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The Cowboy's Bride
By Carolyne Aarsen
Steeple HillCopyright © 2005 Carolyne Aarsen
All right reserved.
As the deacons took the collection, Joe leaned sideways in his pew, looking past the man in front of him. From this angle he had a better view of the woman sitting in the wing.
Fortunately Joe hadn't seen her until the sermon was over. She might have proved too much of a distraction otherwise.
Her high cheekbones and narrow nose served as an exquisite frame for her almond-shaped blue eyes and delicately curved mouth. He sighed as she lifted a hand to brush her hair from her face, then turned ahead once again.
Joe wasn't a believer in love at first sight, but this woman created a feeling of rightness. He had to talk to her after church.
His neighbor elbowed him lightly, and Joe glanced at Lorna McLure, his old schoolteacher and the wife of his good friend. He smiled at her intrusion.
"You might want to think twice about that one, Joe," she said quietly.
Joe grinned, knowing exactly what she was talking about and unashamed of it. "You know her?"
"Oh, don't turn those puppy dog eyes on me as if I could help you out there." Lorna winked at him.
"She's Rebecca Stevenson. Jenna Burke's younger sister."
Joe glanced at the vision named Rebecca. Jenna's sister. This was a major setback.
Jenna Burke was the wife of the local bank manager. She was proud of her husband's position on the town council and their position with the town's elite. But she was even more proud of her family's wealth.
Joe sighed as he watched the vision smile at the deacon as she handed him the collection plate. Without moving an inch, this beautiful woman had suddenly been put out of the reach of a mere truck driver with the dubious last name of Brewer.
"You have enough girls to keep you busy, anyhow," Lorna continued.
"What do you mean?" Joe turned to her, meeting clear green eyes that surveyed him knowingly.
"Kristine James has been spreading it around the cafe that she has her eyes on you."
"Kristine has her eyes on any single guy who is still breathing," he said with a grin. "And what about Stephanie and Erika?" Joe rolled his eyes. "Just where do you hang out when Allister is out on call?"
At that, the tall lanky man sitting beside Lorna McLure leaned over. "And what are you two chattering about?" he whispered with a light frown.
"Jenna's sister," Lorna said with a playful wink at Joe.
Allister shook his head, dismissing the conversation. "Catch me after church, Joe," he said quietly, still leaning forward, his elbows resting on his knees, his hands clasped. "Got a line on someone who is looking for a horse trainer."
As one of the veterinarians in the community, Allister got around and made connections. Joe wondered who he was talking about but knew his good friend would tell him nothing more until after church.
Lorna leaned closer. "And I got a line on Miss Stevenson," she said with a smile. "I hear she's moved here for awhile. I can keep track of her if you want."
"You do that, Lorna," he murmured as he caught another glimpse of Rebecca's eyes. Joe knew he should stop staring, hoping she wouldn't catch him at it. He couldn't help himself. She had a serenity and poise that spoke to a loneliness in his own soul. A loneliness that grew as school friends got married and had children.
He smiled ruefully as the congregation rose for the final song. He opened the hymnal, letting the music and words pull his thoughts to where they should be.
"Love divine, all loves excelling," he sang. As the words of the song drew him on, he couldn't help but look toward that angelic face once more, a feeling of melancholy pressing down on him.
Someday, he prayed. Someday he would find a love divine on earth.
Rebecca ran her finger over the page of the hymnal as if to absorb the words of the song she was singing, as if to make them alive. She could have sung all three verses of the song without the hymnal, it was so well-known to her.
But knowing the song and experiencing it were two different things. She certainly didn't feel lost in wonder, love and praise as the song promised. Friday she had received a reply on a position she had applied for as a physical education instructor, forwarded to her from Red Deer to Wakely. The message was, "Thanks but no thanks." Her mother had tried to discourage her from applying. "You'll just get disappointed," she had warned.
And Rebecca had been. It seemed no school in Alberta was willing to give a Bachelor of Education graduate who limped a job as a phys ed instructor.
As the congregation closed the books and the minister pronounced the blessing, Rebecca looked at the ceiling of the church. The words of the benediction were as familiar as the song, but they didn't lift her heart the way they once had. As she shifted her weight to her good leg, it was as if she was reminded of her unanswered prayers and struggles of the past months. A year ago she had been offered a position at a high school in Calgary as a physical education teacher. A year ago she had a boyfriend she thought would propose.
The accident changed everything. No one seemed to want her after that.
The organist played the first bars of the postlude, and Rebecca stepped carefully into the aisle, making sure she stayed close to the side in case she held up progress.
Excerpted from The Cowboy's Bride by Carolyne Aarsen Copyright © 2005 by Carolyne Aarsen.
Excerpted by permission.
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