Sunday, December 12, 2021

A CHRISTMAS ESCAPE FOR ELIZABETH by Author Joi Copeland **Mail-Order Brides' First Christmas Series**

Today we're celebrating a Book Birthday with author Joi Copeland. Her latest book, A Christmas Escape for Elizabeth, is part of the wonderful series, Mail-Order Brides' First Christmas.

He’s a cattle rancher not interested in finding love. She’s a young woman on the run, seeking protection.

She needs to escape…

Elizabeth Baker’s life looks nothing like she hoped. When her mother suddenly dies, Elizabeth grieves her passing while evading the inappropriate advances of her stepfather. She has to get away from him and decides to go to her dearest friend, Hannah, for help. Can Lizzie escape her stepfather before it’s too late? And if she does, can she ever trust another man again?

He wants to remain single…
Mack Douglas sees his best friend, Briggs, and his new wife, Hannah, on a daily basis. He doesn’t begrudge their happiness and has no desire to get married and be responsible for someone else. When Hannah implores his help on behalf of her friend, however, how can he say no?

Will Lizzie and Mack be able to find common ground and build a marriage worth fighting for, or will their marriage end before it’s even had a chance to begin?

Get your copy of A Christmas Escape for Elizabeth on Kindle Unlimited


Elizabeth Baker's eyes darted back and forth as she slipped into the only home she'd ever known. The very same one she had no choice but to leave. With the death of her mama the week before, she no longer had a protector. No one to keep Randall, her stepfather, from making inappropriate advances toward her. When her mama was alive, his stares left a sickening feeling in the pit of her stomach. Since Rebecca's death, not only had Randall's looks become more frequent, but now he touched her whenever he came within reach.

Lizzie shuddered, latching the wood to keep the door closed. It wouldn't keep Randall out of the house forever. If only it did, she wouldn't have to leave. At least she'd know when he came home because he'd pound on the door, causing a ruckus. He never did anything quietly, especially when drunk.

Randall Jones was a sorry excuse for a man, let alone a father. Not once did he act like a guardian. Instead, he drank away all her and Rebecca’s hard-earned money. The man hardly lifted a finger to bring in money. If it weren't for Lizzie and her mama, they would’ve been homeless or starving. Randall did odd jobs around the town, but nothing worthwhile.

Lizzie hurried to her room, grabbed her carpetbag and shoved all clothes as she had in the small case. Growing up, they had little to no money. She often wondered if her life would've been different if her father hadn't died when she was younger. Her mama made a horrible choice in marrying Randall. Why the God-fearing woman chose a louse like him still baffled Lizzie.

Rebecca Baker-turned-Jones had been a beautiful woman, blond hair as long as her waist. Just a smidge taller than Lizzie's five foot four inches, her mama had enough strength to fight off Randall when he made advances on Lizzie. Her light blue eyes held hope and faith, though the hope started to dwindle with the years. The night before her precious mama passed from this world to the next, she grabbed Lizzie's hand and made her promise she'd leave as soon as she could. “Get away from Randall,” her mama begged her.

And Lizzie had no problem agreeing. The man-made Lizzie's skin crawl. If it weren't for her mama, Lizzie would've left over a month ago when her best friend, Hannah Blackwood, sent her a ticket for the stagecoach to join her in Colorado. Temptation often crept her way when Lizzie discovered her mother battered with bruises. She wanted to steal her mama away, but Rebecca wouldn't go. She lived by her marriage vows to her husband and promised God she'd stay with him. So, Lizzie stayed as well.

Scurrying into her mother's room, Lizzie scanned the bureau. She pulled open the drawer and reached to the very back. Wedged in the top corner of the wood, she pulled down an envelope, exactly where her mother told her it would be. Inside, the ring her father gave to her mother on their wedding day glistened in the dim light. A bundle of money filled the envelope. A small gasp escaped Lizzie's lips. Where had her mama gotten this money? Surely not from the meager jobs she had managed to get to support the three of them.

