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Shedding God’s Light on his Broken Heart

Two strangers must marry to get away from their haunted pasts. Will they respond to God’s call and touch his Light with their union?

Father God, I don’t know if You meant for me to see that catalog as a sign, but that’s how I’ve interpreted it. I’m asking that You bless these letters that I intend to post first thing in the morning. I’m also laying a fleece before You. Whichever man responds first will be the man that You have chosen for me.”

When Emma realizes that her fiancé is a ruthless man who will not respect her as husbands do their wives before God, she flees out West. Getting married to the mysterious Joseph though, she just has too much in her plate. He’s always observant but silent and he approaches her only when he wants to. How can she show this scarred man that it was God’s plan to love him?

After he was backstabbed by his fiancé and best friend, Joseph has decided to live as a recluse. He accepts his sister’s idea for a mail-order bride though in order to finally have someone around to help with his ranch. Falling in love though with Emma isn’t in his plans. How can he let God’s voice talk to him and guide his heart when it’s just so easy to fall back to his old ways?

To become one heart and soul before God, Joseph and Emma must move mountains and run miles to meet each other halfway. Will they manage to create their own land of happiness?

Written by:

Christian Historical Romance Author

4.7/5

4.7 out of 5 (123 ratings)

Prologue

Frankfort, Kentucky

Spring, 1871

 

The door to the small sitting room attached to her bedroom opened, and twenty-one-year-old Emma Smith looked up from her needlepoint, a ready smile upon her face. She looked at the housekeeper Clara expectantly as she announced a visitor.

“Miss, Mr. Paul Andrews is here asking to speak with your father.”

“Paul is here?” Emma asked, setting the hoop containing her most recent project aside as the news of her fiancé’s arrival took her by surprise. “I wasn’t aware that he was going to be arriving until later this evening.” She stood up, unwanted nerves causing her to hesitate for a moment, and then she smoothed out her peach satin skirt. It wasn’t a practical sort of fabric for everyday wear, but then again, Emma’s days consisted of nothing that was likely to get the fabric the least bit dirty.

“Where is my father?” she asked the housekeeper.

“In his office, miss. I already let Mr. Smith know Mr. Andrews was asking for him,” Clara told her with a nod.

“Very well.” She glanced at the housekeeper and allowed herself a moment to remember the past. Clara had been with the Smith household since shortly after Emma’s beloved mother had succumbed to a bout with smallpox. At the age of seven, Emma herself had only gotten mildly sick and didn’t even have scars left behind. According to Clara, she’d been blessed by angels to have recovered from the dreadful disease unscathed. Emma wasn’t sure losing her mother made that true, but she wasn’t plagued by the visible scars and pitting that so many other young women her age wore as a reminder of their battle with the disease.

The dark-skinned mulatto woman was dressed in her usual dove-gray dress and white apron, with the white maid’s cap secured to her head, hiding her mostly white curly hair. It had once been black, but time had aged the housekeeper, and she now looked every bit of her forty-two years. Her dark eyes hid her feelings, as normal, but for some reason, the scars that marred one side of her neck seemed more prominent. Clara had gained the scars before coming to the Smith residence, and no matter how Emma had asked, the housekeeper had refused to tell her how she’d gotten injured. She simply told Emma to thank the good Lord above for giving her a beautiful face and a disposition to go along with it.

“I imagine it is almost time for afternoon tea?” she asked Clara.

“Yes, miss. I don’t believe your father has called for a tray yet,” Clara offered.

“Thank you. Please put together a tray with some of those little sandwiches you make so well,” she directed with a smile. “I will go down and let Father know.”

“Your father had me direct Mr. Andrews to the green sitting room,” Clara replied as she backed out of the bedroom and headed for the stairs.

Being from a very affluent Frankfort, Kentucky, family, Emma wanted for nothing and was able to spend her time volunteering at her local church, working with various children’s groups in the community, occasionally helping her father in his shop, and dreaming about the day when she would finally meet the love of her life and be able to start a family of her own.

That dream had dissipated like fog as the sun comes up when she turned twenty-one and her father decided to take the matter of her future into his own hands. With no prospects on the horizon and no one beating a path to the Smith front door to ask for Emma’s hand in matrimony, her father had played matchmaker and selected a young man who owned and operated a competing carpentry shop across town.

Paul Andrews was a catch according to her father and the gossip she’d overheard some of the ladies in the church sharing with one another. They’d even told her plainly that she was a very lucky young woman to have such a handsome and eligible young man preparing to stand up with her. He would be a good provider, he was well-liked in the community, and more than once Emma had caught other single young ladies watching him and then her with envy in their eyes.

