Stake Claim and Kiss Clay

Sheri stood abruptly and walked around toward Clay. She bent down until her mouth was close to the golden hair above his ear. "Maybe you are my soul mate already, and we're just waiting on God's timetable, waiting on me to return to the same spiritual plane as you."

Then she shifted ever so slightly, meaning to brush a kiss across his cheek, but he moved and pulled her mouth to his, pulled her onto his lap, and kissed her like she had never been kissed before. Loving, tender promise, a toast to a future bright with blessings as soon as she repented and returned to a righteous walk with the Lord.

Grinning like he'd just won the bride lottery, Clay, true to his word, called Rhonda the rodeo cowgirl and explained the situation and his love for his God-chosen mate. He invited her to join them as their guest for the Christian fellowship Sunday afternoon, which his mom had organized before leaving on a cruise.

After he finished the call, they stood facing each other, Clay towering over her, as he seemed to hold his breath almost expectantly.

Sheri laughed. "You're bursting to tell me something, I do believe, cowboy."

"Yes, ma'am." He opened a desk drawer then handed her a paper with a picture and information about the truck driver who had sideswiped Steve.

"How did you know I'd want to speak with him?"

"I've been praying hard for it."

Sheri closed her eyes and uttered a little prayer. Then she dialed Marvin Reynold's phone number to discover if he would be home to meet that day. But he wasn't home now. His wife related Marvin was at the closest town to Sheri for the next couple of hours, dropping off his semi load. Sheri thanked the woman and whirled toward Clay.

"He's in town, unloading at the warehouse!"

Clay tossed her his truck keys and hitched a golden brow. "It must be love if I'm letting you drive us in my truck."

Sheri smirked. "It must be."

But she pocketed his keys and made time for her bedroom. "See ya in about a half hour." She ignored his stunned looked and shut the door.

In that half hour, Sheri prayed softly. She prayed as she plucked out her green contacts. Prayed as she read the directions and then colored her long blond tresses. Prayed as she changed into a sundress then gazed in the mirror at her familiar deep blue eyes and dark mahogany brown hair.

She took a deep breath and swung open her bedroom door just as Clay had raised his large tanned hand to knock.

Clay stood there, fist raised to knock, mouth falling open as his intense golden brown gaze scrutinized her.

Sheri started to laugh at his reaction, but then something changed in his eyes. Kindness and tenderness remained, but he smiled then, dimple and all, a purely confident masculine gleam of appreciation. It was enough to wipe the smirk off her face.

Clay moved his hand a bit, to tilt her eyes to his. "Prettiest blue eyes I've ever seen," he drawled quietly.

"Welcome back, Sheri. I knew you'd change back to the woman I loved when you found out you couldn't change me."

She humphed him, instead of admitting how absolutely correct he was, and jangled his truck keys. "Ready to witness this, while I confess my sin of unforgiveness and then repent?"

He smiled and nodded solemnly. "More than ready for the beautiful woman who God promised as my chosen wife. More than ready to see His plan in action."

"Me, too," she whispered and headed out the door to drive them into the nearest town.

During the drive, Clay asked, "Will you go to church with me?"

Her old church, too, where she had many of the same Christian friends as Clay. "Surely."

"Will you be my date for the fellowship picnic afterwards at the Swinging D?"

She shot him an anxious glance. "The church members might start thinking something is going on with us."

"I'll make sure of it by announcing our engagement at the party."

Sheri grumbled, "Yeah, sure, silly man," but continued to stare straight ahead at the road. There was still the matter of Jesus healing her heart, changing her back into the real Sheri. Quietly, yet out loud, she started to pray, started to fully repent for her season of rebelliousness.

Clay rested his hand on her shoulder and prayed softly, too, as she sincerely asked Jesus to cleanse her heart of any remaining unforgiveness and anger. Indeed, Jesus touched her in that instant, healing her heart, allowing her to hear Him again as He revealed God's plan for her life.

She turned left into the warehouse driveway and discovered a lone semi-trailer backed into a dock.

After a hard exhale, she walked over to the weary man climbing down from the truck. Then she held out her hand.

