The Amish Midwife (Thorndike Press Large Print Gentle Romance)

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9781410484314: The Amish Midwife (Thorndike Press Large Print Gentle Romance)
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When reclusive bachelor Joseph Lapp is left to tend to his infant niece, he looks to his neighbor Anne Stoltzfus for help and hopes they can put their differences aside.

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About the Author:

 USA Today best-selling author Patricia Davids was born and raised in Kansas. After forty years as an NICU nurse, Pat switched careers to become an inspirational writer. She enjoys spending time with her daughter and grandchildren, traveling and playing with her dogs, who think fetch should be a twenty-four hour a day game. When not on the road or throwing a ball, Pat is happily dreaming up new stories.

 

Excerpt. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved.:

"You miserable alt gayse. Oh, no, you don't. Not again!" Anne Stoltzfus shot to her feet when she spotted the intruder working his way under the fence beyond her red barn. She stepped closer to the kitchen window. He was almost through.

"What's wrong?" Roxann Shield remained seated at Anne's kitchen table, her eyes wide with concern.

"It's Joseph Lapp's old goat. He's getting into my garden. I'm not going to lose the last of my precious tomatoes or another prized pumpkin to that thief."

Anne dashed out into the cool morning. Flying down the steps, she raced toward the rickety fence separating her garden plots from her cantankerous neighbor's farm, yelling as she ran. "Out! Get out of there!"

Her nemesis was halfway under the fence when she reached him. Armed with only a kitchen towel, she flew into battle, flapping her weapon in the black-and-brown billy goat's face. The culprit tried to retreat, but his curved horns snagged in the sagging wire. The more he struggled to escape her attack, the more tangled he became. He bleated his misery as loud as he could.

Anne stopped flapping when she recognized his dilemma. He couldn't go forward and he couldn't go back. She rested her hands on her hips as she scowled at him. She heard laughter behind her. Looking over her shoulder, she saw Roxann doubled over with mirth on her front steps.

Anne turned her attention back to the goat. "I should leave you here. It would serve you right to spend the night with your head stuck in the fence."

Feeling sorry for the goat was the last thing she wanted to do, but he did appear miserable sprawled on his belly with his head cocked at an awkward angle. His eyes were wide with fear and his mouth hung open. She looked about for his owner, but Joseph Lapp was nowhere to be seen. Of course he wasn't. Trust her neighbor to be absent when his animal was misbehaving. That was usually the case.

How many times had his goats managed to get in her garden and eat her crops? More than she cared to count. More than she could afford to lose. Each time she drove them out, she bit her tongue to keep from telling Joseph Lapp exactly what she thought of his smelly horde. Her Amish faith required that she forgive grievances, but enough was enough. If the man didn't repair his fences soon, she was going to have a word with Bishop Andy about Joseph's poor stewardship. She didn't want to cause trouble, but she was tired of being on the losing end of the situation.

However satisfying a conversation with the bishop might be, it didn't solve her current problem. The goat continued bleating pitifully. A number of other goats looked over their pens to see what was going on. Anne waited for Joseph to appear, but he didn't. She studied the billy goat for a long moment.

"If you are to be free, I reckon I'll have to do it. Remember this kindness and stay out of my garden."

"Be careful," Roxann called out.

Crouching in front of the goat, Anne put her hand on his head and pushed down so she could untangle his horns. She wrinkled her nose at his stench. Why did he smell so bad? If she had a garden hose handy, she would bathe him before she let him up. Maybe that would deter him from visiting next time. He struggled harder but she was only able to unhook one horn. "Hold still, you wicked animal."

Suddenly, the goat surged forward. His second horn popped free and he made a break for it, barreling into Anne. The impact toppled her backward into her precious tomato plants. Although it was mid-October, the vines still bore huge red fruit, the very last of the summer's bounty and a sure cash crop at her produce stand. She sat in openmouthed shock as the feeling of squished tomatoes beneath her soaked through her dress. So much for a goat's gratitude.

She shook her fist at him. "You miserable, ungrateful beast!"

"Do you need a hand?"

The mildly amused voice came from the far side of the fence. Joseph Lapp stood with his arms crossed on his chest and one hand cupped over his mouth.

