The Builder's Reluctant Bride
He wants a second chance. She says there's no going back.
Ten years ago, a public disgrace sent Jenna Jenkins running from her hometown. Now, the success of her professional future hinges on joining her hometown church restoration project. Her partner and team leader on the job is William Scott—expert renovator, volunteer fireman, and the ex-flame who ruined her life.
William is in crisis, facing the tightening screws of personal and professional failure. When the interior designer on the church renovation project turns out to be Jenna Jenkins, William sees it as a chance to make amends. But Jenna wants nothing to do with him.
How much will William sacrifice to redeem his mistakes and prove his love?
Can Jenna protect her heart this time or will William break her for good?
What if Jenna never forgave him?
William’s feet stuck to the bottom step of the Bayview, Michigan farmhouse. A torn flap of wire mesh waved from the screen door as if bidding him closer, encouraging him to cross the final barrier.
He shook his head. This was silly. Get in. Get the signature. Get out. She wouldn’t be more than his business partner this time.
Besides, she must be OK with the proposed partnership. Tucker wouldn’t have invited him here otherwise. Still, his foot refused to lift from the bottom stair and take the next step onto the porch. So much rode on this meeting. If she refused to work with him, if she was still angry…
The large dining room window framed her perfect form as she waltzed around her brother’s table, placing cutlery beside each plate. Her long dark hair swayed as harmonious words flowed from her lips and out the screened window. The simple domestic action suited the career-driven woman, and it pleased him too much.
Just. Business. Partners.
“Hey, man. What’cha doing standing out here watching my little sister like some stalker?” Tucker smirked as he sauntered up the sidewalk with a paper grocery bag tucked in one arm.
William ignored him.
“Well?” Tucker’s grin split his face.
William denied the pleasure that Jenna’s flowered dress and her loose hair brought him. Especially his pleasure over the possibility that some country remained inside the self-proclaimed city girl. He stepped off the bottom step and met Tucker on the sidewalk. “I’m not watching her. Not like that.”
“Ya, right!” Tucker hooted and slapped his thigh with his free hand.
William’s face burned. He didn’t have the time or the desire to rekindle a romance with his high school sweetheart. And even if he did, she’d never go for it. Not after what happened between them. “Quiet down, she’ll hear you.”
“So?” Tucker cocked an eyebrow. “You’re here to talk. Let’s go inside and get this party started.”
William stepped into Tucker’s path and stopped his buddy from brushing past him. “You told her that you hired me, right?”
“Well…” Tucker reached up and scratched the back of his head.
A rush of adrenaline sent every muscle in William’s body pulsating. “You didn’t tell her?”
“Let me explain.” Tucker scampered back a few steps, putting some space between them.
“Then explain.” William took a controlled breath and lifted his chin, taking advantage of his six-foot-two frame to look down on Tucker. William only had an inch on him, but it was still an advantage. His erratic pulse throbbed in his neck, and he made a face that always served him well managing his sometimes unruly construction crew.
Tucker looked away.
William brushed past Tucker, leading him from the front of the house and back the way Tucker had just come. As soon as they cleared the bushes, William lit into him. “You know how much I have riding on this job. If this doesn’t go well, I could lose Paul’s farm. I promised him I would take care of Linda and David. I promised.” His words caught on the lump swelling in his throat. He had to keep the last promise he made to his brother. He had to.
Tucker flinched and jammed his hands into his front pockets. “I told her, I really did. I told her Scott and Company was handling the rebuild.”
William sagged. She wouldn’t connect the names.
Tucker swiped the back of his hand across his forehead then wiped his palms on his jeans. “I didn’t think about clarifying things with Jenna until Becky mentioned it yesterday. I assumed she’d connect the last name and know it was your company. Everyone from around here knows you’re the ‘Scott’ in Scott and Company.”
“But she hasn’t been home in years. Maybe she thinks Scott is some guy’s first name.”
