When Noah awoke, the sun was barely peeking through the hills. He had been getting up earlier lately, but he couldn’t help it. His eyes snapped open with excitement each day, and that was for one reason alone. With each sunrise, there was hope that today would be the day he saw Josie.
Of course, he didn’t see her every day, but it was often enough that he could rise each day with hope in his heart.
Josie lived in one of the houses that was the closest to town, and he often passed her house when he went to the market. Of course, he often made up reasons to pass her house as well, so that he could catch a glimpse of the dark-haired beauty. She was tall, for a woman, with fine shoulders, light brown eyes beneath a discerning brow, and hands that moved with grace.
Josie and Noah had known each other since they were young, and the moment they met, he felt as if he had been struck by lightning. She turned his head in a way that no one else ever had.
They were both busy with their lives, especially as they got older, and he regretted that he had not seen her in over a week. As the oldest in her family, Josie was saddled with the responsibility of her younger siblings, her mother was sickly, and her father worked hard, so she took over many of the household duties. Despite her age of just 18, Noah often felt like she was older than his 22 years, because she shouldered so much responsibility within her own house.
He also had responsibility on the ranch, but it wasn’t anything like hers. When his father died, his brother Travis had taken over the ranch, and with it, most of the responsibilities. Noah knew that he was lucky, because most of his job was to be done as he pleased. He worked hard, but it was on tasks that he chose, not tasks that he hated.
Travis, however, handled the daily operations, learning to keep the books, manage the sales they made, and somehow had time to create the image of a loving husband for his wife, Sarah. Ever since he married Sarah, Noah felt like his brother was twice as busy and yet four times as happy.
The rooster crowed, and Noah shook his head, ridding himself of the thoughts that were keeping him in bed. The day was young, and there was much to do.
He crossed the floor and splashed water on his face from the basin left on his nightstand. Choosing a shirt that didn’t look too stained, he changed quickly as his stomach growled. It was remarkable how quickly he could go from sleepy to starving and ready for the day.
Of course, there wouldn’t be a hot breakfast for a few hours yet. He could grab a piece of fruit or some cold grits, but then it was out to do some chores until the cook rose and began cooking something that would stick to his ribs.
It wasn’t market day, but Noah was also quite sure he could make up a reason to go into town, therefore passing Josie’s house.
He could see her now in his mind’s eyes, with a streak of dirt on her forehead; lifting one of her younger siblings onto her hip. He smiled at the very thought of her eyes twinkling, and the potential conversation they could have while he stood awkwardly on the road, trying to act as if he had all the time in the world.
He had already planned most of his day even before he descended the stairs. Usually, because he was the first one awake, he was out the door before he had spoken to another soul.
Today, though, he was surprised to find Travis downstairs as well.
The house was not large, and it was starting to feel more crowded every day. Although their ranch was successful, they did not have a lot of extra space to accommodate all the help they needed. The main house only had two bedrooms, and when the cook and other help were inside, it felt packed to the rafters.
Noah nearly ran into Travis in surprise when he hit the last step.
“Good morning,” he said, in surprise. As brothers, both had deep, buttery voices, and similar features that women tended to look twice at. With fair skin, and dark hair, as well as green eyes, their height was almost identical, despite their age difference of a few years. Their mother used to say they were the spitting image of their father.
There was only a moment of pain as Noah thought of them. The fact that he and his brother were the only two people left in the world that really knew and remembered them was still painful. Although both parents had been gone for a few years, Noah sometimes missed them, randomly. He missed his father when he was bailing hay, or his mother when he looked in Josie’s eyes. They would never see him get married or see the growth that the ranch they helped set up,
“Good morning,” Travis said, handing his brother an apple. “Looking for this?”
“I was, actually,” Noah said, as he sank his teeth into it. “You’re up early.”
“Couldn’t sleep,” Travis replied, and Noah grinned at him.
“Good night?” He teased his brother, and Travis smiled briefly.
