THE PREACHER’S FAITH Contemporary Christian Romance, Book One of the Red River Romance series
Main Characters : Asa Davidson, interim preacher at the baptist church, Faith whose father is dying and she makes him a promise, Aunt Iris
Premise : God always has a plan and it’s a good one!
Synopsis : Can the orphaned preacher and the heartbroken rodeo queen navigate the path to true love with a lie and an ex-beau blocking their way?
Learning of Faith Johnson’s rash promise to her father, New Hope Baptist’s interim preacher Asa Davidson shows up to apply for the position—of husband. The cowgirl was only trying to give her dying father hope promising to marry the first thirty-something-year-old Christian virgin to ask. Who’d ever dream one existed in all of Texas, much less Red River County? But sure enough, one comes a’courting the very next day thanks to the Lord and Daddy’s baby sister, loud mouth Aunt Iris. Faith’s appalled, but a promise is a promise. She only needs to figure a way out.
A black sedan rolled across the main entrance cattle guard. Faith sat a little taller in the saddle. Shame it wasn’t a new truck pulling a full Featherlight horse trailer, but hey, any new business would be a Godsend. Instead of coming to the barn though, the car stayed right and went up to the house. New nurse, maybe?
Whatever. The gelding needed at least another fifteen minutes. She worked him hard—several times around with a right front lead, turn around the other way on a left lead, backed him one complete lap—then took him into the wash stall. She’d never known a horse who loved baths better than the beautiful paint, and so intelligent, almost too smart for his britches. Definitely one she wouldn’t mind calling her own.
Halfway to having him brushed out, the barn’s man-door opened.
She looked over the gelding’s back. The form of a man stood in the doorway silhouetted by the late afternoon sun. Tall with broad shoulders, he filled the opening. She couldn’t see if he looked like money or not, but hey, even poor guys needed their horses trained. “Yessiree, that’d be me. How can I help you?”
“I came about the position.”
“You’ve come to the wrong place. I’m not hiring.”
The guy stepped in and closed the door, his face still dark and undistinguishable. “That isn’t what your aunt Iris said.”
“Bless Auntie’s heart, I don’t know what she’s thinking, but she’s just wrong. I’m not hiring. Sorry you came all this way for nothing.”
Her eyes started adjusting, and the man, maybe a few years older than her, came into view. A sort of good-looking type in a townie kind of way, but… “Maybe you need to come tell her yourself, Miss Johnson.”
Oh no, the place was a wreck. Faith needed to get in the house and stop the old dear. “Auntie’s here?” The perfectionist would have herself a heart attack for sure.
“Yes, ma’am. She rode out with me.” A sly grin etched the man’s face.
Dear Lord, what was going on? She didn’t have time for this. Faith grabbed another brush and tossed it to him. “Here, make yourself useful.”
“Sure. What do I do?”
“Brush that side.”
She moved the soft bristles a bit faster. Why, oh why, hadn’t she taken a little time and cleaned up this morning? A mental walk-through horrified her all the more. The armload of dirty laundry on the window bench in the living room. She’d been on the way to the utility room when her daddy needed help.
She didn’t even want to think about the kitchen’s condition.
And how long had it been since she swept? The dirty baseboards with webs and dog hair and who knew what else… And oh no, she left all her papers scattered all the way around her swivel rocker from looking at the bills and trying to figure out exactly how she was going to get them all paid.
Bless God! Just what she needed. Why this person brought her house-crazy-keeping aunt all the way up to Negley, especially unannounced, proved more than a little irritating. This is a test, this is only a test, she assured herself.
“Brush only in the direction his hair grows.”
She worked down each leg to the hooves with her mind racing a minute mile for the reason her daddy’s sister might have told this fellow there was a job opening. She’d love some help if she could afford it, but… In not quite half the regular time, the gelding rested in his stall, hayed, grained, and happy.
Sliding the paint’s door closed, she practiced what she wanted to say then latched the stall and faced the intruder. “Okay look, I don’t know who you are, but hey, I’d appreciate the truth. Why are you here? Really.”
“Sorry, ma’am.” He extended his hand. “Name’s Asa Davidson.”
Closing the couple of steps between them, she one-shaked the offering then nodded toward the door. “How is it you know Aunt Iris anyway?”
“Met her at church. I’m the new interim pastor out at New Hope Baptist.” He stepped out into the late afternoon sun. Better looking than she first thought, but dear Lord, the man really needed to get himself a pair of Wranglers and some boots. Slacks and loafers would not do, leastwise not in these parts. He stuck out like a newborn white Charolais calf.
