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A Texas Blessing

No matter how deeply she touches me, I can’t offer more than this…

She’s a spirited woman, bringing chaos into my world…

I’m the rugged rancher who only wanted a mother for my children…

A tornado took her brothers, but not her faith. When Ollie answered a mail-order bride ad, she brought her mother and remaining brother to Texas, dreaming of a fresh start. But here is this brooding man, her husband-to-be, who’s lost all hope… Perhaps this was a mistake after all.

When his first wife ran off with his best friend, Martin never thought he’d trust again. Now, it’s just him and his two kids, and he needs a wife—though love is the last thing on his mind.

Under one roof, their unconventional family clashes and struggles. As if that’s not enough, past enemies resurface, and accusations fly. Can they unite and trust when betrayal is all they’ve known?

 

But those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.

They will soar on wings like eagles;

they will run and not grow weary,

they will walk and not be faint.

Written by:

Christian Historical Romance Author

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Prologue

April 12, 1869

Hamburg Mill, North Carolina

 

Unrelenting wind whipped strands of red hair over her eyes, but Ollie pressed forward. Though her heart pounded in fear, she had to set the animals free before the storm finished tearing the barn down around them.

Every step was a struggle as she held her thin, pale fingers out in front of her blindly. She could only hope a tornado wouldn’t touch down before she could get them to safety.

It might have been impossible for her to find the barn in the treacherous conditions were it not for the sounds of horses whinnying in distress, pigs squealing in terror, and wood groaning in defeat ahead.

Just as she came into contact with the rough, wooden surface of the barn door, the sound of her oldest brother’s voice reached her from a distance.

“Ollie! Ollie, go to the shelter!” Joseph’s voice was so faint through the rest of the noise that she almost didn’t recognize it.

How could she go to the shelter when lives were at stake? How could she protect herself when everything her family owned was being destroyed all around them?

She wanted to tell him that she only wanted to open the stalls, and then, she would meet the others in the shelter. She wanted to say that he should go back and not worry about her.

As she turned and opened her mouth to respond, the wood beneath her hands cracked and slammed against her with a loud crash.

“Ollie!” her brother screamed from beside her.

She fell to the ground, and the world around her faded to blackness and silence.

***

Ollie’s eyes were heavy with sleep, but she slowly rose to consciousness. A splitting headache was the first sensation to greet her, followed by the brightness of sunshine filling her blurry vision. As she blinked and slowly pushed herself up on an elbow, she found that the surface beneath her was soft, and a heavy blanket covered her shaking body.

“Don’t get up yet,” her mother’s soft voice told her while the creaking of a wooden chair nearly pulled Ollie back into her dreadful memories. “You’ve been badly hurt.”

Something about the emotion in Mama’s voice struck Ollie with fear, turning her stomach and sending a shiver crawling up her spine.

“Wh…where’s Joseph?” Ollie heard herself croak.

By then, she was able to take in the small bedroom around them. It wasn’t damaged by the storm, nor was it their own home, but one she didn’t recognize. The bed was big enough for one person and covered by a multicolored quilt stitched together with a shaky hand. It sat a few feet from another bed on one side and had a rocking chair and bedside table on the other.

At the foot of the bed was a bare wooden chest, and to the right of that was a small dresser. Mama sat in the rocking chair, occupying her hands by tightly squeezing a Bible to her chest. The sunlight from the window behind her shone through her pale red hair, the color faded with age.

Looking back into Mama’s sad, brown eyes—ones so similar to her own—Ollie watched tears stream down her cheeks as she seemed to struggle for words. “He…he’s not…. He didn’t….”

Ollie was suddenly wide awake as she bolted upright in bed. Her mind raced with memories of not only the storm but of her life with Joseph—his gentle guidance as he taught her to tie her shoes and ride a horse. Of her three brothers, she was closest with him; the oldest and the youngest of the Sorenson children were five years apart but the most inseparable of the four.

Shaking her aching head fervently, Ollie fought against the blankets to bring her feet to the floor, even as her mother protested.

“No, Ollie,” she said in a voice wracked with anguish. “Please, don’t get up. You need to rest. You’re hurt.”

“No,” was all Ollie could say in response as she brought her feet to the cold floor and rushed toward the door of this strange house.

She knew exactly what her mother was telling her, but she couldn’t accept it.

Her brother wasn’t dead. He couldn’t be. He couldn’t have gone after her into the storm and been killed. It would’ve been her fault. How could she live without her best friend in the whole world? How could she go on knowing that she’d been the reason for his untimely death at only twenty-five years old?

