Cassie strolled along the stone path leading to her new church. Boughs of garland, dotted with holly berries framed the windows of the chapel. Her heart quivered, unable to settle on an emotion. She went from joy and expectation for her future to sadness and loneliness on this first Christmas away from her family and her hometown. But she loved this church. It’d felt like home from the first day she stepped into the quaint place of worship, and the people welcomed her with a warmth that had assured she had made the right choice.
At the heavy, wooden doors, Cassie paused. “Dear Lord, thank you for this family. Help me be gracious.”
Cassie pulled open the door and stepped inside, colliding with a knitted wall. “Sorry.”
“I’m sorry, please excuse me.” The man wearing the red and white striped sweater stepped back. He tugged at the neckline. “I was going to step outside for a while and cool off. I love my grandmother, but this wool sweater she made me for Christmas is better suited to the Tundra than South Georgia.” He grinned, meeting Cassie’s gaze. A dark curl fell forward tapping his arched brow. Adorable.
Tingles flitted over Cassie’s arms, and she shivered before she could stop herself. “Anything below sixty degrees is freezing to me.” Cringing, she pivoted. Where had he appeared from? She may not have met every person in the small town, but she’d certainly been introduced to every potential husband. The ladies of the church had made sure of that.
“I … um … I’m lighting the advent wreath.” Cassie continued down the aisle. “I’m the single woman, and—” She clamped her lips shut. Why did she say that? Now he would think she was desperate. She inhaled, holding her breath. Surely, that was enough to scare him off.
Maybe not. She exhaled, grasping a pew.
He stepped in front of her and lifted his hand. “Then, I—”
“That came out wrong. I’m new to town, and Mrs. Lightfoot asked me to light the wreath as the designated single.”
And that hadn’t sounded any better.
He wrinkled his brow, dropping his hand to his side.
“Anyway I’m supposed to meet her, Mrs. Lightfoot, and her grandson, Little Johnny. He is apparently the only person available to team up with me. I’m sure he’ll be adorable and hopefully, steal the show.” She shrugged. “From what I hear, he is everyone’s favorite visitor—quite a charmer.”
He chuckled, shaking his head.
“What? Is he horrible?”
“Not horrible, but maybe not as wonderful as he’s been made out to be.” He hooked his thumbs in his pockets, rocking back on his heels. “Just give him a chance. He’s a nice guy.”
“Oh.” Cassie clasped her hands. A nice guy? What was that supposed to mean?
“I think I should introduce—”
The front door swung open, drawing their attention.
“Wonderful, you’ve met.” Mrs. Lightfoot hurried into the church. “Little Johnny, you look so handsome in your Christmas sweater. Doesn’t he Cassie?”
“Little Johnny?” Cassie turned, taking in Little Johnny, who was a least a foot taller than her and with broad shoulders, and although the sweater made him look like a candy cane, he was handsome. Her heart tripped.
“As I was saying, I’m John, Mrs. Lightfoot’s grandson.” He offered his hand. “After visiting for years, I’m moving to town, and I think we’ve been set up. Hope you’re not disappointed.”
“Not at all.” Smiling, she took his hand. “I’m Cassie.”
“I hope I met your expectations.” John winked.
“Your height certainly exceeded my expectations.” She laughed.
“That’s a start.”