Read an Excerpt
Two Suitors for Anna
By Molly Jebber
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2017 Molly Jebber
All rights reserved.
Berlin, Ohio, 1903
Anna flipped the sign on Grace and Sarah's Dry Goods to open to show she was ready for business on Monday morning and glanced out the open window. She chuckled. A young newspaper boy waved a paper high above his head with his back to her. He was perfect for the job with his loud voice.
"Exciting news! On July fourth, we reported The Commercial Cable Company, Great Northern Cable Company, and the Eastern Telegraph Company have made it possible for President Roosevelt to deliver the first telegraph message around the globe! Read another article on telegraph messaging today!"
An Englischer smiled and approached the red-haired boy. "I'll take one. Thank you." He pressed coins in the eager boy's hand, tucked his purchase under his arm, and whistled as he headed across the street.
A mamm ran after her little maedel heading for the bakery. "Nancy Lynn, get back here!"
The blacksmith had a line of customers outside his door. Berlin bustled with activity. Men and women entered and left the shops, restaurants, post office, and livery. The sun glinted off the window. Anna squinted.
A man beeped his horn and raised his fist. "Watch where you're going!"
She gasped. Noah! He'd almost been struck!
"Sorry, sir." Noah crouched, hurried across the street, and waved to her.
She pressed a hand to the nervous flutter in her stomach and waved back with the other. She loved his sandy-blond hair, sky-blue eyes, and tall, thin frame. Restless and carefree, Noah loved change. During their three-year friendship, he had rearranged his chore schedule often, experimented with growing different kinds of herbs, and built numerous household products out of pine, maple, cherry, and oak. While Noah was interesting and a delight most of the time, she didn't share his enthusiasm for change. She found comfort in going about her tasks the same way. He'd pushed her to do things more like him for the last several months. They'd argued more often and his latest obsession to relocate to Lancaster for no good reason had added to her confusion as to whether they were meant for each other. To imagine life without him would be painful.
All he talked about was leaving Berlin, Ohio, to live in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, to make new friends and enjoy a different community. She had no desire to return to Lancaster. Living in Berlin the last three years, she'd enjoyed managing the dry goods shop and making good friends. She looked forward to raising a family here.
Would Noah ever be satisfied living in the same place for long? His need for adventure worried her. She'd kept quiet on the matter, hoping he'd forget the silly notion. He'd hinted at marrying her, but he hadn't proposed. She, her family, and her friends assumed they'd wed someday.
What if he asked her to marry him? She had no idea what to say. He'd been quieter than usual before and after the church service yesterday. Something was apparently heavy on his mind. Was he getting closer to asking her? She had always thought they'd marry, have kinner, and build a future together. Giddy with excitement at the idea until now. Why did he have to shatter the day she'd waited for since she'd fallen in love with him by choosing to move away from family and friends? Things had changed for them. He picked at everything she did. Would Noah ever be satisfied with her or living in one location planning for kinner and their future? She couldn't stand to think about this anymore today.
Noah walked into the shop and interrupted her thoughts. "Good morning. It's only the sixth of July, and already, the sun is blazing hot. I'm ready for winter. I abhor this heat, but I enjoy all the colors in the fields and gardens. All the plants and flowers are in full bloom. They are pretty, like you." He grinned and touched her nose. He glanced at the walls and waggled his finger. "You need to change your quilt display, like I told you. Change is good."
She stiffened and fought to keep from rolling her eyes. "Noah, I don't need to move things around every other day. Let's not argue." She pointed to the box under his arm. The man can be exasperating. "What are you carrying?" Noah set the box on the counter and patted the lid. "I finished handcrafting a sewing box out of cedar, and I wanted to show the piece to you before I delivered it to Mark's shop next door."
She peeked inside. "You varied the sections in the lift-out part. What a wonderful idea. The cedar is beautiful." She gave him a grateful smile. "This sewing box is almost as pretty as the one you gave me last year. Mark will be pleased. The sections kumme in handy for needles, pins, and spools of thread." She admired Grace and Mark's relationship. Both were good friends to her and Noah. Mark had graciously given his time to Noah teaching him how to handcraft household products before he'd married Grace and they'd had a child. Grace had hired her and later entrusted the management of the shop to her. She could talk to Grace about anything and trusted her friend would not repeat what she told her. She wished their lives weren't so busy and they could sit and chat more often.
"I can't take all the credit. Mark's been a good teacher and friend. Taking care of his livestock and farm is a pleasure rather than work. He's an excellent craftsman, but he makes the same things. I modify them to offer a little something different. I'm excited he's offered to sell my products in his store. I'll need the money for our future." He winked.
