by Golden Quill and Holt Medallion Winner Kathryn Barrett
Golden Quill BEST FIRST NOVEL winner
Laura Hayes has been acting since she was an infant, making Hollywood the only home she has ever known. But when she moves to Pennsylvania’s Amish country to film her next movie, she discovers there’s more to life than a pair of Jimmy Choos and a Marie Claire cover.
Intrigued by the Amish simplicity, she’s soon gardening and baking plum pies—and enjoying it. And when her neighbor turns out to be the local heartthrob and a talented furniture maker, she realizes that what’s missing from her life might be the love of a good man—not to mention the perfect heirloom tomato.
Jacob fights the urge to question the teachings of his Amish beliefs — despite his desire to create furniture that is beautiful as well as useful — and struggles with his longing for the sexy stranger who makes him feel truly alive for the first time. As his attraction grows, so do his doubts, until he’s forced to face temptation and decide once and for all what is truly worth the fight.
Author: Kathryn Barrett
Genre: Contemporary Romance
Length: 322 pages
Release Date: February 2013
Ebook ISBN: 978-1-62266-961-5
Price listed is for the U.S. digital format. Please confirm pricing and availability with the retailer before downloading.
Praise for Temptation:
“TEMPTATION by Kathryn Barrett is a strong debut novel, about forbidden love, choices and consequences. … I can’t wait to read more from this author and definitely recommend this book.”
– Harlequin Junkie, Top Pick!
An Excerpt from:
by Kathryn Barrett
Copyright © 2013 by Kathryn Barrett. All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce, distribute, or transmit in any form or by any means. For information regarding subsidiary rights, please contact the Publisher.
God regularly sent temptation to the town of Serenity, in the form of power tools, brightly colored sewing notions, and a new Super Wal-Mart. But when Hollywood arrived, some felt He’d upped the ante. Their loud SUVs, loose wads of cash, and flashy Englisher ways made the tourists who regularly flocked to Amish country seem reserved in comparison.
Of course, there were some who’d cashed in on the invasion, including old Levi Yoder, who offered his preserves at twice the price he’d charged before. But after Deacon Malachi preached against price gouging, the rest hung their heads in shame for even thinking of tacking on a Hollywood surcharge.
Though few of the Amish had ever seen a movie, and even fewer read celebrity gossip columns, the aura of Hollywood still sparkled like forbidden stardust. Yet one woman had no trouble seeing through the stardust to the illusion underneath.
The first time Rachel Hostetler had seen Laura Hayes stepping out of a red Jeep and into her neat and tidy yard, she’d known she was trouble. An English Delilah, wearing tight jeans, high-heeled boots, and a chic attitude. Rachel frowned over the shirts she was hanging on the line, but she was no match for such undaunted optimism.
With the air of one who’d never let a critic’s opinion stop her, the woman ignored the frown on Rachel’s lined face and instead gave her a friendly wave, and one of those generous smiles the English give to strangers.
“Hi! Can you tell me where I could find Jacob Hostetler?” she asked, pulling sunglasses from a face that radiated cheerful perfection.
Rachel snapped a clothespin. “He’ll be in the workshop this time of day.” Then she found herself pointing out the way to Jacob’s workshop, and even hoping this Englisher would place a large order. They could use a new wringer washer.
Later she’d regret so freely giving up her son’s whereabouts, but on this day, weeks before filming began on The Temptation of Hannah, Rachel had simply conspired with God’s plans.
Laura, unaware of Rachel’s misgivings, and even more ignorant of God’s intentions, twirled on her heels and headed toward a large barn-like structure.
Inside, an awful screeching greeted her, the sound of wood being slaughtered by some sort of tool. The man wielding the instrument of destruction didn’t see her, his head bent over his work. Laura looked her fill. A suspender had fallen from one shoulder, and his blue shirt was covered with sawdust, as was his hair—was it blond?—and his dark trousers. She could almost hear his deltoids as they shoved the plane back and forth over the wood, filing away the cumbersome shape that resembled a headboard.
While Laura waited for him to notice her, she looked around. The space was filled with furniture in various stages of completion: bed frames, armoires, desks, tables, and chairs, each a simple work of artistry even her untrained eye could appreciate.
