Chapter 1
Arthur, Illinois

As clouds, black and boiling, filled the darkening sky, Leah Mast pedaled her bicycle harder, knowing that if she didn’t get home soon, she’d be caught in a downpour. The muscles in her calves felt as if they could give out at any moment, but she ignored the pain, concentrating on just getting home. Leah had noticed the sky darkening before she left the house. So much for thinking she could outsmart the weather.

“Guess this is what I get for taking my bike instead of the horse and buggy,” she muttered, moving to the shoulder of the road as a car sped past. Too bad I can’t pedal as fast as that car.

Right after eating breakfast and helping her mother with the dishes, Leah had bicycled to Family Health Foods, a mile south of Arthur, to buy some massage lotion. She’d scheduled a few people for foot treatments this afternoon and needed to restock her supply.

With determination, Leah continued her trek toward home. Attempting to keep her mind off the leg cramps that threatened with each downward push, she thought about the special relationship she’d had with her maternal grandmother, who had taught her reflexology. During her lifetime, Grandma Yoder had helped a good many people with her gift of healing.

Leah had the gift, too. At least that’s what Grandma had always told her. Many Amish people in Leah’s community, as well as some Englishers, came to her for foot treatments. Of course she couldn’t charge a set fee for her services, since she didn’t have a license to practice reflexology.

But the people who came to Leah always gave her a donation. She treated back and shoulder pain, sinus congestion, sore throats, headaches, and insomnia. She also used reflexology to help folks relax, balance their body, and increase blood circulation. When people came to her with more serious illnesses, she always suggested that they see a doctor, because some things she simply could not help.

A clap of thunder sounded, bringing Leah’s thoughts to a halt. Big drops of rain pelted her body and stung her face. This was a cloudburst, not an ordinary gentle rainfall. If it kept up, she’d be drenched by the time she made it home—that is, if she could see well enough to get there. The rain came down sideways, and Leah could hardly keep her eyes open. She hoped this was just a freak storm that would move out as quickly as possible. Well, there was nothing she could do about the weather except keep pedaling as fast as she could.

The clip-clop of a horse’s hooves caused Leah to look over her shoulder. She guided her bike farther off the road and was surprised when the horse and buggy stopped behind her. The driver’s side door opened, and Adam Beachy called, “Do you need a ride?”

Astonished by his invitation, Leah quit pedaling. “What about my bike?” she asked as the rain dribbled over her face.

“Not a problem.” Adam stuck his blond head out and pointed to the rear of his buggy. It was then that Leah realized he was driving his market buggy. Partially enclosed, it had an open wooden bed that extended from the back. If it was empty, there would be plenty of room for her bicycle in the bed.

Leah climbed off and was about to push the bike around back, when Adam shouted, “If you’ll get in my buggy and hold the reins, I’ll put your bicycle in and snug it in place.”

Shivering from the drenching rain, Leah climbed into Adam’s buggy and grabbed the reins, while Adam stepped out and picked up her bicycle.

Leah felt soaked clear through to her skin, and her muscles continued to cramp. It would be a miracle if she ever warmed up. Even though it was the middle of June, a storm like this could chill a person to the bone.

“Danki,” Leah said when Adam climbed back into the buggy. Her breathing was getting back to normal, but her wet clothing clinging to her drenched skin made her feel icy cold.

Leah handed the reins back to Adam, and using the sleeve of her dress, she wiped rainwater from her face. “I appreciate you stopping, because I need to get home and change out of these wet clothes before Sara Miller comes for a reflexology treatment this afternoon.”

With water dripping off his chin, Adam’s brown eyes squinted as he wrinkled his nose like some foul odor had permeated the buggy. “So you’re still foot doctoring, huh?”

He reached behind his seat and handed Leah a small blanket.

She gave a quick nod, wrapping the cover around her shoulders. Even though the blanket pressed her soggy dress against her skin, Leah was grateful for its warmth.

“Humph! I can’t believe there are still people who believe in all that hocus-pocus.”

Gritting her teeth, Leah pulled the blanket tighter. “Reflexology is not hocus-pocus; it’s a form of bodywork that focuses on the feet, and—”

“And nobody’s ever been cured of anything by having their feet massaged.”

Adam snapped the reins and directed his horse onto the road.“You oughtta quit taking people’s money for something that’s fake and get a real job, Leah.”

Fuming, Leah nearly had to bite her tongue to keep from shouting at him. In all her twenty-five years, she’d never met such an opinionated, rude man! Adam had only said a few words to her whenever she’d visited his hardware store, and he had never made eye contact until now. Leah had also observed how, after their biweekly church services, Adam often hurried off, sometimes not even staying for the meal that followed. She’d always thought it was strange that he didn’t linger to visit with the men after church, like most others did. Apparently he wasn’t much for socializing. No wonder he isn’t married, she thought. No woman looking for a husband would put up with being talked to like that. And what does he know about reflexology, anyway?

