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Excerpt for Fire in the Heart by , available in its entirety at Smashwords

Title and Copyright Page

Fire in the Heart

Clean Amish and Firefighter Romance

Author: Emily Meier


© Copyright 2016 by Emily Meier

All rights reserved.

In no way is it legal to reproduce, duplicate, or transmit any part of this document in either electronic means or in printed format. Recording of this publication is strictly prohibited and any storage of this document is not allowed unless with written permission from the publisher. All rights reserved.Respective authors own all copyrights not held by the publisher.


This is a work of fiction. Any resemblance to any person,

living or dead, is purely coincidental.


From the Author:

2 Special Bonus Stories INSIDE!

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Table of Contents


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Fire in the Heart

Description

Becca Geist was hanging laundry when she saw the yellow glow by the barn. Panic set in as she realized what the smoke meant. What happened next caused her to question her faith in God and His mercy. Little did Becca understand how the presence of a lonely county fireman would help her to regain not only her love of God but the courage to find happiness again. Cameron Lowell was driving along Route 85 on his day off when he saw the smoke rolling over the tree-tops. He rushed to help when he saw the fiery blaze and the Amish girl with her smock burning. He never considered that his hardened heart would cause him to examine what he had believed to be true most of his life. The pain of his past was burned away when the fire in his heart was lit by a woman of faith.


Chapter 1

Pennsylvania had the most beautiful summers, Becca thought as she walked out the back door to the clothesline. Even though the clouds were beginning to roll in to provide one of those sudden afternoon rainstorms the valley was prone to having. Her laundry had been especially large today with three loads. No thanks to her brother, Ethan, who never seemed to stay out of a mud puddle or other dirty projects. Becca knew she shouldn’t complain, it was not Christian to worry over such mundane things, but she was a bit grumpy as there were so many things to get done and washing took a whole day. She silently asked the Lord to forgive her the sour mood. Becca began to sing as she hung the clothes one at a time on the long lines her father had built so many years ago. Looking out toward the barn, she could see her father and brother working hard to put up the hay from the first cutting of the year. Ethan waved at her and Becca waved back. It was hard to stay mad at Ethan anyway; he was such a clown.

The storm began to rumble as it swept in over the farm. ‘These clothes will just have to hang a little longer to dry tonight. Hopefully, the rain will be short and light.’ Becca thought to herself as she finished hanging the last piece. She jumped as a crack of lightening hit the ground and the thunder rolled right on top of it. “That was close,’ Becca thought as her stomach went back down where it belonged. She heard Ethan yell and Elijah scream just as she was turning to go into the house. Looking toward the barn Becca could hardly believe her eyes. The hay mow was on fire, her father was lying still on the ground and Ethan was screaming as the fire began to cover him in flames. Becca dropped the basket and began to run with all her might. Ethan had pulled Elijah from the fire but now lay on the ground, his clothes continuing to burn. Becca grabbed him without thinking about herself. ‘I’ve got to get him away from the fire,’ she thought desperately. She pulled with all her might, but didn’t notice that her hands were blistering and her smock had begun to smolder as well. Ethan was solid and weighed a ton compared to Becca’s slight frame. It was all she could do to move him. ‘Please, God, give me strength,’ Becca prayed as she tugged at his body.

Cameron was cruising down Route 85, enjoying the gentle patter of the rain on his windshield competing with the slap of the wipers as they swung back and forth. He glanced through his rear-view mirror and then back out the front of his truck when he noticed the smoke rolling over the thick growth of trees at the top of the hill. That looked suspiciously like a fire. He should know, as he had worked for the county fire department for six years. He gunned the truck and flew over the hill, shaking his head as he saw the image before him. The hay mow at the barn was burning bright orange, smoke rolling over the barn as the fire ate away at the pile. He grabbed the mike to call in the blaze at mile marker 136 and told dispatch that he was on scene and would check out the damage while he waited for back-up. He tore over the hill and slammed the truck into park in the yard, bolting out of the door before the vehicle could stop rocking back and forth.

Hurrying over to the barn, he could see that things were looking pretty grim. One man was lying lifeless in the dirt, another’s clothes were still smoking as a diminutive girl, brown hair falling out of her bonnet, was struggling to pull him to safety. She was unaware that her dress was beginning to burn as well. Cameron rushed to the young woman’s side, grabbing the young boy away from the flames and pulling her down to the ground, rolling her in the dirt to put out the fire. She was screaming incoherently to help her brother and father.

The fire truck and ambulance had arrived as Cameron held the girl’s head and tried to calm her. The EMTs had checked the other two men, the one barely conscious and the other moaning softly. Brad came up to Cameron, patting him on the shoulder to get his attention.

“Say, man, the other two look worse than her and we need to get them to the hospital ASAP. I’ll leave a bag here if you could take care of her for a bit. The other bus is rolling and should be here shortly. Appreciate it.” Brad left the bag and went to help load the other injured.

Cameron began doing what he knew best. He took her blood pressure and pulse which were climbing, her pupils were fixed and dilated, and he knew she was going into shock quickly. He started an IV in her arm and began slowly running fluids. The burns on her hands and legs were not too bad, maybe some second and a few third degree, not like what could have happened if Cameron hadn’t been there. She was becoming more and more quiet, so Cameron began to ask her questions to keep her awake.

“What’s your name, Ma’am? Can you hear me?” Cameron asked gently, leaning in close to hear her responses. Her eyes opened suddenly, a startling cerulean blue, with the pain of her burns evident in the tears that began to fall.

