Haven, Indiana, is a long way from Samuel Jennings’s painful past. And after rescuing three children from the orphan train carrying them west, he finally has the family he always wanted. Then one storm-tossed night, a stranger appears at his door.
For the past year, Cailin Rafferty has been searching for her children. Her desperate quest has taken her far from the potato farms of her native Ireland, where she gave her heart only to be cruelly betrayed. Now she has found her son and daughters at last—in the home of a man who loves them like they’re his own. A man who’s starting to awaken powerful yearnings in Cailin. But Samuel is harboring secrets that could tear them apart. Are they ready to trust each other with the future and become a real family?
After the Storm is the 3rd book in the Haven Trilogy, but you may enjoy reading the series in any order.
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After the Storm
The Haven Trilogy, Book Three
By Jo Ann Ferguson
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2002 Jo Ann Ferguson
All rights reserved.
Nanny Goat Hill Road Haven, Indiana, 1876
"Do I have to finish these carrots?"
Samuel Jennings looked up from the stove where he was dishing out food for himself. At the table, three red-haired children were waiting for his answer. He saw a smile twitching on the boy's face, but the two younger girls wore hopeful expressions.
Six months ago, he could not have imagined having three kids on the farm he had bought after he left Cincinnati. He had been quite content to live alone here. Yet, when he had heard about an orphan train coming to the village of Haven along the Ohio River, he had gone to look for a lad to help him with some of the farmwork.
Instead of one, he had returned to Nanny Goat Hill Road with three children. Ten-year-old Brendan Rafferty and his younger sisters, Megan and Lottie, had been willing to help, but the girls were so young there was little they could do other than weed the kitchen garden.
"I thought you liked carrots, Brendan," Samuel said, adjusting his gold-rimmed glasses, then reaching across the table to do the same for Lottie's smaller ones. He had not been certain if Delancy's General Store could order spectacles small enough for a child who would not celebrate her fourth birthday for another month.
"I thought I did, too." Brendan toyed with the orange slices on his plate.
Megan piped up, "I like them."
"No, you don't." The boy flashed his sister a frown.
"No, I don't," she said, looking down at his plate.
Samuel chuckled under his breath. Even after half a year here, the Rafferty children sometimes banded together to help each other as if they were still without a home. Other times they fought like puppies with a single bone.
"Do you like them or not, Megan?" he asked and watched as she grinned, revealing the spot where a pair of teeth had not yet grown back in.
"I do, but I don't want Brendan's."
Lottie bounced in her chair and said, "I don't want mine neither. Dahi doesn't want'm neither."
"I thought Dahi liked carrots," he replied as he put the lid back on the pot. At first, he had been unsettled by Lottie's comments about a friend no one else could see, but now he was as accustomed to having this invisible Dahi around as he was to everything else about the children.
"I wanna give'm to Bunny."
"Bunny?" Samuel sat at the head of the table. Now none of the children was looking at him. When Brendan scowled at his younger sister, Samuel hurried to say, "I suspect that's what I heard scratching in the larder earlier on my way in from the barn."
"Brendan taught it!"
He tried not to laugh. The little girl always mixed up words when she was excited. "How did he catch it?"
"In a box." Lottie would not be subdued by anything as commonplace as a wrongly used word. "It's cute, Samuel. Me and Dahi like it a lot. All brown and fluffy, and it has big ears and the littlest tail and—"
"And it needs some carrots for its supper," he said, knowing the little girl could go on and on when she was so enthusiastic her green eyes sparkled like faceted emeralds. Leaning his elbows on the table, he smiled. "There are plenty of raw carrots in the root cellar. Your bunny will like them much better than cooked ones."
"So we can keep it?" Megan's eyes, a shade bluer than her sister's, now glistened with anticipation.
"If you build a hutch for the rabbit out by the chicken coop. You can use a crate and put that unused piece of chicken wire in the barn around the box to give the rabbit a place to get some fresh air. That way it won't dig out or hop over." He winked at Brendan. "Rabbits leave round, brown balls in their wake, so it needs to have its hutch moved often."
As the children excitedly discussed how they would put together the rabbit's house, Samuel began to eat. He preferred having supper in the kitchen, using the dining room only for Sunday dinner. The vegetables fresh from the garden were a nice change from the dried-out ones they had eaten during the spring and early summer. Just the thing growing children needed.
He laughed silently. Now that was something his mother would have said. Somehow, he had become both father and mother to his kids. That was how he thought of them now—his kids. Whenever he heard someone mention them as "Samuel's children," he was pleased. The children had adjusted well to their new lives far from the slums of New York City, much better than some of their other companions on the orphan train.
