You never know when I might play a wild card on you!
Today's Wild Card author is:
and the book:
Harvest House Publishers
***Special thanks to Ginger Chen of Harvest House for sending me a review copy.***
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Kelly Irvin is a Kansas native and has been writing professionally for 30 years. She and her husband, Tim, make their home in Texas. They have two children, three cats, and a tankful of fish. A public relations professional, Kelly is also the author of two romantic suspense novels and writes short stories in her spare time. To learn more about her work, visit www.kellyirvin.com.
SHORT BOOK DESCRIPTION:In the second book of the New Hope Amish series, one young woman must find a way to move beyond the agony and mistakes of her past and embrace God’s promises for a hopeful future…and a love of her own.
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
Phoebe Christner longed for water. Sweet, cool water. The kind that soothed a parched throat. She should be concentrating on living water, but the blazing August heat made it almost impossible. Who had the bright idea of holding baptism classes outside in hundred-degree weather? Probably her daed. As if the searing heat would make the scholars more likely to choose the church and eternal salvation. She hid a smile behind her damp palm and then swiped at the sweat trickling down her forehead with the back of her sleeve. The sound of hymns sung by the other members of her community wafted from her family’s barn, a slow, steady hum that threatened to lull her to sleep. She jerked upright on the hard wooden bench. No sleeping in class. The humid air hung heavy on her shoulders, making her dress sodden under her arms. She strained to feel a tiny breeze, a hint of fresh air to dissipate the rank smell of manure and horse that hung over the corral. Her stomach rumbled like a train, threatening to drown out the sound of the blue jays chattering in the oak trees that shaded their small class. The heat of embarrassment rolled over her, compounding her discomfort. She hazarded a glance at Michael Daugherty. He sat back straight, arms folded over his chest, on the bench across from her, next to his best friend Daniel Knepp. She tried her best not to stare, but Michael’s dark blue eyes, full lips, and the hint of dimples rarely seen but surely there made it hard to look away. His gaze sideswiped hers. The skin of his tanned face grew darker. He ducked his head. Now she’d embarrassed him too. Her face as warm as the sun that beat on them, Phoebe wiggled in her seat and leaned over to brush away a piece of dry grass from her dusty prayer service shoe. Michael’s cousin Rachel elbowed her and gave her the look. The look that said Stop it now before it’s too late. Molly Troyer, sitting at her right side, coughed into her hand, a soft, warning cough. They’d all been friends since before Phoebe could remember. They knew how easy it was for her to get off track. Too late. “Phoebe, are you sitting on a pile of ants, by any chance?” Despite his words, Thomas Brennaman didn’t sound angry. Phoebe so wanted to possess the deacon’s unending well of patience. Instead, she flitted from one thing to the next, like a hummingbird. “Forget those flights of fancy and concentrate. Baptism is one of the most important and sacred acts in your life.” Mortified, she cast a swift glance in Michael’s direction. A touch of something—sympathy maybe—softened his gaze. He shook his head slightly, as if to ask, What’s going on with you? He had no idea how hard she tried. He so rarely talked to her beyond a few mumbled words of greeting at the singings or a congratulatory whoop when she got a hit at the baseball games they’d played outside the schoolhouse in the old days. In fact, he seemed to go to great lengths to avoid talking to her. To be fair, he wasn’t much of a talker with anyone. If only he could make an exception with her. “Phoebe, do you have corn cobs in your ears?” Now Thomas did sound aggravated. “Hello?” Daydreaming again. Her face burned. “I’m sorry. It’s so warm today. And I didn’t have time to eat breakfast this morning.” She flapped both hands in front of her face, trying to create a breeze. “Now it’s hard to concentrate because I’m so hungry. The lesson and three hours of service—well, it’s a long time until we eat.” “You always have an excuse. We’ve been through a half dozen lessons this summer, and you’re still offering excuses. You’re not a child anymore.” Thomas’s thick eyebrows waggled over a new pair of gold-rimmed spectacles that made him look like her daed when he sat down to read The Budget newspaper in the evening. “After you join the church, you’ll be considered an adult. If you finish these classes. You can’t burn the candle at both ends…” He let the sentence trail off, but his gaze wandered to the others in this group, all young, all at the tail end