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An Amish Noel (The Amish Bachelors) Mass Market Paperback – November 17, 2015
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About the Author
USA Today best-selling author Patricia Davids was born and raised in Kansas. After forty years as an NICU nurse, Pat switched careers to become an inspirational writer. She enjoys spending time with her daughter and grandchildren, traveling and playing with her dogs, who think fetch should be a twenty-four hour a day game. When not on the road or throwing a ball, Pat is happily dreaming up new stories.
Excerpt. © Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.
"He's not going to try and cross the river. No one is that stupid." Luke Bowman drew back on the reins of the draft horses pulling the large bobsled. The massive gray Percherons stopped, but they tossed their shaggy heads, making the harness bells jingle. They were eager to finish the task and head home. Their snorts sent duel puffs of white mist into the cold November air. Luke watched in disbelief as a snowmobile with two riders continued to barrel toward the frozen river winding through the snow-covered valley below his father's cornfield.
Noah, Luke's youngest brother, leaned on his ax handle as he stood behind the driver's seat. "I remember when you did it on Jim Morgan's snowmobile. More than once. That looks like the same machine."
It did look like the same machine, but Luke doubted it was his Englisch friend aboard. More than likely it was Jim's younger brother Brian riding into trouble. "We never crossed this early in the year. The ice isn't thick enough. It won't hold them."
Noah pulled his scarf up to cover his face. "This cold snap has been bitter even for late November. Maybe the ice is thicker than you think."
Luke didn't mind the cold. His stint in prison made him cherish every moment he could spend out in the open. "It would have to be this cold a lot longer to freeze running water."
He and Noah had come out to gather a load of firewood from the stand of trees along the river. Four inches of fresh snow from the night before made easy pulling for the team. The sled was three-quarters full of logs lashed together, and the men were on their way home.
Luke watched the snowmobilers a second longer, then he turned the horses toward the river. Noah almost lost his balance on the flat sled at the unexpected move and had to grab hold of the seatback to keep from falling off. "What are you doing?"
"We're gonna pull those fools out of the water unless they drown before we reach them."
The red-and-white machine didn't stop. It hit the river's edge at a fast clip and traveled a full fifty feet out onto the ice before the front end broke through, spilling the riders. Luke shouted at the team and slapped the reins, sending the horses into a fast trot across the snow-covered field, knowing he might be too late. If the riders were dragged under the ice by the current, they would drown.
One of the snowmobile riders had been thrown clear of the open water. He lay sprawled facedown on the ice. The second rider was desperately trying to claw his way out of the river but the edge of the ice kept breaking in front of him. The snowmobile teetered precariously, half in and half out of the water as it hung by the rear tread.
"Whoa, fellas." Luke drew the horses to a stop at the riverbank. He saw the first rider trying to stand. It was a young boy.
"Help! Somebody help us!"
Luke shouted to the boy struggling to get to the other rider. "Lie down! Spread your weight out on the ice!"
Tossing the lines to Noah, Luke jumped off the sled. From the toolbox under the seat, he grabbed his ax along with a coil of rope and started toward the river.
The boy was following Luke's orders. He lay down and wiggled toward the rider in the water. He grasped his buddy, but Luke saw he was too small to pull the bigger boy to safety.
Luke quickly tied a loop around his waist as Noah joined him at the river's edge. "I should go. I'm smaller."
Luke considered it for a second then shook his head. "I'd rather drown than face Mamm and tell her I let you get killed. Take a hitch around that tree so you can pull me back if I go through. The current is strong in this curve."
"Don't make me tell Mamm I let you drown."
"I'll do my best. Hang on, boys, I'm coming!" Luke hacked a long branch from a nearby tree and stepped out on the ice. The thick layer of fresh snow made it hard to see where he was putting his feet. He used the branch to feel his way, making sure the ice was solid until he got near the two boys. At that point, he lay down and edged toward them. The cold bit through his pants and gloves as he crab-scuttled along.
"Hurry!" the little one shouted, looking over his shoulder.
Luke recognized him. "Alvin Swartzentruber, are you okay?"