Clean tools hung on a pegboard, next to a Dry-Erase board with schedules worked out in careful handwriting—surprisingly modern touches for an Amish workshop. There was even a phone on the desk. But no electric lights shone, just lanterns hanging where their light could illuminate the work area. She breathed in, savoring the scent of fresh wood, and sneezed.
The noise stopped abruptly, and the man looked up at her with startled eyes.
“Hi. Are you Jacob Hostetler?”
“Ja—yes, I am Jacob Hostetler,” he said.
Laura caught her breath. Unlike most Amish men she’d seen, this one didn’t have a beard hiding his chin. She took a moment to admire his strong jaw sprinkled with sawdust, firm lips, and eyes the color of flax blossoms. A dreamboat. An Amish dreamboat, she corrected.
Still…she couldn’t help appreciating the muscular chest traced by his suspenders, muscles that came from hard work, not the latest high-intensity interval training.
“What can I do for you?” he asked, his voice slightly accented with measured vowels, deep consonants. Melodic, like a sensual ballad…
She pulled her thoughts back from where they very definitely shouldn’t be.
“I’m looking for a cradle. Sam Zimmerman said you’d have one.”
He nodded. “And Sam would have been speaking the truth yesterday. Today I have no cradles.”
“Oh, darn. I was really hoping… I need it soon, you see.”
His glance fell to her midsection.
“Not for me,” she said. “For my sister. She’s having a baby next month.” She gave him a smile, one that had won her countless roles. All she wanted was a sturdy, well-built cradle, and she had a feeling this man could grant that wish.
“Someone bought the last cradle yesterday. Maybe you should try Peter Chubb over at Bird-in-Hand.”
“But I heard you were the best.” She gave him another winsome smile and considered fluttering her eyelashes. Charm, however, didn’t seem to be going over very well. Not even a trace of interest in those incredible blue eyes. Maybe the Amish were immune.
He shook his head. “I am afraid Zimmerman told you a whopper. I’m only the second best cradle maker. Maybe even third.” He rubbed the wood he was planing. “Now, if it was a bed you wanted…”
“You’d make me a bed?”
“Ja. That I can do.”
“But not a cradle.”
“Cradles are for making in the winter. They’re small; I can put them together inside the house in the evening. There’s no sense heating the two places. Now it’s spring, I can make you a bed, or an armoire. Something for your electronic equipment, maybe. But no cradle.”
Laura decided he was being stubborn, and she knew how to deal with stubborn. She widened her eyes and gave him her best pathetic look, then added the words that never failed to get results. “I’ll pay extra. Twice what you normally charge.”
He shook his head. “A cradle is not worth that. Now, if you want to talk to Peter—”
“But he’s not here…” She waited a beat, then added, “and you are. I can wait—maybe a week. Can’t you make me one tiny little cradle? Please?” Pretty please with sugar on top, she pleaded silently.
He wiped his cheeks with a nearby rag and a layer of dust fell off, revealing a face that belonged on a movie poster. Finally he said, with a reluctant edge to his voice, “Ben Troyer says we’re in for a cold snap by the end of next week. So I suppose I can make this cradle for you. You want oak or ash?”
“What’s the difference?”
“Ash is lighter, not so much wood grain. Here.” He picked up a yellow piece of wood. “This is ash. See?” His finger traced the smooth lines. “Not so sturdy as oak, but a cradle won’t be used hard, like a chair or a bed.”
Laura could swear he blushed. He really was adorable. But not for her, she reminded herself.
“Ash, then,” she agreed. “I can give you a number where I’m staying—or why don’t I just stop by again in a week?” she added, remembering that the Amish didn’t use telephones except in emergencies.
Jacob nodded, and began filling out an order form. He didn’t even blink when she told him her name. Not that unusual, especially among the Amish. Laura glanced around the shop, tantalized by the sight of gracefully sculpted furniture in the corners. She wished she had time to explore the shop and this man, who, despite his gruff manner, had the appearance of an archangel. She told herself it was simply research—she’d spent a week with the Amish, but had yet to find out what made them tick.
Before she could find that out, or ask about the pieces of furniture that enticed her from the rear of the shop, a little blond boy raced through the door.
