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Blessed are Those Who Dare to Love

She has faith in God’s guidance. Her unexpected arrival will change his life forever. Will two entirely opposite people overcome their fears and follow God’s plan?

Let the redeemed of the Lord tell their story— those he redeemed from the hand of the foe.” – Psalm 107:2

When young Eleanor is promised to marry a corrupt suitor who is planning to kill her, she flees out West, following God’s call. Afraid and disoriented, she finds herself on Calvin’s doorstep, a mysterious cowboy who has forsaken God, but this is not the only surprise that awaits her. The man she corresponded with is dead, and she has no other choice than to marry his brother. How will she show him that God is all he ever needs to push through?

Calvin never believed his life could get any worse until the day he lost his brother. Taken by grief, he tries to collect himself and take care of the ranch and his little sister. But, when the beautiful Eleanor arrives on his doorstep with the letters she has exchanged with his brother, he thinks that God mocks him all over again. In the midst of his own turmoil, how can he open his heart to this beautiful stranger when everyone who ever loves leaves him?

God brought these two souls together in His path, but it is up to them to make things work. Will the powerful light of His love dissipate the lurking threats that are set to break them apart?

Written by:

Christian Historical Romance Author

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4.3 / 5 (199 ratings)

Prologue

Idaho, Lonely Mountain, Hays, 1867

Eleanor sat quietly at her father’s bedside with her King James Bible firmly on her lap. It was the only precious gift she had from her mother, who Eleanor was told had died a few hours after she had been born. The leather-bound book looked its age. Its pages were dog-eared and some were slightly torn, but she did not mind.

The wooden-framed windows were open, and the fresh air filled her lungs. The drapes of her father’s four-poster walnut bed frame had been pulled back, exposing both the ornately carved headboard and lower footboard. The bed had been moved closer to the window to provide her father with the full benefit of fresh air, which had given him some relief, although he still labored with his breathing.

She lifted her head from the Bible and her eyes gazed upon Benjamin Hunt, her father who she loved dearly, respected, and who had been her provider. What would she do if she lost him? Her heart ached at the thought of losing him. Aside from the ranch hands she had known growing up, he was the only family she had.

She remembered how she watched from her window when she was a young girl as her father left the house at first light to begin his daily duties around the ranch. Many times, she begged to help him, but he refused. He would always say her place was to go to school to learn and become knowledgeable and skilled to become a good wife one day.

Over the past seven months, she would sit every day by his bedside in a mahogany armchair upholstered with silk tapestry and listen to the hacking as he coughed. Sometimes he coughed blood, and all she could do was pray.

She had never felt so helpless in her life and wished there was something she could do to help him and ease his pain. Although she accepted that should her father live or die it would be God’s will, still, she prayed hard for him to recover from consumption. Eleanor had seen how long and how hard he fought against this disease, how gradually his health had grown worse, and she had never felt more powerless.

She clasped her hands together and placed them on the Bible. The mere thought of losing him made her feel devastated, and her chest tightened as a lump formed at the back of her throat. She heard movement from the bed and quickly brushed the fresh tears from her eyes.

Her father coughed and heaved, and his eyes slowly fluttered open. He had dark rings under his eyes and a bluish tint to his pale skin. Eleanor felt sadness tug at her heart as she saw his once structured muscular face was now drawn and skeletal.

Eleanor placed her Bible on the walnut bedside desk, which housed a drawer and a chamber, and she grasped her father’s hand.

“It’s alright, father,” Eleanor coaxed softly and rubbed her thumb gently over his fingers in reassurance. “You’re going to get well.”

He gave a slight shake of his head, his blond hair dampened from fever.

“Eleanor,” his voice came out as a hoarse whisper as his eyes searched her face.

She gazed into his dull light brown eyes and his pallid skin. He had been strong as an ox, but now he was weak and too thin to withstand another wave of his illness.

He lifted a weakened arm and lightly brushed his fingers over her cheek, his eyes glistening with tears. His arm fell to his side as he coughed and hacked.

“Be still, father.” Eleanor put on a brave face and smiled at him. “I’ve been praying for you.”

“Ah, Eleanor…”

He tried to take in deep breaths as he spoke. “I am not…going to live…for much longer…”

“Don’t say that.” Eleanor felt a sudden rush of emotion as tears gathered behind her eyes again. “I have heard many people can recover from this illness.”

“Then, I…am not…one of them…” He panted, and she saw tears slowly slip from the corners of his eyes. “I’ve been a bad father …”

“No, father, you haven’t,” Eleanor interrupted, leaning toward him, “You did your best and you provided for me and looked after the ranch.”

