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A Divine Love Out of the Embers

She has survived fire and brimstone. He has seen War. Can a marriage of convenience cure their wounds and redirect their hearts to God’s ever-present Light?

“Mount Sinai was covered with smoke, because the LORD descended on it in fire. The smoke billowed up from it like smoke from a furnace, and the whole mountain trembled violently.” Exodus 19:18

Alice has grown up with her Godless and abusive father in an isolated village. When push comes to shove, she finds the courage to respond to a mail-order bride ad and she flees out West. Getting married to a grumpy rancher though and taking care of a deserted ranch was not what she wanted. How can she find peace in God’s plan and let go of her fear to trust when her husband is just so stubborn?

Samuel has witnessed the ills of war and he stills carries those scars with him. To tie the knot with a stranger who fears his eyes and touch is a great challenge. Yet, getting to know Alice, he realizes that the woman has lived through hell and only God’s word was her safe haven. How can he approach this one-of-a-kind woman when he’s also afraid of Lord’s judgement?

To purge their past lives, Alice and Samuel need to have trust in God’s Light for it will find them wherever they are. How can they reveal their deep love for each other when Alice’s past catches up on her?

Written by:

Christian Historical Romance Author

4.6/5

4.6 / 5 (290 ratings)

Prologue

Sanders Ranch, Dakota Territory

1862

The flames in the fireplace danced beautifully when Alice Sanders opened her eyes. She knew they were fortunate to have a fireplace in their bedroom, one of the many blessings God had given her family over the years. Blinking, Alice took in the display before her, and just for a second, she thought she’d dreamt the scream. She had vivid dreams sometimes. The kind that haunted her even after she woke.

Alice clutched Molly, the ragdoll her sister Martha made for her thirteenth birthday the previous month. She knew she was too old for a doll, but it was a comfort. She’d just closed her eyes when—

“Leave, Daniel. We do not want you here,” her mother’s voice drifted through the door. Daniel? The name was unfamiliar. She had to be in the living room, just down the hall from the little bedroom Alice shared with a still sleeping Martha.

Alice threw back her blanket and placed her bare feet on the cold wooden ground. The chill ate its way up her curled toes and into her body. She covered herself with her woolen shawl and crept down the corridor toward the living room.

Her mother stood opposite a stranger. Alice took great care to remain hidden in the hall, just before the staircase that led up to her parents’ bedroom. She could see everything from there without revealing herself.

The man looked like one of the homeless men she and Mother tended to at church. The ones eaten up with vermin and covered in dirt from sleeping in the streets. He smelled like them too. The harsh, cutting scent of ale mixed with old sweat was so strong, she could smell it in the hall.

“Be quiet, Edith. If you don’t have anything good to say, don’t speak at all. Unless you want to give me what I’ve come here for?”

He swayed a large lantern through the air and scanned the room. Alice’s mother stepped in front of him. Her mother’s long hair, beautiful and bright blonde just like Alice’s, swayed with the speed of her movement.

“There is nothing here for you, Daniel. Leave.” Her mother’s voice vibrated with fear, and her eyes were as wide as saucers.

“I ain’t leaving without Alice, Edith. I’m taking her with me tonight. Now, where’s my daughter?” the man barked with a threatening step forward. Alice gasped with fear for her mother. The longer she studied his stubbly face, the faster her heart beat with terror. What did he mean that she was his daughter? Was he a drunkard? Confused about where he was? She must fetch her papa from upstairs.

Alice spun around when— “Oh!” she gasped as she ran into a shelf. Pain seared through her shoulder.

The sound of a vase shattering into tiny pieces ripped through the air. To Alice’s horror, it sounded louder than a herd of cattle rushing through the silent night. She clutched Molly and bit her bottom lip to keep from screaming.

Heavy footsteps thundered into the hall as she cowered in front of the staircase. Then, as she peered up, she saw the snarling, furious face of the man who’d threatened her mother.

“No. Let me go!” Alice screamed when the man’s meaty hands wrapped around her upper arm with such force, she thought he might snap her bone. He sneered at her and grinned.

“You’re Alice, aren’t you? I’d recognize those gray eyes anywhere. Beady and terrified, just like your mother’s. Answer me!” he demanded and tightened his grip.

“Yes,” she whimpered.

“Good. You’re coming with me,” the man hollered, and his breath made her want to gag. It was rancid—a terrible combination of ale and chewing tobacco.