Emma was a very quiet girl and not prone to fits of any kind. She believed those character traits came mostly from her late mother; however, her father had also taught her that a woman’s place was to be seen, not heard, and that the only thing she needed to concern herself with were household matters and children.

At first, Emma had been averse to the idea, but after meeting Paul and allowing him to court her for a short time, she’d begun to consider the match a possibility. Her father had listed his reasons for choosing Paul to be her future husband, and after several months, Emma had agreed to the match. Her father had been elated, and Emma had basked in his approval.

There was also the added bonus of being able to combine Paul’s company with her father’s. As the owner of the largest and most reputable carpentry business in the Frankfort area, her father had built a small empire that reached far beyond their small town. Paul wasn’t a direct competitor, as his skills and merchandise were different than her father’s, but by adding Paul’s carpentry skills and business to the Smith legacy, they would create a solitary enterprise in the growing community that was capable of meeting everyone’s needs under one roof. Combining the businesses would ensure the longevity and success of both men in the future.

All that was left was to complete the actual marriage ceremony. No date had been set as of yet, but several had been discussed. She wondered if that wasn’t the reason for Paul’s premature arrival. She looked forward to sharing with him her desire to have a fall wedding, when the oak trees were a rainbow of colors and the temperatures had cooled slightly.

Emma took a moment before leaving her bedroom to check her appearance, noting that her skirt was only minimally wrinkled from where she’d been sitting on it. She debated about taking the time to change into a fresh outfit but ultimately decided against doing so, as it would take too much time and she knew how irritated both her father and her fiancé could get when they were kept waiting.

She hurried from her room, her light brown curls bouncing around her face alight with happiness. Her olive-green eyes were very expressive, and as she started down the stairs, they were glowing with hope that her future with Paul would be a happy one. Theirs wasn’t a love match, but she hoped that genuine affection and respect for one another would grow into love one day in the near future. Even her own father and mother hadn’t been in love with one another when they’d gotten married. Her mother had shared that with her before she passed. Emma prayed daily that she would be as lucky as her parents and that she and Paul would have a marriage as happy as the one her parents had enjoyed for far too few years.

She met Clara coming from the kitchens with the laden serving tray balanced in her arms. Emma quickened her step to reach the door first and turned the knob, pushing the door open wide and then gesturing for the housekeeper to enter first.

“Please.” She waved Clara onward. “That tray looks very heavy.”

“‘Tis nothing, miss, but I do thank you.” Clara nodded her head and then carried the tray into the room.

Emma entered right behind her, offering the two occupants of the room a smile and slight curtsy by way of greeting. “Father, I took the liberty of asking Clara to prepare a tea tray.”

“Thank you, daughter. Paul came by early to discuss a few business things.”

“Good afternoon, Paul.” Emma greeted her soon-to-be husband with a soft smile. Paul was busy reading a sheaf of papers in his hands and barely glanced at her before murmuring a reply.

Emma tried not to let his dismissiveness sour her mood and instead followed Clara over to the sideboard and began to prepare a cup of tea for her father. Two lumps of sugar and just a dash of milk. She hesitated for only a moment when it came to preparing Paul’s cup, remembering a day just a few weeks earlier when she’d fixed him a cup of tea, identical to the one he’d requested the day before, only to find herself being berated for assuming to know his mind without asking.

Paul had flayed her open with his scathing words, not stopping until she was bright red in the face and couldn’t even look him in the eye. He’d gone on to recall the incident the rest of the day, continuing to embarrass her before his business associates, her father, and his friends. The incident had been repeated on a smaller scale several times since then, and now she was hesitant to presume anything when it came to Paul.

She glanced at him and could tell he was intent on whatever he was reading, and she decided to take another chance at getting his afternoon refreshment correct. She’d made the mistake of interrupting him once, and he’d reached out lightning fast and gripped her wrist hard enough to leave a bruise. His words had been hurtful and dismissive, but the next day when he’d caught a glimpse of his fingerprints on her pale skin, he’d apologized profusely for his response. He’d then gone on for several long moments to make sure she knew his business came first and she should practice the art of patience and sitting quietly, as being impertinent or interrupting him would not be tolerated. There had been a hint of a threat in his words, but Emma had tried to push it aside, sure that his fear of her father would keep him in check. She hoped to never have to put that to the test.

She looked at the tea tray and then did her best to remember how Paul had taken his tea the day before. Tea, no milk, and only one sugar cube. Confident that she had it right, she quickly prepared a cup for the men. She placed both cups on their saucers, added several of the delightful finger sandwiches to the plates, and then carried them carefully across the room.

“Father.” She placed the plate next to the chair he was sitting in and accepted his nod of appreciation.

