Summary: Being a gunfighter held peril, but none greater than being a preacher.
Category: The Clayton Chronicles
Word Count: 687
The giggles were coming from the far right, third row back, and as hard as he tried to ignore them and concentrate on his sermon, the constancy of it was making it very difficult. A quick glance that way confirmed his suspicion that it was Maryann Calter and Beth Stewart, and what they were finding so funny in a sermon on the tribulations of Job, Dave had no clue. More than likely it had nothing at all to do with the sermon and everything to do with their age and their rather obvious infatuation with their new minister.
Sure enough, the minute they noticed he was looking their way, the coy grins started and Beth lowered one long-lashed eyelid in a slow wink that almost made Dave lose his place. He quickly turned away and the subdued giggles began again.
He moved his eyes across the church as far away from the two girls as he could, only to be met by the simpering grin of Miss Sheppard, the piano player, sitting in her accustomed place in the far left front row pew.
Miss Sheppard had been very attentive of late, even a little proprietary, and Dave quickly averted his eyes back towards the center. It was a mistake, for sitting dead center half way back were the Misses Thomas and their friend Miss Campbell and he had a feeling their rapt attention wasn’t from the enthralling nature of his sermon either.
There was simply no place in the church for him to rest his eyes without encountering the stare of one young woman or another. As a matter of fact, if he’d realized just how many unattached females there were in this town, he would have seriously considered starting a church in Coleville eighty miles further west. But nobody had warned him that Cranmer had the largest population of single women this side of the Mississippi and he was rather stuck now.
Still there were advantages; he hadn’t had to cook a meal or eat supper at a single restaurant since he’d arrived, having been invited to every home with an eligible female within fifty miles. And there were a lot of them because, though Cranmer had an overabundance of woman, it was sadly lacking in eligible males to go with them and what accounted for the discrepancy he had yet to discover.
It was, of course, one of the hazards of his profession. A minister was simply too great a catch and too easy a target for any mother of a marriageable daughter to resist. Dave had had to become very adept over the years at dodging the arrows of Cupid lobbed at him by determined mommas and their equally determined daughters.
He had occasionally thought about simply marrying some nice woman or other just to remove the problem, but as that came with a whole new set of problems of its own, he had decided it wasn’t worth it. Not that he was averse to marrying if the right woman came along; he was just averse to marrying for marrying’s sake.
So he had to simply put up with the giggles and coquettish glances, try his best to be polite but distant as possible, raising no expectations and keeping out of trouble. It wasn’t an easy task and he had a feeling this town was going to take every trick and maneuver he had available. It was enough to make him seriously consider pulling up and starting over somewhere else. Except he had a stubborn streak in him that just wouldn’t give up.
Then, as his eyes moved over the congregation once again and caught the gaze of Miss Jeffords, who immediately lowered her eyelids half-way and puckered her lips to send a kiss in his direction, he realized this bunch of women just might succeed in doing what even the rowdiest, roughest, meanest bunch of miners and cowboys had been unable to do – make him turn tail and run.