She’s running away from a past that’s robbed her of happiness. He’s hiding from God because he’s afraid of his wrath. Can their unexpected marriage heal their wounds and show them the way to salvation?
“Then Job arose and tore his robe and shaved his head and fell on the ground and worshipped.” Job 1:20
Rebecca has suffered through a life of family tragedy with only God as her guide. Now, she’s forced to flee her abusive father and find a new life with a stranger in Texas. Her unwavering faith in God’s word will be tested in this new harsh reality. How can she find happiness as a bride to a man who has lost his faith and everything he ever loved?
Job thinks he’s been cursed. The unexpected loss of his family at a tender age has left him scarred and afraid to open up to anyone. When he meets Rebecca, he finds a spark of hope that ignites his heart. Is it enough to get him back in the Lord’s way?
As the two struggle to build a life together, as they go against trials that test their faith, they must realize that it’s only through their souls that they can approach God’s will. How can they accept their marriage of convenience as blessed and fight against corruption?
St. Mary’s, Arkansas, 1876…
Rebecca Anne Leigh pushed the back door of the small house open with her shoulder and carefully stepped into the kitchen, carrying two baskets of ripe apples. Her mother looked up from the kitchen worktable and smiled indulgently at her.
“It looks like you had a successful trip to the orchard.” Mother reached out and took one of the baskets from her daughter, setting it on the table.
Strands of copper-colored hair swirled around Rebecca’s face, and she brushed them back with one hand, smearing dirt across her freckled cheek as she set the other basket on the table. “We had so much fun.” Rebecca smiled brightly as she bounced on her feet a couple of times. She reached into one of the baskets and withdrew a small ruby red apple and polished it on her skirt before taking a large bite. The juice dripped over her chin, and she giggled as she used the back of her wrist to wipe it away. “They’re really ripe. And juicy.” Rebecca met her mother’s eyes and then held the apple out toward her.
“I can see that.” Mother reached over and took the proffered fruit, taking a small bite from the opposite side before handing it back and nodding as she chewed. “Very ripe. We should make a pie to have after church tomorrow.”
Rebecca nodded eagerly and asked, “Is father home yet?” She took another bite and wiped more juice from her chin.
“Yes, he just got here. Why don’t you join him in his study while I finish dinner?”
“Okay. Maybe we can read the rest of our book after supper?”
“Of course, dear,” Mother promised with a warm smile.
Rebecca took a few more bites, finishing the apple and then tossing it into the clay pot by the door. The apple core would eventually find its way into the garden plot a few yards behind the house. Her mother saved fruit and vegetable scraps and then buried them in the garden to replenish the soil. At least that was how her mother had explained it. Rebecca liked looking at the garden plants, but they were her mother’s pet project, and Rebecca rarely concerned herself with what made the plants flourish. She had too many other activities to occupy her time.
Rebecca grinned and skipped toward her father’s office. As an only child, Rebecca enjoyed a charmed life. Her father had done very well for himself in his textile business and that allowed her parents to hire others to help around their home. Her mother was the chairwoman of the Ladies’ Auxiliary group at their church and spent much of her time either tending to her garden and flowers or helping others. While many would probably accuse Rebecca of being spoiled, due to her fortunate circumstances, her parents had made sure she understood how blessed they were, and that God blessed some to be a blessing to others.
Currently, the Ladies Auxiliary was collecting clothing for those less fortunate in their small community. There would also be boxes of food available to those in need. Rebecca had gladly donated some of the clothing that she had outgrown, hoping the items would bless someone less fortunate than herself. She also had made plans to assist her mother and the other ladies in the group on distribution day, having already discovered the feeling of joy she got from being able to help those around her.
She skipped down the hallway and found her father, Wallace Albert Leigh, sitting in his favorite chair, his spectacles perched on his nose as he perused the book in his hands.
“Father,” Rebecca announced herself as she entered the room. Her father set his book aside and accepted her hug and the kiss she bestowed upon his cheek. “Did you have a good day?”
“Much better now that I’m home with my favorite girls. Does your mother need any help with dinner?”
