Amish triplets for chris.., p.1

Amish Triplets For Christmas (Amish Country Courtship Book 1), page 1

 part  #1 of  Amish Country Courtship Series

 

Amish Triplets For Christmas (Amish Country Courtship Book 1)
 

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Amish Triplets For Christmas (Amish Country Courtship Book 1)


  The Widower’s Christmas Gift

  Widowed father of triplets Sawyer Plank knows he has his hands full. After arriving in the Amish community of Willow Creek to help with the fall harvest, Sawyer asks schoolteacher Hannah Lantz to be his nanny. With a deaf grandfather to care for, the offer is more than just a job for Hannah—it’s a chance to fulfill her all-but-forgotten dream of being a mother. The children soon flourish under Hannah’s watch, and though Sawyer never dreamed he’d find happiness again, he can’t pretend he’s not falling for her, too. But with the holiday season heralding Sawyer’s return to Ohio, can he make his Christmas wish to stay a family come true?

  “Teacher!” Sarah gushed. “How we missed you yesterday!”

  “Guder mariye,” Hannah greeted them. “I am very glad to see you, too. You may put your books at your desks and go play outside before the bell is rung.”

  “Guder mariye, Hannah,” Sawyer said as the children cantered out the door. “How are you?”

  “I am glad to be back at school,” she admitted. Then, with a faraway note in her voice, she said, “I’m glad the kinner are coming home with me today. I truly missed their presence yesterday. Without them, I felt... I don’t know. I guess I might say I was at a loss.”

  Sawyer was flooded with a sense of warmth. “I was concerned your groossdaadi might not have wanted you to care for the kinner any longer,” he ventured. “I didn’t know what I would have done without you.”

  Hannah scrunched her eyebrows together. “Didn’t Doris take gut care of them?”

  “Jah, she did,” Sawyer replied. “It’s just that she’s not...”

  When he didn’t finish his sentence, Hannah inclined her head to meet his eyes. “She’s not what?” she asked.

  He leaned forward, so as not to be overheard. “She’s not you.”

  Carrie Lighte lives in Massachusetts, where her neighbors include several Mennonite farming families. She loves traveling and first learned about Amish culture when she visited Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, as a young girl. When she isn’t writing or reading, she enjoys baking bread, playing word games and hiking, but her all-time favorite activity is bodyboarding with her loved ones when the surf’s up at Coast Guard Beach on Cape Cod.

  Books by Carrie Lighte

  Love Inspired

  Amish Triplets for Christmas

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  AMISH TRIPLETS

  FOR CHRISTMAS

  Carrie Lighte

  And my God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus.

  —Philippians 4:19

  To my family,

  who always supports my creative endeavors,

  with thanks also to the Love Inspired team, especially Shana Asaro,

  for helping this dream become a reality.

  Contents

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Epilogue

  Dear Reader

  Excerpt from The Rancher’s Christmas Bride by Brenda Minton

  Chapter One

  Hannah Lantz rose from her desk, smoothed her skirt and forced her pale, delicate features into a smile. She didn’t want the little ones to know how distraught she was that she would no longer be their teacher once harvest season ended. Positioning herself in the doorway, she waited to greet the scholars, as school-aged children were known, when they climbed the stairs of the two-room schoolhouse where she herself had been taught as a child.

  Doris Hooley, the statuesque redheaded teacher who taught the upper-grade classes, stood on the landing, fanning herself with her hand. “It’s so hot today, you probably wish Bishop Amos and the school board decided to combine your class with mine immediately instead of waiting until late October.”

  “Neh,” Hannah replied, thinking about how desperately she and her grandfather needed the income she earned as a teacher. “I’m grateful they extended my position a little longer. It’s been a blessing to teach for the past eleven years, and I’m truly going to miss the scholars.”

  “Jah,” Doris agreed. “Such a shame so many young women from Willow Creek left when they married men from bigger towns in Lancaster County. Otherwise, enrollment wouldn’t have dwindled. Not that I blame them. Willow Creek isn’t exactly overflowing with suitable bachelors. That’s why I’m so eager to meet John Plank’s nephew from Ohio. Not only is he a wealthy widower, but I’ve heard he’s over six feet tall!”

  Hannah cringed at her remarks. Thirty-six-year-old Doris never exercised much discretion about her desire to be married, a trait that eventually earned her the nickname of “Desperate Doris” within their small Pennsylvania district. As an unmarried woman of twenty-nine years herself, Hannah thought the term was mean-spirited, although if pressed, she had to admit it was fitting in Doris’s case.

  “I believe John’s nephew is coming here to help with the harvest—not to meet a bride,” Hannah contradicted as a cluster of children trod barefoot across the yard, swinging small coolers in their hands.

  “That kind of pessimistic attitude is why you’re still unmarried,” Doris retorted, craning her neck to spy the first buggies rolling down the lane. “It isn’t every day the Lord brings an eligible man to Willow Creek, and I, for one, intend to show him how wilkom he is here.”

