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The Light in their Souls

All she ever knew was a surrogate family. All he ever knew was the feeling of not being enough. Can God shine His Light on them and let their growing love shine?

Grace is a pious woman and accepts God as her true savior. Getting married to the priest’s prodigal son though is yet another challenge she has to overcome. Falling unexpectedly for his passion and determination though comes as a surprise. Is that what the Lord really wants of her? How can she deal with a man who lost his faith and her thriving feelings for him?

Andrew is the prodigal son of the family. Trapped in his past, he lost his faith and himself. Marrying Grace is the only way to gain his life back after the death of his father and find God again.  She is an uncommon woman, full of Lord’s light but with a spirit of her own. How can he trust in His will that Grace is the woman he belongs to when he’s so afraid of commitment?

Grace and Andrew must fight the demons of their past to let the holly Light come into their souls. How can they find forgiveness and let love shine through the darkness?

Written by:

Christian Historical Romance Author

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Prologue

Kansas, 1876.

Andrew shut his eyes tight as the fiery warmth of the bourbon slid down his throat. He emptied the cup he held and dropped it on the table with a thud. The saloon was full with men enjoying their Friday night, some of them spending their last cents at the game table while hoping to win enough to get them through the next week, and the others spending theirs on getting a beautiful lady to warm their bed for the night.

The entire place smelled of oak and pines, common flavors of the liquor sold. The bright light in the center of the ceiling board shone throughout the saloon, making it easy to spot anyone the moment you walked through the door. It was a small place, but the best in town and the slow music played by the musicians was one Andrew could relate to.

The lyrics spoke of a man searching for an inner peace he didn’t think was in existence, and his resolution to give up on it in the end. Like the singer, Andrew wondered if there would ever be a time when he didn’t feel this unsettling nervousness inside of him, the one that made it impossible for him to remain in a place or return home.

He fixed his gaze on the fireplace behind the counter and he swooned a little. “More bourbon,” he ordered and winked at the beautiful blonde woman standing on the other end of the counter. She was tall and dressed in a yellow-colored gown with a very low-bust cut and ruffled skirts that stopped above her mid-shin. Under the bell-shaped skirts, Andrew caught a glimpse of her white petticoat as she moved. It barely reached the tassel-adorned boots she wore, leaving a huge portion of her legs exposed to his gaze.

He took off his hat, placed it on the table and smiled at her again. Her returning smile was wide, and his gaze strolled over her face lazily, then it shifted and landed on the disapproving glare of the man behind her. The man was probably the saloon owner, and he mouthed something to her when she turned to him after she poured his cup full again. Andrew continued to devour her with his gaze as he grabbed the cup, spilling some of the drink before gulping it down heavily, then slammed the cup on the wooden table.

“It is time you leave,” the man watching him yelled at him in a gruff voice. He dropped the cloth he used to wipe his hands on the table. Andrew could tell from the reddening of his cheeks the man was annoyed by his flirtatious look at the serving woman. “Any more bourbon and you will pass out on one of my tables.” He paused, then continued, “It is bad for business.”

The man’s cold blue eyes fixed on Andrew’s. He was blonde and fat, his stomach protruding out of the blue t-shirt he wore. Andrew ignored him and signaled to the lady again, and this time he let his eyes linger on her cleavage exposed by her lowcut dress. He ordered for another round of drink, but the man stopped her from coming over to him and said in a sterner voice. “Pick up your hat and get out.”

Annoyed at the interruption, without thinking, Andrew threw his fist out front and it collided with the man’s jaw. “Don’t tell me what to do,” he yelled, attracting the attention of the other men gathered around the game table in the far left corner of the saloon. “All I want is more bourbon, not a fight,” he added, his words slurred as he reached for the cup on the table again.

“You are yet to pay for the ones you have consumed,” the man replied, his hands massaging his jaw.

Andrew scoffed and lurched forward again, attempting to land another blow, but the man blocked the onslaught of his fist and hit him hard in his face. The impact sent Andrew flying back.

