Place of Refuge

By Darlene Wells

Historical fiction, Romance, Religion & spirituality


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4 mins

Chosen, Chapter One

Rogan Meuller breathed in, filling his lungs to capacity with the fresh Wyoming air through the window of his Model A Ford truck. He released the crisp cleansing breath as sunlight splashed through evergreens lining the road. He passed a boy carrying a fishing pole and small tackle box, indicating water nearby.
Preacher Dodds used to take him fishing whenever he needed a good talking to. Rogan smiled.
He always knew the best way, and best time, to approach me.
Rogan drummed his thumb on the worn Bible lying on the passenger seat. A gift from preacher Marion Dodds.
A smile tugged at his lips as he recalled the man’s regret at not being able to give him a brand new Bible. But, given the choice between a stiff new Bible, or the preacher’s personal Bible, Rogan would choose this one. Marion had written his own notes in the book, underlined his favorite verses. Rogan felt as if he took a little bit of the preacher with him as he set out to start his new life.
The biggest question he faced was where that new life would be. Marion suggested Sawyer’s Gap. A small town, about forty miles south of Rogan’s hometown, Lander, Wyoming.
His stomach grumbling, Rogan looked up at the sky through the Ford’s windshield. The sun hung high right overhead. He pulled the automobile to the side of the road and parked. He snatched the paper sack next to him and got out of the truck.
Rogan stretched his back and arms and scanned his surroundings. The sound of gurgling water summoned him down an embankment several feet away from the road. Clear mountain water swirled around large rocks and cascaded over smaller obstructions in its path. Rogan sat on the bank and watched the water, so clear he could see the sandy bottom, and German Brown trout meandering their way through the river’s path. Rogan’s fingers twitched at the sight of the fish. He’d love to grab his pole out of the truck bed right now. But the fish would go bad by the time he reached his destination.
Rogan opened the paper sack Mrs. Dodds gave him, and smiled. An apple, four sugar cookies, a jelly sandwich, and a mason jar of iced tea. As he bit into the sandwich he thought about the man and woman that had saved him from state prison. They’d spoken up for him and agreed to take him into their custody for one year on probation.
He’d felt a little foolish standing before the judge at the time, listening to the deal being made between the court and the Dodds’. In the end though, he didn’t mind, seeing as how it saved him from a long stay in the big house.
What he hadn’t counted on was how much his life would change as he lived in the couple’s home. They already had six children of their own, four boys and two girls, plus the church they pastored. But they spent time investing in him, sharing the gospel. Frieda was just a slip of a woman with bright blue eyes, and the easiest person on earth to tease. Marion, a tall, quiet man—except when he was preaching—possessed more wisdom than anyone Rogan had ever known
Rogan snatched the apple out of the sack and lay on his back, staring up at the trees against the blue sky. He didn’t want to think about what kind of person he’d be today if it hadn’t been for those two people and their family.
Startled by a scurrying sound next to his ear, Rogan’s eyes flew open. He spotted a lizard wriggling its way under a rock. How long had he slept? The sun had moved a bit to toward the west. Much as he’d love to close his eyes again, Rogan wanted to make it to Sawyer’s Gap before nightfall. He gathered the paper sack and its contents—what was left of them—and made his way back up to the road.


Catherine Whitmore inspected the mother of pearl hairbrush and mirror set, turning it this way and that, admiring the shimmering pearl and silver.
Dorothy Owen’s voice held more than a trace of annoyance. “It’s a fine, set. I ordered it straight from that little store you told me about.”
Catherine lifted her gaze. “Bergdorf’s is not a ‘little store’, Mrs. Owen. It is the finest department store in New York City. In the entire country, as a matter of fact.”
Out of patience, Dorothy set her hand on her hip. “Well, I’m sorry. I don’t get out to New York very often.
Returning her attention to the brush, Catherine ran her fingers across the bristles. Flexible, but strong enough to brush out her long hair.
She set the brush down in front of Mrs. Owen. “I’ll take them. Please wrap them.”
Catherine ignored the woman’s raised brow. She knew what most people in Sawyer’s Gap thought of her. A spoiled, rich girl. Even two years later, Catherine still resented her father’s insistence they open a Whitmore’s grocery store in this hovel of a town.
A bell above the store’s door jangled, drawing Dorothy’s attention. Catherine turned to see a tall, blonde man enter the store. She quickly turned back to Dorothy. But the store owner set down the brush set to address him.
“May I help you?”
The man walked to the counter. “Yes, thanks. I’m looking for Pastor Cecil.”
“Oh! You must be Rogan.” Dorothy held her hand out. “I’m Dorothy Owen.”
Catherine took two steps to the right, putting distance between herself and the man. From the corner of her eye, she saw him take Dorothy’s hand.
“Good to meet you, Dorothy.”
Dorothy looked to Catherine. “Excuse me, Catherine, I need to get Mr. Owen.”
Catherine opened her mouth to protest, but the woman scurried to the back room before she could. With no one else in the store beside the strange man, she tried to maintain an air of disinterest. Although . . . his voice had a strangely calming effect on her. Wanting to take a second look, but afraid of drawing his attention, she surreptitiously glanced to her left, at his shoes.
Dirty. Worn. And the hem of his pants didn’t look much better. He didn’t seem to pay her any mind, so she decided to be a little more bold. Pretending to look past him to the door, she quickly scanned his face – only to realize his blue eyes seemed locked on her.
Heart racing, Catherine spun around, her back to him, and fingered a set of gold and silver thimbles on the counter. Was he still staring? Why didn’t he speak? And what on earth was taking Dorothy so long to return? She could feel those blue eyes boring a hole into the back of her head.
Finally Dorothy returned with Mr. Owen, who introduced himself and led the man out the door. Catherine released a breath she hadn’t realized she’d been holding. Her last glimpse of the stranger was of him walking away.
She caught Dorothy watching her with an amused grin.
Catherine smoothed her skirt and lifted her chin. “What is the total of the brush set, please?”
With smirk on her face, Dorothy rang up the purchase. “Nine dollars and twenty-six cents.”
“Fine. Put it on my father’s charge account.” Catherine gathered her pocketbook. Her fingers trembled.
“Of course.”
“Thank you.”
Catherine worried her brow as she left the store, determined to avoid the stranger in the future.



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