A Way Home Excerpt

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Gay Amish Romance Book #3

Will returning to their Amish roots renew their faith in each other?

Isaac and David never thought they’d go back to the Amish world. But when Isaac’s younger brother is stricken with cancer, they don’t hesitate to return. Their relationship is on the rocks after insecurity and fear drove a wedge between them in San Francisco, and David is determined to make things right. Yet if they thought navigating “English” life was confusing, being back in Zebulon is even more complicated.

Their families are desperate to bring them back into the fold, and pressure from the community builds. Isaac and David yearn for a future together, but each day it becomes harder to hide the truth about who they really are. They’re caught between two worlds, and if they’re not careful it could tear them further apart.

Can Isaac and David make their way back to each other—and find a place to call home?

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Read an excerpt from A Way Home


Tentatively, Isaac neared the foot of the bed. Mother and Father stood on either side of it. He smiled. “Hi, Nathan.”

Nathan smiled weakly. “I’m so glad to see you.” He reached out a hand.

Isaac’s heart thumped as he went to the side of the bed, Mother moving just enough so he could take his brother’s clammy palm. He squeezed it and tried to smile brightly. “I’m so glad to see you too. How are you feeling?”

It was a stupid question, and he regretted the words instantly. He could see for himself that Nathan was feeling terribly. He was tired and sickly, and nothing at all like the gangly thirteen-year-old Isaac remembered, whose biggest worry had been his new pimples. The marks were still there, angry and red splotches against his pale cheeks. His hair was thin, and there were bare patches. Isaac tried not to stare.

But Nathan didn’t seem to mind the question. “Better now that you’re here. I’ve missed you so much. We all have.”

“I’ve missed you too.” Isaac squeezed Nathan’s palm, not wanting to let go.

Nathan’s gaze flickered to the doorway, and he frowned. “Hello.”

Frozen in the entrance, Aaron smiled tightly. “Hi, Nathan. You probably don’t remember me. You were too young.”

As his eyes widened, Nathan glanced at their parents and then back to Aaron. “Are you…him?”

The air seemed so thick it might have been fog. Mother and Father were rigid and unmoving, as was Aaron. Isaac let go of Nathan’s hand so he could cross to the door. He touched Aaron’s arm and urged him inside. “Yes. Nathan, this is our brother. Aaron.”

Gazing at their parents with uncertainty slashed across his face, Nathan stammered. “Uh…oh. I—I…hi.” He inhaled deeply and fiddled with the plastic tubes disappearing into his nose. When he spoke again, a new determination strengthened his voice. “It’s good to meet you. Thank you for coming.”

“It’s good to meet you too.” Aaron smiled softly. “I remember you as a little kid. I’m sorry it has to be under these circumstances that I see you again.”

“Me too.” Nathan glanced at the beeping and whirring machines. “I was sick of going to school, but it doesn’t seem so bad at all now.”

Another silence settled over the room. Their parents pointedly didn’t look at Aaron. Isaac cleared his throat. “Aaron and I are getting tested. They took our blood and sent it off.”

“Sorry you had to get a needle.” Nathan grimaced and raised his left arm, which had a needle stuck into it, attached to a plastic tube leading to a bag of fluid that hung on one of the metal racks with wheels. “I hate them. I guess I should get used to it, though.”

“It’s okay. We didn’t mind.” Actually Isaac hadn’t liked the needle at all, but Aaron had held his other hand and told him a silly story. Isaac tried to think of something else to say. Aaron and their parents were still as statues, looking anywhere but at each other. “Are they testing Abigail and Hannah in Red Hills?” Their older sisters had stayed with their husbands in Ohio when they’d moved to Zebulon.

Nathan looked to their parents. “I’m not sure. I guess so?”

Father answered gruffly, “Yes.”

“How’s David Lantz?” Nathan asked. “Do you see each other much?”

Isaac concentrated on keeping his tone neutral. “Uh-huh. He lives with us. Aaron and his wife let us both stay with them.”

“Oh. That’s nice of you,” Nathan said to Aaron.

“David lives with you?” Mother asked, clearly taken aback. “Is that why he convinced you to leave? So he’d have a place to stay?”

“No.” Isaac could sense Aaron bristling beside him as well, and he bit back the flash of anger. “And he didn’t convince me to leave. It was my choice. He was going to join the church, remember?”

“How could we forget?” Father asked quietly.

“That was the most exciting church day ever!” Nathan blurted. He flushed cherry red. “Sorry. I didn’t mean…never mind.”

Isaac shot him a little smile before making his expression blank again. He thought of that day, and how it had felt sitting there on a hard wooden bleacher watching his David take the vows. Even though David hadn’t gone through with it and they’d run away together, those terrible minutes before David said no would never leave Isaac.

