Welcome back to Austen Promises!
Last time, I gave you Chapter 8. I changed part of it, but you’ll have to wait until publication to see. 😉 LOL I basically just fixed some of the date stuff and Mary’s conversation with Liz.
Today, I give you Chapter 9. It has some editing ahead of it, too. You all have waited long enough for an update, so I figured you’d rather have an unedited version than nothing. 🙂
For those who may not know, in the biker world, a “cut” is a denim jacket, often with the sleeves cut off, that has the motorcycle club patch and other patches on it. If it were a leather vest, it would be called “leathers,” according to my sources.
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Declan left Coach’s house that day with Will’s words buzzing around in his brain. Mary had walked him to his bike and let him hold her hand, and it had been all he could do not to kiss her when that spark hit his fingers and shot up his arm. He suspected she felt it, as well, because she had swayed toward him for a moment before blushing and taking a step back.
Mary cleared her throat. “Would you like to come to church with me tomorrow?”
Declan tilted his head as he examined her. “I would, if you’re sure the church can handle someone like me in their midst. Where?”
Mary bristled. “They’d better be everything welcoming or I won’t be back. You can’t judge a book by its cover. That building will be full of sinners saved by grace.” She huffed. “If you feel uncomfortable, we’ll leave.”
Declan chuckled and squeezed her hand. “Easy there, tiger. I can handle a few looks and some scathing comments. Wouldn’t be the first time.”
Mary’s lips tilted up into sheepish smile. She told him where the church was located. “If you want, you can come to Liz and Will’s house and we can ride together.”
“I’d like that. Do you want to drive, or should I?”
“Oh.” Mary paused. “It doesn’t matter. Why don’t you drive?”
“I can do that.” Declan rubbed his thumb over the back of Mary’s hand, which he had yet to let go of. “Want to get lunch after?”
Mary nodded, looking into Declan’s eyes. “I would, yes.”
Declan smiled and, squeezing her fingers once more, let her go and climbed on his bike. “I’ll see you in the morning, then.”
“Okay. Be safe.” Mary waited while Declan fired up the motor and waved as he turned the bike around and headed down the driveway. She wrapped her arms around herself and chewed her lip. I know I shouldn’t feel this way, she thought, but I wish I’d kissed him. After watching the now-empty driveway and listening to the fading roar of the Harley engine, she turned and entered the house.
It didn’t take long for Declan to reach his home. He parked his bike in the garage and let himself into the back door of his house, performing his customary visual scan of the nearby houses as he went. Once inside, he made his way upstairs, emptying his pockets on the bedside table and tucking his pistol under the pillow. Then, he used the bathroom, washed his hands and face, brushed his teeth, and returned to the bedroom to disrobe and climb into bed. He lay on his back, hands tucked under his head, and thought about the picnic at Coach’s house, Will’s words, and Mary Bennet.
The kiss he had shared with Mary the previous night had rocked Declan’s world. Never before had a simple kiss touched him on such a level, and he had kissed plenty of girls the last dozen or more years. “I’ve done more than kiss them, too,” he murmured. “I’d love to do more than kiss Mary Bennet, as well.”
Despite Declan’s words to himself, he had too much respect for Mary to do more than kiss her, which is why he’d refrained when he left Coach’s house. If I touch her again, I don’t know that I’ll be able to stop at a kiss, and she’s not that kind of girl.
Declan had never dated a girl like Mary before, and despite how strongly he wanted her to be his woman, he wasn’t sure it would ever happen. Why would she want to be with me? I’m not straight-laced and rigid. I’ve done things that would make her run screaming the other way if she knew. He began to tense as memories of his mother and his first foster mother flooded his mind.
His mother had died of an illness when he was ten, leaving him alone in the world. He had grown attached to his first foster mother, but he had been suddenly removed from her care after a year and given to a new family. The only thing he’d been told was that she didn’t want him anymore. He’d been left devastated. Everyone, every woman, I’ve ever cared about has left me. Will Mary do the same? Maybe I should back off, stop seeing her. Better that than to end up hurt later when she proves to be the same as every other woman.
Declan rolled to his side. Closing his eyes, he ignored the ache in his heart at the thought of not seeing Mary again.
The next morning, Declan arose thinking he’d begin avoiding Mary immediately, but then remembered he’d promised to go to church with her. He debated with himself for several minutes, but the temptation was too much. He showered and dressed and headed out in his truck to pick her up, his heart pounding in anticipation.
Declan arrived at Will and Liz’s house a few minutes early. He spoke to the guards and strolled up on the back porch. Will answered his knock.
“Come on in. Mary’s almost ready.” Will motioned Declan into the house. “Liz and I were thinking about coming with you, if you and Mary don’t mind. Liz is upstairs asking Mary now.”
Declan shook Will’s offered hand. “I don’t mind if Mary doesn’t. Might want to wear your helmet, though, in case the roof caves in when I enter the building.” One side of his mouth quirked upward.
Will laughed. “I’m not afraid of that happening. Heaven knows, Liz and I don’t attend nearly as often as we should. We’ve been relying on home Bible study and trackside services since our marriage.” Changing the subject, he added, “Come on into the living room. The girls won’t be too much longer. Mary’s never late, in my experience.”
Declan took a seat and wiped his hands on his thighs.
“She’s a good girl, Mary is.” Will tilted his head as he watched his guest clasp and unclasp his hands and fidget in the chair. “She is. I’m glad you agreed to go to church with her. That’s huge to our Mary.”
Declan stilled at Will’s words, turning his entire attention to his friend. “I’d imagine it is. I’ll probably have to go with her a lot, if what you said yesterday is true.”
