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Authors: Rebecca Kertz

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BOOK: Noah's Sweetheart
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She released a solid breath. “I could have been killed. You saved me.
” A shy smile lit up her face, and in that moment he felt his pulse quicken as he noticed every little detail about her…the warmth of her chocolate-brown gaze, the whiteness of her smooth skin, her small nose…the rosy pink of her lips…the glimpse of her white
beneath her black traveling bonnet. The sweep of hair from a center part across her forehead was dark. She wore a black cape over a dress of spring green.

“I was happy to help.” He offered his hand to help the woman alight from the buggy. He sensed her hesitation for only a moment, and then he felt the warmth of her fingertips as she accepted his assistance.

“Rachel!” Aaron Troyer approached at a run. He nodded at William, who gave possession of the horse’s bridle to its owner. The animal’s sides were caked with sweat, and it was trembling all over.

“Are you all right?” Aaron asked Rachel as he ran his hand over the horse’s neck and murmured soothingly to it.

“I am fine, Aaron. Thanks to—”

“Noah,” Noah supplied. “Noah Lapp.”

“Noah,” Aaron said, out of breath. “I’m grateful.” Then to the woman he said, “I didn’t realize that Josef would be so easily scared. My brother meant for you and Martha to take Daisy.”

“Is Josef all right?” She appeared concerned.

with some care, he will be fine.”

“Noah! Noah! Are you hurt?” Charlotte called out from the wagon seat. “
You could have been killed!
When I saw you jump onto that horse, I was afraid you’d fall and be crushed—” She had steered the wagon to within yards from where the buggy had come to a full stop.

“You doubt my ability with horses?” he teased. Upon seeing her expression, he sobered. “I’m fine, Charlotte.”

Charlotte’s gaze settled on the woman standing next to the buggy and her eyes widened. “
Rachel Hostetler?”

The woman seemed to search her memory before her features brightened. “Charlotte!” she exclaimed. “I am surprised that you got my message so quickly.”

“We didn’t.” Charlotte climbed down from the wagon. “We were in town to pick up supplies for
and Noah’s
We didn’t expect you to arrive until tomorrow.”

“The English driver my family hired had to leave a day earlier. He had a family emergency and apologized that he couldn’t drive me directly to Happiness. He left me at Troyers’ Buggy Excursions. I called the number your
sent me from a payphone while I waited for a ride.”

Charlotte nodded. “Whittier’s Store. They take messages for us.”

Surprised, Noah watched and listened to the exchange with growing interest. The two women talked as if there was no one else around. “Charlotte?”

Charlotte looked startled as if she suddenly remembered there were others nearby, waiting for an introduction.

“Noah, this is Rachel Hostetler. She is our new
teacher—” Charlotte smiled “—and my cousin. Aaron—it seems that you have already met.”

“You’re Charlotte’s kin?” Noah asked, pleased to learn that he’d be seeing more of her. Rachel nodded. “And you are a schoolteacher,” he said. “At our Happiness school?”

Rachel studied him and nodded.

“Welcome to Lancaster County,” he said. “Come. We’ll take you home.”

* * *

The intensity of Noah’s regard captured her gaze. Feeling her cheeks heat, Rachel quickly looked away. She felt the warmth of his coat and, embarrassed, she removed it and handed it back to him.

“Rachel, let’s go,” Charlotte urged, drawing Rachel’s attention and saving her from acting foolish. “You will come with us—

“We’re going for ice cream,” Joshua said.

“I don’t know now, Joshua,” his sister said. “Rachel has had a terrible fright. She may want to go straight home.”

Rachel studied the young boy seated in the back of the wagon. “You’re Joshua—and such a big boy! I’m your cousin Rachel. We’ve never met. The last time I saw your sister was years ago, when we were eleven and twelve, I think.” She looked to Charlotte, who nodded.

“We’re not going for ice cream?” Young Joshua looked crestfallen.

“No, I think I’d like to have ice cream,” Rachel said, and then asked Joshua, “What kinds can we choose from?”

She did feel a bit shaky, she realized, as Joshua began to list the many flavors of ice cream available, but she didn’t mind stopping for the treat first. It might help to put away the thought of what could have happened if not for the sudden appearance of Noah Lapp.