"Help me, Luke." The fourteen-year-old stayed sprawled on the ice, holding on to the other rider.
Every time Luke thought he could move faster, the ice cracked with a sickening sound beneath him. Would it hold? He couldn't help the boys if he went through, too. Finally, he worked his way to within a few feet of them and stopped, not wanting to add his weight to their precarious spot. "I thought you had better sense than this, Alvin."
"I reckon I didn't today."
"I reckon not. Who you got with you?"
"It's Roy. Hurry, Luke, I can't hold him."
"You can. I'm almost there. Roy, can you hear me?" Roy was Alvin's older brother. Luke knew them well. He knew their sister, Emma, even better, or he had once. They didn't speak to each other these days.
"Help." Roy's voice was barely audible through his chattering teeth. His lips were tinged with blue and his eyes were wild with fear.
Luke was close enough to reach them with the branch. He slid the end past Alvin. "Hang on to this, Roy, and let go of your brother."
He was afraid the bigger boy would pull the smaller one in if he went under.
Roy grasped the limb with first one hand and then the other. "II got it."
Luke needed room to pull Roy free. "Alvin, roll away from the hole and go to my brother. Stay on your hands and knees until you get close to the shore. Follow my trail. The ice was strong enough to hold meit should hold you."
With the younger boy headed to safety, Luke inched closer to Roy. He heard the ice beneath him groan.
I'm not ready to meet you, Lord, but if this is the reason You got me out ofprison and put me here today, at least help me save this boy first. Don't give Emma one more reason to hate me.
He forced his thoughts away from Emma and the heartache he had caused her. "Roy, I'm gonna slip a loop of rope over you. You're gonna have to get it under your arms. Can you do that?"
"I think so."
"Goot." Luke worked the rope off over his head and shoulders and prepared to lay the loop over Roy. "Is Alvin safe?"
Luke glanced back. The boy was climbing the bank to where Noah stood with the rope snubbed around a tree. "He's fine. You will be, too, in a minute."
"I can't hold on. Can't feel my hands." Roy started to sink.
"Don't give up."
The boy's head went under. Luke made a grab for him, plunging his hands into the frigid water.
Emma looked up in relief when she heard a horse and buggy come into the yard. Rising from her quilting frame, she crossed to the window. Her father should've been back an hour ago. She was anxious to hear what his doctor had told him about the fatigue he couldn't shake.
Her father, Zachariah Swartzentruber, had always been a big man. He stood six feet tall, but she hadn't noticed until this moment how his clothes seemed to hang on his frame now or how bent he was becoming. He moved slowly, as if his actions were painful or difficult as he got out of the buggy. She hoped the English doctor had discovered what was wrong and prescribed some medicine to make her father better.
She held open the door as he came up the walk. "How was your trip, Daed?"
"It was a long way. The traffic gets worse every time I must go into town. The foolish Englisch rush past without a care in their big cars."
Their little Amish community of Bowmans Crossing was more than five miles off the state highway. Even so, the traffic in the area was increasing, as were the accidents involving buggies and cars.
She waited until her father took a seat at the kitchen table. "What did the doctor have to say?"
"Is there any kaffi??"
"Ja, I made a pot about an hour ago." Going to the stove, she pulled a brown mug from the shelf overhead and filled it to the brim with the strong brew from her coffeepot.
"Danki." He accepted the cup from her hand and stirred in a heaping spoonful of sugar. He sat staring into the liquid, stirring slowly.
Fear crept into Emma's heart. It wasn't like her father to be so quiet. Something was wrong. "What did the doctor have to say, Daed?"
Her father took a sip of coffee. "This is goot. You always could make good kaffi. Not like your mother. Her kaffi was always weak as dishwater."
Emma swallowed hard. It was unusual for her father to speak about his deceased wife. The Amish rarely talked about loved ones who had passed on. Her worry spiked, but she knew better than to keep pressing him. When he was ready, he would tell her what the doctor had discovered.
She poured herself a cup and carried it to the table. "Mamm was a frugal woman. She could stretch a nickel into a dime and give you two cents change."
