Strength in the Storm

Strength in the Storm

by Laurel Blount
Strength in the Storm

Strength in the Storm

by Laurel Blount

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Overview

In this touching Amish romance, a brokenhearted woman and a steadfast man discover that the safest place to weather tragedy is in each other’s arms.

After the murder of both her parents, Emma Hochstedler returns to the small community of Johns Mill, hoping to resume her quiet existence. Reclaiming her place proves harder than expected—especially now that a movie is being made about her family’s loss. But then, an old friend offers her a lifeline that gives her new purpose.

Amish builder Samuel Christner is the biggest—and the strongest—man in town. In fact, the gentle giant has only one weakness—Emma. Even though she broke his heart, he won’t let his childhood sweetheart face her troubles alone. He hires Emma as a nurse for his elderly aunt…and finds himself falling for her all over again.

But while romance blooms, storm clouds gather. And when darkness falls, it will take all Sam’s strength—and all their love—to see them through.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780593200223
Publisher: Penguin Publishing Group
Publication date: 02/22/2022
Series: A Johns Mill Amish Romance , #2
Pages: 336
Sales rank: 143,792
Product dimensions: 4.19(w) x 6.75(h) x 0.88(d)

About the Author

Award-winning author Laurel Blount writes captivating romances full of grit and grace—with characters who’ll walk right off the page and into your heart. She lives on a farm in Georgia with her husband, their four fabulous kids, and an assortment of ridiculously spoiled animals.

Read an Excerpt

Chapter One

 

The little, everyday memories always hurt the most.

 

Emma Hochstedler knew that well enough. Ever since the shock of her parents' deaths six months ago, she'd gone teary-eyed over the strangest things.

 

Like today. Here she sat on a busy June morning, sniffling over a battered egg basket. It was a foolish waste of time, she knew, but still, she couldn't help it.

 

She hadn't seen this one coming. She'd passed the daily chore of chicken tending to her younger sister, Miriam, years ago, and to be honest, she hadn't given the egg basket much thought since. But just now when Emma had pulled it from its shelf, the handle had fit her hand with such heartbreaking familiarity that she'd been brought up short. For a finger snap of time, standing there on the back porch of the farmhouse, she'd been a happy little girl again, her sheltered world still shining and unbroken.

 

The doorknob rattled behind her, and she blotted her eyes with the back of one hand. She couldn't let the family see her crying. It would worry them. The least she could do-the very least considering the circumstances-was not to add to their pain by giving in to her own.

 

"Emma? Vass is letz?"

 

Her new sister-in-law stood in the kitchen doorway, a broom in one hand and a concerned look on her kind face.

 

"Nothing's wrong, Naomi." Emma forced a smile. "Except that I'm sitting here woolgathering when we have such a full morning ahead of us." She brandished the basket. "I'm off to the coop, and then I'll be ready to help you pick the cucumbers."

 

Naomi's brow puckered. "You're seeing to the chickens?"

 

"Ja." This time Emma's smile came more easily. "I thought I'd take the job off your hands. You're doing more than your share already." That was true. Her brother Joseph had chosen well. Not only was Naomi sweet-hearted and devoted to her new husband, but she was patient and hardworking, a welcome addition to a family who'd weathered so many troubles. "Since your heart operation, I've had to scramble to find any chores left to do."

 

"I like to work," Naomi said. "After so many years of being sickly, it's a real blessing for me to finally be able to do for other folks." She glanced over her shoulder. "But it used to be Miriam's job to tend to the hens, ain't so? Back . . . before, I mean. Joseph told me it was her favorite chore."

 

"Ja, it was." Emma's lips curved at the memory. "It wasn't mine, so I was happy enough to pass it off to her, once Mamm said I could. They're a messy job, the chickens, but Miriam never minded. She knew all the hens' personalities, and she liked to name them after our friends. Mamm fussed about that. She didn't think it sounded kind when Miriam would suggest we stew Mahlon's Betty for supper because she'd started pecking eggs."

 

Naomi laughed, but Emma's answering smile halted half formed. Her twin brother, Caleb, had laughed, too, and Daed had smothered a smile. Now Mamm and Daed had passed, and Caleb-well, Caleb was lost to them, too.