She walked beside him toward the house. “So, exactly what is this job Auntie is talking about? Did she tell you?” She looked over and grinned. “I’m already saved, a blood-bought, Bible-thumping child of the King.”
“That makes you a princess.”
“Yessiree, bless God. So if you’re not here to share the Good News, Pastor, what was it she told you I needed?”
She stopped in her tracks, practically paralyzed. Tried to swallow, but couldn’t. He took two steps more then turned back, smiling.
“Did you just say husband?”
“Yes, ma’am. Miss Iris said you told your father yesterday that you’d marry if an eligible bachelor asked you.” He shrugged. “So what do you think?”
“I… I… Are you crazy? I don’t even know you. You don’t know me. Is this some kind of sick joke? Really. It’s preposterous.”
“No, ma’am, I’ve got all my wits about me.”
“If you aren’t insane, then what are you doing coming to my house to apply for being my husband? Sorry, preacher man, I really am, but you couldn’t prove your sanity by me.”
“Will you hear me out?”
“Hey, I’m all ears.” Her chest tightened, and her heart picked up its rhythm as though some erratic rock and roll drummer controlled it.
“Last night, after the prayer meeting, I talked with Miss Iris about it. She’d made your situation a prayer request earlier, and –”
“So now everyone in Red River County knows?”
He shrugged. “I prayed about it last night and some more this morning. You’re way prettier than advertised, and it was your high standards got me thinking serious about it.”
A glance toward the house revealed her father and his baby sister sat on the porch rocking. They both looked away from her gaze, so obviously caught. Why did she ever make such a ridiculous promise to him? She never dreamed… Just look what it got her, a crazy preacher come to apply for the position.
“So did Auntie get up in front of the whole church and just spit it out that I needed a husband? Really?”
Squinting against the afternoon sun, he glanced toward the house before facing her. The pastor needed himself a hat to shade those baby blues. “No, not at all. First, she asked us to pray for your father then mentioned he really wanted to live long enough to walk you down the aisle.”
At least the man was a Baptist. Ha! Bless God! What was she thinking?
His smile, so sweet and sincere, loosened the band round her chest. “It wasn’t until after the meeting that she told me about you agreeing to getting married if a man with the right qualifications came along.”
“Well, praise God for small favors.” The whole idea was crazier than the man.
She leaned over and looked past him to the porch again. Just wait until she got a word with the old matchmaker buttinsky. Faith loved her, she really did, but Auntie needed to keep her nose in her own business. The dear lady had taken Faith’s promise to her daddy way too seriously. Really, bringing out a husband-prospect the very next morning?
“Okay, look Mister Davidson –”
Closing her eyes, she enjoyed a calming breath then gave him a smile with a nod.
Opening them again, she grinned. “Look, Asa, I only told Daddy that I’d get hitched to appease him. Since he got his diagnosis, he’s really been obsessed about knowing I’m settled, taken care of before… You know. Truth is, I only wanted to try and put him at peace. Can’t you see I didn’t want him to worry about me? Whoever dreamed he’d go blabbing all over—and he knew if he told Auntie, that’s exactly what he was doing—that I was husband shopping?”
She glanced around him again. “I hope you understand. I really appreciate you coming out. You’re a trooper, but…” Both of the porch rockers averted their eyes like something real interesting suddenly appeared on the floor boards. If she ever did do something as foolish as… “What kind of name is Asa anyway?”
“Biblical.” He kept shaking his head. “From the Bible.”
“Really? I don’t remember it. Where is it from?”
“In the Book of Kings. Asa ruled over Judah a while and loved God’s statutes. I don’t rightly know where I came from. My toes say—if you believe that sort of thing—I have Egyptian ancestors. And I’ve been told I look Scandinavian, but that’s one of those questions I’ll probably never know on this side.”
“Excuse me, your toes?”
“Yeah, there was a thing on the net, that by the shape of your toes, you can tell where you came from.”
“But why don’t you know? I mean for sure.”
“Mother dropped me off at a fire station.”
“Oh, dear Lord, that’s terrible.”
He glanced skyward. “Not really. I thank God for the Safe Haven Program. My birth certificate says mother and father unknown. Sweet folks at the Buckner’s Orphanage in Dallas raised me until I went to seminary.”