“Becca,” she whispered through cracked lips. “Please, I’m so thirsty.”

Cameron nodded. “Yes, I know. I have some fluid going into you through a tube. I can’t give you anything to drink yet. I’m sorry. The ambulance will be here shortly, and we will get you to the hospital.” He wiped away some of the tears that were falling down her cheeks.

Becca tried to sit up. “My father and brother, where are they?” she gasped. “Are they OK? I need to go to them. They will need prayers for healing.”

“Oh, no, you lay back down. You’re in no shape right now. Rest and we’ll see about them when we get to the hospital.” Cameron knew that these Amish people had a tight community and prayer was their answer for everything. He didn’t believe that way himself. Why worry about what’s going to happen after you die? There was too much to mess with here while you had to walk through all the pain. And who really knew if there was a God? He didn’t seem to take care of the ones who prayed to him, as far as Cameron could tell.

Becca got loaded up into the ambulance so with the EMTs short on help, Cameron agreed to ride with her to the medical center. She seemed to be calmer with him next to her head and he wanted to find out about the men, anyway. That’s what he told himself.


Chapter 2

Becca was checked out in the ER and was treated for her burns, bandaged up and given some pain meds. Cameron found the doctor who had treated her father and brother and pulled him to the side.

“What happened to the men who came in before her?” Cameron asked out of Becca’s earshot.

The doctor shook his head negatively. “The older man died; I presume he was her father? And the younger one is going to be in the hospital a while, if he makes it through the night. Severe third degree burns over 2/3 of his body. It doesn’t look good. She’s the sister, I take it?” He pointed to Becca slumped over in the chair, her eyes closed in prayer.

“Yep,” Cameron nodded. “I’ll go with you to tell her.”

Becca heard the two men coming down the hall. She stood and grimaced as the pain in her legs spiked.

“Do you know about my father and brother? Please, I have to know.” Cameron’s heart lurched as the doctor gave her the news. Becca slumped down into the chair and began to sob quietly. Cameron sat next to her with his arm around her as the doctor turned and walked away, his job over.

Cameron was going to mutter some words of comfort, the same ones he said with any tragedy, but instead just handed Becca Kleenex until her sobs settled down to just tears.

Sniffling, she looked up at him and said, “Thank you. You have been so kind. I feel so lost right now. I’m not sure what to do at this point. Do you think I could see my brother? I want to pray with him, please.”

“Sure,” Cameron replied. “Let me see what we can do about that.”

He went to check at the desk, then took her to the fourth floor ICU. He asked at the desk there and they told him only family could go in.

Becca asked if Cameron could go with her as she didn’t want to go alone. “Please, nurse, we won’t be long, “she begged.

The nurse said OK, but only for 5 minutes. The two entered Ethan’s ICU cubicle. Ethan was hooked up to a respirator and had tubes running everywhere. Becca looked shocked as she had never seen anything like that. Cameron explained that Ethan needed to rest so they had put him in a medical coma and were giving him pain medication and antibiotics to treat his burns.

Becca took Ethan’s hand in hers and told him that she was there, that God was with him and she was anxious for him to come home to her apple pie, his favorite. Her voice was steady, but the tears fell quietly onto the bed as she talked. Cameron felt a hitch in his heart but couldn’t figure out what it was. This small Amish woman was doing something to him.

They were asked to go back into the waiting room for a while. Becca felt the need to talk to calm her aching heart, so Cameron just listened. He found himself with her hand resting in his as they sat there. It was a calloused hand, and he thought that no woman should ever have to work that hard. She was a pretty little thing, though, with that dark brown hair and those vivid blue eyes that searched your heart when she looked at you.

Becca was thinking of Cameron too, as they talked. At 6 feet, 4 inches, he was much taller than the men in her family. His black hair and deep brown eyes, all that muscle clearly pushing through his polo shirt gave him a rugged, outdoorsy look that few of the men in her community possessed. Well, maybe Timothy Barons, but he was so prideful that he couldn’t compare to this man before her. He said he had been here in Lancaster County for six years; she had been here all her life. He didn’t want to talk about family, she told him her mother had died shortly after Ethan was born and that her father had raised the two children with help from other family members. He thought about asking her how that worked out for her when an older Amish couple came rushing down the hall. Cameron stood up quickly as he didn’t want to offend them. The woman grabbed Becca in her arms as she sat next to her.

“Oh, Becca. We came as soon as we heard. How is Elijah? And Ethan? Have you heard anything yet?” Becca just began to sob harder. Her aunt looked at her husband and then Cameron. “Well, is someone going to tell us what’s going on?”

Cameron nodded slowly and took a deep breath. “Her father has passed away. The brother is in critical condition with burns over most of his body. I’m sorry. It was too late when we got there to prevent any more injury.”

The man held his hat in one hand as he looked at the floor. With tears in his eyes, he took his wife’s hand and held it while the women sobbed quietly.

The man took Cameron’s hand in his. “Thank you for taking such good care of our Becca. I am Lyle Geist and this is my wife, Mary.” Cameron noted that the handshake was firm and strong. He liked this man already. Mr. Geist put his hand on the women’s shoulders. As they looked up, he said, “Let us pray,” as he knelt there in the hall of the hospital. Cameron looked around to see if anyone was watching. He closed his eyes and folded his hands together and held them at his waist, unsure of how to act. At least they weren’t all whaling in the hallway. He’d seen that before and it was hard to deal with. Maybe this quiet grief was worse. He didn’t know. Becca went with her aunt and uncle after they had been in to see Ethan shortly. All three thanked Cameron again for his kindness, then left in a horse-drawn buggy from the front door.

