A mail-order bride ready to stand up for her new family. A sheriff with a dangerous past. Will they find the courage to redeem themselves?
Liese is a brave young woman who has met abandonment and loss from an early age. After her grandmother passes away, leaving her all alone in the world, she has no choice but to respond to a mail-order bride ad. At least, there will be a roof over her head and a family to take care of, she thought. But caring for this distant Sheriff and his deaf sister gives a whole new purpose to Liese—she’s here to help both of them believe in love and family again. How will she open her heart to bring everyone together?
William is an excellent Sheriff yet a bit aloof. Having only his deaf sister in the world, placing an ad for a marriage of convenience was his only option to have someone help around the household. He never really expected that Liese would prove to be the woman of his life. His own reluctancy keeps driving both of them away. How can he get over the past and simply give in to this woman and the idea of a family with her?
But William and Liese’s newfound happiness will be cut short by a dangerous and cunning man who has come seeking revenge. How will the two fight against him in order to create the family they always wanted if they don’t give in to each other first?
Liese glanced outside the window as the world passed alongside her.
She wondered if anyone knew she was there. She wondered if the world cared or if she had ever mattered. But somehow she was already certain that the answer was a negative one.
Swallowing hard, she turned her gaze downward to the ground. It didn’t matter what the world wanted or did or decided. After all, she had made up her own decision. She had created her own fate. It made her heart thump loudly in her chest, but she had done it.
And now there she was, on a stagecoach headed to Idaho.
There was the crinkling of paper in her pockets, but she didn’t bother taking the letters out. She had memorized the words written on them by the stranger who would be picking her up when she arrived at her stop.
He hadn’t told her what she looked like, but she supposed that didn’t matter. There was nowhere else for her to turn.It wasn’t like she had any other options.
Her heart hammered as she thought back to a month ago. She had been going to school with her heavy books, studying late into the night. It had been a quiet life alongside her grandmother. They saw each other first thing in the morning and at the end of the night before they retired. Both of them were forever exhausted.
Until one evening when Liese returned home to find that her grandmother had never left for the day. The kind old woman who had raised her had fallen in the kitchen, only to never rise up. It was too late for her.
Liese couldn’t do anything for her grandmother. The woman had worked hard to keep a roof over their heads and to keep her in school. Liese wanted to become a teacher, and that required additional work. Marriage had never lingered long on her mind. It had never gone over well in her family. So she thought a job would protect her. But without the money that her grandmother had earned for them, she couldn’t stay there in her school or even her home any longer.
So now she had accepted a stranger’s offer to become his wife.
Her heart hammered as she closed her eyes and listened to the rocky road they drove over. She had never felt so alone in all her life. It made her wonder if she would find companionship in this marriage she was about to become a part of, or if she would be lonely for the rest of her days.
Finding the magazine for mail-order brides might have saved her from destitution, she supposed. But she still had no idea what was waiting for her when she arrived in Idaho.
Her hands shook as she clutched the pitiful bouquet in her hands.
Liese hadn’t even been the one to prepare the flowers. Flowers hadn’t come to mind. Instead, it was the wife of the priest who was conducting the official wedding that had readily prepared the bouquet and put it in her hands before she even had a chance to refuse them.
Though she supposed it was best that she didn’t refuse the flowers. This kept everyone from seeing that her hands were shaking.
Her eyes glanced down at the flowers and winced. They were fluttering lightly because of her hands. She tightened her grip in vain, wishing dearly that this was over. She gulped and hoped it wasn’t heard in the mostly empty church building.
It was a quiet space with very few guests.
She didn’t have to look around to know how few people there were in attendance. There was the priest, Mr. Thomson White. He was a kind man who was beginning to go bald and had a cheerful smile as he eagerly read bible verses so the ceremony wouldn’t end too early. Then his wife, Miranda White, sat nearby, beaming. She sat beside the young lady with a hand on Sandy.
Sandy. Sandy Foyle. Liese had been repeating that name over and over again in her head during her journey from Montana to Idaho. The distance wasn’t too far, but she’d had more than enough time to doubt herself.
A move across the west was not what she had ever expected.
Marrying a man she had never met was twice as intimidating as anything else she’d ever dealt with in all her life.
Sandy Foyle was the younger sister of the man she was standing across from in that very moment, choosing to marry. Never before had she found herself in such an awkward circumstance. There were five people in attendance for her wedding.
It was a wedding, but Mrs. White was the only person in the room smiling.
