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Amish Family Secrets (PAPERBACK)

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Secrets have been kept. Lies have been told.

What will Florence do when she learns the truth that her stepmother has been keeping from her for many years?
Will this change Florence's plans?

Book 5 The Amish Bonnet Sisters.

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Chapter 1.
Under the clear sky with a spring breeze blowing Florence’s dress, she stood outside Carter’s house and stared into his eyes. She’d just agreed to marry Carter Braithwaite and leave the Amish community and her family behind, without knowing how it would work out for everyone. Could her family function without her, and how would her stepmother react once she found out Carter’s real identity?
“We’ll have to get you an apple orchard.”
She laughed, loving Carter’s thoughtfulness. “I don’t think you can get one just like that.”
“With money, you can do anything, trust me.” A slight frown settled on his forehead. “Your orchard’s not something you can pick up and take with you.” 
“I’ll work something out with Wilma. It’s technically mine, even though I’ve never had to say it.” 
“I hope you don’t think your family will let you have it just like that. You’re leaving them and they won’t be happy about it. Your decision will have ramifications and they won’t all be pretty.”
She knew part of that was true. “No one else can run the orchard and no one’s interested in it, not really.”
“When we’re married, things will change.”
“Can’t we stay here? Live here in your cottage – after we get married, of course.” She looked back at the orchard that her father had so lovingly tended over the years. The orchard that had grown along with her to become what it was today, one of the largest-producing organic orchards in the region.
“We can live wherever you want.”
“I love it here and it’s close to my orchard. My brothers aren’t interested, so it would go to me.”
“We don’t need to talk about that now. It’s a minor detail.”
He was right about one thing. They didn’t need to talk about it now. She didn’t want to overpower him right away with her stubbornness. Better he find out about her bad points after they were married. She smiled to herself at the thought. 
She had said she’d leave the community for him and that was what she intended to do, but it was the practicalities of doing so that weighed on her heavily. It hadn't been right to keep going backward and forward – should she, or shouldn’t she? – and driving herself and Carter crazy. 
“Where should we start?” he asked.
“I think we should start now, by you meeting Wilma. Too much has been kept in the dark, but thanks to Ezekiel who told them all I was flirting with you, they already know there’s been something happening between us.”
He swallowed hard. “You mean we should go see Wilma right now?”
“Yes, before either of us change your mind.” She giggled when she realized what she’d just said. 
He laughed too. “I won’t be the one changing my mind. I’ve always been the consistent one in the relationship. I’m pleased you’re finally catching up.” He smiled at her. “It’s just that I’ve gone this long with keeping everything quiet, and I don’t know if I’m ready to meet her. If she was nothing to me apart from your stepmother, I wouldn’t have this problem, but …”
“You just asked me to marry you.”
“I did and I’m ready for that. More than ready. I just don’t know if I feel the same about meeting Wilma just yet.”
“For our relationship to move ahead, we have to tell Wilma and everybody else the truth. I’m going to have to leave my community, so it’s all going to be out in the open shortly.”
“I’m sorry, I wish it didn’t have to be that way. I don’t want you to leave your community if you want to stay, but I guess that’s the way it has to be.”
She stared at him. It didn’t have to be that way if he would join them, but she knew that wasn’t going to happen. He looked down at the ground. “I’m just scared she’ll have a bad reaction to me.”
It was odd for a big man like him to admit to his feelings. Amish men wouldn’t have said anything like that. Wilma had been unpredictable of late and Florence searched for words of reassurance.
He sighed. “Tell me about your family before I meet them. Let’s sit inside where it’s warm and then I’ll go back with you and … meet them.”
Once they were seated together on the couch, he clasped both of her hands. “Tell me about your family. Start with your sisters – the bonnet sisters.”
She giggled. “Oh no. You have to stop calling them that.”
He chuckled. “I’ll try, but I’ve been doing it for so long, it’ll be hard. I can tell it upsets you from the little twitches on the side of your mouth when you’re annoyed.”
“You can?” That was something she didn’t even know about herself.
He nodded. 
“Well, you’ve met Honor. You helped me fetch her when she ran away.”
“I won’t ever forget that long drive.”
Florence nodded. “I know. Mercy is the eldest, she’s married and … well, both Mercy and Honor moved away and are living in a community in Connecticut. They married brothers. I’m not too keen on Jonathon, Honor’s husband.”
“Yes, I know. I met him.”
“That’s right. I forgot. Oh, and Mercy just told us she’s pregnant.”
“Congratulations. You’ll be an aunt.”
“Half-aunt. As I’m so often reminded.” When she saw him frowning, she shrugged off her annoyance at always being told she was a half-sister, and Wilma’s step-daughter. "Sorry. I guess you can tell that bothers me."
“Got it. That’s the oldest ones done with, and then we have … who?”
“Third oldest is Joy. We’ve become close since the older two have gone. She’s gotten engaged to Isaac who’s my older brother’s wife’s brother.”
He trembled. “Wait. I have to think about that for a moment.”