The following day, Ethan passed away from his trauma.

Two funerals were planned for that week. The district came together and several of the ministers helped Lyle prepare the bodies in the traditional white clothes after the funeral home had prepared the two men.

Becca was able to help with the meal preparation somewhat, but her hands were painful and it hurt to stand on her legs for any amount of time. The physical therapist was coming out to the farm to work with her as it was embarrassing to think of being undressed in front of others at the hospital. She sat and the other women found simple tasks for her to do to help them. They felt so bad for the orphaned child but she would live with her aunt and uncle now. Uncle Lyle was to take over the smaller farm that Elijah had worked so hard to keep going while raising two small children. Preparations were completed. The horse-drawn hearse pulled up to the side of the house. Everyone gathered in the kitchen and living room on benches that were used for the church services. Some payed their respects to the Geist men by filing quietly past the caskets in the living room. The quiet weeping and murmurs of the group were hushed as they noticed an ‘English’ standing at the front door. The Deacon quickly walked over to ask the tall dark-haired man what he needed today.

Cameron felt his face flush. “I came to pay my respects to these men who died trying to save their farm. I helped with getting everyone to the hospital.”

The Deacon nodded his head and directed Cameron to the back of the living room to stand with those who didn’t have a seat. Cameron nodded to some of the men whom he had seen in Manheim getting supplies and tack. The men nodded back silently.

The service began with prayer, then a sermon about heavenly rewards for those who worked for God doing the ‘plain life’ the Amish had adopted and upheld. Cameron was surprised that nothing was mentioned about the men who had passed. Usually a eulogy was given. ‘Apparently the Amish don’t do that’ Cameron thought to himself. He tried not to shuffle too much, but the service did seem to last quite a while. Finally, the ministers were finished and everyone began to move outside to their buggies. It was an impressive sight to see the immense line of buggies as they slowly made their way to the cemetery, Cameron at the end of the line in his pickup. Everyone was gathering around the site once he parked. He made his way over to where the burial would be and saw Becca standing next to her aunt. The two women were crying quietly as they held each other by the arms. Cameron was able to catch Becca’s eyes and she widened them in surprise to see him, then looked back down at the ground. The Deacon lead the prayers again, while several of the men covered the caskets with dirt. Once the burial was completed the community turned to go back to the house for the meal.

Cameron made his way through the quiet crowd to Becca’s side. She looked up at him, her blue eyes rimmed with red and slightly swollen from the tears.

Becca said in a slightly tremulous voice,” Thank you for coming today. My family appreciates your attendance.”

Cameron wanted to take her right there and hold her until she stopped shaking, but knew he couldn’t touch her which made the urge more unbearable.

“I wanted to come and make sure everyone was doing all right. I need to go now, but I’m sure I will see you around.” He nodded to Aunt Mary who nodded back with a small smile as she led Becca away. Cameron hoped that wouldn’t be the last he would see of Becca. ‘Maybe that is the best, for us not to have contact. She and I are from such different worlds, it would be hard to change our beliefs to even begin to make a start in a relationship.’ Cameron thought as he walked away. Lyle Geist was waiting for him when he got to his pick-up.

“I know you think it is good to check on Becca, but let me tell you something to understand right now. Becca is vulnerable right now and doesn’t need some English to come around and confuse her in her grief. You need to stay away from her. She is not for you and your ways.” With those words firmly spoken, Lyle walked away to the buggy where Becca and Mary sat waiting for him. All Cameron could do was watch Lyle walk back to the buggy and climb in.


Chapter 3

Cameron returned to his next shift several days later. He was more quiet than usual but when the guys asked him what was wrong, he snarled and told them not to worry about him. He could take care of himself. They knew he had taken a bit of a liking to the young Amish woman he helped that day, but no one was going to say much given his response.

Becca would see Cameron on the street when she was shopping and he saw her as well. They would wave politely, have a bit of small talk and go their own ways. Becca was almost always with her Aunt or Uncle, or both, so they really couldn’t talk. Every time they would run into each other, Cameron would be thinking about her for the next week. He knew he wasn’t the right man—he wasn’t Amish for one thing, but that didn’t stop him from thinking about her more than he wanted to.

Several weeks after the funeral, Cameron decided he would go to check on Becca one more time. As he pulled into the yard of the Geist farm, several dogs rushed out to bark around the truck and greet him wildly as he stepped out. Becca came out into the porch as Cameron strode up, his long legs eating up the ground. She whistled at the dogs to call them away.

“Go chase a rabbit and leave the man alone,” she scolded. The dogs looked up at her then ran toward the back of the house, falling over each other in their hurry to find a rabbit. Cameron laughed at their antics, a deep throaty laugh that made Becca smile in spite of herself. Those beautiful blue eyes were the same color as her dress.

“What brings you to the farm today?” Becca asked.

“Well, I was driving by and thought I would come see how you were doing. He paused. “So…how are you doing?”

“As well as can be expected,” Becca replied with sadness in her voice.

Cameron got that funny feeling in his chest again and couldn’t find his words. While he was trying to get his sensibilities about him, Becca’s uncle came around the side of the house and stopped dead in his tracks. His voice was loud, not really yelling, but close as he cut Cameron off from trying to say hello.