of their rumspringas. The older folks turned a blind eye to the shenanigans that went on during this period of running around, but sometimes it was hard to miss. The late hours, the schinckt of cigarette smoke lingering in clothes, a necklace one of them forgot to remove. Phoebe tried never to flaunt her forays into the Englisch world in her parents’ faces, but she knew they cringed at her late hours and unexpected absences. This morning she’d overslept and only arrived downstairs in time to clean the kitchen. She couldn’t expect to eat if she didn’t help prepare the meal. “I’m sorry. I promise to do better.” Her stomach growled again, like a bear threatening to claw its way out. Embarrassment made the tips of her ears hot. “I’ll study hard.” “Pray hard. Look into your heart and make sure this is something you want to do. To commit to the church and to follow the Ordnung for the rest of your life.” Thomas’s gaze roved from Phoebe to Molly and Rachel on the girls’ side and then, with slow deliberation, to Michael and Daniel. “If you have any doubt in your mind, wait. There’ll be another opportunity in the spring.” His gaze came back to rest on Phoebe. She tried to hold it but faltered. He seemed to know of the turmoil in her head. She wanted to be baptized. She wanted to commit to the church for life. She loved her family and her community. But mostly she wanted to marry, live with her husband on their own farm, and have children. Two things had to happen first. She had to be baptized and she had to somehow get Michael’s attention. Hard as the baptism classes were, the first seemed easier than the second. So here she sat outside her family’s home, sweating in hundred-degree Missouri weather, hoping to take a step in the right direction on both counts. “The second sermon is beginning. We need to go in.” Thomas stretched his long legs out in front of him, his expression somber. “You’ll meet with Silas in two weeks. Be sure you keep working through the Dordrecht Confession of Faith. We’ll review the seventeenth and eighteenth articles next time. The date for baptism will be set for two weeks before the fall grossgemme. Then it will be time for communion, which you will take as members of the church. We should have dates by the next class.” Baptism and then her first meeting as a member of the church. She would have a vote on changes in the Ordnung. Then her first communion. Phoebe swallowed against the bitter taste in the back of her throat. Her days of rumspringa would be over. Days of slipping out to hear music and watch the big-screen TV over the bar in the little tavern in New Hope would be over. So would riding with her hair down and blowing in the hot wind in their Englisch friend Dylan’s convertible on the back roads that wound their way through fields full of rustling cornstalks. Time to grow up. Time to marry and have children. She hoped. “But in two weeks we’ll be at Stockton Lake.” Her voice timid, Molly raised her hand as if she were still in school. “All our families will be there.” The thought of the lake and swimming and fishing and barbecuing hot dogs and marshmallows and making mountain pies and telling stories in the tent after dark made Phoebe want to stand up and shout hallelujah. She caught herself just in time. Michael’s daed had announced his intention to take the whole family as well. She’d have plenty of opportunity to cross paths with Michael morning, noon, and night. To strike up a conversation. Maybe he’d ask her to take a walk in the woods some evening. Maybe. Just maybe. A nudge from Rachel told her she’d done it again. Quickly, she fixed her gaze on Thomas, who perused the calendar book he always brought with him to the classes. “You’re right. I’ve lost track of the days.” Frowning, he shoved his hat back on his head. “I’ll talk with Luke and Silas about the dates. You’ll be told with plenty of time for prayerful consideration.” He stood. “Go. I don’t want any of you missing the service.” No one needed to be told again. Everyone popped up from the benches like wild horses set free from a corral. Rachel and Daniel traipsed ahead of Thomas, pretending they didn’t know each other from Adam when everyone in their tight circle of friends knew the two were leaving the singings together on Sunday nights. Phoebe hung back, wanting to give Michael a chance to say something—anything. Molly gave Phoebe a skeptical glance, sighed, and trudged after the others. A band tightened around Phoebe’s heart. The man her friend fancied would marry another in November. At least Phoebe still had hope. As far as she knew, Michael hadn’t shone his flashlight in anyone else’s window. “Molly, wait.” She slipped over and gave her friend a quick hug so she could whisper in her ear. “You’ll meet someone soon. Don’t worry.” “All in God’s time, right?” Molly sniffed and swiped at her nose. “For you too, right?” “Right.” Phoebe patted her