  Hannah gave her slender shoulders a little shrug. “I intend to show his kinner how wilkom they are,” she emphasized. “It can be difficult for young ones to start school in a new place. Besides, if it weren’t for their increasing the size of my class, there would have been no need for the school board to keep me on. You could have managed the rest of my scholars yourself.”

  As the children approached, Hannah considered whether Doris was right. Was she being pessimistic about the prospect of marriage? Or was she merely accepting God’s provision for her life? After all, she’d scarcely had any suitors when she was a teenager; her grandfather had seen to that. So what was the likelihood she’d find love in their diminishing district now, at this age?

  Even if she did meet someone she wished to marry, her grandfather was incapable of living alone and too stubborn to move out of his house. She couldn’t leave him, nor could she imagine any man being willing to live as her husband under her grandfather’s roof and rule.

  To her, it seemed only realistic to accept that no matter how much she may have yearned for it, her life wasn’t meant to include the love of a husband. And she had come to believe God wanted her to be content with teaching other people’s children rather than to be bitter about not having children of her own.

  In any case, she figured she had more urgent priorities than pursuing a stranger who was only visiting their community—like figuring out what she’d do to support her grandfather and herself once her teaching position ended.

  She shook her head to rid her mind of worrisome thoughts
. The Lord will provide, she reminded herself. When Eli and Caleb Lapp said good-morning, a genuine smile replaced Hannah’s forced one.

  “Guder mariye,” she returned their greeting enthusiastically as they clambered up the steps.

  After all the older students were accounted for, Doris sighed. “I guess the wealthy widower isn’t showing up today after all. Perhaps tomorrow.”

  She ducked into the building while Hannah waited for the final student to disembark her buggy. It was Abigail Stolzfus, daughter of Jacob Stolzfus, one of the few men Hannah had briefly walked out with when they were younger. But when he proposed to her almost nine years ago, she’d refused his offer.

  “One day, your pretty face will turn to stone,” he had taunted. “You’ll end up a desperate spinster schoolmarm like Doris Hooley.”

  She knew Jacob’s feelings had been hurt when he’d made those remarks, and she had long since forgiven his momentary cruelty. But this morning, she was surprised by how clearly his words rang fresh in her mind. Watching Jacob’s daughter, Abigail, skip along the path to the schoolhouse, Hannah couldn’t help but imagine what her life might have been like if she—instead of Miriam Troyer—had married him.

  Granted, she never felt anything other than a sisterly fondness for Jacob, so a marriage to him would have been one of convenience only, which was unacceptable to her, even if her grandfather had permitted it. But might it have been preferable to being on the brink of poverty, as she was now? Thinking about it, she could feel the muscles in her neck tighten and her pulse race.

  She chided herself to guard her thoughts against discontentment; otherwise, it would be her heart, not her face, that turned to stone. God had brought her through greater trials than losing her classroom. She trusted He must have something else in store for her now, too.

  She reached out and patted Abigail on the shoulder, smiling reflexively when the child grinned up at her and presented a jar of strawberry preserves.

  “Denki, Abigail. You know I have a weakness for strawberries!” she exclaimed, bending toward the girl. “Did you help your mamm make this?”

  “Jah,” Abigail replied. “I picked the berries, too.”

  “I will savor it with my sweet bread.”

  As the girl continued toward her desk, Hannah reached to shut the door behind her.

  “Don’t!” a deep voice commanded.

  Startled, Hannah whirled around to find a tall sandy-haired man holding the door ajar with his boot. His broad shoulders seemed to fill the door frame, and she immediately released the handle as if she’d touched a hot stove.

  * * *

  “Excuse us,” Sawyer Plank apologized in a softer tone. He stepped aside, revealing three towheaded children who each looked to be about seven years old. “Sarah, Samuel and Simon are to begin school today.”

  He watched the fear melt from the woman’s expression as she surveyed the triplets. “Wilkom. I’m Hannah Lantz,” she said, as much to them as to him.

  “Guder mariye,” the three children chorused.

  “I’m Sawyer Plank,” he explained. “Nephew of John Plank.”

  “Of course.” She nodded, tipping her chin upward to look at him. He couldn’t help but notice something sorrowful about her intensely blue eyes, despite her cheerful tone. “We’ve been expecting you.”

  “I apologize for being late,” Sawyer said. Then, so quietly as to be a whisper, he confided, “I had to fix Sarah’s hair myself, and it took longer than I expected.”

  Hannah narrowed her eyes quizzically.

  “I’m afraid my hands are better suited for making cabinets than for arranging a young girl’s hair.” He held out his rough, square hands, palms up, as if to present proof.

  Hannah’s eyes darted from them to Sarah’s crooked part. “You’ve done well,” she commented graciously, although he noticed she was biting her lip. “Sarah, please take a seat next to Abigail Stolzfus, at the front of the class. Samuel and Simon, you may sit at the empty desks near the window.”

  Sawyer thrust a small paper bag that was straining at the seams in Hannah’s direction. “It’s their lunch,” he explained, still speaking in a low tone so as not to be heard by the children.

