Affectionately dubbed The Honeybee Sisters in their Wisconsin Amish community, the three Christner girls are devoted beekeepers who are coming-of-age—and discovering the sweet surprise of love…
Shy, skittish Rose Christner is more comfortable tending to the beehives on the family farm and keeping her aunt’s unruly cats in line than attending social gatherings with the rest of the die youngie. A childhood trauma and secret shame keep her heart under lock and key, and Rose just can’t accept the sweet attention she’s receiving from a handsome neighbor. But the more she shies away from Josiah Yoder, the more their families sneakily plot to bring them together. And when a vandal who’s been plaguing the Honeybee Farm starts targeting Rose, Josiah’s steadfast protection—and patience—just may lead her into his waiting arms…
Praise for Jennifer Beckstrand and her Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series
“Full of kind, sincere characters struggling with the best ways to stay true to themselves and their beliefs.”Publishers Weekly
“A delightful voice in Amish romance. Sweet and funny.”Emma Miller
“Sweet romance with a lot of heart…Readers will treasure this series.”RT Book Reviews
About the Author
Jennifer Beckstrand is the RITA nominated and award-winning author of the Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill and The Honeybee Sisters series, as well as a number of novellas. Novels in her Matchmakers of Huckleberry Hill series have been RITA® Award and RT Book Reviews Reviewer’s Choice Award finalists. Huckleberry Hill won the 2014 LIME Award for inspirational fiction and Huckleberry Hearts was named a Booklist Top 10 Inspirational Fiction Book of the Year. Jennifer has always been drawn to the strong faith and the enduring family ties of the Plain people. She and her husband have been married for thirty-four years, and she has four daughters, two sons, and seven adorable grandchildren, whom she spoils rotten. Please visit her online at www.JenniferBeckstrand.com
Read an Excerpt
Like a Bee to Honey
By JENNIFER BECKSTRAND
KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP.Copyright © 2016 Jennifer Beckstrand
All rights reserved.
Josiah Yoder's heart pounded so hard, they could probably hear it in the next county, and it made him kind of disgusted with himself. He'd been to the Honeybee schwesters' farm at least a dozen times. The mere thought of possibly, maybe, hopefully seeing Rose Christner shouldn't make him feel as if he were going to have a heart attack.
Just because he had been completely and hopelessly in love with Rose for four long years didn't mean he couldn't be perfectly calm when he saw her. He had never managed to be perfectly calm before, but surely he could muster his levelheadedness today. He'd scare Rose away if he drove onto her farm jumpy and agitated like a spooked horse.
His chicken heart only beat faster as his open-air buggy passed the sign on the road that stood at the entrance to the Christners' property. Beware The Honeybees, it said. Every time he saw that sign, his pulse raced out of control — not because he was especially afraid of honeybees, but because Rose had painted that sign herself. With her own two hands. It was almost as if she were standing there at the entrance to their property greeting him with a smile and a wave.
Almost. It was almost like that.
The sign had Rose's touch all over it. She'd painted red roses and bright yellow daisies, pastel tulips and spiky dandelions. Bees and butterflies frolicked among the flowers — kind of like the ones making a home in his gut at this very minute.
His heart knocked into his ribs like a sledgehammer and smashed all the butterflies in his stomach.
Oy, anyhow. He was hopeless.
No matter how ferhoodled, he was determined not to mess things up with Rose — not when he had already made a connection with her. And by "connection," he meant that she didn't cower like a nervous bunny rabbit when he said hello.
With a light tug on the reins, Josiah guided his horse, Max, onto the small wooden bridge that marked the entrance to the Honeybee schwesters' property. He caught his breath and nearly choked. Rose and her sisters, Lily and Poppy, were but thirty feet away tending to their beehives. Each of them wore one of those beekeeper hats with netting draped over the top, plus a long-sleeved jacket and jeans tucked into long stockings. The outfits weren't strictly Amish, but the sisters couldn't wear Plain dresses while tending the bees or they'd be stung for sure and certain. Josiah pinned his gaze to the shortest of the three beekeepers. Rose looked pretty no matter what she wore.