A tiny smiled lifted the corner of his lip. "That she could. I think sometimes she used the same grounds for three days in a row."
"I like my coffee stout. I would rather save on other things."
He looked at her then. "You need a new dress. I would not have you looking so shabby."
The front of her everyday dress was stained and the cuffs were getting thin, but it had at least another year of use before it went into the rag bag. "I can't wear a good dress to do laundry and scrub floors. This one will do for a little longer. My other workday dress is not so worn, and I have a nice Sunday dress. I don't need anything else."
"If a fella was to come courting, you'd want to look nice. We can afford the material."
They couldn't, but that wasn't the point. She saw her father had something serious on his mind. "No one is coming to court me. What's wrong, Daed?"
"Wayne Hochstetler intends to ask you out."
She sat back in surprise. "Wayne? How do you know this?"
Wayne was a widower and the eldest son of their neighbor to the west. He and his family belonged to a different church group, one that was more conservative, but Wayne was known as a stalwart member of the Amish faith and a good farmer. His father was the bishop of their church district.
"I spoke with his father. Wayne is looking for a wife. He has a young daughter who needs a mother."
"I hope he finds one, but what makes you think I would be interested in going out with him?"
"Because it's time you married. It's past time. You will be thirty soon. That is old enough to be settled."
"I'm barely twenty-five, Daed."
"That is still plenty old enough. I want you to seriously consider Wayne as a husband. His father and I are good friends. This would make us happy."
"I thought marriage was a question of who would make me happy." She once believed Luke Bowman was that man, but she had been mistaken. Sadly mistaken.
"Love can grow from friendship and mutual respect. If there is someone else, dochder, please tell me now."
"I have enough to do taking care of you and the boys. There isn't anyone I'm interested in."
"Goot, then you will consider Wayne?"
"Not until you give me a better reason than my age and your friendship with his father. What's this about? Why this sudden interest in seeing me married off? I have plenty of time to meet the right man and fall in love."
He sighed heavily. "You may have the time, but I do not. The news from the doctor was not goot, but it was what I have been expecting."
Her heart pounded painfully, stealing her breath. "You are frightening me. What did he say?"
"I have inherited the same disease that took my father when you were but a small child. My kidneys are failing. The doctor thinks I have a year, maybe two, before it is my time to stand before God and be judged."
She stared at him in disbelief. "Is the doctor sure? Can't there be some mistake? I know you've been ill, but you'll get better. You can see another doctor."
He reached across the table and took her hand in his. "I knew this was coming when I started having the same type of pain that wore down my father. I can only pray that God has chosen to spare my sons."
"And me? Can this disease come to me and my children?"
"You forget. You are my stepdaughter. I married your mother when you were only a babe. Your father died in a farming accident. This disease I inherited cannot come to you."
It was true. She always forgot that Zachariah wasn't her real father. "You have been a father to me in every sense of the word save that one small thing. I could not love you more if we were bound by blood."
"You are a true child of my heart, Emma, but I won't be able to care for you and the boys for much longer. I need to know someone will look after the lot of you when I'm gone. It falls to you now. The boys are too young."
"I don't have to be married to take care of my brothers. You know I will always do that. The church will help us."
"Wayne has a prosperous farm. Combined with my land, it will be more than enough. You will not be dependent on the charity of others. Do not mistake methere's nothing wrong with accepting charity when you need it, but it is much better not to need it. I'm not afraid to face death but I am afraid of leaving you and your brothers without a secure future. Can you understand that?"
"Ja, I do. I can't believe this is happening." She didn't want to believe it. Not her big strong father. There had to be some mistake.
"I'm sorry to burden you with this news, but in one sense, it is a blessing. Few men are given the chance to know when their end is coming. I have time to prepare. You will have time to prepare as well. You must find someone to care for you when I cannot. Wayne is a goot man. A fine farmer. I hope you will consider him."
Emma arose and carried her mug to the kitchen sink. Setting it carefully on the counter, she stared out the window. How could she refuse Zachariah's request? She couldn't. Everything she had, everything she believed in, was due to the kindness and love of the man who had chosen to become her father.
"Where are the boys?" he asked.
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