“Awe, that’s so sad, Asa. I’m sorry for asking.”
“No, don’t be. The Lord’s blessed me.”
She glanced back, and that time, only her father looked away. Aunt Iris held her eyes and smiled like the old sweetie she was. Probably sitting up there about to bust a gut wanting to know every word spoken. Faith took in a deep breath, exhaled it slowly. “Tell me exactly what Auntie said about my standards that got you so interested.”
“You asked for thirty-plus, I’m thirty-one. Insisted on a Christian: check. Never been with another woman—now that was the one, the most interesting qualification, seeing as how it narrows your field considerably.”
She’d done it! Dear Lord, Auntie told him! “I can’t believe it.”
“That I’ve been chaste? I consider myself a guardian of the Truth, Miss Faith. I would never be one to bear false witness.”
Was this guy for real? She’d have bet her favorite barrel horse there wasn’t a thirty-something-year-old male to fit her bill in Texas, much less Red River County. Especially not one who would be interested in her, but boom! She shoots her mouth off, and here he is the next day. “How come?”
“How come what? I love the truth? Why would a Christian need a reason for hating lies?”
“No, not that, silly. Of course I hate lies and love truth. But the other, being chaste. Are you … You know… Straight?”
His reaction to her suggestion said it all. The very idea obviously appalled him. He even stepped back. “Of course I am. Aren’t you?”
“Certainly. It’s just that… What about the all-American tradition of guys sowing wild oats? Playing the field? You know. Isn’t that thing sort of expected? Definitely accepted these days?”
“Maybe by society, but not by God.”
“Oh, I agree.”
“I guess growing up at Buckner’s, then being so busy getting through seminary, I missed out on those times. Never considered it a black mark though.”
“Oh, it isn’t. I’m sorry. It’s just… It’s hard to understand why you’d want to marry a total stranger. Can’t you see the absurdity of the crazy idea?”
He laughed, and joy filled the sound. More than hearty, it seemed almost musical. “I don’t think it’s so absurd. Why not? Others have married strangers through the centuries, maybe since time began. How well do you suppose Adam knew Eve when God brought her to him?”
“Never thought of that.”
“I suspect you’ve remained pure, or you wouldn’t be requiring that condition, and that tells me a lot about you, what’s important to you.”
“Yes, of course. I can see that. But exactly what do you mean saying ‘why not’? Seems there’d be a thousand reasons, maybe a million, why a person shouldn’t marry someone they don’t know at all.”
He looked at the sky as though deciding how to put his answer. “The Word commands a husband to love his wife, so… I believe that I’m ready to love a wife, and –”
“And what? You’re ready to pledge your love to anybody?”
“No, ma’am, not at all. You see, Faith, New Hope is the first church that’s even considered me for their pastor. I’ve been passed over three times now. Every instance I figure it’s because I’m single.”
“Oh, so getting married is a career move for you.”
“No. I didn’t mean to put it that way. I’ve had plenty of opportunities to get married, but it never seemed right. The ladies didn’t seem right, not that there was anything wrong with any of them. It’s hard to explain. But like I said, I’ve prayed, and with you… I don’t know, it seems very right, it just does.”
“I seem right?”
She looked hard into his eyes, but detected no insanity, quite the opposite actually. They shone with kindness and seemed to overflow with sincerity and compassion. What one might totally expect from a pastor’s eyes. And he didn’t look away, but held her gaze, even seemed to open the windows of his soul wider to her search, welcomed her scrutiny.
With the impression he had nothing to hide, she found it somewhat off-putting, even a little scary. Could she be that open with anyone? Ever?
“From the first, I sensed a peace about this community, a feeling of being home, even more so when I prayed about you. For me, the Lord’s peace here—with you—is palpable.”
“Peace…” Was she dreaming? She pressed her nails into her palm. No, it hurt. Definitely awake alright, and the stranger than fiction encounter must be real. The Twilight Zone music played in her head. Do do do do, do do do do. “So what does prettier than advertised mean?”
He laughed again, and she cracked up with him this time. What a ridiculous question, didn’t think that through.
He lifted his bent elbow and offered his arm. “We brought dinner.”
“No you didn’t.”
“Excuse me? How can you say that? I’m the one who carried the boxes in.”
“Dinner’s done for this day.” She grinned. He was cute, couldn’t deny that. “You may have brought supper, but Daddy and I ate dinner around noon, a long time ago.”
