The Kissing Bridge (Seven Brides for Seven Bachelors Series #3)304
The Kissing Bridge (Seven Brides for Seven Bachelors Series #3)304
On the day of her sister's death, Rebecca Troyer took her first step away from the Amish.
Rebecca had always strayed a little outside the fold—a job at an Englisch bakery, long weekends with non-Amish friends—but nothing could have prepared her family for what she is about to do: Rebecca is abandoning the community to attend nursing school. She is headed to college, into “the world.”
But she has to make it across the country first.
When she stops in West Kootenai, at the home of a lapsed Amish friend from her youth, Rebecca finds a lot more in Montana than she had bargained for—namely a handsome working man named Caleb Hooley.
Caleb is at a crossroads of his own. A daredevil bachelor with high standards, he has decided he’ll never find an Amish woman who can quench his thirst for adventure. Needless to say, the pretty Amish girl who has fled her community in secret catches his attention immediately.
As hearts are opened and secrets are revealed, Rebecca and Caleb find they have much more in common than just their Amish background. But can this runaway find love with a risk-taker who has lost his faith in God? All it will take is one week in the wilderness to find out . . .
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|Series:||Seven Brides for Seven Bachelors Series , #3|
|Product dimensions:||5.40(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.00(d)|
|Age Range:||18 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
The Kissing Bridge
By Tricia Goyer
ZONDERVANCopyright © 2014 Tricia Goyer
All rights reserved.
Her bruder's soft whimper just outside the bedroom door alerted Rebecca Troyer to Claude's injury. She threw the door open to find Claude standing there with tousled hair, flecks of straw from head to toe, and a rumpled shirt. Tears made clean trails down dirty cheeks. He held up his finger to show blood seeping from a small gash.
Rebecca stepped out into the hallway onto the whitewashed wooden floor. "Whatcha do this time?" She knelt beside her seven-year-old bruder and sighed. He'd not only cut himself, he'd also torn the sleeve of the new shirt Mem had just sewn for him. Mending that would be more work for Mem, especially since Rebecca was leaving today. Guilt piled upon her shoulders as an invisible weight.
"I was trying to get the mama cat." Claude's large brown eyes fixed on hers. "Her kittens were crying, and she needed to feed them. The mama was up in the loft."
Compassion welled up, and Rebecca opened her arms. Claude stepped into them. She squeezed, breathing in the scent of boyish sweat and barn, and tears rimmed the edges of her eyelids.
Her lips parted slightly, but no words emerged. I'm going to miss you, Claude.
She wished she could speak those words and tell him she'd be back someday. Back with a degree—with knowledge—and their whole community the better for it.
Claude whimpered and pulled back slightly, and she squeezed his shoulders tighter, knowing it was one of the last hugs she'd be giving him for a while.
She released him, pushing him back to where she could get a good look at him. Her gaze narrowed. Her brow folded with sternness. "You didn't get up on that rickety ladder again, did ya?"
Claude's bottom lip puckered and trembled. "Ja, but the kittens' cries were so loud ... they needed their mama."
Did the kittens' cries make him think of his own loss?
Claude had lost a mother. She'd lost a sister. Her mother had lost her older daughter and had gained a baby to care for. All on the same day. And not many months later, when Claude's young father admitted he couldn't raise the child alone, Rebecca's parents adopted their grandson, making him their son.
The day of her sister's death had also started Rebecca on her path to leaving the Amish. Not even her parents knew she was going. If they did, there was no way they'd let her go. And so she'd been lying to them for years, talking about Amish boys in the community who'd caught her fancy and about getting baptized next fall, all the while figuring out how to escape.
The ache she carried inside from longing for her sister—Claude's mother—urged her on.
Rebecca placed a soft hand on Claude's shoulder.
