CHANGE OF HEART:

Clay - Forgive Truck Driver on Her Own

Only too aware of the Bible's teaching, Sheri knew that until she completely committed to Christ again, then they couldn't be a couple. Clay wanted her to change everything back to the Sheri he knew while Stevo was alive. But the choice was to be made with her free will. "My choice, huh?"

"Yeah," he uttered solemnly.

"Then I choose to borrow your truck today."

He sighed, shut his eyes, and tilted back his head. "I remember how you drive. How about you borrow a horse?"

When she rested her hand on his forearm, he opened his eyes and she asked, "All the way to Dallas?"

He smiled. "So, you're ready to forgive the truck driver."

After he slid open a desk drawer, Clay retrieved and handed her a folded piece of paper. "Before we go all the way to Dallas, you better call and find out if he's off work or on the road."

She swallowed hard and dialed the number. Within a few minutes, she had spoken to the trucker's wife and learned he was due back to Dallas by late afternoon. Sheri scribbled down the address and driving directions before hanging up.

The doorbell chimed. Sheri glanced at her watch. Surely the cowgirl due that afternoon wasn't arriving before nine in the morning? "I'll get it," she muttered.

The doorbell chimed. Sheri glanced at her watch. Surely the cowgirl due that afternoon wasn't arriving before nine in the morning? "I'll get it," she muttered.

Clay held up one hand to stop her. "No. I will."

She hurried to her bedroom to grab her purse. Now all she needed was his truck key and she could escape witnessing Clay with his bride potential date.

>Clay dating? No way! She growled in the back of her throat and made time for the front door to politely stake her claim on Clay.

Only Clay was nowhere to be seen. After a quick scan of both floors, Sheri opened the front door and looked outside. There, on the front porch, in both rocking chairs, sat Clay and Troy.

"Troy!" Sheri exclaimed. "Wow. Hiya." The SOS she had sent him; that had to be why he was here first thing in the morning.

Troy lifted one ebony brow in her direction and drawled, "You sent up a flare?"

Yes, she had. Yet his comment lit the fuse of embarrassment and her face blazed.

Clay sat with his arms across his chest, looking from one to the other before asking, "You couldn't just e-mail her? Or pick up the phone?"

Troy grinned boyishly. "I have to be here, in person, to walk the bride down the aisle."

Sheri glared at Troy, the hush-or-I'll-hurt-you stare, before glancing at Clay to gauge his reaction. Clay was the one grinning now.

She pasted on a smile and walked over to her best friend. "Troy, buddy, be a pal and stick around here for the day. Stick real close to Clay. He has a hot date."

Troy turned to Clay. "I thought you said you and Sheri were driving into Dallas? As in forgive and be forgiven?"

This time, it was Clay's face that turned red over his tan. "Yeah, Troy buddy. Be a pal and stick around here today. Entertain my blind date, Rhonda the rodeo cowgirl. At least until Sheri and I return, so Sheri can politely kick her off the Swinging D."

Troy tapped one finger against his temple as if he were actually considering it. Then he grinned again. "Nah. No blind dates for me. I'm coming along with y'all to Dallas."

Clay rolled to his feet, towering over Sheri, holding her eyes with his golden brown gaze, yet he spoke to Troy. "No. You're not."

Clay pointed from Sheri to Troy. "You two can be best friends all you like, as you have been all your lives. But there must be a transfer of power. Of intimacy."

Now looking at Troy, Clay hitched one thumb in Sheri's direction. "She answers to God first. Then me. Then you."

Sheri absorbed Clay's order without saying a word. The look she exchanged with Troy spoke volumes though and he nodded either his acceptance or approval. She pivoted and arched one brow toward Clay, walking forward and speaking softly. "Who do you think you are?"

"Your future husband," he replied as quietly.

"You mean the dude with the hot date today?"

