Mary Brings Jared Cookies, Chapter 36, Phantom Love

Jared clicked on the next article, which reported that divers had not recovered a body. Law enforcement officials declared David Kline dead two weeks later. A memorial was held at Mount Pleasant Baptist Church. David Kline had been dead and buried for ten years.

Of course, Mary’s David could be an entirely different person, but the odds were slim that there were two men with the same name and remarkably similar backgrounds. A growling in his stomach reminded him he needed sustenance, but first he started a search in LexisNexis for the widow, Grace Browning Kline.

He headed into the kitchen. Opening a bag of chips from the cupboard, he decided to make nachos. Not the healthiest meal, but it would be quick and filling.

Back in the dining room, he slid the plate of nachos on the table and jiggled the mouse to deactivate the screen saver. His search returned twenty or so hits. A scan revealed most of the articles were repeats of the ones listed under David Kline’s name. Then a short mention made him sit up straighter in his chair.

Kline, Wymans Wed
Grace Browning Kline, widow of David Kline, and Chris Wymans were wed in a private ceremony on Saturday, May 12, 2006. After a honeymoon in the Cayman Islands, the couple will live in Warrenton, Va., where the groom has an antiques business.

The Disney tune “It’s a Small World After All” jingled in his brain. Warrenton was the next town over from Culpeper. Jared logged onto and entered in Chris Wymans, Warrenton, Virginia, to get an address and phone number. He could be simply chasing rabbits, but maybe he was finally on the right scent.

# # #

Mary’s excitement over being engaged made the call-in show fly by, but after her broadcast ended at two a.m., bed was still a ways off. For once, she hadn’t minded the sappy selections from her callers. If she were fearless she would’ve shouted the engagement news from the rooftops, but reigned in that impulse. More importantly, David had asked that she keep the news quiet for a while until he could talk with the head of Bringing Christ to Latin America about her accompanying him to Peru.

Perhaps a new location in a different country with the man she loved would be the push she needed to blossom and put her anxiety about strangers and crowds behind her. It would be a fresh start.

She stretched and walked over to the window, gazing up at the half moon’s glow in the warm summer night. A quick glance over at the carriage apartment revealed a light peeking out from behind the curtains. Jared must still be up. Maybe she should make some tea and head over there. She wanted to talk to somebody and it was too late to call Amy. Jared wouldn’t mind. An image of Jared’s face, so close to hers that she could see bits of dirt clinging to his cheeks and forehead, filled her mind. For one split second, she had thought he was going to kiss her yesterday afternoon. He wasn’t interested in her that way. He was just an old friend. And she was engaged.

Shoving her feet into sandals, she hurried downstairs and made a cup of Earl Grey tea. With a few chocolate chip cookies wrapped in a cloth napkin, she walked across the moonlit lawn and climbed the stairs to the apartment. Carefully placing the cup on the railing, she knocked.

The door opened a crack. “Mary?”

“I brought cookies.” She smiled and held up the napkin. “I couldn’t sleep and saw your light on.”

His eyebrows rose. “Why are you up at this hour?”

Mary frowned. “Didn’t I tell you that I work a late shift?”

“Oh, that’s right.” Jared opened the door wider. “Come on in. I could use a little boost to finish some paperwork.”

“Good.” Mary edged past him and set the cookies on the coffee table, pushing aside some folders to make room. “Whatcha working on so late?”

Jared rubbed his eyes. “This and that.” He walked stiffly over to the table and closed the laptop, placing it atop the folders before coming to join her on the couch.

Guilt pricked her heart. He looked exhausted and here she was invading his space. “You’re tired. I’m sorry, I should go.” She picked up the napkin with the cookies but he gently tugged the cookies out of her hand.

“Not without letting me eat a few of these first.” He bit into a cookie and closed his eyes. “Mmmm. Did you make these?”

Mary settled back onto the couch. “Yes.”

“They’re delicious.” A smile played on the corners of his mouth and smear of chocolate touched his upper lip. Stubble dotted his jaw line.

She wanted to wipe off the chocolate with her finger. A crumb lingered on his bottom lip and his tongue flicked out to snag it. Involuntarily, she licked her own lips. Her body swayed closer to Jared, as if pulled by an invisible string. Her heartbeat sang in her ears as he devoured the cookie. She shouldn’t be staring at another man like this, with thoughts of lips flitting through her brain. She was an engaged woman. But David was so far away and this connection to Jared had been forged long before she even knew David.

His eyes opened as he swallowed the last bite, and Mary jerked her attention from his mouth to his gaze. Her own lips parted, as if to explain why she had been caught staring at his mouth, but no words came.

Disclaimer: This is a work of fiction. Phantom Love is copyrighted and cannot be used in any form without permission from Sarah Hamaker.

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