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A Blessed Love Arrives with the Bride Train

With God in her heart, she takes a bride train and flees West to find love and purpose. How can an accidental promise lead to a loving marriage with a man who promised not to open his heart again?

“If she was going to die, at least she’d die with him. The man she’d fallen in love with.”

After the Civil War leaves a path of destruction in its wake, Lydia realizes that she must abandon her hometown for a better future. The bride train that carries potential brides West appears like her only solution. With God’s guidance in her heart, Lydia makes the hardest life decision. How can she keep her faith alive when the handsome man who chose her didn’t realize the significance of his action?

After the atrocities he experienced at War, Isaac sealed his heart. As the town sheriff, he needs to supervise the bride train but gets himself in a situation that changes his life. In order to save Lydia from what he suspects is a trafficking ring, he committed to her, taking her hand in marriage. How can he keep his promise when his faith in love and God is shattered?

Lydia and Isaac need to fight together to save the innocent women that find themselves trapped. But how can they let God’s Light bless their love when everything around them seems to break down?

Written by:

Christian Historical Romance Author

Prologue

Maysville, Virginia, May 4, 1865

The coins bit into Lydia’s hands through her thin gloves as she clutched them against her chest. She was walking by rote, her mind firmly locked on the scene at the Dressmakers she’d just left, her ears ringing with her employer’s last words. Well, former employer now. Mary had explained that she wasn’t making enough money to support her family and that her husband had taken a job at a mine in Pennsylvania after the war.

They were leaving Maysville and going to be with him. She was closing the shop this morning to pack. “I’m sorry this is so sudden,” she repeated as she’d pushed a month’s wages into Lydia’s hand and guided her out the door.

When her parents moved here, it was a great place to start a business. With the railroad growth came more families, and with the families came more business. Then the war destroyed all of that. Families were broken, and fathers and brothers perished, leaving women like Lydia to fend for themselves. She shouldn’t have been surprised that Mary was choosing to relocate rather than stick it out in Maysville, hoping it would recover soon.

Harsh reality pulled her out of her thoughts and she stopped walking to look down at the coins in her palm. Seven dollars and fifty cents, a month’s wages, lay against the threadbare cotton of her glove. She took a deep breath, feeling desperate, and curled her fingers around them, again, closing her eyes and whispering a prayer for guidance.

Seven dollars and fifty cents was barely enough to pay for her room at Netty’s Boarding House for another few weeks. As it was, it didn’t leave much for food. She had a little of the money from selling their house left, but it wouldn’t sustain her for much longer.

“What am I going to do now?” She asked no one in particular. Saying the words allowed some shock to seep out, which felt great, though she winced at the high-pitched whine that snuck out with them.

When she opened her eyes, the reality of Maysville greeted her. The memories from her childhood in this town faded into the nearly abandoned streets and the half-covered windows of empty storefronts lining them. The crisp morning air did nothing for the picture in her eyes. Even the trees looked like they’d abandoned hope of growing here. Their spring buds were still a few weeks away, and until then, they looked like gnarled hands, bursting through the ground, bony fingers stretched toward the heavens.

Forcing herself to look away from the bare trees, her eyes took in the cracked windows, the peeling paint, and the dusty appearance of the buildings around her.

Her eyes caught her reflection in the window next to her, and she stepped closer. People in town had always commented that she looked like her mother, but Lydia had never understood why until recently. Her eyes scanned the tall woman reflected in the window, taking in her willowy frame, her shabby day dress doing nothing to hide the narrowness of her shoulders and hips.

Her eyes continued up, meeting the curls of caramel ringlets lying on her left shoulder, the petite bow of her lips, the slight uptilt of her nose, finally landing on the gray-green eyes that looked tired and worn from days bent over a sewing job or other. At twenty years of age, Lydia was considered an old maid. She leaned closer to the mirror, lifting her hand to the dark circles under her eyes. The woman looking back at her looked every inch an old maid indeed.

She would know, too. Her father had said that her mother had keen eyesight, which made her very good at needlework, and that Lydia seemed to have picked up the skill. It’s what led her to Mary’s Dressmaker’s shop when her father and brother’s letters and money stopped coming a year ago. She had never met her mother.

