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Authors: Kathryn Alexander

The Reluctant Bride

BOOK: The Reluctant Bride
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KATHRYN ALEXANDER

loves to write, and the publication of her first book,
The Reluctant Bride,
is the realization of a dream, an answer to a prayer and proof that a book can be written piecemeal, in small portions of time.

She writes inspirational romance because, having been a Christian for many years, incorporating the element of faith in the Lord into a romantic story line seemed like a lovely and appropriate idea. After all, in a society where love for a lifetime is difficult to find, imagine discovering it, unexpectedly, as a gift sent from God.

Married to Kelly, her own personal love of a lifetime, Kathryn and her husband have one son, John, who is the proud owner of the family's two housepests (not a typo), Herbie the cat and Copper the dog.

Kathryn and her family have been members of their church for nearly five years, where she co-teaches a Sunday school class of active two-year-olds. She is now a stay-at-home mom who writes between carpooling, baby-sitting and applying bandages, when necessary.

The Reluctant Bride
Kathryn Alexander

www.millsandboon.co.uk

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

-Psalms
23:1

To my husband, Kelly, who continues to give me
the happiest years of my life (may there be many
more!), and to our son, John, for his many hours of
playing cars on the library floor close to the word
processor while I typed my first book.

Chapter One

“I
thought you said Michael Shepherd was here.” The dark-haired attorney directed his half statement, half question to the receptionist, but his eyes lingered on the only person seated in the lobby: a young, pretty woman with auburn curls pushed casually over her shoulder, and her nose buried in a magazine. She looked up at the mention of the name.

“And this,” the lawyer stated matter-of-factly, “is definitely not a Michael.”

“It's Micah Shepherd,” she explained, returning the magazine to the coffee table and rising from her chair. “M-I-C-A-H.”

A darkening gaze surveyed her briefly. “Witness to the Winslow accident?”

“Yes,” Micah responded. “I received a letter asking me to come in to answer a few questions.”

“Yes, I sent the letter. I'm Rob Granston.” He smiled as he shook the slender hand Micah extended toward him.

Rob Granston appeared much like Micah's friend Carole had described. Tall, yes, just as Micah needed to match her own height of five-eight, and his eyes were the gentle blue Carole had mentioned. His hair, coal black, looked soft and fine, but it was that wide, welcoming smile that his mouth curved into so easily that concerned Micah the most. Micah had come to the law offices today only because she felt it was her duty as a citizen. She had no intention of falling for this guy, no matter how “right” her friend claimed he would be for her.

“My client and I appreciate your taking the time to come in. Not everyone agrees to be interviewed when they're named as a witness to an automobile accident,” Rob stated.

“I think it's my responsibility to tell you what I know about it. Will Mrs. Winslow be here this afternoon?” Micah asked.

“No, she's been hospitalized with back injuries,” he responded as he directed her down a hallway. “First door to your left,” he instructed, and they entered a large office decorated in deep, almost oppressive hues of brown and rust, with bulky furniture strategically placed throughout the room. Accustomed to the brightly colored, open spaces of a classroom, Micah found her surroundings slightly overwhelming.

“I apologize for the mix-up about your name. I believe the letter I sent was mistakenly addressed to ‘Michael’ Shepherd,” Rob noted. “When Mrs. Winslow gave us the information, there was obviously some misunderstanding.”

“It's all right,” Micah replied. “When you have an unusual name like mine, you get used to that.”

“I do need to ask a few questions. Please, have a seat, Miss Shepherd. It is ‘Miss’?” Rob watched her sit down in the leather chair nearest the desk.

“Yes,” Micah said with slight hesitation. “It is.” She placed her small canvas handbag on the floor and silently prayed this meeting would not last long.

Rob took a seat behind his desk and from the clutter off to the side, he pulled a legal pad, the Winslow file and a pen. Looking up, he found Micah staring out the window.

“Twentieth floor,” she commented.

“Yes.” Rob glanced toward the window that had captured Micah's attention. “The view is the best thing about this office.”

“The skyline is beautiful,” she remarked, “but this room is so—” She stopped and looked toward his curious gaze. How did she manage to make such blunders?

“Dark? Dreary?” he suggested.

“Well, yes, but—”

“That's okay,” he interrupted, the corners of his mouth lifting in genuine amusement. “I've thought
the same thing many times. We're planning to redecorate soon.”

Micah smiled, too, a smile of relief.

“Go ahead. Take a look.” Rob nodded toward the glass and leaned back in his chair.

