The thief continues to strike, while a dispute among dairy farmers stirs up discord in the Valley. Is a truce possible so everyone can live in harmony? And will Elena and Jonas find the inner peace to choose love and still do what is best for their families?
Harmony Valley, California, 1907
“Come out with your hands up.” Elena Seifert pointed her father’s double barrel shotgun at the makeshift ditch trap. Man or beast, she was prepared. No more of Papa’s dairy cows would be stolen if she had anything to do with it.
The sun dipped behind the rolling hills, sending chills up Elena’s arms. She lifted her head to see what she’d caught. Better not go any closer.
“Elena, Mama’s calling for you,” Samuel drawled from behind. “Lars will be here any minute.” Her brother’s footsteps came toward her, his boots kicking the dirt beneath his shuffled gait.
Why did her brother pick this moment to come find her? Please, Lord, keep him away.
Lack of oxygen at birth left Samuel with impaired intelligence and motor skills. He was a walking miracle according to Doc Christen. Her spine trembled. She glanced at him for the briefest moment. “Stay back, Samuel.”
Elena startled when a man yanked the gun from her hand. “Didn’t anyone teach you to keep your eye on the target?” He was tall, medium build, and stood near enough that his warm breath brushed against her cheek. “And never give up your weapon without a fight.”
Air whooshed out of Elena’s lungs, and her heart tripped. Could it be? She peered at the man’s teasing smirk, and a sensation fluttered inside. How long had it been since she’d seen the ruggedly handsome face of her childhood love? Two years? Three? She wanted to smack him and hug him at the same time.
She tipped up his hat. His amber-colored eyes and chiseled jaw were just how she remembered, back when the two of them square-danced in her father’s barn. She punched his arm. “Jonas Bollinger. You scared me half to death.”
“Ouch.” He laughed, rubbing the spot with his free hand. “This is the welcome home I get?”
Tucked under the neckline of her dress, Elena fingered the silver locket Jonas had given her on her tenth birthday. She still wore it a dozen years later, even though he had broken her heart.
A surge of anger welled up inside, and she planted her hands on her hips. “What are you doing on Seifert land? Don’t you know what’s been going on here? Of course, you don’t. You’ve been gone. Missing. Without a letter to let us know where you are. And now you come on our property like you’ve lived here all along.” She grabbed her papa’s shotgun from his hand and stepped forward, so close her mouth was mere inches from his. “Next time, I’ll shoot.” With that, she spun on her heels, grabbed Samuel’s hand and pulled him toward the house. If she didn’t get away from Jonas soon, she might do something stupid, like fall into his arms and tell him how much she missed him.
Samuel wiggled out of Elena’s grip and turned toward Jonas. “Lars Rissler is going to propose to Elena tonight. He owns Cayucos General Store.”
Her slow-minded brother needed to learn when to keep his mouth shut.
A knot formed in the pit of her stomach. She tossed Jonas a glance over her shoulder and tugged on Samuel’s arm. “Hush now. Nothing’s official.”
Samuel’s brows furrowed. “Will be official by tonight. Right, Elena?”
Sherry Kyle is a graduate of Biola University, and the author of Delivered with Love, The Heart Stone, Watercolor Dreams, and Road to Harmony, as well as books for tween girls. She lives with her husband and four almost grown children on the California coast. You can visit her at www.sherrykyle.com, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.