She wasn't surprised he wasn't satisfied to construct his creations the way Mark showed him. His creative mind was always kumming up with new ways to alter his projects. Anna opened her mouth to ask about his plans for the money but decided against it. An attractive Amish man strolled into the shop. He looked familiar, but she couldn't place him. He was several inches shorter than Noah. He had broad shoulders and powerful muscles bulged tight in his sleeves. She guessed him a couple of years older than Noah. "May I help you?"
He removed his hat, revealing a full head of thick, brown hair, and gave her a sheepish grin. "Jah, I'm here to purchase much needed kitchen towels."
"I'm Anna Plank, and meet Noah Schwartz. I'll be glad to show you what we have for choices."
"I'm Daniel Bontrager, and I'm new in town. I relocated here from Lancaster, Pennsylvania." He shook Noah's hand.
Daniel Bontrager. Where would she have met him? Anna snapped her fingers and smiled. "I recognize you from the church I attended in Lancaster. We moved to Berlin three years ago."
Daniel nodded his head. "Jah, I remember you. We'd moved to Lancaster from Middlebury, Indiana, after my mamm's parents passed. Daed had to get away from all the memories. Our families were acquainted, but I didn't have much time for attending social gatherings, and I missed Sunday services quite a bit. Mamm got sick, and I stayed home to watch over her. She had good and bad days. The neighbor took care of her during the workweek."
"I'm sorry about your mamm."
"Me too." Noah cocked his head. "I'm considering relocating to Lancaster. Anna has no desire to return there. Did you enjoy living there?"
Noah crossed his arms. "Are you any relation to Jonathan and Adele Bontrager?"
Daniel cast his eyes downward. "Jah, he was my bruder."
Anna swallowed the lump in her throat. Daniel's bruder's fraa, Adele, had been a sweet woman and news of her and her boppli's passing during childbirth had spread like wildfire in the community. She gave him a sympathetic smile. "Adele was pretty with her soft voice, dainty features, and kind personality. I was shocked when Jonathan died from a tragic heart attack a few months after the loss of his fraa and infant. You have my deepest sympathy."
"Danki. I miss them."
Noah cleared his throat and put a hand on Daniel's shoulder. "I'm sorry about their passing, too. They were a wonderful couple. What made you choose to move here?"
He acknowledged Noah's concern with a nod. "I needed a fresh start. My parents were murdered in a robbery while shopping in the General Store in Lancaster almost two years ago. Mamm was having a good day, and Daed offered to take her with him. The robber shot them, along with the owner. The sheriff was next door and heard the gunfire. He rushed in, but they were already dead. The robber turned his gun on the sheriff, and he shot and killed the criminal. Violence is rare in our town. The way they died was a shock to us and the community."
Anna blinked and blinked again. She pressed her fingers to her parted lips. He must've been devastated to find out his parents had been brutally murdered. Amish did everything to avoid trouble. "Where were you when your parents were in the store?"
"My bruder and I were working at home when the sheriff and the bishop came and told us the dreadful news. I'll never forget the date. It was February second, nineteen one. Two months later, Jonathan and Adele married and moved to Berlin." He shuffled his feet. "Jonathan wrote how much he loved living in this town. I'd planned to move closer to him, but I kept putting the move off. I decided to sell everything and take over Jonathan's haus and property. I regret waiting."
He was young to have been the last one left in his immediate family. He must feel so alone. The violent event would most likely stay fresh in the Amish community's minds for a while. "I would probably want to do the same if I were in your position."
Noah stretched out his hand. "I'm sorry you suffered the loss of your parents in such a horrific way, and Jonathan and his family, too."
"I didn't mean to share my whole life story." Daniel diverted his eyes to the window.
Noah slapped Daniel's upper arm. "Don't apologize. We're a close community, and we want to get better acquainted with you." He lifted his box. "My mamm and I live on the last farm on the left on South Road. Stop in and visit anytime." He headed for the door. "I'm happy to help with whatever you need, and please don't hesitate to ask. You may want to move or purchase a few new pieces of furniture to make Jonathan's haus more like yours."
"You're kind to offer, but I'm comfortable with the furniture at present. I may buy new pieces later."
Anna held her breath a moment. Noah couldn't resist imposing his ideas onto someone else. He was too pushy. Being content with leaving things the same wasn't a disease! Maybe Daniel found comfort having his bruder's things around him.
Anna lifted a towel. "Daniel, there's a stack of these on the shelf next to the wall to the side of the counter. You'll find they differ in fabric and color. Would you like to browse through them, while I walk Noah to the door? I'll be quick."
"I'd be glad to. Take your time." He headed toward the shelf.
She followed Noah and smiled, as he walked with a lilt in his step and hummed as he went to the door. He'd been empathetic and extended a warm wilkom to Daniel. The Amish helped each other, but Noah had gone above and beyond to befriend Daniel. She had her concerns with Noah, but she admired his cheerful attitude, his solid work ethic, and ability to make friends easily. "Would you like to kumme to supper this evening?" She'd ask him later why he was so quiet yesterday.