"That ol' barn cat won't let her kittens go hungry. You don't need to worry about that." She stood straighter, forcing sternness. "You need to obey Dat. Listen to him. He's jest watchin' out for your safety. Disobedience will only hurt you, ya hear?" She straightened her shoulders and fingered the string of her kapp. "Now go find Mem and ask her for a bandage."
Claude's eyes widened, and his jaw dropped. "But—but ... you always do it."
"Ja, when I'm here. But what do you do when I'm at work? You know I'm not always going to be here, don't ya?" Moistness filled her eyes again, but she quickly blinked it away. "I can hear Mem downstairs getting the last of things together for Aenti's birthday party. Go on now."
Claude held his finger closer to her, forcing her to look at the drops of blood. Rebecca took in a deep breath and jutted out her chin. "Mem will help you. I have to go to work, ja?"
An ache radiated from her stomach. How can I go through with this?
With a whimper, Claude turned and scurried back downstairs. Rebecca urged herself to stay strong—to stick to the plan.
Her hand trembled as she picked up a small hand mirror. She checked her hair and her kapp, then returned the mirror to the dresser top and grabbed her purse. Her suitcase was already in the trunk of Lora's car. Lora had worked at the Garden Gate Cafe with Rebecca until she realized she could make three times as much money driving the Amish. The funniest part of Lora's new job was that no one realized her father used to be Amish, or knew Lora could understand everything they said in Pennsylvania Dutch.
Rebecca grimaced. No doubt by tomorrow everyone in Shipshewana would be talking about her leaving. These things didn't take long to get around.
A truck door slammed, the noise coming from the gravel driveway outside. The sound of her older bruder getting dropped off from his factory job told Rebecca she only had a few minutes to make it outside to the road before Lora arrived. She grabbed her sweater from the hook on the wall and hurried down the hallway, nearly jogging down the stairs to the first floor. In the kitchen, Mem bandaged Claude's finger. Rebecca wished she could walk over and give her mother a solid hug like she used to do as a child, but Mem would then know for certain that something was wrong. Instead Rebecca offered them a quick wave.
"Headin' out?" Mem called, pausing Rebecca's steps.
Rebecca turned, clutching her purse to her chest. "Ja, Lora should be here any moment."
Mem's eyebrows folded. "But I thought Wednesdays were your day off." She set the box of bandages on the table and took a step in Rebecca's direction. Claude whimpered but didn't say a word.
Rebecca shrugged. "Ja, vell, change of plans." She swallowed hard, hoping her emotions didn't show. Heat rose to her cheeks.
Mem's gaze fixed on her. "Is everything all right? You haven't been yourself lately."
"Ja, I'm fine. Everything's fine." She wanted to tell her mem that she hadn't been herself since Claude's birth—since her sister's death—but Rebecca held her tongue. The matter was in God's hands. Rebecca just wished her pain and missin' were in His hands too.
"Will you be home late?" Mem hurriedly asked. "We will miss you at the party. Didn't you have to work last year on your aunt's birthday too?"
"I, uh, can't remember, but I'll be home at the regular time. Don't wait up for me." And don't feel as if any of this was your fault, she wanted to add. The letter she'd left, tucked into the top of her trunk, would explain everything.
Rebecca hurried out the front door before she changed her mind. Her eyes scanned the roadway, and she spotted Lora's white Buick approaching. Afternoon light glimmered off the freshly washed car, and Rebecca's heart sank. Lora only washed the car when she had a full day of taxiing. Even though the Amish didn't believe in being prideful, for some reason those in the community always called drivers with the nicest, cleanest cars first.
Rebecca's light-gray sweater hung over her arm, and her simple purse dangled from her shoulder. The autumn day was warm, but she refused to enjoy it. Refused to take one last look back at her parents' farm.
She half walked and half jogged toward the road as Lora slowed the car and pulled in the driveway. Rebecca hid her disappointment to see Fannie Petershwim sitting in the front seat, with her daughter Karen sitting in the backseat. Rebecca glared at Lora through the side window, and Lora offered the slightest of shrugs, as if to say, "A paying job is a paying job."