His eyes never left her face. “Your eyes…like emerald…like your mother’s.” He coughed and Eleanor leaned back in surprise, her tears beginning to fall down her cheeks. He would always look desolate as he spoke of her mother. Why would he speak of her now?

“I should have been around…more,” he panted and gasped for air, “You always…reminded me…of her.” He paused and drew in a rasping breath, but hacked out a cough. “I’m sorry…I didn’t…I wasn’t there for you, I don’t…want you…to be alone.”

“I’m not alone, father,” Eleanor insisted gently. “There are many ranch hands and housekeepers here, and I can continue doing–”

“I don’t want you to be…alone. I made a decision. I can…make amends to you…”

His breaths were raspy again, and Eleanor’s heart started beating faster instinctively.

“I want you…to be happy…” He drew in another deep breath. “You must marry…Ralph. I spoke to him–it’s been arranged. Look in my top desk drawer in the study–” He coughed with a small wheeze. “You’ll find a…letter….”

“Ralph Barlow?” Eleanor was stunned and could not hide it in her voice as her eyes widened. “Why him?”

“You are almost…twenty years old,” her father nodded slowly. “Ralph will make…a good match…for you.” His eyes looked desperate. “Please, Eleanor, you…must…”

Eleanor started to shake her head but saw the pleading, despairing look in her father’s eyes. She took a deep breath, thinking about what to say.

Ralph was no doubt a good match. He was a respectable man in society, he had a mischievous charm about him and was popular, blessed with strong features and a square jawline. He always appeared clean-shaven, and his hair was fashionably cut short. There may have been a time when Eleanor was younger and fancied him a little, but she no longer found him pleasant.

“Surely there are other eligible suitors?” Eleanor swallowed and bit her bottom lip. “I want a family, I do, but isn’t Ralph quite a bit older than me? There must be someone else.”

Could this be God’s will for her life? To marry her father’s long-time financial business associate? She barely knew him, and they had nothing in common. He barely acknowledged her whenever he visited her father. Eleanor had noticed how Ralph Barlow liked to appear fashionable with his high-collared starch shirt and black necktie, black single-breasted waistcoat, a jacket that stopped mid-thigh, black trousers, and shoes that always shone. It was a far cry from her plain and modest appearance.

“Ralph, will…be…good to you,” her father said, his brows lifted expectantly. “He managed…the finances, he took…that burden…” He drew in a deep raspy breath and began to cough, “he knows the…ranch’s position…I trust him…he promised to…care for you.”

“Yes, father,” Eleanor tried to hold her voice steady, despite the distress she felt. “If that is what you think is best for me I will marry him.”

“God will be…with you, Eleanor.” He gave a small smile, seemed pleased, and with a small wave of his hand, he said, “Don’t stay here … go rest a bit. I shall…sleep for a while.”

Eleanor wiped the tears from her face and nodded, unsure of what to say. Could Ralph manage the ranch as my father has done? She wondered if her father had thought clearly about this match between them.

Lord, is this your plan for me? She picked up her Bible, glanced over her shoulder, and looked at him. Her long, blond braid bounced to one side and she sighed. She thought perhaps her father would never have arranged the betrothal if it was not part of God’s plan.

She understood that although this was his way of making up for his absence during her childhood, she did not like it and she would rather have time spent with him. As promised, she would obey and honor her father’s dying wish, but Eleanor wasn’t thrilled about the betrothal with Ralph.

She needed to see the letter for herself, so she headed toward her father’s study. The door was unlocked and she entered, taking notice of the many books on his old oak bookshelf he never allowed her to read.

The study was small and neat with her father’s old oak desk placed next to the wall, opposite the bookshelf, and three back-slatted chairs. The desk felt a little dusty as she wriggled open the top drawer. She found a large envelope and pulled out an unfinished letter with her father’s scrawly handwriting that indicated his intention for her to marry Ralph. It was all true. She drew in a sharp breath,  sinking back on the chair in fear of fainting. Dismay welled up within her and she stared at the letter in disbelief. How could her father do this to her?

She needed to read it again. Elanor’s eyes trailed the words on the paper frantically, until she noticed something that changed everything.

There were no signatures at the end of the agreement. The letter had not been finalized. She carefully placed the letter inside the envelope and held it close. She decided to go sit in the parlor and pray to God that this was the case.

 

***

Eleanor felt a gentle shake and her eyes fluttered open. She looked around and realized she’d fallen asleep in the parlor. Remembering the letter, she breathed a sigh of relief it was still on her lap. How long had she been asleep? The rose-shaped gas lights were dimmed. She looked out the double-paned window and noticed the sun had almost set.

Father!

She stared into the familiar kind hazel eyes and rugged dark bearded face of Gus Melton, her father’s ranch foreman who had been like an uncle to her. She often wondered why he had never married as he would have made a good father himself. Other than the ranch, he took care of his elderly parents who lived in their own house a few acres away.