She rushed down the darkened hallway to find an open sitting room she recognized. The blue, cushioned chairs and floral decor around the room were the unmistakable property of Mrs. Sorenson’s best friend and fellow churchgoer, Mrs. Franklin.

Mrs. Franklin was also there, perched on a chair in the far corner of the room, and Ollie’s gaze quickly fell on the older woman before finding the youngest of the Sorenson brothers by the far wall. The fiery red curls showed that it was Felix, her senior by two years, who stood by the four-paneled window, looking outside.

When Mrs. Franklin, a sweet woman around their mother’s age but without children of her own, spotted Ollie, she stood. Her eyebrows were raised, and judging by the downward, sympathetic curve of her lips, it was clear that Ollie’s worst fears had come true. Joseph was gone, and it was her fault.

Felix turned, glaring at Ollie with all the pain and anger in his gray-green eyes that Ollie felt. Shaking her head in disbelief, she could hardly find the words to ask where their other brother, Gabriel, was.

In desperation, she choked back her tears and whispered, “Where’s Gabriel?”

“Oh,” Mrs. Franklin murmured as she reached out and came to stand beside Ollie.

Before she could answer, as Mama came down the hall behind her and wrapped Ollie in a hug, Felix spat, “He was in the house when it fell. He went looking for you, too.”

The blow hit her harder than the falling barn could have, yet all she could do with her intense agony was stare straight ahead as her heart thrummed in her ears. Joseph and Gabriel, the two brothers who had always cared for her the most and took care of the homestead after their father died…. They were both dead in her stead.

It should’ve been her.

***

The Franklins needed their room back once the most urgent need had passed, so Ollie and her family hurried to leave after only three days of recovery. Each passing moment was like a dagger in the heart as she truly began to understand what had been lost the day of the storm.

Most of the town had been spared, but several other families were displaced during repairs, and the Sorensens were invited to the church along with the others. Their losses had been the worst, and there was nothing left to salvage or go back to. The only hope they had was to sell the property to someone willing to clean up the debris with the means to rebuild.

Having barely been able to provide meager comforts for their own family before the storm ever hit, largely off the work Joseph and Gabriel did for the homestead, the Sorensens were without hope. They couldn’t live at the church forever, taking handouts that could be used for less able-bodied people. It was that realization that prompted Ollie to dry her tears and figure out what to do with herself that could be useful to somebody.

She started by cleaning the church, a large building constructed of wood darkened by age, and offering help to anyone passing through. Although most people wouldn’t have thought it when looking at her, Ollie had learned a lot about all kinds of work. Gabriel had seen to that ever since she was a little girl, eager to steal Felix’s extra britches and run outside after the boys.

The wound of her loss was still fresh and raw, but Ollie decided that the best way to honor them would be to do something with her life that her brothers and the father she never knew could be proud of. The only way she could make it through each day was by putting her desire to curl up and cry at any given moment into a locked-up place in the back of her mind.

She had to keep moving because, in every small, still moment, she would remember. The memories would hit her in flashes: the smile Joseph gave her when he tousled her hair each time she challenged him, and the hours Gabriel had spent with her that nobody else would until she got new skills right. In those moments, with the searing pain in her heart, it was like both brothers had clawed into her while being ripped away by the storm.

They were gone, and in their places just gaping holes, devoid of life—of anything besides torment. She couldn’t allow herself to look at those places within, but could only pretend they didn’t exist, as if her life before had never happened, for as many hours of the day as she could manage.

Instead, she focused on minding the children of the families who were affected by the storms, many of whom she already knew well from teaching them in Sunday school. They were understandably confused by all that had happened, and she did her best to explain and calm them while the other adults brought things back to normal.

On that day, the children and Ollie were in the dimly lit sanctuary, folding tracts with Bible verses to hand out to those who didn’t attend church. They all knelt in front of the oak pews, using the benches as tables to fold over each paper into thirds.

“Ollie,” little Michael asked from her right side, “will we be going home today?”

Ollie shook her head, swallowing against the lump in her throat at the knowledge of what little was left of her own home. “Not today, darlin’. You’ll be going home very soon, though; don’t you worry.”

She’d largely been able to keep her emotions in check during the day or when anyone else was around. Once night fell, however, she couldn’t block out the memories of all who were gone. She was left with no choice but to curl up under her borrowed blanket and cry until she passed out from exhaustion.

Unwilling to let anyone witness her intense sorrow and guilt, she kept completely silent during those times since there weren’t enough rooms for anyone to have total privacy until repairs were finished. The pressure exerted on her injured skull from keeping her sobs undetectable made her head ache worse than ever, but she felt deserving of such pain.

