Patterns of Love (Coming to America Series #2)by Robin Lee Hatcher
Swedish immigrant Inga Linberg, a pastor’s daughter agrees to a marriage of convenience in hope of finding real love.
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Uppsala, Iowa, December 1897
Dirk Bridger drew the wool collar up around his ears, but the wind was bitter cold and his coat was too thin. He slapped the reins against the horses' rumps, hoping to hurry the ancient animals along, even though he knew the gesture was useless. Sunset and Robber had no more speed to give. They were worn out and used up, like far too many things on the Bridger dairy farm.
He frowned, remembering how his ma had used similar words about herself yesterday. "I'm no spring chicken, Dirk," she'd said. "I'm wore out. But if I could just get me some rest, I'd be right as rain in no time."
Only Dr. Swenson didn't seem to think so. He thought Hattie Bridger's illness was much more serious than that.
And so Dirk had decided to put pride behind him and seek some much-needed help.
"You go see that Reverend Linberg," Ma had told him this morning. "He'll know who we can hire to mind the girls."
But who would want to work for what little Dirk could afford to pay? And what would happen if he couldn't find someone willing to help out? His ma was ailing-perhaps dying, if the doctor knew what he was talking about-and Dirk couldn't take care of Ma, his orphaned nieces, and the farm all by himself.
An icy wind buffeted him from behind. He closed his eyes and, for just a moment, allowed himself to remember those last few weeks he'd spent out West. Summer. Hot and dusty. Saloons and pretty, scantily dressed barmaids. Cowboys with fast horses and shiny guns strapped to their thighs.
He gave his head a shake and returned his gaze to the road before him. Daydreams were for youngboys and men with no responsibilities. They weren't for him.. Not anymore. Not for a long time.
The Prarieblomman Lutheran Church came into view, its tall white steeple piercing the cloudless blue of the sky. Beside the church was the two-story parsonage where the Linbergs lived. Dirk hadn't met the minister or his family, even though they'd arrived in Uppsala last May. The Bridger dairy farm was more than an hour's ride outside of Uppsala, and Dirk limited his trips into town to once or twice a month. As for Sundays, Dirk Bridger hadn't darkened the door of a church any church-in many years.
He didn't figure God had missed him.
Dirk drew back on the reins, stopping the team in front of the clapboard parsonage. He dropped the lap robe onto the floor of the wagon, then hopped to the ground. With a few long strides, he crossed the yard and climbed the steps to the porch. Quickly, he rapped his glove-covered knuckles against the door.
Within moments, the door opened, revealing a pretty teenage girl with golden hair and dark blue eyes.
"Hello. Is the pastor in?"
She smiled shyly. "Ja. Come in, please."
Dirk whipped off his wool cap as he stepped into the warmth of the house. The girl motioned toward the parlor, and he followed her into the room.
"I will get Pappa," she said, a flush coloring her cheeks.
Dirk waited until she'd disappeared before allowing his gaze to roam. Although sparsely furnished, the room had a warm, welcoming feel to it. Lace doilies covered a small round table, a lamp set on top of it. A colorful quilt was draped over the back of the couch, another over the arm of a chair. Framed photographs lined the mantel, women with hair worn tight to their heads, their mouths set in grim lines, men with long mustaches and half smiles.
"Those are members of our family in Sweden," a man said from behind Dirk. His voice was heavily accented with the singsong rhythm peculiar to the Swedes.
"I am Olaf Linberg." The pastor held out his hand. "Welcome to our home."
"I'm Dirk Bridger," he said, relieved the man obviously spoke and understood English. "I run a dairy farm west of here."
Dirk guessed the pastor was about sixty years old. His hair and long beard were completely white, but his stance was unbent and his face only slightly lined. When they shook hands, he discovered the pastor's grip was firm.
"I believe I know the farm, Mr. Bridger. Sven Gerhard is your neighbor." Olaf released Dirk's hand and motioned toward the sofa. "Please, sit down."
As he accepted the pastor's invitation, Dirk sought the right words to say next. It wasn't easy, asking for help. He'd been taking care of his own for most of his life.
Olaf's smile was both kind and patient. "Whatever has brought you here, young man, I will do my best to be of service."
"I feel a bit strange coming to you, the Bridgers not being members of your church and all. My ma's a Methodist."
"We are all members of God's family." The pastor chuckled softly. "Even Methodists."
Dirk shrugged. Then he raked the fingers of one hand through his hair and said, "Reverend, I guess there's nothin' else for me to do but come right out with it. I need to hire a woman to take care of my ailin' ma and watch after my nieces while I work the farm."
"You are not married, Mr. Bridger?"
"No. The dairy used to belong to my brother John. He and his wife, Margaret, died nigh on two years ago now. That's when I came here to run the place while Ma took care of John's little girls. But now she's sick and the doctor says she's got to stay in bed if she's gonna get well. We thought you might know of someone who'd be willing to work for us. I can't pay much. We barely get by as it is."
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