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Desperate times call for desperate measures.
At her core, merchandising maven Sophia Anton is an old-fashioned girl. To start a family by age 30, she'll do what’s needed to make sparks fly with an old friend—including a crash diet. But when Sophia meets Jackson Thomas, the handsome new minister in town, she quickly finds she’s playing with fire. Sophia's new look is working like a charm to snag the man of her dreams, so why is it Jackson's face she sees when she closes her eyes?
Jackson, whose troubled past has led him to adopt a life of celibacy, never expects to feel hot under the collar for a woman of his own parish. How can Jackson dream of a future with Sophia after he's shut the door on love?
Page Count: 270
Word Count: 68695
Kate appraised her with a sweeping glance. “You are here to eat, right? Because someone set up a nice bird feeder in the meditation garden if that’s more your style.”
“Ha ha. I’m here to support the church and eat the food I prepared.” Sophia ladled a portion of green beans and a larger serving of salad onto her plate. She turned away her nose as Kate helped herself to a fist-sized roll, hot and fragrant. Progress was slow. Sophia looked behind her to see the line meandering out into the hall. “Good turn-out, huh?”
“Yeah, and I really appreciate your help, Soph. Even the minister said we couldn’t have pulled it off without you stepping in at the last minute.”
“I haven’t seen Reverend Nelson in ages. He’s got to be eighty by now, right?” Sophia reached the dessert table and continued shuffling forward, eyeing the bakery slices with regret.
“Reverend Nelson?” Kate snorted. “He was put out to pasture years ago. I told you we hired a new minister. He saw you this morning picking up supplies.”
“I never saw him. Was he looking out the window of the rectory?” Remembering the ironic smile of the man who’d helped load her car, Sophia snapped her fingers. “I meant to ask you about the guy who helped me load my car. Mid-thirties, light brown hair? Tall and good-looking?”
Kate sighed. “That was the minister, Sophia. This is the twenty-first century. Ministers don’t have to walk around in clerical collars every day.”
Eyes wide, Sophia turned slowly to stare at Kate. “Are you telling me the minister caught me breaking into church with a bobby pin? The guy I made a ‘That’s what she said’ joke to?” She sucked in her breath at the disrespect she’d shown the minister. Her parents must be rolling over in their graves.
“You know…” Kate shook her head. “Your Mom always told you there’s a time and a place to be funny. But it’s never when the minister’s standing behind you.” She waggled her eyebrows at her friend, a mischievous grin stretching across her round cheeks.
Sophia froze, her gaze searching Kate’s face. Could she be bluffing? Sophia swiveled her head, her gaze lifting from the neat points of a black-collared shirt to the amused brown eyes of the man who’d packed her car this morning. The same man whose jeans she’d tried not to gawk at as she followed him up and down the stairs.
“So, now you wear a collar.” Sophia extended her hand, ignoring the hot blush creeping up her cheeks.
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