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Authors: Gail Sattler

Secret Admirer

BOOK: Secret Admirer
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Copyright

ISBN 978-1-59310-096-4

Copyright © 2004 by Gail Sattler. All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical, or other means, now known or hereafter invented, is forbidden without the permission of Truly Yours, an imprint of Barbour Publishing, Inc., PO Box 719, Uhrichsville, Ohio 44683.

All scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version®. niv®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Our mission is to publish and distribute inspirational products offering exceptional value and biblical encouragement to the masses.

All of the characters and events in this book are fictitious. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or to actual events is purely coincidental.

PRINTED IN THE U.S.A.

One

“Shannon, I'd like you to meet the new dispatcher, Todd Sanders. Todd, this is Shannon Andrews, our payroll clerk.”

Shannon squeezed her eyes shut at the sound of the name. It couldn't be. It just couldn't.

“Hey, Shan-nooze. Long time no see.”

That voice. The hated nickname. It could be, and it was.

“Todd,” she muttered. “Long time no see.” Shannon forced her eyes open and gave him a welcoming smile, even though it was almost painful. She wanted to pinch herself to wake up but knew it wouldn't help her present nightmare. Gary, the operations manager, smiled first at her then at Todd. “You two know each other? It's a small world, isn't it? Come on, Todd. I'll introduce you to the rest of the staff, then we'll get you set up at your station.”

All thoughts of the coming payroll deadline deserted Shannon as she watched Gary introduce Todd around the office. She hadn't seen Todd for a long time, and it was no loss. Briefly she considered turning in her resignation, then banished the thought. She would be strong and show him he no longer affected her.

Unpleasant memories flashed through her mind. From the time she was eight, Todd and her eleven-year-old brother Craig had been best friends. The day she moved out was the day she finally stopped having to bear the brunt of Todd's teasing.

During the time leading up to her high school graduation, she'd foolishly thought she was in love with Todd. However, the painful, constant jabs about being nothing more than his friend's bratty kid sister cured her. Thankfully, she got over her high school crush before he discovered how she felt. If he had, she never would have lived it down.

Over the past two years, Shannon had avoided Todd, seeing him only when Craig dragged him to one of their church functions. Despite the safe atmosphere of the church she'd grown up in, those occasions always affected her, bringing back the memories of past hurts, even after all that time. Fortunately, it didn't happen often. In the past year she hadn't seen him at all. Maybe that was why seeing him now at work, it hit her with a double whammy.

She thought she had put Todd and his idiocy behind her. Obviously, she was wrong.

Shannon forced herself to return her attention to her work. She'd almost completed the warehouse payroll when she felt someone poking her arm.

“Shan! I'm talking to you! Have you met that new dispatcher? He sure is a sweetheart, isn't he? Wouldn't you love to meet him in a dark corner one night?”

In the light or dark, despite his good looks and charming ways, which he used when it suited him, she'd already seen enough of Todd Sanders to last a lifetime. “No,” she muttered through gritted teeth. The last time she met Todd in a dark corner she hadn't known he was there until too late. That time, he had scared her half to death with some furry monster toy. She didn't hear the end of it for months.

Without fail, every time she went to her parents' home for a family occasion, her brother regaled her with never-ending tales of Todd that she didn't want to hear. According to Craig, Todd had turned his life over to Christ about a year ago. He claimed Todd had changed and grown up a lot since then. Regardless, even though his faith would make a lot of changes in him, deep down, Shannon knew he was still the same old Todd. She was sick to death of his immature pranks. Out of self-preservation, she intended to avoid him as much as possible.

“Hey, Shan. Aren't you coming for lunch?”

Shannon shook her head. “No. I'm going to work through my break and catch up on a few things. I have a three o'clock cutoff deadline on this, and it's going to be close.”

❧

Todd walked into the lunchroom, but Shannon wasn't there, leaving him strangely disappointed. He'd always enjoyed their verbal banter over the years. Even though the sharp repartee didn't belong in the work environment, that didn't mean they couldn't talk civilly to each other during break time.

He hadn't seen much of Shannon since she'd moved into her own apartment. In fact, the last time was probably at least a year ago. He thought of her often, and seeing her now only emphasized how much he'd missed her. Todd found it amusing that she hadn't noticed him when he came in to apply for the job, but he'd seen her. At the time, she'd been concentrating on the computer screen at her desk, oblivious to all else around her. Either she had grown prettier in the last year, or the old saying about absence making the heart grow fonder was true after all.

He'd liked Shannon for years. Since she was his best friend's kid sister, though, he didn't want to damage his friendship with Craig. Most of all, he didn't want to get beaten to a pulp if any relationship between them went sour. He'd done whatever he had to in order to keep everything the same as it had always been, maintaining a safe emotional distance. Sometimes, he'd even deliberately done things to push her away, rather than risk getting too close.

Gary and one of the other dispatchers joined him at the table, spread their lunches out in front of them, and began to talk about the events of the day. Todd responded to a few comments, but his thoughts kept drifting back to Shannon.

He remembered the crush she'd had on him when she was in high school. He'd never been so flattered in his life. But, while Shannon had graduated with honors, he'd been working two jobs to pay off a major debt not of his own making. Plus, he'd been going through a rough time at home with his mother, which had become increasingly worse since his father left. Instead of dealing with his problems, he'd taken out most of his frustrations on Shannon, over and above the usual jokes he played on her as Craig's kid sister. She hadn't deserved it. Memories of his behavior still filled him with guilt, even after all this time.

In hindsight he realized life would have been easier if he'd shared his troubles with Craig sooner, but he'd been too proud and too overwhelmed to ask for help.