He smiled, a steak of straight white against his tan handsomeness. His dimple flashed. "I called her and canceled last week after Betsy left, but mom called her, too, to make sure she'd be here for the fellowship after church."

Sheri frowned. Clay's mom had hired caters for the luncheon at the Swinging D, after church on Sunday. Sheri expected that although his mom left for a cruise, his mother was hoping to add weight and substance to Clay's date with the rodeo cowgirl, add importance by all of Clay's Christian friends seeing them as a couple first at services, and then at the church outing.

Clay slid one finger under her chin, tipping her eyes to his. "You're scowling again."

"So is she coming or not?"

He nodded. "As a guest of the Swinging D. Not my date."

Sheri glanced at her best friend. "Troy?"

He laughed. "Fine. I'll entertain her. In return, you agree to still work for me, with me, even if it's long distance like here at the Swinging D. With all the technology available, we'll make it work."

Troy stared at Clay. "She's brilliant, best friend or no, and I'm not about to miss out on hiring her."

Sheri bit her lip. Troy was bold, doing his best to help her get what she always wanted. Clay. Troy all but had her and Clay married, holding her a job in his security software company. It would be perfect. If she married Clay.

Clay reached into his jeans pocket and pulled out the keys before tossing them to Sheri. "I must love you if I'm letting you drive my truck."

Troy laughed out loud. "You must, since you've seen her drive."

Sheri stuck her nose in the air and stomped to the truck. They thought they were so funny. Blindfolded, she could drive better than either of them.

After a couple hours on the road, she glanced over at Clay. His eyes were closed and his lips moved wordlessly. He had been praying ever since they left his ranch. Every time she looked toward him, she'd glance back at the road and pray silently, too.

It was nearly lunchtime. The truck driver wouldn't be home until late afternoon. She sighed and took the next exit.

"Hungry?" Clay asked.

"Yeppers." Sheri asked him to choose one of the fast food joints, then pulled through the drive-thru. After grabbing their food, she followed Clay's directions to a park where they sat at a picnic table.

She watched Clay. He would always prefer the outdoors, successful rancher, but pure Christian cowboy at heart.

After Clay said the blessing over their food, he squeezed her hand lightly in his. "Why go all the way to Dallas? You could have told the driver over the phone."

"No," she shook her head and then pointed up. "He wants me to do it face-to-face. Although I'm sure it's gonna be kinda weird, to show up after all these months and tell him I forgive him. He doesn't even know I blamed him for the accident."

"Well, God obviously has His reasons if He wants you to forgive the driver in person."

They finished their food and strolled around the park before heading out to Dallas.

By the time Sheri drove through the thriving metropolis and followed the directions to the man's house, it was mid-afternoon. Yet, there sat a semi and trailer parked in the side yard.

Clay laced his fingers through hers while they walked to the front door.

A weary looking old man answered the knock, swinging open the door. "Yeah, can I help ya?"

Sheri cleared her throat and then extended her hand toward him. "Hi. I'm Sheri Knight."

"I'm Marvin Reynolds." He shook her hand. "Knight you say?" The gray-headed man tapped his chin before tired eyes widened with recognition. "Steve Knight's kin?"

She nodded. "Yes, his sister. Look, I know this may seem strange, but God wanted me to tell you in person that I forgive you for any part of Steve's death. Not that it was even your fault, but I had to let you know I don't blame you. I'm sorry it took me so long to let you know."

Marvin Reynolds closed his eyes. "I'm the one who's sorry. His death has haunted me for more than three months now."

A wave of sympathy washed over her. "God doesn't blame you. I don't. And neither should you. Steve's in heaven now with the rest of our family."

Clay stepped forward and witnessed to the man until the truck driver didn't appear so weary.

In fact, Reynolds invited them into his living room where, after about an hour, they all held hands and prayed. Marvin Reynolds accepted Jesus Christ into his heart. Sheri repented the last of her sins and handed over complete control of her life to God, for good this time.