If only Tucker’s wife would have mentioned it sooner. Maybe there would have been time for damage control, time to properly prepare Jenna. To not only see him again, but consider working with him. He sneaked a look back toward the house. He could barely see her through the shrubbery flanking the stairs. She had no idea what was coming.
Help me, God.
William studied Jenna’s brother, looking for sincerity. They were best friends. Partners on the volunteer fire team. He trusted Tucker with his life. It had to be an oversight. Unless—was he—matchmaking?
Tucker was crazy to believe Jenna might look twice at him. Not that he wanted her to. After losing his mother to breast cancer and his brother to a farm accident, he steered clear of all romance. He wouldn’t lose a wife or leave one behind. Not after seeing the heartache death had caused his father and sister-in-law. He didn’t know how they’d survived.
“It’s an honest oversight.” Tucker dragged his fingers through his hair.
“Really? It’s a pretty big oversight.” William curled and uncurled his fingers hoping the question fell with the weight of the physical blow he did not dare throw.
Tucker’s simple declaration deflated William and he wiped a hand down his face. “OK.”
William slipped his hand into his back jeans pocket and fingered the folded contract tucked inside. “I assumed Jenna knew I was the builder, but this could change everything. She might not want to work with me. What then? What if she refuses to sign the contract? What’s plan B?”
“Ah,” Tucker shifted his grocery bag to his other arm, “there is no plan B.” He shrugged. “We’ll have to convince her that partnering with you is a good idea. A good career move.”
“I need this job to go well in order to get the television series. You know that Tucker. How could you let this happen?” His dream of hosting the new renovation reality show slipped away.
“Look, Jenna is a professional. She’s not going to tank this for you. She’ll see it as an opportunity, and her contributions will help you land the series. You’ll see.”
“I wish I could be as sure as you.” William spanned the back of his neck with his hands and pressed his fingertips into his tight muscles.
He wandered back toward the house where he could see Jenna through the window playing the role of homemaker, arranging napkins and pouring water into tall clear glasses, as if she set her brother’s dinner table for five every night. His confidence bolstered. Maybe everything would be OK. He’d never expected the big city columnist slash designer to return after shaking her hometown’s dust from her feet—yet here she was.
“What can I do?” Tucker asked from behind. “Anything. Just say the word.”
Jenna’s lilting soprano threaded musical notes and the words from “Amazing Grace” through the window’s screen netting.
Tucker’s hand landed heavy on William’s shoulder. “I’ve been praying since the day I called Jenna home. It’s time she had more than her lonely condo in the city. It’s time she felt wanted, loved, and safe.”
William flinched. He had his chance to make her feel all those things ten years ago, but he’d messed up big time. His part in a humiliating scheme sent her running from Bayview. He tried to save her, but it came too late. His failure left her vulnerable to that brute of a man she eventually married. Nope, he wasn’t looking for a second chance at romance any more than she likely was. If Jenna needed those things, she’d have to find them in the God she’d walked away from. William had enough troubles of his own.
He closed his eyes and offered up a quiet prayer. “‘Amazing Grace’?” He turned around and raised an eyebrow at Tucker.
“Yeah, I know. An odd choice considering she doesn’t know what to believe about God anymore.” Tucker worked his jaw back and forth.
“What happened to her, Tucker?”
“When you spend years praying for relief that never comes, it wears you down. It makes you question everything.” Tucker’s eyes glistened.
William had heard about her less-than-perfect marriage, about how she survived years of escalating abuse, and eventually widowhood.
“Loss changes a person,” Tucker said.
William sighed. He had suffered enough loss to know a person doesn’t emerge from it the same. His eyes found their way back to her. His pulse quickened. Each curve of her body, the flush of her face, and her slow smile dimpling both cheeks roused intense memories of the year they dated. A year better forgotten.
“It might help her to know that you understand. And that you’re sorry for—you know.”