As he noted how carefully Megan cut her vegetables, he was curious as he had been so often. These children had nice table manners and spoke politely to all adults. Not what he had anticipated when he brought them to Nanny Goat Hill Road. He had heard how the street children could be as bold and rude as an attorney with an open-and-shut case.
The Rafferty children had taken to life on his small farm down the river from the village of Haven as if they had spent every day of their lives here. Funny how he found it difficult to recall the months before they came here. Now they were so much a part of his life he could not imagine them not being on the farm.
"Finish up your milk," Samuel said when the chairs being pushed back on the uneven floor interrupted his thoughts. "You're going to need every bit of your energy to build that hutch."
"I'm strong." Brendan pulled up his sleeve and flexed his left arm. The merest hint of a muscle was visible.
Samuel squeezed it gently as he did each time Brendan asserted it had grown bigger. "Very good, but another helping of carrots would really help."
"Me and Dahi—" began Lottie.
"Dahi and I," he corrected gently.
The littler girl giggled, then said, "Dahi and I are real strong, too." She held up her pudgy arm, which had been shockingly thin when she first arrived in Haven.
Squeezing it as he had Brendan's, Samuel complimented Lottie on how well she was growing. He glanced at Megan, but she did not move. Maybe he had been fooling himself when he believed the children had acclimated themselves completely to this new life. Brendan had for the most part, because he had come to Haven with his best friend, Sean O'Dell. Lottie had, which was no surprise, considering her age. Megan was the most sensitive of the three, the one who always tried to make sure the other two were happy. It was almost as if she wanted to replace their mother, constantly worrying if they were warm enough or if they could see when they went to meetings at the Grange Hall in Haven.
He wanted Megan to remember she was a child. It was an uneasy compromise at best, a rope he had to cross with caution so he did not tear away the tenuous connections he had made with her. Most of the time he was successful, but he had to take care with every word he spoke. Otherwise, he might bring on again the endless bouts of tears she had cried during her first two weeks at Nanny Goat Hill Farm. Then, only her brother and sister had been able to comfort her. Samuel's attempts at solace had made the situation worse.
As the children cleaned their plates and emptied their glasses, Samuel called after them not to let the door slam ... a warning that had become as automatic as breathing. He chuckled. The children were not the only ones who had had to adjust and discover how to live this new life.
Glancing out the window while he washed the dishes and dried them before stacking them on the shelves he had raised just enough to keep Lottie from breaking even more glasses, he saw the trio was concentrating on their project. He was not sure where the rabbit was, but he suspected Brendan would have made sure it could not escape. The lad had an eye for detail that impressed Samuel, and Brendan could argue logically about anything.
All the skills a good attorney needed.
Samuel wrung out the dishcloth and dumped the dirty water. There were other skills an attorney needed, as he knew so well. He smiled. He did not miss the work he had left behind in Cincinnati when he came here. Petty differences and arguing about property rights once had intrigued him. No longer.
He picked up the newspaper that had arrived in Haven this morning. He ignored the rest of the mail, including the letter with a return address of Jennings & Taylor. It had been sitting there for more than two weeks, but he was not curious enough to open it. He was not even intrigued why his former law partner had not changed the name of the practice when Samuel left. That answer was simple. Theo expected him to give up here and return to Cincinnati. The last letter from Theo had been filled with questions of why Samuel wanted to live such a spartan life on a river-bottom farm, and didn't Samuel know he was wasting his education among cows and corn? Theo had not been satisfied with his answers, so Samuel saw no reason to go through another explanation. Eventually Theo would realize he needed to look for another partner.
He carried the newspaper into the small front parlor. The farmhouse had six rooms on the first floor. A kitchen, his bedroom, a guest room, and at the front, the dining room and a double parlor separated by a pair of pocket doors. Those doors always remained closed, because he preferred the cozy front parlor, with bookshelves covering two walls and its eclectic collection of furnishings.
Smiling, Samuel sat in a chair covered with the same blue paisley fabric as the sofa. Another chair's dark blue brocade was now half-hidden beneath a crocheted blanket that hid the stains left by spilled ice cream and pie. This parlor was filled with so many happy memories. When he had bought the farmhouse and the acreage around it, he had shipped his favorite furniture from Cincinnati to use along with the pieces left behind by the previous owners, who had decided to head west. A pair of Regency marble-topped square tables were set on either side of the sofa. Atop one was a gold clock with a charger and a Roman chariot that had come from France. Over the slant-topped desk in the corner, a barometer offered an excellent tool for predicting the weather. The children particularly enjoyed checking it each day, and Megan was already showing a real interest in how it worked.
He looked out the window but could not see the children. He heard their voices through the front door, so he settled back to read. Before the children entered his life, he had enjoyed the newspaper with supper every night. Now he was kept busy making sure they ate as they should and that they washed up before going to bed in the two bedrooms under the rafters at the top of the stairs.
