The Amish Nurse Series #3

Playing On The Outhouse Roof

by Stephanie Schwartz

Playing On The Outhouse Roof by Strphanie Schwartz

Plain communities of Amish, Mennonite, and Hutterite settlements have populated the Midwestern US for hundreds of years and continue to grow today. Meet some of the people who live within these communities trying to live holy lives while in the world but not of it. Susanna and Levi are about to be married. Phoebe and Stephan are married and starting a family. Faith and Noah thought their life together would be everything they’d hoped for until tragedy hits their tranquil existence. Ben and Leah have overcome obstacles most couples will never face in their lifetime. Are their trials over? Will they ever be? Will Sarabeth overcome her struggles and ever find peace and love? Does the budding friendship between Hilda and Ivan survive the long months apart? Stories born out of the author’s own life and experience will draw you into this world.

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Release Date: July 11, 2023
Genre: Amish Romance

~ A White Satin Romance ~


Chapter One

Master Sergeant Debbie Ramsey stopped halfway across the parking lot in front of the warehouse to watch the August sunlight brighten Mount Rainier’s beautiful snowcapped peak. No matter how often she’d seen it in the last ten months she’d been stationed at Fort Clark, the sight always made her feel at peace, that everything was right with her world. Yes, she knew the ancient mountain was a volcano, part of the Pacific Ring of Fire and sleeping before it erupted again. Sometimes, she felt like that herself.

She drew a deep breath of the warm afternoon air and continued to stroll toward the large building where she’d work for the next three days until her current enlistment ended. She’d taken two weeks off in April to close the deal on the riding stable she’d bought near Baker City in the Cascade foothills, then taught horse camp for two weeks in June and three more in July. She was running out of leave, but that didn’t actually matter since she wasn’t staying in the Army.

On Saturday morning, she’d be free to follow what she often thought of as an impossible dream. Now, she had to find a way to share her upcoming departure with the soldiers she supervised. They’d be fine, but what about her commanding officer? He’d certainly notice she was gone when he wanted something. He’d begun complaining about her using up her leave in what he called “dribs and drabs” rather than taking it all at once, but she told him it was easier to pick up the slack after short spurts rather than cleaning up various messes when she was gone for an extended period of time.

Smiling, she hurried up the concrete stairs near the end of the long building. Inside, she paused long enough to remove her camouflage cap. She glanced at the loading area and breathed a sigh of relief when she noted the last delivery of military supplies from the night before had already been stored. One less hassle. She headed for the hallway that led to the offices at the far end of the warehouse.

She’d barely reached the entry door when a familiar bellow assaulted her ears. Debbie grimaced. She’d only been away two hours. How did hell break loose so soon?

“Damn it, Petrie. This is bullshit. Where’s Ramsey?”

“She left for an appointment.” The other man sounded perfectly calm. “What was I supposed to do when the MP’s showed up, Major Sinclair?”

“It’s bullshit, Petrie. You’re giving me bullshit.”

Debbie pushed open the door, glimpsing the vintage sapphire and diamond claddagh ring she always wore on her left hand. She stepped into the large room that doubled as her office and that of the young company clerk who thankfully had a dentist appointment and wasn’t here to see the major make a fool of himself again. Silently, she watched the broad-shouldered man in combat fatigues rampage toward her desk, still chanting his favorite word.

A taller, slighter, younger officer with perfectly styled black hair wearing the Army service uniform, their version of a business suit, turned to face her. Lieutenant Petrie annoyed her on so many levels, not the least of which was his insistence on refusing to wear the same uniform—camo fatigues that she and everyone else did to work in the warehouses.

Petrie nodded at her. “Sergeant Ramsey, do something with him.”

“Is that an order, sir?” Debbie opted for her most professional tone but didn’t wait for an answer. Instead, she walked across the room, stopping where she’d be in the major’s way.

For a moment, she allowed herself to admire how he filled out his fatigues and then met his golden-brown gaze when he swung around to face her. “Excuse me, sir.”

“Ramsey, where have you been? Don’t you know better than to leave a college-trained, moron in charge of my warehouses? He can’t even keep the latrines stocked in toilet paper. It’s bull—”

“Major Sinclair!” Debbie exclaimed, keeping a straight face. “You wouldn’t swear in front of a lady?”

Red seeped into his rough-hewn features, edging the strong cheekbones and from an earlier time, the broken nose. “Sorry, Ramsey. I forgot you were female.” Rex Sinclair ran a hand through his short, salt and pepper hair. “Where were you? That damned Petrie—”

“Major!” One of these days, Sinclair might catch onto the fact that she could out-swear any and all of the soldiers working in the supply company, but luckily, he hadn’t yet.

