from him. Tom returns with the agreed upon price and he and the red haired woman leave for his farm in the Dakota Territory.
Four years of captivity for the now sixteen year old girl left deep, indelible scars on her psyche as well as her body. The only people she truly trusted, per parents, were murdered by her captors. Now she trusts no one. She found herself alone in a hostile and life threatening existence with no friends and a village of people who would rather see her dead. Even at twelve years old she knew the only person she could trust was herself provided, she could stay alive. Even at her tender age she knew the only way she had any chance of staying alive was to do everything anyone demanded of her.
After all of the being forced to do whatever she had been forced to do to survive, Tom has the inevitable task of convincing Bridget to trust him; not an easy task for a young girl who trusts nobody. Tom had to find a way to get the abused teenager to trust him not to cause her more pain.
Tom's cabin reminds Bridget of her parents farmhouse and set off a flood of memories and tears. In addition to Bridget's lack of trust is her feeling of self worthlessness, her feeling she is the lowest of the low for being held captive and surviving her captivity.
Bridget lives with Tom as cousins for six years. Part of the time disguised as her brother, Breandan, before nature developed Bridget's feminine figure. They come up with a ruse where Breandan goes back to Ireland and his sister, Bridget, comes to America.
As the years passed, Bridget's trust grows but Tom realizes Bridget feel she's unworthy of finding happiness. With Tom's patients and Bridget's finally coming to grips with her past in the reality of her only two options at the time, life or death. She chose life at whatever the cost.
Over the years of their living together as friends, Bridget realized she had worth to someone, to Tom Roberts. That she was somebody who wanted more from her new life.