Read An Excerpt

A PLACE OF PEACE
by Amy Clipston

Genre: Contemporary Romance, Inspirational

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The clip-clop of hooves drew Miriam’s attention to the end of the dirt lane. A buggy she didn’t recognize bounced toward the cabin.

Standing, Miriam set her glass on the small table next to the swing and then cracked open the front door. “Aenti,” she called. “Are you expecting company?”

“No, dear,” Edna replied from the bedroom. “I’m going to bathe and head to bed. If it’s for me, tell them I’m sleeping.”

Miriam smiled and shook her head. When Edna decided she was done for the evening, there were no discussions.

The horse and buggy steered up to the cabin, stopping near her Honda. Assuming the visitor was Zach, showing off one of his new buggy designs, Miriam stood at the railing while the driver wrenched the door open and unfolded his lean body from the seat. However, the man appeared to be too tall, and his hair was too blond to be Zach’s.

When he turned and faced her, Miriam’s mouth gaped in response to finding Timothy’s piercing blue eyes focused on her. He gave a slight smile and then tied the horse to the hitching post.

She absently smoothed her frock and then touched her kapp, making certain it was straight and her hair was neat. Shaking her head, she wondered why she was so worried about her appearance when her looks didn’t seem to matter to him four years ago.

Timothy made his way to the bottom of the stairs, and she took a deep breath, hoping her voice wouldn’t sound timid and her throat wouldn’t dry as they had when he came to the bakery earlier.

Wie geht’s,” he said, leaning on the railing at the bottom of the steps. “May I visit with you?”

Ya.” She made a sweeping gesture toward the porch chairs. “Would you like a glass of water?”

Danki. That sounds nice.” He gave her his electric smile, the genuine one she remembered from long ago, and her knees wobbled in response.

“Make yourself comfortable. I’ll be right back.” Her heart thumping in her chest, Miriam rushed into the kitchen and filled a glass with ice and water.

When she returned to the porch, Timothy was seated in the chair next to the swing, turning his straw hat around in his hands like a Frisbee. When his eyes met hers, he popped the hat back onto his head.

She handed him the glass and lowered herself onto the swing, lifting her drink from the small table between them.

“I reckon we may get a storm,” he said before sipping the water. “Those clouds look mighty threatening.”

Ya,” she said, clutching her glass and running her fingers through the cool condensation.

His eyes met hers, and her cheeks flamed in response. When he smiled, she cut her gaze to the toes of her black sneakers. Why did the mere sight of his face turn her into a shy little girl?

“You still make the best crumbly peach pie in Lancaster County,” he said.

Danki,” she whispered, still studying her shoes.

“How do you like working at the bakery?”

“It’s fun.” Staring out at the field, she took a sip of her drink, hoping it would wet her parched throat. Why did her throat have to betray her now when she needed confidence?

The rumbling thunder sounded closer and drizzles of rain sprinkled the path leading up to the porch.

“Are you moving back here?” he asked, breaking the silence.

She looked at him, finding his eyes searching hers. “I’m not certain. Right now, I’m taking my vacation time from work, so I can spend time with Hannah and help Edna. Her arthritis has progressed, and she can’t bake anymore. I’m working at the bakery to help her out. I plan to give her my paychecks.”

“How long is your vacation?”

“Two weeks,” she said.

They stared at each other in silence for a moment, and Miriam wished she could read his mind. Her thoughts flashed to him and Naomi together at the funeral and then at the bakery.

Thunder rolled louder, and the drizzle transformed to a light rain.

“Are you courting Naomi?” she asked before she could stop the words from leaving her lips.

Ya,” he answered quickly. “How about you?”

She shook her head. “I’m not seeing anyone. I’ve been alone for four years now.”

He snorted. “Do you expect me to believe that?” His smile was wry.

“Excuse me?” She turned her body to face him.

“Please, Miriam.” He faced the field, and lightning flashed across the night sky while the rain beat a rhythm on the roof above them. “I’m not stupid.”

“I never said you were.” She placed her glass on the table. “Timothy, I’m sorry, but I’m not sure what you’re implying.”

“Lilly told me.” When his eyes met hers again, they were full of anger and hurt.

“She told you what?” Miriam searched his expression, trying to read where his anger had originated.

“That you left to go live with your pen pal in Indiana.” He shook his head in disgust.

“What?” Miriam stood up like a shot just as thunder crashed above them, shaking the porch beneath her feet. “What pen pal?”

“The man you met through a personal advertisement or something like that.” He took a long gulp of water.

Miriam paced back and forth. “Lilly told you that? My sister?” She stopped, facing him. “It’s not true, Timothy. It’s not true at all. I left because you were seeing Annie Raber behind my back. I thought that since you didn’t love me, I had no reason to stay here. That’s why I went ahead with pursuing my dream of living among the English and going to school.”

“Annie Raber?” His eyebrows knitted in confusion. “That maedel who worked with my mamm for a short time? I hardly even knew her, Miriam.”

Tears of anger and disgust flooded her eyes. “I saw you with her one time. You—you—you were holding her hand as she walked down the porch stairs. I saw it with my own eyes, Timothy!” Trembling, she stammered over her words and wished she could speak with confidence. Oh, she hated when she got upset and stuttered!

“Holding her hand?” He got a faraway look in his eyes as if trying to remember something. “She slipped on the wet kitchen floor one time and twisted her ankle. Maybe that was why, but I never was courting her behind your back. I wasn’t seeing anyone behind your back, Miriam. I would never do that. Ever.” He enunciated the word as more thunder crashed, louder this time.

“But that’s not it.” She swiped her tears as more flowed from her eyes, her body shaking so hard that she was sure he could see it. “I also heard that you told some others you couldn’t marry a maedel who wasn’t pretty enough. You said I had a body like a twelve-year-old boy because I’m so skinny.”

The rain beat harder above them, and drops sprayed the back of Miriam’s body.

“Who told you that?” He stood beside her.

“Lilly,” she breathed the name, trying to control her tears.

“That’s not true.” He stomped his foot for emphasis. “I never, ever said that about you. None of it is true. I never saw Annie behind your back, and I never said you weren’t pretty enough. I loved you. I loved you with everything I had and thought you were the most beautiful woman in the world.”

Miriam bit her lip and stared into his eyes, finding truth in them.

Lightning flashed, lighting up the porch like the midday sun, and then thunder crashed, shaking the porch and causing Miriam to shriek with a start.

Timothy reached out and took her hands in his, and something sparked between them, sending liquid heat coursing through Miriam’s veins.

She gasped, pulling her hands back.

She stared into his eyes, and the time they had spent together flashed before her like a movie. All of the love she’d felt for him in the past boiled up in her soul, and she wanted to reach out and hug him.

Instead, she stood still and held his gaze as his blue eyes studied hers.

“We were fed lies,” he whispered, his gaze so intense that her breath paused.

Speechless, she nodded.