Lasting love is going to take more than chance—it’s going to take a miracle.
Muscle weakness has left Grace Wagler with a broken body—and her childhood best friend has left her with a broken heart. She can hold her own in the timber camp (and do everything else the other women in Badger Creek can do), but in an Amish district where women outnumber men three to one, marriage is an unlikely prospect for a girl with bad legs.
Ben Eicher just arrived in Michigan from Pinecraft, Florida. When his most recent shenanigans proved too much for his daed’s patience, Ben was sent to the Upper Peninsula to work in the lumber camp—and he’s neither proud of his behavior nor thrilled about his new home.
But when Ben meets Grace, the struggling young woman quickly piques his curiosity. Of course, the last thing Grace wants is another friendship with a man who pities her. Tired of physical pain and romantic dead ends, Grace is ready to leave Badger Creek for the muscle specialist in Ohio, even if it contradicts her father’s wishes . . . and Ben’s.
Meanwhile, two dangerous men have found their way into the district. It isn’t long before their unsavory plans ensnare Grace and Ben in a chase that will not only endanger their lives . . . but test their love.
- Sweet Amish romance
- Book 2 of the Amish Wonders series
- Book 1: A Miracle of Hope
- Book 2: A Woodland Miracle
- Book 3: A Dream of Miracles
- Book length: 90,000 words
- Includes discussion questions for book clubs
About the Author
Ruth Reid is a CBA and ECPA bestselling author of the Heaven on Earth, the Amish Wonders, and the Amish Mercies series. She’s a full-time pharmacist who lives in Florida with her husband and three children. When attending Ferris State University School of Pharmacy in Big Rapids, Michigan, she lived on the outskirts of an Amish community and had several occasions to visit the Amish farms. Her interest grew into love as she saw the beauty in living a simple life. Visit Ruth online at RuthReid.com; Facebook: Author-Ruth-Reid; Twitter: @AuthorRuthReid.
Read an Excerpt
A Woodland Miracle
An Amish Wonders Novel
By Ruth Reid
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2014 Ruth Reid
All rights reserved.
Pinecraft District, Florida
Ben Eicher raked his fingers through his damp hair, then pushed his straw hat back into place. He snatched the shovel off the ground and sank it into the dirt. It wasn't even noon and the thermometer on the bank sign read ninety degrees. He glanced over at his buddy Toby, who seemed oblivious to the rising temperature. The first heat wave of the year, according to the DJ on the oldies rock station Ben had been listening to all morning.
Planting shrubs wasn't something he wanted to do the rest of his life. But neither was working for his father in his shoe-repair business. A year ago he worked on a commercial fishing boat. But that was prior to the hurricane. He liked the cool breeze, the scent of salt air, and the endless view of turquoise water. That sure beat digging holes.
Ben gauged the depth of the hole and tossed his shovel. He removed the pink azalea plant from the plastic starter pot and released some of the dirt from around its roots before dropping it into the hole.
Toby covered the plant with loose soil. "When we finish here, we're supposed to go to the deli and check if they have deliveries for us to make."
Ben shook his head. "When I finish here I'm either going to the beach, or I'm going to take a dip in the Tidewater Inn's pool."
"Tidewater's still closed." Toby tapped the mound of dirt around the bush and stood. "Even if the construction was complete, the No Trespassing sign hasn't kumm down."
"That might be what the sign says, but they finished working on the pool. There's water in it." Ben lifted his shoulder and caught the roll of sweat trickling down the side of his face. He hoped these soaring temperatures in March didn't indicate a grueling summer ahead. If so, he planned to spend more time swimming.
Toby shook his head. "It's nett going to work out well."
"In this roasting heat, I'll take mei chances." Ben and Toby had been best friends for a number of years. Twenty-three, if you counted the diaper years when their mothers would get together to quilt and he and Toby shared the same crib during naptime.
"When you're caught, don't give the Amish a bad name in the community." Toby brushed the caked dirt off his knees. "Some of us want to stay and raise a family in Pinecraft, or at least have that option," he grumbled under his breath. Toby had changed in the past year. He talked more and more about settling down even though he wasn't courting anyone seriously.
