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By Kathryn Barrett, Libby Murphy
Entangled Publishing, LLCCopyright © 2013 Kathryn Barrett
All rights reserved.
God regularly sent temptation to the town of Serenity, in the form of power tools, brightly colored sewing notions, and a new Super Wal-Mart. But when Hollywood arrived, some felt He'd upped the ante. Their loud SUVs, loose wads of cash, and flashy Englisher ways made the tourists who regularly flocked to Amish country seem reserved in comparison.
Of course, there were some who'd cashed in on the invasion, including old Levi Yoder, who offered his preserves at twice the price he'd charged before. But after Deacon Malachi preached against price gouging, the rest hung their heads in shame for even thinking of tacking on a Hollywood surcharge.
Though few of the Amish had ever seen a movie, and even fewer read celebrity gossip columns, the aura of Hollywood still sparkled like forbidden stardust. Yet one woman had no trouble seeing through the stardust to the illusion underneath.
The first time Rachel Hostetler had seen Laura Hayes stepping out of a red Jeep and into her neat and tidy yard, she'd known she was trouble. An English Delilah, wearing tight jeans, high-heeled boots, and a chic attitude. Rachel frowned over the shirts she was hanging on the line, but she was no match for such undaunted optimism.
With the air of one who'd never let a critic's opinion stop her, the woman ignored the frown on Rachel's lined face and instead gave her a friendly wave, and one of those generous smiles the English give to strangers.
"Hi! Can you tell me where I could find Jacob Hostetler?" she asked, pulling sunglasses from a face that radiated cheerful perfection.
Rachel snapped a clothespin. "He'll be in the workshop this time of day." Then she found herself pointing out the way to Jacob's workshop, and even hoping this Englisher would place a large order. They could use a new wringer washer.
Later she'd regret so freely giving up her son's whereabouts, but on this day, weeks before filming began on The Temptation of Hannah, Rachel had simply conspired with God's plans.
* * *
Laura, unaware of Rachel's misgivings, and even more ignorant of God's intentions, twirled on her heels and headed toward a large barn-like structure.
Inside, an awful screeching greeted her, the sound of wood being slaughtered by some sort of tool. The man wielding the instrument of destruction didn't see her, his head bent over his work. Laura looked her fill. A suspender had fallen from one shoulder, and his blue shirt was covered with sawdust, as was his hair — was it blond? — and his dark trousers. She could almost hear his deltoids as they shoved the plane back and forth over the wood, filing away the cumbersome shape that resembled a headboard.
While Laura waited for him to notice her, she looked around. The space was filled with furniture in various stages of completion: bed frames, armoires, desks, tables, and chairs, each a simple work of artistry even her untrained eye could appreciate.
Clean tools hung on a pegboard, next to a Dry-Erase board with schedules worked out in careful handwriting — surprisingly modern touches for an Amish workshop. There was even a phone on the desk. But no electric lights shone, just lanterns hanging where their light could illuminate the work area. She breathed in, savoring the scent of fresh wood, and sneezed.
The noise stopped abruptly, and the man looked up at her with startled eyes.
"Hi. Are you Jacob Hostetler?"
"Ja — yes, I am Jacob Hostetler," he said.
Laura caught her breath. Unlike most Amish men she'd seen, this one didn't have a beard hiding his chin. She took a moment to admire his strong jaw sprinkled with sawdust, firm lips, and eyes the color of flax blossoms. A dreamboat. An Amish dreamboat, she corrected.
Still ... she couldn't help appreciating the muscular chest traced by his suspenders, muscles that came from hard work, not the latest high-intensity interval training.
"What can I do for you?" he asked, his voice slightly accented with measured vowels, deep consonants. Melodic, like a sensual ballad ...
She pulled her thoughts back from where they very definitely shouldn't be.
"I'm looking for a cradle. Sam Zimmerman said you'd have one."
He nodded. "And Sam would have been speaking the truth yesterday. Today I have no cradles."
"Oh, darn. I was really hoping ... I need it soon, you see."
His glance fell to her midsection.
"Not for me," she said. "For my sister. She's having a baby next month." She gave him a smile, one that had won her countless roles. All she wanted was a sturdy, well-built cradle, and she had a feeling this man could grant that wish.
"Someone bought the last cradle yesterday. Maybe you should try Peter Chubb over at Bird-in-Hand."
"But I heard you were the best." She gave him another winsome smile and considered fluttering her eyelashes. Charm, however, didn't seem to be going over very well. Not even a trace of interest in those incredible blue eyes. Maybe the Amish were immune.
He shook his head. "I am afraid Zimmerman told you a whopper. I'm only the second best cradle maker. Maybe even third." He rubbed the wood he was planing. "Now, if it was a bed you wanted ..."
"You'd make me a bed?"
"Ja. That I can do."
"But not a cradle."