He flipped through the first pages, for the news was old by the time it arrived. Gossip and the telegraph brought news faster to Haven than the postal service could deliver the Enquirer down the river from Cincinnati.
Hearing a yelp from outside, Samuel put the newspaper under his arm and went out onto the porch. It took him only a moment to calm Lottie and remind Brendan to let his little sister help as much as she could.
"But don't let her use the hammer," Samuel added quietly as Lottie skipped away.
"Or the nail." Brendan now wore the very superior smile befitting an older brother. "She drops it as soon as I start to swing the hammer."
"Maybe each of you should hold both the hammer and the nail for yourselves." He thought of smashed fingers and tears. "That way, if any fingers are hit, they'll be your own."
"Girls shouldn't use hammers anyhow."
He laughed. "Where did you get that idea?"
"I can't believe Sean said something like that. Even if he'd felt that way before he came to Haven, he would have learned differently as soon as he came to live with Emma and work at the store. She uses a hammer whenever she needs to."
Brendan kicked a pebble across the grass. "Sean told me Jenny Anderson says girls don't use tools."
"Is that so?" He tried not to laugh again. The Anderson girl was the daughter of the owner of the livery stable in Haven. Both Brendan and his best friend were sweet on her, and Samuel suspected Jenny played one's attention against the other in an attempt to keep them interested.
He lost all desire to laugh as the bitter thought unwove in his mind. For heaven's sake, he should not be labeling a young girl with the same hypocrisy Beverly had shown. An innocent flirtation was different from an intentional ruse.
Quietly he said, "Jenny needs to think again. Every woman who comes to the meetings at the Grange Hall works side by side with her husband or parents. Farmers' wives and daughters have to pitch in with all sorts of chores around the farm."
"Jenny doesn't live on a farm."
"True, but we do."
Brendan said softly, "I wish we lived in town. Then I'd have someone else to play with instead of just my sisters."
"We'll be going into Haven tomorrow evening for a meeting at the Grange."
The boy screwed up his face. "But we have to wear good clothes for that, and I can't play in good clothes." He turned when he heard one of the girls shout his name, and he ran back across the yard.
Samuel sat on the old chair on the porch. The upholstery smelled of damp and humidity, but it was comfortable after a day's work. Propping his dusty boots on the railing, he opened the newspaper and began to read by the day's last light. The summer days were growing shorter, so he would have to finish most of the paper inside after the children were in bed.
Lightning flashed, but, for once, Megan did not come running for comfort. The little girl was deeply afraid of thunderstorms. Tonight, she must be too focused on building the rabbit's cage to notice the approaching storm.
Ignoring the distant thunder that could be barely heard over the children's voices, Samuel opened his newspaper. He had read only halfway down the third page before he saw it. Her name. Her married name.
He folded the paper and let it fall onto his lap. With a curse, he snatched the page away from the others, crumpling it. This is what he got for trying to fool himself. Beverly had decided to make herself a life in the highest realms of Cincinnati society, so he should have realized her name would appear in the gossip columns sooner or later. That this was the first time it had since he had left Cincinnati almost a year ago only proved that she and her besotted husband had returned at last from their grand tour of Europe.
"What's wrong, Samuel?" asked Brendan as he came up the steps.
Forcing a smile, he replied, "Nothing important."
"You made a mess of your newspaper."
Samuel picked up the balled page and tossed it to the boy. "Tear it up in strips. Your rabbit will enjoy making a nest out of it."
"Thanks! Do you have more wire?"
Although he was astonished that the pieces in the barn were not enough, he said, "Look around for some more. There may be another section. If not, we'll pick up some tomorrow when we go to Haven."
Brendan jumped down from the porch and ran to where his sisters were intent on their project. When he called to them, they all raced off toward the barn. Megan paused to allow her sister to catch up, then they ran hand in hand. At the barn door, Brendan hushed them as he always did, for he wanted his cow to be able to rest.
The boy spoiled that cow as if it were his own babe. He planned to take it to the county fair next month, and Samuel guessed Brendan brushed it more than he did the horses.
Samuel sighed. Why was he letting thoughts of Beverly intrude tonight when he should be thinking of the future and fun things like the county fair? Her time in his life was in the past, left behind him when he moved here. He wanted no part of fancy gatherings and jostling to see which person could be the grandest or the richest or be owed the most by those around him. Even before Beverly burst into his life—and his heart—he had become disillusioned with his life. Now he was happy.
Or he had been until he had seen her name. Her married name.
Lightning crackled, much closer than before, and thunder rattled. Not thunder, Samuel realized, but a buggy coming along the road leading to the house and barn. It rolled to a stop under the tree.
Excerpted from After the Storm by Jo Ann Ferguson. Copyright © 2002 Jo Ann Ferguson. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
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