William shifted uncomfortably. In the lighting, the badge on his vest reflected brightly and she blinked hard. The movement caught her eye. Liese found herself wondering if she had best call him sheriff. She didn’t know what to call him for she had hardly just met him.
What would he prefer to be called by his wife? To ask him sounded silly. She could call him sir, sheriff, husband, William, Will, dear, or something else. But her tongue felt heavy and everything else sounded strange.
Instead, she merely bit her tongue. Nothing sounded right. Nothing felt right. This was all too strange for her. She clutched the bouquet close to her heart as she tried to think.
Exchanging letters with a stranger had seemed innocent and easy enough. William’s letters had been polite and friendly. He had mentioned being a sheriff in a small town looking for someone to help him keep his house and take care of his younger sister. He needed something smart and helpful, kind and supportive.
Liese liked to think that’s who she was.
She cheated a glance up at him to see that William was staring at her. Immediately, he looked away and she did the same. A flush crept up her face as she stared down at her feet.
Having only arrived in Borden, Idaho, that morning, there had been little time for her to freshen up. Mrs. White had put a flower in her hair and they had called that good enough. She felt dusty and tired, but William hadn’t wanted to take her home without having them properly married.
“You don’t mind, do you?” he had asked her with what looked like a forced smile.
She had shaken her head at the question. “Of course not.”
That was the reason she had arrived in the first place. There was no need for them to waste time. She needed a new home and if it meant immediately marrying him, then so be it.
There was no other home for her, after all. She had no one else to help her or take care of her. No one else was out there to help her survive. Her mother was gone, her father had passed. Her grandfather had disappeared, and her grandmother had given up the ghost.
A lump formed in her throat as she stared down at the flowers. They were white, the color of peace and innocence. That’s what she heard, at least. Everyone liked to use white flowers at weddings. That’s what people told her. There was symbolism in them. But she didn’t know very much about peace and weddings and happy couples.
Some days she didn’t feel like she knew very much about anything.
“Get your education,” her grandmother had instructed her. “Then you will always be prepared.”
Liese attempted to swallow the lump in her throat as she thought of the dear old woman who had worked so hard to raise her. They had suffered so many hardships together. Inhaling slowly and deeply, she tried to push the pain away.
It would be all right. Her grandmother was in a better place.
And there she was now, securing her future. She would have a roof over her head and someone who would care for her. Though there might not be love, perhaps she would have a safe place to live for the rest of her days. Liese tried to focus on something positive.
Yet it didn’t fill her heart like hope.
“Let us turn to First Corinthians,” the priest was saying. “‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.’”
Liese bit her lip as she straightened her head.
They always talked about love at weddings. Though she had attended very few weddings, this was the one part that she could never stand to listen to. Love was a silly subject that she could never listen to. It was a dangerous idea that left people vulnerable. It was weak, because it was never enough to keep people in one place or another.
Love wasn’t strong like people liked to pretend it was.
No matter what, people still did what they wanted. They would leave others if they so desired. They could claim to love one another and still turn their back in the next second to never appear again. One didn’t need love. All one needed was a decent sense of security and safety.
As Mr. White spoke, his words echoed in the large church building. It could fit many more people inside the church. She wondered if it was ever filled by everyone in town.
Liese couldn’t help but be curious if the town knew that their sheriff was getting married at that very moment. And she wondered if they cared.
She had been writing to him for a couple of months. A young lawman in Idaho had been wanting comfort and help in taking care of his home and much younger sister. He was struggling to take care of her while protecting the town. He needed to do both but was split and having a hard time.
Though she didn’t know why she had picked his ad, there was something about the way he wrote that had compelled Liese to respond to his ad.
He had written back a few weeks later and their correspondence had continued. He was respectable and friendly, honest and occasionally even blunt. She appreciated that. Liese didn’t want lies or false promises. She didn’t want something that wasn’t real. So before she knew it, she had agreed to come to him.
He had picked her up before taking her to the lawman’s office. There was work he needed to finish up, he had explained, and then he would take her to the courthouse. So Liese had spent two hours in the corner of his office quietly waiting for him to finish up his errands before he was ready to get married.
Cheating a glance at him now, she looked up to study his profile. He had sent her a picture from the town’s paper eight years ago regarding when he first took the job. It was big news because he was the youngest lawman in the county. Even now, he was hardly twenty-four years old.
The picture did him little justice.
William was tall and well-built with broad shoulders and a narrow waist. His dark hair had a side part that he had carefully combed that morning, but it was already becoming rather ruffled. But it appeared that he had forgotten to shave that morning as he was wearing a fine layer of stubble. Though she found that he wore it well. It gave him a fine air of class.