“I’m sorry.” Rex repeated his apology and fired a glare in the direction of his so-called aide. “Lieutenant Petrie had me called off the golf course. I had to leave the general before we finished our game, and it made me irritable.”

“Yes, sir.” Debbie sank her teeth into her bottom lip to keep from laughing. “I’m sure the first lieutenant didn’t remember how much the general depends on you, sir.”

“Watch it, Ramsey.” Humor replaced the anger. “I may have been making a fool of myself, but you don’t have enough rank to tell me so.”

“It’s never stopped me before, sir.” She met his gaze and smiled up at him.

He wasn’t a big man, only four inches taller than her five feet, six inches, but he carried himself as if he were ten feet tall and bulletproof. Just by looking she could tell he was a warrior in every sense of the word, the kind of man who picked himself up when he was knocked down, ready to fight again. At forty-two, he wasn’t a spring chicken, but then again at almost thirty-five, neither was she. No wonder she preferred experience.

She folded her arms. “I don’t know what’s going on here, sir, but I’ll take care of it.”

“I know you will.” He paused. “Where were you?”

“My current enlistment ends in three days, sir. I was at the Recruiting and Retention Office for my appointment with the noncom in charge there. I asked the lieutenant to let you know if you returned before I did, but—”

Rex nodded. “Did you get everything you wanted in your re-enlistment contract? A bonus, a guarantee that you’ll stay here instead of being transferred or sent overseas, a promotion? Do you need me to make some calls to ensure you get everything you want?”

“It will be fine, sir. There’s quite a bit of paperwork to finish, so I get what I need, but we can discuss that later.” Debbie glanced at the junior officer waiting by the door to his office. “Why don’t you get back to your golf game? Like I said, I’m here now and I’ll stick around to handle any problems that arise.”

“All right.” Rex frowned before he stepped around her, his attention on the exit door. “Wait for me to make the command decisions, Ramsey. If the general could discuss this in his office, he would.”

“But the two of you can’t be overheard on the golf course.” Debbie inclined her head. “We both know how this game is played, sir.”

“I couldn’t do it without you, Ramsey.” He flashed the sudden smile that always charmed her, although he didn’t realize it. “I’ll be back for closing formation. If I’m not—”

“I’ll handle it,” Debbie repeated.

“Thanks, Ramsey. I can always count on you.” Rex started for the door.

“If I’d known how important the game was, I wouldn’t have had you paged, Major,” Lieutenant Petrie said. “I’m glad Sergeant Ramsey was able to use her womanly wiles to calm the situation.”

Before Debbie could respond, Rex did with a bark of sharp laughter. “Ramsey doesn’t have any of those, Petrie. She’s been in this man’s Army longer than you have—almost eighteen years—and has more combat experience. When she tells you to do something, I suggest you try listening to her and actually do it before you end up in a pine box.” He strode out the door, closing it behind him.

She could tell that Petrie didn’t take the major’s recommendation seriously. Little wonder, she preferred Rex Sinclair’s rugged, rawboned features to the pretty boy glaring at her who figured he was smarter than anybody else on base. The major was a grown man, and he could certainly take care of himself. He’d proven it in more than one warzone, although she’d spent the tour here watching his proverbial six.

It was a deal they’d made eight years ago, covering each other’s backs since neither of them had anyone else they could really trust. Granted, he’d have a fit and fall in it if he knew the rest of the enlisted had disrespectful nicknames for the junior officer. Debbie had corrected them enough that they carefully avoided saying, ‘petri-dish’ or ‘that petty looey,’ or ‘chicken-shit loser’ around her.

“I’m sorry I wasn’t here to help with the MP’s, sir.” She wouldn’t point out he could have contacted her on her cell phone, and she was far closer to the warehouses than the major. “What’s wrong? Did one of the delivery drivers get lost on base?”

“No. Two of Major Sinclair’s kids showed up at the front gate and the guards brought them here. Since he hadn’t left directions for their visit, I had the major paged. Come to think of it, Master Sergeant, there was nothing you could do.”

Irritation at his contempt for her position as the ranking non-commissioned officer swept through her. What had this idiot learned in ROTC at college about sergeants and their business? Obviously, nothing!

Debbie struggled to control her temper. Sometimes, I feel like Mount Rainier, and I just want to explode. Venting isn’t enough.

Three more days. I can deal with this supercilious jackass for three more days. “Thank you, sir. If you’ll do the afternoon walk-through of the warehouse now, sir, I’ll deal with this situation, sir.”