General Lee’s letters came a few months ago, written in his own hand and informing her of their deaths. She hadn’t seen them since they’d left and now wouldn’t be able to say goodbye or pay her respects with their graves too far away for a hired carriage to make the trip. Not that she could have afforded it, of course.

The grief she’d been holding back since reading of their deaths gave way to disbelief, chased by anger, and finally despair as those realizations slashed through her mind. She lost track of time. Days blurred together. She threw herself into work, partly for the distraction but also because she’d had to accept that she had to earn her keep now.

In those times, she didn’t have time to think of the future, and her dreams of meeting and having a family of her own got swept aside as she simply tried to stay alive.

You’ve got nothing but time now, her reflection seemed to say, and Lydia blinked, returning to the present. Her eyes focused on a flier on the window next to her face in the reflection, and Lydia’s gaze narrowed.

OBJECT: MATRIMONY

FRANKLIN, UTAH TERRITORY

FEMALE COMPANIONS NEEDED FOR NEW TOWN IN THE UTAH TERRITORY. TRANSPORTATION AND ROOM AND BOARD WILL BE PAID FOR THOSE WILLING TO TRAVEL TO OUR TERRITORY TO FILL THIS NEED. CATALOG OF BACHELORS AVAILABLE AFTER SIGN UP LOCATED INSIDE.

REQUESTED AND VERIFIED BY: BISHOP SILAS DAY

Lydia read the sign twice, tilted her head, then looked at the sky overhead. “Are you trying to tell me something here?” She asked with a shaky laugh. She’d prayed every morning and night since she could speak, prayed over every meal, and even added a few prayers throughout the day while her father and brother were away fighting in the war. Never had she felt this scoffing sarcasm dripping from her lips.

Was the lost job the last straw to break her resolve? Still shocked at herself, she whispered, “Go West?” She considered it for half a breath and then on her way back to Netty’s, her head shaking at the idea. She couldn’t shake the coincidence, though. Was the fact that she’d noticed the sign seconds after her exasperated question a coincidence?

“As if the Lord would ask a young woman to travel into a place very few people knew about and try to make a place for herself among the people there!” She scoffed, then tilted her head in thought. “Or would that be exactly what He would want me to do?”

***

Lydia was still contemplating that hours later when she poured her afternoon tea on the small balcony her rooms afforded her. It looked away from the town, over a garden Netty lovingly tended every day, and allowed her a sense of privacy. Netty would be by in a few minutes, as they’d taken to sharing afternoon tea each day after Lydia finished work.

As if on cue, Netty knocked on the door to Lydia’s room and let herself in, as usual. Her square jaw lacked the feminine structure that would’ve made her beautiful, but otherwise, her face was as perfect as an angel’s. Her eyebrows were both arched perfectly, one shade darker than her hair. Her deep brown eyes reminded Lydia of the cake her father would bake for her birthday each year.

Lydia told Netty about losing her job as Netty arranged the tray of finger foods she’d brought along for their visit. “On the way back here,” she paused, taking a sip of tea, “I saw a sign in the Stage Office window advertising for women to leave their homes, go west, and marry a man they’ve never talked to!” She laughed as if the coincidence between the loss of her job and the sign in the window weren’t still bothering her, but it held a nervous edge that gave away how much it did.

Netty was quiet for a long moment as she mulled over the situation. “The way I see it, you need to examine the good things against the bad about accepting the offer and moving west.” She pulled a folded butcher paper sheet from her pocket and spread it on the table.

“On one hand, you have no job, no family, and very little money left from selling the house. The salary Mary gave you before she pushed you out of the shop this morning won’t hold for long. And with job prospects in Maysville growing slim, it makes sense to find a family that also comes with financial support.” Though her words were frank, her voice stayed conversational, telling Lydia she wasn’t trying to upset her. She was just starting the facts as she saw them.

It would also give her a purpose since she currently had none, but Netty didn’t say that. “On the other hand,” she continued, her pencil scraping on the other side of the large ‘T’ she’d drawn on the page. “Moving so far away from your memories and your friends to marry a man you’ve never met… The very idea makes me shudder.”