He was a tall, brawny man with wide shoulders and muscular arms. A straw hat pulled low on his brow covered his light blond hair. The wide brim cast a shadow across his gray eyes, but she knew he was laughing at her. Again. They rarely shared a conversation, but he was always finding some amusement at her expense. Did he enjoy seeing her suffer?

She scrambled to her feet. "I don't need a hand. I need you to keep your goats out of my garden. Unless you keep them in, I'm going to complain to the bishop."

Joseph walked to the gate between their properties a few yards away and opened it. "Do what you must. Chester, koom"

The billy goat snatched a mouthful of pumpkin leaves and trotted toward the gate. He walked placidly through the opening, but Anne saw the gleam in his beady black eyes when he looked over his shoulder at her. He would be back. Well, she wouldn't be so kind to him next time. It wouldn't be a kitchen towel. She'd find a stout stick.

Joseph closed and latched the gate. "I will pay for the tomatoes. Just throw the ruined ones over the fence."

She brushed off her stained maroon dress and glared at him. "I'm not going to reward that mangy animal with my fresh tomatoes, even if they are ruined. He'll only come back wanting more."

"Suit yourself. If I can't have them, I won't pay for them."

"Are you serious?" Her mouth dropped open in shock. She took a step toward him and planted her bare foot in another tomato. The pulp oozed between her toes.

"You sat on them. Chester didn't." Joseph turned to walk away.

Furious, Anne plucked the closest whole tomato and threw it with all her might. It hit Joseph squarely between the shoulder blades, splattering in a bright red blob where his suspenders crossed his white shirt.

Horrified, she pressed her hands to her mouth. She had actually hit the man.

Joseph flexed his shoulders. Bits of broken tomato dropped to the ground. Chester jumped on the treats and gobbled them up. Joseph turned to glare at Anne.

She didn't wait to hear what he had to say. She fled to the house as fast as her shaky legs could carry her. She dashed past Roxann and stopped in the center of her kitchen with her hands pressed to her cheeks.

"What a great throw." Roxann came in, still chuckling. "Did you see the look on his face?"

"In all the years I played baseball as a kinner, no one wanted me on their team. I couldn't hit the broad side of the barn when I threw a ball. But today I struck my neighbor."

"You didn't hurt him with a tomato."

"You don't understand." How could she? Roxann was Englisch. She didn't have to live by the strict rules of Anne's Amish faith.

Roxann stopped giggling. "Will you get into trouble for it? I know the Amish practice nonviolence, but you weren't trying to hurt him."

"I struck him in anger. That is not permitted. Ever. If Joseph goes to the bishop or to the church elders, it will be cause for a scandal. I'm so ashamed."

Roxann slipped her arm over Anne's shoulder. "I'm sure Mr. Lapp will forgive you. You are only human. Put it out of your mind and let's finish these reports. You and the other Amish midwives are doing a wonderful job. Your statistics will help me show the administration at my hospital that our outreach education program is paying off. Our funding is running out soon. If we're going to continue educating midwives and the public, we have to prove the benefits outweigh the cost."

Roxann, a nurse-midwife and educator, was determined to improve relations between the medical community and the Amish midwives, who were considered by some doctors to be unskilled and untrained. It was far from the truth.

Anne allowed her mentor and friend to lead her back to the table and resume the review of Anne's cases for the year. Glancing out the kitchen window, Anne looked for Joseph, but he wasn't in sight. She nibbled on her bottom lip. Was he going to make trouble for her?

A full harvest moon, a bright orange ball the color of Anne's pumpkins, was creeping over the hills to the east. The sight made Joseph smile as he closed the barn door after finishing his evening milking. It had been two days since the tomato incident, but he still found himself chuckling at the look on Anne's face when she'd realized what she'd done. From shock to horror to mortification, her expressive features had displayed it all. She might be an annoying little woman, but she did provide him with some entertainment. Especially where his goats were concerned. Her plump cheeks would flush bright red and her green-gray eyes would flash with green fire when she chased his animals. She was no match against their nimbleness, but that didn't keep her from trying.

Goats enjoyed getting out of their pens. Some of them were masters of the skill. Was it his fault that the best forage around was in her garden plot?