Eleanor would never forget the words that escaped his lips that evening.

“Eleanor, I’m sorry.” He held his Stetson hat to his wide chest, and his voice was deep in sympathy. “Your father has passed away.”

Every word from his mouth sounded slow to her. She saw he continued to speak, but she heard none of it. All she could think about was that her father was no longer with them. She could not hold back the tears as they burst down her cheeks.

He was with the Lord now. His suffering had stopped. She should be happy about that, so, why could she not stop crying? They never had a close relationship, but she loved him. She had craved his love and attention many times in the past, and she knew the death of her mother had been difficult for him, but she had needed him, too.

The last scripture she had read that day was from Revelation 21:4, which said, ‘He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.’ Yet not even these holy words were able to comfort her in this devastating moment.

Eleanor felt firm arms wrap around her and realized that in an instant, her life had changed and she felt all alone. She thought of the verse again, desperately looking for some solace, but the pain in her heart intensified as she realized she was the last of her family.

Eleanor closed her eyes, shut her heart, and wept like she never had before.

Chapter One

Idaho, Lonely Mountain, Hays, 1867

Eleanor felt comforted by the gloomy gray skies and the sound of rain that pelted to the ground. She was grateful that so many people had attended her father’s funeral. Eleanor had agreed with the doctor it would be wiser to have her father buried as soon as possible due to the circumstances of his death, and she had decided to have the funeral at the church, a simple, white-painted building that may have been a house once.

Many faces she knew, and other, unfamiliar ones, greeted her and offered their condolences. A mass of black dresses and suits exited the church and donned black umbrellas even though the rain slowly subsided to barely a drizzle.

She watched people climb into their buggies and wagons, and pain pierced her heart as she remembered her father climbing into his wagon to go to tow, often leaving her behind. While he had been preoccupied with their ranch, Eleanor had learned to place her trust in God and studied His word every day.

Sadness filled her heart. She always struggled to understand why her father pulled away from her so soon. What had she done to make him dislike her so much that he did not want to have anything to do with her? One night he came home early and they ate dinner together. It didn’t happen often and Eleanor had felt elated to have her father with her.

He had a glass bottle half-filled with whiskey which accompanied the many stories he told her. She had enjoyed every moment and had thought then that perhaps he wanted to know her, to love her. That thought was short-lived, as her father had suddenly stopped speaking and looked at her closely.

He had uttered a name and pain filled his face. Eleanor still recalled the way he had stood and left her alone at the dining table. He never knew the tears she had shed that night. Despite him leaving her alone at the dinner table, she could not resent him. He was her father and was the only family she had left, and she loved him. Young as she was, she had noticed and understood the undeniable pain in his eyes whenever he looked at her and said she reminded him of her mother, Jane.

Eleanor had often wished her mother was alive and wondered what she was like. She had tried many times to ask him about her mother, but he would get angry and leave the house.

Eleanor stood at the doorway of the church, peering at the dark clouds that looked ready to burst open again. She heard Gus’s deep voice call her.

“I’m sorry, Gus,” Eleanor turned around, quickly wiped the tears that had gathered in her eyes, and watched him slowly swagger toward her. “I was deep in thought.”

“Today’s been hard, I know,” he said sympathetically. His voice sounded gravelly. He cleared his throat as he asked, “Are you ready to go? My parents are tired and I’d like to take them home to rest.”

“Yes, of course,” she answered with a forced smile. “First, would you mind taking me to Ralph Barlow’s office? I tried to find him, but I don’t think he came to the funeral.”

Eleanor’s father and Ralph had been business partners for years, so why did he not attend the funeral? She felt confused and it did not make sense.

“Yeah, sure,” Gus responded thoughtfully and rubbed his thumb along his jawline. “Now that you mention it, I don’t remember seeing him either.” Gus tipped his head as he placed his hat snuggly on top of his head.

Eleanor thought if she met with Ralph she could convince him to cancel the betrothal. Why would Ralph agree to marry her when he had never shown an interest in her?

“Perhaps I’ll get answers when I see him,” Eleanor said. Her mind thought over his absence and she felt a tug of caution in her heart.

Eleanor followed Gus to the buggy and climbed beside him.

“Where’s his office?” Gus asked as he gave a gentle tug on the reins.

“Mansfield Street, it’s not far from the bank,” Eleanor replied as she looked from the wet and muddy streets to the horse-drawn wagons, carriages, and people dressed in varied colored bustle silk skirts, coats, and frock coats with umbrellas at the ready; all continue their daily rounds, oblivious to the fact her father had died.

