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A Simple Kiss (LARGE PRINT PAPERBACK)

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Looking after everyone else is how Florence Baker lived her life. She was determined to set a standard for her younger step-sisters to follow. When Ezekiel Troyer came to dinner, Florence knew he would make her the perfect husband, but that didn’t stop her thinking about the mysterious neighbor next door. However, daydreams were one thing, and reality was another. Will Florence finally put an end to her foolish fantasies when Ezekiel hints at commitment?

Determined to learn the neighbor’s secrets, Florence confronts him. Is she prepared for what happens next?

Book 3 The Amish Bonnet Sisters

Paperback, perfect bound 322 pages
Dimensions 6 x 9 inches
Publication date May 11, 2019
Publisher Samantha Price

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Chapter 1.
Pulling her woollen shawl snug around her shoulders to ward off the late afternoon breeze, Florence Baker made her way along the rows of apple trees in her orchard. It was wintertime, chilly but not bitter-cold today, and the trees’ naked branches twisting toward the sky made a pleasant and artful sight.
No matter the season, she always found the trees beautiful. In the springtime, the trees woke from their winter slumber and sprouted the delicate, luminescent green leaves of new life. Then came the breathtaking show of white flowers that filled the air with sweet fragrance quite unlike any other. Spring was Florence’s favorite season, but when blossoming season came to an end and the petals fell, they spread along the ground like a glorious blanket. As a child she had rolled around among the petals with one or both of her older brothers, and, even now as an adult she was often tempted to throw restraint to the wind and do the same.
It was pleasing to walk through the orchard every day and see so many changes take place.
Just witnessing so much beauty and grace filled Florence’s heart to overflowing. Her daily walk was her escape from the struggles of life with six younger half-sisters and a stepmother who was weak—often in body and, more often, in mind. Mamm had never been the same since Dat's death two-plus years earlier.
Neither had Florence, but someone had to run the household and the orchard. It had all fallen to her when her two brothers left shortly after the funeral. Even though the orchard was hard work, Florence couldn’t imagine life without her trees.
The orchard was her one connection to Dat and the times the two of them had walked here just as she did today, talking together about the trees and anything else that came to mind.
Today, Florence was finding it hard to let go of her troubles and soak in the beauty of the trees.
Every time she thought about Ezekiel Troyer coming to dinner tomorrow night, her stomach churned. Tomorrow evening was set to be memorable; she just knew it. Her stepmother and "Aunt" Ada had arranged Ezekiel's visit without her knowledge.
They’d called it a surprise, but Florence considered the whole plot more of a shock. Especially when she found out Ezekiel was a pig farmer. That conjured up all kinds of images. There was no use protesting because—she soon learned—he’d already made plans to visit her community for a week. Who knew what Mamm’s best friend, Ada, would’ve told him about her?
Would Ezekiel interest her more than her mysterious neighbor did? She hadn’t seen Carter Braithwaite since he’d left her a gift of a grafted apple tree on her doorstep on Christmas morning. The note had said ‘from a secret admirer,’ but it had to have been from him. No one else knew she harbored the intention of looking for heritage varieties one day. She’d mentioned that very variety, and her intention of looking for it one day, only to him.
Since she’d received the gift, it’d played through her mind whether she should thank him or not... But, if he wanted to be thanked, surely he would’ve used his own name—wouldn't he? And if she did thank him, that would be clear and certain acknowledgment that he’d called himself an ‘admirer’ and was therefore fond of her.
She looked over at the setting sun, now a misty hazy ball glowing through the band of thin clouds at the horizon. It would be perfect and romantic—if only ... he wasn’t an Englischer, and also if he wasn’t slightly annoying at times.
Still, everything she repeatedly told herself about him being off-limits didn’t stop her legs from taking her close to his property on each and every late afternoon stroll.
For the whole week, she’d stopped short of the fence line and lurked among the trees hoping to catch a glimpse of him to see what he was doing. His car was parked outside his cottage, but she’d not seen him. In the past, he’d come out of his house when he saw her nearby. Maybe if she stepped away from the trees …
Why put myself in temptation's way? It will never be. She grunted, wondering why she felt such a pull toward him if nothing would come of anything.
She smiled to herself when she heard Joy’s voice in her head saying it must be Gott testing her. Joy, her third oldest half-sister, thought she had the answer to everything. Joy’s comments on most things said that they were either Gott’s blessing or Gott's testing. Florence stopped at a tree that she’d stopped at many a time before. It was far enough away that she wouldn’t be seen from Carter’s place.
Florence had often been judgmental of those who’d left the community for love, considering they had some weakness or were lacking in faith. Now she could see how hard it must’ve been for them. Perhaps Gott was prompting her to soften her heart and not be so ‘judgy.’ She’d never leave the Amish or her family, so thinking too much about Carter Braithwaite was a complete waste of time and energy. There was no chance of him joining her community. She knew that was so by a few of the off-the-cuff comments that he’d made. Besides that, she wouldn’t feel safe or secure with a man who joined the Amish community for love.
When she saw a car drive slowly up the driveway toward his cottage, she lowered herself even further.
He never gets visitors.
He’d said he had no family, and had even referred to the cows he’d inherited from the previous owner as his friends. He’d been alone over Christmas, so who would be visiting him now? Every conversation she’d ever had with Carter zipped through her mind before the car came to a halt. She decided it was someone coming to give him a quote for renovations. He’d upgraded the kitchen and bathroom, and he’d been talking about redoing the rest of the place.
