As an attorney and a senator's daughter, Abby is used to seeing her dreams fulfilled. But there's one exception: handsome single pastor Jeremy Walker. Abby longs for Jeremy to see her as more than a friend and member of the congregation, but every time they get close, he pulls away.
Keeping a low profile is a matter of life-and-death for Jeremy. Though he's drawn to Abby, she lives in the limelight he's desperate to avoid. Abby deserves a man who can give her the world, not one who has to hide from it. Can she convince Jeremy that the only attention she wants is his?
About the Author
She is the 2012 Golden Heart® and Golden Pen Inspirational winner living in a small town in west central Florida with her wonderful husband of fifteen years. She spends her days creating new stories and taking care of her family.
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Abby Blackmon shot Pastor Jeremy Walker the evil eye as she snatched the finance committee's proposal off the protective glass covering of his desk. She stuffed it into her briefcase. His office usually evoked a sense of comfort. The cherry-stained furnishings complemented the lush gold textured carpet, creating a sense of timeless assurance. Hopefulness.
But today, Jeremy's unexplained recalcitrance filled her with an irritation no peaceful ambiance could quell. She regarded the thicker theological tomes lining his bookshelves with an eye toward their physical, rather than spiritual, effectiveness. As in, the best one to use to knock some sense into his stubborn head.
"We need to get the community behind this project if we're going to raise the money to build the recreation center. The indoor center you want built. Remember? The outreach ministry for disadvantaged kids? A place their parents could send them during the hot, humid summer and know they were safe. Ring any bells for you?"
He opened his mouth as if to answer her. But nothing came out. He wouldn't even meet her gaze. Instead, he angled his leather chair to her left and looked out the window. A serious air befitting the responsibilities of his calling cloaked him like a heavy trench coat. He was tall, athletic, with an expressive face anchored by a strong jaw, best captured in profile. His sandy-brown hair always looked as if he'd just run his hands through it, which he did now instead of explaining himself. He swiveled his chair and faced her. His eyes, usually more gold than green, and glinting with humor to balance the mien of seriousness, were a flat shade of brown. Their somberness didn't offer her any hope of changing his mind.
Still, she tried. "Jeremy, giving interviews and wooing the media is how my father's campaign manager raises the most funds for his re-election. They share their vision with the people who have a vested interest in reaching the same goal, and then they gain their support."
His mouth opened. "I" He fell silent again.
"You have to give me a better reason for rejecting a proposal the finance committee spent weeks working on. 'No interviews' isn't good enough, and you know it."
Their glares waged a silent war. Despite her determination, she blinked first. That loosened his rigid posture and he leaned back in his chair, his jaw clamped shut.
"Fine," she said. "You can explain yourself to the committee at the end of the month. But know thisI've dealt with difficult people before. And despite them, the project was finished on time."
The normally agreeableuntil todayminister repositioned his rimless glasses. Probably so his view would be focused when he looked down his nose at her. At Grace Community Church, his word was final in the hierarchy of decision making. Never mind that he was being nonsensical with his "no cameras and no interviews" edict. She glanced at her watch. Great. Katherine was probably already at the restaurant, wondering where she was.
Abby stood, straightening a crease in her pencil skirt, stalling until she had her temper under control. "My parents asked me to invite you to dinner at their house this Saturday. Daddy's due back in Washington next week."
Her gaze sought his when he didn't respond. "I won't be there, if that's the reason for your hesitation."
Jeremy ran a hand through his hair again and let out a soul-deep sigh. "Please, tell your parents I'm happy to have dinner with them." He watched her for a moment before clearing his throat. "I know you and the committee worked hard on this proposal, but I won't change my mind about the interviews. I am sorry, Abby. You'll have to find another way."
She nodded. "I'll let them know to expect you." At the door, she placed her hand on the knob before glancing back at him. "And I don't believe you are. Sorry, that is." She walked out, leaving the door gaping open like the invisible chasm separating them.
Disappointment dogged her on the drive to the restaurant. She'd stopped by Jeremy's office with the idea of giving him a brief rundown of the proposal, then leaving it with him for further review. He would, of course, love it, then call her later in the week about scheduling the interviews. So much for great ideas or thinking they were on the same page about anything.
A few minutes later, Abby slid into the booth across from her friend Katherine Harper. She snapped her linen napkin open with a loud pop, wincing when Katherine glanced up from her menu. "Sorry."
Del Sol boasted cozy privacy, where the booths scattered around the expansive room invited long and lingering conversations. They were using an extended lunch hour to put the final touches on the plans for Katherine's upcoming wedding, in which Abby was her maid of honor and Jeremy was officiating. That one thought reignited her anger.
As soon as the waiter had taken their orders, Katherine leaned forward. "What's wrong?"
Abby's gaze flew to hers. "Nothing."
Katherine reached over and rescued the saucer of butter pats from the salad fork Abby was wielding like a pitchfork. Each golden decorative floral design had been transformed into a thin, round blob riddled with enough holes that it could pass for Swiss cheese.
"What's the matter?" Katherine used her patient, logical voice on her.
Oh, how Abby hated the sound of obvious reason. Katherine wouldn't talk about anything else, even her perfect wedding to Mr. Dreamy, if she didn't pour all this vexation out and let Katherine try to fix it. Which she couldn't. No one could but the stubborn minister whose jaw had turned to granite right after the word no had passed his lips.
"Fine." Once she began tattling on Jeremy, the words wouldn't stop. Then, finally she said, "He refused to participate in any interviews involving cameras. No television, no newspaper reports."
"He might be yours. But he is definitely not mine. Not after this morning." She snagged a piece of bread before Katherine could move that out of reach, too.