“You could say that,” he said. “Listen, when you’re done outside, can you come find Sarah and me? There’s something we want to tell you.”
“If this is about the cows, they wanted to escape,” Noah replied with a smile. “And besides, we got them all back. No harm done.”
“I didn’t know about the cows,” Travis said with a smile. “But we can talk about that afterwards. Just come and find us, alright?”
“Sure,” Noah replied, with a shrug. “Is everything alright?”
“I think it will be,” Travis replied cryptically. “It will be.”
Noah gave him a funny look. It was clear that Travis didn’t want to talk to him about whatever it was now, and he didn’t want to pry. Still, it really wasn’t like his brother to keep secrets, and it did confuse him.
He tried to put it out of his mind as he headed outside. Despite having ranch hands, Noah was often the one to start milking the cows. There was something peaceful about it; with just him and the warm animals in the early morning.
The ranch hands usually joined him for about half an hour in, and as soon as they did, he absconded the task for the next one. Noah realized that what he was looking for in the morning was solitude, thinking of adventure, or Josie. Usually, the two daydreams went hand in hand.
He knew that he wouldn’t ever inherit this ranch. This was for Travis, Sarah, and their children to live on. Still, he dreamed of an identical one, where Josie and he could raise a family of their own.
All of this was pure speculation, given the fact that he had never even come close to asking Josie to marry him. Occasionally, they had talked about what it would be like to see other parts of the world, or even visit the next town over from Council Bluffs. Neither of them had been as far as the southern Iowa border, but both wondered what life had in store for them if they ever left.
When Noah had overseen all the chores and tasks that he felt he could do, he headed back into the house. He could smell breakfast cooking from a mile away, and his stomach growled.
His daydream had been so elaborate that he had almost forgotten that Travis had asked to speak with him.
As soon as he saw his brother’s face, Noah’s hunger went away.
“Can I speak to you now?” Travis asked, and Noah abandoned the plate of hot oatmeal he had picked up.
In the sitting room, Sarah was seated delicately on the couch. She was positively glowing, and she smiled as her brother-in-law entered the room.
“Noah, good morning,” she said. “How did you sleep?”
“Fine,” Noah said, as he looked between the two of them. “Is everything alright? You two have me worried.”
“Oh,” Travis said. “Brother, there is no need to worry. We have delightful news for you.”
“Oh?” Noah asked, confused.
“Sarah is with child,” Travis blurted out, seemingly unable to contain himself a moment longer. “I am going to be a father!”
That was not the news that Noah had expected, even though, looking back, it should have been obvious.
He was happy for his brother and offered his congratulations in the form of a firm handshake and a large smile.
“Wonderful!” he said. “Wonderful, brother! Congratulations. And to you, Sarah. You two will be the most amazing parents.”
“Thank you,” Travis replied. “Keeping that secret from you was difficult.”
“Of course, we had to wait a little while…” Sarah reminded her husband gently.
“Well, I appreciate you telling me,” Noah said, and the smell of breakfast wafted into the room. “Is that all? Of course, not all, because that is the most wonderful news… but is there anything else?”
“Actually…” Travis’s face changed. Despite not saying anything, Noah’s heart sank at his brother’s facial expression. “There is something else.”
“Everything is alright?” Noah asked. “With the child? You just told me everything was fine…”
“As far as we know,” Sarah said. “Everything is lovely. But it’s not just… well… Noah, the child will grow and will want its own room one day.”
“And of course, that isn’t something we have to worry about today…” Travis said as he looked at his younger brother. “But the house is already so crowded and…”
“Oh,” Noah said. Suddenly, he understood why they were so apprehensive about speaking to him. “I understand.”
