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The Blessed Bond of Two Wounded Hearts

God has heard her cry for help and brings her on his doorstep. Will they let His grace heal their scars inside out and embrace their fresh love?

“No, he told himself, Thinking she is beautiful is one thing. Kissing her is another, a line you can’t cross.”

Sarah runs away from a future husband who attacks her and scars her for life. With only her faith as her compass, she decides to become a mail-order bride to save herself. Falling in love with this new and rude rancher though should never happen. How can she learn to let go of the darkness and open her heart to change?

George is angry at God for taking away everyone he ever loved. Now that his kid won’t even talk to him, he thinks he’s cursed. However, a sudden mail-order bride on his doorstep changes his mind. He tries to stop himself from falling for her, but it’s too difficult to not love her pure soul. How can he accept the death of his loved ones and embrace life in Sarah’s love?

To find happiness, Sarah and George must realise that marriage is not a bed of roses. Will they manage to see that love is a strength only God can give them with His blessing despite hardships coming their way?

Written by:

Christian Historical Romance Author

4.6/5

4.6 / 5 (220 ratings)

Prologue

St. Louis, Missouri, 1870

The sun was beginning to set as Sarah Rufus entered her family’s small house. It was old and dilapidated, but it was the only home she knew. She noticed how dusty and cluttered the tiny living area was and reminded herself to clean it later. It had been hard to keep up with the cleaning since she started working full-time as a maid.

She unpinned her gray bonnet from her chocolate-brown hair. “Pa, I’m home!”

No response met her words. She wandered through the living area into the kitchen to see her father, Thomas, asleep at the table. His shirt was tight across his bulging stomach, and his graying hair was thinning. A mostly empty bottle of beer sat in front of him. Sarah grimaced. It was not an unusual sight to see when she came home. In fact, she had seen it more often than not in the last two years. A broken man had worn her father’s clothes since the cholera outbreak that killed her mother and seven siblings.

It’s best to leave him be, Sarah decided, recalling his anger the last time she tried to encourage him to stop drinking. She scoured the kitchen for food and found some stale bread. She broke it in half, leaving half on the table for her father and swallowing her half in one bite.

Sarah dragged her feet across the hall to her bedroom and closed the door. It was still cluttered with her siblings’ stuff, clothes, and toys that she couldn’t bear to get rid of. She was used to sharing the space, as she had always shared a room with her sisters. The small space would be too empty without them. She snuck the tin box of money from under her mattress. She pulled the few coins from her pocket and counted the total. It was enough for rent, but there wouldn’t be any left for food.

“Think, Sarah,” she muttered to herself. I can talk to the landlord. Maybe we can pay in increments.

A knock came on the house’s front door. Sarah paused. She wasn’t expecting any company. The knock came again, and a loud bang was heard as someone busted the door open. She jumped, hiding the money underneath her mattress.

Loud boots thumped across the floor in the living area. She snuck to the door but was afraid to open it. Her heart raced. She pressed her ear against it to hear.

“Tommy boy, there you are!”

Sarah’s blood ran cold. She knew that slick voice. Everyone did. Daniel C. Elliot. The owner of Elliot’s Saloon and money lender. If he was at their house, that could only mean…

“Oh, Pa, no,” she whispered, huddled next to the door to listen. She wanted to be surprised that her father had turned to Elliot for money, but she wasn’t. Everyone in town knew that Elliot had money to lend, but they also knew to only take it if they could pay it back. Those who didn’t pay often disappeared.

“Hey! Wake up!” Elliot’s voice yelled. Sarah flinched at the sound. She wanted to run before he could find her, but he barred the only means of escape.

Sarah heard a muffled groan from the other side of the bedroom door.

“Rise and shine! Guess what day it is. Collection day! So, Tommy boy, where’s my money?”

“Mr. Elliot, I…I wasn’t expecting you until tomorrow. Would you like a drink?” Her father’s words were slurred. Shame and fear intermingled inside Sarah.

“Where’s my money?” Elliot repeated. His tone was razor-sharp.

The next thing Sarah knew, there was a loud clatter like glass shattering. Brutal images of Elliot beating her father flashed through her mind. She couldn’t let him kill her father while she cowered. Terrified, she scrambled out of the door and into the kitchen. Both men froze as she entered. Her father and his chair were on the floor. Elliot towered over him with the beer bottle half-broken in his hand. Even dressed in a gentleman’s top hat and coat, he appeared every bit of the monster he had a reputation to be.