“More than likely.” Will sat back in his seat. “It will take more than that, though. You’ll need to be open an honest, and transparent. Call when you say you will, reply to texts as soon as possible, be on time for dates.” He shrugged. “That’s what I had to do to earn Liz’s trust, anyway. I’d imagine Mary is similar; they had the same rules for dating, after all.” He chuckled. “In my opinion, you’re doing fine. Of course, mine isn’t the one that counts.”
Declan grinned, relaxing a bit. “Thanks for the encouragement, man. I appreciate it. I admit I’ve been nervous this morning.”
Will shrugged. “That’s normal. Once you see her, you’ll be fine.” He looked toward the door as footsteps sounded on the stairs. “Here she is now.” He stood as Liz entered the room, Mary close behind her.
Declan stood when Will did and, as always happened when he saw Mary, his heart skipped a beat and his mouth went dry. He swallowed. Seeing her shy smile, his lips turned upwards. “Hello, Gorgeous.”
Mary blushed. “Hi.” She approached to stand next to him, looking him up and down as she did. “You look nice.”
It was Declan’s turn to blush. He looked down at his shiny cowboy boots, brand new jeans, white dress shirt, and black leather, patched vest. “Thanks.” He looked up, taking in Mary’s jeans, high heels, and dressy shirt. “You do, too.” He stuck his hands in his pockets.
Mary clasped her hands in front of her. “Liz and Will asked if we minded if they come to church with us.”
“I don’t mind if you don’t.”
Mary’s shoulders relaxed a bit as she smiled. “Great.” She turned her gaze to her sister and brother-in-law. “Are we ready, then?”
“Let me grab my purse and we can go. Did you want to ride with us, Declan, or would you rather drive yourself and Mary?” Liz looked expectantly at the biker.
“I think I’d rather drive, but thanks for asking.”
Liz smiled brightly. “Sounds good. We’ll see you there, then.”
Declan nodded and reached for Mary’s hand. He released a breath he didn’t realize he was holding when he felt her small warm palm slide against his much larger one. Grasping her hand tightly, he glanced at Mary and, seeing her gaze centered on him, smiled and winked. He chuckled when she blushed and her gaze centered on his mouth for a few seconds. With a gentle tug, he moved her toward the back door, lifting her hand to kiss it.
A few minutes later, Declan had Mary handed up into his truck. He climbed in the driver’s side, backed into the grass at the side of the drive, and then pulled onto the drive and toward the road. He waved at the guards he passed, and soon was turning onto the road.
“It’s only a few miles down on this side.” Mary watched the fields and the houses of the neighbors fly past her window for a minute, but when Declan didn’t reply, she turned her gaze toward him. “Are you okay? You’re pretty quiet this morning.”
Declan squeezed the top of the steering wheel with his right hand. “Yeah, I’m okay.” He shrugged. “I’m a little nervous, I guess. I’ve not been to church since I left high school. I’m not sure what to expect.”
Mary looked out the windshield. “I know how you feel. Going to a new church is scary. You can’t tell from the outside what the people are like or what kinds of things they believe.” She paused. “I hate church shopping, so I hope it turns out to be a good one.”
Declan nodded. He flicked the turn signal up with his left hand and turned the wheel, steering them into the parking lot. He backed into an empty spot in the row nearest the road, choosing one close to the exit. Then, he put the transmission into park and reached for Mary’s hand. “I hope so, too. He sat there with her hand in his for the next few minutes, until Will and Liz pulled in beside him.
Declan hadn’t lied to Mary about his feelings. He was very nervous. Not about the roof falling in, though he had joked about it to Will. He couldn’t actually identify the reason. He just knew he was anxious to get it over with.
As the biker entered behind Mary and her family, a sense of familiarity overcame him. He saw the old-fashioned wooden pews and remembered sitting beside his mother in just such a seat. He smelled lemons and wood polish, the scent bringing a faint smile to his face, as did the sight of the sun streaming through the tall windows behind the pulpit. He was pulled out of his reverie when the Darcys and Mary stopped in front of him.
“Why don’t we sit back here this time?” Will gestured to the empty back pew.
Declan offered his murmured agreement along with Mary and Liz. His eyes darted back and forth, stopping at the sight of a motorcycle club cut in a pew near the front, one that he did not recognize. Instantly alert, he kept his gaze centered on the club member. “Why don’t we put the girls between us?” He looked at Will, relieved when his new friend agreed.
“Why don’t I sit on the inside? Unless you’d rather?”
Declan paused for a moment. “Nah, better have me on the outside, just in case.”
With a nod, Will slid into the pew, moving down far enough that the rest of the group had room to sit comfortably. Liz sat beside him, then Mary. Declan sat at the very end of the row, on the outside aisle.
Mary leaned over to whisper in Declan’s ear. “What’s wrong?”
Declan pulled his eyes from the pews ahead of him, where he had seen another biker cut on the other side of the aisle but closer to the front, and looked at his companion. “Nothing to worry about, I’m sure.”
Mary’s brow creased and she stared into his eyes for a long moment. Then, she did a slow scan of congregation.
Declan knew the moment Mary saw what he did by the way she started and stilled. He reached for her hand, twining his fingers with hers. When she looked back at him, he leaned over and whispered in her ear. “They might be friendly, and they might not. I’d not expect bikers in a church, and I doubt they’ll cause trouble, but I’m prepared in case they do.” He lifted her hand and kissed her fingers, his eyes never leaving hers.
Mary searched his eyes but then gave a single nod and a brief, small, smile. “Good.”
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