“Dat! There’s a red truck outside. Just like we saw in—” He slid to a stop when he saw Laura.
“Daniel, say hello to Laura Hayes. It is her red truck you saw.”
“Hello, Daniel.” She held out a hand, enchanted by the boy. Ear-length hair poked below the brim of a hat that seemed too big for his head, a suspender trailed over one shoulder, and scuffed boots showed beneath pants that ended at his ankles. “It’s not really my car. I’m just renting it for a while. Would you like to see inside?”
Before Daniel could answer, Jacob shook his head. “You have chores to do. Grandmother will be needing you in the house.”
Laura had the feeling she’d just crossed the imaginary line that separated the Amish from their neighbors. While they were friendly and unfailingly courteous, they were as leery of strangers as any modern parents.
“Yes, Dat.” Daniel left, but not before giving Laura a look filled with curiosity.
Laura watched him go. “He speaks English well,” she said to Jacob.
“He picked it up from our visits into town.”
Laura knew the Amish spoke Pennsylvania Deitsch, a form of German, in their homes, and children didn’t learn English until they went to school. “He must be very bright.”
Jacob looked up, his expression inscrutable. “He’s as hardheaded as any five-year-old boy.” Dismissing the compliment as if it were blasphemy, he said, “I’ll have the cradle finished by next week. You can pick it up then.”
Laura bit her lip. “I may have to leave town for a few days…but I’ll be happy to pay for shipping.”
Jacob nodded. “I’ll ship it, then. You can write the address on the invoice.”
When Laura reached for a pen to fill out the form, she noticed a book on the desk, half hidden under a pile of receipts. She tilted her head to read the title: The Life of Frank Lloyd Wright.
“Interesting book?” she asked, passing the form to him.
His gaze met hers and for a minute she thought he would agree, or launch into a book review, but instead he banked his interest and shrugged. “It passes the time.”
“He built beautiful homes. I’ve toured Fallingwater, near Pittsburgh.”
“He only dreamed them,” Jacob replied. “Someone else built them.”
He handed her the invoice, signed with his neat signature. “You’ll have your cradle in a week.”
The scent of springtime evaporated when Laura Hayes left his workshop. Jacob swiped at the dust on his jaw, hoping it hadn’t dropped open like Daniel’s when he’d gawked at the red Jeep in the driveway.
With a soft cloth, he pried the sawdust that had accumulated along the edge of his handsaw. He glanced at the lumber stacked against one wall, wondering if he had enough ash boards to make the cradle for Laura Hayes. She’d had the air of one used to getting what she desired, a notion that usually brought out Jacob’s stubborn streak, but for some reason he’d wanted to please her. She reminded him of a beautiful child who gathered blessings like dandelion blossoms, all too easily spoiled.
But it wasn’t any of his business. The woman had come to buy a cradle, and a cradle she’d get.
He hung the saw back in its place on the pegboard and checked his pocket watch; another twenty minutes until his mother would have dinner ready. He opened a drawer and pulled out an old calculus text and a spiral bound notebook. Sitting at his desk, he opened the book, sharpened a pencil, and began to read. The problems were difficult—especially for someone with only an eighth grade education—but Jacob plowed through them the same way old Jonas Lapp plowed his back twenty acres. Methodically, reverently, as if the intricacies of higher math were his calling.
Although calculus wasn’t taught in the one-room schoolhouse he’d attended, a working knowledge of differential equations was necessary, he’d found, in predicting the bending ability of the various woods he used. He designed much of his own furniture, inspired by the artisans of the Arts and Crafts movement, as well as simple Amish design.
The bishop wouldn’t have approved of his book learning, but Jacob had come to an agreement with the bishop long ago. In fact, he’d often suspected Bishop Beiler had a soft spot for him—though he’d never go so far as to bend the rules of the Ordnung.
He’d had time to read one page before he heard steps approaching. It was his mother, sounding out of breath. “Jacob! Is Daniel with you?”
“No. I haven’t seen him since the English woman left.”
“He’s not in the house, or the horse shed. I have searched everywhere.”
“He could have gone over to visit Aaron. With no school today, he probably just got bored.”
“He would not go without permission.”