"Of course. I'd never turn down your mamm's cooking." Noah winked. "After supper, we will discuss our future." He turned and switched the stack of aprons she had displayed on a shelf to a small table against the side wall under the hanging quilts. "Much better." He waved to Daniel and left through the connecting door to Mark's shop.
She paused. Her heart sank each time he moved her dry goods. Why wasn't the shelf where she had set the aprons good enough? She had them where she wanted them. What would he say about their future? She wanted to ignore her doubts and get excited about his possibly proposing, but her conscience wouldn't let her. She glanced at Daniel. She didn't have time to dwell on her problems with Noah. She should help Daniel. Walking to him, she held up the top towel. "We also have a variety of sizes." She gestured to another table.
Leah rushed in minutes later and threw her bag under the counter. "Good morning."
Anna gestured her over. "Please meet Daniel Bontrager. He's moved into his bruder Jonathan Bontrager's home. You probably don't remember him, but he attended our church in Lancaster."
Smiling, Leah stood next to Anna. "I'm Anna's schweschder Leah. I apologize. I don't remember you."
"Don't worry, I'm not offended." He tipped his hat. "I'm pleased to make your acquaintance."
"Daniel came in to buy some dry goods." She gestured to the towel rack. "Did you find what you wanted?"
He selected three of them. "I'll take these, please." He passed the towels to her. He paid for his purchase and waited while she wrapped them. "Danki." He scanned the coverlets. "You have an interesting arrangement of patterned quilts on the walls. Do you and your schweschder stitch them?"
"We and other Amish women in the community."
"Anna, you should show him our keepsake pocket quilts."
He fingered a brown-and-white one with a star pattern. He patted the pocket. "What do you put in here?"
Anna removed a quilt from the hooks, draped the coverlet over her arm, and untied the ribbon holding the pocket closed. "You write a letter to the person receiving the quilt and tuck the note inside. The quilt and letter become keepsakes. The person receiving the letter will have the giver's words to read again and again for comfort and joy for years."
"What a creative idea. I'll purchase it along with my towels."
Anna opened her mouth in surprise. She hadn't had many men purchase the quilts. His enthusiasm and interest in the idea of the pocket warmed her heart.
Leah joined them. "I'll wrap your purchase for you while Anna accepts payment."
Anna removed the dented gray metal cashbox from under the counter and recorded the sale.
He passed her the correct change and accepted his package from Leah. "Danki for your help. Pleasure meeting you both. The sun is shining in spite of the pouring rain." He pointed to the window. "There's a rainbow."
She strained her neck to look out the window. "The rainbow's arch stretches far."
Leah pressed her nose up to the glass. "The pink, green, and blue in the rainbow paint the prettiest picture across the sky. I wish they would appear more often."
Anna stepped around the counter and walked Daniel to the door. On the way, a drop of water wet her sleeve. She paused and touched the damp spot. Pointing to the ceiling, she grimaced. "We must have a leak in the roof."
He peered at the moisture on the ceiling. "I'd be glad to fix the damage for you for a minimal cost."
She clasped her hands to her chest. "Danki for offering. I'll ask Grace King, my employer, for permission. She has to approve maintenance costs."
"I'll stop in on Friday to take a look at the damage and give you an estimate. Please assure Mrs. King I'll give her a fair price. If she agrees to me doing the work, I'll schedule a time with you for next week."
Leah grinned. "Kumme back anytime. These are my favorite towels because they're homespun cotton and keep their shape and absorb the water much better than the rest of the ones we sell."
He smiled but kept his eyes on Anna.
Her cheeks heated. "Have a pleasant day, Mr. Bontrager. Wilkom to Berlin."
"I'll talk to you Friday, Miss Plank."
"Call me Anna."
"Only if you call me Daniel."
Daniel paused and put his hand on the doorknob. "It truly was a pleasure meeting you, Anna." He grinned and shut the door behind him.
Leah closed the sales journal and stowed the book under the counter. She chuckled and nudged Anna's shoulder. "Noah better hurry and ask you to marry him. He's got competition. Daniel Bontrager couldn't pry his striking dark brown eyes away from you."
Anna sucked in her bottom lip. Daniel had matured and was more attractive than she remembered. His brown hair and eyes complemented his high cheekbones and structured jawline. Now she understood why she'd only seen him a few times in the church services. He'd experienced a boatload of sadness in his life. No wonder their families hadn't gotten better acquainted.
She had noticed Daniel staring at her earlier, but she wouldn't admit this to Leah. Noah was her first love, and she hoped they could reach a mutual understanding about their differences and the confusion in her mind would vanish. "You missed Noah. He came in earlier."
Excerpted from Two Suitors for Anna by Molly Jebber. Copyright © 2017 Molly Jebber. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.