Rachel sensed the intensity of her rescuer’s look, but refused to meet his gaze. She felt as though she was still wrapped in the warmth of his coat.

“Let’s go, then,” Noah said quietly. “I’ll get your bag.”

Only then did she glance his way. His soft, quick smile in her direction did odd things to her insides.

“Are you certain, Rachel?” Charlotte asked.

She nodded at her cousin. “I have the Lord to thank for my safety. The Lord and your friend Noah Lapp.”

“I’m so glad that
needed some things in town or we may not have been here when…”

Rachel shuddered.

“I’m sorry, Rachel,” Aaron Troyer said.

“No harm done,” Rachel assured him with a half smile. “I’m fine.”

“Here’s your money. Next time you need a ride, there will be no charge.” After Rachel thanked him properly, Aaron left, leaving her alone with her cousins. With Rachel’s bag in hand, Noah stopped to speak with Aaron.

“Are you truly all right, Rachel?” Charlotte asked. “I can’t believe this happened to you. I can only imagine how you must have felt with the memory of that awful accident last year.”

Rachel still felt shaken. “It was a terrible time.”

Charlotte agreed as they made their way toward the wagon on the side of the road. “
will be happy to see you. You’ll be staying at the house until the cottage near the
is finished.”

“I will like that.” Rachel breathed deeply in an attempt to calm her fear as she climbed onto the wagon.

“You have nothing to be afraid of, Rachel,” Charlotte told her. “Noah is a

Rachel nodded. “I know.” She glanced in his direction.

The Lord was watching over her. He hadn’t abandoned her so far from home. He’d sent her help in the form of Noah Lapp…from Happiness, Pennsylvania. What more could she ask for?

Chapter Two

he aroma of baking bread drew Rachel from the bedroom, which she shared with her cousins Charlotte and Nancy. She had overslept. Last night her sleep had been fraught with memories of the buggy accident that she’d been involved in a year ago, the near accident yesterday…and her unforgettable first encounter with Noah Lapp.

She felt terrible that she hadn’t awakened earlier to help with the chores. Her relatives had been kind enough to provide a place for her; earning her keep was the least she could do.

The delicious smell grew stronger and mingled with the tantalizing scents of pies and biscuits as she descended the stairs and neared the kitchen. The warmth from the oven filled the room, surrounding her as she entered, making her feel instantly at ease, taking away some of the feeling of being far from home.

Charlotte, Nancy and Aunt Mae were gathered around the flour-dusted kitchen table, kneading dough and assembling pies. There was a streak of flour across Nancy’s cheek and a dusting down the front of Charlotte’s apron. Tendrils of hair had escaped from beneath their black
and their cheeks were flushed from the heat of the oven, but they didn’t seem to notice or care, so intent were they on the tasks at hand. Nancy looked a lot like her older sister, but her hair was brown whereas Charlotte’s was golden. Both had pretty blue eyes and ready grins.

Aunt Mae looked spotless. She wore a white
and her light brown hair in a bun from a center part that was drawn back more severely than Nancy’s and Charlotte’s. But there was a softness about Mae’s expression that told Rachel how much her aunt enjoyed working with her daughters. As the King women worked, they chatted happily, giggling at something Nancy and then Charlotte said.

Rachel felt her heart lighten at their laughter as she approached.

After setting a layer of crust on the bottom of a pie pan, Charlotte looked up and saw her. “Rachel.

Rachel smiled. “
morning. May I help?” she asked.

“You’re up,” Aunt Mae said with satisfaction. “
you can help.”

“You didn’t sleep well,” Charlotte said, her gaze sharp as she studied her cousin.

“I’m sorry I overslept.”

“You needed your rest,” her aunt said. “Would you like breakfast?”

“I’d rather help with the baking.”

Grinning, Charlotte and Nancy made room at the table for Rachel. “Here, Rachel,” Nancy invited. “You can work here.”

Rachel slid between her cousins, grabbed a bowl of dough, and without instruction began to roll and cut out strips to make lattice for a strawberry pie that Charlotte was assembling. Working in the kitchen, she felt instantly at home.