Elliot straightened, shooting a sinister smile at Sarah. “Miss Rufus. I didn’t mean to frighten you.”

“I promise. I’ll get you the money soon,” her father whimpered.

“I’m done waiting,” Elliot snapped, turning on him.

“Wait!”

Sarah threw herself in between her father and Elliot. Her heart hammered against her ribs, but she pushed her shoulders back. She had to protect her father from this monster. She had lost so much already. She couldn’t lose him too. Her voice trembled as she said, “I’m working. I’ll get you the money. Just give me a few months.”

Elliot’s gaze lingered as he looked at the young woman. Sarah’s skin crawled. “I’ve got a better idea. As it so happens, I’m in need of a new wife.”

Sarah’s breath caught in her throat. She had heard his last wife had died mysteriously the month prior. All three of his former wives had been known to have bruises and cuts after they married him. Everyone knew that Elliot was abusive. She spat her next words. “So you can kill me too?”

Elliot’s mustache twitched. It was the only warning she had before his hand holding the broken bottle flew up. She screamed and grabbed at where the pain seared across her right cheek. His face was red as he yelled, “Shut your mouth!”

Blood covered her fingers and dripped to the floor. Her cheek throbbed.

“She doesn’t know what she’s saying,” her father begged. “I apologize for her audacity.”

Sarah could not believe the words pouring from her father’s mouth. This was not the man that had promised to protect her when she was a child. How can he say that about me?

Elliot smirked. Sarah could tell he enjoyed the begging. “You have one month. If you don’t have the money, I’ll take you as my wife.”

He dropped the bloody bottleneck with a shatter and straightened his suit jacket. He sauntered out without a backward glance. Sarah pressed a shaking hand to her bloodied cheek, unable to make a sound.

Chapter One

One month later

Sarah Rufus kept to the busiest streets as she made her way home. It was dark. She shouldn’t have been out alone that late. However, Mrs. Albert had forced her to clean the same room three times because she said she saw dust. That was after Sarah had already cleaned the seven-bedroom house from top to bottom. As a maid, she didn’t get to voice disagreement, not if she wanted to be paid, and God knows she needed the money.

The date had been hovering over her all day. She brought a hand to the raised scar on her right cheek. She recalled what it had looked like when she saw it in the mirror that morning. The wound had closed but was still raw and stung if it strained too much. The red of it clashed against her tanned skin and bright green eyes. It was a constant reminder of Elliot’s threat. She knew he would be coming. Mr. Daniel C. Elliot never forgot a debt.

She had worked out the math. Between her father’s packing job at the iron factory and her two maid jobs, they would have enough. It will be enough, she told herself. Yet, it didn’t stop her trembling as she walked home.

She heard drunken laughter burst out from the saloon in front of her. Elliot’s Saloon. It had the worst reputation in St. Louis, but she had to pass it to get to her home. Not wanting to draw attention to herself, she lingered in the shadows until the men had wandered down a side street. She feared what they may do to her if they saw her walking alone. After their voices faded, she hurried past. The saloon smelled of tobacco. She caught a glimpse of the establishment out of the corner of her eye. Factory workers, cowboys, and others crowded inside, drinking beer and playing cards. Elliot was nowhere in sight. She let out a breath when she passed without anyone stopping her.

Sarah kept to the side of the dusty street, walking along the closely constructed shops. Most had closed by that time of night. Only a handful of carriages passed by. She turned onto a street of small houses and walked toward the one with dirty siding and a sinking roof. She hurried to the front door and opened it.

When she entered, she froze at the slick voice she heard coming from the kitchen. Her breathing shallowed. A memory of a red face and a bloody beer bottle filled her mind. Heavy footsteps moved toward her. Then, he materialized around the corner. His black hair was slicked back. His mustache was oiled. His navy striped suit was a statement of the riches he had. She had been so careful passing his saloon, but all the while, Elliot had already been at her home waiting for her.

“Miss Rufus,” he drawled. “We’ve been waiting for you.”

He spoke as if it was his house instead of hers. She wanted to run, but her father was still there. She was petrified but couldn’t leave him. She told herself that they would just hand over their combined incomes and be done with Elliot. It was that easy. With stiff legs, Sarah walked into the kitchen. The only sound was the swish of her skirts. Her father sat at the kitchen table and was drinking again. He wore the same stained undershirt he had on the previous night. It was hard to know if he had stopped drinking. She had left before he had woken up that morning and had no idea if he had gone to work.

