“Kelly understands the human heart and writes about it with beauty and resonance.”
An Amish homecoming . . .
Disgrace drove Stephen Lambert from Ice Mountain, but honor drives him back to his Amish home. After rescuing a pregnant young woman from a burning house, the rugged firefighter knows the remote Amish mountain community is the only place Ella Nichols will be safe. Abandoned by the father of her child, the brave Englischer beauty needs him like no one before. Determined to protect her, Stephen claims the unborn babe as his own—and prepares to return to the town, and the family, that once falsely accused him . . .
From the moment she is caught from peril by Stephen’s strong arms, Ella feels sheltered, nurtured. How else could she agree to sequester herself on Ice Mountain, among the Plain folk there, but for the promise of Stephen’s loving protection? But as she steps deeper into his world and discovers his haunting secrets, Ella longs to heal the heart of the man who has captured hers forever . . .
“Delivers a sense of escape from today’s hustle and bustle into a gentler and simpler world.” —Publishers Weekly
“Long creates storylines that captivate her readers.” —RT Book Reviews
“Long’s writing style is smooth and engaging, her characters true to the period yet timeless in their hopes and flaws and personal battles.” —USAToday.com
About the Author
Kelly Long is the author of the acclaimed Amish Patch of Heaven series and has been a finalist for the coveted Carol Award from the American Christian Fiction Writers. Her novel Lily's Wedding Quilt was a Goodreads Favorite Book of the Year in 2011. Born and raised in the mountains of Northern Pennsylvania, she’s been married for 28 years. Please visit her on Facebook: Fans of Kelly Long.
Read an Excerpt
Stephen Lambert lay on his back in the inky darkness and tried to block out the raucous sounds coming from the next room.
The guys were entertaining a bunch of girls from town, and there was plenty of loud music and laughter.
Great, Stephen thought. How am I ever going to get any sleep with all that commotion going on in the break room?
The girls were probably from the local bawdy house, and the party was a world away from anything he'd ever known growing up in the little Amish community of Ice Mountain.
He turned on his side and grabbed his pillow, ramming it over his head. He knew it was wrong, but he was infinitely grateful when the alarm bell rang, clanging against any forthcoming sounds he might have heard.
He swung his legs over the side of the cot, pulled up his suspenders, and slid on his waterproof boots.
He ran down the hallway, falling into line with the other firefighters until they reached the engine room. Stephen was number seven, and he methodically pulled on the heavy coat and plastic hat, tightened the chin strap, and turned toward the truck, only to bump into Mike, the chief.
Mike was a different man when he wasn't romancing some local girl, Stephen thought. This Mike barked concise orders and soon had everyone on the engine in proper position, including the station's wolf dog, Midnight.
Coudersport was a small but bustling logging and coal town deep in the mountains of Pennsylvania. Because the town had grown up practically overnight, a lot of the local structures were not built well, and even some of the nicer buildings could become a fireman's nightmare.
The fire engine, Old Betsy, roared down the main street of town, following the dark plume of smoke that rose against the moonlit sky. Their destination was a boardinghouse on the wrong side of town — a neighborhood where the poor congregated, sometimes living on the streets despite the cold.
The boardinghouse had gone up like kindling, and the false front of the building had already half collapsed, spewing flames out into the late spring air.
Stephen began to pray automatically; maybe it was something to do with being Amish, but it was natural for him to beg Gott for mercy for his crew friends and those inside.
The engine roared to a stop, and Mike began to shout at onlookers to get out of the way. Stephen saw Midnight take up his post, prowling the perimeter of the building, looking for anyone in need. Other crew members were running out the hoses while Stephen and two other men took up ladders and tried to find a viable position.
It was strange, but after a few fires, Stephen had begun to be able to separate sounds in his head — the cries of onlookers versus the screams of those inside. And now he heard it. A frantic female cry for help, coming from the second floor. His praying escalated as he grabbed the longer of the two metal ladders and moved toward the heat.
Joe, Stephen's big friend, shook his helmeted head. "Too risky, Steve. That whole false front is goin' to go any second!"