She rose from her seat and approached the window where she scanned the scenery below. It was a beautiful spring day the view encompassed—a view of the capital city in which she had lived for the past two winters, gray and icy, and two pleasant springs, summers and autumns. Surveying the variety of structures on the other side of the glass, she commented, “This would make a great painting.”

“Are you an artist?”

“Yes,” Micah said, “but it's my substitute teaching that pays the bills.” She paused. “I've been in high-rise buildings in downtown Columbus, but I've never seen a lovelier view than this.”

“Neither have I,” came Rob's response, low and disturbing.

Micah turned, her green eyes colliding with a warm, interested blue gaze that had not been focused on the Ohio skyline. Clearing her throat nervously, she returned to her chair. “I guess we have an accident to discuss.”

“There's no hurry,” Rob replied, studying the faintly freckled face of the woman seated across from him. “You're my last appointment for the day.”

“I really don't think I'll be much help to you,”
Micah began. “I'm sure you'd like to have a good witness for a P.I. case like this, but—”

“You said ‘P.I.’ You're familiar with personal injury cases?”

“A little.” Micah hesitated. Two blunders in five minutes. Maybe she could break her own foolish record. All she longed for now was the conclusion of this interview and an open door. “I told Mrs. Winslow when she took my name and number the night of the accident that I wouldn't be a good witness.”

Turning a pen over and over in his hands, Rob asked, ‘What makes you less than a good witness?” Then he smiled. Almost.

“A witness has to actually
see
something to be called a witness, and I didn't see anything.” Micah looked down at her off-white cotton slacks and the multicolored striped shirt of neutral shades. Carole was right, she realized. This outfit was all wrong. With this guy she needed sweats and a good pair of running shoes.

“Mrs. Winslow seems to think you saw everything.”

“You see, I was pulling out of the supermarket parking lot when I saw that big yellow car of Mrs. Winslow's going west on the street in front of the store. There was another car coming—”

“Going east?”

“Yes, and just as they approached each other, I sneezed.” Micah shrugged. “Of course, my eyes
shut for a moment, and when I looked up, the two cars had already crashed.”

Rob's mouth curved into that smile Micah liked far more than she wanted to admit. He scribbled something on the legal pad in front of him. “Sneezing would have closed your eyes for only a second. Surely you saw something that—”

“But it happened several times. I'd purchased a mixed bouquet in the store's floral shop that night, and I guess I was allergic to some of the flowers.”

“What kind?”

“Carnations, daisies…I don't recall exactly.” Micah frowned. “Why?”

“Just curious,” Rob responded quietly. “You did speak with Mrs. Winslow that night. Did you explain any of this to her?”

“I tried to tell her. I usually shop for groceries on Thursday evenings and so does Mrs. Winslow. I didn't even know her name until the night of the wreck, but I would recognize her big yellow car anywhere. I always get out of her way.”

Rob leaned back in his chair. “Get out of her way?” The humor vanished.

“Yes,” Micah replied. “She drives like a maniac. That's why I wanted to come in for this appoint ment, to tell you how dangerous her driving is.”

Rob folded his bands together. “I'm beginning to see why you are less than a good witness.”

“I'm sorry, Mr. Granston. It would highly surprise me to find out that the accident was
not
Mrs.
Winslow's fault. Anyone who drives as badly as she does should have their license revoked. Maybe you could do something about—”

“Miss Shepherd,” Rob said, “my client is in the hospital with back injuries that may prove to be serious. We're not here to discuss the revocation of her driver's license.”

But Micah persisted. Mrs. Winslow's driving ability, or the lack thereof, was mainly what had prompted her to make this appointment today. That, and her own curiosity. What made this stranger the perfect man for her, as her friend had proclaimed at least a dozen times? “But you're in a position to do something about this,” she insisted. “Trying to win a case against the other driver, undoubtedly the victim here, isn't fair. Now that you know how badly Mrs. Winslow drives, maybe you could talk to her.”

Rob stood up, bringing Micah's plea to an abrupt end. She was being dismissed, and she knew it.

“Thank you for coming, Miss Shepherd. I do appreciate your time and your honesty.”

“I
am
being honest. Mrs. Winslow is dangerous behind the wheel of a car, and you'd be doing the public a great service by keeping her off the road.”

“I'll take your comments into consideration,” he said calmly.

Micah did not like attorneys. None of them. And she wondered now why she had ever agreed to meet with this one. The clock on the wall behind her chimed, and Micah glanced down at her watch.

“My bus,” she said. “I must go or I'll miss it.”

Rob opened the door for her, and ushered her out of the office and down the hallway. An uncomfortable silence loomed between them as Micah rummaged through her purse in search of change while walking toward the exit.