“The time has come, Rufuses,” Elliot said. “Where is my money? Or will I have a bride instead?” His leering smile sent a chill down Sarah’s spine.

Sarah left for her room. Just give the money and be done with him, she kept repeating in her mind. It should be enough with her father’s wages too. She felt Elliot’s eyes following her the whole way, making her want to wretch. She grabbed her tin box of savings. Taking a few breaths to steady her nerves, she stood up on trembling legs and returned to the kitchen. With a shaking hand, she opened the box. Even though she had skipped paying rent that month and they had rationed their food, there still wasn’t near enough.

While she was gone to her room, her father had not moved. Why hasn’t he gone to fetch his money? They had agreed they would both work to pay half. Foreboding rose within Sarah. She had to ask though. Her voice was a lot stronger than she felt. “Pa, where’s your money?”

Thomas Rufus glanced up at his daughter. His eyes were red. He smiled at her. “You’re a good girl, Sarah. So much like your mother. You look like her too.”

Sarah’s throat grew thick. She looked similar to her late mother but not identical. They were both tall and had the same flowing chocolate-brown hair, but Sarah had bright green eyes in contrast to her mother’s brown. Her mother had also been in her forties when she died, whereas Sarah had just turned twenty. It wasn’t the time for his nostalgia. It was a life-or-death situation.

“Pa, where’s Mr. Elliot’s money?” Shaking her father, Sarah desperately searched her mind for a way out of this. “You’ve been saving—tell him!”

Realization flooded his eyes, and his expression fell. He took another swig from the bottle of spirits. He confessed, “The factory let me go. I’ve been meaning to tell you. I tried my hand at cards, trying to win enough, but…”

Thomas didn’t need to finish. Sarah guessed that he lost his packing job because of his drinking. She knew what followed when he gambled. He had lost it all. She cursed herself for not being more attentive. But what more could she have done? She had rarely seen him the last month because she was working two maid jobs trying to pay his debt.

Elliot clicked his tongue but didn’t seem surprised or interested in the least. With a sly smile, he poured himself a drink from the decanter on the table and turned on Sarah.

She couldn’t move. She couldn’t breathe as he prowled closer. He lifted a hand, and she flinched. Unlike a month ago though, this time he was gentle. He traced a finger across the angry, red wound that ran from the corner of her mouth up to her ear. Somehow, the gentleness made it worse. His words were just as soft. “I’m glad to see that this…fair punishment didn’t spoil your beauty, my bride.”

She wanted to run away, scream for help, anything. Yet she did nothing. Her body was immobilized by his touch. She silently prayed that her father would return to Thomas’s body, that he would object and say something to Elliot.

The moneylender spoke. “I had a suspicion that this may happen, so I have already arranged for us to be wed in the morning.”

Her father’s jaw tensed but he didn’t speak. Tears welled up in Sarah’s eyes. Please, Pa, please!

Mr. Elliot continued to stare at her, licking his lips. “You remind me of my mother. She was a good woman, obedient. Unlike my late wives. But you’ll be better than them, won’t you?”

When neither Sarah nor Thomas responded, Elliot smirked in victory. “I’m feeling generous. You can have the night to pack your things and say goodbye to your father. I’ll return tomorrow for our wedding. Then, you will no longer have to worry about this pesky debt.”

He picked up her tin box and sauntered to the door as smooth as a snake. With one last look at Sarah, who hadn’t moved an inch, he tipped his hat and grinned. “I’ll see you in the morning, my sweet.”

Then, the door clicked shut behind him, and he was gone. It took Sarah a full minute to breathe again. She trembled and slipped to the floor. Get yourself together, Sarah! There’s no time for this.

Sarah swallowed and looked at her father. He took another swig.

She snatched the bottle from his lips. The liquid dribbled down his chin. She tried to keep her emotion under control as she spoke, but it came out as a sob. “What is the matter with you?”

Her father turned his bloodshot eyes downward. “I…I’m sorry, Sarah. I tried…but they haunt me.”

For the past two years, Sarah was unwilling to push her father. She mourned the death of her mother and siblings too. It was a great weight on her soul that was impossible to brush off. She sympathized and gave him leniency. Maybe I should have been more assertive with him, maybe we would not have been in this mess if I had.

“We don’t have time for you to be drunk!” she snapped, her voice breaking. “What am I supposed to do? He will kill me!”