Ben had convinced himself he wanted the same thing at this time last year. Now that Neva was gone, nothing much mattered. Ben pulled a hankie from his pocket and wiped the sweat off his brow. He glanced at the dirty residue on the cloth, then jammed it back into his pocket. Dirty, sticky, and perspiring like the morning's dew, he needed to rinse off. He grabbed the shovel, paced off a few feet, and dug the next hole.
The next time he stopped to look at the sun's position, he figured it was sometime after two. His mouth was parched, his muscles ached, and his sweat-soaked shirt clung to his skin. He couldn't wait to dig the last hole.
A few moments later, Ben tossed his shovel in the small utility cart attached to Toby's bicycle. "I think it's time for that swim. What about you?"
"I'm definitely hot." His friend tipped his beet-red face toward the sun and squinted. "But we should head over to the deli. You got me in trouble the last time we skipped work, remember?"
How could he forget? Ben's father lectured him for days about his lack of responsibility. But that incident paled in comparison to the time he kept Neva out all night. He could still hear the elevation of his father's voice. What were you thinking? I have no respect for a man who-who places a maedel in a compromising situation.
Toby backhanded Ben in the chest, leaving his dirty handprint on Ben's shirt. "Let's get a soda."
"Nay." Ben shook his head. "I'm going swimming."
"You're just itching to get in trouble."
Ben peeled his clinging shirt away from his chest. "I'm itching to get out of these sweaty clothes." Toby should understand why Ben still avoided the deli. Mercy wasn't part of Neva's parents' vocabulary—toward him anyway. Besides, he'd rather be swimming.
The Tidewater Inn was one of the few remaining resorts along the coast that hadn't reopened since the hurricane. Ben had snuck onto the grounds and swum plenty of times before it closed, but he hadn't had a chance to swim there since it was rebuilt.
"Sure you don't want to cool off?"
Toby picked at the dirt under his fingernails. "I want to, but ..."
"You're always teetering." Ben wiped the back of his neck with his hankie. He wasn't about to spend all day waiting for Toby to decide. "Don't be so indecisive. Either it's yes or no."
Ben waited a moment, then released the kickstand on his bike. "You know where to find me."
Ben pedaled down the sidewalk until he reached the motel. He laid his bike down in the bushes and climbed over the fence. Minutes later, he shucked all his clothes but his briefs and gingerly eased into the cool water, giving his body time to adjust. Once he was waist deep, he plunged down to the bottom of the shallow end. He swam a few laps, then flipped over and floated on his back. He closed his eyes and relaxed. This was so much better than pedaling his bike in the heat delivering stuff that one of the younger boys could do.
"Cannonball!" Toby's thundering voice called out midair.
Rocked by the wave created when Toby landed in the pool, Ben dipped under the surface of the water and came up sputtering. "You could've given me better warning."
"Feels gut to cool off." Toby dipped back under, then resurfaced, shaking his mass of poodle-like curly hair like a wet dog.
Ben cupped his hand and splashed his friend.
Toby returned fire, and neither of them noticed the police officer until he spoke.
"You two climb out of the pool, then put your hands up where I can see them."
Trudging through the water toward the stairs, Ben glanced over his shoulder at Toby. His friend's sobered expression and downcast eyes seared Ben's soul. He shouldn't have teased Toby about being indecisive. Ben climbed out of the pool and stood before the officer as puddles of water collected at his feet. At least Toby had jumped in fully dressed. Ben stood before the man wearing only his briefs. Maybe he could ask to dress before their eviction. He eyed his hat and clothes piled next to a potted ficus tree.
The officer peered over his sunglasses. "What are you two doing here?"
"We wanted to cool off in the pool," Ben said.
"You didn't read the No Trespassing signs? This area is off-limits."
"We were only going to stay a few minutes." Ben shivered when the breeze hit his wet body.
"And I suppose you don't know anything about the rash of break-ins?"
Ben and Toby exchanged glances. "Nay," they replied in unison.
"Are those your clothes over there? Let's see some form of ID."
"We don't have any," Ben said. "We're Amish."
