What Matters Most
Jolene Spencer had been perplexed from the first mention of Micah Abrams. Why would a grown man uproot his life and move two states over at the urging of Jo’s momma? How did he and Ma even meet? And he’s raising a daughter by himself. Where is the child’s momma and how does she fit into his plans?
When Jo first sees him standing on the front porch, staring like a deer caught in the headlights and seemingly unable to speak, she pegs him as a shy one. But then he walks in with a confident swagger and mingles with her family like he’s been there all his life.
Jo finds herself falling for the stranger and his adorable little girl. A dream that had been tucked away and forgotten about suddenly seems within her grasp. Then her worst sin is exposed, and it all turns to ash. She’s not the woman she once was, but does that even matter? Micah seems willing to set her mistakes aside, but can she forgive herself?
He only wanted to say those three little words to her once he was absolutely sure he was ready to give his all to her. If he said those words to her, they would have forever woven into their meaning.
After a supper of grilled steaks, loaded baked potatoes, and corn on the cob, followed by homemade strawberry ice cream, they played a rowdy game of Wild Rummy. Everyone paired up with a partner except for Zane, who still managed to win.
She and Micah came in last, but in her defense, Micah had never played before, and she’d been distracted. The scent of Micah’s cologne would probably invade her dreams tonight. Not that it was overpowering. It reminded her of tromping through the woods behind her brothers to visit the creek when they were kids. There was a clear path to it behind Mrs. Connor’s house. Had Micah found his way there? Maybe she could show it to him one day.
“Lala forgot her giraffe.”
“Huh?” Jo focused on Rachel, trying to figure out what she’d missed. She’d been daydreaming since the moment Micah walked out with a sleeping Lala in his arms.
Rachel waved the stuffed giraffe in front of Jo. “I could give it to them the next time I keep Lala, or you could run out there and try to catch him. Might get you a better goodbye than the one you got.”
Jo grabbed the toy and made a run for it, ignoring the laughter circling the room behind her. She hadn’t expected a kiss, but would a hug be asking for too much?
Micah had just eased the back door of his 4Runner shut when she stepped out onto the porch. She held the giraffe up as she took the steps and sprinted out to him. “You forgot this.”
He took it from her and set it on top of the 4Runner. “Thanks.” He rubbed the back of his head with one hand. “I meant to say it before, but I had a good time today, Jo. It was a good date. Best I’ve ever had, in fact.”
She smiled and the movement made her cheeks ache considering all the smiling she’d done today. “It was a good date for me too. I can’t wait until the next one.” Was that too forward?
“Me too. Maybe this weekend I can get a babysitter and we can go on a real date, just the two of us. Think you’d be up for that?”
“Definitely.” Why was she so out of breath?
“I’ll make a plan and send you the details. My work week starts tomorrow night, so you might not hear from me until Friday.”
He couldn’t text? No game time? She knew how the twelve-hour night shift could kill, but that didn’t mean you quit living. Then again, she never had the added chore of keeping up with a toddler.
Ah, he’s still taking it slow, keeping his distance, until he sees where this is going. Plus, that thing he said about my grief, which I respect, but is it necessary? Doesn’t matter. I’ll play along for now.
“Sounds good. I’ll look for your call on Friday, then. Well, goodnight.” With a wave, she turned back to the house.
His warm hand unexpectedly landed on her waist, and he turned her back around to face him. Next thing she knew she was in his arms, more breathless than ever and looking up into his face.
“I’d like to end this date with a kiss, if that’s all right with you.”
She swallowed hard but her voice still came out strained. “Fine by me.”
The last thing she saw was Micah lowering his head. She closed her eyes to savor every essence of their first kiss—one she’d craved more than any that came before.
He took his time exploring her mouth with his, his lips gentle but firm. And warm enough to melt her insides.
I’ve never been kissed like this before.
Her eyes stung at the thought. The few times she’d been kissed in high school had come without feeling. Then Tage had come along, fast-paced and full of passion that always led to something. A way to the means of him getting what he really wanted. Kisses that she’d wanted at the time they were happening but always left her feeling guilty.
Micah pulled away and she stumbled forward. She laughed and blew out a breath. “Sorry. That was one powerful first kiss.”
His deep throated chuckle hadn’t even settled before his arms were around her again. This time his kiss landed on her forehead, somehow making her feel cherished. A feeling no other man besides her daddy had ever invoked.
“I swear I’m trying to take it slow and give you the time you need, but I am so captivated by you.” He kissed her forehead again and then pulled away. “Go on inside before I kiss you again. I’ll talk to you on Friday.”
Jo whispered a goodbye with a smile on her lips. Halfway to the porch, she looked back to find he still stood in place watching her.
Dear Lord, if it’s up to me and how I feel at this very moment, I just had my last first kiss. But You know best. I’m depending on Your guidance for the first time ever. Show me the way.