She then turned and placed Paul’s plate on the table in front of him. “I hope I got your tea correct,” she said.

Paul glanced up and then looked at the plate. He lifted the cup to his mouth and took a cautious sip before sighing and nodding. “It will do. Not nearly enough sugar, but it will do.”

Emma inwardly sighed but sweetly offered, “Would you like me to fix you another cup?”

“No,” Paul answered, turning his attention back to the documents in his hands.

Emma stood for a moment, fighting back her hurt at his abrupt dismissal and lack of gratitude. Once she was sure she was in control, she headed back to the sideboard and fixed her own cup of tea. She glanced around the elegant room, named the green room, for the walls had been painted a dark-green color, with a slightly lighter shade of green used for the trim boards that decorated the walls in large rectangles and squares.

Rectangular carpets covered the polished floorboards, and the imported furnishings, covered with a gold-and-russet brocade fabric, brought a bit of lightness to room. A large stone hearth occupied one wall, while numerous picture windows with sophisticated draperies covered the opposite. In the corner, a pianoforte sat, a piece of music sitting on the stand, waiting for someone to play it. Emma loved music, and while she practiced often, she didn’t consider herself to be more than mediocre when it came to her ability to play complicated pieces.

Her mother had been a very accomplished musician, and it was in hopes of honoring her mother’s memory that Emma continued to practice even when her ears told her all was lost. While she was still stirring milk into the hot tea, she overheard Paul strike up a conversation with her father. She stayed where she was, not wanting to interrupt what was obviously a business conversation.

“These numbers will be sufficient to start with, but if we want to expand into the building industry as well, we’ll need to find a sawmill that will agree to work with us and no one else.”

“That might be somewhat difficult,” her father, David Smith, replied. “New buildings are going up at a remarkable rate, and I know for a fact that the Benson mill is supplying most of the builders with their materials. Convincing them to sell only to us won’t be easy.”

“You leave all of that to me,” Paul assured her father, sounding overly confident and smug. “After all, that’s why you chose to merge our two companies together. I can be very determined and am not against adding a little bit of pressure when it’s needed.”

Emma frowned and cocked her head to the side.

“Once we have things taken care of here in Frankfort, we can expand and push aside the small shops in nearby towns,” Paul continued, speaking in a voice Emma was coming to dread. It was harsh and cold, and no trace of the kind, considerate man she’d first met seemed to exist in it.

Her father cleared his throat and then interjected, “I don’t know how I feel about threatening other shop owners. Won’t our size and craftmanship speak for itself?”

Paul laughed and shook his head. “Don’t be so naïve. We have a deal, and I intend to make sure we grow so big that no one, not even the big companies back east, would dare to challenge us. After all, I’m the one making the sacrifice here. The least you can do is support my efforts to build us an empire no one can touch.”

Sacrifice? What sacrifice? He is marrying . . . Am I the sacrifice he’s talking about? Paul’s last statement was disturbing, and the words replayed in her head, and before she could consider the wisdom of her actions, her feet were carrying her over to join the conversation, her cup of tea forgotten on the sideboard. She stepped right between where her father was reclining and Paul was sitting.

“Excuse me, but I thought merging your company with my father’s was a perk of becoming my husband. I didn’t realize marrying me was merely a sacrifice you were making to build your business.” Emma wasn’t normally so brave or forward, and her voice shook as she finished speaking. The thought that Paul was only marrying her to gain access to her father’s wealth and connections, to further his own position and wealth, was demeaning and left her feeling very alone and betrayed. She was not a means to an end, and yet that’s exactly how she was beginning to feel.

Paul’s response was completely unexpected as he scoffed at her. “Think whatever you will, Emma, but the only reason I am agreeing to marry you is because of the opportunity merging our two companies presents. It was one I couldn’t pass up, and becoming your husband was a requirement your father wouldn’t budge on. So, yes, I am sacrificing myself to marry you. If you ask me, you’re getting a much better husband than you deserve.”

Emma felt like throwing up, the hurt Paul’s words caused was so great. In an instant, all of her dreams of one day having a marriage like her parents’ were gone, and before her lay a chasm of emptiness she couldn’t even fathom facing. Paul didn’t even seem as if he liked her, let alone have any sort of respect for her or her feelings.

She had a flashback of the first time she’d been introduced to Paul and how solicitous and circumspect he’d been. A true gentleman. He’d done everything he could to help put her shy self at ease, filling the awkward silences with small talk and questions designed to bring her out of her shell. It had worked, and before long, she’d looked forward to spending time with the man who managed to turn every unattached female’s head. Emma had even allowed herself a few moments of pride at having become the envy of other girls her age instead of being the one they secretly whispered about behind their fans. Of course, being the good Christian girl she was, she’d almost immediately felt guilty and prayed for forgiveness.