Lora hadn't asked for money for all the rides she'd given Rebecca over the years. Rebecca had no right to complain. Every once in a while she'd baked something nice for her friend, and had often wished she could do more. Now she wished she could offer to fill Lora's gas tank, but Rebecca needed every penny for her future—for the journey ahead.
Rebecca slid into the backseat and caught Fannie in the middle of a conversation with her daughter. "Maybe she has extra time on her hands with her two youngest leaving the Amish. They both got jobs up in Grand Rapids, but that'll bring only harm. I just hope their dat will be able to keep up with all the work on his farm alone. He might have to hire it out, although I don't know how you can support a family doing that yet."
Ten minutes later Shipshewana loomed ahead, but the woman's mouth never slowed. Fannie didn't talk to Lora, and she'd barely acknowledged Rebecca. Butterflies fluttered in Rebecca's stomach. If this was how neighbors treated her, what could she expect from strangers ... from the world? Yet even being alone was better than that feeling of helplessness when she'd watched her sister's soul slip into eternity without being able to do one thing about it.
Rebecca straightened her shoulders and pressed back against the seat, staring out the side window as the first stores of Shipshewana came into view.
* * *
Caleb Hooley lifted the ax and swung with all his might, feeling the satisfaction of the sharpened metal sinking deep into the wood of the pine tree in front of him.
He wiped the sweat off his brow with the back of his hand and glanced at Amos Byler. "Okay, let's see how long it takes you to dig that ax out of the tree." Though his friend was two inches shorter, Amos had the tenacity of Red Gerald's mule—Red Gerald being the closest neighbor to their bachelor cabin—and Caleb liked that. He was thankful to find a friend in West Kootenai who would accept his challenges. Life was too short to play it safe—to tend one's horses and muck one's stalls and lose out on all the heart-pumping parts of life. If his opa had taught him anything, it was that.
Amos walked over to the tall tree and wrapped two hands around the ax handle. Then, planting his right foot on the tree trunk, he yanked with all his might. His face reddened, and Caleb chuckled under his breath.
It was a beautiful evening in West Kootenai, Montana. They'd made progress on the guesthouse they were building over at Abe and Ruth Sommer's place, and now this evening they'd reverted back to their own version of logger sports. Rumor had it the Sommer family was making the cabin extra nice so that when their son and daughter-in-law came to visit from back east, they just might want to stay. But Caleb only listened and nodded to the rumors buzzing around West Kootenai Kraft and Grocery. He'd rather beat his time climbing the tall tree behind their cabin than consider who was going to move here and all their motives behind that decision. Woman talk.
Caleb looked around as Amos tugged at the ax with grunts and groans. High mountain peaks rose on the horizon. Tall larch and pine trees filled the air with a glorious aroma. Just yesterday he'd seen a brown bear cub splashing in the creek, and this morning a wild turkey had made all sort of ruckus on the front porch of the bachelors' cabin, as if daring them to get up and chase him.
And then there were the other bachelors. They'd all moved here in early spring so they'd be eligible for their resident hunting license in the fall. In Montana, they could hunt the big game—bear, elk, moose, even mountain goats. And hunting season was only a few months away.
For this year, at least, he could hang out with his friends, embark on all sorts of adventures, shoot guns and practice with crossbows, without having to think about tending a farm, dealing with family issues back at his parents' place, or even worrying about who would be a good wife.
Not that he was against marrying. There was still time. He was only twenty-three, and it would happen someday, he supposed. For as long as Caleb could remember, he liked the idea of having a wife and being able to kiss her anytime he wanted.
"Pull harder, Amos!" Caleb called, knowing his mem would have a heart attack to see him competing in such a manner. Back home in Ohio they weren't even allowed to play competitive ball games in the school yard, lest they become prideful in their competition. Here, he thrived on it—just as long as they were out of view of the stricter Amish folk in their community.
