Authors: Jennifer Allee
Tags: #Fiction, #Christian, #Romance, #Contemporary
The Pastor's Wife
Copyright © 2010 by Jennifer AlLee
Published by Abingdon Press, P.O. Box 801, Nashville, TN 37202
All rights reserved.
No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form,
stored in any retrieval system, posted on any website, or
transmitted in any form or by any means—digital, electronic,
scanning, photocopy, recording, or otherwise—without written
permission from the publisher, except for brief quotations in
printed reviews and articles.
The persons and events portrayed in this work of fiction are the
creations of the author, and any resemblance to persons living or
dead is purely coincidental.
Cover design by Anderson Design Group, Nashville, TN
Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
The pastor's wife / Jennifer AlLee.
ISBN 978-1-4267-0225-9 (pbk. : alk. paper)
Printed in the United States of America
1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 / 15 14 13 12 11 10
To all the pastors’ wives who minister every day in
their own unique ways, but especially to my friends
Karen, Robin, and Amy. You inspire me with your
genuine love for God and His people.
Writing often feels like a solitary task, but in truth, it's an amazing group effort. I humbly give thanks to the essential members of my group:
Editor extraordinaire, Barbara Scott. You encouraged me to stretch and grow, to push past where I thought I could go. Thanks a thousand times for your support and for seeing the potential in my little story.
Patti Lacy, who rescued me when I was a sobbing mess and mentored me for a year. I learned so much from you, not only about writing, but about reflecting the love of God.
Lisa Richardson. You started out as my critique partner, became my friend, and now you’re the sister of my heart. I’m so glad God is letting us experience this crazy ride together!
American Christian Fiction Writers. I literally would not be here today without this incredible organization. What a blessing you’ve been in my life.
My husband, Marcus, and my son, Billy. What can I say? I love you both so very much. None of this would mean anything without you to share it with.
And finally, but most important, praise be to God, the creator of creativity and imagination. Thank you for the gift of storytelling and all the blessings you’ve showered on me.
old the elevator!”
Maura Sullivan ran across the lobby as fast as she could in high-heeled pumps. Once again she second-guessed her choice of attire for this meeting. She didn’t plan to stay in town long. Just get in, talk to the lawyer, and run out again. But in a place the size of Granger, Ohio, there was a good chance she’d run into someone she knew. And if that happened, she wanted them to see a successful, self-sufficient businessperson, not a frazzled woman barely holding it together.
The elevator doors were almost shut when they stopped, then slowly started to move in reverse. Maura sighed in relief. Maybe her luck had changed.
“Sorry,” a male voice said from inside the car. “I couldn’t find the right button and—”
The man in the elevator gaped at Maura, his finger glued to the button panel. Meanwhile, Maura's stomach fell to the tips of her shoes. If not for her impractical footwear, she’d be jogging up the stairs right now instead of staring like an idiot at her almost ex-husband.
So much for her luck. It was just as bad as ever.
“Maura?” He found his voice, but his body didn’t move an inch.
“Hi, Nick.” There were probably lots of things she should say, but none came to mind. Instead, she forced herself to take three steps forward and enter the elevator.
Nick's eyes never left her. His head just swiveled as she moved in next to him. He finally removed his finger from the “door open” button, letting his hand fall against his thigh with a slap. “What are you doing here?”
Trying not to faint. Telling myself I won’t be sick.
Both true, but neither facts she wished to share. “I have a meeting.” She leaned around him and hit the second-floor button. The doors slid closed.
Nick squeezed the bridge of his nose with two fingers. “Is your meeting with Wendell Crowley?”
“Yes.” Dread worked its way down her spine. How could he know that? She was clearly the last person he expected to see today. If he hadn’t known she was coming to town, how could he know anything about her meeting?
Nick made an unintelligible noise and muttered to himself. “Great. How could she?”
“Look, I’m sorry we ran into each other like this.” Maura's heart thudded in her chest as she tried to ease the tension in the small moving box. “I promise, as soon as I meet with the lawyer, I’ll be out of here and you’ll never see me again.”
Nick looked at her, his eyes drawn together. “Afraid not.”
“Your escape won’t be that neat and tidy.” The elevator stopped, bounced, and the doors eased open. “We’re going to the same meeting.”
This had to be a joke.
