Unconditional, p.12

Unconditional, page 12



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“My name is Summer Delaney. D-E-L-A-N-E-Y. Summer, like the season. If you would hold that book for me when it comes in, I’d really appreciate it.”

  Valerie’s mind hadn’t totally been on work that day. Nevertheless, she offered the woman across the counter a smile as she wrote down her name.

  “It should be back this week,” she assured the library’s patron, who was rather new, though Valerie was certain she’d seen her before. “The person who checked it out is good about bringing back our books. And I can’t imagine there’d be a run on books about drums, anyway. I mean—um—”

  She hadn’t meant to be rude; she was just being honest. A book about drums? It wasn’t like a current bestselling thriller or romance novel, or even one of those tawdry celebrity tell-alls that were always in demand. Summer Delaney, a pretty redhead of around thirty with a sprinkling of freckles across her nose and cheeks, laughed softly.

  “With my luck the way it’s been, there will be a waiting list for it.” She then lowered her voice in a conspiratorial whisper. “So do me a favor, girl. If there’s suddenly this great demand for it, stash it away for me. Hide it! Okay?”

  “Okay. I’ll do that.” Laughing with her, Valerie placed the sticky note with the woman’s name on a pad, making a mental note to put her on the list of patrons waiting for specific books, an electronic file in the computer. Beside the note was the desk calendar, reminding her that it was Thursday.

  Thursday. And she still hadn’t heard from her favorite fisherman. That was why she was hyper lately, why she couldn’t seem to concentrate on tasks at hand. Because most of the week had passed, and tomorrow was Friday, the day she was supposed to have seen him again, the night she was supposed to play a solo on her violin at his church. She swallowed past the lump in her throat and smiled at the next person in line, coming up to check out three audio books. There were still two and a half hours left of work before she could sign out for the day.

  Maybe something had happened to him? She had his phone number. She could call him, after all, just to make sure he was okay, alive and breathing, that nothing terrible had happened to him since their first date.

  But maybe that had been their first and last date. Because, it didn’t happen often but she could think of a couple occasions when it had occurred, he could have changed his mind. Guys were weird sometimes. Something could have happened during dinner that had turned him off or made him rethink their budding relationship. He had given her a box of chocolates. A sweet, thoughtful gesture. But a box of chocolates sure wasn’t a declaration of forever love, or even the promise of seeing her again the very next week.

  And to think she’d actually devoted time to practicing “Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)” by Chris Tomlin on her violin since that night. He hadn’t promised her that she could do it for Lakeside Church; in fact, he’d mentioned he’d had to speak to his pastor about it first. Surely, she would understand if the man chose not to let her play that night. What she cared about more was seeing Josh again, especially after—well, he hadn’t promised, but he’d claimed he wanted to get together with her again.

  If that was true, they wouldn’t have gotten all the way to Thursday, only a little more than twenty-four hours before they were supposed to see each other again, without so much as a call. No, for some reason, he had changed his mind about seeing her again. She should have been able to shrug off the disappointment, and yet she couldn’t. Not after a week of her heart skipping and of remembering every little detail of their Saturday together, of every little gesture, every smile, every laugh that had passed between them, of those kisses.

  The truth was, she had wanted more of Josh Coleman. She’d wanted to get to know him. To listen to him talk about the Lord, to hear him laugh, to savor the way he would raise his gaze slowly to meet hers and see that smile across his handsome face.

  “I’m going to take these back, April,” she told her coworker, indicating the cart full of books that had been returned in the past few hours.

  The older lady paused while at the computer and looked at her over the rim of her red frame glasses. “Sure, honey.”

  April went to church with Josh. She hadn’t said anything, either, and Valerie wasn’t about to embarrass herself by asking. Besides, she herself went to church with hundreds of people. She couldn’t say what each and every one of them was thinking or doing from one moment to the next. How could she expect April to know what was going on with Josh, a relatively new face at Lakeside?

  Zed hadn’t called, either. Valerie found it very telling that his refusal to call her didn’t bother her. He hadn’t called ever since he’d found out she had taken him up on the suggestion that they see other people. Her ex-boyfriend had made that suggestion in the past, but it was usually him who would be seeing other girls, with no regard whatsoever to how much it would hurt her. This time, the shoe was on the other foot, and Zed was angry and huffy, handling it like a spoiled and petulant child. In the past, when he’d failed to call her, she’d resorted to calling him.

  Things were different this time. Very different. She hated to admit it, but maybe her mother was right. Maybe, during all that time she and Zed had spent apart, she’d outgrown him and his childish, narcissistic ways.

  “Shhhh! This is a library, so we have to be very quiet. I know you’ve never seen a library before, but I don’t want you getting yelled at by the librarian lady over there…”

  Wrinkling her nose, she turned at the waist. Standing at the end of the aisle was Josh, and sure enough, he was speaking in a high-pitched voice, holding up a small, pretty mermaid doll, the plush kind that a little girl would take to bed with her, with a stream of long golden hair. Both amused and happy to see him, Valerie giggled.

  “Okay, the verdict is in. You’re crazy!” she told him.

  “Well, that goes without saying. And she’s a little fish out of water. Ha, ha!” He approached her, holding out the doll, with her bright blue eyes, pouty lips and sparkly green fish tail. “You like her?”

  “She’s very cute.”

  “I picked her up in that store, what’s it called? Cool Things. Reminded me of you, because I can’t go near the beach now without thinking of you. You’re like a mermaid coming out of the water.” Josh was quick to add, “A lot prettier mermaid than her, of course.”

  There was that voice again, the one that melted her inside. She held the doll out, looking her over, then held her against her chest and looked up at him. He was dressed in a tight-fitting, short-sleeved gray T-shirt, faded jeans and work boots. His hair was tousled and there was a hint of stubble on his cheeks and chin. With his head tilted to the side and that delicious look he was giving her, she found it easy to forgive the past few days of missing phone calls.

  Her heart was in so much trouble, it wasn’t even funny.

  “Just got off of work?” she asked.

  “A little while ago. I gotta go home and shower. The mermaid and I aren’t going to keep you. We don’t want to get you in trouble. Well—I don’t, but she wants to hang out with you.” He chuckled. “You comin’ tomorrow night, right?”

  “Oh—yeah, I was planning to.”

  “Good. Gonna play for us?”

  “I’ve been practicing. Your pastor said okay?”

  “Yeah, he’s cool. He heard ‘violin,’ and the man was in from that point on. Told you he was a music lover. What’re you playing for us?”

  “Just one song. ‘Amazing Grace,’ the Chris Tomlin one.”

  He nodded, eyes widening. “I love that. Pick you up tonight, my musical mermaid?”

  “Yeah. Yeah, okay.” She tried to sound calm, at ease. Her heart was doing a little celebratory dance.

  “Good.” Josh leaned forward. He looked as if he were about to kiss her, then abruptly remembered she was at work. His voice husky, he informed her, “I missed you. A lot.”

  “Oh, and…I missed you.”

  The most he could get away with while she was there at work was blowing a kiss at her, receiving
one blown in return. She didn’t realize until he’d disappeared around the corner of the shelves that she was clutching the mermaid doll to her chest. It was silly, something a little kid would do, but she didn’t care.

  “Oh, Lord, what is that in the Bible,” she whispered, “about ‘hope deferred?’ That it makes your heart sick. But then you get what your heart desires, and—and—”

  Something about a tree of life. That verse was in Proverbs, that much she knew. She would have to look it up when she got home later.

  She also knew that she was in love. It didn’t happen often, but it was happening to her now. She was falling in love with Josh Coleman.


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