A swell of affection filled him, and he wondered if David’s plane had landed yet in Minneapolis. He needed to see him again, and soon. “He’s on his way, and I know he’ll want to come and say hello.”

Father’s sharp gaze narrowed. “David Lantz is coming here?” At Isaac’s nod he asked, “Why?”

“I…because he’s my friend. He wants to help, and see his family.”

“Help?” Mother’s nostrils flared. “He can help by staying away from you. Not filling your head with worldly nonsense.”

“He didn’t,” Isaac insisted.

Aaron piped up. “Isaac’s not a child. He’s a man who made his own decisions.”

Father clasped his hands tightly in front of him. He ignored Aaron completely and addressed Isaac. “What of David Lantz’s partnership with that English woman? Lying to his mother for so long and breaking the Ordnung. Sinning and bringing shame to his family.”

“We heard all about his secret workshop on that woman’s farm. Did you ever go there?” Mother asked.

Isaac wanted so badly to lie, but what good would it really do? “Yes. A few times.”
“You’re staying there now, I assume?” Mother’s bonnet strings were tied so tightly under her chin, and her face was red.

“Yes,” Aaron answered. “June’s been very kind to us. She’s picking up David in Minneapolis this morning.”

“How is Mrs. Lantz?” Isaac asked. “Has she recovered well?”

Mother nodded. “No thanks to her son. Eli Helmuth has been such a blessing to Miriam and her girls. They’re all living on his farm now. Miriam is walking again. Though her heart is still broken, of course. A disobedient child is a heavy burden to bear. And that Anna is turning out wild, I just know it.”

Aaron opened his mouth, but snapped it shut again. Isaac’s voice wavered. “David loves his mother and sisters very much. But…”

In the silence, Nathan started coughing, and the beeping on one of the machines sped up. There was a jug of water and a cup on a tray table at the foot of the bed, and Aaron splashed some water into the cup before bringing it to Nathan, who reached for it.

“No!” Mother and Father shouted in unison.

Aaron jerked, still holding the cup. Nathan coughed again, his lungs rattling. Mother and Father were rooted to their spots, and Isaac realized none of them could take anything from Aaron’s hand. He grabbed the cup and passed it to Nathan, helping him hold it as he gulped and sputtered. No one said a thing, and after a minute Nathan’s head flopped back to the pillows.

“Thanks,” he murmured, breathing hard.

Isaac patted his arm, unsure of what else to do. A faint buzzing reached his ears, and Aaron pulled his phone from his pocket. Despite the electric machines hooked up to Nathan, their parents gazed at the phone as though it was the devil’s very own. Aaron stalked into the hallway to answer the call.

“How are things on the farm?” Isaac asked to fill the silence.

“Ephraim is working to the bone while I am here,” Father answered. “But the Lord will see us through.”

“I want to visit. I need to see him and Katie and Joseph. Please? And I can help Ephraim with everything. Please let me help.” He could imagine how much there was to do with all the hours their parents were spending at the hospital, and poor Katie was surely doing the lion’s share of the women’s work.

Mother and Father exchanged a long look. Father stroked his beard, and the habit was so reassuring and familiar that Isaac had to swallow thickly. He waited for Father to speak.

“We have discussed it. Of course you may see your brothers and sisters.”

Isaac exhaled in a rush, relief flowing through him. “Thank you.”

“But you must come home.”

“I…” His heart skipped a beat. “What do you mean?”

“While you are here, you will stay under our roof,” Father answered. “If you remain with the English woman, you are not welcome at our home.”

Pulse and mind racing, Isaac tried to think of a response. No! I can never go back! I’ll never be able to live that way again. Can’t you understand? But of course they couldn’t. Leaving the plain life was the greatest sin there was or ever could be. They would never accept his choice. They thought he could be convinced to come home for good. “But…”

“We must be firm with you Isaac, or we fear we will lose you to the world forever. We have discussed it with Bishop Yoder, and he agrees it is the right thing.”

Isaac’s mind whirled. He knew he could never be Amish again, as much as he ached to see his whole family again. They didn’t know the truth about why he’d left. He looked to Nathan, who watched him with undeniably hopeful eyes.

“We all miss you so much, Isaac. I know the others want to see you again really badly.”

He’d abandoned his siblings once, and he couldn’t do it again. The thought of being so close to Ephraim, Katie, and Joseph and not being able to see them was unthinkable. Mouth dry, he nodded. “Okay. I’ll come home. It doesn’t mean I’m staying, though.”

Mother smiled, a true smile for the first time since he’d been back. “Oh Isaac, the Lord will be pleased. This is a good thing. We’re going home soon, since there is much work to do today.”

It would take at least an hour to get from the hospital to the farm. Isaac could hear the murmur of Aaron’s voice from the hall, and he swallowed hard. “I’ll be back in a minute, and then we can leave.” He squeezed Nathan’s hand. “I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?”

