Authors: Shelley Shepard Gray
To Mary Keane
senior designer, HarperCollins:
Thank you for making my books come to life
Light shines on the godly, and joy on those whose hearts are right.
A house is made from walls and beams .Â .Â . a home is made of love and dreams.
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About the author
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About the book
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“Lizzie, your Randall Beiler is walking up the driveway,” Elizabeth's grandmother called out from her spot next to the living room's front window. “And I say, there is certainly a sharp look in his eyes. Mark my words, that's a young man with a mission on his mind.”
“Are you sure it's Randall, Mommi?” Elizabeth asked. “He didn't tell me he was coming calling today.”
Her grandmother chuckled as she stepped into the doorway of the blue and white kitchen. “I may not be too spry anymore, but I certainly can recognize Randall. And I've also seen a man with his look a time or two.”
“He looks serious and intent.”
“That doesn't sound like Randall.”
Her grandmother waggled her eyebrows. “Perhaps he's got something serious to ask you. I think I'll head on upstairs now. You can tell me all about his visit after he leaves.”
, Mommi.” Her grandmother really was a dear. Few other girls she knew were blessed with a grandmother who always seemed to know when to get involvedâand when to give a girl some privacy.
“Of course.” She pointed to Lizzie's cheek. “But you might want to brush off that flour before you greet him, dear.”
“Oh!” Quickly, she swiped a clean dishcloth over her face. Then, after wiping flour off her hands the best she could, Elizabeth quickly untied the other dish towel she'd fastened around her waist and hurried toward the front door.
Frigid air stung her cheeks as she leaned in the open doorway and watched Randall approach. Her
had been right. He was wearing a stocking cap, a thick black coatâand a very serious expression.
“I didn't know you were coming over today!” she called out. “It's a pleasant surprise.”
But for some reason, her cheerful greeting didn't tease an answering smile. “You should step inside, Elizabeth,” he replied with a sharp edge to his tone. “It's freezing out here and you don't have on a coat.”
. But I'll be fine.” She smiled at him. “You never used to be such a worrywart.”
He took the steps, one of his boots slipping slightly on the second one. “You need to salt. Where is it?”
“In the hall closet, I think. I'll salt the steps in a minute.”
“I'll do it for you now. Go get it, would you?”
“Sure.” After grabbing the pail and handing it to him, she watched him carefully spread salt on her front entryway, steps, and sidewalk. As she watched him concentrate on his chore, a warm, cozy feeling floated through her. Randall truly did care for her.
What would she have done without him?
Times had been mighty tough for the past eighteen months. Her mother had fallen in love and remarried, and, after much discussion, she'd moved to Lancaster County with Milton Eicher. Since the house where Elizabeth and her grandmother lived was paid for, they'd decided to stay in Sugarcreek. Her mother had left, promising to send money to pay for their bills and basic necessities.
And at first she had. But little by little, the money came a little later each month, and never quite as much. Elizabeth had taken in sewing for extra money, but it in no way covered the difference.
But in the midst of it all had been her romance with the exceptionally handsome, exceptionally charming Randall Beiler. They'd been dating for almost two years now, and everyone was waiting with bated breath for Randall to finally ask her to be his bride. And when he did? Why, her life would be perfect.
All of her financial troubles would be over. The Beilers were the wealthiest Amish family she knew of, and Randall was head of a construction crew. She was certain that when they married, they could sell the house, her grandmother and she could move into the sprawling Beiler house, and at last Elizabeth could start counting her blessings again.
“You need to keep up with the salt or you could get hurt, Elizabeth,” Randall said after he pulled off his boots and shut the door firmly behind him.
“At least I have you to keep me safe,” she teased, thinking there was no harm in flirting with him a little bit. Grabbing his hand, which was still covered in a thick, black wool glove, she tugged. “Come sit down in front of the fireplace. We can light a log and I'll make you some hot chocolate.”
For as long as she'd known him, hot chocolate with either whipped cream or her homemade marshmallows was his weakness. She'd always thought it was rather adorable. No one would have guessed that a man like Randall would have such a penchant for a children's drink.
“I can't have any of that. Not today.” He pulled off his stocking cap, revealing his dark blond hair, hair that was usually unruly, which he battled by cutting shorter than most Amish men.
After taking a moment to yet again reflect on how handsome he was, and that he really was hers, she tipped her head. “Oh?”