“No. She sent me in here to relax for a few minutes before it’s ready.” Rebecca sank down onto the footstool in front of his chair.
Father reached out and pulled a leaf from her hair and smirked knowingly. “Been climbing trees again?”
“Only the lowest branches. The apples are so much better up where the deer and such can’t get to them.”
“That is a fact. So, you picked apples this afternoon?”
“Yes. A dozen of us went right after school. I brought home two baskets, and Mother said we’re going to make a pie tomorrow.”
“Apple pie. That sounds very promising.” Then Father told her a bit about his day and Rebecca regaled him with stories about the apple orchard and the antics the boys had gotten up to. They were both laughing softly when footsteps a few minutes later caused them to look up.
“Dinner’s ready,” Mother announced from the doorway, a warm smile on her face. While they had household help during the day, her mother enjoyed cooking and usually cooked their evening meal herself. Rebecca often joined her, but she also enjoyed spending a few quiet moments with her father, with whom she shared a mutual admiration.
Rebecca joined her parents in the dining room, and after saying grace, the conversation flowed easily about their various days and the events and chores that needed to be accomplished in the coming week. Rebecca was helping her mother clear the table and clean up the kitchen when a loud pounding on the front door echoed throughout the house.
“I wonder who that could be?” her mother asked, wiping her hands on her apron and turning toward the doorway, only to stop when Father called out that he would get the door.
Rebecca and her mother went back to the dishes, but moments later the sound of angry male voices made them both freeze. Mother gave Rebecca a stern look and commanded her, “Stay here while I go see what’s going on.”
Rebecca nodded, putting down the plate in her hands and wiping her hands on the apron tied around her waist. The sound of raised voices was such an oddity in their home and in Rebecca’s life that she couldn’t help the anxiety that wrapped itself around her. She edged toward the door when she heard her mother’s voice call out in what sounded like pain.
“Mother?” Rebecca pushed the kitchen door open slowly, gasping at the sight that met her eyes. A man she’d never seen before stood in the foyer; his fists raised in anger at her father.
“She’s mine,” he yelled toward her mother.
“No, Jacob. She’s mine,” Mother yelled back. “You didn’t want either one of us when she was an infant.”
“That was then. I didn’t have time for a squalling infant, but she’s old enough to pull her own weight now,” the stranger answered back with spittle flying from his mouth.
“She’s not going with you. I’m her mother, and she’s staying right here with me.” Her mother’s face was filled with fear even as her words attempted to sound authoritative. Rebecca could only stand and stare as her father and the stranger engaged in a small physical wrestling match. The stranger was unkempt, his hair and beard looking as if they’d not been bathed in days or even weeks. He towered over her father by several inches and his shoulders were much broader. His clothing was worn, contrasting sharply with the well-cared for leather belt and twin holsters buckled around his hips.
“I want her,” the man her mother had called Jacob yelled. At that moment, he looked up and saw Rebecca staring at him from the kitchen doorway. “Come here, girl!” he screamed at her.
Rebecca shook her head and started to back away, but that only seemed to infuriate the stranger. She’d only taken one step when he narrowed his eyes in her direction and then punched her father so hard in the face that he flew backward, his back hitting the side wall as he crumpled to the polished wood floor of the foyer in a heap. The wooden bench her father sat upon to put on his boots each morning stopped him from crashing into the wall, but it crumpled under the strain and toppled to its side.
“No!” Rebecca screamed. She wanted to rush to her father, but that would put her closer to the stranger who was even now advancing in her direction. Her mother grabbed hold of the man’s forearm, but he merely shoved her aside and kept coming.
He reached Rebecca a few seconds later and wrapped his large fist around her arm. “You’re coming with me,” he growled, turning and dragging her toward the front door.
“No!” Rebecca fought him, dragging her feet and reaching for whatever furnishings were in her path that might give her some leverage to stop this man from taking her. Her nine-year old stature was no match for the burly stranger, and she screamed, “Let me go! I don’t know you, and I won’t go with you. Father, help me! Mother, don’t let him take me away!”
The man turned, slapped her across the cheek, and then shook her violently before telling her, “I’m your father. Not that weak, pathetic excuse of a man. Me. I’m your father, and you’re coming with me.”