Nathan nodded. “They’re going to be so glad to see you.” His eyes were growing heavy, and he smiled softly.

In the hall, Isaac took a few deep breaths. I’m going back. It’ll be fine. It’s only for now. I’m not staying.

Aaron glanced over, still on the phone. “Yeah. He’s doing okay. Uh-huh. I’ll tell him. Love you too, babe.” Aaron tapped the phone and put it back in his pocket. “Jen says hi, and that she misses you.”

“I miss her too. Is she coming soon?”

“In a few days. She had to shuffle her schedule around.” Aaron frowned. “What? What did they say? You look upset.”

“I’m fine.” It was a lie, of course. He walked a bit further up the hall, tugging Aaron along. “I’m going back with them.”

“Okay,” Aaron said, leery. “To the farm? They’re letting you see the kids?”

“Yes. But I’m going to stay there.”

“What does that mean?” His voice rose.

Isaac raised a hand. “It’s just while we’re here. I have to help. You can imagine how much work there is with Mother and Father here at the hospital every day. I can help Ephraim with the milking and the chores. They need me. The neighbors are helping, but I should be there.”

“Isaac, you don’t have to sleep there to help with the chores. I can take you over and pick you up.” His jaw set, and he looked so much like their mother in that moment. “Don’t let them bully you into going back. Don’t let them manipulate you. You know they’re going to try to talk you into staying for good.”

“I know. But it’s the only way they’ll let me see Ephraim and Katie and Joseph.”

Aaron laughed bitterly. “Blackmail—how very Christian of them.”

“It’s not. I want to help them. This is the only way they’ll let me. What else can I do?” His stomach roiled. He didn’t want Aaron to be angry with him, but he didn’t want his parents to be either.

With his hands on his hips, Aaron gritted out, “It’s all such bullshit, Isaac. I don’t want them to make you doubt yourself.”

“They won’t. I can handle it. They think it’s the right thing. You know they think we’re going to hell if we’re not Amish.”

“There’s no hell,” Aaron scoffed. “Just the one we make for ourselves. For each other.” He rubbed a hand over his face. “I’m sorry. I know you believe in it. I just don’t want them to mess with your head. Isaac, you’ll never be the good little Amish boy they want you to be.”

“I know. But…I love them.” He blinked rapidly. “I love them, Aaron. They’re doing what they think is right, and I need to go home and see my brothers and sister. I’m sorry.”

Aaron sighed. “Don’t be sorry. I’m sorry. I’m being an asshole.”

“You’re not.” Isaac smiled tentatively. “Well, maybe a little.”

Aaron’s lips quirked up. “Who can you rely on to tell you the truth if not your brother?”

“I know it’s hard.” Isaac’s smile faded. “But they want what’s best for me—just like you do.”

“I wish I could agree with them on what that is.” Aaron looked at his shoes, and when he raised his head tears shone in his eyes. He whispered, “I love them too. If I didn’t, it wouldn’t hurt so much.”

“Aaron…” Isaac reached for him, but Aaron stepped away, shaking his head.
“I need to get my shit together. I’m supposed to be taking care of you.”

Wordlessly, Isaac resolutely wrapped his arms around his brother, and they held each other tightly. After a few moments, he whispered, “We’re supposed to take care of each other.”

“Thank you. Oh, Isaac. I know it’s your choice,” Aaron said quietly. “I just worry. You’ve come so far the last few months, and I don’t want going home to mess with your head. I want you to be happy.”

“I want you to be happy too. I’ll be okay.” Stepping back, Isaac swiped his wet eyes. He pulled out his phone and hit the button to call David. It clicked over immediately to voice mail. Isaac’s heart ached as he listened to David’s too-formal message.

“Hello. This is David Lantz. I cannot answer the phone right now. Please leave me a message after the beep and I will call you back as soon as I can. Thank you, and have a very good day.”

“It’s me. You’re probably still on the plane. Nathan’s doing as well as possible, I guess. I need to see the others, so I’m going home with Mother and Father. I need to help around the farm too. I can’t bring my phone, but I’ll see you soon. I…I miss you. I’m so glad you’re coming.” He finished the call and held out the phone to Aaron.

“What? No—take it with you.”

“It wouldn’t be right. Not in their house.”

Aaron shook his head. “Just hide it. They don’t have to know.”

“But I’d know.”

Sighing, Aaron took the phone. “I’ll see you back here tomorrow, okay? Make sure you come with them or I’ll worry. I mean, I know they’re not going to lock you in the ice house until you agree to be baptized, but…I’ll worry anyway.”

“Okay.” He looked beyond Aaron to where Mother and Father now waited, wearing their black coats and watching with matching stoic expression. They turned and walked away, and with a wave to Aaron, Isaac took a deep breath and followed.

Copyright © Keira Andrews

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