Authors: Molly Jebber
Mark led her to the barn, hidden out of sight from her haus, set the lantern on a tree stump, and put his arms around her.
Her heart raced and her knees weakened. Not sure what to do, she placed her hands on Mark’s shoulders.
Gently, he raised her chin and leaned close to her face. He rested his forehead on hers and hugged her closer. “My heart is about to jump out of my chest.”
“I can hardly speak,” she said. “I don’t want our time together tonight to end.”
He’d said what she wanted to hear, and she had no doubt he meant it. Words she hadn’t expected to hear from a man. Not with her ugly birthmark marring her face. But Mark had looked past her flaw and taken the time to find out what was on the inside....
Books by Molly Jebber
CHANGE OF HEART
Published by Kensington Publishing Corporation
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.
All copyrighted material within is Attributor Protected.
Table of Contents
Books by Molly Jebber
Acknowledgments and Thank You to
Pennsylvania Dutch/German Glossary
My friends call you “Mr. Wonderful,”
and I agree!
Thank you for your unwavering love and support.
my precious and beautiful daughter.
I’m so thankful for you and love you so much.
You continue to bless my life and amaze me with what
you’re doing with yours.
Acknowledgments and Thank You to
Dawn Dowdle, agent, and John Scognamiglio, editor-in-chief, and Jane Nutter, publicist, for their kindness and support. To my elegant and wonderful mother, Sue Morris; Mitchell Morris, brother and trusted and close friend; and Jebbers and Melnicks for their love and encouragement.
Lee Granza, Debbie Bugezia, Elaine Saltsgaver, Patty Campbell, Diana Welker, Melanie Fogel, Donna Snyder, Southwest Florida Romance Writers, Southbridge, church, and Florida and Ohio friends—you know who you are and how much you mean to me.
Berlin, Ohio, 1900
Grace Blauch pushed the door open to Grace and Sarah’s Dry Goods Shop on Wednesday morning and shut it against the August heat behind her. Who was the attractive Amish man laughing with Sarah?
No beard. He’s unwed.
He towered over her friend and partner’s petite frame. She dropped her birthing supply bag on the hardwood floor. “I’m sorry I’m late. If Mamm hadn’t dropped a pan in the kitchen and woke me, I’d have been even later.”
Sarah Helmuth waved her over. “Don’t apologize. I’m pleased you’re here. Meet Mark King.” She hooked her arm through Grace’s and grinned. “This is my friend and partner, Grace Blauch.”
Smiling, hat in hand, he bowed slightly. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
Her heart raced. Most strangers turned away from her face the first time she met them, but Mark gazed into her eyes. He didn’t stare at the red apple-sized birthmark on her left cheek. What a refreshing change. “Wilkom to Berlin.”
He had a small thin jagged line under his right eye. The scar added character to his handsome face. What was the story behind it? She liked his thick, dark wavy hair, straight white teeth, structured jawline, and broad shoulders. He held his tall black hat, without a speck of dust on it, by his side. Dressed in a crisp white shirt, black pants, and suspenders, he had a neat appearance. “If you’ll pass me your hat, I’ll hang it up for you.” She hung his hat on the knotty maple rack.
Sarah pushed a stray curly blond hair into her white kapp. “Mark moved to Berlin from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, on Monday. Levi went over briefly and introduced himself to Mark.” She separated from Grace and leaned against the counter. “The Stoltzfuses sold him their place not far from us. Mr. Stoltzfus wrote and asked Levi to plant his hay and garden in May. Levi asked some of his friends to help him, and they have been taking care of it.”
Sarah tossed a loose thread on the counter in the trash bin. “Mr. Stoltzfus didn’t write in his letter to Levi whether he planned to return to Berlin or sell his property. He’d gone to Lancaster to help his bruder, who was ill back in February. He sold off his livestock before he left. We were surprised to learn from Mark that Mr. Stoltzfus and his fraa died just days before Mark left to kumme here.”
Grace pressed a hand to her mouth. “I’m sorry to hear this. I had met them, but I didn’t know them well.”
“It’s understandable. Their time in Berlin was short.”
Mark gazed into her eyes. “Mr. Stoltzfus’s bruder died and left his haus to them. They had planned on moving back to Berlin, but they had grown to like Lancaster better.”
Sarah retied her loose apron strings. “Mark visited Levi and me before supper last night. He invited us to his haus and showed us Mr. Stoltzfus’s, now his, workshop on his property, where he handcrafts his things.” She bounced on her toes. “Levi liked the oak shelves Mark built. My husband wasted no time offering to buy them for here, but Mark insisted on giving them to us.”