He landed first on the wooden chairs behind him, breaking them as he crashed down, before sprawling out on the filthy floor. Andrew groaned, and tried to stand up, but he was too drunk to gain enough coordination. He had gotten only three large cups of bourbon, and the night had only begun. He had planned to make the most of it, have as many drinks as he could, and return to his pub room probably with the blonde woman eyeing him from the counter.

As he eventually struggled to his feet, the men around the game table dispersed and came towards him. One grabbed him by the collar of the brown shirt he wore, and Andrew brazenly spat on his face. The act earned him another hard punch to his face, and the man hauled him across the saloon floor towards the door.

“Pay for your drinks and leave, or I will kick you out!”

Andrew reached into the pocket of his pants for coins as he struggled to get to his feet, realizing he didn’t have any money left. The men watched him, and he shook his head, trying to dispel the drowning effect of the alcohol in his system.

I had twenty cents left on me, he thought to himself as he checked the second pocket of his pants. The owner of the saloon cursed out loud as he marched over to Andrew and grabbed him by the collar of his shirt. He dragged Andrew to the planked bat-wing door of the saloon and threw him out.

This time, Andrew landed on his back, but in a pool of mud from the drizzle near a pig pen. He cursed, as the door to the saloon shut in front of him with a loud thud, leaving Andrew under the drizzling rain. Shivering, he got up on his feet and found shade in a corner of the dark street to wait out the rain. It continued to pour down in torrents around him as lightning struck, and he wished he could snuggle deeper into the coat he wore.

This was his last night out here in Kansas before he rode back home for Leyland, and he had imagined it going differently with more fun. Not sure how he lost the last cents on him, he smuggled into his wool jacket and waited for the rain to subside so he could find his way back to the pub he rented for the night across the street.

After waiting a long time, he decided to take the walk in the rain. By the time he got into the room, he was completely soaked and exhausted. At this point, he knew he had to swallow his pride and make the trip back to Leyland come daybreak.

He had been procrastinating it for a while now, trying his best to make more money to sustain him out here in Pecos, but he ended up losing what little coin he had left yesterday in a game at another saloon. As Andrew snuggled under the bedsheets after removing his wet clothes, he thought of his parents for the first time since he left home two years prior. He always avoided thoughts of them purposely because it left him feeling remorseful for leaving, but still adamant to return to them.

***

The ride to Leyland on his stallion Rosco was a long one. He passed through several acres of hand with heavy-grasslands sod with many mud holes before he finally approached Leyland. The last time he rode past these fields he had been heading away from home, not sure where his destination was but determined never to return. The early morning sun shone brightly on his face, making sweat trickle down his forehead.

He had been traveling down this trail for four days now, and he was pleased to see buildings in the distance as he studied the land around him he once knew as home. Wide-open prairie surrounded him and stretched out further in front of him. On both sides of the trail he was on were grasslands rolling as far as the eye could see, and far ahead to his right he could see the mountain peaks.

His parents had a ranch towards the end of Leyland, it was a quarter mile east from the main town, and there were indigenes of the town. His father was a preacher with a reputation amongst the town’s people, and he grew up on the ranch living his life close to work. His days’ work rotated around seeing that the few cattle his father had on the ranch grazed on their pasture and leading them back to the stables, and his evenings were full of bible teachings from both his parents.

Andrew spotted a few horses along the muddy path as the weather suddenly changed and the heavy wind ruffled over his face with force, making him blink multiple times to dispel dust from his eyes. He wiped his face with his left hand, adjusted his hat on his head, and kicked the sides of the stallion again so the animal leaped forward with renewed speed.

The next time he slowed down, seven hours had passed, and it was because he was approaching his father’s ranch. The majority of the town was pure cattle territory, many of the people here fenced their property around with wire fences, marking their territory to prevent the cattle from free grazing.

As he neared the wired fence separating his father’s land, Andrew could see a wagon driving into the ranch slowly. It was a Saturday evening, and his father’s right-hand man on the ranch, Peter, always drove the wagon out to get the household supplies needed for the main ranch house.

Andrew rode in past the wooden sign that read Bryson’s Ranch, and slowed when he took the left path leading away from the two-story pure wooden building of their ranch house and towards the barn. He hoped that he would enter into the main house before meeting his mother as he dismounted his stallion in front of the barn. He tossed the reins over the small wooden fence beside the old chimney. He let his gaze travel the rest of the large land.