 

Naomi stepped fully onto the porch and shut the kitchen door. "Emma," she said, lowering her voice, "I think we should ask Miriam to take the chickens over again. A job like that, something she used to enjoy so much, it might be a way to coax her outside of the house."

 

Emma shook her head, alarmed. "Not yet, Naomi. Yesterday she couldn't even step out to get the mop you needed, and it was just beside the door on the back steps. She'd never manage to go all the way across the yard, and it would upset her to try. It's all right, truly. I don't mind doing the outside chores until she's better."

 

"Oh, ja, I know you don't mind taking over her work, and of course, I don't mind, either. The problem is . . . I'm not sure all our helping is gut for Miriam." Naomi hesitated, her forehead crinkled with concern. "I am new to this family, Emma, and I don't want to make trouble. It's only that being sick for so long myself, I know better than most folks how tempting it can be to stop trying, especially if people around you make it easy to stay where you are."

 

It was plain how carefully Naomi was choosing her words, trying not to cause offense. Still, Emma felt stung. Since returning from her stay in Ohio, she'd taken on the job of Miriam's care, making certain that her sister wasn't upset or troubled, hoping that plenty of love and calm would speed her healing.

 

"Well, but your sickness was a physical one, Naomi. Miriam saw our parents killed right in front of her. It's no wonder she's fearful, and I don't think it's wrong of us to be gentle with her."

 

"We should be gentle, ja. But we must help her see that she's not only loved but also needed. Otherwise, I'm afraid her fears about going outside will settle in and be that much harder to get shed of."

 

Now it was Emma's turn to choose her words carefully. She loved Naomi dearly, and she didn't want to quarrel. They'd done real well since the wedding. It wasn't always easy, two women sharing a house and a kitchen, and there'd been a bump or two over the past few weeks, but nothing big. Naomi was a kindhearted, reasonable woman, and Emma was willing to give way to her brother's wife in most things. But Miriam's care was a different matter.

 

She cleared her throat. "Joseph doesn't want Miriam forced, Naomi. He has said so, and I agree with him."

 

Her sister-in-law frowned. "Nee, of course he doesn't want her forced! Neither do I." For the first time, Naomi's soft voice took on a bit of sharpness. "Only nudged a little. Emma, I hope you'll forgive me if I speak plain. Ever since you came home for our wedding, you've been rushing ahead of Miriam, carrying and fetching for her, doing her work before I can even suggest that she do it herself. She loves and trusts you, and since you don't seem to believe she can do anything, she's starting to think that, too. She's been staying in her room longer every day. Haven't you noticed?"

 

Emma's heart sank. Ja, she'd noticed that. It was one of the reasons she'd redoubled her efforts to help, because it seemed her younger sister was slipping backward rather than improving. "You think that's because of me?"

 

"Oh, schwesdre." Naomi put a gentle hand on Emma's arm. "You meant only to help. Neither of us are blaming you-not for this nor anything else. Maybe you should stop blaming yourself, ja? Then it may be easier for you to stop coddling Miriam."

 

Neither of us.

 

Of course, Naomi and Joseph would have talked over Emma's situation privately, like any married couple. Her sister-in-law's words shouldn't have bothered Emma, but they did, a little, reminding her that her brother's heart had settled in a new direction.

 

When Emma didn't answer, Naomi smiled. "Never mind. We will let things lie for now. As you said, it's a busy day today with the pickling to do, and we've enough on hand without fretting ourselves. Speaking of that, I've a favor to ask, if you're willing. The cucumbers have done so well this year that we're almost out of some of our spices. The vinegar's getting low, too. Joseph's got a good bit of work out in the shop today, so I wondered if maybe you could drive in to Zook's."

 

Go to town? By herself? Emma lifted her eyebrows, distracted from her worries about Miriam.

 

This was unexpected.

 

She hadn't been to town much since she'd come home, and on the few occasions she'd needed to go, Joseph had stopped his work to drive her. It was frustrating, having to be taken here and there like a child, but she'd understood her brother's caution.