Carter opened the door and stepped onto the porch, and Florence’s heart rate accelerated. Her heart pumped so hard she could feel it pulsating inside her head. Breathlessly, she looked on as Carter hurried to the car while pulling down the sleeves of his black pullover sweater. When he opened the driver’s door, a dark-haired woman got out and they exchanged a quick embrace.
The woman’s slim frame was hugged by a pencil-thin skirt that ended just above her knees, and that was complemented by a fitted jacket of the same fabric. Her hair, bluntly cut, stopped precisely at her shoulders, and even from her hiding spot Florence could see the generously-applied makeup defining the woman's eyes.
The two spoke a few words before they walked toward the house. It was then that Florence saw the high heels and tinted sheer stockings. Carter had to be attracted to a woman like that. For the first time in her life, Florence felt an emotion she’d never experienced—jealousy.
This woman was no stranger; the embrace had said that much. They had to know each other. Even though there had been no passionate kiss, and no other affection had been shown apart from that embrace, the appearance of the stranger bothered Florence immensely.
Why is she there?
She kept watching until the woman walked inside ahead of Carter. He turned toward the orchard and Florence ducked back, even further out of sight. After a moment, she looked up to see both of them gone and the front door closing.
In her heart, the closing of the door was symbolic. He was on one side and she on the other. A wide, deep chasm existed between them, and the possibility of anything happening between herself and Carter was ... well, impossible.
It felt so bad.
Florence huffed and lowered herself to the ground. She pressed her back into the tree trunk. She desperately did not want Carter to like that woman. Even though she—being an Amish woman—couldn’t marry him, she didn’t want anyone else to have him.
As she nervously looped the hem of her apron back and forth between her fingers, she tried to talk herself out of liking him. He was a good-looking man, but it was hard not to be attracted to his personality too. He was funny and kind. Kind enough to have driven her around locally, looking for her runaway sister. Compassionate enough that he'd next driven her through the night and all the way to Connecticut to find the escapee, and then turning right around for the drive to bring them back home. Sweet enough to find her that rare apple tree. That must've taken him a long time. She couldn’t imagine where he’d found it.
She groaned. Even though he referred to her half-sisters and herself as the "Bonnet Sisters," she felt she could overlook that one annoyance. It didn’t seem so big in comparison to all his positive points.
Then she reminded herself she knew nothing about the man. He was a closed book, and there were so many things about him she ached to know. The biggest thing was, how did he get his money since he didn’t appear to have a job? The couple of times she’d visited him, he’d been on his computer playing chess. As far as she knew, he couldn’t make money from that.
Forget about him, she told herself. That’s the only thing to do.
When other questions about Carter flew through her head, she fended them off with the speed of one of their barn cats chasing after a mouse.
There was no point wasting her thinking-time on Carter. He’d shown some interest in her as a person, but he’d asked no questions about her faith. If he was seriously interested in a close relationship, then surely, he’d want to know about her beliefs.
She pushed herself to her feet, turned, and rather than finish her walk, she headed home dragging her feet. It was possible Ezekiel Troyer could be her dream come true, and cause her to stop thinking about Carter.
When she was nearly at the house, she saw her stepmother walking toward her wiping her eyes. Florence wasn’t used to seeing her stepmother teary-eyed. She normally floated over the top of life’s problems. Florence bunched up the sides of her long dress in her hands and rushed toward her. “Mamm, what’s wrong?”
“It’s just that I’m upset over everything that’s happened and I didn’t want the girls to see me like this.”
Florence put her arm around her and pulled her close. Wilma was just the right height to rest her head on Florence’s shoulder. “What is it exactly that’s upsetting you?”
“I feel like I’m losing control.”
Florence didn’t want to share with Mamm that the woman had never really had any control since Dat died. Florence had been required to step up and become the disciplinarian and leader of the household. “With what?”
“The girls. Look at what Honor did running away like that, and Cherish …”
“Both Honor and Jonathon apologized. Cherish is safely tucked away with Aunt Dagmar until she learns some sense, and Mercy is happily married. What exactly has upset you?”
Mamm sniffed and stood up straight, taking her head off Florence’s shoulder. “When you say it like that it makes me feel better. But ... things would be nicer if Mercy was still here.”
“She’s a grown and married woman, Mamm, and anyway, they said they’d be coming back to live here after a while.”
“I know. I just hope that Honor and Jonathon don’t try to run away again.”
Slowly, Florence shook her head. “I don’t think they will. Not now that you’ve given your approval of them being together.” Another thing Florence didn’t approve of, but Mamm because she was the mother, had gotten the final say.
“You don’t like him, do you?”
Florence swallowed hard—she wasn’t going to be so quick to forget what he had done, running away with Honor like that and putting everyone through such a great deal of stress. “I’m not the one who wants to marry him.” Florence giggled making a joke out of it.
Mamm smiled. “That’s true enough.”
Then Florence realized she didn’t want to make light of it, so she added, “I don’t trust him. Well, I am trying, but … let’s just say I’m being cautious. You’ve told them they can’t marry for a year. That should be long enough for us and her to see how he behaves.”
“You’re right as always.”
“Is there anything else bothering you, Mamm?”
“I just hope Cherish forgives us for sending her away.”
“It might take time, but I think we might’ve saved her from making a few big mistakes. Mistakes that might’ve ruined her life. She’ll see that when she gets older.”
“Do you think so?”
“I do. I know it. Now come on. Let’s go back into the haus.”
“I always wonder how different things would be if your vadder were still alive.”
Florence put her arm around her stepmother’s shoulder. “Me too. Every single day.”
Mamm put her arm around Florence’s waist and together they walked back to the haus.

