I’d always admired the free-flowing conversational style of prayer Drew had with God.

“Thank you, Shay. I feel better already.”

“You’re welcome. Now enjoy your salad.” I was certainly enjoying mine.

As we continued talking, the subject turned to Mark and Sarah. Drew had no trouble discussing his children. I learned that he’d signed Mark up for karate classes but his son hadn’t taken well to the sport. “Mark told me Monday afternoon that he doesn’t want to go any longer.”

“Are you going to let him quit?” I asked, unsure how I would handle the situation. I didn’t see Mark as a quitter and for him to want out of the class told me he was utterly miserable.

Drew shrugged as if he wasn’t entirely sure what to do, either. “I don’t want to force Mark to attend. He clearly isn’t enjoying himself. I’d hoped he’d take to it, but I should have realized he’s an indoor kid. He never has been physically active. I don’t want him to feel like I’m disappointed in him because he’d rather be a member of the chess club than play basketball.”

“He’s really smart, Drew.” I was probably telling him what he already knew about his own son. “Did you know he’s completed that mathematical puzzle book I got him at Christmas? He told me they were all easy, but those story problems were anything but. They challenged me.”

“He used his allowance to buy more,” Drew told me, grinning proudly. “Sarah is just the opposite. She does fine in the grades department, but she loves being outside. She does have an interest in learning how to bake cookies, though. Do you think you could manage to spend time with her on your next day off?”

“I’ll see what I can arrange,” I told him. When it came to Drew’s children, I loved them already.

All too soon our hour was up. Drew reached for my hand as we left the restaurant. Warmth crept up my arm at his touch. I walked with him part of the way.

“I don’t want to leave you,” he said, voicing my own thoughts.

“I know.” I was feeling much the same.

“Any chance we could meet up later in the week?” he asked.

Seeing that I was determined to accept Devon’s dinner invite, I wasn’t sure what to tell him. “I’ll let you know. Sound good?”

“No.” He raised our clasped hands to his lips and kissed the back of my hand. His eyes bored into mine. “I hope you know that I’d give just about anything to be able to kiss you right now.”

I knew the feeling because I felt the same powerful urge.

“I’ll call you,” he whispered. “And I’ll make it soon.”

“Okay.”

He released my hand, and while still facing me, retreated two steps. “I’ll be in touch.”

Rather than respond verbally, I nodded.

My mind was working at the speed of light as I headed back to my small house to get ready for my classes. I’d finished my homework long before to distract myself from thoughts of Drew and him seeing other women and me accepting a date from Devon. Caught up in my thoughts, it took a moment to realize the buzzing sound coming from my pocket was my phone. A glance at caller ID told me it was Lilly.

“Hey,” I said, happy to hear from her. “I had lunch with Drew earlier and he mentioned that you—”

“Shay.”

Just the way she said my name, cutting me off, told me something was wrong.

“Have you had the news on?”

“Ah…no. What’s the problem?” My thoughts immediately went to my brother. He’d been found dead or arrested for a heinous crime. Caden was on a path I was determined to avoid, but I still cared what might have happened to him.

“There’s been a computer glitch in the prison system,” Lilly said, her voice tight with concern. “Over a hundred felons have mistakenly been set free.”

My entire body froze and I was barely able to get out the words. “Is…is there a list of names?”

“Yes.”

I held my breath, waiting for her to continue.

“The name you mentioned, the one you called Shooter.”

“Was someone with that name released?”

“Yes.”

My eyes slammed shut. No, this couldn’t be happening.

“I thought you should know right away and take precautions.”

Letting go of a long, slow breath, I forced the tension from my shoulders. “I’ll be fine,” I said with a false sense of bravado. “Shooter will have more on his mind than finding me. We haven’t been in contact for years. There’s no reason for me to think he’ll come looking for me.”

“You need to be careful, though.”

“Of course.”

“I mean it, Shay.”

“I know.” Again, I did my best to sound confident, convincing Lilly that I had nothing to fear from Shooter.

I only hoped I was right.

Brittany Beckman sat next to me at the symphony. This was my second date with her and she was nice enough, I suppose. According to Mary Lou, my assistant, Brittany and I would be perfect together.

I squelched a yawn. It wasn’t that I didn’t appreciate classical music. I did. My problem was that I preferred being more familiar with the composer. I’d studied the program before the start and didn’t recognize the title of a single piece. Britt, as she preferred to be called, had gotten the tickets as a gift and had invited me to join her.

The violins played and my eyes started to drift shut. Jerking myself awake, I did my best to sit up straighter and pay attention. From all outward appearances, Britt was completely enraptured by the music. I should have been, or at least tried to make more of an effort to enjoy this opportunity. Instead, my head was whirling with all the things I should be doing.

Sarah needed help with her spelling homework and I wasn’t sure Jada, the babysitter, had the patience to drill her with her work. And then there was the sermon for Sunday that I had yet to complete.

The series I’d started on the spiritual lessons found in popular movies was a hit with the congregation. I’d gotten a lot of positive feedback. Word had gotten around and I’d heard from a couple pastor friends, who asked how I’d come up with the idea. Of course there were a few naysayers. No subject matter was going to please everyone.

Thinking about the sermon reminded me of Shay, not that she was ever far from my thoughts. Although she hadn’t talked about it, I suspected she’d already gone out with that guy she’d met at the café. When she’d first mentioned him, I’d downplayed my reaction. Having her date other men didn’t sit right with me, which was completely unreasonable, seeing that I was currently with Britt at the symphony. As much as I wanted to ask Shay to date only me, that would be utterly unfair.

At the end of the exhausting evening, I returned to the house, paid Jada, and slumped onto the sofa, my nerves shot. Britt was a nice woman, but there was no spark between us. Zero chemistry.

Getting up, I turned off the living room lights when my son wandered out of his bedroom.

“Did I wake you?” I asked Mark. He was a light sleeper and I often saw evidence that he’d been up in the middle of the night. When I asked him about it, he generally brushed it off, irritated by my questions.

He rubbed his eyes and blinked at me. “I heard you and Jada talking.”

“I didn’t mean to wake you.” He had school in the morning and as a growing boy, he needed his rest. “Can I have a glass of milk?” he asked. “It helps me get back to sleep.”

“Sure.” Tired as I was, I could use a glass myself. “Mind if I join you?”

“Okay.”

Mark climbed onto a stool at the kitchen counter while I brought down two glasses and poured each about half full.

“How’d your date go?” he asked when I handed him the milk.

I shrugged. “Fine, I guess.”

“You like her?”

I wasn’t sure how to answer that. “She’s a nice woman.”

“Is that your answer?” Mark asked before he sipped his milk.

“Not really.” While I did my best to figure out how to explain my feelings, Mark asked another question.

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