“Brother…” Travis said, worried that Noah was offended. “We aren’t asking you to leave right away…”
“This is your home,” Sarah said. “But you always spoke of having dreams of going out west…”
“And we just thought…” Travis looked at his wife carefully. “Perhaps soon would be the time to capitalize on that… We could, of course, send you with some funding to help you get through the first few months…”
“Oh, yes,” Sarah said. “As you know, the ranch is doing very well, and that is partially thanks to you. We would never want you to suffer just because you were away from it…”
“Noah?” Travis prodded him. “You aren’t saying anything. Are you upset?”
Noah finally managed to get his thoughts together.
“No,” he said. “No, of course I’m not upset.”
“Are you sure?” Travis gave him an odd look. “It’s a lot of news to take in at once.”
“I agree,” Noah replied. “It is. But it isn’t about that. You are right, of course. I have always dreamed of going out West, and seeing what the world has in store for me. If I am honest, there has been only one reason I stayed here after you inherited the farm. Aside from you two, of course.”
“Ah,” Sarah said, with a twinkle in her eye. “Josie, of course.”
Travis raised an eyebrow.
“I didn’t know that you still… well, you haven’t…”
“How could you not know that?” Sarah asked with a smile. “He is clearly in love with her.”
Noah wasn’t about to deny that, even though it embarrassed him.
“Well, if you are…” Travis said. “You should talk to her. See if she wants to come with you.”
Noah had barely begun to put the pieces of these thoughts together. However, that idea made his mind light up with possibilities.
“I couldn’t, couldn’t I?” he asked with a smile. “We could finally have all the adventures we dreamed of.”
“You dreamed of it?” Travis asked. “How have I missed all of this?”
“Well… I mean, I haven’t spoken to her in so many words… but I know that we share the same hopes and dreams. And she is not married, yet… I’m quite sure I could ask her, and she would respond favorably.”
“In that case, I absolutely think you should,” Travis responded. “And of course, we could help you get out there… both of you.”
“I do have some savings,” Noah replied. “To be honest… I have waited for this moment for so long.”
“Will you have the wedding here?” Sarah’s eyes lit up, and Travis laughed.
“Let’s let him ask her first,” he replied, and turned to his brother. “Good luck, Noah.”
“Thank you,” Noah replied, although he was certain that he didn’t need it.
Today was finally the day that his dreams were going to come true. Today was the day he would make Josie his forever. He was glad that his brother brought this up and gave him the push that he needed.
Josie awoke with a start, sitting bolt right up in bed. She had been dreaming about being in a field in the middle of the afternoon. The sun had been soft on her cheeks, and she had been running her hands through the grass, with her eyes half open. Everything had been peaceful.
Until something jumped on her.
She wasn’t sure what it was, but she knew it was heavy, and something was sharp.
She felt her breath catch in her throat. She knew that she had left her window open, and her father had warned her about doing such things. There were things in the night that could get in, and she knew not all of them were safe.
She heard a soft giggle and realized that what had gotten into her room wasn’t exactly a problem or dangerous.
“Sammy!” she said, as she managed to sit up. “What are you doing here? Did you have a nightmare again?”
Her little brother snuggled up close to her.
“Not a nightmare,” he replied in his soft voice. At 4 years old, Sammy would often come to his sister or his parents when he suffered from night terrors. This time, however, she noted that he did not look distressed in the slightest.
“Oh?” she asked, as she brushed her hands through his soft curls. Her mother fell ill during her term with Sammy, so Josie always took care of him. “Then why are you awake in the middle of the night?”
“I was just thinking,” Sammy replied, in such an adorable voice that Josie could not help but smile.
“What were you thinking?” she asked.
“I was thinking that if I get up early, maybe someone will make me breakfast?” Sammy said hopefully. Despite being awoken in the middle of the night, Josie felt alive with his thought process.
“I think we only get one breakfast,” she said to him, and he snuggled up to her chest.
“But I’m hungry now,” he replied.
Josie sighed. On the one hand, she did not want to deny him. He was growing. On the other hand, he needed to learn how to sleep. She did not want him to feel the pressures that she knew their little household was under, of not enough food and scarce resources, despite her father working hard every day.