A small piece of folded paper caught Lizzie's eye. She cast a furtive glance to the door. She expected Randall soon. He normally went to the saloon for a few hours, but he always came home for supper. She needed to hurry if she were to escape before he arrived. No time to read the letter, she shoved the envelope in her pocket.

The quilt she'd made her mama years ago covered the bed. Lizzie's finger traced the awkward stitching. The scent of rose water wafted toward her. Her mama's favorite soap. Lizzie made her mama a bar for Christmas but hadn't been able to give it to her. Now tucked into her carpet bag, she'd take it with her to always have a reminder of her mama. She swallowed the lump in her throat. How did she still have tears to shed? She'd cried over a bucket, it seemed, since the funeral.

Lizzie folded the quilt, her heart tearing in two at the thought of her mama gone. She'd take it with her. She'd given it to her mama, after all. It seemed right for it to belong with Lizzie.

A pounding on the door startled Lizzie into action. She ran to her room, tossed the quilt onto her bed, then hurried to the door.

"I'm coming."

"Open the door, woman." Randall shook the handle.

Lizzie pulled it open, forcing her features to remain calm, even though Randall wasn't expected home for another hour. "Why are you home?"

"Can't a man come to his home whenever he wants?" Randall staggered into the room and pushed past Lizzie. "Why 'aven't you made supper yet?"

"I was about to. I figured I had a few minutes." Lizzie turned her back to the awful odor permeating from her stepfather.

Randall slumped down on the couch and waved his hand. "Get on with it. I'm starvin'."

Lizzie rolled her eyes, grateful she was facing the stove. She rummaged through the cupboards, looking for anything to tide him over until he slept off the alcohol. Finally finding a can of beans, she warmed them on the stove. Slicing up the bread, she dropped it onto a plate and slid everything onto the table.

"It's ready."

"Good. Sit. We can eat together."

Lizzie shook her head. "No, thank you. I'm going to go rest for a bit. I have a slight headache."

Randall huffed. "Figures. Lazy as ever." He hunched over his food and shoved it into his mouth.

Lizzie bit the inside of her cheek to keep from saying anything. Last time she did, she received a fat lip and couldn't go into town for days until it healed. That was the day after her mama's funeral. She learned real quick not to mouth off to Randall. No one came to her defense, and she didn't have the strength her mother did.

Finally, Randall left the table and went to the sofa. He leaned back and closed his eyes. Lizzie continued to peek out at him from the safety of her room until she heard his muffled snores. She inched her way across the small room and into her mama's room. Still wanting a few things of her mama's, she had to get them while Randall slept or miss her opportunity. She closed the door as quietly as possible then began collecting a few small items.

The door burst open. Lizzie's heart hammered in her chest.

"Whatcha doin' in here, girl?" Randall sauntered toward her, a dangerous look in his eyes.

Lizzie dropped the dress she'd been holding onto the bed. "Remembering Mama. I miss her."

Randall's eyes flitted to the bed, then back to Lizzie, desire darkening his features. "I've missed a woman in my bed, too."

"I don't miss just any woman." Lizzie scooted around the bed, a surge of fear coursing through her. "I miss my mama. She was my only family."

"Not your only family. I'm here." Randall moved toward her like a coyote on the hunt prowl.

Lizzie continued toward the door. Randall blocked her path, arms held out. "Now, now. I ain't meanin' nothin' by it. I know you miss your mama, but I can help fill that hole. After all, we's family, ain't we?"

"No, we're not. I've never been a daughter to you." Lizzie ducked under his arm. Good thing he'd been drinking or she'd be hard pressed to move away from him. The alcohol often slowed him down. Tonight, she thanked the Good Lord for that.

"That's true." Randall scanned Lizzie from head to toe, stopping on his way back up on her chest. "You've always been a pretty little thing. I'd hoped one day to have you to myself, and it looks like I might get that."

Heat rose to her face. "Not today, you won't." Lizzie rushed out of the bedroom, away from the monster hot on her heels.

"Come on, darlin'. You know you want it as much as I do. I'll treat ya real nice and go as slow as ya like." Randall slurred his words and grabbed her wrist.