. See, I came over here because I had something to talk to you about.” He looked around. “Where's Anna Mae?”
“My grandmother is up in her room. Why?”
“I wanted some privacy.”
Afraid she wouldn't be able to keep her expression neutral, she turned and led the way into the hearth room. This was it, she realized.
He looked nervous and intent. He wanted privacy, and he had just cautioned her to be more careful with the ice on the steps because he didn't want her to get hurt.
He was going to propose!
Behind her, she heard Randall sigh and shrug out of his wool coat before he sat down beside her on the couch. So very happy, she scooted a little closer to his side.
“Your cheeks are pink, Randall,” she teased. Unable to help herself, she pressed her warm hands to his freshly shaved cheeks. “We need to warm you up.”
He closed his eyes for a brief moment before pulling her hands away from his cheeks. “Don't.”
“Why?” She scooted a little closer, so close that their legs were touching. “All I'm trying to do is warm you up. You're chilled to the bone!”
If anything, he looked even more uncomfortable, and shifted so he faced her. Then he cleared his throat. “Elizabeth, we need to talk.”
“Then talk. I'm listening.” Her pulse started fluttering. His brown eyes looked so serious. She never would have thought her easygoing Randall would be so nervous when he proposed.
Regardless, she knew she could hardly stop herself from smiling. Then she figured that there was no reason for her not to look happy. This was a moment she would always remember. Surely the happiest of her life.
Well, so far.
He met her shining gaze and frowned.
For the first time, she started to worry. Here she'd been thinking of her wants and needs .Â .Â . but he was a man who had a lot of responsibilities. “Randall, is something wrong?”
“I don't know.”
Her mind raced. “Did something happen to one of your siblings?” Both of Randall's parents had passed on to heaven. That meant he and his siblings had to look out for one another.
“No, it's nothing like that.” He cracked his knuckles. Fidgeted. “It's like this. We had a family meeting last night. Junior and Miriam are moving out. Her parents bought them a house near them.”
“I'm shocked! I never thought Junior would leave until your sister Kaylene was grown.”
“I was surprised, too. But you should see Junior's face. He's excited. He and Miriam are looking forward to having some privacy.”
“Well, they are newlyweds. I can see him and Miriam wanting a little bit of time to themselves. After all, your
is a busy place.” She smiled softly, thinking that she and Randall would probably be wanting the same thing. “Wait. Are you upset about him moving out?”
“I'm happy for him. But the timing is bad.”
. Beverly has already moved to Joe's house.”
Thinking of his pretty sister who had been flirting with Joe almost as long as she and Randall had courted, Elizabeth nodded. “I know. They're living with his family, in the new wing his parents built for them. That didn't come as a surprise, though. After all, Joe farms his family's land.”
“You're right. We did expect that.” Rubbing a spot on the back of his neck, he sighed. “But what no one expected was for my eldest sister, Claire, to move to Charm.”
She was beginning to feel like she was missing some kind of cryptic message. “Claire moved away almost two months ago.”
Randall shifted. Braced his hands on his knees. “Elizabeth, what I'm trying to say is that I need to take on most of the responsibilities around the house now. Micah is older, but he's preoccupied with his schooling.”
She wasn't surprised to hear him say such a thing. Micah Beiler wasn't just smart, he was close to being brilliant, or so everyone always said. He'd already earned his GED and was currently taking some correspondence courses from a nearby college.
It made sense for Randall to feel like he was now in charge of the family. “I understand,” she said gently.
“That means I need to step up more.”
“Uh-huh?” She still wasn't following him.
“What I'm trying to say is that we need to stop seeing each other.”
She blinked. Then blinked again in confusion. “I'm sorry, but what does everyone getting married and moving away have to do with us breaking up?”
“I'm needed at home.”
“Levi is sixteen, you know. And Kay? Kaylene is a handful.”
She smiled. “Randall, Kaylene is just a little girl.”
, but she needs someone to look out for her. It's my turn to do that.”
She still wasn't following. “But what about us?”
He shrugged. “I can't have everything.”
But if he left she would have nothing! A lump formed in her throat. “Randall, you must see how this looks from my point of view. You've been coming over here for months now. Years.”
“I know.” He stood up, looking more weary than ever. “I'm just thankful that we never did something that we would regret.”
“Like what?” She had dated him exclusively. She'd planned her future around him. Why, everyone had thought they'd be married by now! “Randall, we can't just quit.”