“I know. Most of our community members are related in some way through marriage, it seems. Everyone seems to be a second or third cousin to someone, too.” She didn’t wait for him to work it out. “The younger three are Hope, Favor, and then Cherish. Cherish is living away at the moment with Aunt Dagmar.”
“You mentioned you have brothers?”
She nodded. “Two older brothers – full brothers. One owns a saddlery store in town and the other moved away just after our father died.”
He nodded. “I think I’m getting the picture. Tell me about Wilma, your stepmother.”
“Ah, well, she and I are very close … most of the time, except when she's reminding me I'm a step child. She has a best friend, Ada, and Ada’s not happy with me at the moment.”
He smirked. “What did you do?”
“She’s the one who tried to match me with Ezekiel. Ezekiel was her idea.”
“I see. And, if I hadn’t been here, would you have succumbed to Ezekiel’s charms?”
She giggled. Ezekiel didn’t have any charms, but she couldn’t be so rude as to say that. Ezekiel had tried, but not hard enough. He’d only come back into her life after he’d heard the rumors that she liked someone else. “I don’t think so.”
“You’re not sounding very sure about that.”
Looking into his eyes, she couldn’t lie to him. “I do want children, Carter. If he could’ve offered me a good life where I could still work the orchard and raise children, maybe I would’ve married him. We got along okay.”
“I hope you and I will get along better than okay.”
She nodded. “We already do, from my side.”
“I hope so. What we have is the real deal. I just know it. I’ll do whatever makes you happy, Florence. I’ll buy a dozen orchards, or we can build one together.”
She laughed at his terminology. “Or even grow one.”
“That too.”
“Tell me, who are the people you’re close to?”
He shrugged his shoulders. “I don’t have anyone.”
“Friends? Come on, you must have some friends. You’ve often said you don’t have any, but you must have some.”
“I’ve never had time for them. I’ve got people who work for me, but that’s it.”
She saw the sadness in his eyes. 
“The thing I want more than anything is a family. I would love for us to have children, Florence.”
“And I’d like nothing more.”
“Will Wilma reject me after she hears about the connection between us?”
“I can’t see that happening. She’s been so upset for all these years for turning away Iris, your mother, that I think she’ll be thrilled to see you.”
“Does she know my mother has passed?”
“No, she wouldn’t have any idea about that.”
“I don’t want to be the one to tell her. I don’t want to be the one to turn up on the doorstep and tell her that her sister is dead. But you’re right, we have to make a start somewhere. What do you intend to tell her? Do you want … are you going to tell her about us yet?”
Florence bit her lip thinking of the upheaval that their news would cause. “I think that needs to be done slowly. We’ll tell her about you, and let her think about that for a while. Then, maybe the other news – about us, I mean – might not be such a shock.” She knew the community would turn their backs on her, but she hoped her family wouldn’t. Some Amish families remained in contact with those who’d left. With her family by her side, she could still work the apple orchard, and that was one of the most important things to her.
He tugged on the neck of his T-shirt. “Do I look alright?”
She couldn’t keep the smile from her face. “You look the same as always, perfect.”
“I hope I’m accepted. I doubt I will be, but there’s only one way to find out for certain.” He smiled. “Let’s go. Shall we walk?”
“I think that’s best.”
The wind whistled through the branches of the treetops as they walked below them. It was a heavenly moment, walking beside Carter. It felt like the breeze was buzzing with thousands of tiny voices telling her she’d made the right choice. She looked up at the gray cloudy sky just as the mid-morning sunlight tried to poke through, making bright outlines on the edges of the clouds. 
“It’s so beautiful in the orchard. No wonder you love it.”
“I do. I don’t know how things are going to work out when I leave the community, but I think things will be okay. No one else can manage the orchard.”
“Maybe it’ll all work out perfectly. After we marry, we can stay on in the cottage and you can work the orchard. It’s not as though you’ll have far to travel to work either. It’d be ideal.”
“No one else is interested in the orchard, not like I am. My sisters just want to get married, and I’m sure they’ll do that and move away. They won’t give this place a second thought.”
“Right at this moment, your family needs the income from the orchard, right?”
“Well, we certainly don’t need the money. You could run the orchard and they could have the proceeds if that’s okay with you.”
She stared at him. “We have money?”
“I told you I’m comfortable. Now, we’re comfortable.”
“I don’t know what that means.” She’d always been the one in charge. She’d made all the financial decisions for the family and when she married Carter, it would be an adjustment.
“We’re rich, Florence.”
She gulped. “Rich?” She’d never not had to worry about every last dollar. 
He nodded and then chuckled. “Who knew a childhood hobby would make me millions?”
“Yes, that’s what started it. I got in at the right time too. I’ve made secure investments and we’re set for the rest of our lives.”
“God willing,” she added.
“Neither of us ever has to work again, but I will because it keeps me occupied, and I know you’ll always want to have your trees.”
“So, I could work the orchard and the money could go to Wilma and the girls?”
“Yes. Anything you want.”
“I like the sound of that and I think they would too. I’d be helping them and doing what I love at the same time. I’m sure Wilma would be fine with that.” That solved everything.
“It’s nice to see the worry leave your face.”
She smiled at him. She was still worried. Worried about their next few days, and weeks, and months.

FAQs Series Reading 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