Amos grunted and tugged again. They were both surprised when the ax broke free. As if in slow motion, Amos' body flew back and the ax sailed through the air, flipping over Amos' head, heading straight for Caleb's leg. He jumped back just in time. The ax hit the ground with a thud.
Laughter poured from Caleb's lips. "Almost got double points with that one—for the release and the bull's-eye."
Amos held the back of his head and moaned. "Ja, then you better add in a few more points for the knot on the back of my skull—war injury."
Without hesitation, Amos jumped to his feet, picked up the ax, and eyed the tree. He glanced back at Caleb, and then he swung as high as he could, hitting the trunk. The loud thud proved the ax dug deep. Caleb rolled up his sleeves and stepped forward—ready to accept any challenge that was sent his way.
So far Montana hadn't offered up anything—anyone—he'd consider his match.CHAPTER 2
Rebecca breathed a sigh of relief as Fannie and her daughter exited the car, heading into Lolly's Fabric Store. After quickly scanning the street—to make sure there wasn't anyone she knew—Rebecca moved from the backseat to the front, pulling off her kapp and placing it in the seat between her and Lora.
She wrapped one arm around her stomach and nibbled on the thumbnail of her opposite hand. "Did you happen to check the train schedule on the Internet to see if everything's running on time?"
Lora checked her side-view mirror and then pulled out. "Did you run out of data minutes on your phone again?" Excitement tinged Lora's voice. Over the last two months she'd been talking about the cross-country trip. She'd looked over the Amtrak schedules maybe more than Rebecca had. The truth was, not many people left LaGrange County. And when folks did, they rarely returned.
"Ja, all my minutes are gone." Rebecca pushed thoughts of Marianna out of her mind. Marianna was married now—to an Englischer. The last thing Rebecca needed was to add trouble to herself by visiting her shunned friend. It would be bad enough when her parents discovered what she'd left to do.
Lora chuckled. "You used all your minutes sending Facebook messages to some handsome stranger, yes?"
"I wish." Rebecca sighed. "Nothing quite as exciting as that. Do you know how hard it was to take an anatomy test on a tiny screen on my phone? Thankfully, it was just a multiple-choice test that went with last week's lab."
Lora gasped as if horrified. "You're just a rebel, Rebecca. Sneaking a phone ... and taking college classes." She sighed and shook her head. "My parents would buy me my own topof-the-line computer if I was half as interested in school as you are. Do your parents know yet?"
"Ne." She lowered her head, fiddling with the snaps on her sweater. "They're at Aenti Mary Sue's birthday party tonight. They most likely won't even know I'm gone until tomorrow morning when I don't come to breakfast. They're used to me coming in late."
"But you told them what you're doing—where you're going—in the letter that you wrote them, right?"
"Vell ..." Rebecca glanced at the passenger's-side window, resisting the urge to wave as they passed the buggy of an older couple her family knew. "I told them in the letter that I was going to Oregon. I didn't mention college. Just writing that I was leaving was difficult enough. I didn't want to break their hearts twice in the same note."
"It's just college," Lora urged. "And you're doing it to help people—help those in your own community. Help make sure that what happened to Claudia won't happen again."
A lump rose in Rebecca's throat, and she tried to swallow it away. "I want to help, all right, but I don't know if I'll ever be able to do it in my own community. I can maybe go somewhere people don't know me as well, like Goshen or Napsee ... and then maybe work with the Mennonites with hopes they will help me to educate their Amish friends." Rebecca's fists tightened into two balls on her lap. "Your dad was Amish, Lora. You know that's not how things work. You can't join the church and then run off to college and get an education. And I don't know anyone who's come back from college and joined the church. College is 'the world' ... It's just not their way."
Excerpted from The Kissing Bridge by Tricia Goyer. Copyright © 2014 Tricia Goyer. Excerpted by permission of ZONDERVAN.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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