As she watched little Michael break out into a relieved grin, the sounds of a carriage pulling up outside met her. It would’ve been right on time for the mail cart, so Ollie gestured for the children to follow her to the door. She’d been teaching her students their letters for the past few years, and they loved to help sort the mail and pass it out.

Sure enough, they opened the door to reveal the familiar sight of their local mail carrier, Mr. Hibbert. The mailman’s contribution to the refugees was to donate one of his newspapers to the people staying at the church, so while the children began sounding out the names of each addressee on the bundle of letters he handed them, Ollie accepted the newspaper with a grateful smile.

Normally, she wouldn’t have scanned it herself before handing it off to someone more in need of something to occupy their mind, but on that morning, something, like a tiny voice in the back of her mind, told her to look at it. Her eyes quickly rested on the words “in search of” in bold letters.

She’d been desperate for some opportunity to put her and her skills to good use so that her family might get a home again and be provided for. Upon seeing those words, her first thought was that this might be the answer. When she continued reading the rest of the sentence, though, her heart pounded furiously within her.

“In search of a wife to look after two young children.”

Although she would’ve done many things to ensure her family was cared for, getting married wasn’t something she’d considered. The idea that there were children in need of care also helped soften her heart a little, but the desperation of her own family’s situation made her really stop to think it over.

With a glance around to ensure nobody had noticed, Ollie took out that page and folded it quickly to tuck it into the pocket of her white half-apron. Although she’d been struggling to hold onto her faith, she decided that the best course of action for her then was to pray to God and wait for His answer on how to proceed.

The children traded letters with each other according to what they could read on each one and scattered in all directions to proudly deliver them around the church property. While she had a few moments to herself, Ollie slipped away to the church office, laying the rest of the newspaper on a sanctuary table on the way.

Once she’d made it inside unseen and closed the door behind her, she pulled out the advertisement to read over carefully. It read, “In search of a wife to look after two young children. Age and appearance of no consequence, just good with kids. Suited to ranch life a plus. If interested, write to Martin Jones, Iron Creek, Texas.”

Texas was a long way off for her to go alone, even if she was the one who would take this role. She couldn’t bear the thought of leaving her only remaining family behind, but there was nothing in the advertisement itself to suggest that she could bring anyone along. With a deep sigh, she prayed inwardly for a moment that God would grant her guidance and wisdom.

A piece of blank paper, a pen, and an ink bottle caught the corner of her eye, and she realized that there was little to lose in at least asking about it. She could write to Mr. Jones and inquire about whether she could get her mother and brother a place to stay and work in the area. If he were to respond that there was not, then she would have her answer about the whole thing. After all, how could she handle getting married to a stranger without the support of the only people she had left?

Slowly, she reached over to prepare the paper and pen, although she kept repeating “Should I?” in her mind, a simple prayer that didn’t receive a definitive answer.

As she dipped the pen into the open ink, she drew in a deep breath and screwed up her face in determination. Whether it would be ideal, she was willing to do whatever it took to save her family. It was her fault that Joseph and Gabriel were gone, and although she could never make up for what she’d done, she was going to spend the rest of her life trying to.

Felix hadn’t looked at or spoken to her since that first morning when she’d woken up, but she wasn’t ready to face him, either, after all she’d taken from him. It was a mercy that her mother could even bear to be around her, although she hadn’t at all been herself since the storm.

The memory of the blank look on Mama’s face as she stared into space for hours on end during those first three days fueled Ollie with all the determination she needed to write.

“Dear Mr. Jones, my name is Olivia Sorensen, but I never answer to anything but Ollie. I am a woman of twenty years in need of a home for myself, my multitalented mother, and my brother, a strapping twenty-two-year-old man.

“If you are not opposed to the three of us coming to Iron Creek and earning our keep, then I would like to take you up on your offer of marriage. Children seem to like me, and I have plenty of experience with teaching them. I have a fondness for them, as well, and would consider it an honor to care for yours.”

She had to pause and lean back in her seat after writing those words. Until she saw them before her on the paper, she hadn’t realized she felt that way about children she hadn’t even met. As she read them again and thought and prayed, she knew they were true.

Drawing in a deep breath, she dipped the pen again and continued. “My family can be found at the church in Hamburg Mills, North Carolina. I look forward to your answer. Sincerely, Ollie Sorensen”

By the time she’d left the ink dry and folded the letter, addressing the outside and letting that dry, as well, she’d decided that she would continue to keep this little correspondence a secret. In the case that she did receive an answer, which she kept telling herself was unlikely, she would reveal it only if the answer held positive news for her family. Otherwise, it would just be another way she’d failed them.

