Read Restless Hearts Online

Authors: Marta Perry

Restless Hearts

BOOK: Restless Hearts
6.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads
“What do you have in mind to do with the house?” Ted asked.

Fiona pointed up the stairs. “My living quarters will be up there. The old parlor will make a perfect waiting room, and I'll partition the other rooms to be an exam room, an office, and maybe space for birthing classes, if there's a demand for them,” she said.

 

“I wouldn't be surprised if there was,” Ted said. “Plenty of Amish women prefer home births. You should be able to build a good practice, if you stay.”

 

“If?” Her eyebrows shot up. “I'm not going through all this trouble with the intent of leaving. I'm not going anywhere.” She stroked the intricate carving of the newel post. “This is home.”

 

Her voice trembled with emotion on the last word, touching him. It made him want to know what lay behind that emotion. But he didn't figure he had the right. Not yet.

Books by Marta Perry

Love Inspired

A Father's Promise
#41

Since You've Been Gone
#75

*
Desperately Seeking Dad
#91

*
The Doctor Next Door
#104

*
Father Most Blessed
#128

A Father's Place
#153

†
Hunter's Bride
#172

†
A Mother's Wish
#185

†
A Time To Forgive
#193

†
Promise Forever
#209

Always in Her Heart
#220

The Doctor's Christmas
#232

True Devotion
#241

**
Hero in Her Heart
#249

**
Unlikely Hero
#287

**
Hero Dad
#296

**
Her Only Hero
#313

**
Hearts Afire
#380

**
Restless Hearts
#388

Love Inspired Suspense

In the Enemy's Sights
#20

Land's End
#24

Tangled Memories
#28

Season of Secrets
#32

MARTA PERRY

has written everything, including Sunday school curriculum, travel articles and magazine stories, in twenty years of writing, but she feels she's found her home in the stories she writes for Love Inspired.

Marta lives in rural Pennsylvania, but she and her husband spend part of each year at their second home in South Carolina. When she's not writing, she's probably visiting her children and her beautiful grandchildren, traveling or relaxing with a good book.

Marta loves hearing from readers and she'll write back with a signed bookplate or bookmark. Write to her c/o Steeple Hill Books, 233 Broadway, Suite 1001, New York, NY 10279, e-mail her at [email protected], or visit her on the Web at www.martaperry.com.

Restless Hearts
Marta Perry

And we know that in all things, God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to His purpose.

—
Romans
8:28

This story is dedicated to my granddaughter,
Estella Terese Johnson, with much love from
Grammy. And, as always, to Brian.

Chapter One

S
he was lost in the wilds of Pennsylvania. Fiona Flanagan peered through her windshield, trying to decipher which of the narrow roads the tilted signpost pointed to. Maybe this wasn't really the wilds, but the only living creature she'd encountered in the last fifteen minutes was the brown-and-white cow that stared mournfully at her from its pasture next to the road.

Clearly the cow wasn't going to help. She frowned down at the map drawn by one of her numerous Flanagan cousins, and decided that squiggly line probably meant she should turn right.

She could always phone her cousin Gabe, but she shrank from having to admit she couldn't follow a few simple directions. Both he and his wife had volunteered to drive her or to get one of his siblings to drive her, but she'd insisted she could do this herself.

The truth was that she'd spent the past two weeks
feeling overwhelmed by the open friendliness offered by these relatives she'd never met before. She'd spent so many years feeling like an outsider in her father's house that she didn't know how to take this quick acceptance.

The pastures on either side of the road gave way to fields of cornstalks, yellow and brown in October. Maybe that was a sign that she was approaching civilization. Or not. She could find her way around her native San Francisco blindfolded, but the Pennsylvania countryside was another story.

The road rounded a bend and there, quite suddenly, was a cluster of houses and buildings that had to be the elusive hamlet she'd been seeking. Crossroads, the village was called, and it literally was a crossroads, a collection of dwellings grown up around the point at which two of the narrow blacktop roads crossed.

Relieved, she slowed the car, searching for something that might be a For Sale sign. The real estate agent with whom she'd begun her search had deserted her when he couldn't interest her in any of the sterile, bland, modern buildings he'd shown her on the outskirts of the busy small city of Suffolk. But she didn't want suburban, she wanted the country. She had a vision of her practice as a nurse-midwife in a small community where she'd find a place to call home.

Through the gathering dusk she could see the glow of house lights in the next block. But most of the village's few businesses were already closed. She drove by a one-pump service station, open, and a minuscule
post office, closed. The Penn Dutch Diner had a few lights on, but only five cars graced its parking lot.

The Crossroads General Store, also closed, sat comfortably on her right, boasting a display of harness and tack in one window and an arrangement of what had to be genuine Amish quilts in the other. And there, next to it, was the sign she'd searched for: For Sale.

