Threatened. Orphaned. On the run.
With no one else to turn to, these two terrified sisters can only hope their Amish aunt will take them in. But the quaint Amish community of Unity, Maine, is not as safe as it seems.
FREE BONUS EBOOK: Includes an exclusive free sequel novelette, not available anywhere else: Esther’s Amish Secret.
After Charlotte Cooper’s parents die and her abusive ex-fiancé threatens her, the only way to protect her younger sister Zoe is by faking their deaths and leaving town.
The sisters’ only hope of a safe haven lies with their estranged Amish aunt in Unity, Maine, where their mother grew up before she left the Amish. Aunt Esther agrees to shelter the sisters, even though it means risking that a dark secret she has carefully kept for years might be uncovered in the process.
Charlotte and her sister move in with their aunt and try to blend in with the Amish, even dressing like them, hoping their disguise will protect them.
Elijah Hochstettler, the family’s handsome farmhand, grows closer to Charlotte as she digs up dark family secrets that her mother kept from her. As Charlotte falls even more in love with Elijah, she struggles with a dangerous secret of her own that she is keeping from him.
When someone plays several sick pranks on Charlotte and many Amish homes are robbed, she suspects her ex has tracked her down and is playing mind games with her.
Or is it someone inside the community who wants her gone?
Also in this series:
Undercover Amish (book 1)
Amish Under Fire (book 2)
Amish Amnesia (book 3)
This series can be read in any order.
Targeted Age Group:: adult
Heat/Violence Level: Heat Level 1 – G Rated Clean Read
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
I stayed with Amish families and was inspired by their simple way of life, and I wanted to write books to portray their lifestyle. They value family, faith, and quality time together above all else. We can all learn something from the Amish.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
When I stayed with Amish families, I made several friends, and most of the characters in this book are based on the Amish people I met in Unity, Maine, and they even share first names.
“Mom, are we there yet?” nine-year-old Charlotte Cooper asked from the back seat of her parents’ van. Her legs pumped up and down in anticipation. Mom had said they were going to a farm where her aunt lived, and she couldn’t wait to see the animals. The ride was taking forever.
“Just a few more minutes, honey,” Mom said from the driver’s seat.
Charlotte put her coloring book down and patted the lollipop in her pocket Mommy had given her for the trip. She was tempted to eat it now but decided to save it for the ride home. She hoped it wouldn’t melt in her pocket. The van was hot even though she was wearing shorts and her favorite pink princess T-shirt. Charlotte shoved her damp blonde curls out of her eyes.
The van passed a yellow diamond-shaped sign that had a black silhouette of a horse and carriage on it. “Mommy, what does that sign mean?”
“It’s a warning to drive slowly because there are horses and buggies on the road here.”
“What? Horses and bugs?”
“No.” Mom smiled. “They’re called buggies. They’re like the carriages you’ve seen in your storybooks. Except they are not pumpkin-shaped. They are black and shaped more like a box.”
Charlotte imagined a black box being pulled by a horse. If she were a princess, she would like a pumpkin carriage much better. “Why are there buggies here?”
“The folks who live in this area don’t drive cars.”
They don’t drive cars? Charlotte thought. “Then what do they drive?”
“They only drive buggies,” Mom said.
How fast do buggies go? Charlotte wondered. Not fast as a car, I bet. “Why would anyone not drive a car? They’re so much faster than buggies.”
“I know, honey. Some people are just …different.” Mom glanced at Charlotte in the rear-view mirror. “But being different isn’t a bad thing.”
Charlotte gazed out the window. Even though they had just passed a pizza place a few minutes ago, all she could see now were huge fields and plain-looking houses.
There was nothing around. This looked like a boring place to live. What did people do to have fun here besides play outside?
A horse and carriage rumbled past them on the unpaved road going in the other direction. A girl wearing a blue dress and a white bonnet sat on the top seat, guiding a dark brown horse. She looked just like a picture Charlotte had seen in her history book at school. “Look, Mom.” Charlotte pointed at the big black box on wheels.
“It’s not polite to point, Charlie.”
Charlotte dropped her hand to her side. “Why is that girl dressed like a pilgrim, Mom? She’s wearing a bonnet. Are we near Plymouth Plantation?”
Mom didn’t answer. Maybe she was too distracted. She seemed really focused on the mailbox up ahead.
“We’re here,” Mom said and turned onto a long driveway.
Charlotte gaped at the chocolate-colored horses in the fields and the clucking chickens congregating in the front yard. The van bounced over bumps on the gravel path leading to a huge tan house with bright blue curtains hanging in the windows. The dark red roof had a large metal pipe coming out of the top with smoke coming out of it, and behind the house stood a big red barn. Charlotte wondered how many animals were in there.
Mom parked the van and helped Charlotte out. “I’m going inside to talk to your Aunt Esther. I don’t want to bring you inside because… Well… You should just wait here. I won’t be long.”
“Can I walk around?”
Before Mom could answer, a young boy about Charlotte’s age walked out of the barn. He saw them and waved.
“Can I go play with him?” Charlotte asked.
“Hi!” The boy ran over. “I’ve never seen you around here before. Want to go see the animals in the barn?”