She paused, looking up from the table and pinning Lydia with a hard stare that made her squirm. “You realize that your dream of marrying for love would be gone, don’t you? And not just for now, but forever? You’ll never get that chance again.” She frowned and dropped her eyes to her list for a second before widening and shooting back up to meet Lydia’s gaze. Lydia flinched at the look of panic in her eyes and the slightly squeaky tone of her voice when she spoke. “What if you don’t like the man who meets you on the other end of the trip?”

Lydia had considered that. “What if he isn’t a Christian?” She whispered into the silence, following Netty’s question. She’d heard the stories of lawless, Godless men. They were enough to burn her ears. Then, again, the advertisement was sent by a Bishop, so there had to be some of God’s influence out there – at least in that town. “Even if he is a Christian, is that enough to make a marriage work?”

Netty nodded, tearing off the edge of the paper she’d been writing on and leaving it on the table as she collected the tea tray and moved to the door. “You have a lot to think about,” she turned as she reached the door, balancing the tray in one hand while opening the door with the other. Netty’s eyes gleamed at the prospect of sharing gossip. “I’ll save you some extra food in case the noise from the couple in the corner suite keeps you up!”

Laughing, Lydia shook her head at the closed door behind her, her face flaming at the innuendo. Netty always tossed inappropriate comments in when she couldn’t retaliate.

Intent on working on her mending pile, Lydia rose from her chair. Her mind immediately snapped back to the matter of traveling West. Pa used to say that when he had questions with no easy answers, he turned to prayer to figure them out. “Give it to the Lord,” he’d said. “There’s no better problem solver.”

Worrying about it hadn’t worked. Talking it out with someone else hadn’t, either. Of course, she’d intended to add it to her evening prayers, but perhaps this couldn’t wait. Lydia sank to her knees on the small balcony, her hands clasped in front of her as she faced the sun moving behind the trees lining the garden. “If this is what you want of me, Lord,” she murmured, her eyes sliding closed and speaking from her heart. “I need you to give me a sign and leave no room for misunderstanding.

The flier in the window could be a coincidence. This is a complete change in my life. There are many risks involved, and I’m not discounting the rewards. But I need a sign.” She imagined the words lifting to His ears and remained where she was with her eyes closed until her knees ached.

When no answer came, she stood and returned to her room, leaving the door to the balcony open so she could enjoy the light breeze.

She used the distraction of mending the torn hem of a dress that had been caught on a nail in the step the day before to pull her thoughts away from the idea of moving West. The repetitious movement of the needle moving in and out of the fabric became their own song, with the smooth portico of the needle through the fabric and the rap of the cotton thread she was using sliding through it as she pulled it through to begin the process again. Prick. Rasp. Prick. Rasp. It was a song her senses knew like a hymn she’d learned as a child.

She stopped mid-stitch and pinched the bridge of her nose, only then realizing that the sun was setting and the light was leaving. She lit an oil lamp that hung on a wall sconce next to her chair, then settled back into her work. Prick. Rasp. Prick. Rasp. The regular pattern started singing to her, and she was yawning by the time she finished closing the hole with hidden stitches.

After tucking the dress neatly among her other clothes, she swept her Bible from the dressing table on her way back to her chair. Intent on doing a little reading before bed, she opened the Bible to the spot where she’d tucked in a scrap of ribbon to hold her place. Focusing her eyes on the words was more difficult than she’d bargained for, and she leaned her head back and closed her tired eyes.

“Get thee out of thy country,” whispered a voice that seemed to come from nowhere and everywhere at once, piercing the darkness of her dreaming mind. “And I will bless thee.” Before her, a train of people was traveling across a dusty land – their animals herded along after them. Again, she heard the voice, “And I will bless them that bless thee, and curse him that curseth thee, and in thee and thou shalt be a blessing.” Her hand reached for them, and she gasped as a woman who looked very much like her mother turned her way.