She drew up in front of the house. It had probably once been a charming Victorian, but now it sagged sadly, as if ashamed of such signs of neglect as cracked windows and peeling paint. But it had a wide, welcoming front porch, with windows on either side of the door, and a second floor that could become a cozy apartment above her practice.

For the first time in days of searching, excitement bubbled along her nerves. This might be it. If she squinted, she could picture the porch bright with autumn flowers in window boxes, a calico cat curled in the seat of a wicker rocker, and a neat brass plate beside the front door: Fiona Flanagan, Nurse-Midwife.

Home.
The word echoed in her mind, setting up a sweet resonance.
Home.

She slid out of the car, taking the penlight from her bag. Tomorrow she could get the key from the reluctant real estate agent, but she'd at least get a glimpse inside in the meantime. She hurried up the three steps to the porch, avoiding a nasty gap in the boards, and approached the window on the left.

The feeble gleam of the penlight combined with the
dirt on the window to thwart her ability to see inside. She rubbed furiously at the glass with a tissue. At a minimum she needed a waiting room, office and exam room, and if—

“What do you think you're doing?” A gruff voice barked out the question, and the beam of a powerful light hit her like a blow, freezing her in place. “Well? Turn around and let me see you.”

Heart thudding, she turned slowly, the penlight falling from suddenly nerveless fingers. “I was just 1-looking.”

Great. She sounded guilty even to herself.

The tall, broad silhouette loomed to enormous proportions with the torchlight in her eyes. She caught a glimpse of some metallic official insignia on the car that was pulled up in front of hers.

The man must have realized that the light was blinding her because he lowered the beam fractionally. “Come down off the porch.”

She scrabbled for the wandering penlight, grabbed it and hurried down the steps to the street, trying to pull herself together. Really, she was overreacting. The man couldn't be as big and menacing as she was imagining.

But at ground level with him, she realized that her imagination wasn't really that far off. He must have stood well over six feet, with a solid bulk that suggested he was as immovable as one of the nearby hills. In the dim light, she made out a craggy face that looked as if it had been carved from rock. A badge glinted on his chest.

She rushed to explain. “Really, I didn't mean any
harm. I understand this building is for sale, and I just wanted to have a quick look. I can come back tomorrow with the real estate agent.”

She turned toward her car. Somehow, without giving the impression that the mountain had moved, the man managed to be between her and the vehicle.

Her heart began to pound against her ribs. She was alone in a strange place, with a man who was equally strange, and her cell phone was in her handbag, which lay unhelpfully on the front seat of the car she couldn't reach.

“Not so fast,” he rumbled. “Let's see some identification, please.”

At least she thought he said please—that slow rumble was a little difficult to distinguish. She could make out the insignia on his badge now, and her heart sank.

Crossroads Township Police. Why couldn't she have fallen into the hands of a nice, professional State Trooper, instead of a village cop who probably had an innate suspicion of strangers?

“My driver's license is in my car,” she pointed out.

Wordlessly, he stood back for her to pass him and then followed her closely enough to open the door before she could reach the handle. She grabbed her wallet, pulling out the California driver's license and handing it to him.

“Ca-li-for-ni-a.” He seemed to pronounce all of the syllables separately.

“Yes, California.” Nerves edged her voice. “Is that a problem, Officer?”

She snapped her mouth shut before she could say anything else. Don't make him angry. Never argue with a man who's wearing a large badge on his chest.

“Could be.”

She blinked. She almost thought there was a thread of humor in the words.

He handed the ID back. “What brings you to Crossroads Township, Ms. Flanagan?”

“I'm looking for a house to buy. Someone from the real estate office mentioned this place. I got a little lost, or I'd have been here earlier.”

She shifted her weight uneasily from one foot to the other as she said the words. That steady stare made her nervous. He couldn't really detain her for looking in a window, could he?

She looked up, considering saying that, and reconsidered at the sight of a pair of intense blue eyes in a stolid face made up entirely of planes. Don't say anything to antagonize him.

“I see.” He invested the two words with a world of doubt. “You have anyone locally who can vouch for you?”

Finally she realized what she should have sooner. Of course she had someone to vouch for her. She had a whole raft of cousins. Family. Not a word that usually had much warmth for her, but maybe now—

 

Ted Rittenhouse saw the relief that flooded the woman's face. She'd obviously come up with a solution she thought would satisfy him.

“I'm staying with a cousin, Gabe Flanagan.” She was so relieved that the words tripped over each other. She snatched a cell phone from her bag. “Look, you can call him. He'll vouch for me. Here's my cell phone. You can use it.”

“Seems to me I've heard of those newfangled gadgets,” he said dryly, pulling his own cell phone from his uniform pocket. “You have his number?”