But that was years ago. Todd pushed a past he couldn't change to the back of his mind and concentrated on things as they were today. Over the years, Shannon had grown from an awkward, mouthy kid into a witty, attractive woman. Todd tried not to smile as he thought of his last view of Shannon, typing away at her computer. He'd always teased her about being nerdy with her aptitude for figures; he hadn't wanted to admit how proud of her he'd been since mathematics was never his strong suit.

Now, after much hard work, at the young age of twenty-five, Shannon had become the chief payroll administrator for a multinational courier corporation. Through Craig, Todd knew the extent and responsibilities of her job, and it bothered him that Gary had referred to her as only a clerk. She deserved more respect than that.

He couldn't erase the past, but Todd figured that since they would now be working together, it would be a good time to make a new future. Her graciousness in the face of defeat had always impressed him. Even though she didn't know it, she'd always held a piece of his heart in the palm of her hand.

The timing may not have been right to start a relationship with Shannon Andrews before this, but things were about to change. He hadn't been a Christian long in the overall scheme of life, but he didn't think it a coincidence that God had placed him at Kwiki Kouriers for a good reason; he felt sure that reason was Shannon.

First he'd catch up on old times and tell her all that had changed in the last year or so. He imagined the two of them,walking down the beach, barefoot, hand in hand, the water lapping around their ankles as they talked. Of course, it would be different without Craig present. Todd couldn't remember ever being alone with Shannon for more than a few minutes at a time. That, too, was about to change.

Since the beach wasn't very realistic, Todd thought of other places to be alone with Shannon and where the best spot for that kind of conversation would be. He imagined them sitting side-by-side in a dimly lit restaurant, romantic music playing in the background, where they could have a special quiet time, just the two of them.

Todd shook his head. They were nowhere near that stage in their relationship. The most likely place for them to spend time together without the encumbrance of work would be after church on Sunday morning, although he didn't want to wait a week just to talk. He'd been attending Craig's church recently, and he missed not seeing Shannon there. Craig had told him Shannon now attended a small church close to her apartment, along with some of her friends who lived nearby. She attended church with her family only when something special was going on. However, those occasions seemed to be when Todd was unable to attend. It was almost as if she planned it that way.

Todd frowned as he checked his watch. The lunch break was nearly up, and Shannon still had not appeared. He wanted to detour past her desk to talk but decided against it since it was his first day at the new job. Instead, he would leave it up to her to approach him.

She didn't approach him all week. She worked through her lunch every day, and he heard talk that the rest of the staff was starting to wonder why she suddenly had so much extra work to do. He had a nagging suspicion her work wasn't the reason for her absence at lunchtime—he was.

By Friday, Todd couldn't stand it any longer. He didn't want to risk a confrontation in the middle of the office, so at the end of the day when he left the building, he didn't leave the parking lot. He leaned against the fender of her car, crossed his arms, and waited.

He didn't wait long. Soon Shannon rushed out the back door at a near run, straight for her car, and straight for him.

Her feet froze on the spot as soon as she saw him. “What are you doing here?”

“I've wanted to talk to you all week, but you seem to be avoiding me.”

“Me?” She laughed a very humorless laugh. “Why would
I
avoid
you?

Todd covered his heart with his hands. “I detect a hint of sarcasm in your voice, Shannon. If I were the sensitive type, which I am, by the way, you could hurt my feelings.”

She snorted. “Move over, Todd. I have places to go. I don't want to run you over, but I will if I have to.”

“The only thing you've run over is my poor heart.”

She snorted again. “Give me a break.”

“Come on, Shannon. Seriously. I think we should go somewhere and talk. We can go out for supper. I'll even pay.”

Rather than the enthusiastic response Todd would have preferred to see, she stared at him in open astonishment. He couldn't help but feel stung.

“Is this some kind of joke? You wouldn't take me to some place that serves frog legs, would you?”

“Frog legs?” He watched her cross her arms and tap her
foot while his mind raced, trying to figure out the signifi
cance of her remark. “Oh! Frog legs! That was just a joke!”

She wagged her finger in the air at him, then stabbed him in the chest with it. “I have never been so embarrassed in my life. Imagine when I got to work, opened my lunch bag, reached in for my sandwich and touched a cold, slimy frog instead! When I screamed and nearly fainted, they were ready to call either the funny farm or an ambulance.”

“You mean you didn't look in the bag before you left the house? You took the frog to work? It was my idea, but it was Craig who took out your sandwich and put in the frog before you left.”

Instead of replying, she lifted her purse. Todd ducked and raised his hands to protect himself, but she wound back and whacked him anyway.

“Not only did I take the frog to work, but it took my entire lunch break to drive around and find a park with a running stream so I could let the poor thing go. No pet store would take it, and I couldn't wet it with chlorinated tap water! And then I had to face everyone's jokes for weeks.”

“I'm sorry. I really am.”

“Get out of my way. I'm going home. Alone.”

Dazed, Todd stepped aside and watched as Shannon jabbed the key into the lock. She swung the door open, hopped in, slammed the door, and took off with a squeal of rubber.

The woman used up her entire lunch break to save a frog he'd found in a ditch? Todd was suddenly hit by what he should have realized years ago. He was in love with his best friend's sister.

Todd frowned as her taillights disappeared around the corner. Over the years, he'd been less than kind to her, but in the end, she always forgave him, which he now saw made him love her even more. This time, however, it looked as if he'd gone too far. He recalled that not long after he convinced Craig to put the frog in her lunch bag she moved away from home. The Bible spoke of forgiving someone seventy times seven, but the frog might have made seventy times seven plus one.

It would be the hardest thing he'd ever had to do, but he had to show Shannon how sorry he was—and somehow convince her to take him seriously as her Mr. Right for the rest of her life.

He knew she didn't like frogs, but he knew her well enough to know what she did like.

All he had to do was figure out what to do about it.

BOOK: Secret Admirer
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