Shannon here: Laura V. Hilton shares an excerpt from her latest Amish Romance, The Amish Wanderer. Comment or anwer the question at the end of this post to enter the drawing for a copy. Deadline: March 25th, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Laura:
An unidentified sound, loud in the relative silence, jarred Bethany. Her blue pen made a squiggly line across the page in the fat little notebook where she wrote her thoughts. Maybe she should’ve found a more secluded place than the hay pile beside the loft ladder, but she rarely was disturbed. She raised her head and listened.
Nothing, except the squeak of the wood doors in the back of the barn as her younger brother, Timothy, put the cows out to pasture. The soft lowing of cows. The clucking of free-range chickens.
Hopefully, he was too busy to notice she’d left—and wouldn’t look for her.
But there it was again. From somewhere overhead. A sound that didn’t belong. A creak and a thump.
Hopefully, it wasn’t Hen. She’d hear if he were out of jail, ain’t so? A thread of fear ripped through her, unraveling the tiny bit of peace she’d been able to find.
Bethany capped the pen, shot to her feet, and hid the notebook under a loose piece of wood in the floor. Then she scampered up the ladder to the lower loft.
She climbed higher, to the upper one, some thirty feet from the ground.
Peeking over the edge, she scanned the open floor. And… there… someone was wrapped in the old ratty blanket Daed kept in the barn for strays, as he called them. Mamm called them wanderers. She wouldn’t be happy to learn one bedded down in their loft while Daed was gone—incarcerated, of sorts, in a mental hospital, after he tried to kill all the black cats in their district.
The cats lived. They had nine lives, ain’t so? But Daed was institutionalized and his assistant, the one who actually carried out Daed’s deranged wishes, Hen Stutzman, was locked up in jail awaiting trial for arson. As if a man should be punished for obeying crazy orders. Well, they had been horrible things, so it was warranted.
And here she’d thought Hen came around so often to see her. Though she’d come to dread his visits.
Her head, and heart, were permanently bowed in shame. Now no one would ever come calling.
Especially if they ever found out… Nein. They couldn’t. She’d never tell.
Life would never be the same.
Okay, maybe that was a bit overly dramatic. But still…
Bethany’s eyes burned. She blinked to clear the watery haze.
What were they going to do with Daed gone?
A black Amish hat covered the face of whoever slept up on the hay-strewn floor of the loft. His body was swaddled like a newborn boppli in an effort to keep warm, most likely. Almost like Baby Jesus in the manger. Except it was a man. Not a boppli.
And definitely not Hen. This man was taller and much thinner. Relief flooded her.
She started to descend the ladder. It wouldn’t do for a vagabond to discover her alone, almost in the loft with him. Not even if something about it reminded her of the live nativity scenes she’d seen downtown at one of the Englischer’s churches.
Little Lord Jesus asleep in the hay… The tune ran, uninvited, through her thoughts.
A board on the ladder creaked and snapped under Bethany’s weight. She dangled, her feet flailing, from the top of the ladder. Too far to fall without breaking something. Or killing herself.
Why hadn’t she noticed the crack in the wood when she’d climbed up?
She let out a strangled cry when her fingers started slipping from the worn wood. The man blasted upright, his hat falling away to reveal shocks of sun-streaked light brown hair. He struggled free of the blanket, and half-crawled to the edge of the loft.
“Are you okay?” His warm, callused hands closed around hers.
His hand was strong. Warm. Work-roughened. She glanced at his fingers, curled around hers. Unexpected sparks shot up her arms. It had nothing to do with her life hanging in the balance. Or maybe it did. She looked down at the floor thirty feet below again. And whimpered.
“Grab my hands. I’ll pull you up.”
Up. In the loft. Alone with him?
Clinging to him seemed a gut idea though. And if it’d save her from falling…
Her shin made contact with the broken rung a moment before her tennis shoe found another ladder rail. She let out a breath she hadn’t realized she held. “I’m fine.” Now. She pulled her hands free one at a time and lowered herself. A step. Two. Three…
He stepped out onto the ladder and started down after her.
Nice looking… Wait. He followed her? She needed to find her brother. Or call for him. “Timothy!” There was safety in numbers. Sidetracked watching his quick descent instead of concentrating on her own in her hurry to escape, her feet slipped off the rung. Her hands caught only slivers and—
A far away scream reached her ears. She recognized it as her own as she plunged through the air.
“Hey, wait,” the stranger called after her.
As if she could.
Her body hit something. The hay she’d been sitting on? “Ooof.” Arms wrapped around her, then… darkness.
“You shoved her!” Timothy’s voice sounded from somewhere above her, filled with anger—and fear.
Gut. She was safe. She dared relax.
Hands ran roughly over her arms and legs. Not Timothy’s hands. These hands were bigger, stronger… yet gentle, too. Hands that left tingles where they touched. Strange, this reaction to a stranger. To anyone.
“Nein, I didn’t. She slipped. I was trying to help.”
“If I hadn’t almost caught her, she would’ve died. Her blood would be on your hands,” Timothy almost shouted.
Her head throbbed. The front of her head ached, not from the fall but tension. Maybe. It might’ve been from the fall. She must’ve fainted.
“Who are you anyway, and what are you doing in our barn?” Timothy’s voice cracked and the pitch changed, the way buwe voices did in adolescence.
“I don’t think she broke anything.” The stranger, whose voice seemed familiar in some way, rolled her over and slid his hand down her spine. As if he’d be able to feel a broken back.
He moved her back again, his hands investigating her ribs, brushing against her… This went way too far. Too intimate. Who gave him such liberties anyway?
She forced her eyes open.
The stranger’s gaze, just as lost and confused as everyone else’s, fixed on hers.
She sat up, ignoring the wave of dizziness as she stared into hazel eyes. Something…
She tried to think of something witty to say. Failing that, she lapsed into silence and studied him closer.
Memories of a lemonade summer, one or two years ago, flashed as he withdrew his hands. His image waved, swayed, doubled.
About Laura: Laura V. Hilton is an award-winning, sought-after author with almost twenty Amish, contemporary, and historical romances. When she’s not writing, she reviews books for her blogs, and writes devotionals for blog posts for Seriously Write and Putting on the New.
Laura and her pastor-husband have five children and a hyper dog named Skye. They currently live in Arkansas. One son is in the U.S. Coast Guard. She is a pastor’s wife, and homeschools her two youngest children.
When she’s not writing, Laura enjoys reading, and visiting lighthouses and waterfalls. Her favorite season is winter, her favorite holiday is Christmas.
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About the Book:
Bethany Weiss has been fascinated by Silas Beiler since he spent a couple of years in Jamesport, Missouri, before he and his family moved to another Amish community. They hadn’t kept in touch, but she hasn’t forgotten the friendly young man who brought her lemonade and took her home once from a Singing years ago. When she finds a man sleeping in her family’s barn, like Jesus sleeping in the hay, she is stunned to recognize Silas. He’s left the Amish and is backpacking across the country. She talks him into staying, at least until after Christmas.
Silas’ family has never been happy living in one area for long, and their vagabond ways are wearing on him. He’s lived in Amish communities all over the nation, moving whenever his daed became disgruntled with the leaders, and he’s looking for some sense of stability. His intentions are to make it back to Pennsylvania and stay with his Englisch onkle and his family—and pursue an education. Will Bethany be the one to bring Silas in from the cold? Or will he continue on his way to his extended family and become Englisch?
Can’t wait for the drawing? Purchase now:
Question for Readers: Has there ever been a time you’ve felt God was silent? How did you respond?
Come back March 21st for Janet Bly!