“It’s kind of you to have me.” She smiled at her cousins. “I appreciate your sharing.”

“We don’t mind,” Charlotte said. “We are family.”

“There is plenty of room,” Nancy agreed. “You are comfortable?”

The bed is
Yesterday it was a long journey from Millersburg to Lancaster.”

“It is a long way. It has been many years since I have visited my brother’s family,” Aunt Mae agreed. “Your driver? He is a

Aunt Mae, he is from Ohio, too, and has family in Lancaster County. We had to leave early, as his brother-in-law is ill and his sister needed help.”

“Family is important. I am glad you had a driver who understands that.” She glanced at Rachel’s handiwork as she kneaded and rolled out pie dough. “Nice work. Your
if I recall correctly, was a
cook, but she does not enjoy it in the kitchen much. Who taught you to cook?”

She loved to bake and insisted I help whenever it was baking day.” Rachel had enjoyed cooking and baking with her grandmother.
had been a perfectionist when it came to her cakes, biscuits and pies, and she had instilled that trait in her eldest granddaughter. And Aunt Mae was right: her
did not like to cook, but she took care of her family, as a good wife should. Rachel and her siblings always ate well. But it was
who shared her love of cooking and baking with her granddaughter, imparting a sense of understanding that family and good food went hand in hand.

Rachel began to assemble the pie lattice, placing each dough strip carefully over the filling, spacing each evenly in a lovely woven pattern. When she was done, she stood back to eye her handiwork. “Bread, biscuits and pies,” she said with a smile. “Are we having company? Or are these all for family?”

Nancy spoke up. “
We sell baked goods to a new shop in Kitchen Kettle Village. We bring them pies at least once or twice a week. Our pies sell well, and the owner is pleased to have them.”

“The bread, too? It smells delicious.”

Aunt Mae grinned. “The bread is for dinner this evening.”

Rachel grinned with pleasure. “I can almost taste it now.”

An hour later, Rachel had rolled out dough enough for three pies, made a filling for one crust, cut out biscuits and stirred the ingredients of an upside-down chocolate cake into a pan. The smell of all this good food made her stomach growl.

Charlotte chuckled. “I think you should take time for breakfast.”

Her stomach protesting loudly again, Rachel said, “
I think you’re right.”

“Fresh biscuits out of the oven?” Aunt Mae asked.

Rachel’s mouth watered. “
A fresh biscuit sounds

She ate her biscuit and sipped from her cup of tea.

“Would you like another, Rachel? Or would you like eggs and bacon?”

but no, Aunt Mae. It’s too late for more than this.” She rose with plate in hand to wash it in the dish basin.

Aunt Mae left the house to take Uncle Amos something to drink. Rachel’s uncle was working in the fields. The day was again lovely but a little warmer, and Amos would want something to quench his thirst.

As she dried her clean plate, Rachel heard a knock resound loudly on the outside door. She couldn’t see who it was as she put away the dish and hung the dish towel over the drying rack.

“Noah!” she heard Nancy exclaim, and Rachel felt her stomach flutter.

“It’s nice to see you, Noah,” Charlotte said cheerfully. “Would you like a biscuit or piece of pie?”

“I appreciate the offer, but no, Charlotte. After helping
early in the fields, I ate a huge breakfast.”

Rachel heard every word spoken between her cousins and Noah Lapp, but she didn’t turn around. With the warmth she felt since Noah’s arrival, she knew her cheeks would be blazing red. Besides, he had come to visit with Charlotte, surely. Although both had behaved in the most appropriate manner in town, it seemed clear to Rachel that Charlotte and Noah were sweet on each other.

morning, Rachel.” Suddenly Noah was next to her, overwhelming her with his presence. “Are you settling in nicely?”

Forced to meet his regard, she nodded. “
My uncle and his family have made me most welcome.” He smelled and looked nice, she thought as he turned to speak with Nancy. He must have bathed after working in the fields, for his shirt was clean, as were the dark triblend denim pants that he wore. She tried not to notice the way his suspenders fit over his shoulders. He had a firm jaw and a ready smile. His golden-brown eyes sparkled. His sandy-brown hair looked neatly combed beneath his banded straw hat.

BOOK: Noah's Sweetheart
11.07Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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