back. “You’re such a good girl. You’ll see. It’ll all work out.” “It always does. God has a plan.” Molly managed a watery smile. “Anyway, I’d better get in there. My mudder’s waiting. Yours too, I expect.” “Aren’t you coming to the singing tonight?” “Nee. I don’t want to see…him.” Molly swiped at her nose again with the back of her sleeve. Her huge brown eyes fringed with dark lashes—her best feature—were bright and wet behind her brown-rimmed glasses. “I never have a handkerchief when I need one. Anyway, behave, friend. They’re watching, you know.” “I will.” Molly’s funk melted away and she chuckled, a soft, sweet sound that made Phoebe smile. “No you won’t, but you will try.” Looking like a chubby pheasant in her dark brown dress, she trudged toward the barn, her head down. “Cheer up,” Phoebe called. “Everything in its time. Isn’t that what they always say?” Molly flopped one hand in a wave, but she didn’t look back. Phoebe turned to find Michael staring at her, an odd expression on his face. She tugged at her apron, certain her kapp needed straightening. “Are you going in?” What a silly thing to ask. Of course he was. She might as well have commented on the weather. Hot, isn’t it? Michael stood, his tall, broad frame towering over her. His eyes, the color of the sky on an early spring morning, seemed to pierce her. “Did you understand what Thomas was saying?” “About gelassenheit?” She struggled to organize her thoughts. She’d heard her daed give dozens of sermons on the topic, but she hadn’t given it much thought. She’d spent her whole life yielding to a higher authority—mostly Daed’s. Still, she’d wanted to talk to Michael. Even if she didn’t get to pick the topic. “I think so. We’re supposed to yield to the will of God and be content about it.” “I wonder how we’re supposed to know what His will is.” Michael cocked his head, his forehead wrinkled under his Sunday service hat. Tufts of his dark—almost black—hair escaped under the brim. “Do you ever wonder that?” Phoebe generally left the talk of religion to those who understood these things better. She only knew what she felt. She might be hotheaded and hot-blooded by her folks’ standards, but she loved her Lord God and she loved her community in a speechless bigger-than-her sort of way. She was in a hurry, that was all. Her mudder said she had always been that way for the entire nineteen years of her life. Learning to walk and talk earlier than her bruders and schweschders. Learning to read sooner. Speaking English first. Always running to school instead of walking. “Nee, not really.” She traced a line in the dirt with the toe of her shoe. “I just do the best I can. I figure He’ll do the rest.” Michael smiled then, a brief smile so breathtaking Phoebe forgot how to move. She forgot how to breathe. She forgot the two languages she knew how to speak. Her mudder’s voice entreated her to always remember Gott watches. Gott knows. Before she could say anything or do anything, Michael started toward the barn. Her opportunity slipped through her fingers once again. “Michael, wait.” His long-legged pace slowed. He glanced back. “We don’t want to miss the sermon.” “Your family is going to Stockton Lake?” “Jah.” He halted and turned. “Yours too?” “Jah.” The pause lengthened. Say something, say something. She really wanted Michael to say the something that would lead to the next step. Whatever that next step turned out to be. She had no experience with this. Instead, he fixed her with a perplexed look as if he had no idea, either. “Then I guess we’ll see each other there.” “I guess we will.” He shifted from one foot to the other. She did the same. “Maybe we—” “We could—” “What’s going on here?” Phoebe’s daed strode toward them, his tall, wiry body backlit by the sun. At first she couldn’t see his expression, but she heard the surefire irk in his words. “Phoebe, get yourself into the service. Now.” “Nothing’s going on—” “Go.” “Daed—” “Phoebe.” The command in his voice sent her scurrying toward the barn. His gaze icy, he moved aside so she could pass. She’d finally exchanged more than two words with Michael, and her father was about to break the slim thread between them. “Daed, please.” She poured all the entreaty she could muster into the words. “We were just talking.” “When you should’ve been listening to the sermon.” She risked one last glance at Michael. He looked the same as always. Untroubled. Shoulders broad enough to bear the weight of the world. “I’m sorry. I had a question about the lesson,” he said. He wrapped his fingers around his suspenders, his expression earnest. “I held up Phoebe, thinking she could help me figure it out.” Her daed’s glare faded a little. “You should ask those questions of Thomas.” The growl in his voice dissolved. “Or me.” “I will.” The two men seemed to size each other up. Michael didn’t know her daed all that well. If he did, he’d look a whole lot more worried.