The sight of him, with streaks of mud painting his guilty face, was too much for Rebekah. She sank to her knees and clutched her middle. "What—what are you—"

The question just wouldn't form. Rebekah gave up trying to talk and conceded to the laughing fit as Thomas stood before her in all of his muddy glory.

Thomas licked his lips and eased his hands down. His bright blue eyes exuded equal parts innocence and trouble. "Sissy, don't tell Pa. I was supposed to be getting a drink of milk, not playing in the mud."

A tiny clod dangled in his eyelashes and his young voice bespoke of more meekness than it ever had before. "But it's almost time for the snows to come and this mud puddle looked so in-invite—"

Rebekah swiped at a lock of blond hair that had come loose from under her covering. Her chest heaved as she tried to get her breathing back to normal. "You're going to have quite a time trying to hide the fact that the mud puddle looked so inviting when Pa comes out of the barn."

Thomas grinned his gap-toothed smile. "Inviting. That's the word I wanted."

Having regained her sisterly composure, Rebekah pushed herself up and dusted the Indiana dirt from her pale-blue dress. "Oh, Thomas." She smiled and shook her head as she strode over to the water pump and plucked the bucket off the handle. "Let's get you cleaned up, Little Brother."

Thomas looked longingly over his shoulder at his delightful puddle. He turned back toward Rebekah. His happy demeanor melted away. "Who's going to clean me off when I get dirty after you marry Joseph Graber?"

A strange note hung in the youngster's voice as he tried to brush the mud out of his hair. Dark smears streaked across his dark blond head in response.

Rebekah's heart puttered to a stop. Joseph Graber. Just hearing the name of the dark-haired, lanky man who was to become her husband tied her stomach up in knots. She'd known Joseph her entire life. They'd taken Rumspringa together, and he'd long ago grown to be her best friend. However, something about hearing his name now sent an unprecedented surge of warmth through her veins. Joseph's handsomely dimpled face appeared so vividly in her mind that Rebekah was powerless to mask the dreamy grin that overtook her lips.

"Pa said at church yesterday that you and Joseph were going to get married." Thomas paused as the emotion attached to his words permeated the air like wood smoke.

Rebekah's head swayed in acknowledgement, but the thought of Joseph's dazzling azure eyes so fresh in her mind made it impossible to form words.

"Hey, why weren't you at church yesterday?"


Thomas's cross voice pulled her from her makeshift daydream. "Sissy, I said why weren't you at church yesterday?"

Joseph's blue-eyed image fizzled from her mind and icy water sloshed from the overflowing bucket onto her feet. "Oh, church."

Thomas huffed as he shook clumps of mud from his fingers.

Rebekah hefted the bucket to her hip. "Well, Joseph and I both had to stay home yesterday. We aren't supposed to be in church when we're published."


"That's what Pa was doing when he announced that Joseph and I were to be married." Rebekah shifted her weight under the bulk of the bucket. "Ready?"

With his muddy arms crossed tight across his chest, Thomas squeezed his eyes shut. "I hope December third never comes. I'll miss you too much."

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