"Cradles are for making in the winter. They're small; I can put them together inside the house in the evening. There's no sense heating the two places. Now it's spring, I can make you a bed, or an armoire. Something for your electronic equipment, maybe. But no cradle."
Laura decided he was being stubborn, and she knew how to deal with stubborn. She widened her eyes and gave him her best pathetic look, then added the words that never failed to get results. "I'll pay extra. Twice what you normally charge."
He shook his head. "A cradle is not worth that. Now, if you want to talk to Peter —"
"But he's not here ..." She waited a beat, then added, "and you are. I can wait — maybe a week. Can't you make me one tiny little cradle? Please?" Pretty please with sugar on top, she pleaded silently.
He wiped his cheeks with a nearby rag and a layer of dust fell off, revealing a face that belonged on a movie poster. Finally he said, with a reluctant edge to his voice, "Ben Troyer says we're in for a cold snap by the end of next week. So I suppose I can make this cradle for you. You want oak or ash?"
"What's the difference?"
"Ash is lighter, not so much wood grain. Here." He picked up a yellow piece of wood. "This is ash. See?" His finger traced the smooth lines. "Not so sturdy as oak, but a cradle won't be used hard, like a chair or a bed."
Laura could swear he blushed. He really was adorable. But not for her, she reminded herself.
"Ash, then," she agreed. "I can give you a number where I'm staying — or why don't I just stop by again in a week?" she added, remembering that the Amish didn't use telephones except in emergencies.
Jacob nodded, and began filling out an order form. He didn't even blink when she told him her name. Not that unusual, especially among the Amish. Laura glanced around the shop, tantalized by the sight of gracefully sculpted furniture in the corners. She wished she had time to explore the shop and this man, who, despite his gruff manner, had the appearance of an archangel. She told herself it was simply research — she'd spent a week with the Amish, but had yet to find out what made them tick.
Before she could find that out, or ask about the pieces of furniture that enticed her from the rear of the shop, a little blond boy raced through the door.
"Dat! There's a red truck outside. Just like we saw in —" He slid to a stop when he saw Laura.
"Daniel, say hello to Laura Hayes. It is her red truck you saw."
"Hello, Daniel." She held out a hand, enchanted by the boy. Ear-length hair poked below the brim of a hat that seemed too big for his head, a suspender trailed over one shoulder, and scuffed boots showed beneath pants that ended at his ankles. "It's not really my car. I'm just renting it for a while. Would you like to see inside?"
Before Daniel could answer, Jacob shook his head. "You have chores to do. Grandmother will be needing you in the house."
Laura had the feeling she'd just crossed the imaginary line that separated the Amish from their neighbors. While they were friendly and unfailingly courteous, they were as leery of strangers as any modern parents.
"Yes, Dat." Daniel left, but not before giving Laura a look filled with curiosity.
Laura watched him go. "He speaks English well," she said to Jacob.
"He picked it up from our visits into town."
Laura knew the Amish spoke Pennsylvania Deitsch, a form of German, in their homes, and children didn't learn English until they went to school. "He must be very bright."
Jacob looked up, his expression inscrutable. "He's as hardheaded as any five-year-old boy." Dismissing the compliment as if it were blasphemy, he said, "I'll have the cradle finished by next week. You can pick it up then."
Laura bit her lip. "I may have to leave town for a few days ... but I'll be happy to pay for shipping."
Jacob nodded. "I'll ship it, then. You can write the address on the invoice."
When Laura reached for a pen to fill out the form, she noticed a book on the desk, half hidden under a pile of receipts. She tilted her head to read the title: The Life of Frank Lloyd Wright.
"Interesting book?" she asked, passing the form to him.
His gaze met hers and for a minute she thought he would agree, or launch into a book review, but instead he banked his interest and shrugged. "It passes the time."
"He built beautiful homes. I've toured Fallingwater, near Pittsburgh."
"He only dreamed them," Jacob replied. "Someone else built them."
He handed her the invoice, signed with his neat signature. "You'll have your cradle in a week."
* * *
The scent of springtime evaporated when Laura Hayes left his workshop. Jacob swiped at the dust on his jaw, hoping it hadn't dropped open like Daniel's when he'd gawked at the red Jeep in the driveway.
With a soft cloth, he pried the sawdust that had accumulated along the edge of his handsaw. He glanced at the lumber stacked against one wall, wondering if he had enough ash boards to make the cradle for Laura Hayes. She'd had the air of one used to getting what she desired, a notion that usually brought out Jacob's stubborn streak, but for some reason he'd wanted to please her. She reminded him of a beautiful child who gathered blessings like dandelion blossoms, all too easily spoiled.
But it wasn't any of his business. The woman had come to buy a cradle, and a cradle she'd get.