"I'll be down fast. You know I will!" Stephen ignored his friend's warnings and found a place near the far right of the structure that would allow him to get close to the window frame.
He could see her now, her long red hair hanging from the sill. Her young face looked terrified and sooty. He went up the ladder without fear, wishing for about the tenth time since starting this job that his company could afford a fancy breathing apparatus for each member of the crew. As it was, the only protection he had against smoke inhalation was a damp neckerchief tied around his mouth and nose.
The girl saw him and ducked down inside the sill. It was a common enough reaction; victims of fire were often uncertain when rescue was near.
"Stand up!" he shouted. "Stand up."
Mercifully, the girl obeyed. He could tell now that she was older than he'd thought, but all of this went through his head in a rush as he felt the water pressure from the hose spray his legs and back. There couldn't be much time if they were wetting him down from below.
The girl's frantic gaze locked with his. "All right." He nodded. "You're going to have to jump!"
* * *
Ella Nichols stared in horror at the fireman. His black hat and yellow coat seemed to waver in the heat of the fire.
"I can't jump," she screamed back at him, terrified at the thought of falling.
"I'll catch you. You won't fall — I promise!"
Ella thought of how much easier her life might be if she simply sank to the floor and gave up. But then she thought of the unborn child she was carrying and straightened her spine. She slung one leg over the windowsill, which seemed hot even to the touch.
She looked down and felt a wave of nausea.
"Don't look down!" he ordered, apparently watching her every move.
"All right!" She cautiously eased her other leg out, then grabbed the sill with her fingernails as a whoosh of flames flared up behind her.
"Jump when I tell you. On three."
He extended his arms, somehow balancing on the high, swaying ladder with only his legs for support.
I'm going to die.
I don't want this baby to die.
She closed her eyes and jumped ...
She was conscious of hitting a chest as hard as an oak and of long arms wrapping around her. In that moment, she felt cradled, cared for ... Then she told herself that she was being ridiculous — he still had to get her down the ladder.
Her heart pounded in her ears as she frantically clutched his damp neck and opened her eyes. He was making low, soothing sounds from the back of his throat, whether for her or for himself, she didn't know, but somehow he was inching down the ladder. And then there were many hands to help and she was lifted from his arms and she knew a sudden and strange feeling of loss — almost as if she missed her rescuer in that moment. She felt her eyes well with tears and told herself it was because of the smoke.
She saw the circling red lights of an ambulance and started to struggle when she was placed on a gurney. She sat up abruptly.
"Wait! I can't go. I don't have any way to pay."
The ambulance attendant pushed her back down, and she started to struggle in earnest.
"Hey, Charley. Give me a second with her, okay?"
Ella looked up to see her rescuer from the ladder standing there. She knew it was he — she recognized his voice.
"Help me!" she sobbed, pleading at the thought of incurring a debt she could never manage.
"It's all right," he soothed.
She watched him lower the red handkerchief from over his mouth and nose; then he slipped off his hat and let it dangle behind his head.
She vaguely registered that he was good-looking, then savagely suppressed the thought. Good looks have never done me any favors before ...
"Hey, what's your name?" he asked.
"Ella," she said after a long moment of thought. In some peculiar way, she both wanted to tell him everything about her life and wanted to let him know nothing.
"Ella. I'm Stephen, and you're shivering. Let them run you to the hospital to have a quick go-over. I'll tell you what ... I'll pay for it, all right?"
She crossed her arms over her breasts. I am shivering ... "What do you want me to do in exchange?" She lifted her chin and stared up into his eyes. It's better to know ...
* * *
Stephen felt like someone had gut punched him — he understood the girl's question but was unprepared for it somehow. What do I want? His eyes took in her long, graceful neck and fine-boned shoulders. She looked like a half-starved kitten that still had some fight in her. His mind fused with the memory of the girls' laughter back at the station and he wondered vaguely what it would be like to flirt with this girl in front of him. I am losing my mind ... He roughly grabbed a blanket from Charley and wrapped it around her shoulders. Her lips moved in thanks, but her teeth were chattering so badly she could barely speak.
"Delayed shock," he snapped. "I don't want anything in exchange, Ella. Just do what I ask for your own sake, okay?"
