Cline glanced at the porcelain-skinned, model-thin vision before him and suddenly felt his old habits bubble to the surface. He bit back the pickup line sitting at the tip of his tongue and instead said mildly, “I wouldn’t want that. First names it is. Cathy, can you tell me what the emergency is, or will you continue embarrassing this lovely lady?”
Cathy elbowed Kinley in the side. “Did you hear that? He called you ‘lovely.’”
“Yes, and he just heard you,” Kinley said, her face turning red. Still, she smiled kindly at Cathy before facing Cline. “Listen, I’m sorry. I’m afraid you stepped into the middle of a man-tervention.”
She laughed, a delicate, sweet sound that filled the room. “My friends were accusing me of working too hard and not making time to date. Cathy means well, but doesn’t know when to take a breath and let people live their own lives.”
Judy stood and chimed in, saying, “She’s right, you know. I think we should all give Kinley a chance to meet men on her own.”
“What?” Cathy shrilled, but was stopped by a wide wink by Judy. “Oh. Right. We’ll leave you two alone to live your own lives.”
“Wait—what is it you needed me to come here for?” Cline asked Cathy before she could lead the other women out of the coffee shop.
“Oh, right. I needed to give you the keys to the buildings.” Cathy dug through her bag until she pulled out a large key ring, unsnapped the metal and slid off two keys. “The large one is for the church, and the other is for the cottage out back where you’ll be living.”
“That old dump?” Kinley exclaimed. “It’s not fit for even a bachelor.” She bit her bottom lip in an adorable way, and gave Cline a rueful glance. “I’m sorry. I’d assumed you weren’t married.”
“I’m not. And Mrs. West saw to it that the cottage was readied ahead of my arrival. It’s small, but it’ll do.” He tilted his head and angled his body toward the door. He didn’t like leaving Chrissy in the truck alone for this long. “I’m so sorry, but I’d better get going,” he said, not wanting to answer any more questions at the moment. He needed to keep his and Chrissy’s secret. He’d told people that Chrissy was his niece, and for now, the town needed to believe that lie. “It was nice to meet all of you. I hope to see you at our first service in a few weeks, once the renovations to the church are complete.”
“We do have a few churches in town,” Sue said. “What kind will yours be?”
“Sweetwater Church will be non-denominational. All faiths are welcome.”
“I think that’s lovely,” Judy said. “You can count on my husband James and I being there at your first service.”
“You mean even Catholics are welcome?” Cathy asked.
Judy huffed. “Watch it, girl. At least Catholics spend their time in church praying instead of planning the next picnic.”
Sue snagged a cup from the table and set it on the counter while the women continued to argue over religious denominations and their traditions. “Don’t mind them. They’ve been frenemies since birth.”
“It seems I’ll need to take a class on small town politics before I open up my mouth in front of my congregation.” Cline smiled, but then felt his chest tighten. When was the last time he’d smiled? It didn’t matter. Life was no longer about having fun. He’d left the partying and the women behind when he’d dedicated his life to helping others. And now, he had to help Chrissy. When he’d promised to do God’s work on Earth, he never knew how much God would ask of him.
He never would’ve guessed that he’d be asked to become a kidnapper.