 

After her parents' murders, the Englisch media had swarmed Johns Mill, anxious for photographs and details. Since it was Trevor Abbott's obsession with Emma that had led the troubled young man to attack her parents in their general store, the reporters had been obsessed with her as well.

 

In fact, they'd made such nuisances of themselves that her hot-tempered twin had ended up punching one of them and disgracing himself in the eyes of their church. In the heartbreaking days that followed, Caleb had turned his back on his faith, and Emma had fled to her uncle's more secluded community, hoping everything might calm down if she was gone.

 

The plan had worked-mostly. In spite of the unsettling news that a movie was being made about the tragedy, things seemed much quieter now.

 

"If you'd feel comfortable going by yourself," Naomi was saying, "I could get the cucumbers picked. I'm sure Miriam will help me wash and slice them up, so we'll be all ready when you get back. While you're in town, you might stop by Yoder's, too. Miriam's nearly done with her quilt, and she needs fabric for the backing. Like I told Joseph, I'm never much good at figuring what looks nice with what. You'll do a much better job picking out the material. But only," she repeated, "if you're comfortable about it."

 

"Of course! I'm happy to go, Naomi." And she was. A trip to town all by herself, just like the old days. Emma felt a rush of anticipation at the thought of clopping peacefully along in the buggy, of taking her own sweet time in the stores without worrying about keeping Joseph from his work.

 

Her sister-in-law nodded. "It'll suit," she said simply. "I'll make a list of everything we're short of, and I'll ask Joseph to hitch up the buggy so you can leave as soon as you're done with the chickens."

 

Emma smiled. "Ja, you ask. If I ask him, he'll likely remind me I've been hitching buggies up since I was twelve and make me do it myself! But he can't deny you anything."

 

Naomi blushed and waved her away. "Get on with you, then! We've both got plenty to do."

 

As Emma walked toward the chicken coop, her heart felt pounds lighter. Today might turn out to be a good day after all. The air smelled of summer, and there was only a hint of the heat that would settle in later. The vegetable garden looked promisingly green over by the barn, and Mamm's orange and yellow daylilies nodded brightly around the wash shed. All in all, it was a real pretty morning for an unexpected jaunt into town.

 

Emma lifted the wooden latch and slipped into the coop. The hens chirred and clucked contentedly as she tossed pellets and scratch from the covered metal bin stored in the corner.

 

In the old days, the chicken's grain had been kept in the barn with the horse rations. Moving the bin was one of the many changes her older brother had quietly made since he'd taken over the farm. Another had been repurposing the abandoned family dairy building for his growing woodworking business.

 

Those changes hadn't disturbed Emma in the least, but now that Joseph and Naomi were married, adjustments were happening inside the house, too. Naomi had rearranged the kitchen cupboards, changing the way Mamm had organized things into something that suited her better. A few days after the wedding, Emma had opened a drawer expecting to see the family flatware where it had always been, only to discover measuring cups and spoons nestled there instead.

 

Naomi had been apologetic. "I hope that's all right, Emma. It just seemed handier to have the cups and measuring spoons nearer the counter where I do most of my mixing, and the silverware closer to the table."

 

Emma had assured her it was fine, and after a week of opening the wrong drawer, she'd adjusted. Naomi was Joseph's fraw, and as such, the kitchen was now hers to arrange as she saw fit. It was the natural way of things, and Emma understood that.

 

Still, it was hard to see Mamm's familiar kitchen slowly being remade into Naomi's. It made Emma feel unsettled. As the last traces of her mother's preferences were gently erased, Emma couldn't help wondering how she herself would fit into her brother's new household.

 

While the hens scratched, Emma rinsed and refilled their water containers-always such a dirty job-then turned to the straw-stuffed nesting boxes mounted on the wall. She tucked smooth brown eggs into her basket with quick fingers, thinking about the unexpected turns her life had taken.

 

She'd never expected to be living with her brother at twenty-three. Nobody had expected that for her-Emma had always had plenty of fellows hanging around. In fact, her first proposal had come when she was still a schoolgirl. It was the only time she'd ever said yes.

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