Monica doubted that she had such finely tuned discrimination herself, and after meeting Chet she was convinced of it.

“Did I know that first Sunday I was going to love your mother?” her father repeated her question slowly, his look thoughtful. “It’s funny you should ask about her. I was just thinking about her myself and how she loved cold, crisp mornings such as this.”

“How soon after you met did you realize you were going to love her?” Monica pressed, anxious now.

Her father poured himself a fresh cup of coffee. “It would sound romantic if I said I did that first Sunday, wouldn’t it? Don’t get me wrong, I was attracted to Esther from the moment I laid eyes on her. Any young man with a lick of sense would have been. She was lovely then and more so as the years progressed.”

“You dated for several years, didn’t you?”

“Yes, those were difficult times. We weren’t married until four years later, after I’d completed seminary.”

“I know that. What I want to know is when you realized you were in love with her.”

He sat down at the table and rubbed his hand over his face.

Monica laughed. “It shouldn’t be this hard, Daddy.”

He nodded, his dark eyes intense. “I was trying to think back and it’s been more years than I care to count. As best as I can remember, falling in love was a gradual process for me. Your mother and I saw a good deal of one another and I always enjoyed her company. It just seemed to me that she’d make a good pastor’s wife and so I asked her to marry me.”

“I see.” Monica didn’t bother to hide her disappointment. She’d been looking for something that hadn’t been there. Her parents, while deeply in love, hadn’t shared any great passion for each other. To the best of her memory she couldn’t remember them doing more than holding hands in public.

Her disappointment must have shown because her father looked at her and asked, “This troubles you?”

“Oh, no. I . . . I was just wondering, is all. It isn’t important.” Only it was.

Even when they were young and in love her parents had been sensible and prudent when it came to choosing their life’s partners. There hadn’t been any explosion of—she hated to even say the word—passion between them. They’d drifted into marriage as a natural conclusion to a long-standing relationship.

It was the way her romance had started with Patrick, but their relationship had fizzled out and died without Monica even realizing what had happened. What she’d hoped to hear had been a confirmation of the feelings she’d experienced since meeting Chet. Not that she’d ever consider marrying anyone like him.

“I deeply loved your mother.”

“I know that, Dad.”

“I understand you’re impatient to be a wife yourself, and all I can say is that God will bring a man into your life in His own time.”

Monica nodded and, returning to the stove, placed an iron skillet on the stove. “I’m in no rush,” she said, and even as she spoke, Monica knew that wasn’t true.

“Remember what happened when Sarah decided to take matters into her own hands by giving Abraham her servant girl?”

“I remember.”

“Don’t make this a do-it-yourself project.”

Monica laughed. “I won’t.”

Her father was silent for a moment, then asked, “Michael’s certainly a nice-looking young man, don’t you think?”

Monica resisted the urge to laugh outright. Her father couldn’t have been less subtle. The choir director was a couple of years younger than Monica, not that it mattered. He was reserved and quiet, and frankly, she couldn’t imagine spending the rest of her life with him. She liked Michael, and appreciated his efforts with the choir, but when she looked at him there wasn’t any spark, any sizzling attraction. She felt nothing.

How she wished she could say the same for Chet. What she felt for him had to be immoral. It was immoral. Only that morning, when she was trying desperately to sleep, her thoughts had been full of Chet and the kiss they’d shared. The mere memory had turned her body into a traitor. Monica was convinced those feelings were ones godly women were never meant to experience.

“Ah, yes,” her father continued, blithely unaware of the route her unruly thoughts had taken. “Michael would make you a good husband. I’m an old man, and I don’t know much about romance, but my guess is that he’d very much like to get to know you better.”

“He’s a good man,” Monica agreed, unwilling to say anything more.

“You could do far worse.”

Her father hadn’t a clue how true those words were. He approved of Michael, but she had no doubts of what the good reverend would think should she introduce him to Chet. Monica could well imagine the look of alarm that would come into his eyes. Naturally, he’d be gentle with his concern, but his response would be impossible to conceal.

After she’d finished frying the bacon and eggs, Monica set the plate on the table and said, “I’m going upstairs to change.”

Her father tossed a surprised look her way. “You’re not eating?”

She shook her head.

“You’re sure you’re feeling all right?”

At the moment Monica wasn’t sure of anything.

“Come sit with me,” Andrew invited. Leah’s husband was relaxing on the white leather sofa, his feet stretched out and propped against the end of the glass coffee table. He set aside the morning paper and held out his arms coaxingly to her.