All three sisters turned to see who was coming over their bridge and waved to him, even Rose. Surely his heart couldn't beat any faster.
He raised his arm and waved back but tried not to look too eager. Eagerness tended to make Rose nervous. Once, after a fellowship supper, Josiah had watched Benji Kauffman follow Rose around like a lost puppy looking for a scrap of food. Benji was persistent and wouldn't leave her alone until Rose had planted herself firmly between her sisters for the rest of the day and Poppy had given Benji a very dirty look. Benji had slouched home as if he were going to his own funeral.
Josiah's gut clenched. He couldn't make any mistakes. He'd been to enough funerals to last a lifetime.
The sisters turned back to their hives. He slumped his shoulders. All he needed to do was deliver his little bag to the house. He had no gute excuse for talking to Rose whatsoever.
He realized he had an iron grip on the reins when Max veered onto the grass and started trampling dandelions. Josiah quickly pulled the horse up and pointed him in the right direction. Rose would be unhappy if the dandelions got trampled and so would her aendi Bitsy.
He guided Max to the end of the lane, where the Honeybee sisters' house stood to his right and their red barn with the pink door stood to his left. Josiah, with his friends Dan and Luke, had come in the middle of the night a few weeks ago to paint that door. In the dark, they hadn't been able to get the color quite right. It had turned out a lovely shade of rose-petal pink.
A ragged-looking black-and-white cat sat on its haunches not three feet from Josiah's buggy, guarding the farm from intruders. The cat scowled at Josiah as if daring him to set foot on their property. Josiah raised his eyebrows. That cat looked mean enough to halt a whole herd of charging bulls. He didn't know if it would be wiser to ignore him or run away as fast as he could.
Rose probably wouldn't like it either way.
Rose had barely noticed him. She probably wouldn't even know.
He climbed from the buggy and stuffed his hand in his pocket to make sure the bag was still there. If he wanted to talk to Rose, he'd have to make his own chances, like Luke Bontrager was always telling him. Luke said Josiah was as slow as a turtle. Would it hurt to pick up the pace?
Even though he was risking a finger or two, Josiah bent down and reached out to smooth his hand along the ragged cat's head, partly to impress Rose with his love for animals and partly to make peace so the cat wouldn't bite off his arm.
The cat bared his teeth and hissed as if he were trying to set Josiah on fire. Wanting to keep both of the hands he had, Josiah pulled away and glanced in Rose's direction. He'd have to impress her some other way. She didn't need to witness his failure with a cat.
When he stood up straight and tried to walk away, the cat threw himself at Josiah and hooked his claws into one of his trousers legs. "Ach!" Josiah said, as the cat's sharp claws pierced his ankle. The animal was trying to kill him.
The warning at the front of the property hadn't said anything about cats.
They should probably add that to the sign as soon as possible.CHAPTER 2
Gasping in pain, Josiah tried to shake the cat gently from his leg. Rose had a tender heart for all living creatures. She would be unhappy if he kicked out and sent the cat flying.
The cat didn't budge.
Josiah reached down and tried to wrench it away from his leg without taking several chunks of flesh with him, but the cat's claws were buried deep, as if he were holding on for dear life. An orange-marmalade ball of fur bounded across the lawn and started climbing Josiah's other leg. This one was a cute little kitten with sharp, not-so-cute claws that made Josiah flinch when they punctured his leg.
The kitty making its way up Josiah's trousers would surely fall if Josiah made any sudden movements, and the ugly black cat had decided to park on Josiah's foot with its claws firmly embedded in Josiah's shin.
Another cat, milky white and elegant, sauntered across the lawn and planted itself at Josiah's feet. She rolled onto her back and looked up at Josiah with a mixture of disdain and indignation, as if she had a plan to make Josiah very sorry for intruding.
Either the cats were trying to keep him from escaping or they were overjoyed to see him. He couldn't imagine they were overjoyed. He barely knew any of them.
The Honeybee schwesters were a good twenty yards off, so he couldn't hear what they said to each other, but at least they had noticed he was in trouble. Poppy nudged Rose and gestured toward him with her smoker. Rose hesitated, then stepped away from the hives and removed her long canvas gloves and beekeeper's hat to reveal her golden hair tied up with a light pink scarf and her cheeks tinted an appealing shade of peaches and cream.