On any other day, Eleanor would marvel at the mountains and rolling hills beyond the city despite the gloomy skies. She would think of how blessed they all were to be at the foothills of Lonely mountain, surrounded by the beauty of God’s creation.

Gus halted the buggy in front of a tall, wooden building with an awning that covered a wooden deck supported by posts. Above the awning was a white wooden signboard that read in large, bold red letters, ‘Barlow’s Financial Services’. The building was in line with a stretch of buildings of various establishments separated into blocks by dusty streets and small alleyways.

“Thank you, Gus.” Eleanor did not wait for him to get off the buggy. Instead, she climbed out herself. “I hope he is there,” she whispered under her breath.

She heard the wheels of the buggy skid on the mud as Gus continued down the street, and she drew in a deep breath before heading toward Ralph’s office. She felt the wet dirt underneath her shoes and her skirt drag along with the mud as she walked up two small wooden steps across the sturdy deck, and entered the building. The door opened with the ting of a bell.

It was surprisingly quiet. Usually, the office was full of people dashing around, offering loans, and managing the fortunes of clients in wealthy dispositions.

An ornately decorated oval walnut table with dovetailed legs sat to the left of the waiting area, surrounded by four upholstered armchairs. To the right, there were two leather couches set in the corner and a smaller walnut table of the same oval design. Mounted on the wall were two gas lamps and a dull painting.

Eleanor knew where Ralph’s office was, and headed toward the stairs. “Mr. Barlow?” She called out and looked in the other offices. Oh, Lord, please let him be here, she prayed silently. The sooner she could discuss the betrothal situation with him the better. She hoped she could convince him to change his mind.

Eleanor ascended the stairs and heard soft murmurs coming from Ralph Barlow’s office. She recognized Ralph’s smooth voice but not the other person speaking. To whom was Ralph talking?

She lifted her arm to knock on his door but halted in mid-air, feeling chills run down her spine at what she heard.

“…it needs to be executed properly,” Ralph’s smooth, confident voice filled her ears, “I can’t be implicated in this. No harm must come to her until after we are wed.”

Eleanor felt herself shake, and fear gripped her as she realized he was talking about her!

“I know,” the voice was gruff and sounded irritated. “I always get the job done. But why not just do it now?”

“Because, Jasper,” Ralph’s voice, though smooth, held annoyance at something that probably should already have known. “I will only be able to claim any part of the inheritance once we are married. I will not repeat myself. Until then, nothing is to happen to her. Do you understand!?”

“Yeah, I understand,” Jasper grunted. “What will you do with the animals?”

Ralph gave a sarcastic laugh, “Sell them, of course, I will have no need for them.”

“If you’re going to build a hotel and saloon and whatever else you said…” his voice trailed and he sounded hesitant, “What about the ranch hands?”

Eleanor felt her heart pound in her ears, and she heard the tapping of shoes, pacing the floor. She could not believe what she was hearing. Ralph wanted to overtake her family’s ranch for business deals.

“Jasper,” Ralph’s voice was cool and held curiosity. “Gus and the ranch hands will be of use after all.” His chuckle made Eleanor’s skin crawl. “I will not dismiss them, I will allow them to stay on and they can work for me if they desire.”

“That Benjamin Hunt was a real fool to trust you,” Jasper sneered with a laugh. “I don’t trust you and here I am helping you.”

Eleanor stepped back and the floorboard let out a soft creak. She felt herself tremble as silence filled the room. Had they heard her? Her heart thumped so hard she could barely think.

A sudden hard slam hit against the surface of what sounded to be a desk. Eleanor felt herself shiver and closed her eyes. She covered her mouth as she heard Jasper moan in pain with offers of apologies.

“Ah, I think you broke my nose…” Jasper whimpered in pain.

“Remember who you’re speaking to,” Ralph’s confident voice held fury.

Eleanor felt shocked, and fear overwhelmed her. She needed to leave before they discovered her presence and all she had heard. She retraced her steps carefully and made her way back downstairs as fast as she could.

She realized Ralph might have used her father’s funeral as an opportunity to meet with Jasper and discuss their wicked scheme.

What was she going to do? She could not marry Ralph now that she knew his plans! Her life and the ranch were in danger. She needed time to think and decide her best course of action.

Devastation once again filled her heart and tears ran down her cheeks. If only her father had considered someone else or discussed the matter with her. Eleanor knew she should not allow fear to consume her, but what she had heard was truly evil. What should she do?

A thought came to her mind. The sheriff. Perhaps he could help her. She knew it would take Gus a bit of time to return, and that would give her the chance to speak to the local authorities. Without wasting another moment, Eleanor turned away from the building and headed toward the sheriff’s office.

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    • Thank you so much, Patricia! I can’t wait to read your overall feedback! 😍God bless you!🙏

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