"That is so odd." Katherine scrunched her brow and took a sip from her water glass. "He has always been a clown. But now that you mention it, I don't think I've ever seen him pose for a picture. In fact, he finds an excuse to leave the room just before we take group photos with the church outreach volunteers."
"You should have seen him. He acted so angry with me. It was as if I'd asked him to keep the car running while I robbed the bank instead of being interviewed for a local news feature." Abby sank farther into her seat. "I don't know where I'm supposed to go from here. That was the plan."
Katherine slid the butter dish toward her. An act of pity Abby wouldn't acknowledge.
"And the way he looked down his nose at me. Oh, I wanted to just shake him until he saw how ridiculous he was being." The fresh-baked bread on her plate hadn't fared any better than the pats of butter. "You don't think it's a phobia, do you?"
"More like camera shyness. I mean, he has no trouble with public speaking. I don't see where having his picture in the paper would be nearly as scary as standing in front of five hundred church members each Sunday and reminding them that God sees everything they do or say."
Abby leaned forward. "I checked Google on my phone before I came inside. But all I found were articles relating to archaic religious or spiritual superstitions."
"What? How can a minister have a spiritual issue with a camera?"
She laughed, and some of her frustration faded. "The person believes that when the camera captures their image, it's also capturing their soul."
They both leaned back as the waiter placed their salads in front of them.
After saying grace, Katherine stabbed a forkful of grilled chicken and greens. "My vote's still on camera-shyness."
"Are you using me to practice up on how to inject political jargon into conversations like any good politician's wife-to-be?"
Katherine stuck her tongue out at her, and the topic of conversation switched from Jeremy to all things wedding. Abby noted the appointment time in her planner for their final dress fittings. Nick was picking up the invitations as soon as the printer said they were done.
"Oh, we need a sample of the fabric from your dresses to give to the florist so he can match it to the ribbons in the bouquets. Please don't let me forget that when we're there."
Abby glanced up, her pen poised over the planner page, and smiled. "Look at you. Ready to write an article for a bridal magazine on the importance of matching colors."
"Pfft. That isn't what I'm doing and you know it. If you and Gina don't go with me, the florist will have talked me into having you both walk down the aisle carrying a crystal vase full of roses that resemble a rainbow."
The sad thing was it was the truth. Kat had confessed to her that Nick had promised this florist exclusive rights to their wedding in exchange for coordinating the floral part of his wooing campaign to win her heart.
Thoughts of how happy the two of them were going to be soon had Abby cramming Jeremy and his prickliness into the "to be dealt with later" part of her brain. She immersed herself in helping her best friend plan the wedding of her dreams to her Prince Charming.
After they'd gone through both their lists, coordinating times and things still needing attention, the waiter cleared their dishes from the table. Katherine insisted on picking up the check in thanks for Abby helping keep her on target. Abby hugged her goodbye in the parking lot before heading to her office.
Once there, she pulled the wrinkled pages of her plan to make Jeremy's dream come true from her briefcase and threw them in the trash. All she'd lost with her impromptu meeting this morning was an easy way to raise money for the rec centerand any hope she had that Jeremy saw her as something more than a member of the finance committee and the church he pastored. It was better she knew his position on both, now, before she invested any more effort into a doomed venture.
She had always admired him and the heavy burden he carried in his heart, not just for his congregation, but all of Pemberly, Georgia. With the numerous programs they had worked on together, she'd thought she knew him. But the man who'd shot down her ideas before she could get out of the starting gate today wasn't her Jeremy, willing to do whatever it took to meet the needs of his people. This morning's Jeremy had been a cold and distant stranger.
Her Jeremyoh, goodness, she had not just thought of him that way. They were friends. They respected each other's views. And, yes, she had hoped that sometime in the near future their relationship would grow into something deeper. At least she had until today's face-off.
Oh, she was pathetic. What kind of person had warm, fuzzy flutters in her heart when she thought about her pastor? She was sick. Sick, sick, sick. God, help me. You're the only one who can.
To distract her from her crazy thoughts and find a way around Jeremy's edicts, she scrolled through her contacts list, on the hunt for someone to help raise the money to begin construction. Because, no matter how many ideas Jeremy rejected, she was the head of the finance committee tasked with gaining the necessary funding to see this project completed. She always achieved her goals. And she would this time, toowith or without Pastor Jeremy Walker's nod of approval and help.
Halfway down the screen she spotted Wendy Albright's name. Oh, yes. Wednesday Wendy hosted midweek features involving the community for Channel Six News. Perfect. Abby's father hadn't recommended she attend the University of Georgia just because it was his alma mater. She'd met and forged friendships with people who were now influential members of society throughout the state and the country. Including Wendy.
Ten minutes later, she was explaining her "need" to her fellow sorority Faithful Sister.
"Abby, darlin', if we Faithfuls can't help each other out, what is this world coming to?"
She smiled. Wendy was just as Southern as ever. Some things never changed. "Exactly. I'm trying to raise money for a church-based recreation center that would also benefit the community. Do you know of any eager philanthropists willing to have their name on a bronze plaque over the top of the double doors when we dedicate the building to the city of Pemberly?"
"What's your angle in wanting it built?"
Abby sat up straight. "The community needs this for the teens. The church has an outdoor court for basketball, but with all the rain and heat during summer, it's hard to get the kids out of the AC long enough to make a difference in their lives."
"Hmm. Basketball, you said? I know a former Hawks player with a soft heart for community projects that benefit kids. He's only been out of the game a few years, so his name would still be a big draw. Give me your number, and I'll ask him to call you. You aren't married, are you?"
"What? Why does that matter?"
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I thought Abby was reading way too much into Jeremy's words, but otherwise, it was a nice story. Just not the type of story I typically enjoy. But a good story nonetheless.