FAQs Series Reading Order

THE AMISH BONNET SISTERS (best to read in order)

Book 1 Amish Mercy

Book 2 Amish Honor

Book 3 A Simple Kiss

Book 4 Amish Joy

Book 5 Amish Family Secrets

Book 6 The Englisher

Book 7 Missing Florence

Book 8 Their Amish Stepfather

Book 9 A Baby For Florence

Book 10 Amish Bliss

Book 11 Amish Apple Harvest

Book 12 Amish Mayhem

Book 13 The Cost of Lies

Book 14 Amish Winter of Hope

Book 15 A Baby For Joy

Book 16 The Amish Meddler

Book 17 The Unsuitable Amish Bride

Book 18 Her Amish Farm

Book 19 The Unsuitable Amish Wedding

Book 20 Her Amish Secret

Book 21 Amish Harvest Mayhem

Book 22 Amish Family Quilt

Book 23 Hope's Amish Wedding

Book 24 A Heart of Hope

Book 25 A Season for Change

Book 26 Amish Farm Mayhem

Book 27 The Stolen Amish Wedding

Book 28 A Season for Second Chances

Book 29 A Change of Heart

Book 30 The Last Wedding

Book 31 Starting Over

Book 32 Love and Cherish

Book 33 Amish Neighbors

Book 34 Her Amish Quilt

Book 35 A Home of Their Own

Book 36 A Chance for Love

Book 37 Her Amish Wish

Book 38 Amish Harvest Time

Book 39 Whispers of Change

Book 40 Her Hopeful Heart

Book 41 Return to Love's Promise

Book 42 Amish Circle of Blessings