Before he responded, she entered Major Sinclair’s office, careful to close the door behind her. She studied the two girls sitting on the chairs in front of the desk, backpacks and two roller suitcases parked nearby. The closer child, a smaller, younger one had ash-blonde hair. She huddled in her seat, clutching a huge toy bear wearing camo fatigues and combat boots. The other girl was older, a teen in fashionably torn, faded jeans, a pink, ribbed, shrunken t-shirt, and flip-flops. She had shoulder-length, ebony curls.

Debbie waited until the pair had finished giving her a solid onceover.

“Hello, I’m Master Sergeant Ramsey. I’m sorry for all the confusion, but none of us expected you. Did your dad?”

“We wanted to surprise him,” the younger child admitted.

“I see.” Debbie smiled at her. “That’s why I didn’t put your visit on the schedule for the warehouse personnel. How nice for him.”

“He didn’t think so,” the older girl snapped, all teen angst. Tears sparkled in the dark brown eyes, so much like her father’s. “After the cards and gifts, he sends us, he should have known we wanted to see him regardless of what our mother says.”

“He has a lot on his mind.” Debbie crossed the room and leaned against the large wooden desk. File cabinets lined two of the walls and the blinds were closed on the windows to block the glare and heat. “The general called him this morning with a special assignment and it’s all Major Sinclair can think about right now.”

“We don’t want to bug him.” The little girl sniffled, then wiped at the tears trickling from her sky-blue eyes. “It’s just that he hasn’t called us back and we don’t want to go to boarding school. Our stepdad, Gary, was sending us next week. I don’t wanna go to New York by myself or be there all alone.”

“Oh, my Gawd,” Debbie muttered. This added proof to her private philosophy that no good deed ever went unpunished. When Major Sinclair’s divorce was finalized almost eight years before, she’d started a mission of sending the five children appropriate gifts because their father didn’t. He blamed them for their mother’s errors in judgement regardless of how it made the kids feel.

“I don’t understand,” Debbie said. “Why would your mom let your stepdad make a decision like that?”

“Because Cal left for college last week with Rory and Scott,” the blonde explained, picking at a hole in the knee of her jeans. “And Gary says he’s done putting up with us.”

“Who are they?” Debbie frowned. The names rang a bell, but she wanted to be sure. “I don’t recognize those names.”

“Our older brothers.” It was the brunette’s turn. “Dad stuck all of us with names that begin with the letter, ‘R’, and our housekeeper, Lupe says it’s too confusing, so she mostly calls us by our middle names. Except for Rory, who didn’t want to be called by his because he knew too many guys named Dave.”

“Well, that will make my life easier.” Debbie reached for the box of tissues on the desk and passed it to the younger girl. “And you are?”

“I’m Penny. Roberta Penelope.”

The older girl said, “I’m Rebecca Evangeline. Vangie.”

“Okay. First things first.” Debbie waited while Penny wiped her face. “Let’s go have lunch. Your father won’t be back for several hours, and I run the warehouses when he’s away.”

“You’re not calling Lupe or our mother or sending us back to California?” Vangie eyed her warily. “Why not?”

“It isn’t my place,” Debbie explained. “All I’m supposed to handle are the major’s professional problems, not his personal ones. Of course, if they affect the situation and the enlisted troops here, I’m afraid I do have to get involved.”

“And then what happens?” Penny blew her nose. “Do you call Lupe?”

Debbie shook her head. “No. If I’m enmeshed in your piddly little issues, I fix them in my fashion, and you won’t like it. Neither will the major. Luckily for you and your sister, I spent almost three years in a boarding school before I enlisted. I wouldn’t recommend a place like it for either of you. I learned quite a few skills I’m sure your father would prefer you didn’t know.”

“Like what?” Vangie stared at her with obvious fascination. “Will you share them over lunch?”

“Don’t be silly. I don’t know you well enough to tell you how to hot-wire a car or pick locks or shoplift food, wine, and clothes without being caught on film at eleven.” Ignoring the astonished giggles behind her, Debbie led the way from the major’s inner sanctum to the outer office. She looked toward the opening door and the lieutenant before spotting the stocky, young man who followed him. “Corporal Baxter, what are you doing here?”

Lieutenant Petrie answered for the enlisted man. “I told him to come back after his dental appointment since you weren’t here to answer the phones or check in the deliveries. He needs to do his job.”

Debbie counted silently to ten while she listened to the company clerk’s garbled speech. If she couldn’t understand what he was saying, how would anyone else? “Did you bring back the slip from the clinic like I asked, Baxter?”

Baxter nodded and handed her the paper he held. “Doctor said—”

“I can read, Baxter. No need for gibberish.” She winced at the sight of his cheeks, swollen like a chipmunk’s from the extractions and the bruise on his jaw. “The dentist has assigned Corporal Baxter to quarters for the next two days, Lieutenant. I’m sending him to the barracks. Major Sinclair doesn’t want his people to work if they’re not in top shape.”