“I was going to wash the breakfast dishes,” Leah said, and hesitated.

“Do them later.”

“Andrew!” Her husband had the look about him that was unmistakable. He wanted her the way a man wants his wife and he wasn’t willing to wait much longer.

“Yes?” she asked, poising her hand against her hip and shifting her weight to one foot. “It’s barely ten o’clock in the morning.” She didn’t know why she was making excuses, she was as eager for him as he was for her. This was a good time of the month as well, her temperature would confirm that, but she hadn’t taken it yet that morning.

“So? Who cares about the time?” he asked, holding his arm out to her. “Does the clock have to chime a certain number of times before I’m allowed to make love to my wife?”

“No.” She walked toward him, her steps slow and provocative. When she was close, Andrew gripped hold of her waist, and gently lowered her onto his lap.

“Have I told you how beautiful you are lately?”

Leah smiled and shook her head. “Not since yesterday morning.”

His hands stroked the length of her arms, his touch light and gentle. “Then I need to make up for lost time, don’t I?”

“By all that’s right, you should do penance.”

“Oh?”

She looped her arms around his neck and pressed her forehead to his. Andrew’s hands were busily working open the fastenings of her robe. After ten years of married life, Leah’s body was well acquainted with that of her husband’s.

Their kiss was slow, sultry, and thorough. She was breathless and panting by the time Andrew dragged his mouth from hers.

“You taste good.”

“So do you,” she whispered, her eyes closed.

His hands left her breasts and eased aside the elastic of the silk bottoms of her pajamas to stroke her flat stomach sensuously.

Andrew groaned as she moved against him, and kissed her again and then again, each one growing more intense in length and need.

“You know what I want?” he whispered hoarsely close to her ear, panting.

“Let’s go in the bedroom.”

“Why?” He kissed her neck and his hands sought her breasts. “You’re my wife, I can make love to you any place I please, can’t I?”

“I should take my temperature first. This might not be the best time of the month for us to be doing this. If we’re going to make love let’s do it when there’s a chance I could get pregnant.”

The silence that followed her words was filled with tension. Leah didn’t know what she’d said that was so terrible. Their lovemaking had always been arranged according to her menstrual cycle and her temperature, which signaled ovulation.

“Andrew?” she asked, not understanding.

He moved away from her and straightened his clothes. She noticed that his hands were shaking. The anger came off him in waves like heat shimmering off concrete in the hottest days of summer.

“It’ll only take a moment,” she promised.

He kept his back to her. Still not understanding what she’d said, Monica sat up herself and straightened her own pajamas.

“It . . . it only makes sense if we’re going to make love to do it at a time when I could get pregnant.”

At her words, Andrew vaulted off the sofa and stormed into their bedroom. It was rare for him to act this way and she instinctively followed, wanting to right the wrong.

“Don’t you agree?” she asked softly, placing her hand on his arm.

He whirled on her then, eyes flashing with anger, his teeth clenched. “No, Leah, I don’t agree.”

The force of his anger took her by surprise and she gasped and automatically stepped away from him. She couldn’t remember him ever looking at her this way.

“I . . . I assumed you want a baby too,” she offered weakly.

“I do.” The words were hurled at her like sharp knives. “But not at the expense of everything else. It might come as a shock to you, but I’d appreciate being treated more like a husband and less like a robot. Every time we make love, all you can think about is making a baby. Did you ever stop to consider why we make love less and less often? Have you?” he shouted.

Leah had backed all the way across the room. Her backside was flattened against the wall. “I . . . I didn’t notice we made love less often.”

“For the last seven years it’s been sex on demand. Our entire love life is centered on what time of the month it is. If Mars is lined up with Jupiter or some such stuff.”

“That’s ridiculous,” she said, wanting to defend herself.

“My thoughts exactly. We make love when you want, when you think there’s a remote possibility you might become pregnant. It isn’t love any longer, it’s sex, and if that was all I wanted, I could get it on the street.”

Leah felt the color drain from her face. “You . . . you don’t mean that.” It was a fear she’d lived with from the moment she realized she might never bear a child, that Andrew would eventually leave her. That he’d find another woman who could give him the family he wanted.

He tore out of his pajamas, dressing quickly. “I can’t remember the last time we made love,” he said, jerking a shirt from the closet. The hanger swung with the force of his action. “Really made love,” he amended. “It isn’t me you want, it’s what I can give you, and if I can’t, then I’m no use to you.”

“That’s not true.”

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