He nodded with a broad grin. “Oh I see, supper. I get it. Are you hungry?”
“I could eat.”
He wiggled his crooked arm. “Shall we then?”
“I suppose we shall.”
“I smelled Chester’s all the way out here. I’m past ready.”
Fried chicken, huh? Daddy’s favorite. She placed her hand gently on his forearm like the princess she was. “I’m going to have to face those inquisitors on the porch sooner or later. Suppose it’s a good thing I don’t have to do it alone, although you’re the one partly responsible for this awkward, bizarre situation.”
“Think Isaac and Rebecca.”
“Why should I?”
“They didn’t know each other. Abraham sent his servant to pick a wife for his son. You could play like your father sent your aunt to pick you a husband.”
She didn’t respond. She hadn’t seen her daddy smile so big in a long time. Auntie rose and offered her hand, helped her big brother to his feet, then held open the door. “You two come right on in, and I’ll put some tea on for supper. Hurry up, Carl, and don’t forget your cane.”
“Iris, I do not have dementia. I already have my cane right here.” He held it up and poked the air with its length. “I just don’t need it.”
Walking on into the house, she left Asa on his own and went to gathering things left strewn about. By the time she made it through the living room, her arms were already full. She headed for her room and threw it on her bed then closed the door.
Like always, her aunt took charge. “You fellows can just sit down in here and visit.” She grinned at Asa. “I suppose Carl has a few questions. We’ll call you when everything’s ready.” She waved at Faith. “And for goodness sake, darlin’, quit your straightening. I’ve already seen it, we all have. Come help me get the table set.”
Like her aunt said, it was too late, so she followed her favorite aunt into the kitchen.
With the tea water on, she faced Faith. “What do you think?”
“I don’t know, Auntie. Why didn’t you call? Warn me!”
The old dear smiled. “Oh, yeah, right. You know good and well you’d have found a section of fence that needed fixing or some other reason to be gone.”
“Maybe, what do you think?”
“The search committee gave him high marks.”
“You have a committee already? Auntie! That’s despicable.”
“For our new pastor, darlin’, not for you a husband. Seems him being single was the only reason we even got a shot at him.”
“Did he tell you he’s an orphan?”
“Yes, did he tell you he picked his name himself?”
“I like it. He chose Asa, sweetie. It means healer.” Aunt Iris leaned in close. “He’s heaven-sent, and you’re not getting any younger.”
What should she do? The man wasn’t that hard to look at, but he almost seemed too good. “None of us are, Auntie.”
“What are you going to do? Your daddy doesn’t have a lot of time left.”
Faith unwrapped the tea bags and dropped them in the steaming water. “Let me think on it.” She turned off the fire and covered the pan.
Chester’s fried chicken, spud spears, slaw and sweet iced tea covered the table. What more could anyone want, especially since it didn’t add much to the dirty dishes already in the sink? Bless God, Aunt Iris didn’t bust Faith’s chops over those, or the general mess she and Daddy didn’t pay much attention to. Since she’d become the main money maker in the house, and with all the extra medical bills coming in, there wasn’t enough time in the day.
Clean clothes, meals, his meds, seeing to the stock, and her horse training piled her plate plenty high. During supper, the other three carried the conversation, but didn’t talk about anything important, then Daddy insisted Asa finish off the last piece of cold chicken.
Her aunt obviously ascertained that Faith’s time to decide the path for the rest of her life had been ample enough. “Sweetie, your daddy and I would really like to know what you’re thinking. And probably, dear Asa does as well.”
She nodded, faced the preacher. She hated to even say it out loud, the whole wild idea set sirens off in her brain. But she had promised Daddy. She choked back a sudden sob. She couldn’t think about losing him. And if this ridiculous plan would ease his mind…
“Asa, if you’ll agree to come here every day for a month and help, get the feel of the place and this style of life, and get to know me, pray with me. If….” She grinned with every intention of continuing.
Her aunt clasped her hands in front of her chest. “Oh, I knew it, darlin’, I just knew it! What a great idea, straight from the Lord! His divine plan indeed. Don’t you think, Carl?”
“Now Iris, let her finish. I don’t think an ‘if’ meant she’s done.”
“If I haven’t run you off by then…” She faced her father. “And you have to pray, too, Daddy—and you, Auntie—but if we all still agree, then next month, first Sunday in December, you can walk me down the aisle, Daddy.”
She extended her arm toward the visitor to shake on it.
BUY NOW at Amazon