Wanted: A Family

Wanted: A Family by Janet Dean

Book: Wanted: A Family by Janet Dean Read Free Book Online
Authors: Janet Dean
Tags: Fiction, General, Romance, Historical
turned to her. “I bought these clothes in town yesterday for that dinner you invited me to. Didn’t expect to need them this soon.”
    “You look very handsome,” she said, pleased that he’d wanted to make a good appearance for her.
    His gaze traveled her purple dress, the snowy-white high neck and wide lapels covering her shoulders, then slid down her length to the hem. “You look beautiful. Like violets in bloom.”
    Their eyes locked and something significant passed between them, deepening the connection Callie didn’t want but couldn’t resist. “Thank you,” she managed, trying not to let him know his compliment had melted her insides into a puddle.
    “You look pretty, Elise.”
    With downcast eyes, Elise gathered her shawl more tightly around her bulging middle. “Your mother raised a polite son.”
    The light in Jacob’s eyes dimmed. Elise had forgotten he’d never had the comforting presence of a mother. Callie had a crazy notion to pull him into a hug, to try to make amends for the years he’d spent in an orphanage. But, of course, she wouldn’t.
    “Where’s your basket?” he asked.
    Callie motioned to the porch, trying to turn her wayward thoughts to the task at hand. Jacob bounded up the steps, lifting the heavy load with ease. He was considerate. Considerate and reliable, a combination Callie respected. Yet without a family, life had left him wounded. Something Callie understood all too well. Her heart went out to this loner, yet his lack of openness warned her to keep their relationship impersonal. Or was it already too late for that?
    Returning to their sides, he swept a hand up the walk. “After you, ladies.”
    With Elise all but dragging her feet, the four-block walk to Peaceful Christian Church took far longer than it should have. At the entrance, Elise froze.
    “Be brave,” Callie whispered. “We’re marching, remember?”
    Biting her lip, Elise straightened her spine. Jacob held the door and they walked into the vestibule, Elise with her head held high. Callie had never felt prouder of anyone. Once her eyes adjusted to the dim light, Callie got her bearings. Most folks sat in the pews or were moving in that direction.
    “Jacob, would you please put the basket over there with the others?” She pointed to a bounty-filled bench.
    He did as she asked, jaw rigid, eyes straight ahead. The look of a man prepared for trouble. When he returned to her side, Callie, her heels clacking on the wooden floor, led the troop toward the last pew on the right. Every head turned in their direction, eyes focusing on Elise. From some of the startled, then stern expressions, not everyone rejoiced that Elise had returned to services.
    Behind the altar the stained-glass window sparkled, radiating the joy and peace of the Lord. Or so Callie sawit. How she loved this beautiful church with its dark woodwork and whitewashed walls. She hoped nothing would happen to bring ugliness to this house of worship.
    “Please stand. Open your hymnals to page 37, ‘What a Friend We Have in Jesus.’”
    Sandwiched between Jacob and Elise, Callie flipped to the hymn and held the book for her companions as the song leader signaled the organist, then led the singing.
    Callie glanced to the right, to Elise’s trembling lips and wondered what thoughts filled her mind—guilt, humiliation or elation to worship once again in God’s house? She put an arm around her and squeezed. Elise’s lips turned up in weak smile.
    To her left, Jacob’s tight-lipped profile looked rigid, as if chiseled from marble. Was he angry at their reception or merely loath to be in church? Perhaps years in an orphanage had erected stumbling blocks between him and God. Stumbling blocks he needed to demolish, as he had the rotten boards of her porch, before he could find peace.
    As she turned the pages to the next song, Callie prayed that after the service, congregation members would welcome Elise and Jacob. Whether they intended it or not, their

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