Read an Excerpt
Hidden (Sisters of the Heart, Book 1)
"Anna! This is surely a gut—a good—surprise," Katie Brenneman said in her all-too-familiar lilt. "Come in out of the cold, wouldja?"
Anna breathed a sigh of relief. For a moment she hadn't been sure she'd be welcomed by her childhood friend. Hadn't been sure of anything anymore.
Katie clucked. "Anna, come in. You're lettin' in the cold."
Obediently, she stepped into the foyer of the Brenneman Bed and Breakfast and was immediately surrounded by the smell of beeswax, spiced oranges, and crisp cotton. Behind her stood a finely woven basket filled with beautifully hand-carved canes of different woods. To her left was an antique table and chairs, each piece finely crafted and shined to a polish. A simple staircase curved upward to her right. Rag rugs in twirls of blue, dark green, and blood red decorated the wide planks.
On those planks, she placed her small suitcase. Well, maybe it wasn't so small.
Katie noticed. "You here for a spell?"
"I hope so. If you don't mind."
"Why ever would I mind?" Katie, dressed in her simple cobalt blue dress, gathered her into a warm hug, the kind of acceptance that only a friend of ten years could offer. "You're as cold as I've ever seen," she said, looking Anna up and down with bright blue eyes. "But something's wrong, ain't it now?"
Anna knew there was no way to sidestep her problems. Something was, indeed, very wrong. "I need help, Katie." Did her voice sound as desperate as she felt?
Katie's cheeks brightened with color, and she was just about to speak when Anna heardanother voice, one that she'd tried hard to forget.
"Katie? Who's here?"
Anna turned to find Henry Brenneman filling the doorway, his expression guarded and full of distrust.
Katie stepped closer, as if her slight build could offer Anna protection from her brother's probing eyes. "It's Anna, my friend from Mamm's quilting class, Henry."
Anna was sure he did. From the time they'd first met, he'd always seemed to find her lacking.
Gesturing to her bulging suitcase, he said, "You here for a visit?"
Anna flushed. Against her will, she felt her composure falter. But that was always how Henry made her feel, unworthy. So . . . English. "Not exactly. Actually, I'm not sure why I'm here. I was just going to speak to Katie—"
His suspicious gaze cut her off as sharply as his words. "Why?"
Piercing brown eyes scanned her without embarrassment, leaving Anna to feel like the interloper she was. "I need somewhere to stay for a bit."
Katie motioned her silent with a finger to her lips. "We're due for a visit. I, for one, am delighted you're here. We have two bedrooms open. You're welcome to one, if you'd like."
"They're paying rooms."
Katie playfully pushed her brother's shoulder. "Get along, now. We'd never charge my gut friend Anna here for her company."
Anna stepped forward. Though it was kind of Katie to attempt to smooth over her appearance, Anna was done speaking—or acting—in veiled ways. "There's a reason I need a room."
Katie gripped her hand and pulled her into the kitchen, finally pressing Anna down into a wooden ladder-back chair. To Anna's dismay, Henry followed, though neither she nor Katie had invited him.
"I'm in trouble. I've been in trouble." Picking up the linen napkin on the table, Anna gently rubbed it against her cheek, doing her best not to wince as she did so. Little by little, the thick makeup she'd put on just a few hours ago came off, revealing her bruise.
Katie's eyes widened appreciatively. Henry, too, must have been struck by the discoloration under her cheek, because he sat down as well. Then, as was their way, neither said a word.
Anna remembered the wonderful sense of privacy that seemed to surround the Brennemans and their Amish relatives. Though part of the New Order, so not quite as strict in the ways of the Old, where electricity and modern conveniences were always forbidden, the Brenneman family adhered to many of the tenets of the Amish way of lifeand that included an extreme respect for the privacy of others.
That respect made what had happened even more uncomfortable. "I . . . I should begin by letting you know that I've been dating Rob Peterson. For six months."
Blank expressions met the news.
They had to be the only people she knew who weren't fazed in the slightest about that. "He's kind of a famous man in Cincinnati. He's a former lawyer. Now he's running for the open spot in the House of Representatives." When still neither said anything, she added quietly, "He has a lot of influence. Money."
"And this matters to you, Anna?" Katie said.
Anna knew it didn't matter near as much as it used to. "Rob and I had already gotten serious when I started to notice how controlling he was. Prone to bursts of temper. The first time he hit me, he swore it was an accident."
"And that?" Henry asked.
She gingerly fingered her swollen cheek. Swallowed. "This happened late last night."
If anything, Henry's gaze hardened. "That there was no accident."
Henry was right. "No, no it wasn't. He, uh, now seems to think of me as a possession. He's taken to following me, or to having someone who works for him do that."
"Have you gotten the law involved?"
Anna almost smiled. Katie's knowledge of the outside world was sketchy at best. "I've contacted the police, but they seem to think I'm just clumsy. No one wants to go against him."
"Not even your family?" Katie's voice was full of wonder.
For the moment, Anna had forgotten that her mother and Katie had formed a relationship. They'd gotten along very well, especially when Katie revealed that her cousins owned a dairy one hour north. Her mother claimed that the Amish products were the finest she'd ever had.Hidden (Sisters of the Heart, Book 1). Copyright © by Shelley Shepard Gray. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.\