Curiosity Rising

In my life there's been heartache and pain
I don't know if I can face it again
Can't stop now, I've traveled so far, to change this lonely life

-I Want to Know What Love is, by Foreigner

Didn't all the women admire him? One would think so, by the stir he caused as he walked through Dee's Diner, Morriston's one and only restaurant. The ladies sitting in the corner sipping their tea while awaiting their orders spotted him first, strolling confidently into view, wearing his "fatherly" garb… a black suit with a white collar. Priest or not, he was one handsome, broad shouldered, blue-eyed man. His brown hair had been neatly combed, but one stray curl fell over his forehead.

"He looks like Superman," Grace whispered across the table to her friends.

Penny Landon rolled her eyes, but then after glancing at him again, replied, "Yeah, he does, kind of."

Oh well, thought Grace. Looking like Superman certainly didn't make him Superman, now did it? And he certainly was not Grace's father, so she refused to address him as "Father Davies", and never had. She didn't interact with him much, since her schedule normally did not grant her the freedom enjoyed by her homemaker friends, and she thought it best if their run-ins remained few and far in between. Eventually the man would wonder why she wasn't respectfully referring to him as "Father Davies". She restrained an eye roll.

Despite the hints at gentleness and concern she'd seen in Jacob Davies, he was likely just as manipulative and power hungry as all the other priests she'd ever known.

Grace could see other women in the diner eyeing him, including the waitresses.

"A Bismarck and a black coffee, right, Father Davies?" Kay Wright, the waitress behind the counter asked, reaching for the pot of coffee simmering behind her.

Grace heard this above the sound of eggs frying and soft chatter surrounding them.

Missy, Penny's six year old daughter, giggled from her counter stool when Jacob waved and said, "Good morning, Missy!"

"Good morning, Father Davies!"

"You know me so well," the father told Kay. He then shifted his attention to the huddled group of ladies. "Morning, Ladies."

Grace pretended not to hear him, but Penny, Brooke, and Lana offered their morning greetings. Suddenly Grace felt a soft blow to her shin and jumped in her seat. Penny stared hard at her, so Grace mentally sighed and turned to see the handsome priest again. He was just turning back to the counter when he caught Grace's little wave. He smiled a charming smile that made his eyes twinkle, and then seated himself on a stool… about three spaces away from little Missy.

The father struck up a conversation with the elderly gentleman seated beside him.

Penny, the only lady in their group who attended Father Davies' church, drilled another hole into Grace for her rudeness. "Why don't you like him?" She whispered.

Lana tossed her long, blonde hair over her shoulder and leaned in conspiratorially and whispered, "Because she doesn't know a nice man when she sees one!"

"Lana!" Brooke scolded. "He's a priest… not exactly fair game."

"He's a man first," Lana winked.

Grace suddenly lost her appetite. She guessed she'd wind up feeding her cheeseburger-yes, she liked cheeseburgers at ten o'clock in the morning-to Ginger, her three-year-old German Shepherd.

Jacob was use to the women blushing and whispering in his presence, but he wasn't entirely sure he liked it. He'd chosen a life of celibacy for a reason, and didn't need the temptations his good looks offered him.

Oh well.

What particularly bothered him this morning was that Grace McBride seemed intent on avoiding him. Why did that bother him? After all, he'd agreed with himself that he shouldn't have much contact with her. Her soft beauty and dignified, graceful mannerisms were extremely intriguing.

"I'm gonna need lots of help moving into the new house Saturday, Father," said Martin, the kind, gray-haired man sitting next to him. Martin attended Jacob's church, and had been fighting an off and on battle with cancer for the past five years. Jacob had been meeting him in the diner every Friday morning for the past eight weeks, and had found it rewarding for the both of them. Martin needed a friend, and Jacob enjoyed the rush of endorphins provided when he reached out to others in need.

"What time should I be there, Mart?" He bit into his Bismarck and swiveled slightly in his chair. His shirt sleeve brushed his napkin onto the floor, so he bent to retrieve it.

"Eleven," Came Martin's reply.

Jacob was just sitting back up when he caught Grace McBride's green-eyed gaze. She quickly turned away again, and he couldn't help but admire the way the morning sunlight set her golden-red curls ablaze.

She was wearing pants, too. Every time he'd seen her, which was only about five times since his arrival in Morriston, she'd been wearing dresses. And she looked heavenly in dresses. But, the pants accented her shapely legs. He turned away after catching the eye of the blonde sitting next to Grace.

Lord, what am I doing? What is it about Grace that I can't resist? Every time I see her, it's like something rushes over me… some kind of… Never mind. I am committed. I've had enough pain in my life and I don't need anymore.

Lana Anderson was a flirt. Married, but still a flirt. Grace liked her, but knew that she was headed for disaster if she didn't straighten up. Brooke Mclain was the total opposite, totally devoted to her family and extremely straight-laced. Penny was a happy balance between the two, Grace thought. She was devoted to her family and her faith but didn't go to any extremes.

Penny was the only reason Grace had agreed to come to Dee's this morning. But now…

Grace asked for a box for her cheeseburger as soon as it arrived, and decided she needed to get to the bakery.

"I'm going to head on to the bakery, gals." Grace said after packing her cheeseburger into the little Styrofoam box. Penny blinked confusedly and Lana cocked one of her drawn-on eyebrows at her. Brooke's face was blank.

"I'm sorry to be such a party-pooper," Grace continued. "But I'm not feeling that great."

"You don't look so good, either," Brooke commented. "Maybe you need to go home and rest."

Penny bit her lip, a sure sign that she wanted to say something but wasn't going to. Grace slid out of the booth, bringing her purse and boxed cheeseburger with her. She passed behind the father and the old man and waited for Kay at the cash register, forcing herself not to look in Jacob Davies' direction.

"I really appreciate your help, Father," the old man was saying. "I like the shelves you made me, too… I wish I could repay you."

Grace restrained herself from staring at them. So… Jacob was a carpenter, just as she'd suspected, because of his strong, rough hands.

"I didn't become a priest for monetary gain, Martin… helping you just comes with the position."

Grace couldn't resist then. She stared fully at Jacob. At first, he didn't seem to notice, but then looked up from his coffee cup and latched on to her gaze. Embarrassed, she jerked her head back just as Kay was approaching the register.

"Sorry about that, Grace," she said.

Grace cleared her throat. "It's OK." Her voice sounded shaky- a little too noticeably shaky. Her heart was beginning to flutter. She waited impatiently for Kay to hand her the necessary change, and then turned to waltz out of the diner.

"Grace! You left your burger!" Kay called, just as she was about to push the glass door open. She pretended not to hear, and rushed toward her convertible, fumbling in her purse for her keys. She shoved the key into the door, not really understanding why she suddenly felt so… afraid? Vulnerable?

"Ms. McBride…"

Oh my gosh, it's him. She saw him approaching then, Styrofoam box in hand. He extended it to her, concern etching his eyes. "Are you OK?" He asked.

She received the box. "Yes, thanks. Just in a hurry." She shook her head slightly, dropping her gaze to the box.

"I don't bite, you know."

She jerked her head up to find him grinning. Warmth swept over.

"Have a good day, Ms. McBride."

"Same to you. And thank you."