Unable to hold her tongue, Leah snapped her head in Adam’s direction. “For your information, Mr. Beachy, there are reflex areas on people’s feet that correspond to specific organs, glands, and other parts of the body. Those who practice reflexology believe that applying pressure to these reflex areas can promote health in the corresponding organs through energetic pathways.”

“Puh! Is that so? Just what illnesses have you helped cure, Leah?”

“Many, in fact.”

Leah held up one finger. “Some people who come to me get relief from headaches and stress.”

Adam flapped his hand in her direction, which only fueled her irritation. “Any kind of massage can make a person relax and feel less tension. Besides, I wouldn’t call stress an illness.”

“Maybe not in itself, but stress can lead to many different ailments, including headaches.”

Leah held up a second finger. “Some folks who get reflexology treatments have found relief from back pain.” Before Adam could respond, a third finger came up. “And some with digestive disorders or insomnia have felt better after I’ve worked on their feet. I believe my ability to help them is a gift.”

Adam shook his head. “I’m not interested in hearing a bunch of mumbo jumbo. If people are willing to pay whatever fee you’re charging and believe they’ll get well, that’s up to them, but I’m not a believer in that sort of thing.”

His tone cut like glass. Leah crossed her arms and glared at him. “The people who come to me for treatments believe in what I’m doing, and I don’t have a set fee. I work on anyone’s feet for a donation, which means whatever they can afford.”

Adam glowered at her. At least Leah thought it was a glower. To give him the benefit of the doubt, she supposed he could have a case of indigestion.

“Well,” he said with a huff, “you’ll never catch me taking off my shoes and socks so someone like you can press on my feet.”

Someone like me? Leah’s face burned. Oh, you don’t have to worry about that, Adam Beachy. Even if
you gave me a hundred-dollar donation, I would never touch your smelly feet!

“You have a right to your opinion,” she muttered.

“That’s right, I sure do.”

“And I have a right to mine.”

Refusing to look at Adam, Leah focused on the road ahead. Her folks’ house wasn’t too far from here, so she should be able to make it that far without saying anything more. She would have liked to give Adam some specific details on reflexology, but what would be the point? He had obviously made up his mind, so she probably wouldn’t get very far defending her skill.
I wish now I’d never accepted a ride from him, she fumed. I’d have been better off riding my bike the rest of the way home, even in the drenching rain.

“Where have you been that you got caught in this storm?” Adam’s deep voice penetrated Leah’s angry thoughts.

She looked down at the plastic sack in her hands, unwilling to tell him that she’d bought massage lotion to use on Sara’s feet. He’d probably have something negative to say about that, too. “I just needed something at the health food store,” she murmured, wiping a drop of water as it trickled down her nose.

Adam clucked to his horse to get him moving a bit faster. He was probably as anxious to drop Leah off at her house as she was to get there.

Leah watched Adam pull back on the reins, guiding his horse through a waterlogged area. The small creek, which normally flowed through a pipe under the road, now splashed across the asphalt pavement. As the horse walked slowly through the fast-flooding creek, she noticed the cause of the rising water. The pipe was clogged with debris that had washed down from farther up. Small branches and clumps of dead leaves had caused the creek to detour from its natural flow. The water was still shallow, but if the rain kept coming down like it was, the road might become impassable. Thankfully, they’d made it this far and would hopefully make it home before the storm got any worse.

They rode in silence the rest of the way, and Leah felt relief when Adam directed his horse and buggy up her folks’ driveway. Except for that one small area of flooding, the drive had been without incident.

“I’ll get your bicycle.” Adam guided his horse up to the hitching rack. Before Leah could respond, he jumped out of the buggy, secured the animal, and went around back.

Leah climbed out, too. “Danki for the ride,” she said when Adam pushed her bike around the side of the buggy. She noticed how the rain poured from the top of his hat.

“Sure, no problem.” Adam speedily untied his horse, stepped back into the buggy, and as he backed the horse away from the wooden rail, he gave a quick wave.

Leah waved in response then, dodging puddles, made a dash for the house. If Adam hadn’t acted so negatively toward her reflexology, in appreciation of him bringing her home, she might have invited him in for a cup of hot tea and the chance to dry off a little while waiting for the storm to subside. But after that conversation, Leah hoped she would never again be put in a position where she’d have to be alone with Adam Beachy. He might be the most attractive single Amish man in Arthur, but as far as she was concerned, he had the personality of a donkey!

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