He had a square jaw, a straight nose, and hazel-green eyes that stared down at the ground as if he were very focused on something down on the ground. They were dark eyes that had been through a lot, she could tell. There was a sense of weariness about them.
Just then, his eyes flickered up to meet hers.
She had been caught once again. Her breath stopped as she immediately looked away. Liese bit her lip as she skirted her gaze to the right and prayed that he thought nothing of it. She didn’t know what to say to explain what she had just done.
Liese thought of her first letter which she had written to William Foyle. She had offered herself up as a potential wife if he was still looking for one. If he was still looking, she had written, then she wanted to be considered a possibility. She could tend a house and teach children if that’s something he was looking for. She had some basic training and was willing to learn. She wanted a simple life and didn’t need very much in return.
It had not been a great offer. After sending it out, she had been certain that she would never receive a reply from him.
Except two weeks later, the sheriff had sent her a letter back. He had explained that no one else had yet written out to him except for two other people who had since found other gentlemen looking to bring them west. But if she was interested, he was willing to spend more time talking to her.
Though Liese didn’t take very much seriously from his letters, she had been willing to take enough of a risk to accept his train ride ticket to come out and join him. Leaving Montana was the best thing that she could do, after all. She needed to get out of there one way or another.
So now there she was, marrying a man she hardly knew. She hadn’t even met his sister whom he wanted her to take care of.
Liese had no idea what she was doing. She gripped her bouquet more tightly and prayed for the best.
Marrying someone made sense.
William had been telling himself this for the last two years to mentally prepare himself for what he was doing that very moment. His eyes skittered around the familiar church building. He had been attending this church for as long as he could remember. But this felt different.
He inhaled deeply before slowly letting it out. Hopefully, no one would notice. Especially the young woman beside him. She couldn’t find out how nervous he felt about this situation. She was acting so calm so far that it was practically disarming. The way she fiddled with the flowers out of boredom was distracting.
But there was no backing out now. He was a man of his word. Already he had said he would marry her, so he would.
Miss Liese Johnson. She was a couple of years younger than himself. From what he understood, she didn’t have any family and was looking for a new place to call home. That’s what most women were looking for when they decided to answer an ad and become a mail-order bride.
It was that, or they wanted to come west and were hoping to find some sort of exciting life. He prayed she wasn’t secretly like the latter. Or else she would be mighty disappointed. He didn’t want an exciting life. He wanted something nice and quiet.
Especially as a lawman. He wanted everything to be calm and the town to be comfortable. Everyone should be on their best behavior and to not argue with one another. He hated having to break up fights or deal with trouble. It was best if people just didn’t cause trouble in the first case. Then he wasn’t even needed and he could focus on other things.
Like his sister.
Sandy was only eleven years old and needed as much time and attention as he could afford. Which wasn’t very much lately. That left them both miserable.
He hadn’t been able to talk to her very much about this marriage he had set up. In truth, it was mostly for her. She needed to have someone with her. Someone needed to be home to take care of her. He couldn’t be there all the time to protect her and be there for her. He wanted to be, but it wasn’t reasonable.
Whereas someone else could. Like his wife.
There was a pang of sorrow in his heart as he thought of their parents. That’s who should really be taking care of his sister. Sandy still talked about their mother and father daily, wishing they would come back any day now. Even their brother, Evan.
But they wouldn’t. It had been over six years and they weren’t coming home.
So William took a deep breath as he tried to concentrate on something else that wasn’t the past.
Like on the fact that he was getting married. Mr. and Mrs. White were there, the two people in town that he trusted the most. They had been there to take care of Sandy and help him out whenever he needed it.
As the priest droned on, William glanced up and caught Liese staring at him.
A flush rose up the young woman’s face as she hurriedly looked away. He did the same, not having expected to find her staring. For a minute he stared back at the ground and wondered if she cared for what she had seen before her.
Hopefully, she didn’t mind. Marriage was going to last a long time.
A moment later, William mustered up the courage to look up again at the young woman. He hadn’t said much to her yet. He swallowed nervously and glanced back at her.
Liese had her hair bundled in a loose braid that had slipped over one of her shoulders. It was a shade of brown that he had never seen before, nicely emphasizing her long neck. Her eyes were the color of sweet honey. The woman had a round face with a small nose and full lips. She was a little taller than some women, but he didn’t mind. He could see that being useful around the house.
He just hoped that would be to her liking.
They had never had a stranger to their house before, not like this. He had been working so often lately that he had only talked to his sister about this in passing. But not about what this really meant. Not about what it would be like for him to have a wife and for her to have a sister.
