by Cheryl St.John
Vaughn Donnelly's work as a builder has taken him to many different villages over the years, and he's never regretted having to say goodbye to anyone in them. Until he promises to help Darcy Keegan rescue an orphaned boy from prison and he realizes that with her, he's found the one person he never wants to leave.
But Darcy is not planning on staying in Castleville, either. She wants to start a new life far away from the small townand far away from her father, who makes her feel more like a servant than a person. Only, the more time she spends with Vaughn, the more she dreams of something else entirely a family, a home, a husbandVaughn.
But Vaughn's nomadic lifestyle isn't going to change. How can he stop Darcy from leaving when he's got nothing to offer her?
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Friendly neighbors greeted one another in the tiny stone church, but Darcy's father ignored them and doggedly led her forward. Darcy nodded to Mrs. Mulcreath, who lived nearby and sold her cream and butter, then followed Ambros to a bench.
Finding a spot behind them, two of the three Murphy sisters greeted her. "Pleased to see you this mornin'," Maeve, the youngest, said.
"You look lovely in your green brat," Jack Murphy's middle daughter told her, referring to her shawl. Bridget herself wore a woolen brat that had been mended many times over.
"How is your da?" Darcy inquired.
"Not well at all," Maeve replied. "Nora is with him this morning." So many of their neighbors had already died of influenza and cholera, just hearing of the sicknesses was frightening.
"I'll be praying for him, I will," Darcy assured them.
The sisters held hands and gave her tearful thanks.
Darcy turned forward as Reverend Larkin opened his hymn book and led the first verse of a familiar song. She sang along, but her attention veered to the source of an unfamiliar baritone on the other side of the room.
Vaughn wore a gray sweater, and his dark hair had a reddish cast in the morning light. He stood a head above his father and the other nearby men. The welcome sight arrested her thoughts. Memories of the two of them standing at the cliff the other night, looking out across the dark ocean, consumed her thoughts. She couldn't have told anyone what they'd actually talked about, but she vividly remembered the way he made her feel. Important. Interesting.
Hopeful. In a way she never had before.
The song ended and she took her seat with the rest of the congregation. Vaughn turned and met her gaze. He gave a barely perceptible nod, and the corner of his mouth inched up.
Her father cleared his throat. Startled, she found him glancing between her and Vaughn. He cast her a disapproving frown and indicated with his eyes that she should look forward.
Darcy burned to get up and leave. The brief church service was the only time she had away from her work, and even here she was under her father's disapproving gaze. She'd lain awake nights, summoning the courage to pack her belongings and hire a ride away from Castleville, far from the prison and her father. But so far she hadn't been able to do it.
Lord, if this is Your will for my life, please help me to be submissive and not want more. But if it's notif there's more for meshow me how and when to make a change. You know the desires of my heart, Lord. I want to be Your faithful servant, not that of any man.
Reverend Larkin ended the service with a prayer, and she realized guiltily she hadn't listened to a word of his sermon. Around them people stood and filed into the aisle.
"Good mornin', Mr. Keegan, Miss Keegan." Vaughn waited, his hand extended.
Concern for her father's reaction increased Darcy's pulse. He'd reproached her for just looking at Vaughn. What would he do if Vaughn mentioned their intimate nighttime conversation on the cliffs?
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