Rebecca covered her throbbing cheek with a hand, while still trying to pull out of his grip. Her mind was whirling as she tried to come to terms with the violence of the moment and the betrayal she couldn’t quite comprehend. Mother seems to know this man. But—how can that be? He wants me to go with him. I don’t want to go anywhere but up to my bedroom to hide beneath the bed.
“Jacob, please,” her mother begged him, her hands outstretched as she attempted to grab hold of Rebecca. “She doesn’t know you.”
“And whose fault is that?” the man snarled. “Yours. She’s mine, and I need someone to help around my house. She’s old enough to help, and that’s what she’s gonna do.”
Rebecca heard the man’s words, but she couldn’t seem to get past the way he’d called himself her father. And Mother wasn’t arguing with him. This stranger wasn’t her father. She had a father and she loved him, but—Mother knew his name and—could it possibly be true? “Mother?” she whispered, tears wetting her cheeks.
Her mother’s eyes were also filled with tears as she shook her head. “I’m so sorry, Rebecca,” Her mother’s arms stretched out toward her but were unable to reach her.
Rebecca stared at the guilt on her mother’s face and knew that the man had spoken the truth. This unkempt, foul-smelling, crude beast of a man was somehow her father. She opened her mouth to demand once again that he let her go, but he snarled at her and lifted her up on her tiptoes, shaking her like a rag doll.
Her mother took two steps toward them, but the stranger slapped her so hard that she fell to the ground.
“Mother!” Rebecca screamed, pulling hard against the grip of the man—the stranger who said he was her father. His hold on her arm was most definitely leaving bruises. She felt as if the bone might snap under the pressure.
“Shut up, both of you,” the man snarled.
Her father had regained consciousness by this time and was struggling to get to his feet and come to her aid. “Rebecca!”
“Father!” Rebecca lunged back against the stranger’s hold, longing desperately to reach her father. He’d always been a beacon of safety for her, and even knowing she’d been lied to, Rebecca fought with everything she had to get back to his arms.
Rebecca screamed and cried for her mother and father to help her as the intruder dragged her out of the house toward a wagon waiting at the edge of the street. He physically picked her up and threw her into the back. Her knees landed with a thud against the rough wooden boards, and her palms slid painfully as she attempted to keep her face from making contact with the floor of the wagon.
“Jacob, please don’t do this,” her mother begged him, having followed them from the house.
“Did you hear me? Shut up!” The man yelled back at her. “Go take care of the weakling you married.”
Rebecca scrambled to her knees and started to crawl out of the wagon, only to come face to face with a boy. He was slightly bigger than she, and she guessed that he was several years older than her. His face was streaked with dirt, his clothing hung loosely on his frame, and his hair was in desperate need of being trimmed. He watched her carefully, and when her kidnapper barked at the boy to hold the horses still, he hurried to do so as if he was scared of the consequences if he didn’t move quickly enough.
Rebecca shook her head and then reached for the side of the wagon. She forced her leg over the side, but she got no further before the small hands of the boy grabbed her and pulled her backwards, causing her to land painfully on her backside. She sent a glare his way, but he merely ignored her and continued to pull her toward the other side of the wagon.
“Don’t let him see you trying to get away! He’ll hurt you.”
Rebecca pried the boy’s hands off her arm, pushing him aside. “I’m not going to let him take me away from my home.”
The sound of a gun going off stopped whatever else she might have said. She pushed herself to her knees and stared in horror as a large red stain appeared on her father’s thigh. Her mother’s mouth was open, and Rebecca was sure she must have been screaming, but she couldn’t hear her. Her father tried to step back, but he lost his balance and toppled sideways, landing mostly inside the house.
Mother rushed to Father’s side, even as the stranger turned his pistol toward the wagon’s occupants with a dire warning, “Stay there, or else.”
Rebecca cringed away from the hatred that showed in his eyes, and she felt the boy scoot closer to her side, his small hand reaching to grab hold of her skirt. Whether for comfort or to ensure she obeyed the strange man’s orders, Rebecca didn’t know and didn’t care. She was singularly focused on getting to her father—her real father, the one who told her stories and joked about apple pies with her.