Thomas swallowed. “Mr. Elliot is a well-off man. If you married him, you wouldn’t have to worry about money.”

She couldn’t believe her ears. Her father wanted her to marry Elliot, an abusive man, and suspected murderer. “You’re right. I wouldn’t have to worry about money—because I’d be too worried about surviving to see each new day!”

That was when she looked at Thomas Rufus, really looked at him. His face was unshaven. He had put on quite a bit of weight the past two years. His green eyes were dull, lifeless. Sarah had kept hoping, kept praying that he may eventually accept their family members’ deaths. She knew that would never happen, not if he was telling her to marry Elliot.

“Just be dutiful, child. Do as he says and keep your head down.” His voice was strained. His chin trembled. It sounded like he was trying to persuade himself just as much as her. “You’ll be okay.”

Without another word, Sarah left her father to his drink. Like a blow to the chest, she realized she could no longer worry about him. She had to put herself first.

***

Wringing her hands, she paced her bedroom. She wasn’t ready to give up. She was terrified at what pain she would suffer at the hands of Elliot. Death began to feel like the least of what he could do to her.

“Oh God, what do I do?” she whispered. Her green eyes fell upon her mother’s Bible sitting on her nightstand.

One story her mother would often regale them with was that of Elijah. Because of her family’s position, Sarah had never gone to school and could not read, but her mother told her how Elijah fled for his life from King Ahab and his wife Jezebel. He was alone and afraid in the wilderness. Yet, even at his lowest, God provided. She remembered in 1 Kings 19:7, the angel said, “Arise and eat, because the journey is too great for you.” Sarah clung to that story. Even when Elijah lost faith, God protected him.

Elliot’s sneering face forced its way into her mind. The broken bottleneck, red with her blood, shattered on the floor. Her cheek seared with pain. Her stomach churned at the thought of his fingers on her cheek.

Elliot was too powerful. She couldn’t go up against him alone, and her father had made his thoughts clear. She could only trust herself and God to find a way out of this. He had helped Elijah, and she was certain He would protect her too. She would not lose faith. That was when the idea formed in her mind.

Sarah reached in her pocket and was relieved to find her week’s earnings in there. Almost two dollars. She had forgotten to put them in the box with the rest. She pulled her mother’s old carpetbag from underneath her bed. She packed it with her handful of possessions. Even with her mother’s Bible on top, the bag was only half full.

There was no time to rest. She needed to leave as soon as possible. She opened the door a crack, just enough to watch her father. She twisted her hair. Anxiety threatened to overwhelm her as she waited for him to doze off. Every minute would count. Finally, her father’s head lowered onto the table. Snores filled the air.

Sarah snuck to the entryway. If Thomas woke up, he would try to stop her. His fear of Elliot outweighed any sense of obligation he still felt for his daughter. Tears slipped from her eyes, stinging her wounded cheek.

At the door, she paused. She peered around the little house. It had never been much. Since their family had eight children, they never had enough money to make things pretty. She slept with her four sisters her entire life. Yet it had been enough for her. She would have taken her loud and loving house and just scraped by over the large but cold house she was certain Elliot resided in.

Sarah took one last glance at the table and jumped. Her father was staring right at her. It was only then that she realized the snores had ceased. What could she say? There was nothing to say. Her intent was clear, and guilt washed over her.

Her voice broke, “Pa, I—”

“It’s okay,” he rasped. He gave her a heart-breaking smile. “You were right. Get far away from here, and don’t look back.”

A sob escaped her throat, but she forced the words out. She needed to say them, and he needed to hear them. “I love you, Pa. I always will.”

He nodded and looked away. He urgently said, “Run, Sarah!”

Although a part of her wanted to stay and help her father, she took a deep breath and pulled her shoulders back. Sarah closed the door behind her without a sound and made her way to the train station. She had no plan. She just knew she had to escape before Elliot returned. Once she was on the first train out of town, she would figure out where to go. She would have to be strong to get through this trial, but she knew she had God on her side. He would keep her safe and provide her with a better life.

She whispered, “Dear God, please take care of both of us. I can no longer help Pa as I have to keep myself safe. I think we will both need your guidance to pull through this.”

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  • The suspense of what will happen next to young Sarah. She is on the run for her life leaving the trouble of a powerful and dangerous Elliot. Sadly leaving her father she loves, with no other family alive. Sarah is all alone but has faith and prays God will protect herself and her father as she must leave for her own safety with her fathers blessing.

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