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Prologue

The firelight intensified the gleam in her short auburn hair, as they sat, face to face, on the floor in front of the couch. David's heart ached with longing, and he hated himself for it—especially now, after she had assaulted everything he believed in, betrayed their common heritage, and declared her love for another man. If only she wouldn’t look at him that way, her sleepy green eyes a mockery of innocence.

He turned away, staring blankly into the flickering fire. How had it come to this? How was it possible, in less than six months, that he, a son of Israel who from his youth had studied the Scriptures and worshiped the God of his fathers, had become so enamored of this one who took so lightly the teachings of Adonai? If only he had kept their relationship on a professional level—as she, apparently, had succeeded in doing—the way it had begun. If only he hadn't given himself over to his dreams of her, hadn't gazed once too often into her soft, caring eyes, or read into her compassionate words a message of love that wasn't there . . .

Even now, although he knew better, he allowed his gaze to follow his heart, only to discover that Leah—this hard-won ally who now knew more about him than anyone else in the world—had fallen asleep, her head resting against the seat cushion of the couch. How dare she look so peaceful, he wondered, when she had just blown apart his very life? Gently, he lifted her and carried her to bed, determined to leave her there and to maintain his honor, even in this isolated cabin where the unexpected spring storm had stranded them for the night.

Honor. He almost laughed out loud at the thought. Where did this enigma of a woman stand on that?

As he drew the covers to her shoulders, he steeled himself against the warring waves of desire, hostility, and disappointment that coursed through him. Resolutely closing the bedroom door behind him, he returned to his spot on the floor in front of the fire. The realization that, even after her confession of betrayal, he loved her all the more, confused and angered him almost as much as her twisted interpretations from the sacred Book. Would he ever understand who she was—and if he did, would it change anything between them?

 

Chapter 1
September, 1983
State College, Pennsylvania

"Nice? You call that nice? You said the same thing about Byron the bore."

Leah put down the pen and leaned against the straight back of her chair. Andy was standing at mid-room, her mouth still open, her sandy hair dripping rain over solid shoulders jacketed in red. "A doorway encounter changes my entire concept of man," she continued, "and you think he's . . . nice."

Leah envisioned Jonathan, probably just now getting back into his car. "He doesn't know I'm Jewish."

Andy stared. "Oh, right. With your family, worry." She unbuttoned the windbreaker and took it off.

"Andrea, I've been hurt before." And not just once, she thought. "If he calls, I'll tell him."

"Leah Rachelle Beaumont," Andy articulated airily with a not too bad French accent, "you inspire me."

How long had Andy know her, Leah thought. Eight months? Ten? They had lived in this apartment together all of September and for four months last spring, and still Andy did not comprehend what it meant to be Jewish, that it was in the blood and in the brain and in the bone. She could not allow a relationship to develop with any man without his understanding that. Besides, she was reminded twice a week from home that there were good reasons to wait, as Mama put it, for "the right Jewish boy." How many times did she have to explain it?

"There is one thing about you that isn't 150 percent honest, Beaumont," Andy groused. "Make that two—your name and your nose." She laid the jacket like a fan over the foot-end corner of her bed, and Leah saw mischief in the curve of her mouth.

Let it alone, Leah thought. She made a face at Andy, rose to look into the mirror above her dresser and frowned. The glow of summer, long days of working the Saddlebreds for Aunt Claire and Uncle Paddy, had become her complexion. She ran her fingertips through her casual "breezy" cut. The wavy auburn hair was close to blonde now, the eyes all the lighter for her tan. The preacher's son today asked if she was named for the Leah of the Bible, and she had said it was not the first thing she told people. He understood—not just that, in conversation, she would avoid immediate reference to religious matters, but also that Leah of Haran had not been Jacob's first choice, or his selection at all, for he had fallen in love with her younger sister, Rachel. Although he as tricked into marrying both, and they and their maidservants mothered the twelve tribes of Israel, Rachel forever remained his true love. Leah could still see Jonathan's face as he looked at her and said he believed that delicate eyes were not the flaw but he forte of Jacob's Leah and that, emerald as her own were, he could look into them all day. "For Leah was tender-eyed," he quoted as he touched her cheek, and his voice itself was tender and filled with wonder.

"Are my eyes green?" Leah asked unblinkingly of the mirror.

"Turn 'round," Andy responded to the reflection, then, peering at her, "With that dress. Is that what he told you—right out of that old love song?"

Leah teased her with a Cinderella sweep of the kelly dress, fluttering her eyelids, and Andy's laugh pitched high with delight. "You petites," she said, sprawling, stomach down, on her bed in anticipation of the story. "Guys are such pushovers. Did you know he'd be there?"

Leah shook her head and sat slowly on her own bed, details racing silently through her mind. Her mother had told her only that Aunt Paulette and Uncle Charles had invited them for dinner Sunday, along with the local pastor and his family. Leah, at home for the weekend, had been swept away; she couldn't tell them she needed both days to write. At Paulette's, she had sneaked glances as Papa spoke to Jonathan of construction and Uncle Charles, of railroading. Jon knew what to say and what to ask. Three years out of Bucknell, he might have followed his father into the ministry except that the good pastor had told him it was the toughest job in the world. More than once, when Leah peaked at him, she caught him looking back. Their eyes kept meeting at dinner, and afterward, he walked with her up the hill beyond the row houses. They sat in the grass and looked down on the valley. She told him it was just that she had so much to do, so of course he asked if he might take her home.

Eleven-year-old Jeremy and Peter, nine, spying on them from the thicket, giggled when he took off his cardigan and put it over her shoulders to protect her from the first drops of rain, and Jon was not above tossing them a warning, addressing his brother, not hers. He led her down the hard and rutted path to say goodbye at the house and get her things from her parents' car. Then they drove over and among the low, forested mountains of central Pennsylvania in the rain.

What had Andy asked? Had she known he would be there? No, she hadn't known there was a six-one, honey-haired, hazel-eyed Jonathan Grante, or that as she hopped a ride from University Park to Brush Valley to see her folks Friday, he was driving from Harrisburg to Lewistown to see his. She leaned back on an elbow. "To Aunt Paulette, every week is a concert on its way to finale, a Sunday potpourri.

Andy nodded soberly. "Fate. How easily you could have missed each other."

Three times this year Andrea had married her off, as if landing a guy were the end-all. Leah moved too quickly to permit defense. The pillow, making only a slight arc, caught Andy in the shoulder and face. The victim rolled to the wall, taking the weapon with her, and lay with it over her head, laughing. "Write your speech. He'll call."


 
Excerpted from:
Beloved Dissident by Laurel West, copyright 1998.
All rights reserved.