She pried the boy’s fingers from her arm and moved toward the side of the wagon once again. She looked up as the front door slammed shut, and the stranger who called himself her father put a heavy branch across the doorway. Her parents’ muted voices came from inside, and then her mother’s muffled voice called out, promising that she would never give up looking for Rebecca. They would bring her home, just as soon as they could talk to the sheriff and get a posse together.
Her burly kidnapper’s curses covered her mother’s words, and it was then that Rebecca realized he hadn’t come to retrieve her with only a boy at his side. Half a dozen men on horseback moved forward. One of the men stopped his horse directly in front of the wagon, lowering his rifle across his lap until it came to a rest and pointed directly at her chest. The boy scurried to the other side of the wagon and curled himself into the corner, his eyes never leaving the man poised to shoot at her.
“Sit,” he stated in a gruff voice as he tipped his chin downward. When Rebecca didn’t immediately comply, he leaned forward slightly and narrowed his eyes at her menacingly. “Best you learn to follow orders quickly, girl. Jacob don’t take kindly to any rebellion. For that matter, neither do I. Sit, or I’ll make sure you do.”
Rebecca swallowed back her fear and lowered herself to the floor of the wagon before voices and motion from the other riders captured her attention. She watched in growing dismay as the men surrounded the house, tossing piles of dry hay near every window and doorway. Then they waited.
Pounding still came from inside the house, and Rebecca felt her tears drip off her chin, but one look at the man still pointing a loaded gun at her quelled her urge to rebel. “What are they doing?” she asked, more to herself than in expectation of an answer.
But an answer is what she received moments later when the man who called himself her father yelled, “Light it up.”
Rebecca blinked and then screamed as the riders struck matches and tossed them into the piles of hay. The dry material immediately caught fire, and smoke filled the air around the house where she’d grown up. She lunged for the other side of the wagon, but the man with the gun was faster than she, and cursed her, bringing the butt of his rifle down toward her head.
Rebecca managed to duck, but the rifle hit her shoulder and sent her flying backward. She lay there and through her tears and fear, she was sure she heard her mother and father screaming. She lifted her head, pulled herself to the side of the wagon and watched the world she’d always known disappear as the house was engulfed in flames, killing those trapped inside along with the dreams they’d held for their only daughter.
Her kidnapper returned to the wagon and gloated at having come out the victor in the skirmish. “You’re all mine now. No looking over my shoulder or wondering when the sheriff will catch up with me. You should be thanking me, girly, for saving you from that sort of life. It’s my duty as your father to see that you grow up learning to respect your elders and that you always remember your proper place. No need for a girl as old as you to still be going to that school. Women don’t need an education, unless it’s how to mend trousers, cook a decent meal, and keep a house clean.”
Rebecca listened to the man, but his words were just noise.
She was dazed and filled with terror for the future as this “father” who’d kidnapped her climbed up onto the buckboard and set the wagon moving. Away from everything she’d ever known.
She turned back and watched the flames consume her home, destroying all she’d known and loved. Mother! Father! Please—I don’t want to leave you. With a loud crash, the roof of the house collapsed. The wagon continued moving away from the burning building. The men on horseback whooped and hollered, celebrating the devastation they’d caused while her heart broke in two.
It all became too much to comprehend, and she fell to the wagon floor as her vision blurred with fresh tears, and the edges began to darken until there was only a small pinpoint of light left. Then darkness consumed her as she passed out. Whatever the future held, it would have to wait until she could handle another shock to her mind.
Eleven Years Later,
Greenville, Arkansas, 1885
She lifted her head from where she was bent over the washboard and forced back her urge to hide. His voice grew closer, and Rebecca quickly dropped the shirt she was washing into the soapy water and dried her bright red and raw hands on the threadbare apron tied around her waist.
She forced herself to stand up straight as the man she’d come to hate stopped a few feet in front of her. “Do you know what time it is?” he demanded, his hands on his hips and an angry sneer on his face.
It was already the middle of the afternoon, and she knew without asking that the old man was talking about their dinner. “I was just trying to get the laundry on the line to dry before I finished supper.”