A loud thud nearby shocked her awake, and Lydia sat up straight in the chair, eyes searching the room for the source of the noise without recognizing her room. Her eyes fell on the Bible that had fallen from her lap. It lay open on the floor next to her foot, creating the noise that had startled her. A flush of chills froze her body as her eyes focused on the words just beyond her fingertips.

8: By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he shoulder after receiving for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

9: By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in Tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob…

Lydia knew then that the sign had been delivered. Hebrews, Chapter 11; Abraham getting instructed by God to leave Hanan and strike out to found more cities. There was no way to deny this sign.

Lydia sat back in the chair, a small bloom of excitement starting to unfurl inside her. She knew what she had to do tomorrow morning. She had only a few hours before the Stage Office would open and she could follow through on her promise.

“Thy will be done.”

Chapter One

One week later

Lydia beat the morning coach to the stage office, eager to begin her adventure. Netty had helped her pack up the night before and hugged her with tears in her eyes before leaving Lydia to rest for the evening. She’d demanded letters, too.

The reminder made Lydia smile slightly as she stood in front of the Stage office, her trunk by her feet, her travel bag atop, and her reticule clutched in her gloved hands. Her bonnet was tied on the loop of the plaits she’d twisted into her hair before leaving her room. Her new traveling dress made her look slightly older than her twenty years.

“Might early, ain’t ya, Miss May?” Mister Perkins, the stage office clerk, asked as he saw her on the sidewalk in front of the office. He was just coming into work, so he held the keys to the door in his hand as he stepped out of the road and onto the sidewalk. He was an older man with wrinkles lining his face.

His white hair ringed his head, leaving the top shiny in the early morning sun. He smiled as he paused in front of her, a few inches shorter than Lydia in her boots. His smile was wide, making his blue eyes twinkle behind his spectacles, and she found herself smiling back at him, knowing where most of the wrinkles had originated.

“I’m afraid I just couldn’t sleep. I held out as long as I could this morning,” Lydia added.

His laugh made her smile widen, and he shook his head. He held his hand towards the stage office. The nearly pressed cotton shirt nearly gleamed – it was so white. “The stage should be here any time, Miss. Would you like to come inside and get comfortable in the waiting room until it does?”

She politely declined, and he nodded his understanding. She didn’t think she’d be able to sit still inside, so the waiting room may become a bit of a cage. Here, the morning air kissed her cheeks, giving them a slightly rosy hue. Her nose tingled, and her lips were chapping, but she’d still rather stand outside with the feeling of freedom. Freedom to take risks and make decisions that would change her life forever. He went in to begin his work, and she remained on the sidewalk, the butterflies swarming in her stomach.

She both wanted the coach to arrive and didn’t. Mister Perkins hadn’t known any details about what awaited her on the other end of the train ride, so she was still going in blind. Was that where the eagerness that curled around her gut came from? It was just enough to tantalize her and keep her from bolting back to the Boarding House.

A few minutes before the scheduled departure time, the coach rolled to a stop in front of her. Mister Perkins came out of the office and met the coach driver, handing over the post that needed to be taken into the post office at their next stop and introducing Lydia, their only passenger.

She passed them her tickets, and they loaded her trunk onto the top of the coach as she settled inside. The coach was appointed for a long journey, with plush seats covered in crushed velvet worn in a few places by travelers. She studied the pattern in the wallpaper as Mister Perkins conversed with the driver and his assistant.

There was no one to see her off, no goodbyes at the door of the stagecoach. The driver thought it strange, at first, but when all she’d said was, “I lost them in the War.” Both he and his assistant understood easily enough. She clutched her travel bag and reticule in her hands as they both climbed back into their seats on top of the coach and gave the horses the orders to start rolling.

Lydia watched the city she’d grown up in disappear in the distance, knowing she’d never see it again. Her heart clenched. She felt the prick of tears in her eyes for what could’ve been if the war had not come and taken away so much of their lives. She knew that all her memories were either gone or packed into her things and traveling with her, but it was cold comfort, knowing that she wouldn’t see the trees bud or the dogwood trees bloom. She wasn’t losing anything, but there was a great chance to gain much more. And if the Lord had told her to go and leave all that she knew behind, then that was the right thing to do.

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