“Just a few more hours, Sammy,” she said, and tried to encourage him to snuggle down under the covers.
“Can you tell me a story?” Sammy asked, as a last-ditch effort to at least be entertained.
“What kind of story do you want?” she asked, stifling a yawn.
“Josie,” he suddenly seemed perplexed. “Will you still tell me stories when you move away? Can I come visit?”
“When will I move away?” she asked. She knew exactly what he was talking about, but she hadn’t exactly told him the news yet.
“With Brady?” he said.
“Who told you I was moving away with Brady?” she asked.
“Mama said you would be,” Sammy said. “But she didn’t say how far.”
“That’s because… we don’t know yet,” Josie said. The truth was, of course she knew. She knew that Brady was the way out of this mess, for her and for her family. He was a kind man, and his offer was one that couldn’t be refused.
“Oh,” Sammy said. “So, you won’t go?”
“I don’t know,” she said. “But it’s not something to worry about tonight. Why don’t you try to sleep, and if you aren’t asleep in 10 minutes, I’ll tell you a story or try to get you some breakfast?”
“Okay,” Sammy said. He said with a certainty in his voice that both of those things would come to pass.
Josie, however, was certain of another thing. Within five minutes, Sammy was sound asleep again, and she did not need to leave the warmth of her bed for some scraps of bread or tell a story.
She, on the other hand, could not get back to sleep if she tried.
Her mind was whirling with the possibilities of her future. The idea of leaving this house and going with Brady had been something that was pushed to the far reaches of her memory, with all the other things that she did not want to think about.
The problem with the middle of the night was that all those things came to the forefront of her mind’s eyes, in rapid succession.
She thought of her father coming home every day, exhausted. She thought of her mother lying in her sickbed every day. She thought of the bills piling up on the table.
She thought of how she could release everyone from this burden by simply going easily to her wedding day.
What she had told no one, though, was that it was a wedding day she did not want. There was only one person she wanted to walk down the aisle and see there—waiting for her.
When dawn came, Josie had not fallen back to sleep. Slowly, as soon as the light crossed the floorboards, she pulled the covers off. Her feet hit the cold floor, and she reached for her robe, glancing over at Sammy.
He was still peacefully sleeping as if nothing had happened.
She leaned down to give him a kiss on the head, and then wrapped her robe around her and crept downstairs.
Usually, it was Josie who made breakfast for the family. Her sister, Marla, was almost old enough to do it, and she would have to take it over when Josie was married. There was a day or two when her mother tried, but it was never very successful.
Josie never blamed her mother when she burned the eggs or became too fatigued to rescue the oatmeal from the stove. Sammy’s birth had taken a toll on her, and Josie was grateful to have her around at all. She knew that there were women every day who died in childbirth, which had nearly been her mother’s fate.
Today, Josie found that they were almost out of oatmeal. They used to have chickens of their own, but they sold them for meat at the end of last season. What few eggs they did get came from the market or the kindness of neighbors.
There was some bread from the last loaf, and the flour was running low.
It wasn’t the first morning Josie had to be creative with the ingredients that she had on hand.
By the time everyone began to rise for the day, she had a half decent breakfast put together. She did not mention to her father, who ate first, that it was the last of the ingredients, and she would have to go to market today or find a way to scrounge something off the tiny amount of land they had. He had enough stress with trying to support the family and going deeper into debt each day.
“Good morning, Daughter,” he said to her, as he came down the stairs.
“Good morning, Father,” she said, giving him a quick peck on the cheek. “Did you sleep well?”
“Well, enough,” he said, in a way that told her he was lying. It was an unspoken rule between the two of them to never discuss the darkness unless it was necessary. “What about you?”
“Well enough,” she echoed. “Sammy is in my room, in case you are looking for him.”
“Ah,” her father said, as he settled down and tucked a napkin into his shirt. The shirt was old and had a few stains that would not come out. It was his work shirt, so Josie tried not to be bothered too much. Still, she thought, for as hard as he worked, he really should have a nice shirt. “Another night terror?”
