“Whoa!” Adrea Welch teetered on top of the rickety three-step utility ladder. With both arms flung out, surfing style, she regained her balance and pressed a hand to her pounding heart.
“Let me hold that for you,” a deep voice echoed from the back of the sanctuary.
The man hurried toward her. Emerald green eyes, windswept sable hair, and an irresistible cleft in his chin. Late-twenties, maybe thirty. Probably the groom. All the impossibly handsome men, especially the nice, mannerly ones who hung out in church, were taken.
Especially in tiny Romance, Arkansas.
But looks weren’t everything and he might never have been in a church before, just here for the wedding. Underneath that heart-tilting smile, he might be a jerk.
“Thanks.” She glanced down, making sure he wasn’t helping as an excuse to check her out. He wasn’t. Instead, he studied her work.
“I’m almost done.” Adrea looped yellow roses through the white latticework archway.
“The church should invest in a better ladder.”
“Actually, it’s mine.” She weaved ivy through the roses and climbed down. He was tall, at least six foot three. The top of her head came just about nose level on him.
“Are you in the wedding party?” He slung his jacket over one shoulder. Shirtsleeves, rolled up almost to the elbow, revealed muscled forearms.
“I’m the florist.” Always the florist; never the bride. “Adrea Welch.”
She nodded at the correct pronunciation. “Very good, but I’ve been known to answer to Adrian and Andrea.”
“It’s nice to meet you, Adrea.” He offered his hand. “I’m the pastor at Palisade over in Rose Bud. Grayson Sterling. Most folks call me Pastor Grayson.”
She suppressed a gasp and shook his hand. Warmth spread over her at his firm, yet gentle grip.
“I’m sorry, have we met?”
“Um, I usually do the white roses.”
The light in his eyes snuffed out.
Six years of standing orders for his wife’s birthday, their son’s birthday, and their anniversary. For the last two, he hand-delivered the flowers to the cemetery. And added Valentine’s Day to mark the date of her death.
“Sara always treasured them and thought it so romantic to get flowers from Romance.”
His voice sounded forced. “Even though mine is always the same order, you make each one unique.”
“I actually enjoy the challenge of making each array distinctive.” How lame. Might as well tell him I take pleasure in arranging flowers for his dead wife. “She must have been a very special lady.”
“Yes.” He stuffed his hands into his pockets. “How long have you been at Floral Designs?”
“I’ve been a patron and pastored the church almost that long.” He frowned. “Odd that we’ve never met before.”
“I hardly ever go out to the showroom, and only started decorating wedding sites in the last few months.” She fluffed the swirl of tulle at the base of each brass candelabra to catch the rainbow of light reflecting through the lone stained-glass window.
“This is the first wedding I’ve agreed to officiate since Sara. . . So, you attend here at Mountain Grove?”
“From the time I can remember, and my sister’s husband is the preacher.” She cocked her head to the side, surveying the archway. Yellow roses were her favorite. Once upon a time, she’d planned to use them for her own special day.
She checked her watch. Almost time for the round of afternoon weddings to start. “I better get out of your way.”
“Nice meeting you. I’ll pick up Sara’s arrangement later.”
“It’ll be ready.” She hurried out of the church, slipping on her jacket. Preachers really shouldn’t look so good. How could any self-respecting Christian female concentrate on the sermon? He definitely lived up to the romantic hero her employees mooned over every time he came to pick up the roses. No wonder the salesclerks called him Prince Sterling.
Shannon is giving away a copy of her book White Roses. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win!