“I told you once, English, that Becca is not to be seeing you, especially without proper escort! Now, get off my property before I have to remove you. Now!” Lyle waved his hand toward Cameron’s truck as his face began to turn red.

Cameron held his hands up at the angry man. “There was nothing going on, sir. I just stopped by to see how you folks were doing after the fire. But I’ll leave and you can trust that I won’t return.”

Cameron looked up at Becca and nodded his head, then turned to walk quickly back to his pick-up. He spun his tires as he drove out of the yard, glad to be away from there. ‘Guess that settles it. I will stay away. Becca will be fine on her own. I should have known that in the first place.’ Cameron thought to himself, noticing that the tightness in his chest was still there when he thought about Becca. He really thought there might be something there. She looked at him like she wanted to be together too, but maybe he was just wishing. ‘Enough of that,’ he thought. ‘I need to move on.’

And he did. When he would see Becca or any of her family in town, he would cross to the other side of the street or duck into the nearest door to miss them.


Chapter 4

Becca also tried to move on. She went to quilting circle, worked in the large garden her aunt had, helped put up jams and jellies when fruit ripened. To relieve her sadness, Becca took to walking in the woods daily when she was done with her chores. It seemed to help her somewhat, although she found herself thinking about her lost family, dreaming of what it had been like when they were together. She remembered Ethan with his teasing and clowning around. How he loved apple anything, so she would see that there was an apple pie or schnitzel weekly to help with his craving. And how he always gave her a hug after supper for doing that. And the memories of her father always tucking her into bed, his big arms cradling her gently as he held her on his lap to read from the Bible, or on the tractor with him as he made circles in the field for the crops. And when she got older, how he would make sure that she went to her aunt Mary’s to learn all the things she needed to know about being a strong Amish woman. Each memory burned in her heart as she was afraid she might lose the pictures in her head and forget them. The memories made her sad, but happy also, as she walked and sat by the creek. On occasion, she would get a glimpse of Cameron and his buddies as they fished the creek full of bass and other fish. She was very careful to not let them see her as she watched from the thick trees and overgrowth of the forest. On the days she would see the small group, she began to think of what it might be like to be around the big fireman while she walked home, listening to his stories of bravery and how he saved people’s lives. She remembered how gentle and kind Cameron was to her after the fire, and how he sat and held her hand. He didn’t have to do that, she knew, but it was so sweet.

The cold winter months went by slowly, but Cameron was firm in his resolve to have nothing to do with Becca or her family. He continued working, going out on calls with the Fire and EMT services. He spent his spare time with his buddies from the fire department, playing pool or seeing a movie. He kept busy and avoided thinking about Becca.

As did Becca, losing thoughts of Cameron, sitting snugly as the cold wind blew and the snow piled up, reading her Bible, praying for understanding and finding solace in her faith and the community who protected and loved her.

The holidays came and went and signs of Spring began to come back into Lancaster county. The trees began to bud, flowers peeked out of the ground, and local farmers went about the business of another year’s planting. Everyone was more cheerful than usual as winter slide off their backs and the warm Spring sun beat down on them.


Chapter 5

Spring moved into Summer as the community around Manheim settled into the humid, hot heat. Summer storms rolled in and out bringing needed rain to the crops. After one dry spell that lasted for more than two weeks, the clouds rolled in again, bringing a particularly nasty lightning storm.

As luck would have it, one of the fallow fields was hit by a lightning strike and started a blaze that began to quickly work on the surrounding forest, burning acres in its path. Working as fast as they could the Manheim Fire Department began the task of moving people away from their farms as the flames spread. Cameron was working on Route 85 leading up to the Geist place. He had been able to get two families down the road from them to evacuate before he drove into the familiar driveway to state his cause.

Lyle came out of the house onto the porch. “What are you doing here?” he asked tersely.

“I’m here with the fire department. We need to evacuate you to safety as the fire is getting dangerously close. We have to get you and the animals loaded up and moved in the next hour,” Cameron explained. He got to the porch. “Please let me help you. Your lives may depend on it.”

Lyle shook his head no. “We’ve never had to move out before and I don’t see any need to do so now. Just go to the next farm. We’ll take care of our own.”

Cameron began to explain in more detail how the fire was acting and what could happen if more lightning strikes occurred. By that time, Mary, Becca and the Geist boys were all on the porch listening to Cameron try to talk some sense into Lyle. Becca could smell the smoke and see the fire getting closer herself. Mary could see how upset Becca was as she began to shake slightly with her cheeks getting red. She flashed back to the fire that took her family. Becca could see them sprawled on the ground mortally wounded from the flames. Tears began to flow freely as Mary placed an arm around Becca’s shoulder. Finally, Mary spoke up.

“Lyle, he makes sense and you can see with your own eyes that it’s headed our way. Let’s do what he asks and get ready to go. Becca and I will handle the house. You and the boys get the animals lined up. Please listen.”

Lyle shook his head as he muttered, “Wife, I don’t know what to do with you.”

He paused as everyone held their breath for his decision. “All right, we’ll go.” He pointed to Cameron. “You’ll get the buggy ready and bring it to the house for the women. We’ll do the rest.” Everyone began to move quickly to their assigned tasks. Cameron did get the buggy ready and helped the women load some items into the back boot. He told Lyle where to head once they were finished and then he left to head to the next farm.