But those days seemed so far away now. Paul had changed. It had been subtle at first, his impatience and scathing remarks reserved for moments when they didn’t have an audience. But in the last few weeks, he’d begun to show the ugly side of himself out in public, going so far as to make her out to be a fool and imbecile. Emma had been shocked the first time it had happened, trying to excuse away his behavior on stress at his work or poor health. Emma had tried to be gracious and had done her best to be supportive and a biddable sort of woman. She’d seen her mother defuse situations by doing the same, but she’d also seen her mother stand up and fight for herself when the situation demanded it.

Emma quickly tried to imagine what her mother might have done in this same circumstance, and she knew her mother wouldn’t have allowed things to continue. She would have gathered her courage and been strong enough to stand up for her own future happiness. Emma was her mother’s daughter, and although she’d never confronted such a situation before—including going against her father’s wishes—she knew she had to speak now, or she would end up regretting it for the rest of her life.

She straightened her spine, doing her best to try and hide what she was feeling on the inside. She kept her expression neutral and her fisted hands buried in the folds of her skirt. “You’re marrying me because of my father’s business? That’s the only reason?” she asked, swallowing the threat of tears she felt at the back of her throat.

“Are you having trouble hearing today?” Paul asked, shaking his head in both disbelief and dismissal of her words.

Emma stared at him a moment longer and then turned to her father. “Could I speak with you for a moment?” she asked him, clasping her hands in front of her waist to keep them from shaking. She was acting on instinct, and everything inside of her was telling her that something was very wrong with this betrothal. One she had no intention of going through with after today.

Her father looked at her and then at Paul before addressing her. “Whatever you need to say can be spoken here, daughter. After all, in just a few weeks’ time, Paul will be your lawful husband.”

“A few weeks? But—we haven’t agreed upon a date yet.” Emma shook her head.

“Don’t worry yourself about that,” Paul stated from behind her. “You just put something pretty on and show up at the church at the appointed time. Your father and I can handle the rest.”

Emma shook her head in denial and turned to face the man she’d once thought might make a good husband after they got used to one another. Paul Andrews was nothing like the man he pretended to be. He wasn’t kind, he was controlling. He wasn’t generous, he was narcissistic. His recent actions and today’s statements were showing her how unlikely even friendship with the man would be.

Holding her head high, she met his eyes and stated her case plainly. “I believe since this is my wedding, I have every right to be concerned about where and when it will take place.”

Paul surged to his feet, the papers in his hands landing haphazardly on the table before him. “And I just told you that you didn’t need to concern yourself with the details.” His voice was cold and mean and sent a shiver up her spine, and yet she refused to be cowed. This was her future, and she would be a part of planning it.

If Mother were here, she would fight for my future. How can I do anything less?

“I believe I’ll take that new cup of tea after all.” He nodded toward the sideboard, trying to dismiss her like he would one of the hired servants.

Emma resisted the urge to back up, as he was now only a foot away from her, and she shook her head in denial of his request. She tipped her chin up and once again met his eyes. “We are not finished discussing—”

She didn’t have time to react as Paul’s hand lashed out, backhanding her sharply across the left cheek. The force of the impact knocked her backward, and she stumbled as she struggled to stay upright. At the same time, she cried out in alarm, and her hand automatically rose to cover her throbbing cheek, feeling the stickiness of blood as it quickly covered her palm.

“I told you we were done discussing this issue, but you didn’t listen,” Paul hissed at her. He looked down at his hand and made a deliberate action to straighten the large ring he insisted on wearing as an emblem of his wealth and status. He calmly withdrew a handkerchief from his breast pocket and wiped a few splatters of her blood from the back of his hand before folding it in half and tucking it into his trouser pocket. He raised his head and looked at her, then pointed to his chest as he clarified for her. “I will make the decisions in our marriage, and you will simply be the dutiful wife and quietly go along with them.” Paul’s voice was colder than she’d ever heard it before, and it sent a chill through her entire body. His eyes were glaring at her as he looked her up and down before shaking his head and waving her away.

Emma stumbled backward as fear and a sense of helplessness threatened to consume her. Her wish to be strong and fight for her future began to weaken in the face of Paul’s anger and physical attack. Looking for support, she turned to her father for help. “Father?” She tried to swallow back her tears, but they fell anyway. Her father initially looked concerned, but when she took a small step toward him, looking for the comfort that only he could give, he recoiled. He’d always been her champion, even though his view on what was appropriate for a young lady was slightly old-fashioned. Her mother had been a quiet wife, biddable, always seeing to her husband’s needs first, and Emma had tried to follow in her footsteps. Initially, her father had doted on her, but as she’d grown older, the tables had turned, and she’d taken to looking after him.

