“Then it doesn’t bother you that I have a child?”

Glen straightened in his seat. “Bother me? I consider your son a bonus.”

“Don’t say that until you meet him. He’s quite a character.”

“I’m looking forward to doing exactly that.”

They were nearing the Seattle dock and Glen stood, eager for them to be on their way. He glanced at the gold watch on his wrist. “You think Timmy might still be awake?”

Jody laughed and nodded. “I’m sure of it. He’s anxious to meet you too and please don’t hold it against me if he asks you a lot of personal questions.”

“Does Timmy like sports?”

“He loves them. According to his coach, he’s going to be a dynamite pitcher someday.”

“Really.” Glen actually beamed. “I was the pitcher for our high school team.”

“You were?” This was like a match made in heaven. Almost too good to be true. “If you mention that to my son, he’ll be your friend for life.”

Their pace was fast as they headed toward the car. Glen’s hand was at Jody’s elbow and although they were walking up a steep hill, it didn’t seem to thwart their enthusiasm.

As Jody suspected, Timmy was dressed in his pajamas waiting for her return. The instant he heard the front door open, he raced from the family room like pistons firing awake an engine. He stopped abruptly in front of Glen and threw back his head to look up at him.

“How tall are you?”

“Six-two. Is that tall enough?” Glen asked, crouching down so that they met eye to eye.

“That depends.”

“Timmy, where are your manners?” Jody reminded her son.

“I’ve got to check him out, don’t I?”

“Let me introduce you before you bombard him with questions,” she said.

Timmy held out his hand. “I’m Timothy Jeffery Potter.”

Glen stuck out his much larger hand. “Glen Francis Richardson, but don’t tell anyone my middle name’s Francis, all right?” The two exchanged enthusiastic handshakes.

“I won’t tell a soul.” Timmy spit on his two fingers and crossed his heart. “I promise and you can zap me with a laser gun if you find out that I have.”

Just then Helen Chandler came out of the family room, which was situated off the kitchen, and Jody made the introductions. “If you don’t mind, I’m heading home. My favorite television program’s about to start and I don’t want to miss it.”

“I’ll see you to the door,” Jody said. She needn’t have worried about Glen. Timmy led him back into the family room, insisting that he show Glen his baseball card collection. At this rate her dinner date would be there for hours.

“How’d it go?” her mother whispered loud enough to be heard into the next county and certainly the family room.

“Very well,” Jody said, opening the door. She didn’t want to stand in the doorway and carry on a conversation when it was likely Glen could hear every word they were saying.

“Do you like him?”

“Mother.”

“Well, do you?” Helen pressed.

“Yes.”

Her mother threw back her head and shocked Jody out of five years of her life by shouting, “Hallelujah!”

“Mom,” Timmy called from the other room. “Are you coming? Did you know Glen has a signed Ken Griffey, Jr. baseball card?”

“I have to go,” Jody said, grateful to her son for the convenient excuse. This was neither the time nor the place for this intimate conversation with her mother. “I promise I’ll call you after church tomorrow morning.”

“Mom,” Timmy shouted again, “can Glen go to church with us?”

“Ah . . .” Jody glanced from her mother to the other room, not knowing which way to turn.

“Go and talk to Glen and Timmy. We can chat later.” Before Jody could turn away, her mother impulsively reached for her and hugged her. “Everything’s going to be just fine. I can feel it. I’ve waited a good long time for this,” she said and kissed Jody on the cheek with a loud smack.

“Mom.” Timmy raced into the room and grabbed her by the hand, dragging her into the other room. “If Glen comes to church with us, you’ll cook breakfast for him, won’t you? Make something really good, though, okay, because I told him you’re a really fabulous cook.” He lowered his voice substantially, to a soft whisper. “Just don’t serve that liver sausage stuff you did at Christmas, it was yucky.”

“All right, all right,” Jody said, walking into the room. It amazed her how easily Timmy had accepted Glen. Her eyes met Glen’s and he smiled at her. “You’ve got yourself quite a son, Jody. He’s everything you said and more.”

“I like Glen, too,” Timmy announced. “I bet he’d make me a great dad.”

Chapter 6

“You’re up bright and early,” Lloyd Fischer said when Monica came down the stairs early Sunday morning. It was still pitch dark and although Monica had tried countless times, she hadn’t been able to get back to sleep. Every time she closed her eyes, Chet Costello drifted, unbidden and unwelcome, into her thoughts, planting himself in her mind and refusing to go away.

If that wasn’t bad enough, Monica was scheduled to sing with the choir that afternoon in downtown Seattle. She’d be near the Westlake Mall where she’d first met Chet. The tantalizing threat of bumping into him a third time had plagued her like an overdue mortgage payment.