The family loaded up and began the slow process in the buggy to get out of the way of the moving fire. Buggies only move about thirty-five miles per hour on a fast day. Lyle never saw the car zooming around the curve of the road as it slammed into the side of the buggy, turning it over and sending possessions and people all over the road. The man in the car got on his cell phone quickly to call 911. He then ran over to assist the battered family up and on their feet. Fortunately, there were only minor bruises and bumps. Lyle got a nasty cut on his head that was bleeding a bit. EMTs were close by and made it to the scene quickly. They began to assess everyone as Cameron drove up on the accident. He started counting heads as the dazed family stood around while their father was being tended to.

Cameron grabbed Mary by the arm and asked in a tense tone, “Where’s Becca?”

Mary looked around, realizing that she couldn’t see Becca either. “I don’t know. I thought she was with the boys.”

Cameron released her arm and began to look around. He walked the ditch, but didn’t see anything close by. As he was coming up out of the ditch, he happened to look under the overturned buggy and saw an arm and part of a white kop sticking out.

“She’s under the buggy,” he yelled. “Grab the side and we’ll turn it upright.”

The boys and the EMT not caring for Lyle helped. Becca was laying on her back, unconscious and with an obvious compound fracture of her left leg. The emergency team quickly stabilized her leg, then got her and her uncle into the ambulance. As they left, sirens screaming, Cameron waved the rest of the family into his truck to follow the ambulance.

He drove at breakneck speed. As they turned a fast corner, Mary asked Cameron to please slow down, as she wanted to keep the rest of her family safe.

They arrived at the ER in one piece. Once Cameron had settled them in, found out how Becca and Lyle were doing and checked on them, he had to leave to get back to the job at hand; the fire. The same thought pounded through his mind as he worked. ‘What did I do forcing them to leave the farm? It’s my fault they got in the accident. What if Becca had died? It would devastate me.’ Cameron played it over and over in his head.

A week went by with clean-up of the roads and forest keeping Cameron and his crew very busy. He did check and found out that Lyle and Becca were both at home and recovering. Mary explained that Becca would need two more surgeries to fix her leg. Cameron winced when he heard that, but knew that he needed to stay away. He remembered Lyle’s dressing down the last time he tried to be a good friend. He didn’t think he needed another confrontation with the older man.

That all sounded good and well, for about another two weeks. Cameron found himself driving past mile marker 136 more frequently than he needed to. It certainly wasn’t on his way to anywhere he needed to go. And, Becca was on his mind daily. Seeing the flashback of her laying under that buggy, lifeless, hurt, and pale just about drove him crazy.


Chapter 6

He found the truck heading down the road on its own volition past the farm one day. He started to drive by. The truck seemed to just turn into the drive to the Geist house without him trying.

‘I can’t do this any longer, I’ll go crazy,’ he thought to himself. ‘Guess I’ll just have to get an earful from her uncle, because I want to see Becca and tell her I care.’

Sure enough, the screen door swung open and there stood Lyle, a scowl on his face.

“Well, I see you found your way back here again,” Lyle said in a gruff voice as he stepped off the porch. “We already had this conversation, but if you being here will bring some light back into those blue eyes of hers, I guess I have to let you come in.”

Lyle stood aside and motioned for Cameron to go in the door. Cameron hesitated for just a minute, then proceeded in, holding the door open for Lyle to show him the way. The two men stepped into the cool living room. Becca laid on the couch, her right leg casted up under her dress and propped on pillows to elevate it. Cameron knew that she couldn’t move without help and immediately felt remorse for demanding that they leave their home during the fire.

“This wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been such a bully. The fire never made it this far.” Cameron muttered under his breath.

Becca looked at him funny. He muttered louder than he thought because she said, “Nonsense, you were only doing your job. The man driving that car like crazy hit us. It is that simple and has nothing to do with you.”

Cameron could feel his face turning red as he listened to her. ‘Great, now she thinks I’m an idiot.’ Cameron thought. Out loud, he asked, “How are you feeling? Having a lot of pain?”

Becca replied, “Oh, there is some, but I am doing well. In another few weeks they will remove this cast and then see if they will have to operate again. The doctor told me it might take several surgeries for the leg to heal properly. But, God is good. I didn’t lose my life and no one else was hurt badly. I am grateful for that. Although, I am getting quite bored just sitting around. Aunt Mary has so much to get done, and I know that the financial burden on the family is great. I feel so lazy.” Becca smiled. Cameron noted that her smile lit up the whole room and her blue eyes just sparkled under those thick lashes. He was falling fast all over again. As Lyle stood watching from the kitchen door, he could see the love in both children’s eyes. He turned back into the kitchen, pondering what he saw.

Cameron spent most of his free time out at the farm. He would carry Becca out to the porch where she could get some air and sun. Sometimes, he would place her on the seat under the big oak tree by the swing set where she would read to him from her bible and they would have big discussions over whether there was a God. Becca was flabbergasted that he didn’t have any faith given his profession. He tried to explain to her that people created their own hell on earth, and if there was a God, why did he let all those bad things happen to people? The argument got heated sometimes, but Cameron found himself listening to Becca and admiring her all the more for her staunch belief in a Higher Power. He still had a hard time wrapping his brain around the concepts as she read, but he was listening.

As the days moved on, Cameron talked a bit more about himself. He shared that life was not easy for him growing up. His mom was restless and his dad had moved on when he was about seven, so there was no stability in his young life. His mom worked various jobs and tried her best, but there was no money for anything. He was teased a lot by the other kids in school and learned early on to ‘take care of business’.