Paul cleared his throat from behind her, and she watched as her father’s eyes darted to a position just over her shoulder before turning away from her distress and ignoring the fact that she stood just a few feet in front of him. She felt as if the entire world had abandoned her. Whatever strength she’d been trying to borrow from her mother’s memory fled, leaving her shaken and defeated.

“Go clean yourself up before you bleed all over your father’s expensive rug. It’s time you started to learn your place in this marriage.” Paul gave her a scathing look and then picked up his discarded papers and sat back down.

Emma didn’t need a second invitation to leave the room and bolted toward the door, giving her father one last opportunity to come to her aid but knowing he’d firmly placed his allegiance with Paul when they began discussing plans as if nothing untoward had happened.

She raced for the stairs, quietly crying in both emotional distress and pain as the cut on her cheek continued to throb and bleed. She had one foot on the stairs when Clara came out of the kitchen and spied her.

“Miss, whatever has occurred?” Clara rushed to her side, pulling her apron from her waist and using it to try and stop the flow of blood from Emma’s cheek. “Come into the kitchen and let me see to your injury.”

Emma allowed herself to be guided to a chair at the large countertop where the family’s meals were prepared. Clara quickly produced a clean cloth, and after soaking it in some warm water, she held it to Emma’s cheek and then brushed a hand over her hair. “What happened?”

Emma shook her head, her heart hurting too badly to put into words how far away from her dreams her world had just spun. She mentally berated herself for not having recognized the signs earlier. Since agreeing to marry Paul, she’d noticed lots of changes in his behavior, both with her and with others. He was often short-tempered and critical of those who worked for him, and he seemed to find pleasure in finding things wrong with how Emma comported herself.

Clara removed the cloth and then probed around the small cut for several moments.

“How bad is it?” Emma whispered through her tears.

Clara glanced at her and went back to her task, murmuring, “It’s right across your cheekbone. It’s only real deep in one small place, just under your eye.” She made a tsking sound and then shook her head before declaring, “I don’t think you need stitches, but this is going to leave a scar for sure. Did you fall against something?”

Emma was too ashamed to tell her that her fiancé had struck her and his ring had caught her cheek, cutting it open. She was even more ashamed to admit, even silently, that her own father had witnessed this action and done and said nothing to support her. It was heartbreaking on more than one level. Like someone lighting a match, Emma suddenly was sure she knew why Clara never wanted to talk about her own scars. Talking about them only made them worse, and to talk about them years after they occurred would be like reliving whatever caused them all over again. She had a new appreciation for the housekeeper and silently vowed never to ask about the woman’s scars again.

“I just need to be more careful.” Emma gave a small, rueful smile, immediately wincing at the pain as she silently prayed the housekeeper would accept her answer and ask no further questions. Her hope was granted, as Clara nodded and then reached for a basket of medical supplies she kept beneath the long countertop.

She produced a small square of gauze and then used two pieces of tape to secure it to Emma’s cheek. “This should keep the cut clean and dry while it heals, but if it starts to hurt worse or you notice any swelling, you’ll need to go visit Doc in town,” Clara advised her.

“I’m sure it will be fine. I think I’ll go lie down for a bit,” Emma told her. She wished she could retire to her bedroom and stay there for the duration of Paul’s visit, but given recent events, she was scared of what he might do if she refused to join them for dinner.

“Shall I call you when dinner is served?” Clara inquired.

“Yes, please. I’ll wish to change before then.” Emma looked down at the once-beautiful beige blouse with the small peach roses appliqued on the collar and down the front placket. “I’m afraid this is now ruined.”

“I’ll do my best to get the blood out. Just change into something else and leave it on the stool by your door. I’ll send one of the girls up to get it shortly.”

Emma nodded and then wished she’d not. Her cheek was throbbing in time with her heartbeat, and she felt like crying all over again. “I’ll do that. Thank you again, Clara.”

“No thanks necessary, miss. Get some rest, and you’ll feel more yourself by the time dinner is served.”

Emma nodded dutifully, silently acknowledging that there was nothing that would make dinner with her father and fiancé seem normal after what had just transpired. She left the kitchen, taking the stairs quickly and entering her bedroom. She shut the door and then collapsed on the bed, her tears flowing freely now.

God, I thought Paul and I could have a good marriage, but how can I possibly consider marrying a man who hits me? And he wants to get married in a just a few weeks! What am I going to do?

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