“I couldn’t sleep,” Monica mumbled, helping herself to a cup of coffee. She kept her back to her father, letting him know she wasn’t interested in conversation. She didn’t mean to be rude, but she didn’t feel up to her usual cheerful chatter.

Her father generally woke around four on Sunday mornings, enthusiastic and eager to review his sermon and make any last-minute changes. He was the first one at the church, turning on the furnace so the building would be warm when the congregation arrived. He was a gentle spirit, her father, a man who brought joy to God’s heart. His tendency to look at the bright side of an issue was often a source of contention between them, but it was a minor fault.

One of them had to maintain a realistic outlook on life and it was the role she’d chosen. Because of this, others tended to view her in a less than favorable light. Her father, on the other hand, was loved by all. He was a good shepherd to his flock, sensitive and gentle, steering them toward a deeper understanding of God’s word.

Monica sluggishly stirred a teaspoon of sugar into the coffee. She wasn’t looking forward to the outing with the choir, and had toyed with the idea of digging up a plausible excuse not to go. Knowing it would have caused a hardship for the others was her only hesitation.

No, she corrected, striving for honesty, that wasn’t entirely true.

Some small, dark part of herself hungered to see Chet again. It pained and troubled her to admit that. The man had taken advantage of her, threatened her, and then, against her will, had blatantly kissed her. The mere thought of their last encounter brought a flash of heated color to her cheeks.

It mortified her to recall the way she’d responded to him, the way she encouraged his advance, the way her body had reacted to his. No decent woman would feel the things she had, Monica was convinced of that. Patrick had kissed her several times early on in their relationship, and what she’d experienced with him had been a small spark of tenderness. When Chet had kissed her, she’d felt as if she were standing in the middle of a forest fire.

“Are you feeling all right?” her father asked, studying her closely as she sat down at the kitchen table across from him.

Now was the perfect time to say she wasn’t up to par. That was all she need do. Her father would be the one to suggest she not participate in the choir’s performance that afternoon. Naturally she’d put up a token fuss, but he’d be adamant, insisting her health was more important, and the choir could make do without her.

“I’m fine, Dad,” she murmured. She braced her elbows against the edge of the table and sipped from the thick ceramic cup, wondering what it was about Chet that caused her to be so weak willed. It was unlikely that she would run into him, although, as luck would have it—not that she believed in such matters—she’d encountered Chet twice now within the same week.

Her father left and returned to the kitchen a moment later, dressed in his thick winter coat. He wrapped a wool scarf around his neck, slipped his hands into leather gloves, and announced, “I’m going over to the church.”

She acknowledged him with a nod, grateful she’d be alone for the next several minutes. Instead of worrying about the possibility of seeing Chet, she should be praying for him. The man was clearly in need of divine intervention. One look at him told her everything she needed to know about his shabby life and immoral habits. Their all-too-brief conversations had reinforced her suspicions. He was cynical, irrational, stubborn, and only heaven knew what else.

“Then why won’t he leave me alone?” she asked out loud, surprising herself with the shrill sound of her own voice.

She leaped from her chair and paced the compact kitchen. Absorbed in her thoughts, Monica continued walking about the room, circling the wooden table a number of times. She’d prayed long and hard for God to send a man into her life, but she hadn’t asked how she was supposed to recognize him.

How she wished her mother were alive. Esther Fischer had always seemed to know what to do even in the most awkward of situations.

Her father looked surprised to see her when he returned fifteen minutes later. His nose was red and his cheeks bright with color from the short walk from the church to the parsonage.

“It’s a beautiful morning,” he announced cheerfully, removing his gloves, one finger at a time.

It could be blizzard conditions and her father would say the same thing. Sundays were beautiful to him no matter what the weather, because he was leading his flock in worship.

“Dad,” Monica said, walking over to the refrigerator and taking out a carton of eggs and a package of bacon. She set them on the counter and then purposely turned around to face him. “When you met Mom, how did you feel? I mean did you have an inkling that this was the woman you’d eventually love and marry?”

If her father thought her question was out of the ordinary, he gave no indication. “I saw your mother for the first time in church.”

“I know.” She loved the story of how her parents had met while in the college-age Sunday school class. Her mother’s family had recently moved into the area and Esther had felt shy and awkward that first Sunday.

Her father had been captivated by the beautiful young woman and had wanted to claim the empty seat beside her. Unfortunately several of the other young men had shared the same idea. While they were arguing about it, Esther had quietly stood and moved over to the chair and sat next to Lloyd. It wasn’t a wildly romantic story, but Monica had enjoyed hearing it again and again as a young girl. It had deeply impressed her that her mother, although she was only nineteen at the time, had the presence of mind to choose such a wonderful man as Monica’s father.

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