It wasn't his intention to make life harder for the woman. He planned to mend his fence, but there simply weren't enough hours in the day. Now that the harvest was done, his corn cribs were full and his hay was safe in the barn, he would find time to make the needed repairs. Tomorrow for sure.

He was halfway to the house when the lights of a car swung off the road and into his lane. He stopped in midstride. Who could that be? He wasn't expecting anyone. Certainly not one of the Englisch.

Most likely, it was someone who had taken a wrong turn on the winding rural Pennsylvania road looking for his neighbor's place. It happened often enough to be irritating. His farm was remote and few cars traveled this way until Anne Stoltzfus had opened her produce stand. Now, with her large hand-painted sign out by the main highway and an arrow pointing this direction, he sometimes saw a line of cars on the road heading to buy her fresh-picked corn, squash and now pumpkins. Since the beginning of October, it seemed every Englisch in the countssy wanted to buy pumpkins from her. He would be glad when she closed for the winter.

He didn't resent that Anne earned a living working the soil in addition to being a midwife. He respected her for that. He just didn't like people. Some folks called him a recluse. It didn't matter what they called him as long as they left him alone. He cherished the peace and quiet of his small farm with only his animals for company, but that peace was broken now by the crunching of car tires rolling over his gravel drive. From the barn behind him, he heard several of his goats bleating in curiosity.

Whoever these people were, they should know better than to come shopping at an Amish farm after dark. Anne's stand would be closed until morning. The car rolled to a stop a few feet from him. He raised his hand to block the glare of the headlights. He heard the car door open, but he couldn't see anything. "Hello, brooder!'

His heart soared with joy at the sound of that familiar and beloved voice. "Fannie?" "Ja."

His little sister had come home at last. He had prayed for this day for three long years. Prayed every night before he laid his tired body down. She was never far from his thoughts. Still blinded by the lights, he took a step forward. He wanted to hug her, to make sure she was real and not some dream. "I can't believe it's you. Gott be praised."

"It's me, right enough, Joe. Johnny, turn off the lights."

Something in the tone of her voice made Joseph stop. Johnny, whoever he was, did as she asked. Joseph blinked in the sudden darkness. He wanted so badly to hear her say she was home for good. "I knew you would come back. I knew when your rumspringa ended, you would give up the Englisch life and return. Your heart is Amish. You don't belong in the outside world. You belong here."

"I haven't come back to stay, Joe." The regret in her voice cut his joy to shreds. He heard a baby start to cry.

After few seconds, his eyes adjusted and he could make out Fannie standing beside the open door of the vehicle. The light from inside the car didn't reveal his Amish sister. Instead, he saw an Englisch girl with short spiky hair, wearing a tight T-shirt and a short denim skirt. He might have passed her on the street without recognizing her, so different did she look. No Amish woman would be seen in such immodest clothes. It was then he realized she held a baby in her arms.

What was going on?

He had raised Fannie alone after their parents and his fiancée were killed in a buggy and pickup crash. He'd taken care of her from the time she was six years old until she disappeared a week after she turned sixteen, leaving only a note to say she wanted an Englisch life. For months afterward, he'd waited for her to return and wondered what he had done wrong. How had he failed her so badly? It had to be his fault.

It was hard to speak for the tightness that formed in his throat. "If you aren't staying, then why are you here?"

The driver, a young man with black hair and a shiny ring in the side of his nose, leaned toward the open passenger-side door. "Come on, Fannie, we don't have all night. Get this over with."

"Shut up, Johnny. You aren't helping." She took a few steps closer to Joseph. "I need your help, brooder. There's no one else I can turn to."

Were those tears on her face? "What help can I give you? I don't have money."

"I don't want your money. I... T want you to meet someone. This is my daughter. Your niece. Her name is Leah. I named her after our mother."

"You have a bubbel?" Joseph reeled in shock. He still thought of his sister as a little girl skipping off to school or playing on their backyard swing, not someone old enough to be a mother. He gestured toward the car with a jerk of his head. "Is this man your husband?"

"We're not married yet, but we will be soon," she said in a rush.

"Soon?" Had she come to invite him to the wedding?

"Ja. As soon as Johnny gets this great job he has waiting for him in New York. He's a musician and I'm a singer. He has an audition with a big-time group. It could be our lucky break. Just what I need to get my career going."

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