"Mr. Reynolds? I'm Sheri Knight. I was wondering if you might be so kind as to allow me a few moments of your time?"

"Yeah, I'm Marvin Reynolds," he answered gruffly as he scratched his forehead. "Knight did ya say? You kin of Steve Knight?" he asked warily.

Sheri nodded and smiled. "His little sister."

Reynolds roughly raked one hand down over his face. "I'm sorry about your brother. His death has haunted me for months now."

When he finally looked her in the eyes, Sheri shook her head. "No, Mr. Reynolds. I'm the one who's sorry. Not that you need my forgiveness, but I forgive you. Steve's in heaven, happy, with the rest of my family."

She added, "Don't let Satan make you feel guilty for something that wasn't your fault. God doesn't blame you. Neither do I."

Clay stepped forward and introduced himself before witnessing to Marvin. The trucker seemed to grow less weary, more interested, until tears pooled in his eyes. Clay grabbed Sheri's hand and she grabbed the man's she now forgave as Marvin accepted Jesus into his heart.

The trio bubbled with excitement. After Sheri urged Marvin to find a church where he lived near Dallas, Clay invited the trucker and his family to the Swinging D during the Christian fellowship party.

A few minutes later Clay seated Sheri in the passenger side of his old truck, and then shut his own door beside him.

"Sheri Knight, now you are the woman who God has chosen as my wife. His plan. His will. You belong fully to the Lord again. Now you belong to me, too."

Oh how she wanted that to be true. Yet, years ago, she had promised to work with Troy at his security software firm which was well known for Christian employees who bordered on computer geniuses.

As if Clay heard her thoughts, he suggested, "The door will open. You know, I'm sure with all the technology available now, e-mail, video conferencing, fax, phone, you could probably work for Troy out of a different location."

She wrinkled her nose at him and grinned as she considered his idea. "Like the Swinging D, for example?"

Clay slid his arm over the back of the seat until it dropped down and slid her closer to him. "Now you're getting the idea. But being a beautiful brainy artist and computer scientist, I doubted if it'd take long for you to catch on."

He drove along his property line before turning off onto a dirt path, leading back to one of her favorite places of peace while growing up in the area.

Her favorite place to swim. Her favorite place to sit on the large flat rocks next to the water. Her favorite place to think, pray, and absorb the peace.

Sheri exited and slipped off her shoes; then she dangled her feet into the water from her favorite rocky perch.

Clay dropped to one knee in front of her. He smiled, dimple winking at her in his handsome rugged face. Then he grabbed both of her smaller hands in one of his large ones.

He brushed a kiss across her knuckles, before placing her hands over his heart. "I love you, Sheri. Will you please honor me by agreeing to be my wife? My true love."

His heart beat steady, solid, maybe a little faster than normal under her hand. She laughed. "My pleasure, Clay. Thank you, yes. And by the way, I love you too."

A noise off in the distance grew louder, warning them of an approaching vehicle bumping toward them on the dirt road.

Clay slid one finger under her jaw, to shut her open mouth, when Troy lumbered out of the vehicle.

Troy crossed his arms over his chest and grinned. "I knew I'd find you here." He took a few steps closer to them and pointed at Clay. "Ok. So, she's marrying you. But there's no way I'll let such a gifted woman get out of working with me. She promised."

Then Troy winked at Sheri. "We'll set you up at the Swinging D with all the technology for you to work with us, but from a different location than in Atlanta."

Sheri just laughed happily as God blessed her, showing her His plan for her, her chosen mate.

Clay slung his arm around her shoulder and grinned at Troy. "If you're gonna walk the bride down the aisle, you better clear your social calendar for the Fourth of July."

Clay stared into her eyes then, prodding, probing, for her approval. "If that's all right with you? That way my wife can lay back on a blanket and look at the stars, in awe of God's universe, until they celebrate our anniversary with fireworks every year."

Sheri swung her arms around his neck. "I'd love it. I'd love to. I love you! Thank You, Sweet Jesus!"

Then her true love and her best friend raised their voices with hers to praise the Lord.

Happily ever after!