Jacob knew she was right, but before the logic could work into fear, he pushed it away. Daniel was probably hiding, just like Jacob had done when he was a boy with five sisters to plague him. Of course Daniel had no sisters, or brothers, either—maybe he had gone to Aaron’s, after all.
“He probably just forgot he was a well-behaved boy. Sometimes that happens.” Jacob thought of the books in his desk, ordered from a mail order source he’d accessed from the computer in the library. Yes, sometimes a person just forgot the rules.
“I’ll walk over to Donner’s farm. You check the shed again. Maybe he’s found where Susie hid her kittens.”
Rachel shook her head, worry slicing new lines in her forehead. She’d lost a child before—Jacob’s only brother—when he fell into a corn silo before Jacob was born. Farms could be dangerous places for little boys.
Minutes later, Jacob hurried across the field his brother-in-law now farmed, wet with last night’s rain. The freshly plowed mud tugged at his boots, slowing him down, until it felt as if he were taking a never-ending nightmarish journey. There were no small boot tracks in the mud, just the leftover stubble of corn stalks and an eerie silence that fed the fear in his heart.
When he arrived at the Donner’s, six children of various ages were planting spring onions in the large garden plot, but Daniel wasn’t one of them. Aaron hadn’t seen him since yesterday. A wasted trip, except Donner returned the plunge router he’d borrowed. Seeing Jacob’s worry, Marvin Donner told him, “I’ll send Ben back with you. He can come back and get us if you haven’t found him. We’ll all help you look.”
“I’m grateful for the offer. Surely he’s just hiding somewhere.”
But when he arrived back home, Rachel met him across the yard. “He’s not here. I’ve looked everywhere. Our Daniel is gone.”
This time, Jacob let the fear grab hold. He prayed, silently, to a God he knew very well would as soon take a child as he had once taken the child’s mother.
Beside him, Rachel, her kapp askew from her frantic searching, moved her mouth in a whispered prayer:
Dear Gott, please, do not take this child from me!
Laura parked the Jeep at the bed and breakfast where she was staying in Philadelphia. Thinking of the calls she needed to make, she almost left her purchases in the back, but at the last minute she opened the rear cargo door.
From one end of the Ohio Star quilt she’d bought, a blond head was sticking out. From the other end stretched a familiar pair of tiny brown boots. She lifted the quilt. Daniel, the boy from the Hostetlers’, lay sound asleep underneath, like Little Boy Blue gone astray.
She’d kidnapped him—accidentally, of course—but still, a wave of guilt flooded her. Poor kid. Her radio had been on too loud to hear so much as a sniffle, and he’d probably been too scared to get her attention.
He must have crawled into her car while she was talking to his father. His family would be frantic—she should call them. But then she remembered they wouldn’t have a phone in their home. The quickest way to relieve their fears would be to drive this little guy back home, as fast as possible.
She nudged his shoulder gently. “Daniel, honey, wake up.”
He yawned, and rubbed his eyes sleepily. A delivery truck lumbered by, then squealed its brakes at the stop sign. Daniel sat up and blinked, looking around at the city street. With a voice that quivered only slightly, he said, “Are we in Strasburg?”
“No, sweetie, we’re in Philadelphia. But I’m going to take you back home, right now. Your parents are probably worried sick about you.”
“We went for a ride?”
“A long ride. You must have climbed into my car. Do you remember?”
He nodded. “I wanted to see inside. Then the car started moving and I was afraid.” He looked at her with eyes as blue as Delft porcelain, slightly unfocused from sleep. “Where’s my dat? My grossmutter?”
“They’re at home, wondering where you are, I bet. Let’s see how fast we can get back there.” She lifted him out of the cargo area and buckled him into the backseat, ensuring a safe ride this time. He seemed bemused, but not alarmed. It wasn’t every day an Amish child traveled by car, Laura knew, but they did occasionally take automobile rides from English drivers who provided “taxi” service to their Amish neighbors.