Becca frowned and asked, “What does that mean, taking care of business?”

Cameron shrugged his shoulders and looked off into the distance, remembering all the fights he had to endure to prove he was tough enough.

“A lot of fights, so the bullies would leave me alone, I guess. I got pretty good at standing my ground.”

“Oh,” Becca replied. “That must have been hard for you. Did that happen a lot?”

“Yeah, until I got old enough to join the Service. I went into the Army, became a grunt, and got to fight daily for money. It wasn’t too bad, but I lost a lot of respect for humanity after seeing some of the things I saw.”

Becca processed what she had heard. “The Amish don’t believe in war and fighting. We know, from the Bible, that God doesn’t want us to fight or kill, but rather show love and arrive at a mutual understanding. The pain and heartache of war is not something we want any part of.” She paused again. “What is a ‘grunt’?” she asked.

Cameron laughed, a booming sound that filled the yard. The dogs began to bark, joining their voices with him. Once he got his breath back, he smiled. “That is someone who does the jobs that no one else wants to do; the grunt work, the dirty work.”

“Hmm.” Becca nodded. “That doesn’t sound like a very nice word, rather demeaning, I would think.”

Cameron nodded in agreement. He looked closely at Becca and noticed that her face was pale, and she had begun to wiggle in her seat, signs that she was hurting and tired.

He stood up. “Ok, young lady, it’s time you took a nap and I go to find the boys for some fishing. Here you go.” Cameron lifted her up into his arms like she weighed nothing. Becca liked being held in this strong, brave man’s arms. She thought that she could do this for a very long time. Her heart beat just a bit faster as she thought about what it would be like to be married to Cameron. She could feel the tight muscles and liked to be so close to his face. Some days his face would have a fuzzy look when he hadn’t shaved. She wanted to rub the roughness, feel it against her cheek. His soft dark hair that curled just a bit on the ends and shined so brightly in the sun.

Cameron carried her in his arms as he got that hitch in his chest again. The feeling was coming more and more frequently, and he began to think that he was falling in love. Becca’s hair was so pretty, what he could see under her ‘jop’’or bonnet. Those brilliant blue eyes that looked so innocent and yet so wise. The slim body that felt so right in his arms. Cameron struggled to keep from kissing her. He knew he couldn’t, it would be ‘unseemly’ as Becca liked to say. ‘She would be a wonderful wife, but it can never be. I know that.’ The thought saddened him, but he would never show Becca how he felt. He couldn’t break her heart. It had been broken so much in the last year. Just friends.

Becca gradually healed and was able to walk gingerly on her leg again. Cameron continued to come out to the farm every time he had time off from work, helping Becca to gain strength in her leg by taking her for walks on the banks of the creek. When they stopped to rest, Becca would pull out her Bible from her pocket and read a verse or story. The never-ending conflict over who was right continued. Finally, one day, the dam broke and feelings overflowed.

Becca shut her Bible with a loud thump as she looked at Cameron, her eyes blazing. “You ignorant English. You won’t even try to understand our simple life. You seem to be so caught up in your foolishness and technology, you can’t even find a way to left God into your life. Please take me back to the house. I’m tired and hurting. I need to rest.” Once Becca began, she could hear herself telling him all that she felt in her heart. She could see Cameron shutting down. She wanted to stop berating him, but couldn’t keep her mouth shut. ‘Oh, foolish girl, now you have done it!’ she thought.

Cameron could feel himself building up to a decent outrage as Becca slammed him to the ground with her words. The worst part about it was that she was right. He knew it in his heart but couldn’t accept it in his mind. Without a word he lifted her up and began to carry her to the house. He set her down by the porch.

He looked her in the eyes and answered back finally, his tone terse and clipped. “Seems to me like you have spoken your piece, so now you can listen to me. I don’t care for all of this pacifist garbage. I think you hide behind it to stay away from reality. Grow up, Becca, and see that there is a whole lot more out there than you can imagine tucked up in your little cocoon here. I won’t bother you again. I’m leaving.” With that, Cameron got into his pick-up and left. Becca stood there until the dust settled back on the road. She sighed and went into the house. Her heart was heavy.


Chapter 7

Cameron poured himself into his job to take away the pain of walking away from Becca. The other fireman would make comments about how the engines were never as shiny before or that people could eat off the firehouse floor due to Cameron’s OCD when it came to cleanliness. Chief just said it always looked nice and a clean firehouse meant that the men did over and above their job description to keep it that way. It showed people could trust them with their lives. Cameron just told them that cleanliness was close to Godliness, whatever that meant, and would walk away. He worked out daily, did go to fish on occasion but otherwise didn’t have much of a social life.

Internally, Cameron fought strongly with himself over what he had learned from the Bible and talking to Becca about the meanings of the scriptures. He mulled it over constantly, trying to get his head wrapped around the idea loving of someone he couldn’t see or talk to. He had always been straightforward that way, the facts were the facts and couldn’t be disputed. This faith thing was nebulous and not easily explained. In spite of his doubts, he knew that Becca was probably right.

Becca missed Cameron, the daily walks, and conversation about the scriptures. She was always so much calmer around Cameron and could think clearly. She missed his booming laughter and the gentle way he treated her. She prayed constantly for understanding, for a way to help Camron see all that he could have in God’s love. She prayed about her doubts, asking for continued strength.

One day while praying by the creek, Becca got the answer she needed. ‘I’ll write to him. Once he reads my letters, he will come back and we can continue to build a relationship that would be worthy of the love God has shown us.’ She nodded her head and went home to set about the task.