His heart did a flip, three somersaults, four push-ups, several cartwheels, and a double back handspring.
Rose Christner was coming to his rescue.
His mouth went dry as he thought of about a million things he wanted to say to her, and — oh sis yuscht — he had suddenly lost the power of speech.
She glanced at him and gave him a tentative half smile before turning her attention to the cats. "Billy Idol, Leonard Nimoy, you naughty, naughty kitties." She knelt on the ground and carefully detached the orange kitten's claws from Josiah's trousers. He'd made it all the way up to Josiah's knee.
"He's a gute climber," Josiah said, trying to sound cheerful and meek, but not too eager, all at the same time. Mostly, he sounded gravelly, like he'd swallowed a cup of rocks for breakfast.
Rose nuzzled the kitten's soft head against her cheek. "I hope she didn't hurt you. Leonard Nimoy is just learning her manners, and Billy Idol is a bad influence."
"No harm done," he said, wishing she'd turn her gaze to him and give him a glimpse of those eyes that were as blue as ice on Lake Michigan. "Is the kitten a female?"
She finally looked at him. He tried to act like nothing important had just happened, even though his head spun like a washing machine in a tornado.
"Jah," she said, looking away as soon as their eyes met. "Aunt Bitsy named her Leonard Nimoy after a movie star, but she's a girl." Rose set Leonard Nimoy on the grass and shook her finger when the kitten tried to scale Josiah's leg again. "Nae, Leonard Nimoy. Leave Josiah be."
Josiah liked the way she talked to the cats, as if they were adorable and she loved them with all her heart, but there was nothing adorable about the black-and-white cat still clinging to his trousers. Rose smoothed her hand over the cat's blotchy fur. "Billy Idol, there's no need to attack people. You're being a very bad example to Leonard Nimoy."
A cautious smile flitted across Rose's face. "Aunt Bitsy named all our cats."
She gently but firmly pried Billy Idol from Josiah's other leg. The cat snarled as Rose wrapped her arms around him and cuddled him like a newborn buplie.
One of Billy Idol's ears was split down the middle, and his right eye only opened halfway. His nose was also scarred, and his coat looked as if he'd been in a few catfights in which fur had literally been flying. His upper lip was permanently lifted into a sneer by a scar that ran down the side of his mouth.
"I'm sorry if they hurt you," Rose said. She secured Billy Idol in one arm and scooped up the white cat, which was still rolling around in the grass, with the other hand. "Farrah Fawcett isn't usually so friendly."
Friendly? If this was friendly, he had no desire to see hostile.
"I don't mind," Josiah said. "I'm not sure why all three of your cats suddenly took a liking to me." Or how he could get Rose to do the same.
Her lips twitched with uncertainty. "Well, you are a very nice boy."
Really? She thought he was a very nice boy? He cleared his throat in an attempt to keep his voice from betraying his elation. "You're the one who's nice. My sister can't stop talking about that chocolate cake you baked for her family." He threw caution to the wind and sat cross-legged next to her in the grass. Surely she wouldn't mind if he sat beside her instead of towering over her.
Rose tensed and clutched Billy Idol and Farrah Fawcett closer.
Josiah's heart sank. Nae. She didn't like that better at all.
To his added horror, all three cats chose that moment to resume their attack. Either they were incredibly protective of Rose, or it just wasn't Josiah's day. Leonard, the girl kitten, catapulted herself toward Josiah and gave his forearm four deep scratches trying to catch herself. Billy Idol struggled out of Rose's arms and practically vaulted into Josiah's lap, where he sunk his tiny teeth into Josiah's pocket. Farrah Fawcett also jumped onto Josiah's lap and dug her claws into his leg. Josiah shouted in surprise and leaped to his feet, making all three cats tumble like balls of yarn off an Amish mammi's lap.
"Ach, du lieva!" Rose said.
Not only had he sat too close to Rose without her permission, but he had also unintentionally upset her beloved cats. He might never be allowed on the farm again.