Nick and Maura sat in matching chairs on one side of a heavy oak desk. On the other side sat Wendell Crowley, reading from the Last Will and Testament of Miss Harriet Lenore Granger. The elderly attorney had been a close personal friend of Miss Hattie's, making the reading of this particular will more emotional for him than most.
Nick was emotional, too, but for a completely different reason. As the lawyer read on, making less and less sense, Nick's fingers squeezed around the arms of his chair. Beside him, Maura's hands were clenched together in her lap so tightly that he could see her fingernails digging into her flesh. She was obviously just as shocked as he was.
Nick had spent a great deal of time with Miss Hattie in her last days, but she’d never alluded to what she planned in her will. Then again, maybe she had, in her own subtle way. He was at her bedside the night before she died, and as always, the woman encouraged him to hold on to hope.
“It's not too late for you,” she’d said. “I know you’re too stubborn to go after that wife of yours, but you never know … she just might come back to you.”
Rather than argue he’d squeezed her hand and prayed with her. That night, his dear friend had died peacefully in her sleep.
Now that whole encounter took on new meaning in light of what Wendell had read. Maybe the woman's intentions were good, but it didn’t make him happy about the outcome.
Nick glanced at Maura. She had a lot of nerve showing up in town after the way she left him. From the way she was dressed, she must be managing just fine in California. She didn’t look so good now, though. The red blush that had stained her cheeks in the elevator was gone, replaced by skin so pale he thought
she might faint. She wasn’t dealing with the terms of the will any better than he was.
He turned to Wendell. “Let me see if I understand you correctly. Miss Hattie left Maura the Music Box Theatre, but there are two conditions.”
Wendell smiled. “Yes.”
“Would you repeat those conditions, please?”
“Certainly. First, the theatre must be used for at least one church function, such as a play or concert. Second, Maura must move into the church parsonage.”
The room was quiet as a mime convention as Nick rolled that fact around in his head. “With me?” he finally asked.
Wendell didn’t hesitate. “Yes. With you.”
That snapped Maura out of her stupor. “Is this even legal?” Her voice was shrill, and she leaned so far forward, Nick feared she might fall out of her chair. “I mean, it's the kind of stunt they pull in soap operas. Can you really tell two people they have to live together as a condition of a will?”
“You can,” Wendell answered. “And Miss Hattie did.”
“But I can’t,” she sputtered. “I’m not … we’re not … I just can’t!”
The smile never left the man's face. “It's not a problem. After all, you two are still married.”
“But we’ve been separated for six years.” Maura's voice was almost a whisper, as if she were sharing a secret with the lawyer that the whole town wasn’t already privy to.
“Yes, I know. But legally and in the eyes of God, you’re still married.” Wendell turned to Nick, lowering his head and looking over the edge of his tiny reading glasses.
Nick's eyes narrowed in response. It didn’t take a genius to figure out that Miss Hattie hoped to reunite him and Maura. And it stood to reason she’d gone over her scheme with Wendell ahead of time to make sure everything was legal and
in order. But charging two people to live and work together with no parameters didn’t make sense. There must be something Wendell hadn’t told them.
“I’m confused,” Maura said. “Are you telling me that in order to own the theatre, I have to live in the parsonage for the rest of my life?”
Nick looked at the lawyer who shook his head.
“No, not at all.” Wendell pointed to the will. “You only have to fulfill the conditions for six months. At that time, the property becomes yours free and clear.”
“No strings attached?” Maura asked.
“None. At the end of six months, you can live wherever you want. You can even sell the building, if you’re so inclined. Of course,” he said with a dip of his head, “I hope you won’t be.”
Nick listened as Maura and Wendell talked about the property. She was actually considering going through with this crazy proposition. Nick's entire life was about to turn upside down, and it seemed he was powerless to stop it.
“Excuse me,” he blurted, interrupting Wendell in mid-sentence. “What about me? Don’t I have any say in this?”
The two looked as if they just remembered he was in the room. “Of course, you do,” Wendell answered. “What in particular do you want to address?”
Nick looked pointedly at Maura. “What if I don’t want her to live with me?”
She flinched, and Nick pushed away the guilt that tried to settle in his heart. He didn’t want to hurt her, but he had to tell the truth. Besides, whatever discomfort she felt now couldn’t compare to the pain he felt the night he came home to an empty house and a good-bye note on his pillow.