The November breeze held its breath. A sliver of Lake Superior reflected dusky moonlight back into the night sky. All creation seemed to wait for William to respond.
He was sorry. More than she knew. But he wasn’t foolish enough to believe a few cheap words could repair the wreckage his wild youth had created. But God could.
Her song of hope for the hopeless flooded through him. He needed hope more than anyone else he knew. If Jenna felt tricked into working with him, it would ruin everything. And the odds of her hanging around long enough to discover he was a changed man were doubtful.
He drew in a final breath of night air. This was suddenly about more than keeping his promise to Paul. Jenna needed something too. She needed his remorse and his overdue apology. And her acceptance of that didn’t hinge on his talents as a carpenter or his business sense. It all hinged on her ability to throw some amazing grace his way.
Question 1: What choices did Jenna make that led her to this place in her life?
Answer 1: She ran from her humiliation instead of dealing with her feelings. She turned away from God when life failed to meet her expectations. She rushed into marriage without seeking God's leading or blessing.
Question 2: How might she have chosen differently?
Answer 2: She could have sought God's comfort and His wisdom. She could have allowed William to explain himself. She could have taken longer to get to know her husband before marriage and prayerfully considered his proposal seeking wisdom and counsel from trusted family.
Question 3: Much forgiveness is extended in this story. List the examples. How does Jenna's early refusal to forgive hurt Jenna?
Answer 3: God forgave William, Jenna, and Linda when they repented of their actions. Jenna eventually forgave William and Linda for their actions against her, and William for withholding the details of the renovation show. She forgave her brother for tricking her into working with William. William forgives Jenna for her choices on the worksite that effect him. Jenna forgives Linda for the haircutting disaster.
Question 4: Is our ability to forgive contingent on the offender being repentant?
Answer 4: God commands us to forgive and therefore gives us everything we need to obey the command whether they are repentant or not.
Question 5: Jenna is afraid to be vulnerable again. What changes her?
Answer 5: When Jenna realizes that God never abandoned her during her difficult years, but used them to grow and stretch her. She finds rest in the truth that only God can meet our deepest needs. And because God can be fully trusted, she can risk her heart.
Question 6: Jenna and William both suffer great loss in life and it changes them. William turns toward God in his loss, and Jenna turns away from God. How do their opposite coping skills effect the rest of their lives?
Answer 6: William finds comfort in the sovereignty of God and because his faith doesn't hinge on God delivering answers he prefers, he is able to move past the loss. Jenna turned from God because He didn't answer her prayers the way she desired. She mistakenly believed that meant He didn't care.
Question 7: What obstacle was the hardest for William and Jenna to overcome?
Answer 7: They both needed to surrender their dependance on their own ability and trust that God is their provider.
Question 8: William carries much guilt. How does his father help him understand that Jenna's adult decisions are not William's responsibility?
Answer 8: He reminds William that although he played a role in Jenna's hurts, each person is accountable to God for how they respond to the injustices of life. William is responsible for the pain he caused, but Jenna is responsible for her response.
Question 9: When does William stop depending on his own strength and fully surrender to God's plan and lean into God's strength? How does that surrender change his future?
Answer 9 When William's dad arranges help to fix the church after it flooded, William learned that he wasn't alone. William finally humbled himself, accepted the help, and recognized it as God's provision. This new level of humility allowed him to place Jenna's health into God's hand and trust that God will provide everything they need to meet the challenges ahead.
Question 10: How does William show Jenna his faith in God is genuine? How do you show others your faith in God is genuine?
Answer 10: Genuine faith lives out confession, repentance and seeking restoration in broken relationships. William did everything he could to express his repentance. Then, he patiently waited for Jenna to observe the changes his professed faith has made in his life. He acted, spoke, and worked with honour.
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"A sweet story of forgiveness, second chances, and God's unconditional love. I laughed out loud, wiped tears from my eyes, and found a new way to...
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