Rose pursed her lips, and her blue eyes turned dark with distress. She scooped Leonard Nimoy into her arms. "Are you all right?"
Josiah paused for a second until he realized Rose was talking to him and not the kitten. He swiped his hand across his forearm, hopefully erasing any evidence that Leonard Nimoy had drawn blood. He didn't want Rose to worry. "I'm sorry. I didn't mean for them to fall like that."
She seemed more concerned for his feelings than her own. "Please don't worry. Cats always land on their feet." They both looked down at Billy Idol. He was rolling around in the grass. "I don't know why they went crazy like that."
Poppy and Lily, Rose's always-protective sisters, must have recognized that Josiah had tangled himself into some sort of impossible knot. They set down their smokers, took off their hats and gloves, and were at Rose's side in less time than it would have taken Billy Idol to sink his teeth into Josiah's neck.
Poppy's unruly hair was tied up in a royal-blue scarf, and she wore a thick cast on her right hand. She'd broken her hand a week ago punching an Englischer in the mouth — an Englischer named Griff Simons who had tried to give Rose a kiss.
Lily wore a bright yellow scarf with a white zip-up jacket. They stood on either side of Rose and eyed Josiah as if he were a horse at auction. "It's gute to see you, Josiah," Lily said. She even acted like she meant it.
Poppy folded her arms and cocked an eyebrow while amusement and annoyance made an uneasy truce on her face. "Need some help, Josiah?"
Of course he needed help. Rose was nervous, the cats had gone crazy, and he had several puncture wounds in his legs — not to mention the blood that was slowly dripping down his arm courtesy of Leonard Nimoy. He quickly slid his arm behind his back.
It would be best if he went away and tried again tomorrow. Was there a nice, nonthreatening activity he could do with Rose? Would she like sitting next to him on the porch while he read from the dictionary?
Nae. She got anxious when he got too close.
"I'm wonderful sorry about disturbing you," he said, pulling the drawstring bag from his pocket and handing it to Poppy. "Luke asked me to bring this to you. He said you need it for a recipe."
Poppy put the bag to her nose and rolled her eyes. "That boy!" she said, but there was affection behind her aggravated tone. Luke Bontrager drove her crazy, but she was still madly in love with him. "Doesn't he know what basil is?"
Lily grinned while keeping her eyes glued to Josiah's face. "He's better with tools."
"It isn't basil?" Josiah asked.
Poppy closed the bag and looped the drawstring around her finger. "It's catnip. No wonder the cats are so interested."
Lily and Poppy shared a look that Josiah knew wasn't meant for him to see. "Maybe Luke is smarter than we think," Lily said.
Poppy winked at Lily. "The smartest."
Lily's expression was one of pure, unsympathetic pity. "He sent you into the lion's den with a pocketful of catnip. No wonder the cats attacked."
"I'm sorry about my thick-headed fiancé," Poppy said, not acting sorry at all.
Josiah wasn't sure what to think. The catnip had attracted the cats, and the cats had attracted Rose. He'd actually had a conversation with Rose Christner because of Luke's catnip.
And that had probably been Luke's intent all along.
Luke thought Josiah was slower than cold tar on a frosty morning when it came to courting Rose. Perhaps Luke was trying to speed things up.
Josiah didn't know whether to be offended or grateful that Luke had stuck his nose into Josiah's business. He'd have a few wounds, that was certain, but Rose had said more to him in that one conversation than she had in almost four years combined. He wanted to give Luke a big hug. And then punch him.
He wiped a grin off his face. With friends like Luke, who needed a meddling mammi?
Rose gasped. "You're bleeding."
Oy, anyhow. He should have left his hand behind his back so Rose wouldn't be upset. He studied the smear of blood on his forearm. Ach. He probably had a gute-sized spot of blood on the back of his shirt from trying to hide his injured arm.
"It's nothing," he said, giving Rose the most reassuring smile he could muster. "Doesn't even hurt."
Excerpted from Like a Bee to Honey by JENNIFER BECKSTRAND. Copyright © 2016 Jennifer Beckstrand. Excerpted by permission of KENSINGTON PUBLISHING CORP..
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