  “My onkel made it because, as you may know, my ant is deceased, so I’m not sure what the lunch consists of. Ordinarily my youngest sister, Gertrude, takes care of such things in Ohio. She would have accompanied us here, too, but shortly before my onkel broke his leg, it was nearing time for my eldest sister, Kathryn, to deliver her bobbel, so Gertrude traveled to Indiana to keep her household running smoothly.”

  Although he was usually a private man of few words, Sawyer couldn’t seem to stop himself from rambling to the petite, dark-haired teacher whose eyes were so blue they nearly matched the shade of violet dress she wore beneath her apron.

  “I’m not much of a farmer, but as soon as I heard John needed help, I put my foreman in charge of the shop,” he continued, neglecting to add that the timing couldn’t have been worse, since he had just lost one of his carpenters to an Englisch competitor who constantly threatened to put Sawyer out of business. “The kinner and I immediately set out for Pennsylvania. We only arrived on Saturday evening.”

  He was quiet as he wiped the sweat from his brow with his sleeve.

  “It was gut of you to come help your onkel during harvest season,” Hannah commented. “If there’s nothing else, I will see to it the kinner divide the lunch evenly between them.”

  Sawyer sensed he was being dismissed, and he was only too relieved for the opportunity to end the conversation. “I won’t be late picking them up,” he muttered as he turned to leave.

  Once he was in his buggy, he flicked the reins with one hand and simultaneously slapped his knee in disgust with the other. What was wrong with him, babbling on about Sarah’s hair and his work as a cabinetmaker? No doubt Hannah Lantz thought he was vain as well as tardy.

  He hadn’t meant to sound boastful about dropping everything in Blue Hill in order to help his uncle, either. John was family and family helped each other, no matter what. Just like when John came to Ohio and kept the shop running smoothly after Sawyer’s mother and father died six years earlier, and again when he lost his beloved wife, Eliza, three years later. It was an honor—not a burden—to assist his uncle now. He only wished Gertrude hadn’t gone to Indiana, so the children could have stayed in Ohio with her. Sarah had had nightmares ever since Gertrude left, and the boys had grown so thin without her cooking.

  But he knew there was no sense focusing on the way he wished things were. In all these years, no amount of regret had ever brought his Eliza back. He trusted God’s timing and plans were always perfect, even if they were sometimes painful to endure. His duty was to accept the circumstances set before him.

  But that didn’t mean he couldn’t try to make a difficult situation better. As the horse clopped down the lane to his uncle’s farm, Sawyer devised a plan so he could spend as many hours as possible in the fields. If the weather and crops cooperated, he’d help finish harvesting in six weeks instead of eight or more, so his family could return to Ohio at the first opportunity.

  * * *

  As the children barreled outside for lunch hour, the paper bag Simon was carrying split down the middle, spilling the Planks’ unwrapped cheese and meat sandwiches onto the ground, so Hannah invited the children to join her for sweet bread inside the classroom. She marveled at how quickly they devoured the bread and preserves.

  “Do you have such appetites in Ohio?” she inquired, aware the children seemed thinner than most.

  “Ant Gertrude doesn’t bake bread like this,” Samuel said, his cheeks full. “She says it’s because her mamm died before she could learn her the best way to make it.”

  “Before she could teach her,” Sarah corrected.

  “Our mamm died, too,” off
ered Simon seriously. “She’s with the Lord.”

  “As is my mamm,” Hannah murmured.

  “Did your mamm teach you how to make bread before she died?” asked Samuel.

  “Neh, but my groossmammi did. See? Gott always provides.”

  “I wish I had a groossmammi to teach me.” Sarah sighed. “Daed said Groossmammi died when we were as little as chicks that didn’t even have their feathers yet.”

  “I’m happy to share my bread with you,” Hannah told Sarah. “Eating it is better than baking it anyway. Now that you’re done, why don’t you go outside and play with the other kinner.”

  Doris passed them as they exited. “What darling little things,” she remarked to Hannah. “They must be triplets.”

  “Jah. Their names are Samuel, Sarah and Simon Plank,” Hannah replied.

  “So you’ve met the wealthy widower?”

  “He has a name, too. It’s Sawyer. We spoke briefly this morning.”

  “What did you think of him?” wheedled Doris. “Give me your honest opinion.”

  “Well, I didn’t have my tape measure with me, so I can’t confirm whether he’s over six feet tall,” Hannah answered evasively, although she knew exactly what Doris was getting at.

  “Schnickelfritz!” Doris taunted. “I meant, what did you think of him as a potential suitor?”

  “I didn’t think of him as a potential suitor,” Hannah emphasized. “I thought of him as the daed of my scholars, a nephew of John Plank and a guest in our district.”

  “He’s not to your liking, then?” Doris persisted.

  “I didn’t say that!” Hannah was too exasperated to elaborate.

  Fortunately, she didn’t have to, as Eli opened the door at that moment, yawping, “Caleb got hit with a ball and it knocked his tooth out.”

  Doris covered her mouth with the back of her hand. “You’ll have to handle it,” she directed Hannah. “You know that kind of thing makes me woozy.”

 
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