“No,” she said, as she served him breakfast. “He just wanted breakfast, or a story. Or just not to sleep. Of course, once I challenged him to do so, he was asleep in five minutes. I imagine that he will be down shortly, because he did not lose that much sleep interrupting my own.”
She meant it playfully, but her father gave her a look.
“And you?” he asked. “How long was yours interrupted for?”
“Not long,” she lied to him. “Do not worry about me. You should eat before the food is cold.”
He held her gaze for a moment. Josie was as determined and as resourceful as her father. They were a match for each other, and he knew it. With a sigh, he picked up his fork and obeyed.
“Delicious as always, my dear,” he mumbled around a mouthful of food. “Soon, breakfasts will be twice as large.”
“They will?” she asked, confused. It seemed like an odd statement, given that she was just thinking how to scrounge in the forest to fill plates for the next day.
“Well, yes,” he said. “When all of this is cleared.”
“Ah,” she turned around so he would not see the expression on her face. “Was it you who told Sammy? About Brady?”
“I think it was Brady himself,” her father replied. “He is very excited.”
“I see,” Josie said, pretending to wash the dishes. “Well then. It’s good that it will be soon.”
“Indeed,” he said, and continued to demolish his breakfast.
Soon, the others came down the stairs, and the noise of the morning rush prevented any further conversation.
Sammy, Marla, Sarah and Joan still went to school, just down the road. For the girls, it wouldn’t be too much longer, and Josie wondered if they would find love matches of their own. She hoped that they would, for their sakes. They were such sweet children that they deserved to have partners that they loved.
Josie understood that as the oldest, and the one at marrying age now, it was her responsibility to marry well. She understood that this had been a possibility all her life, and now it had come to pass.
None of that changed the fact that her heart beat for only one reason, and that was for the dark-haired rancher from down the way.
She didn’t mention his name to anyone this morning, not even in casual conversation. As far as she was concerned, it wasn’t worth the heartache of the casual mention.
“Josie, darling, can you bring your mother breakfast?” her father asked, as he brought his plate to the sink.
“Yes, of course,” she replied, and stood up. Her own food was growing cold, but it usually did most days.
“Thank you, dear,” he said. “I don’t know what we are going to do without you.”
None of the other children seemed to hear what he said, and she was relieved. She put the rest of the oatmeal onto the remaining plate and headed up the stairs to her mother’s room. Before she knocked, she put on a cheery smile. Even if it felt forced, she was going to make sure her mother saw only happiness today, and every day, for the rest of her life. This was Josie’s duty, and she was going to fulfill it.
“When Fate Guides the Way” is an Amazon Best-Selling novel, check it out here!
When a wealthy but callous man proposes to Josie, she realizes he is her ticket out of her family’s financial struggles. Although she knows she doesn’t truly love her fiancé she decides to go through with their engagement, hurting her best friend Noah who has just confessed his feelings to her. However, as Josie prepares for her wedding, everything falls apart, leaving her with no choice but to become a mail-order bride…
Little does she know that this decision will lead her on a tumultuous journey…
Noah has always loved Josie from afar, never daring to confess his feelings. When he finally musters the courage to tell her, it’s too late, and devastated he leaves town to search for his estranged father. Months later, he posts an ad as a mail-order groom, never expecting that Josie would do the same. As they correspond anonymously, Noah finds himself falling even more deeply in love with her.
Will he ever be able to trust his heart again and give love a second chance?
Fate meant for them to find each other again but as Josie and Noah’s relationship deepens, they must face obstacles that will threaten to tear them apart. When Josie’s ex-fiancé returns, determined to win her back, will their love endure or will they be driven apart once and for all?
“When Fate Guides the Way” is a historical western romance novel of approximately 80,000 words. No cheating, no cliffhangers, and a guaranteed happily ever after.