She lay down with visible reluctance, and he took her slender hand in his while Charley secured a belt across her hips.
"Ev — everything I have in the world is gone," she rambled, staring up at him.
"Don't worry," he muttered, feeling disgusted with himself for having more than a passing interest in her. He let go of her hand and turned away when Charley and his partner pushed the gurney into the ambulance. Stephen decided that once the scene was under control, he'd take a walk over to the hospital and see how she was doing and settle her bill. He told himself that he was simply being a gentleman and nothing else.
* * *
"I want the girl dead, and if you cannot accomplish the task, then I shall pay someone more competent." Douglas Nichols's whispery voice hissed through the phone line, and Mitch Wagner once again felt a shiver of apprehension run down his spine. But he answered boldly just the same.
"I'm telling you I got it ... You want the job done right, don't you? Nothing to tie it back to you ..."
"Just finish what I paid you for ... Oh, and my wife wants a word."
Mitch shifted his weight from one foot to the other. If Nichols was bad, his wife was a pit viper ...
"Mitchell? Darling ... what dear Douglas won't say is that if you do not get rid of that redheaded brat, you may find yourself — um — in the rather difficult situation of the hunter becoming the hunted ... Do you take my meaning?"
"Yeah ... I mean, yes. Yes, ma'am."
"Good, I'm so glad we've made that clear. Goodbye, darling."
Mitch slowly unwound the springy metal coil and put the receiver back on the hook. He left what had to be the only phone booth within fifty miles and decided to find the local diner, where he could get something to eat.
The image of his target's red hair hanging over the fireman's shoulder had been enough to make him want to choke. It was the second time she had evaded his grasp, and he was beginning to consider more dire and direct methods.CHAPTER 2
Ella wet her lips when the young doctor asked her when her last menstrual cycle was — she knew exactly but had no idea what bearing the question had on her safety after the fire.
"What does it matter?" she asked coolly.
The doctor stared at her for a long moment. "How far along are you?" His gaze dropped to her belly and she automatically put a hand over the spot, pressing the voluminous hospital gown to her.
She set her jaw and met his blue eyes. "About five months." She knew that she barely showed because she was thin and so hungry half the time.
"Well," the doctor began, standing up, "your breathing seems good and you haven't been burned. Do you want me to examine you for the pregnancy?"
She shook her head quickly. "No ... thank you."
"Do you have someplace to stay tonight? I imagine you lost pretty much everything in the fire."
"I'll be fine," she hastened to assure him.
He nodded. "Good enough, then."
He left her to put on her sooty blue and white dress, and she tried to concentrate on the simple task, not daring to think beyond the moment.
* * *
Stephen paced the small waiting room and looked up when the doctor came out.
"So ... my best friend is a hero, rescuing damsels in distress," the young physician teased.
"Ach, Nick ... kumme on ..." Stephen rubbed the back of his neck. "How is she?"
"Proud, poor, and pregnant."
For the second time that night, Stephen felt as if someone had punched him in the stomach — hard enough to drive the wind from his lungs.
"She's pregnant?" Stephen asked, looking for clarity and not knowing why it mattered so much to him that she was married.
"Keep it down, Steve ... I'm not supposed to share that information with you."
"Where's the husband? Was he in the fire? Is he here?"
"I don't know." Nick shook his head, staring at him. "Why does it matter?"
Stephen glared at his friend. "I don't — it doesn't matter, I guess. Can I see her?"
"Sure. She'll be out in a few minutes."
Stephen nodded and watched Nick go back through the swinging doors.
The two men had become good friends that spring and shared a suite of rooms in a boardinghouse uptown when Stephen wasn't at the firehouse for his rotation. Stephen thought of the warm, well-appointed place he lived part of the time and wondered what it must have been like for Ella and her ... husband to be living in that run-down firetrap of a building.
He looked up as the doors opened and Ella walked out. She didn't look much better than she had on the gurney, but something about her drew him in — made him want to touch her and ... I am completely narrish, he told himself. The girl's pregnant. ...
"Hello," he said, when she seemed about to walk right past him.