Grace pointed to overstacked quilts on a table. “That’s wonderful. We need them.”
“Mark has offered to hang them, and I accepted. No telling when Levi would ever have built them for us. No doubt he means well, but he puts work such as this off.”
Mark King will be hanging the shelves in our shop.
She’d get to speak to him again.
What good news.
“We appreciate your help.”
“If you don’t mind, I’d like to hang the shelves tomorrow.”
“Grace opens early most days, and I kumme in a little later. She doesn’t have a husband to cook breakfast for yet. Today we switched to give her a break. You can schedule a time with her to start work.” Sarah winked at Grace.
Grace’s cheeks heated. Sarah’s attempt to play matchmaker was far too obvious. She glimpsed at Mark. His face had reddened, but his grin remained. His reaction couldn’t have been any better.
He coughed and covered his mouth. “Miss Blauch, what time would you like me to start working tomorrow?”
“Please call me Grace. Is eight all right?”
“Eight is good.” He met her eyes. “Please call me Mark.” He retrieved his hat. “Have a nice day.” He grinned at her then departed.
Her heart pounded. His smile, the sparkle in his eyes, and his strong but kind voice lingered in her mind. She couldn’t wait to learn more about him if Sarah hadn’t scared him away with her obvious matchmaking. Grace lowered her chin and crossed her arms. “You embarrassed me when you said I didn’t have a husband.”
Sarah gently tapped Grace’s nose. “I didn’t exist after you walked in the room. Mark King is smitten with you.” She chuckled. “I’ll not apologize. His face brightened when I told him. You’re glad I blurted it out. Admit it.”
Grace’s face softened. “He met my eyes while talking to me instead of staring at my cheek like most people I meet. His reaction was refreshing.”
“Since he’ll be working in the shop, you’ll have a chance to learn more about him.”
“What have you found out about him?”
“Two years ago, a stagecoach hit his parents’ buggy and they didn’t survive.” She leaned against the maple table. “I asked if he had siblings, and he said not anymore. You came in before I could find out what he meant.”
Grace moved to the small wood-burning stove in the corner, opened the door, and found logs inside. She added crumbled paper and a small amount of kindling, lit a match, grasped the poker, and coaxed the fire to take hold. “Maybe his bruder or schweschder died and the subject is too painful to discuss. You said he visited you and Levi. What did Levi have to say about him?”
“Levi likes him. They talked about carpentry, farming, and fishing for over an hour.”
Two Englischers entered. The tall elegant woman wore a fitted red and blue dress, showing off her long, slender legs. The short round woman with full cheeks had on a too-tight yellow dress. She scurried to catch up with her long-legged friend.
Grace faced them. “Wilkom. How may I help you today?”
The two women narrowed their eyes, frowned, and grimaced. “We came in to browse.”
She held a hand to her face. Would she ever remain unaffected by strangers’ stares? “Take your time. I’ll help you with whatever you need.”
The taller woman raised her eyebrows and leaned close to her friend. “Did you notice the poor girl’s birthmark?”
“Yes. The discoloration is hard to miss. What a pity.”
The women should have kept their voices down. Her birthmark hadn’t damaged her ability to hear. Grace hurried to the back room but kept the door open to view the patrons.
Sarah followed. “Don’t let those customers’ comments upset you.”
Her friend meant well, but Sarah had flawless skin. She had no idea what it was like to have strangers wince and stare at her. “I am working on it, but it’s difficult.”
Sarah put her hands on Grace’s shoulders. “God gave you pretty brown hair, deep brown eyes, a petite nose, and a tall thin frame. I’m certain many women would love to have any one of those features. You possess them all.”
She shouldn’t complain. God had blessed her with a healthy body. She straightened her shoulders and smoothed her white apron. “I agree. I shouldn’t let their remarks bother me.” She threw back her shoulders. “I’ll assist the women while you check our supplies.”
The tall woman fingered the green and brown friendship quilt hanging on the wall. She patted the pocket. “What’s this for?”
“You write a heartfelt letter to the person you’re giving the quilt to and tuck it inside the pocket. We call them keepsake pocket quilts.”
The short woman with curly brown hair held a white eyelet one. “I want this one for my daughter. Who came up with this wonderful idea?”
“Becca Carrington and her schweschder, Ruth Kelly, sell them in their shop in Massillon, Ohio. The schweschders suggested we and several women in our community stitch the keepsake pocket quilts and sell them here.”
The taller woman beamed. “I love the idea. I must tell my friends to shop here when they visit Berlin.”
Sliding back the curtain under the pinewood table used for checking out customers, Grace removed the dented gray metal cashbox hidden underneath the counter.