The officer pressed a button near his shoulder and talked into a microphone clipped to his shirt. "Dispatch, this is beach patrol two-nine. I'll need transport for two males found trespassing at the Tidewater Inn."
"Ten-four." A moment later, the woman's voice returned. "Two-nine, be advised there is an officer in the area. ETA five minutes."
Ben wasn't sure what the abbreviations meant, but he was pretty sure he only had five minutes to talk the officer into letting them go. He cleared his throat. "Are we in trouble?"
"You have the right to remain silent. Anything you say can be used against you in a court of law. You have the right to an attorney ..."
Ben swallowed hard. So many rights. He just wanted the right to put on his clothes. This wouldn't be easy to explain to his parents. Most Amish men at twenty-three were married, starting a family, and well respected in their district. He wasn't any of those things.
Ben waited until the police officer finished reciting the long list of rights, then pointed to his clothes. "Would it be all right if I get dressed?"
The officer crossed the pool deck and grabbed the items. Inspecting Ben's hat, the officer's bushy brows formed a straight line. "What do we have here?" He tipped the hat toward them, exposing the small radio Ben had attached to the inside. "Trying to hide stolen merchandise?"
"Nay—sir. I bought that portable radio at a pawn shop." Ben turned to Toby, who looked away. "You were with me. Back me up," he hissed under his breath. He might be guilty of breaking a few Amish rules like owning a radio, but he abided by the government laws. Ben would never steal.
Toby stared at the pool deck, his lips tight.
The officer patted the clump of Ben's clothes. He removed the suspenders, then tossed Ben his trousers. Still dripping wet, Ben shoved his legs into his pants and waited for his shirt.
Soon after Ben finished dressing, another officer arrived and directed them to a waiting squad car. Shuttled to the station and separated from his friend, Ben kept his mouth shut. Goose bumps crawled up his arms as he stood in the air-conditioned building. Ben rubbed his arms and bit down on his bottom lip to keep his teeth from chattering. At least he was dressed.
Once searched, fingerprinted, and questioned, the guard led Ben to the holding cell. The stench of alcohol and vomit assaulted his senses. The guard nudged him forward, and once he was past the gate, it clanged shut. He took a seat on the metal bench beside Toby.
His friend sat with his elbows on his knees and his face buried in his hands.
Ben cleared his throat. "I guess swimming wasn't such a gut idea."
Toby lifted his head, shot him a sidelong glare, then covered his face again.
Ben glanced at the others sharing the cell. One man, wearing a sleeveless T-shirt, had a tattooed snake that wrapped around his neck. His arms were canvased in colored ink with something Ben couldn't make out, and he didn't want to risk staring for fear the man might come over to their end of the cell. Another man sat hunched over in the corner, probably asleep, though Ben had no idea how anyone could sleep with the racket another person was making as he paced the floor mumbling gibberish to himself.
Toby had the right idea to hang his head and remain silent. Ben did the same. Now if he could only quiet his mind. Thoughts about what he would tell his parents passed the time, but he had no resolution.
Several hours later, an officer approached the cell. His keys rattled as he unlocked the steel door. "Benjamin Eicher and Toby Graber?"
Ben sucked in a breath and stood.
"The motel owner didn't want to press charges," the officer said. "You two are free to go."
Ben blew out a breath. "Thank you."
"I suggest from now on you stay off private property."
"We will." Ben meant it too. The next time he wanted to cool off, he would do so with a garden hose.
Toby rolled his eyes at Ben, then shoved past him and walked out without a backward glance.
Ben wanted as far away from the police station as possible. Hopefully their parents wouldn't find out where they had spent their afternoon. But once he stepped into the lobby, he realized keeping anything a secret wouldn't be possible. Ben's and Toby's fathers stood up from the bench.
While Toby's father quizzed his son, Ben's daed looked him over hard.
"Why are your clothes nett wet like Toby's?"
Ben stared at the scuff marks on the floor.
"I asked you a question," his father said.
"I didn't swim in them."