The workers shouldn’t be off duty today, but he had spotted none of them as he rode in. It was a Sunday evening, and his parents would be in the main house after returning from service earlier. The path that led to the main house from the barn looked like it hadn’t been trimmed of the excess grass in a long time, and it extended into another arched entry. Beside it was a long-abandoned pigpen, chicken coop, and an old bunkhouse building, to the left was a smokehouse and then a well.

Everything seemed intact here, and the corners of his lips lifted in a reminiscing smile.

Nothing ever changes,  he thought to himself as he moved to walk towards the barn’s double-sided wooden door.

The door swung open and his mother, June Bryson, stepped out. Her eyes widened in disbelief when she saw him, and her hands at her sides moved to frame her mouth as she whispered with tears in her eyes. “Andrew?” Her voice was hoarse, and before he could respond, she moved and squashed him in her embrace. “Oh my, Andrew, it is you,” she cried out.

Andrew realized she had been in there with his father when the door swung open again, and he stepped out. His eyes widened in surprise, then scanned Andrew’s face briefly before his brows furrowed into a frown. “Andrew,” Edward Bryson, Andrew’s father, called in a grave voice. Seeing his father, a powerful surge of shame filled him, and he couldn’t meet his gaze.

“Father,” Andrew replied, and his mother released him for a moment, her hands never leaving his face. Her eyes danced with joy, and his heart hammered in his chest as he anticipated a harsh welcome from his father. He braced himself for his wrath because he deserved it, but his father’s lips lifted in a small smile.

“You are back home at last,” June said and stepped away so Andrew could stand face to face with his father. At that moment, he remembered the parable of the prodigal son who had wandered around for years after squandering the wealth his father had handed over to him. Andrew lowered his head when his father reached out and placed his right hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry, Father,” he muttered, shamed and feeling remorseful. “I am sorry for not keeping my promise to you and returning home.”

“Welcome back home, my son,” was all Edward said, before pulling him in for a warm hug similar to what he got from his mother.

The reception he got was not what he expected when he had started the trip earlier that day. He had known coming back home was the only chance he had left at survival because he had spent the past months wandering about and feeding on whatever he made from games in saloons. He slept in brothels with most of his profits, then when he was down to his last bit of money, he went back into the game and made more.

His luck had run out two months ago, and it was then that he first decided to return home. Andrew followed his parents back into the house and went into his old room. The moment he stepped inside memories of his time here filled him.

The days he slept in his bed after having a warm meal with his family. He had looked forward to waking up the next morning, repeating the same circle and feeling a sense of accomplishment from it, but everything he believed in was shattered in a few days in his past by one woman he could never forget.

He washed up after his mother brought in a pail of water. The room was dusty, his bed unmade and his old clothes still hung in the old wooden cupboard in the corner of his small, cramped room. His mother had not packed up any of his personal belongings, there was a clean chamber pot under the bed, his red lamp still hung on the wall and the paneled window was shut, so he walked over to it, and pushed it open.

The wind greeted him, and he stepped back a little and stared into the night. This was his home, but feeling welcome here was in the past now, and even though Andrew was touched by the warmth he received on his return, he knew he couldn’t stay. He didn’t belong here anymore.

That night his mother prepared food like there was a feast. She made his favorite soup with mutton, carrots, and hard cheese. She added fresh lettuce perfectly chopped and mixed with tomatoes. After the meal, Andrew sat with his father in their living area, and they got a chance to talk.

“Have you come back to your sense and returned home for good?” the older man asked, and Andrew hesitated for a while, before replying.

“I have come to ask for more money to invest in a business,” he replied. Before his father could say anything, he continued, “I know you do not trust me, but I intend to use it well and return after a year to show you the profits I have made.”

He held unto his father’s gaze as he told the lie, waiting for a response. A part of him feared rejection, but his father was calm. “I swear I will return home for good this time once I have made my profits,” he promised again and waited for a response.

To his surprise, his father nodded. “You promise to return in a year?”

“I promise,” he lied.

The next day when Andrew rode out of Leyland again, his first stop was a saloon.

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