She startled, then looked up at him. "Uh — hello. Thank you again for tonight and what you did."
Stephen thought she sounded bleak, almost as though she didn't really think he'd done her any favors by getting her out of the fire.
He put a gentle hand on her thin left arm. "Hey — is your husband all right?"
Now he'd really gotten her attention, and her brown eyes widened. "Husband? I've never been married. Please excuse me."
He processed three things at once: that she was pregnant, not married, and obviously wanted to get away from him. "Sure — uh — Ella, but if you ever need anything, just stop by the fire station and ask for me — it's Stephen, okay?"
She nodded and he knew he'd already been dismissed from her mind.
* * *
Ella crept from the shelter of warmth and safety the hospital provided and went back out into the night. She heard the church bells ring and realized that it was four in the morning. Not too long ...
... until daylight ... She was suddenly catapulted back in time to one of her earliest memories — her father playing his violin, "playing to welcome the dawn," as he called it. Ella remembered standing in her warm white nightgown and watching his capable fingers move over the finely stretched strings. It seemed as though her father's music did indeed usher in the dawn as the notes swelled and pinkness spread across the seascape sky. He played until the sun rose, and then he stopped to hug her close. It had felt as though nothing could ever come between them. But just seven years later death had stolen him from her. As a minor, she had been left in the care of an uncle and step-aunt she barely knew. One of the first things they'd done was to sell her father's beloved violin to "pay for her keep" in the grand house where she'd grown up.
Ella shook away the memories and concentrated instead on the sidewalk and the pattern of her steps. She knew where she had to go now and she wondered if she could stop what was to come — for the baby's sake. For the baby's sake ... The words chased each other like synchronized swimmers around in her head until she felt a familiar rush of nausea. She stopped for a moment, found a wrinkled handkerchief in the pocket of her dress, and pressed it to her lips until the momentary queasiness passed.
She lifted her head and walked on, past the rows of nice homes and then the shops, and then over the railroad tracks, where she could still sense the acrid smell of smoke in the air. Her eyes traced the gaping spot in the landscape, like a gum with a lost tooth, and she sighed. Her room had been paid up at the boardinghouse for the following week — paid with the last of the money she'd managed to save — so now she had no choice ...
Briefly, the firefighter's words drifted through her mind ... If you need anything ... His blue-green eyes had been earnest, but she knew she was being ridiculous to recall his words. Strangers, especially men, no matter how perfect they might seem, usually only wanted one thing from a girl. She rubbed absently at her belly, then pushed the thought aside. What Stephen the Firefighter did or did not want was of no concern to her ...
* * *
Stephen sought his bed at the fire station but couldn't fall asleep. He was always keyed up after a fire, but tonight, he was positively restless, and he couldn't drag his thoughts from Ella. He turned her name over on his tongue, liking its simple syllables ... She's pregnant ... Who'd leave a girl as brave as that red-haired scrapper to be pregnant and on her own? ... But perhaps she chose it; wanted a baby to be part of her world so she wouldn't feel alone ... He jerked his thoughts up sharply, telling himself that he was a fool for trying to imagine what in the world went through a woman's mind, especially a pregnant woman who'd only jumped into his arms to escape certain death from the fire and chaos. He finally fell into a fitful sleep, somewhere on the edge of consciousness, and he was happy when he started to dream ...(Continues…)
Excerpted from "An Amish Match On Ice Mountain"
Copyright © 2018 Kelly Long.
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.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I found this book to be unlike the usual Amish themed books I enjoy. It was too suggestive for this genre. How do two people become so enamored with each other after just a few minutes encounter? Not plausible. I can't count how many times he looked at her lips with longing. I'll pass on this author in the future.
This is another great book in the Amish Ice Mountain series by Kelly Long. I loved the characters of Ella and Stephen and how their circumstances brought them together and how the story flows and ends. Each person is recovering from deep hurts in their lives and we find them enduring and overcoming difficult circumstances, which brings them together. Mystery, forgiveness, and love lend to a great read that I would highly recommend to those who enjoy reading Amish romances. I received a copy of this book from Kensington Books and NetGalley. I was under no obligation to give a review.