She reversed direction, leaving the city and following Highway 30 back to Lancaster. Although it was dark now, she drove as fast as she dared, knowing how concerned his parents must be. Daniel, who seemed shy at first finding himself with a total stranger, soon warmed up, unable to resist asking her questions: How fast would her car go? What were all those lights for? How do you open the glove box? By the time they reached Lancaster, she’d exhausted her knowledge of the rental and had resorted to digging out the owner’s manual and handing it to him. At least it kept him occupied, and warded off the tears lost boys were prone to.
Laura had asked a few questions of her own, and discovered he didn’t have a mother. She’d “gone to Heaven,” he’d told her, then asked if she could please pass the truck in front of them, so he could count the wheels.
His father must be so proud—and worried—she thought, as she pulled into the drive at the Hostetlers’. Several buggies were parked in the lane, and the house was lit up as if it were on the public utility grid. Several people milled around in the yard, all of them dressed in Amish clothing.
Laura stopped the Jeep next to a buggy. She got out and began unbuckling Daniel from his seat.
An older man hurried over, and when the Jeep’s light illuminated her passenger, he removed his hat and said, “Danke Gott. Daniel, mein son.” He peered into the back as Laura lifted Daniel from the seat. “You have brought our Daniel home to us. How can we thank you?”
“Oh, no, I just—you see…”
Daniel wiggled around to face the man. “I went for a ride, Bishop Beiler.”
Laura was trying to figure out why they weren’t charging her with kidnapping, when the door to the house opened and Jacob raced down the porch steps.
The old man turned to him, a wide smile on his face. “It is our Daniel, safe and sound. I told you God would answer our prayers.” Hatless, his face stark with worry, Jacob stopped at the car, his gaze fastened on Daniel.
“He’s fine,” Laura told him. “He was in my car when I stopped in Philadelphia. He must have climbed in the back and hidden under the quilt. He was asleep—” She handed Daniel over to his father, who clutched the prodigal boy to his chest and closed his eyes as if holding back tears.
Finally he lifted his gaze to Laura. “Thank you for bringing him back to us. We have been very worried.”
Daniel pulled away from his father’s tight grip. “I went in the Jeep, Dat. Did you know a Jeep can go one hundred miles in one hour? And there’s a man on the radio who sings about—”
“Shoes,” Laura inserted, before Daniel could quote the lines from the latest pop song that had blared from the radio earlier. “There’s a shoe sale. At Kaslow’s,” she added helpfully, hoping Daniel hadn’t heard her singing off-key with Dave Matthews.
Jacob lowered Daniel to the ground. With a stern look, he told him, “Daniel, you have misbehaved. We were all very worried about you.”
Daniel’s chin dropped.
“You will have to be punished, do you understand?”
Laura’s heart sank. “Oh, he wasn’t bad. He just fell asleep. Surely you can’t—”
Jacob turned the stern look to her. “This is not your concern. It is between my son and me.”
“But you’re not going to—”
The older man interrupted. “Jacob, I think we should offer the Lord a prayer of thanks for Daniel’s safe return. And we should offer this woman a cup of coffee.” A gentle smile appeared above his gray beard. “I am Samuel Beiler. Would you like to come into the house? I know Daniel’s grandmother would like to thank you, too, for his safe return.”
“Oh no, I couldn’t—”
But her protest went unheeded by the old man. “Come, we’ve got hot coffee and plenty of food inside. At least have yourself a bite before you go back to the city.”
“I appreciate that, but—”
“The bishop is right,” Jacob said, his hand still clutching Daniel’s. “You have come out of your way to bring Daniel home. We would like to repay your kindness.”
Laura couldn’t turn down the invitation, especially when it meant a chance to better observe the Amish up close and personal.
“All right. I’d love to join you. I’m Laura,” she told the bishop. “Laura Hayes.” But the name didn’t seem to register on him, and Laura was grateful there was one place where, despite her publicist’s best efforts, she could be completely anonymous.
Inside the house, the bishop steered her through a crowd of more than a dozen women and children, introducing her. The men who’d been out searching the fields were trickling in, having heard the good news from one of the older boys.
She looked around the kitchen, a mixture of old-fashioned and modern. A lantern hung low over the table, and another lit the kitchen. The stove looked like a set piece from “Little House on the Prairie.” The refrigerator appeared normal, but it operated on gas, she knew from her research. Bright daffodils draped over the rim of a glass jar in the windowsill, a nod to frivolity otherwise absent from the décor.