There were extra stamps in the church office, although Ollie hesitated to use the items meant for everybody. In this case, she had little choice. There didn’t seem to be any other way in sight for her to pay anybody back, but if the cost of a new home for her family was a borrowed stamp, she had to accept those were her circumstances.

After tucking the letter into her pocket, she peeked through the door to ensure nobody had missed her. Slipping out of the office and back outside, she managed to return to where the mail wagon had been without being questioned on her whereabouts.

However, the children had come back from their task and wouldn’t let her go easily. That left her shaky and weak with nerves about being able to get the letter posted without being found out, but she did her best to hide it behind a smile.

“Ollie, what shall we do now?” Mary Anne asked as she clung to Ollie’s arm.

That gave Ollie an idea. She didn’t have to hide away in order to post her letter but could take the children for a walk. There were plenty of church pamphlets ready to deliver anyway, and that would provide the perfect cover.

“Gather up those pamphlets,” Ollie instructed with a pleasant smile. “We shall all go for a walk.”

Chapter One

April 27, 1869

Hamburg Mill, North Carolina

 

The weeks had passed quickly, and most of the people staying at the church had been able to go back home. While Ollie was happy for them, their absence left her with no clear tasks before her, so she bustled around doing every little thing she could find anyway.

She was still searching for any way she might make up for all of her failures, even though she didn’t believe she truly could. It was just about ensuring her family would have a home as soon as possible. Felix had been working odd jobs around town, all the while pretending that Ollie didn’t exist.

Ollie fought against a sob that rose in her throat at the thought that she had lost all three of her brothers in a way. While two of them had died, too far to reach with words unsaid and years unlived, her third brother hadn’t spoken to her since the day she woke up after the storm. Nothing she could’ve done or said would’ve changed how he felt about her, she was sure, and that thought made her choke up each time she tried to say a word to him.

She carried the nearly unbearable guilt of what she had done and how she had wronged Felix around with her every day, yet it seemed impossible to stand each time she spotted his red hair in the next room, fleeing from her presence. A couple of times, her knees buckled beneath her, but she caught herself just short of falling to the floor. Still, she told herself, she had to keep pushing forward; otherwise, she would drown in her sorrow.

Amidst all the little work around the church and town, she’d all but forgotten about the letter she sent in the hope of securing a home for them. It wasn’t until the mailman met Mama in front of the church that she even remembered what she was waiting for.

Mama turned toward the church, her usual melancholy expression changing slightly to drawn eyebrows and pursed lips of confusion. She held a letter in her hand, waved goodbye to the mailman, and climbed the stone steps up to the front door.

Ollie’s heart fluttered in her chest as she wondered if the letter was for her.

She should’ve been more ready, she scolded herself, and she should’ve gotten to the mail before Mama did. If it was bad news, and her mother asked her what the letter was about, she would have to confess what she’d attempted but failed to do for them. It was a small wonder what Felix would’ve thought of the whole thing.

With the anger he’d shown any time she was anywhere near, Ollie hadn’t even attempted to speak to him yet, and if she were to fail again at anything he would find out about, he might never look at her again.

Her heart pounded at the thought just as Mama entered the church.

“Ollie?” she said in that breathy voice that seemed to be all she could muster anymore. “There’s a letter for you.”

It was for her, after all. Ollie had almost convinced herself that it wasn’t, but there was no more denying it. Instead, she stepped forward and held out a hand, careful to keep it steady so that Mama would be less likely to question the letter’s contents.

“Thank you,” Ollie said as she clutched the sealed envelope in her fingers.

Turning away, she hoped to hurry into solitude before opening it, but she’d only made it three steps before Mama spoke.

“It’s from Texas. Who do we know in Texas?” Ollie looked over her shoulder without answering, and Mama mused quietly, “It says Ollie on the front, not Olivia. It has to be somebody we know, right?”

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    • I hope the rest of the story lives up to your expectations. I can’t wait to hear your thoughts after finishing the book! Happy reading!💞🙏

    • Thank you for your kind words! I hope the rest of the story lives up to your expectations and continues to inspire and bless you. Happy reading!💕

      PS. Be sure to tell me which character you liked the most!🥰

  • If you like to read the extended epilogue don’t choose this book. As with so many of Rubedia’s books you just can’t get the extended.

    • I’m truly sorry for any disappointment you experienced regarding the extended epilogue. Your feedback is important, and I want to make things right. Please provide me with your email address, and I’ll send you the link to access the extended epilogue. Thank you for bringing this to my attention!

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