Orchard Hill Residents - lock up your hearts! Pansy Parker and Misty Green are rivals in romance. Each believes she is the town's best matchmaker. Now, they're going to settle the question for once and for all. They're keeping track to see who can make the most matches in a year's time. No heart is safe in Orchard Hill - not even their own. Shy Joy Harper, the organist for Orchard Hill Community Church, has long been overlooked by Pastor Isaac. Then Pansy Parker announces she's retiring and Joy is asked to fill in as secretary. With an unusually large number of weddings coming up and the Christmas holidays looming, Joy and Isaac put in a lot of hours together and he discovers a beautiful and caring woman beneath Joy's reserved fa?ade. Can he convince her that the only gift he wants for Christmas is her heart?
“But let all who take refuge in you be glad; let them ever sing for joy.” Psalm 5:11
“Are you sure this is going to work?” asked Misty.
“Of course I’m sure,” Pansy snapped back. “I’ve been doing this since you were in diapers.”
“Really? That long?”
“Yes, really. I started making matches right after I was first married.” Pansy got a faraway look in her eyes. “My dear husband and I were so happy. I wanted to share that with everyone.”
Misty stared at her in disbelief.
“What? You don’t believe me?”
“I’m just having a hard time picturing you trying to spread happiness.”
Pansy took on a severe look. “I’ll have you know I’ve worked hard in my life to make others happy.”
She opened her mouth, then, obviously thinking better of it, closed it again.
The older woman pretended not to notice. “So when did you make your first match?”
“When I was in high school.” Misty sighed. “I fixed up all my friends with the perfect dates for prom.”
“And none for yourself?”
“More like a dud for me. I think I knew right then and there that I was destined to match others, yet remain single myself.”
“Not anymore. The wedding is in a few weeks.”
That cheered Misty—and even Pansy looked happier.
“Who would believe that you and I would be walking down the aisle together, Pansy?”
“Not me. I never thought I’d marry again, period, never mind be marrying your father.”
“While I marry your son at the same time?”
They laughed. It was a bit difficult to believe that they’d spent so many years trying to outdo each other as the town’s matchmakers only to end up as family twice over.
Misty was the first to recollect that they had business at hand. “The wedding’s only a few weeks away, and then we’ll both be gone.”
Misty’s future husband had taken a new job in a different part of the state, and Pansy was moving to her future husband’s retirement home in Florida.
“That means we only have a little time left to get Pastor Isaac settled. We have to get moving on this.”
“I know, I know. It’s just that I’m not sure—”
“Trust me,” Pansy interrupted. “Pastor Isaac has incredible radar where matchmakers are concerned. If he suspects we’re trying to match him up with Joy he’ll run the other way faster than you can say, ‘here comes the bride.’”
“But your niece—”
“Is the perfect candidate. Isaac doesn’t know her. She’s engaged, so she’s not at risk of losing her own heart, a definite possibility for someone else where Isaac’s concerned.”
There was a reason Pastor Isaac had gotten so good at avoiding matchmaker’s traps.
“But can she act?” asked Misty.
“Certainly. This is a girl that’s got more than a little spunk. When I suggested it to her, she thought it would be a hoot.”
“If you’re sure…”
Pansy scowled. “Haven’t I already said that I am?”
“Well, all right. I have too much to do to come up with something else anyway. Who knew closing a store would be this much work?” Misty lamented. She was the owner of the health food store The Green Scene, at least for a few more weeks. “When does Delilah get here?”
“Delia,” Pansy corrected her sharply. “As if I would have a niece named after someone like that.”
“All right, all right. It’s not like the temptress from the Bible story is the only person who’s ever had that name,” grumbled Misty. “Besides, she is sort of playing the part.
“Delia gets into town on Friday night. We’ll introduce her to Isaac at church on Sunday. I can’t wait to see his face when she starts batting her eyes at him.”
The women giggled at the thought.
“So Delia is set up as the decoy,” Misty agreed. “We still have to get Isaac and Joy together.”
“Yes.” Pansy wrinkled her brow. “How shall we set that up?”
“I’ve got that one covered.”
“What have you got in mind?”
“Pansy, Isaac knows you won’t be back in after in the New Year, right?”
“Of course.” Pansy had been the church secretary for more years than Misty cared to remember, and she knew it would be hard for Pansy not to come back, but a woman in her seventies had a right to retire.
“But did he know you’re quitting early so you can get ready for your wedding?”
“I really think it’s too much for you to take on and still work.” Misty smiled slyly.
A matching smile slid over Pansy’s features. “I think you’re right, Misty.”