She wrote at least twice a week, sometimes more and sent them to the firehouse as she didn’t know where Cameron lived. There was never a return letter from Cameron, but that didn’t deter Becca from her goals. She just kept on writing and waiting for a response.

Chief noticed that when mail call occurred, Cameron would take the letters from Becca and throw them in the garbage, unopened. Being a bit of a matchmaker, Chief discretely rescued the letters and kept them in a box on the counter in his office. They were basically in plain sight but no one really took notice of them.

The end of summer came. The days began to cool down and the local farmers brought their produce into Manheim to share with the community. Besides vegetables and fruit, the Amish women would sell their famous pies, pastries and jams. Everyone benefitted from the bounty of the land. The fire house sponsored their annual Labor Day pancake breakfast and craft fair to benefit their equipment requirements. Cameron put on a good face, entertaining the crowds with his quick wit and charm. Chief deliberately put him out front so that he would have to mingle with the people in an effort to encourage Cameron to come back to his former self, pre-Becca. It worked on the surface, but not much further to the Chief’s dismay.

Once thousands of pancakes had been consumed and the crowds had dispersed, clean-up commenced throughout the fire house. This was also a tradition, where all the junk that had been collected over the past year was disposed of along with the excess of trash the pancake breakfast had amassed.

Chief had one more tactic up his matchmaking sleeve. He assigned Cameron to his office, instructing him to clean off that big shelf that stood next to the door.

“You have to go through here, look everything over carefully, and dump whatever is outdated, not used or generally collecting dust. Be sure to look before you throw, though. Don’t want to lose anything important.” Chief patted Cameron on the back and left him standing there wondering how he had gotten so lucky.

Taking a deep breath, he started in. ‘No time like the present. It will continue to grow if I remember the last time we cleaned out this shop. Seemed like the junk cloned when we turned our backs,’ Cameron thought to himself as he grabbed the first box.

He had worked up to the third shelf when a box caught his eyes. It actually was the lid of a paper box, and was filled with envelopes that had never been opened. ‘This should be fun,’ Cameron groaned to himself as he took the lid down. He set it on the shelf he had just cleaned and picked up the first envelope. It was personal letter. He almost dropped the envelope when he took a look at the address: “ Mr. Cameron Lowell, c/o Manheim Fire Department, Manheim, PA.”. What blew him away was the return address: Ms. Becca Geist, Rural Box 136, Manheim, PA.” He opened it slowly and pulled out the letter. It was dated three weeks past and was written in a flowing script, very feminine and neat.

Dear Cameron,

I trust this finds you well. I have put much thought into writing to you. This is the only way that I can contact you. I hope that your employer does not think me to forward by sending the letters here. I had no other way to contact you.

I have prayed fervently to the Lord for guidance. I believe that the answer lies in scripture. The Bible tells us that we must believe unfailingly in His divine understanding and not our own. You have heard these things through our prayer time together.

I tremble with emotion as I write this, knowing I am entering into unfamiliar territory by my confession. I love you, Cameron Mitchell. I have missed you terribly and long for the simple touch of holding your hand. Please understand that I have gone out of the boundaries of my simple life to confess this. I await your reply with an anxious heart.

Sincerely,

Becca Geist

The paper dropped out of Cameron’s hand as his mind went crazy over the words in the letter. He stood there for minutes as his mind scrambled to make sense of what he had just read. ‘She loves me. All this time wasted by her putting her beliefs in the way of how we felt about each other. I knew all along that she cared, but I couldn’t believe it till now.’ Cameron reached for the nest letter devouring the words she had written. She spoke in one of the walks by the creek holding his hand, feeling his gentleness through their touch. Snippets of their time together, how he helped her through the pain by focusing outside of herself, his laughter and antics with the dogs and the boys, his willingness to carry her when she had pushed herself too far. The love poured out from the pages and filled his heart. He stood there after reading the last one with tears in his eyes.

Brad happened to walk by looking for him when he noticed Cameron just standing there staring at the wall.

“Hey, man, you OK?” Brad asked as he laid his hand on Cameron’s shoulder.

Startled out of his thoughts, Cameron turned to Brad, his eyes still glistening with unshed tears. Cameron didn’t say anything, just handed Brad the letter in his hand. Brad frowned as he took it from Cameron. He read the first paragraph and understanding dawned.

“I knew it!” Brad exclaimed as he patted Cameron on the back. “You’ve been like a sick dog, slouching around here with your head hanging. Lovesick, that’s what it was all along. And looks like Becca’s got it as bad as you. Whatcha going to do about it, man?” Brad was smiling from ear to ear as he handed the letter back.

“She’s Amish, Brad,” Cameron said sadly. “Her family would shun her if they knew that she wanted to be with an English. She would lose her whole life because of me. I can’t do that to her and pretend to be happy. She would be miserable. It just wouldn’t work.”

Brad shook his head. “Well, we’ll just have to find a way to make everyone happy, right? I mean, you’re both miserable and life is too short to walk away from love. But for now, we’d better get this mess cleaned up before Chief gives us both more grief than we can handle.” Cameron nodded, put the letters back in the lid and set it aside to re-read them later at home where he could think clearly. Both men picked up the trash and headed out to the dumpster. Cameron was glad for the days off as he read his letters and pondered the whole mess. He realized that he loved Becca, had loved her from the moment he saw her struggling to help her brother despite the odds being against her. Loved her while he watched her fight the pain of injury and loss of her family, struggled with her growing doubts in her faith, watched her pull herself back up and join in community life again.