As expected, his father harrumphed at the answer, then headed for the door. Ben had seen his father's shoulders slump a number of times, but never like this. Without uttering a word, Ben and Toby trailed their fathers outside. Streetlights illuminated the sidewalk outside the police station. It was later than he thought. Ben climbed into their neighbor's parked van.
The ride home was silent. Ben's father never spoke about personal matters—or in Ben's case, his son's shortcomings—in front of Englischers. Once they were home though, he braced for a long lecture. Instead, his daed treated him as though he were poison. When Ben sat down for supper, his father rose from his chair and left the kitchen. Even his mamm couldn't convince Daed to eat with the family.
The following morning, Ben found his parents seated at the table, his mother blotting a hankie over her eyes and his father stoic. Ben's stomach tightened. "I'm sorry." In most homes, an admission of wrongdoing and an apology would elicit some form of forgiveness, but neither parent responded.
His father pushed back his chair and stood. "You have less than an hour to pack your bags."
Pack? Where was he going? He had two older sisters, both married and living in Indiana. He would only be in the way living with them.
"We're sending you to work in a lumber camp."
Ben swallowed hard. The only lumber camp he'd ever heard about was in northern Michigan, where Toby's uncle lived. It seemed drastic, even for his father, to send him so far away.
"I suggest you pack warm clothes," his father said. "You might be there awhile."
* * *
Badger Creek District, Michigan
Grace Wagler stood inside the station next to the window and studied the passengers as they disembarked from the bus. She had another half hour to wait before her aunt's bus arrived. Grace had planned for more time to do her morning chores so she wouldn't be late, but finished them sooner than she'd expected.
The automatic doors opened and, along with arriving passengers, a gust of wind swept through the building. Grace sidestepped the foot traffic and limped a few feet over to an empty bench. She would move if an elderly person needed to sit, but for the moment, she needed to rest. Days like today she felt older than dirt. The unforgiving concrete floor triggered agony in her joints that no one in their twenties should experience. Grace rubbed the length of her thigh, then massaged her left knee. Swollen. Sometimes she wished she didn't live in such a cold climate. Lately it seemed the winters were longer and her inflamed joints stiffer.
A beep—beep—beep from a wall-mounted television caught her attention. A newscaster standing outside of a hospital was speaking, but the low volume on the set made it impossible to hear his report. Normally, if she were anywhere near a television, she would ignore the programming, but a flashing red banner at the bottom of the screen read Breaking News.
Someone close by cleared his throat and she jerked her hand away from her leg. Two men stood before her. Their teeth chattered as they rubbed their hands over their bare arms.
"Excuse me," the taller man with blond hair said.
Her gaze traveled between the two men, landing on the one who spoke. "Me?"
"You're Amish, jah?" The man smirked.
Usually only Englischers asked that. These two men had on suspenders and wore straw hats, but if they were Amish, they were fence-jumpers. She hadn't known any district to allow short-sleeved shirts. The Ordnung she followed forbade clothes that showed any skin.
Grace glanced around the depot trying to spot someone from her settlement, then chided herself. The men hadn't returned from the river camp and most of the women had started spring-cleaning. Still, she shouldn't be talking with strangers, especially not backsliders.
Someone turned up the volume on the television. "... Again, the man is unstable, has a history of violent outbursts, and is considered extremely dangerous."
The blond man glanced at the television.
Grace pushed off the bench. Shards of needle pricks pierced her leg as she wobbled to the other side of the room. She leaned against the wall next to the window and eased out a breath. The blond-haired man pursued her across the lobby, while the one with curly, dark hair stayed with their duffel bags.
"I'm sorry," the man said. "I didn't mean to sound flip. It's just that we've been traveling three days, so I hope you'll forgive me if I seem rushed to leave the bus station."
Goose bumps crawled up Grace's arms. Now she really wished someone from her district were in the station. She'd never known an Amish man to be this persistent.
Unstable. The news reporter's words rolled over in her mind. Just a coincidence. She should have turned away from the television. Grace glanced out the window. He probably wouldn't follow her outside, not shivering like he was.
The man cleared his throat. "So, where are you parked?"
Excerpted from A Woodland Miracle by Ruth Reid. Copyright © 2014 Ruth Reid. Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
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