A heavy weight settled on his shoulders as Mr. White started to bring the ceremony to an end. He had just closed the book, so William knew it would only be another minute or two now. He straightened up and shifted his feet expectantly, waiting.
He just wanted to get home. He wanted to lie down and go to sleep. It had been a long, stressful day. Nothing would feel better than to chuck his boots off, put his gun belt away, and collapse in his bed. William could lock the doors and know with a surety that his family was safe.
It struck him that his family was growing.
This had hit him once before, a vague thought that he hadn’t considered too seriously. After all, surely a woman didn’t have to worry about too much. She could take care of herself. And she could take care of his sister. William was looking for someone to help him carry the burden. He didn’t need any more of a burden placed on his shoulders.
Then he felt her gaze on him.
He looked up and caught Liese looking up at him again. From the corner of his eyes, the bouquet in her hands was fluttering again. William blinked and then the young woman was staring back at the flowers as if she had never been staring at the flowers again.
All it took was a second before it was over.
He felt like he was losing his mind. William forced himself to stay put, never raising his hands. But he wanted to pull his hair out and take a walk to calm down. He could feel the tension in the room and how it continued to keep on building. His heart thumped so loudly that he hardly knew what he was doing.
What had he been thinking? Marrying someone he didn’t know?
Then a third time, he could feel her eyes on him. But this time, he didn’t feel like looking over at her. She could look all she wanted. They were going to be married. She had a lifetime to look.
A lifetime. That’s when a lump formed in his throat.
Perhaps he hadn’t thought all this through. Though he had wanted to bring someone he could trust into the home to help with his sister Sandy, he just realized that he hadn’t considered all the consequences of bringing a wife into the home.
After all, there were certain expectations for a married couple.
Feeling a flush creep up his face, William straightened up as he stared ahead. He knew his way around a gun, and he knew how to do his job. It had been about six years of wearing his badge and he knew the town inside and out. He knew the law and worked hard to take care of everyone.
But there were ways to treat a woman in marriage that he did not quite understand, and William had not quite taken this into consideration until right now. He had made an effort to clean the house before going to pick her up that morning. That was it.
He had never been good at romantic situations with women before. There had been a few parties around town where he had danced. He had managed not to fall over on anyone. He’d considered courting one or two women, but there had never been time.
There was Sandy to think about, after all.
He had never even kissed a woman, let alone married one of them.
Now he was about to bring one into his home to have her live with him forever. His mistake dawned on him with a heavy sense of unease. But now it was too late. Scrambling to pull his thoughts together, William wondered on earth what he was to do to remedy this situation he had put himself in.
Except there wasn’t very much he could do.
There was still his sister to consider, after all. He couldn’t just ignore her. Grinding his teeth, William furrowed his brow and wrestled with himself as he realized he was about to bring a stranger into his home.
He was a fool.
William wondered how none of these thoughts could have struck him when he came up with the idea to put out an ad in a mail-order bride magazine. He had bought it in the general store nearly a year ago and considered it for a while. He kept it in his room to try and forget about it. But he couldn’t, eventually placing an ad of his own.
It took a few weeks before Liese sent him her letter.
She had sounded well-educated and kind. She said little about her family, only that she wanted to leave Montana and would be more than happy to help him take care of his sister and his home. She understood he had a dangerous job and was more than willing to do whatever she could to help.
He sent her passage fare and said that he would meet her at the station.
Which he did. His heart had pounded so hard that morning. He had taken Sandy over to Mr. and Mrs. White, promising her that he would return that afternoon. She had made a face at him playfully before wandering off with her dear friend. Mrs. White had done a lot to take care of Sandy over the years, after all.
And then William had gone to the station, waiting for the stagecoach to arrive. The horses arrived in a cloud of dust. The passengers climbed out, coughing lightly. There were two couples and then a woman by herself.
It could have been no one but Miss Liese Johnson.
Even now as he stood across from her beside Mr. White, William was still confused how they had come this far so quickly. He had never expected to become an adult like this.
So much had happened so quickly.
He tried not to shake his head. A knot formed in his stomach. It had been a long time since he had felt so anxious. But this was not the time to show it, he reminded himself. This was supposed to happen. He had talked to the Lord often enough that he knew it needed to happen. He didn’t know why, but he trusted in the Lord.
Even if he didn’t know how he was going to make it work, William gritted his teeth and hoped this would be over soon. He was doing what the Lord wanted and that had to be enough. He would worry about the other concerns later on.
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