‘It’s so complicated. I just can’t ask her to give up everything to come with me. I don’t think she realizes what she would lose to do that.’ Cameron decided to write her himself and tell her that she needed to move on, find a nice Amish man and get married, grow old with someone of her faith. As he put pen to paper, his heart felt like it was breaking in two. It was a deep hurt that just didn’t get better. Each word tore at him. He knew it was the chicken’s way out, but he couldn’t look in those beautiful blue eyes and tell her face to face. His desire would overtake his reason and leave them both in worse shape.

In the meantime, Brad had also been thinking. He pulled all the guys together to think this problem through. The chief just happened to hear them talking as he walked through the common area the next day.

“You know there is a simple solution, don’t you?” He looked around the room as the men were trying to follow his train of thought. “Go and have a talk with her family, help them understand where these two are and come to a compromise.” The men nodded their heads as Brad got a big grin on his face.

“That sound great, Chief. We nominate you to lead the group effort.” All the guys cheered as the Chief realized that he had put himself right into their trap. He just smiled and nodded his head.

So, the next day, Brad, the Chief and several of the others headed out to the Geist farm and spoke to Lyle and Mary about the situation.

“I told that boy there would be nothing come of this but bad. He came the other day though and I saw the look on Becca’s face. It was love, easy to see. She has to set her own path, one that will give her happiness. I do not see Cameron coming to the simple life. We will lose Becca if she goes to him, but if God wills, then we must obey.” Lyle spoke his peace, nodding his head in understanding.

Mary patted him on the hand. “We have seen this before in our community. It has caused much heartache, but I know that Becca loves her Cameron and has tried to help him find his way. They are good for each other. Love will out, one way or another.”

With mutual understanding, the groups came to an agreement to let love take its course. So, a tryst was arranged for the following Saturday where the two would meet, but they would be kept in the dark until they saw each other. Everyone involved hoped and prayed for a good outcome.


Chapter 8

Saturday bloomed brightly with a crisp fall feel to the air, but warm enough by mid-morning to feel comfortable. Brad had rounded up the boys for a fishing jaunt to their favorite hole, which happened to be about a mile from the Elijah Geist farm. They packed a nice lunch and a cooler of soft drinks for a relaxing day. Cameron came along as usual, feeling somewhat better after writing Becca the letter. He hadn’t mailed it yet because he still really wasn’t sure he should. Maybe he was just hanging on a little longer thinking something might change.

Lyle and Mary told the family they were taking a day off after morning chores were done before winter set in and traveling became restricted. Everyone loaded up and the buggy drove out past his brother’s farm and down a small rutted road toward the creek. They stopped when the buggy could go no further and took their lunch down to the creek, the boys chasing each other through the tress as the adults casually walked the path. When they came to the clearing, the group saw the firemen standing there fishing. Lyle walked up to Brad and Cameron, greeting them with a handshake like they were old friends.

Cameron and Becca glanced at each other, trying not to stare. Mary tugged on Becca’s arm and nodded to the basket. Becca opened it up and set things out like she was a robot, casting furtive glances back toward Cameron as the men talked and laughed. When she looked at Mary with her eyebrows raised, Mary just smiled back. Everyone set about getting lunch ready, the firemen adding their meager supplies to Mary’s fried chicken and potato salad, fresh bread and cheese. They were a bunch of bachelors so their mouths were drooling in anticipation of the feast. Everyone sat down, then looked at Lyle because they knew the Amish would want to pray over their food. Lyle asked all present to take hands and everyone bowed their heads. Lyle thanked God for the feast for the stomach and the pleasure of trusted friends and family. The eating began. Casual chatter and talk of various things was bantered around. The boys ate quickly and asked to be excused to go explore. Cameron kept his eyes primarily on Becca the whole meal, answering questions when specifically asked, but not adding much to the conversation save for an occasional grunt in response. Becca nibbled at her food, too nervous to eat.

‘What were these people all thinking, bringing us together like this? Don’t they know it’s breaking my heart to see him?’ Becca suddenly got to her feet. Conversation stopped as the group looked up at her.

“I’d better go check on those boys. They might get in to trouble on their own.” She hurried off toward the woods. Cameron got up right behind her.

“I’ll go help.”

And he hurried off in the same direction. Everyone else just watched as they disappeared into the woods.

“That went well” Brad said as he took a drink of cold cider.

“Only if they don’t beat on each other,” Lyle muttered under his breath.

Everyone had a laugh at the joke while they cleaned up the food. The men headed back to do some fishing and left Mary to sit on the blanket in the sun, embroidering a Scripture quote for one of the upcoming fall weddings.

Cameron’s wide steps caught up to Becca quickly. He grabbed her arm and spun her around toward him. Those blue eyes were sparkling mad as he looked down into the porcelain face.

“And, what do you think you are doing? Let go of me!” Becca jerked out of Cameron’s grasp.

Cameron grabbed her again and spun her to him, holding her with both hands so she couldn’t slip away. “I’m doing this,“ he said in a husky voice as he lowered his face to hers and gave her a gentle kiss. As he pulled away, he noticed that her hands were resting on his arms lightly and her eyes were still closed.

“Oh,” Becca sighed, breathing out. She slowly opened her eyes. “That was….”

“Amazing?” Cameron smiled.


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