Today's Reading

"Have you?" I boomeranged the question, raising my brows for good measure.

Kate tucked her bobbed hair behind her ear. "What about Hayley?" She had adopted her niece when her sister had died around the same time as my husband.

"She's eleven with internet access. I think she knows adults date. Where is she anyway?"

"Spending the weekend with my parents. And nice try, but I know you're stalling." Kate sang the last word.

'Grumble, grumble.' My attention wandered past Harry's soulful eyes and beyond the front windows. Lampposts dimly lit the neutral ground of St.

Charles Avenue, and a streetcar stuffed with passengers glided along its tracks. "Why would I want to pretend I don't belch or pass gas? Or worry about shaving my legs?"

"You shave your legs."

"Only for church and not in the winter." I raised my mug, eyes lifting to the ceiling. "Thank You, Lord, for knee-high boots."

"I'll toast to that." Kate lifted her cup too. "But I've read that people who had great marriages have a higher likelihood of happily remarrying." Her head tilted. "Is it because of Mark?"

"No." A feeling of sorrow descended, having nothing to do with the mentioning of my departed husband's name. Time, counseling, and God had shepherded me and my boys through our abrupt loss via a car accident. "Mark would've wanted me to move on."

I busied myself with pouring coffee I had no interest in drinking. If there was one thing life had taught me, it was that if you loved someone—one way or another—they could be taken from you, and I didn't have the strength to go through that kind of pain again.

2

"I THINK HENRY CAVILL JUST GOT SAVED or joined our church."

Kate's whispered words jarred me from my prayers during the invitational part of our service. She inclined her head to the altar of the large sanctuary while the congregation sang "I Have Decided to Follow Jesus."

My gaze channeled on the back of a tall, broad-shouldered man.

Recognition feathered my brain. Was he a former client? No, I'd remember a stature like that. And it wasn't only his physique that stole my admiration but how he carried himself. He oozed military. A thin leather strap ran along his shortly clipped brown hair. If this man was half as appealing from the front—'Ack!' I screwed my eyes shut. What was I doing? This was exactly why hot men should not be allowed in church, and unquestionably not in a pastoral role of any kind.

The guy turned, confirming the eye patch pulled flush against his face, and my feeling of recognition crystallized.

'Samuel Reed.'

One of my ankles caved, my heel slipping out from under me. I seized the seat-back before me, righting myself.

'No. No way.'

My instinct to haul butt was stopped by Samuel heading in the other direction through a side door with the pastor. They exited, all buddy-buddy, and my stomach dropped. Why was he in my church? How had he lost his eye? Had he seen me?

Kate nudged my arm. "Are you okay?"

I managed a nod. Intense warmth rushed my neck and face. Was I having my first hot flash? The blood thrashing in my ears muted the congregation's singing of the hymn's last verse.

The service concluded, and we poured into the modern welcome center, where members made their way to leave or stood in line for one of the coffee carts. My floral-print dress swished around my legs as I beelined for the exit.

I faked smiles and good mornings to people, and prayed I wouldn't run into Samuel.

Maybe he was only traveling through town and wanted to ask the pastor to pray for him. Or douse him with holy water. Goodness knew he needed it.

I winced. Oh, how easy it was to slip into old judgmental ways.

Kate kept pace, which was a good thing since we'd driven together. "Why are you rushing out of here? Do you know the sexy pirate?"

I pushed through the glass doors, September's humidity drooping my hair. "Yes." I lowered my voice, the noonday sun beaming a spotlight on me. "I dated him before Mark."

...

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