“Can I go in the barn with him?” Charlotte asked her mother.
“What’s your name?” Mom asked the boy. “Is Esther your Maam?”
“I’m Elijah. No, she’s not my mother. My Maam and Daed are out running errands, so I’m playing here until they get back. My parents are best friends with Esther and Irvin. I come here all the time. I know my way around the barn real well.”
Mom crossed her arms and bit her lip, then looked at Charlotte. “I suppose you can go in. But stay away from the horses.”
“We will, ma’am,” said Elijah.
Charlotte and Elijah took off running toward the barn. They ran into the dim interior and she breathed in. It smelled like hay and animals, just like the county fair she had gone to last fall with her mom and dad. To the left, she heard pigs squealing. To the right, she heard sheep bleating.
Which animals should we go see first? Charlotte wondered, tapping her toes on the hay-covered floor.
Elijah leaned over the edge of the sheep pen, patting a lamb’s nose. He was dressed in plain black and white clothing and a straw hat. His brown hair reached the collar of his white shirt. He even wore suspenders. Charlotte glanced down at her princess T-shirt and wondered why he didn’t dress like other kids at her school. Every kid she knew wore cool T-shirts. Why are the people here dressed in such plain, old-fashioned clothes?
Charlotte stepped forward. He turned around, looked at her, and grinned. “So what’s your name, anyway?”
“I’m Charlotte. Well, you can call me Charlie.”
“Charlie? That’s a boy’s name.”
“It’s my nickname. I like it.”
“Suit yourself. Where you from?”
“Portland, Maine. Where are you from?”
“I live in Smyrna.”
“Oh.” Charlotte raised an eyebrow. Smyrna? Where was that?
Elijah smiled. “It’s a bigger Amish community in northern Maine.”
Charlotte shrugged. “Never heard of it.”
Elijah shrugged. “Want to pet the sheep?”
“Yeah.” They climbed up onto some boards stacked along the edge of the enclosure. Several of the animals sniffed their fingers and let out high-pitched noises. “They sound like people,” Charlotte said. “The lambs sound like babies crying, and the big sheep sound like adults making sheep noises.”
They laughed at that, and when the biggest sheep looked at them and cried baaa loudly, they laughed even harder.
Charlotte looked at the boy next to her, who was still watching the sheep. A small smear of dirt covered some of the freckles on his cheek, and his brown eyes sparkled when he laughed. The hands that gripped the wooden boards of the sheep pen looked strong. She wondered what it would be like if he held her hand. As she watched Elijah tenderly stroke the nose of a sheep, she smiled.
When one lamb made an especially loud, funny noise that sounded like a baby crying, Elijah threw his head back as he laughed, and his hat fell off. Charlotte snatched it up and turned it over in her hands. “Wow. I’ve never held a straw hat before. We don’t have these where I live. I thought people only wore ones like these in the olden days.”
Elijah shrugged. “What’s wrong with that?”
“Nothing.” Charlotte smiled shyly and offered it back to him. “Here you go.”
Elijah held up his hand. “You can keep it if you want.” He smiled at her with those dark eyes.
Charlotte got a funny feeling in her stomach. It was the same way she felt just before saying her lines on stage in the school play. She knew she should say, “Thank you,” like Mom had taught her. But she couldn’t speak the words. Instead, she took the lollipop out of her pocket and handed it to him.
“Thanks,” Elijah said, eyes wide.
Elijah gestured to Charlie’s ankle. “Hey, what happened to your ankle?”
Charlie looked down at the familiar sight of the zig-zagging surgical scars that marred her ankle. “I’ve had a lot of surgeries on my ankle. When I was born it wasn’t formed right, but now it’s all better and I can run and jump like other kids.”
“Does it hurt?”
“No, not anymore. But it hurt when I had the surgeries. I had, like, six surgeries.”
“Charlotte!” Mom called. “We have to leave. Right now.”
“Thanks for the hat, Elijah.” Charlotte turned to leave. Then she stopped, turned around, and kissed him on the cheek.
Embarrassment flushed Elijah’s cheeks.
Uh oh. Her own face heated, Charlotte sprinted toward her mother’s voice.
“Get in the car,” Mom said. “Your aunt refused to speak with us. She wants us to leave.”
Charlotte had never heard her mother sound so upset. She climbed into the van, and Mom hastily buckled her in.
“Why didn’t she want to talk to us, Mom?” Charlotte said.
Mom sniffed and shook her head. “It’s hard to explain, baby.”
“Why are you crying, Mom?”
“I just wanted to talk to my sister. And she wanted us to go away.”
“That’s not very nice,” Charlotte said.
“I know, Charlie. Some people aren’t nice. Remember that.”
The van sped down the driveway as Charlotte clutched the straw hat.
“Why are you going so fast?” Charlotte said and craned her neck, hoping to see Elijah. She saw him standing outside the barn with one hand holding the lollipop and the other hand on his cheek where she’d kissed him. He was smiling crookedly.
Mom looked in the rearview mirror at Charlotte.
“Sorry,” Mom said and slowed down.
Charlotte settled in her seat. She hoped she’d see Elijah again, and maybe he’d be her very own prince charming like in her fairytale books.
But Mom never took her to the farm again.
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