Enjoy chapter one from Laura V. Hilton’s A Harvest of Hearts. Make sure you enter below to win a copy!
Something brushed against her hair, just above her left ear. Shanna Stoltzfus swatted at it. When she touched flesh, she jumped, her attempts to pray forgotten, and raised her head from the steering wheel in time to see maple stained fingers, complete with calluses and a small cut.
The hand pulled back.
“Is something wrong? Are you hurt?” a deep voice asked.
She looked up into incredible gray eyes belonging to a drop-dead gorgeous Amish man. He grasped his straw hat in the long fingers of his right hand. His light brown hair shone with natural-blond highlights. She’d paid big bucks for streaks like those. Strong, clean-shaven jaw. Nice. Too bad he hadn’t been around when she was Amish. She would have definitely noticed a hunk like this. Might have even considered staying.
“Lost, maybe? I can direct you back to the main road. Where did you want to go?”
“Anyplace but here. Mexico sounds good.” She swallowed her trepidation, and aimed what she hoped was a wry smile toward him as an accompaniment to her words. Shanna reached for the door handle, and he stepped out of the way. “You must be the house guest Mamma mentioned in her letters. Matthew Yoder from Pennsylvania?” She swung her legs out of the car and extended a hand. “I’m Shanna.”
“Shanna.” He seemed to freeze. A little smile played on his lips. “Shanna,” he repeated.
Shanna didn’t know quite what to think. He said her name as if it meant something special. Then he blinked.
“I’m Matthew, jah.”
He held out his hand, but before he touched hers, her gaze fixed on his maple stained fingers. He hesitated and rubbed them together as if to check to see if the stain was still damp. Then he pulled back. “Shanna.”
His tongue seemed to trip over her name this time. Or maybe he’d heard some negative things about her. Her stomach churned. She shouldn’t be here. But where else could she go?
“I guess they are expecting you?”
“No. Not really.” Shanna stood and tilted her head up. The top of her head barely reached his jaw.
His gaze skimmed over her. She wondered what he thought as he studied her faded jeans, t-shirt, and flip-flops. She looked down at her toenails. Good, they were covered in pink polish. Except… one of her big toes had a huge missing chunk of the hot pink color. She wished she could reach for the bottle and repair the damage. As his gaze traveled back up, she repressed the urge to smooth her hair. It wouldn’t have done much good anyway. She’d driven the whole way with the windows down, so it would be hopelessly tangled.
His forehead wrinkled and there was no hint of recognition in his eyes when they returned to her face.
“You have no idea who I am, do you?”
Matthew raised his eyebrows and his gaze met hers. “No. Should I?”
Unexpected pain shot through her. Daed had made good on his threat to reject her. “Figures. He probably said nobody could mention my name. I’m surprised he allowed Mamma to write. Or maybe he doesn’t know.”
Confusion flashed across Matthew’s face. “So you think your Mamma lives here, and she isn’t expecting you?” He shook his head, his lips curling into a sympathetic half smile. “This is the home of Levi and Deborah…”
“Stoltzfus. Yes. I know. And I’m their oldest daughter.”
Matthew’s smile slipped and he blinked, cutting off her view of those gray eyes for a brief moment.
“You know, you have beautiful eyes.” She stepped closer then turned to shut the car door. “My things are in the back. But I guess maybe we should leave them there until we find out if I’m allowed to stay. Mamma said I would be welcome, but Daed has the final say, you know.” She resisted the urge to bite her lip and tried to force the fear over the upcoming confrontation out of her mind. It didn’t work. And since her little brothers and sisters weren’t gathered around welcoming her… Was her family even home? She looked around for the buggy, or some sign of life other than the handsome Matthew. She didn’t notice any.
“Jah. Probably should wait.” He blinked again as she turned to face him.
“Well, shall we?” She walked past him, around the front of the car, and toward the porch. At the top step she hesitated and glanced back. Matthew stood where she’d left him, openly watching her. He didn’t even try to hide it by looking away. A shiver worked through her, but she ignored it. He’d probably never met anyone like her before. Daed always said she was too outspoken. She sighed. “I guess I should ask. Where is Daed?”
He motioned behind him. “In the shop.”
“Good.” Postponing the meeting with Daed meant that if he wouldn’t allow her to stay, she’d at least get to see Mamma and her little sisters before she was kicked off the property.
Shanna hoped this gorgeous Amish man wouldn’t witness that humiliation. In fact, under his intense gaze, she felt ashamed of her modern clothes. Under dressed. Like showing up at a formal event wearing boxer shorts and a paint-splattered t-shirt.
Did Mamma still keep Shanna’s Amish clothes hanging in her bedroom closet?
She scowled and swung around, giving him a view of her backside. It would take more than a good-looking man to get her to change into Amish clothes. She couldn’t wait to leave the Amish life behind and she wouldn’t return to it. No way.
Well, not for longer than the summer. If Daed let her stay.
And if he wouldn’t? She’d deal with that when the time came.
More about A Harvest of Hearts
Matthew Yoder volunteered to be part of the swap of Amish men from his Old Order Pennsylvania Amish Community, to the Amish community in Seymour, Missouri. There is nothing for him in Pennsylvania, as the youngest of twelve children, and the lack of farmland around Lancaster County, he felt he could make a better future in another district. Shanna Stoltzfus has been raised Amish, and couldn’t wait for her rumspringa so she could pursue her education. She hated having to quit school in the 8th grade to stay home and learn everything that makes a home run smoothly. But now she has earned her GED and is taking college courses, but her family is begging her to come home; her little sisters miss her. And there’s something about newcomer, Matthew Yoder that draws her attention. But is it enough to give up her dreams of education and join the Amish church?
Laura V. Hilton is an award-winning, sought-after author with almost twenty Amish, contemporary, and historical romances. When she’s not writing, she reviews books for her blogs, and writes devotionals for blog posts for Seriously Write and Putting on the New.
Laura and her pastor-husband have five children and a hyper dog named Skye. They currently live in Arkansas. One son is in the U.S. Coast Guard. She is a pastor’s wife, and homeschools her two youngest children.
When she’s not writing, Laura enjoys reading, and visiting lighthouses and waterfalls. Her favorite season is winter, her favorite holiday is Christmas.