“What about the phones? Who’s going to answer them?”

“It’s why we have junior enlisted, sir.” Debbie focused on meeting Baxter’s gaze. “Stop on your way out and tell Sergeant Nelson to send someone here to answer the phones and check bills of lading. I don’t want to see you until Friday morning and only if you’re able to work. If not, call in and rest up over the weekend.”

“Thanks, Sergeant Ramsey.”

Lieutenant Petrie glowered at Debbie as the other man hurried from the office, before glancing at the teenager and tween beside her. “And what do you intend to do with Major Sinclair’s children?”

“They’ve had a long trip here, sir. I intend to feed them and then take them to their father’s house.” She looked over her shoulder at them.

Backpack on one arm, suitcase towed behind them, teddy-bear held tight, Penny pressed close to her older sister’s side and Debbie realized the girl was definitely still a child, despite her bravado. Vangie on the other hand had on enough makeup for an entire cheerleading squad, plus three pairs of earrings, a ring in her belly-button, as well as a tiny stud in her nose. “Let’s see. Penny, you’re—”

“I turned nine two weeks ago. Daddy sent me my Ranger Bear. And Van’s fifteen. We’ll be okay by ourselves until Daddy gets home, Sergeant Ramsey. We’ve stayed alone every night since our brothers went to Pullman two weeks ago right after my birthday. Mom and Gary went to Hawaii ages ago for an extended honeymoon and Lupe goes home at six.”

“Well, that’s over.” Debbie lifted her chin, measuring them with her gaze. “I don’t believe in leaving kids by themselves. Heaven only knows what could happen.”

“How do you expect to get them in the house, Master Sergeant? Do you have a key?”

Actually, she did, but she wasn’t telling the lieutenant that. “Don’t worry, sir. We should be able to get in with the cleaning service or I’ll talk to the neighbors. Major Sinclair arranged for one of the local boys to take care of his new puppy and the cat when he’s gone.”

That issue resolved, Debbie ushered the girls toward the door. “Thanks for being concerned, sir, but I can handle everything. It’s sergeants’ business.”

“What kind of puppy does my dad have?” Penny asked as soon as they were out of the office. “I love dogs, but Gary’s allergic, so we can’t have pets anymore. Lupe, Señora Gonzales, the housekeeper had to take my cat home with her.”

“That’s too bad.” Smiling, Debbie lowered her voice to a whisper. “To tell the truth, Shasta doesn’t belong to your father. I found her in a parking lot last May and I couldn’t abandon her, so I brought her home with me. I can’t have her in the BEQ, so she lives with your dad.”

Vangie’s eyes widened. “That’s really nice of him.”

“It is.” Debbie led the way to the parking lot and her 2014 blue Jeep Wrangler. “I don’t know what I’d have done if he hadn’t come through for me. I couldn’t take Shasta to a shelter.”

Vangie nodded. “Dogs die there.”

“Exactly,” Debbie agreed. “No matter how grouchy your father gets, remember he’s a good person. He never hesitates to help out others whenever he can. He didn’t owe me or Shasta a damned thing after he took in my tuxedo kitten, Bandit. And your dad would go to hell and back for the three of us.”

Penny caught her breath, staring up at Debbie. “You just swore, and you made him apologize when he did it.”

“That’s because she didn’t want him to keep acting like an idiot in front of that jerky lieutenant,” Vangie explained. “He’s as bad as Gary.”

“Does anybody like the lieutenant?” Penny asked. “Why don’t you get rid of him, Ramsey?”

“I’d like to.” Debbie heaved a sigh as she unlocked the Jeep and waited for the girls to climb inside. “Unfortunately, your father has to sign all the paperwork when someone requests a transfer. He thinks he can make a good officer out of Petrie and he’s not willing to give up on the man yet.”

Vangie eyed her from the passenger seat. “I bet you have a way around that.”

“Of course I do, but I only use it for emergencies.” Debbie started the engine. “Forgery was just another life-skill I learned at Celestial Faith Girls Academy for Troubled Teens. Now, what do you want to eat?”

While the girls discussed the fast-food options they’d seen on their cab ride to the base, Debbie focused on the traffic. Damn it! She was due to take over the riding stable bright and early next Monday morning when the new session of horse day camp started. She’d planned to use the weekend to move into her new house.

I don’t have time to rescue the major’s sorry ass, but I’ll just have to embrace the suck and do what needs doing one more time. It’s sergeants’ business, isn’t it?


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