“Let her go!” her mother screamed and ran across the room. With her gray eyes full of fright, she almost reached Alice when the man spun around and struck her across the face. Alice shrieked and yanked to free her arm, desperate to reach her mother, who lay whimpering on the floor.

Her father’s voice boomed from upstairs. “What is this? Let go of my daughter!”

A heavy weight fell from Alice’s shoulders when she heard her father’s deep voice.

“You can keep your wife—but I’m taking the girl. She’s mine!” the man bellowed; he tightened his grip on her arm so much she yelped.

Her mother struggled to get up while her father dashed down the stairs, but it was too late.

The stranger dragged her out the door as her mother scrambled to her feet. She rushed after them, her face white with panic.

“Alice!” Her mother’s voice shattered the air. Alice burst into tears as she used all her strength to fight the man. She kicked his knee with all her might but succeeded only in enraging him further.

“That’s enough!” the man hissed and threw his lantern through the window with a furious howl. The fire roared as it ate at the curtains; the popping and crackling filled the air as a blast of yellow-tinged the entire bottom floor in its terrible glow.

“John!” Alice’s mother’s voice cried from within. Why hadn’t she come out after them, Alice wondered. Had she gone to get Martha? And where was Papa? The fire ate everything in its path. Alice saw nothing but a yellow, orange, and red hell that erased the shape of her family home. Her parents were visible for but a second before the thick, black smoke swallowed them up. A boom emitted from the house as the heavy beams supporting the structure failed and buried her family beneath.

“No, please! Mama! Papa! Martha!” she sobbed, desperate to save her family. The man threw her into the back of a plain wagon. What horrible intentions did this man have for her?

“Be quiet. They aren’t your family. I’m your father. From now on, it’ll be the two of us.” His tone was jovial as sheer horror overcame Alice. Whatever this man wanted with her, it would be awful.

He shut the blue curtain, blocking the view of the burning house. However, as she sat, Molly pressed against her chest; she smelled the awful, biting scent of the flames as they consumed the house—and with it everyone she’d ever loved.

Alice cowered on the freezing floor; her body shivered. Her sobs caught in her throat as she imagined the terror her family had experienced. In desperation, she clutched the small crucifix around her neck.

“Please, God, why did you let this happen to my family? Why did you let this man take me?” she whispered.

Alice buried her face between her knees and wrapped her arms around her legs as her captor took her away from the only home she’d ever known—to an unknown future.

Chapter One

Eastern Wyoming

August 1868

Alice squatted in a flower bed outside Mrs. Henderson’s cottage and pulled out the last of the weeds. Mrs. Henderson’s garden was the most extensive she tended to. A sea of dozens of flowers bloomed almost as far as the eyes could see. Bees buzzed past her ear as she worked, but she didn’t mind; she adored this beautiful, sweet-smelling space.

The early afternoon heat beat down on her, and sweat formed at the nape of her neck. She curled her fingers to drive out the stiffness, but when she glanced at the large pile of weeds, she smiled in satisfaction.

“A good day’s work,” the old woman said behind her, and when Alice blinked, the sun hit her eyes.

“Thank you, Mrs. Henderson. Your begonias are mightily beautiful this summer,” she agreed with a smile.

The older woman’s wrinkled face broke into a smile that lit up her blue eyes. “They are. It’s due to your diligent care, Alice. I’m so grateful to you for your hard work.”

Alice nodded, not wanting to admit that she worked so hard to support herself and her father. If it weren’t for the income from her gardening, they’d be faced with an empty table and empty stomachs since her father never brought home any income. She no longer expected it; she’d resigned herself to the disappointment.

Mrs. Henderson raised one hand against the glaring sun and pushed her beautiful green felt bonnet out of her face. The bonnet, adorned with a beautiful matching satin ribbon, sent Alice’s thoughts to the past.

“A lovely bonnet you have, Mrs. Henderson. Reminds me of one my mama had when I was a girl…” She could see her mother standing before her, in her Sunday best, smiling so bright it lit up Alice’s world. These days, thinking of her mother always brought a deep sense of melancholy. Over the years, the sharp pain had turned into a dull ache, but an ache all the same.

“Why, thank you. You are a dear.” She paused and licked her cracked, red lips. “Your bonnet is lovely also.”

Alice blushed because she knew this was nothing but kindness. The straw material was coming apart, and she’d soon need a new one just as she needed a new dress. Hers was threadbare.