He hung the saw back in its place on the pegboard and checked his pocket watch; another twenty minutes until his mother would have dinner ready. He opened a drawer and pulled out an old calculus text and a spiral bound notebook. Sitting at his desk, he opened the book, sharpened a pencil, and began to read. The problems were difficult — especially for someone with only an eighth grade education — but Jacob plowed through them the same way old Jonas Lapp plowed his back twenty acres. Methodically, reverently, as if the intricacies of higher math were his calling.
Although calculus wasn't taught in the one-room schoolhouse he'd attended, a working knowledge of differential equations was necessary, he'd found, in predicting the bending ability of the various woods he used. He designed much of his own furniture, inspired by the artisans of the Arts and Crafts movement, as well as simple Amish design.
The bishop wouldn't have approved of his book learning, but Jacob had come to an agreement with the bishop long ago. In fact, he'd often suspected Bishop Beiler had a soft spot for him — though he'd never go so far as to bend the rules of the Ordnung.
He'd had time to read one page before he heard steps approaching. It was his mother, sounding out of breath. "Jacob! Is Daniel with you?"
"No. I haven't seen him since the English woman left."
"He's not in the house, or the horse shed. I have searched everywhere."
"He could have gone over to visit Aaron. With no school today, he probably just got bored."
"He would not go without permission."
Jacob knew she was right, but before the logic could work into fear, he pushed it away. Daniel was probably hiding, just like Jacob had done when he was a boy with five sisters to plague him. Of course Daniel had no sisters, or brothers, either — maybe he had gone to Aaron's, after all.
"He probably just forgot he was a well-behaved boy. Sometimes that happens." Jacob thought of the books in his desk, ordered from a mail order source he'd accessed from the computer in the library. Yes, sometimes a person just forgot the rules.
"I'll walk over to Donner's farm. You check the shed again. Maybe he's found where Susie hid her kittens."
Rachel shook her head, worry slicing new lines in her forehead. She'd lost a child before — Jacob's only brother — when he fell into a corn silo before Jacob was born. Farms could be dangerous places for little boys.
Minutes later, Jacob hurried across the field his brother-in-law now farmed, wet with last night's rain. The freshly plowed mud tugged at his boots, slowing him down, until it felt as if he were taking a never-ending nightmarish journey. There were no small boot tracks in the mud, just the leftover stubble of corn stalks and an eerie silence that fed the fear in his heart.
When he arrived at the Donner's, six children of various ages were planting spring onions in the large garden plot, but Daniel wasn't one of them. Aaron hadn't seen him since yesterday. A wasted trip, except Donner returned the plunge router he'd borrowed. Seeing Jacob's worry, Marvin Donner told him, "I'll send Ben back with you. He can come back and get us if you haven't found him. We'll all help you look."
"I'm grateful for the offer. Surely he's just hiding somewhere."
But when he arrived back home, Rachel met him across the yard. "He's not here. I've looked everywhere. Our Daniel is gone."
This time, Jacob let the fear grab hold. He prayed, silently, to a God he knew very well would as soon take a child as he had once taken the child's mother.
Beside him, Rachel, her kapp askew from her frantic searching, moved her mouth in a whispered prayer:
Dear Gott, please, do not take this child from me!
* * *
Laura parked the Jeep at the bed and breakfast where she was staying in Philadelphia. Thinking of the calls she needed to make, she almost left her purchases in the back, but at the last minute she opened the rear cargo door.
From one end of the Ohio Star quilt she'd bought, a blond head was sticking out. From the other end stretched a familiar pair of tiny brown boots. She lifted the quilt. Daniel, the boy from the Hostetlers', lay sound asleep underneath, like Little Boy Blue gone astray.
She'd kidnapped him — accidentally, of course — but still, a wave of guilt flooded her. Poor kid. Her radio had been on too loud to hear so much as a sniffle, and he'd probably been too scared to get her attention.
He must have crawled into her car while she was talking to his father. His family would be frantic — she should call them. But then she remembered they wouldn't have a phone in their home. The quickest way to relieve their fears would be to drive this little guy back home, as fast as possible.
She nudged his shoulder gently. "Daniel, honey, wake up."
He yawned, and rubbed his eyes sleepily. A delivery truck lumbered by, then squealed its brakes at the stop sign. Daniel sat up and blinked, looking around at the city street. With a voice that quivered only slightly, he said, "Are we in Strasburg?"
"No, sweetie, we're in Philadelphia. But I'm going to take you back home, right now. Your parents are probably worried sick about you."
"We went for a ride?"
"A long ride. You must have climbed into my car. Do you remember?"
He nodded. "I wanted to see inside. Then the car started moving and I was afraid." He looked at her with eyes as blue as Delft porcelain, slightly unfocused from sleep. "Where's my dat? My grossmutter?"
Excerpted from Temptation by Kathryn Barrett, Libby Murphy. Copyright © 2013 Kathryn Barrett. Excerpted by permission of Entangled Publishing, LLC.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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