There were wide openings between the rooms, useful during the church services held in their homes. The living room wasn’t cluttered with knick-knacks, nor were the gleaming wood floors concealed under rugs. The whole effect would have been chicly minimalist if the house had been located in California.
The bishop’s voice boomed above the others. “Now we should all offer thanks to Gott, before we eat any of this food the women have prepared.” He bowed his head, along with the rest of the group, and they prayed silently. It wasn’t their way to pray aloud.
After a minute the bishop raised his head. “We have much to be grateful for on this night, and much food to eat. I think Rachel has emptied her pantry.”
“I’ve been wanting to get rid of all those canned beans. I planted too many last year,” Rachel demurred, serving plates for the men who’d already lined up. Laura noticed Jacob wasn’t one of them; instead, he stood quietly while the older men took their plates. Was he being polite, or was the ordeal he’d just been through enough to steal his appetite?
He turned, and his eyes met hers. Awareness tingled along her spine, like a quick shot of useless adrenaline. If he could read her thoughts, he’d surely turn red, but his face was impassive, the smooth planes chiseled like a fine piece of wood, framed by unruly blond hair, a shade darker than Daniel’s.
Then someone urged her to take a plate, and she joined the line at the counter, where steaming dishes reminded her how hungry she was. She’d only had a bagel for breakfast, and a Frappuccino for lunch. She’d been grabbing dinner at the organic café near the bed and breakfast in Philadelphia, but was getting tired of sprouts and wheatgrass.
The bishop motioned to a spot at the table across from him, and she sat down, aware she’d been granted the honor of eating with the men. Although she’d learned a lot about Amish life, there was plenty more she wanted to know, things she hadn’t been able to learn from the Amish family she’d visited in Ohio. Things the books didn’t mention—such as what it was like to wake up every morning and know you were going to live with the same man all your life. The Amish didn’t get divorced, and extramarital affairs were rare.
She leaned toward the bishop. “There are a lot of people here. I can’t believe this many turned out on such short notice. Especially without a telephone.”
“Ben Donner made it to five farms. Everyone dropped what they were doing and came to search for the boy.”
“That’s incredible. I can’t imagine that happening in California.”
“It is our way,” he replied. “When one is in need we all do what we can to help.”
She raised an eyebrow. “Amish socialism?”
He laughed. “We’re not political, but I’ve heard it described in such a way. I like the phrase ‘one for all and all for one.’ From the book by that fellow Dumas.”
Laura blinked. “You’ve read The Three Musketeers?”
The bishop put a finger to his lips and gave her a wink. “It was during my running around years, what we call the rumspringa. Others would go to the movies, I went to the library.” He nodded toward Jacob. “He was the same way. Always had his nose in a book. His father used to worry about him, getting worldly ideas.”
Laura didn’t tell him Jacob still had a penchant for worldly reading material. Instead she wondered aloud, “How do you keep them coming back? After they’ve had a taste of the world—movies, cars, fancy sneakers…”
“Look around you.” He gestured at the room. “This is what they can’t find on the outside. Family, community. All for one,” he added. “The path of separation is a long and lonely road. Not even for fast cars and store-bought clothes is it worth it.”
“You’re probably right,” she said. “I had a fast car. It got stuck in the snow at my sister’s house in Idaho. A guy with a pair of Clydesdales pulled it out.”
He laughed. “It is true, despite our lifestyle, we all have our trials to bear. Right now I think Daniel will have a trial for a few days. But he has learned a good lesson.” Then he shrugged and added, “Of course, we were all boys once.” He leaned closer, his brown eyes twinkling. “It is a good thing, I think, that D’Artagnon didn’t drive a red truck.”
Laura laughed. The bishop, now etched in Laura’s mind as an elderly D’Artagnon, rose from the table and patted his stomach appreciatively, as one of the women hurried to take his plate.
Laura put her own plate in the kitchen, returned the warm greetings of the women who were washing up, then found Jacob standing near the front door, having seen a family off. “I’m really sorry about what happened,” she said. “You must have been so worried.”
“There’s no need for you to apologize. It is Daniel who is responsible for frightening us out of our wits.”