“Do the laundry in the morning, and you won’t have this problem,” he commanded her. “What were those noises I heard last night?”
Rebecca looked down and buried her hands beneath her apron, her ragged fingernails digging into her palms. “I didn’t hear any noises.”
The awful man narrowed his eyes at her and then sneered at her, “Still crying over that whore you called mother?”
Rebecca bit her tongue, the metallic taste of blood swamping her. She’d learned years earlier, shortly after Benjamin’s pa had abducted her from her parents’ home in St. Mary’s, Arkansas, that the awful man wouldn’t tolerate her showing emotion where her mother and father’s deaths were concerned. He considered her mourning a sign of weakness. And weakness was met with punishment. Her one defiance was refusing to call him “Father” or even think of him in such a way.
When she’d first been taken, she’d tried ignoring him, but he’d quickly shown her what that sort of open defiance would get her—a beating that would keep her hurting for days. She’d finally settled on calling him “Pa”—making the word synonymous in her mind with the “devil”—she was certain the ruler of Hell and “Pa” must be well acquainted.
“Nothing to say?” he taunted her, stepping closer, and she forced herself not to gag as the odor of sweat and manure reached her nostrils.
“I need to finish the laundry…”
“I’m not stopping you. Get back to it and supper better not be late or you’ll pay for it at the end of my belt.” He gave her a small push toward the wash bucket before stomping off toward the stables.
Rebecca stood there another moment, and then the sound of feet in the dirt caused her to lift her head and meet the eyes of her stepbrother, Benjamin. He was twenty-five on his last birthday, five years older than she was, and she allowed herself to remember the first time they’d met. She’d thought him to be only a bit older than she because he’d been so skinny and small in stature when he was younger, but as the years had gone by, he’d grown into a tall man, still on the skinny side, but much bigger than her in both height and weight.
He was currently standing beneath the tall oak tree that shadowed the side of the ranch house, having witnessed his father’s exchange with her. A flash of compassion moved through his eyes but was then quickly extinguished. Benjamin had never been anything other than kind to her since she’d come to live with him and his pa. But his kindness had a limit. He’d only made the mistake once of attempting to shield her from the constant abuse. The old man had made sure to teach him a lesson he’d never forget. Benjamin carried the reminder with him every day.
Rebecca sighed and then turned her attention back to the unfinished laundry. She couldn’t blame Benjamin for his behavior. His pa’s anger was mostly directed at her, but that didn’t mean he couldn’t turn it instantly on someone else. Benjamin was protecting himself, that’s all it was. In recent months, he’d even started doing work away from the ranch, sometimes not returning for several days at a time. She didn’t know what he was doing and really didn’t care. She was glad, in a way, that he was able to get away from his pa’s judgmental eyes. She only wished she could do the same.
Turning her attention back to her task, she ignored the way the lye soap stung her chapped hands as she quickly rinsed the last shirt out and then wrung as much water as she could manage from the sodden material. She dumped the wash water onto the ground and carried the basket of clean—but wet—laundry to the line that stretched between the fence and the house. She hung the clothing up and then hurried back toward the house to finish supper.
She noticed with alarm that someone had traipsed through the house with mud on their boots and had left a trail of drying clumps of red dirt behind. She knew Benjamin would never do such a thing—intentionally add to her workload, so that just left the old man. He’d definitely take great joy in making sure I can’t complete my chores just so he’ll have another excuse to punish me.
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I enjoyed the start of this book and look forward to reading the rest of the story.
Thank you so much!💖
Riveting first chapter. I can hardly wait for the rest to come.
Thank you! I’m so happy to hear that!💖
I can’t wait to find out how she gets away from the Old Man.
Thank you! I hope you enjoyed how things turned out!💖
Wow what an attention grabber for a first chapter. I look forward to continue reading the book.
Thank you so much! Can’t describe how happy this makes me!❤️
I look forward to reading how Rebecca escapes her abusive father.
Thank you! I hope you enjoyed the read!❤️
This looks like a good read and I am looking forward to reading
I’m so glad to hear that and that you enjoyed the whole story!❤️