“Do you ride the bus often?” he asked.

“Only when I'm having car trouble,” she replied and paused, looking up at his serious expression. “So I guess the answer is yes.”

“If you're too late for your bus, I could call a taxi--”

“No, thank you,” she said quickly, a little too quickly. Micah did not have money for cab fare, and she was not going to let this irritating young attorney offer to pay.

“It's too bad Mrs. Winslow isn't here. Perhaps she would have offered you a ride home,” he suggested with the mischievous slant of his mouth brightening his otherwise dark features.

“I'd rather walk,” Micah responded. The tone she had intended to be sharp somehow softened as she stared into his eyes.

“Yes, I suspect you would,” Rob remarked with a quiet laugh. “I'll be leaving soon. If you'd care to take a chance on my driving, Spring Blossom Avenue is not far out of my way.”

Spring Blossom Avenue. Her street. “How—”

“It's in your file,” he answered. “I dictated the letter to ‘Michael.’ Remember?”

“Thanks, anyway, but I can catch the bus.” She
started to leave. Part of her wanted to rush away from this situation, but her feet seemed firmly planted in the doorway, reluctant to move. “I'm sorry I couldn't help with your case.”

Rob shrugged as if it was of no consequence. “You were honest,” he commented as that smile slowly faded. “I have a feeling that's all you ever could be.”

Honest. That's all she dared to be. The past had been difficult enough to put to rest. Micah had no plans to complicate her future. She stepped through the exit, letting the door fall shut behind her, and hurried away from the suite of offices and the young attorney she would not soon forget.

“Well? What did you think?” Carole asked the moment Micah opened the front door of her apartment to let her best friend enter. “Did you talk to him?”

“Yes. He's nice enough. Come to the kitchen, and I'll get you some lemonade.”

“And good-looking? Didn't you think he was adorable?”

“Adorable, no. But he has a nice smile.” Too nice, Micah thought

“Come on, Micah. Lighten up! Rob Granston is the man for you, and I've known it since the day I met him. He did such a great job of handling the purchase of my tanning and hair salon—”

“I know, I know,” Micah stated with a laugh. “I think you've mentioned that a time or two.”

“And he's handsome and intelligent and funny and successful—”

“Okay, what is this? A commercial?”

“He's nearly perfect, Micah. I'd be interested in him myself if I didn't think of you every time I saw him. I'd feel like I was trying to take something away from you,” Carole explained. “And think of what a strange chain of events has brought you two together! Maybe this is God's plan for your life. Isn't that what you're always looking for?”

“Really, Carole,” Micah began as she pulled a pitcher from the refrigerator. “I think I can figure out God's plan for me, and I don't think it will be revealed through car accidents and appointments with attorneys. Be serious.”

“I am. I mean, who would have thought that ‘Old Yeller’ would finally crash into some poor, unsuspecting soul, and you're the only witness!”

“I really wasn't a witness,” she said as she retrieved two glasses from the cupboard. “I saw very little. I told Mrs. Winslow that very thing the night of the accident when she asked for my name and address, and I told the same thing to Mr. Granston this afternoon.” She dropped several ice cubes into each glass.

“Mr.
Granston? Come on, Micah. His name is Rob.”

“And her name is Mrs. Winslow, not Old Yeller.” Micah reminded her friend as she handed her a glass of lemonade.

“Don't get self-righteous on me. You've called
her Old Yeller plenty of times yourself when you've seen her coming.”

“That was before I found out her name and before she ended up in the hospital with an injured back. She's no longer just the terrible driver of that big yellow car. She's a real person with real aches and pains and real problems—”

“And a
real
cute lawyer,” Carole added before taking a sip of her drink.

Micah sat down at the kitchen table and tasted the lemonade she had poured for herself. “Anyway, I told Mr. Granston—”

“Rob. His name is Rob.”

“We didn't get that friendly,” Micah insisted. “You're the one who's dated him.”

“A very casual luncheon date. Nothing to be jealous of.”

“Jealous!” Micah exclaimed. “I'm not—”

“Listen, I've gotta go,” Carole interrupted. “I've gotta be back at the shop for a seven-o'clock shampoo and set.” She grabbed her purse and headed for the door. “Thanks for the lemonade. I'm sorry you and Rob didn't get off to a better start.”

“There's nothing to start, Carole. I made an appointment like the letter requested, I answered his questions and left his office. End of story.”

“That's what
you
think,” Carole responded emphatically as she waved a quick goodbye before adding, “if I have my way, this is only the beginning.”

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