Even in the dim light provided by the dome lamp of her car, he could see the color that flooded her fair skin at that. He assessed her while he punched in the number she gave him. Slim, erect, with a mane of strawberry-blond hair pulled back from a heart-shaped face.

A pair of intelligent gray eyes met his directly, in spite of the embarrassment that heightened her color. Something about the cut of her tan slacks and corduroy jacket suggested a bit more sophistication than was usually found in Crossroads Township, where the standard attire was jeans, except for the Plain People.

“Mr. Flanagan? This is Ted Rittenhouse, Crossroads Township Police. I've got a young lady here who says she's staying with you. Fiona Flanagan, her name is.”

“Fiona? She's my cousin.” Quick concern filled the man's voice, wiping away some of Ted Rittenhouse's suspicion. Potential housebreakers didn't usually come equipped with respectable-sounding relatives. “Has she had a car accident? What's wrong?”

“Nothing wrong. She maybe got a little lost is all. I'll guide her back to your place all right.” The Penn
sylvania Dutch cadence, wiped from his voice during his years in the city, had come back the instant he'd moved back home to Crossroads. “If you'll just give me directions….”

As Flanagan gave him the directions, Ted realized he knew exactly where that farm was. The next township over, but he knew most of the back roads and landmarks in the county, even if that area wasn't his jurisdiction. Somehow you never forget the land that meant home when you were a kid. Maybe that was especially true of a place like this, where the same families had owned farms for generations.

When he slid the phone back in his pocket, he realized Ms. Flanagan was watching him with wariness in those clear eyes.

“It's not necessary for you to guide me anywhere. I can get back to my cousin's on my own.”

“No problem at all. It's not out of my way. I'll guide you there.”

“I'd prefer to go alone.” She enunciated the words as if he was a dumb hick who couldn't understand.

Well, fair enough. In her eyes, he probably was. But he wasn't going to let her just disappear, not until that last faint suspicion was cleared up. As the law in the township, he was responsible and he took it seriously.

“Sorry, ma'am. You heard me tell your cousin I'd guide you home, and I'm not about to let you get lost. Again.”

For a moment longer she glared at him, sensing he was poking mild fun at her. Then she jerked a nod, as
if to admit defeat, and rounded her car to slide into the driver's seat.

He paused, flashing the light around the old Landers place and then over Ruth Moser's general store next door. Be a good thing if someone bought the Landers place. It had been standing empty too long. But Ruth wouldn't appreciate it if someone up and put a phony Pennsylvania Dutch tourist trap right next to her shop.

Course he didn't know what the Flanagan woman had in mind for the building. He didn't think anyone who dressed like she did would sell plastic Amish dolls made in some third world country.

No sign of life in the general store, and everything looked locked up tight. He'd advised Ruth to put in an alarm system, but so far she hadn't listened. Folks liked to think this was still the quiet countryside it had been fifty years ago, but that wasn't so.

He walked back to the patrol car and slid in. Vandalism, petty crime, the theft of some handmade Amish quilts out at Moses Schmidt's place…Even Crossroads Township had its share of crime. And when he'd pinned this badge on, he'd made a vow to protect and to serve.

A familiar pang went through him at the thought. He pulled out, watching the rearview mirror to be sure the Flanagan woman pulled out behind him. He thought he'd made the right choice in coming back home after the trouble in Chicago, but maybe a man could never know until the end of his life if he'd been following God's leading or his own inclinations.

As it was, there were those he loved who'd never understand his choices. Thank the Lord, they were willing to love him anyway.

At least he'd been coming back to something he knew when he'd come here. What on earth would bring a woman like Fiona Flanagan to buy a place here? The address on her driver's license was San Francisco. Did she have some pie-in-the-sky dream of rural bliss? If so, she'd no doubt be disappointed.

He'd frightened her when he'd accosted her so abruptly, and he was sorry for that. All he'd seen had been a dark figure at the window of the empty house, and he'd reacted automatically. Still, she'd recovered soon enough, ready to flare up at him in an instant.

There was the gate to the Flanagan farm. When he saw the fanciful sign with its cavorting animals, recollection began to come. He'd heard about this place—they trained service animals for the disabled. If she really belonged here, Ms. Flanagan was probably all right.

BOOK: Restless Hearts
6.8Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

Other books

When in Rome... by Gemma Townley
Changing Grace by Elizabeth Marshall
Necropolis by S. A. Lusher
Dark Caress (The Fallen) by Throne, Tatum
Daaalí by Albert Boadella
Seeking Vengeance by McDonald, M.P.
Murder in Pigalle by Cara Black
Perfect Victim by Jay Bonansinga
Mother Gets a Lift by Lesley A. Diehl