Book 3: Hope's Haven
A former schoolteacher and a single father discover a second chance at friendship, family, and love.
Former Hope’s Haven schoolteacher, Martha Eicher, has always been the responsible one, putting her family first and caring for her widowed father and two younger sisters. But now they’re all happily married, and Martha isn’t sure where she fits in anymore . . . until she hears that Asher Lantz needs a nanny. Even though her childhood friendship with Asher ended abruptly years ago, when a misunderstanding drove a wedge between them, Martha offers her assistance.
Asher is also feeling adrift. As a single father to his niece and nephews, he struggles to balance his new family responsibilities with those on the farm and in his workshop. He’s grateful for Martha’s help, but worries things will always feel awkward with her. Yet before long, Asher realizes Martha is exactly what his family needs, and he can’t imagine his home without her.
Martha and Asher thought they were lost, but could they be right where they belong . . . together?
Asher had only covered half the distance, however, when he saw the triplets headed for the other side of the house. Debra Lynn was focused on helping Lottie retie her boots and hadn’t noticed.
Deciding he’d take care of herding them back himself, Asher set off at a near run. Those little monkeys could move surprisingly fast.
Turning the corner, he was just in time to see them barrel right into none other than Martha Eicher.
He mentally groaned. Of all people…
As expected, she handled the situation graciously. “Ach, what have we here?” She reached out and steadied one of the boys as another grabbed her skirt to keep from falling. The third abruptly landed in a sitting position, his eyes going wide with surprise.
“Are you boys all right?” she asked.
Asher arrived on the scene before his nephews could respond. “I’m sorry.” He was slightly out of breath and he took a moment to get control before continuing. “The boys can be a force to be reckoned with when they run off together like this. I hope they didn’t hurt you.”
Martha smiled. “I’m fine. And there’s no need to apologize. The little ones have a lot of energy and they need an outlet for it.”
Asher nodded, trying to ease some of the stiffness from his demeanor. “Jah, that they do.”
She looked around as if she expected to see someone else. “I hear Debra Lynn Fisher took Joan’s place as nanny.”
Asher helped the fallen boy to stand and brushed at the seat of his pants. It was Zach, he thought. “Jah. She’s doing a gut job but the kinner still miss Joan.”
Martha nodded. “It’ll take a little time for them to get used to the change but I’m sure it’ll all work out.”
Debra Lynn bustled up just then, with Lottie in tow. “I’m so sorry, Asher, I just turned my back on them for a minute to help Lottie with her shoes.”
The girl looked frazzled and Asher gave her what he hoped was a reassuring smile. “Don’t worry, it’ll get easier when you’ve all had more time to get used to each other.”
Martha spoke up. “If I can offer a suggestion? If you want to be able to keep a closer eye on them, try finding a place where they can run free but still be contained. I think the buggy shed might do the trick.”
Debra Lynn gave her a dubious smile but Asher nodded. Martha did know something about taking care of restless kinner and he wasn’t too proud to accept her help. “That’s an excellent idea.” He took two of the boys by the hand and nodded to the third. “Zeb, let Debra Lynn hold your hand.” He obviously got the name right as the boy obeyed. He grinned down at all of them encouragingly. “Maybe we can collect a few more kinner and their keepers on the way.”
He gave Martha a nod and then headed off with his little troop.
It seemed he and Martha could get along after all, if only in a general sense. And as long as the encounters were brief and focused on something other than each other.
* * *
Martha watched the little group walk away. When Asher had first approached her, there had been that usual stiff politeness he used with her, the emotionless tone that added more distance than closeness to their interaction.
But the final smile he’d given just before he’d walked away had seemed more genuine. It had transformed his face. He wasn’t married so he didn’t have a beard, which made his boyish face seem all the more youthful. Sometimes she had trouble remembering he was a grown man of twenty-four.
She had to give it to Asher, though. He might have some glaring blind spots, especially when it came to his middle bruder Ephron, but when Shem and Lydia had passed away a year ago, he hadn’t hesitated to take responsibility for their four kinner.
Of course, according to some of the things Joan had let slip, Asher had left all the discipline and structure up to her and his grossmammi Dorcas. He apparently still dealt with the kinner as if he were a favorite onkel rather than someone in charge of their well-being.
Then she shook her head. It wasn’t her place to judge. Nor was it her problem to solve.