When Clay hopped into the driver's side of his truck, he glanced over at her and his smile seemed nearly as joyously bubbly as her own. "Home?"

Sheri shook her head and pointed off to the right toward a mall. "Nope. One more stop."

Clay didn't say a word, instead looked like he was resolved to a fate nearly worse than death. Shopping.

But Sheri stopped at the first shop in the mall, a hair salon. She glanced at Clay and he grinned.

Sure enough, there was an opening. She wanted to change everything about herself back into the real her. The stylist colored her hair to dark brown, but something about it wasn't quite right.

Clay obviously agreed because he ambled over to them and shook his head. "Dark brown, yes, but it would glow mahogany in the sunlight."

The hairdresser mixed another color, added it, and then dried her hair. Ah, yes. Perfect.

After Sheri paid, she asked Clay to please go get the truck and pull it to the front entrance. While he disappeared to do just that, Sheri dashed into a restroom.

She looked in the mirror and grimaced before plucking out each green contact and flicking them into the trash. Deep blue expressive eyes stared back at the brunette. Sheri smiled and walked outside to find Clay waiting in the truck.

He hopped out and walked over to open her door. With one hand on the door handle, he leaned down and whispered, "Welcome back, Sheri love. Welcome back to the family of God."

After he climbed back inside, he grabbed her hand. "Thank You, Jesus. I ask You to open doors for Sheri, lead her to follow Your will. Please make it obvious to her, confirm to her that I am the husband You would choose for her. In Jesus' name we pray. Amen."

She smiled. "I already made my choice, cowboy."

As he drove, they sang some along with a Christian cassette tape, talked, and enjoyed comfortable silence. When they were all but a mile from the ranch, yet on Clay's land, he drove down a dirt road to a little pond.

She smiled. While she was growing up, this was one of her favorite places to ride her horse and then swim.

After Clay parked, he walked around to her side of the truck. Taking her hand, he led her to a large flat stone next to the pond. The sun glowed huge and crimson, sinking over the horizon. When he stopped at the edge of the rock, she did too.

He dropped to one knee, holding her hand over his heart. "I love you, Sheri. Would you do me the utmost honor of agreeing to be my wife?"

"I've always loved you, Clay. Yes. I'd be the one honored to have you as my husband."

He whooped. In one swift movement, Clay swooped her into his arms and jumped in the water.

Sheri shrieked her surprise, sputtering out her laughter.

After they played like kids for a while, Clay jumped onto the rock and raked one hand through his wet golden hair. He held out one hand, helping her out of the water, right into his arms, and then kissed her hard and fast on the lips. "After church services Sunday, during the fellowship, I'll announce our engagement."

"Ok," she agreed happily.

"What would you think of getting married on July fourth?"

Sheri laughed. "I think the Nation will celebrate our anniversary every year with fireworks."

Twilight faded fast to total night when they pulled into the Swinging D driveway. There was another truck connected to a horse trailer, parked near the corral.

Sheri didn't say anything, but held Clay's hand as they entered the house.

Troy ambled their way with a big grin on his face. Sheri rolled her eyes. She knew that self-assured male smile. Another woman swooned under his charm.

In walked a redheaded, a freckled smiling woman.

Clay nodded. "Hi. I'm Clay and this is Sheri."

"I'm Rhonda," she smiled, but her smile was for Troy.

Troy flicked Sheri's hair. "Brunette." Then he tipped up her face to his, looking long and hard into her eyes before he whispered, "Blue. Much better. Welcome back."

Playfully, Troy slugged Clay in the bicep. "So when's the wedding?"

Clay slid his arm around Sheri's shoulders and pulled her in tightly to his side. "July fourth."

"Thank You, Jesus!" Troy praised.

Sheri smiled up at Clay. "Yes, thank You, Jesus!"

"Amen," Clay drawled. "You and me and God. A team. Forever."

Happily ever after!

Jesus loves you!