“I hope he’s not in too much trouble.”
“Not as much trouble as the chickens when he cleans out the coop this week.”
“Can a little boy handle that big of a chore?”
“We’ve only got the five chickens. Or maybe four,” he said, glancing toward the kitchen where the women were putting away the casseroles.
“Oh.” Laura decided she didn’t want to go there. It had been years since she’d eaten anything with a face, even a slightly ugly face. “I bet you’re wishing I’d never shown up. First I bug you about a cradle, then I kidnap your son.”
He shrugged. “Without you outsiders, we’d have nothing but the weather patterns for entertainment.”
She looked around the room. A lively game of Parcheesi was in progress in one corner, well-worn books filled a cabinet on one wall, and rounds of laughter could be heard coming from the kitchen. “Somehow I doubt that. I think you all do just fine without TV and video games and the latest must-have gadget.”
He followed her gaze. “Ja, we should charge admission to all this fun. We could put that guy Disney out of business.”
“Not a bad idea. You know how many Englishers pay thousands for a spa vacation when they can get the same thing just by turning off the computer and the phone?”
“Then why don’t they?”
She thought about it. “Connections. We need to connect with people. There’s not this sense of community.” The bishop’s words came back to her. “All for one, and one for all.”
She shook off an unaccustomed pang of envy. Her name could get tables at the best restaurants, yet she could count on one hand the friends who’d give up a hair appointment to help her out of a jam.
But the Amish probably didn’t approve of self-pity, either.
Jacob’s gaze traveled around the room. These were the same people who’d come to the house at the news his father had died, who’d helped out when Daniel was born. The same people he sat next to at church, the same men and women he’d gone to school with. They were family, despite the fact they didn’t all share the same bloodlines.
“Our world is much smaller. Only a few square miles,” he said. “It is easier to be all for one when that one is just a few minutes’ walk from home.”
“I suppose,” she said, but Jacob could see she didn’t look convinced. Another Englisher determined to romanticize the Plain way of life. Sure, they all wanted to come live the simple life—until they realized their laptops didn’t work on twelve-volt battery power.
“I’d better be going. Thanks for the meal,” she said, and in the instant before she turned to leave, Jacob discovered her eyes were the color of the pond after a spring rain.
It had been years since he’d noticed the color of a woman’s eyes.
Perhaps it was the shock of discovering Daniel missing. His heart had stopped thudding against his chest, but his hands still shook like a gas generator. He wondered, as he watched her truck lights come on, if they’d ever be good for handling tools again.
One by one, the others made their way back home. Soon only the bishop remained, overseeing his departing flock. He had jumped on his horse, bareback, to help search. Now Jacob could laugh at the sight of the old man clinging to Belle’s back, in too much of a hurry to properly hitch his buggy. Horseback riding was considered a worldly pursuit, something like playing tennis, and few of the Amish knew how to do it properly.
“Are you all right, Jacob?” the bishop asked him, standing at the door.
Jacob nodded. “Just a fear that won’t go away. It could have been so much worse.”
“We were all worried. Your family is much loved in this community. You have suffered too much loss these last few years. First your father, then Susanna…”
“It was God’s will,” Jacob reminded him. “But for God to take Daniel—I would have had a few words with Him about that.”
The bishop nodded sadly. “It is human nature to question the ways of God. But God has seen fit to bring Daniel back to us. We must thank Him, and save our questions for another day.”
“His questioning nature is what got Daniel into trouble in the first place. Tell me, why has God given us this need to know if he will only punish us when we ask these questions?”
A smile lifted his gray beard. “Because it is those questions that make our journey so interesting.”
Jacob looked over to where Daniel played with the marble ladder he’d made him, and he nodded. “Except tonight my journey was a little too interesting for my taste.”
“Ja, that it was.” Bishop Beiler laughed, then, eyeing his horse tied to the back of the wagon where the Lapps were waiting, he hurried out the door.
The sound of Daniel’s laughter reminded Jacob again how close he’d come to losing his son, of those moments when he wondered if God was punishing him for a worldly interest in mathematics, in a woman who wore tight jeans and red boots and a smile that could tempt a man who’d just as soon not be bothered by sins of the flesh.