Lizzie tried to yank her arm away from him. He tugged her closer. His lips brushed her ear. Her stomach rolled. His lips sought hers, his hot, smelly breath washing over her like sour milk. He grabbed her waist and pulled her against him. She wiggled and squirmed, trying to get out of his embrace. With all of her might, she raised her knee and connected to his groin. He doubled over with a loud cry.

"Why you little-" he spat.

Lizzie ran into the kitchen, searching for anything to protect herself. Seconds later, Randall had her pinned against the stove. Fear pumped through her veins. She had to break free, or he'd take what wasn't meant for him. Reaching behind her, Lizzie felt the cast iron pan she'd used earlier that morning. She swung the pan around, smacking the pan on the back of Randall's skull. Randall groaned and dropped to the floor.

Breathing hard, Lizzie dropped the pan onto the floor, ran into her mother's room, grabbed the few items she longed for to remember her dear mama, and then she hurried into her own bedroom. Lizzie grasped her carpetbag and tossed the remainder of the items she needed before leaving the room she'd grown up in. Glancing at the heap of man on the ground, Lizzie paused.

Guilt ran through her. What if she killed him? She pursed her lips. Wouldn't he deserve it? After all the torture he put Lizzie and her mama through, wasn't it justice if he died by her hand? Tears pooled in the corner of her eyes. She couldn't leave without knowing if she'd taken his life. Not even Randall deserved a death like that.

Lizzie tiptoed closer to the man. His chest rose and fell. Her shoulders relaxed. He was alive. She scampered out of the house. Darkness covered the town. Perfect. She'd either catch the last stagecoach or have to wait until morning. How much time did she have?

Running to the preacher's house, she banged on the door. "Mrs. Varney!"

Seconds passed by until finally, the door flung open. Joshua Gallagher, Hannah's grandfather, stood, concern filling his rugged face. "Child, what's the matter?"

Lizzie's chin trembled. "I, I have to leave. Now."

"Are you hurt? Can you come in?"

Lizzie shook her head. "I'm fine, just a bit shaken. I'm going to Colorado to be with Hannah. She wrote me and sent me a ticket, promising she'd find me a husband. I have to go now."

Understanding dawned on Mr. Gallagher's face. "Did he try to hurt you?"

A wayward tear slid down her face as she nodded. "I hit him with the cast iron pan."

A slight chuckle escaped Mr. Gallagher's lips. "Good for you. I'll send the sheriff on over to make sure he's fine and lock him up for a few days."

"You won't tell him where I've gone, will you?"

"'Course not. I'll see to it he doesn't find out." Hannah's grandfather waved her inside. "Come in for a moment. I want ta give you somethin’ for your journey." He shuffled away from her and returned with some coins. "Take this with ya."

Lizzie shook her head. "I found an envelope with money in it. Mama wrote a letter, but I haven't had time to read it yet. I'll do it on the coach." She inhaled a deep breath, tossing a glance over her shoulder. "Have you seen it come by yet?"

Mr. Gallagher shook his head. "Hasn't left yet. Ya probably have a half an hour. Better get on with ya. I'll take care of that no-good father of yours."

"Stepfather." Lizzie grimaced.

Remorse filled his eyes. "Sorry."

Lizzie blinked back her tears. "Don't be. I better go. Thank you. I'll tell Hannah you're well."

"Thank you, child. Take care of yourself, ya hear?"

She nodded and hurried away. An hour later, the stagecoach hustled out of the only town she'd ever known. Lord, go before me and secure me a husband who can protect me from men like Randall.

Joi Copeland is an award-winning author. She has written over twenty books and desires to share her love of hope and redemption through each story she pens. Joi and her incredible husband of over twenty-years have three fabulous boys and currently live in Ireland. She is passionate about Jesus, Bible study, and the people of Ireland.

You can find all the books in the Mail-Order Brides' First Christmas Series on

It's been my pleasure hosting Joi today. Please come back again soon for more authors, and more "sweet-read" books!


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