The Small Town Preacher's Fake - Lucy McConnell

Chapter One


The town of Moose Hollow was big enough that Evie Williams wouldn’t have to see the two-timing, lying snake, otherwise known as Owen, ever again. Unless they worked in the same office. Which, unfortunately, they did. The same small, impossibly confining office space.

Six months ago, she’d caught him kissing another woman in the grocery store parking lot. Seriously, why had she ever thought she loved a man who was dumb enough to kiss his mistress in public? Sometimes, she wasn’t sure whom she was angrier at—him for cheating on her, or herself for falling for him in the first place. He was such a sleaze.

She sniffed and wiped under her eyes with a lotion-filled tissue. There was no reason to cry over his stupid Instagram wedding announcement on her feed.

So what if no one in the office had told her about the engagement? So what if the woman he was marrying was two dress sizes smaller? So what if they were getting the destination wedding she’d always dreamed of in Hawaii? She’d gotten off lucky. All she’d lost was two years of her life. This woman—with her cute little smile and impossibly skinny jeans—was in for a train wreck and had no idea what was coming. Evie was half tempted to warn her.

She paused and closed her eyes. God, I’m a good person. Help me out here. What am I supposed to do?

“There’s another one!” Maisie’s happy squeal from the other side of their shared cubicle wall made Evie jump and her eyes fly open. Staying in the office at lunch was like staying in a movie theater after the credits were done—empty and unsatisfying. Yet she couldn’t follow the mass of well-wishers out the door as they took Owen to a celebratory lunch. Mass was a generous word, considering there were eleven people employed at Hanson’s Heating & Air, five of them were office staff, and only three of them had gone out.

Thankfully, her BFF, Maisie, had stayed behind in a show of moral support.

Maisie’s adorable face, framed by stick-straight black hair, appeared above the drab gray wall. “You have got to read this.”

Evie’s mood instantly lifted at the excitement scattering like drops of sunshine from her friend. Maybe the two of them should have gone out to eat on their own—she could use a pick-me-up. “What have you got?” Evie pushed back from her desk and strode around the corner so she could see what had her best friend all excited.

“It’s another ad for a wife.” Maisie beamed. “Can you believe these guys? First the one about finding a father for his son, and now this guy.”

Evie leaned forward, her hands on the desk, to read the print in the local classifieds. The Matchmaker was the local place to advertise a garage sale, usable appliances, trade a treadmill for some Sheetrock work, or browse for a new job. A few months ago, they’d run an ad by a man looking for a wife. The town had blown up with the news, and speculation abounded over who had placed the ad and if anyone had dared to answer. While no one knew the identity of the wannabe groom, rumor had it that he’d actually gotten married.

Evie began reading out loud, “Wife wanted: Christian man looking for charitable woman who is interested in partnering as shepherds for a small flock. Must be willing to get married right away. Platonic relationship requests only.”

She stared at the words. A Christian man. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? She hadn’t minded that Owen wasn’t a believer while they’d dated, but since breaking up, she’d realized how much she’d missed out on not having a man who held the same values.

Like fidelity in a relationship.

She pushed back at the bitterness that clawed at her, trying to drag her down to a gulf of endless misery and woe. She hated that she was so far away from forgiving him that all she could manage each day was a fight against bitterness. Two thumbs up—she continued to win that battle.

She refocused on the ad and read it again, this time thinking about the kind of man on the other side of the keyboard. A whisper filled her heart that this was someone she would like to meet—a kindred spirit. He was Christian, which was a must for all of her future relationships. And he had a calling of some sort in life. Shepherding a flock was definitely a reference to a life of service.

That was the kind of