Unlike Alice’s plain blue dress, Mrs. Henderson’s attire—a pretty calico blouse and skirt—appeared brand new. Alice had to be content with wearing whatever clothing she sewed together herself, often out of materials Reverend Charleston gave her. The Christian spirit was strong in their little town, and she cherished her community. Her faith remained the one constant in her life, the only connection to her lost family. Sometimes she wondered if that was one of the reasons her father disliked her attending church.

She was about to bid the woman farewell when Mrs. Henderson gently touched her hand.

“I made something for you.” She lifted her woven basket and retrieved a mason jar with a reddish substance. “Strawberry jam,” she explained. “And here you have fresh baked bread and cornmeal. I wrapped up some cured bacon.”

“Mrs. Henderson, I couldn’t accept this. You are too kind.” Her voice shook with embarrassment. While she loved helping the needy at her church, she found it hard to accept help.

The woman pushed the basket into Alice’s hands. “You’ll take it. Would be rude not to.” She’d known Mrs. Henderson for more than five years, and she’d always been kind to her, even before Alice started weeding her yard.

“Besides,” the woman added. “You’re familiar with Second Corinthians 9:6-8, I trust?”

“I am. Thank you, Mrs. Henderson. I’ll bring the basket back as soon as I can.”

“Not to worry. Next week, when you come weeding, is more than fine.”

Alice nodded and thanked the lady before turning. As she walked, the feeling of shame evaporated as she recited the Bible verse Mrs. Henderson had referenced.

But this I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully.

And Mrs. Henderson was a cheerful giver. Tending to her garden always made Alice happy. It was a sanctuary away from her ill-tempered father, who never ceased to berate her. Some days, she couldn’t help but wonder why God had sent her here. For, even though years had passed, not a day went by when she didn’t think of her family. And there were many nights she still cried herself to sleep thinking of them.

As she approached the old log cabin by the river, a sense of doom settled in her chest. The rotten wood beams and missing windowpane—smashed by her father during one of his drunken rages—gave it a gloomy appearance. Alice wished she could get away from this awful, angry man who’d made her life a misery, but there was nowhere to go.

Was it God’s plan for her to spend her life in this dreadful place with a man who never once said a kind word to her?

The water rushing down the river drew her attention. She clenched her hands into fists as she spotted her father at the river. He lay on his back, legs crossed, and a large blade of grass dangled from his lips.

Alice let out a deep, exasperated sigh as she entered the cabin. It was a sparse home, if one could even call it that. There was a single bed in which she’d slept—with Molly perched beside her—since her father took her from her home. A table with two rickety chairs and a cabinet with missing doors. Her father slept in a crawl space behind the hearth.

She remembered the first time she stepped into the house. Dirt and dust covered every surface. These days, it was spotless. She knew if she did not clean properly, she’d earn herself a slap to the face akin to the one her father dealt her mother that awful night so long ago.

Alice placed the basket on the table and sat beside the floorboard next to her bed. Lying on her stomach, she stuck her index finger into a small gap between two boards, pulled, and retrieved a small notebook, placing it aside. It was her precious songbook into which she often wrote poetry based on her favorite Bible verses. It gave her comfort in her darkest hours and made her feel closer to God. However, it wasn’t what she was looking for right now.

Where was it? She knew she’d left the—There! Her fingertips connected to the small metal can where she kept her wages. Her shoulders relaxed, and she let out a sigh of relief. She’d hidden her wages away from her father so he could not spend it all on beer.

She’d saved since she first started weeding. Alice hoped God would send her a sign, a way out—and she had to be ready.

Excitement filled her as she opened the lid. Even though she knew what was contained within, the sight of it never ceased to fill her with joy. This was her future, her entire future.

No. It can’t be! Her heart dropped to her knees.

The tin was empty. Completely empty… Angry tears sprang to her eyes. Alice clutched her crucifix. God surely had a reason for this to happen, but what?

Alice jumped up as she curled her fingers into fists. The old rage, the same rage she’d felt the morning after her father snatched her and gloated about the death of her family. The same rage that consumed her whenever she thought of the life she could have had, were it not for Daniel Troyer.

She shook her head. Anger shouldn’t consume her. Under her breath, she recited what the good book said: “Refrain from anger, and forsake wrath! Fret not yourself; it tends only to evil.”

There wasn’t anything she could do. The money was gone, already spent on beer and chewing tobacco, no doubt. She’d have to go to the church and ask the reverend for assistance again. Thanks to Mrs. Henderson, they had food, but it would not last them the week.

