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By Tara Quinn
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter One"LOVE IS A REMARKABLE thing...." The man's voice droned on and Martha Moore pulled out her notepad and pen.
Cereal - for Tim.
Granola - for her and the girls.
Chips. Tim had finished up the last of them the night before while watching reruns of Upstairs, Downstairs on Masterpiece Theater.
It was a show she and his father had watched when it originally aired. They'd had sex for the first time after a particularly moving episode.
Damn Todd Moore.
"When you're loving others, you don't have to worry about what anyone else is thinking or doing."
Glancing up from her list, Martha almost snorted at the new preacher.
"Because what you give will be reflected back."
Yeah, right. Get a life. She gazed skyward - past the good-looking man standing to the left of the pulpit - rather than in front of it like his predecessor. No flashing lights or threatening noises came from above at her lack of reverence.
"What are you doing?" Shelley, her sixteen-year-old daughter, whispered irritably. Shelley had recently developed an attitude that Martha found challenging, to put it mildly. "Someone might see you."
Biting back the words she wanted to say, reminding her daughter with a look that she was a fully grown adult with the right to stare up at the ceiling if she wanted to, Martha returned to her list.
Bread. She always forgot the bread. Probably because ever since her psychology-professor husband had left her for a twenty-something-year-old student she'd been a bit obsessive about her forty-one-year-old thighs.
"When you look at everything and everyone in your life through eyes of love rather than fear, you disassociate yourself from the possibility of pain, and live, instead, with the constant assurance of peace."
Bottled water. Martha glanced again. Was this guy for real? Walking around up there in slacks and a dress shirt with a tie that was probably real Italian silk and had more colors than the checkered and striped dinnerware she'd drooled over in the Crate and Barrel catalogue that had come earlier in the week. There'd never been a preacher in Shelter Valley Community Church, or in the other churches in town, who didn't wear the long flowing robe and sash associated with the calling, and who didn't hide behind a pulpit when he preached.
Constant peace? Who was he kidding? Constant aches and pains, more like it.
But then, from what she'd heard, the man was thirty-eight years old and had never been married. He had no family. What did he know about loving?
Boneless chicken breasts. Toilet paper.
"The soft kind," Tim leaned over to whisper. He was on her other side, next to his oldest sister, Ellen. Rebecca, Martha's fifteen-year-old daughter, was on the other side of Shelley.
With exaggerated force, Martha pointed to the preacher. After all, her kids were the only reason she was even there.
Once, shortly after Todd had left and before she'd landed her job as production assistant at Montford University's television station, she'd let tight finances convince her to buy bargain toilet paper. That had been the first time her son had expressed the anger that had been building since his father's defection.
"You aren't paying attention," Tim whispered, more loudly than Martha would have liked. Raising this boy was certainly different from raising the three girls who'd come before him.
"She doesn't have to, stupid, she's the boss." Shelley leaned across Martha to hiss at her brother. Much to Martha's distress, Shelley's youngest sibling was most often the target of the girl's disdain.
"Nuh-uh," Tim said in a low voice. "God is."
With a roll of her eyes, accompanied by a dramatic flounce for all the congregation to see, Shelley settled back against the pew.
Martha looked straight ahead, pretending that all was well in Mooreville. And saw that the members of the entire congregation weren't the only witnesses to their little interchange.
David Cole Marks, the new preacher at Shelter Valley Community Church, had seen the whole thing.
She held his gaze until she realized she was behaving as belligerently as Shelley in one of her more "charming" moments. Then Martha returned her attention to the paper in her lap.
Or attempted to.
The preacher's eyes seemed to bore into her mind, interrupting her ability to focus on the list in front of her. There'd been nothing disciplinary in those eyes, nothing condescending. No rebuke.
Only kind understanding. And a question. As though he wanted to help.
Yeah, right. She'd seen that same compassionate regard from this man's predecessor - and knew first-hand that what a person showed on the surface was no indication of what might lie beneath.
Forget the grocery list. Next time she'd bring a book.
Excerpted from Nothing Sacred by Tara Quinn Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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