She gazed out the window at her father, who still rested by the river, a bottle of beer leaned against his chest. She’d go to church now while she had the chance. As drunk as he was, he wouldn’t wake for several hours. It was better to ask for assistance without his knowledge.

Her hand traveled to her cheek where her skin still remembered the searing pain of his strike the last time she’d dared to defy him. She fought the rising anger, reminding herself again of the verse in Psalms. She would not have survived the past few years without God and the good book. The resentment would have eaten her soul alive by now.

Not only had she lost her family, she had to live with an angry man who did nothing but shout at her and hit her on occasion.

Their life had been one of struggle, not only because of their poverty and his drinking but also because she could never forget what he’d done. He’d let her family burn alive; he’d stolen her. He’d destroyed her life. And all she had left was the hope that one day, she’d find a way to escape his clutches.

As she removed the jam from the basket, she spotted paper beneath. Upon lifting it, she realized Mrs. Henderson had also given her a few slices of cured bacon wrapped in the morning’s Cheyenne Morning Call paper.

She closed her eyes and bit into the bacon. The salty, savory goodness filled her mouth as her teeth greedily tore at the meat. A sudden, vivid sensation overtook her, and for one glorious moment, she thought she saw her mother standing before her in the kitchen, serving her delicious bacon. Her blonde hair and gray eyes, as bright as Alice’s own, shone. A smile lit her face, and Alice almost thought she could touch her.

Her heart pounded, and she reached for her mother when—

“Alice? That you?” her father’s deep, stern voice hollered from the river. “Answer me!”

Her eyes flew open, and she realized she’d been crying. Her tears stained the newspaper before her. Before she could throw the paper into the fire, she noticed that her tears landed on a rather curious section of the paper—the classifieds. She knew some men took brides to keep their home, but she’d never bothered with reading the ads. Now, something deep within drove her to pick up the paper and read. Her hands trembled, and she scanned the words.

“A cattle rancher, age twenty-four, of adequate means seeks amiable woman of unblemished character. She ought not to wish for a fortune but a modest, comfortable life on a Colorado cattle ranch. Letters postpaid addressed to Samuel Yates will be considered with immediate attention.”

Her breathing quickened. Why had her tears fallen on this ad? Could this be the sign she’d been asking for?

“Alice!” Her father’s voice ripped her from her thoughts. She had to get away. Now.

Alice dashed out of the door with the paper before he could see and darted into the woods behind the house, leaving her drunken father behind.

***

Alice rushed along the path toward the village as she read the ad again and again. She’d hoped and prayed for a different life. But a mail order bride? Could she marry a man just to escape her home?

What would her mother say if she knew she considered this? Was it moral what these women did? Was it Christian?

Alice couldn’t calm her racing thoughts. Something deep inside her soul told her there was a reason she’d been drawn to this ad.

She kept walking without a clear destination while her heart and mind continued to battle over what her next step ought to be. However, when she slowed and blinked, at last, she understood something very clearly. She hadn’t wandered aimlessly. She’d been guided directly to the plain, wooden building—their one-room post office.

Could she ask for a more unmistakable sign? No, she knew she couldn’t. This was where God wanted her to be. Or rather, he wanted her to be in Colorado, of that she was now convinced.

With a newfound sense of hope, she stepped inside.

“Alice, good day to you. How can I help you today?” Peter, the short, rotund postman, asked with a bright grin.

“Have you a pen and paper I could use?”

He pushed a plain sheet and a pen toward her, along with an envelope. “Posting a letter?”

Biting her bottom lip, she stood at the counter and copied the address from the newspaper with a shaking hand.

“I am,” she replied and then peered up as her heart leaped in her chest. “Peter, you must promise me not to tell my father about this. He will be upset if he finds out.”

The older man tilted his head and examined her. As he looked from her to the paper and spotted the section she clutched, his lips curled into a smile.

“I won’t say a word, Alice.” He lowered his voice and leaned forward. “The whole village knows what your father is like. Nobody will think ill of you if you leave for a better life.”

Her heart pounded as she wrote her letter with great haste. If her father came upon her, she’d pay dearly for her defiance.

This was her way out. God had answered her prayers. She closed her eyes and sent a silent prayer of thanks to the good lord for leading her toward salvation.

Alice’s eyes lingered on the letter behind the counter, knowing it would soon be in the hands of Samuel Yates. A stranger of whom she knew nothing—and who might yet change her entire life.

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