Rabbi Heidi Gold is ready to bless her best friend's big day and, at the same time, duck her mother's match-making missiles. But the she looks across the room and sees heaven personified in a handsome stranger.
Pastor Sam White, dedicated heart and soul to his calling, never imagined his faith being tested by a stunning Rabbi. Yet, there's Heidi, making him wonder if perhaps there's room for one more in his heart.
As the two dance around tradition and temptation, sparks fly higher than a synagogue's steeple! But when two worlds, and religions, collide, is love the universal language?
Step into this bubbly tale by New York Times bestselling author Melissa Storm and waltz through a love story written in the stars!
Heidi Gold watched from the pulpit as her childhood best friend stepped over delicate white rose petals and toward a shared future with her soon-to-be husband. Louise’s long gown seemed to float down the aisle, its intricate lacework resembling the soft swirls of clouds, the tiny beads stitched into the trim caught and played with the light. She was too beautiful for words, but as the officiant at her long-time friend’s wedding, Heidi needed to find words—the perfect ones to lead Louise into the next phase of her life’s journey.
Louise joined them at the front of the church, accepted a kiss on the cheek from her father, and clasped hands with the groom.
This was it.
Heidi took a deep breath and began.
“Welcome, friends and family, to this joyous event. From two different and distinct traditions, Louise and Brady have come together to learn the best of what each has to offer, to appreciate their differences, and confirm that being together is far better than being apart. In our support of their union, we’ve decided to join each faith’s wedding traditions, just as Louise and Brady have decided to join their lives as one.”
Yes, Louise had fallen in love with a Christian man—which was fine for Louise, because she hardly attended temple, nor did she come from a particularly religious family. If Heidi, on the other hand, chose to marry outside the Jewish faith, her mother would likely drop dead on the spot.
Not that there was any worry of that happening. As a rabbi of the Reform Jewish faith, Heidi had few free evenings to date, and even fewer suitors. Did people think that just because she had chosen to live a holy life meant she had renounced all secular aspirations as well?
Sure, she wasn’t going to rush out and indulge in a torrid affair, but being married was one of the best ways to fulfill her life as a woman of God, to raise a family according to His guidance, to leave her mark on the world long after she had left it.
Still, these days it seemed doubtful Heidi would ever marry at all.
But Louise, she would make a fantastic wife. Ever since they were little girls playing dress up in the upstairs attic, Louise had possessed the spirit of a nurturer. She’d lovingly cared for sick animals, told jokes whenever those she loved seemed sad, and even learned to cook a five-course meal before the age of ten.
Now she was a part-time literary attorney, owned her own bed and breakfast, and even played chef to all who booked a stay with them.
And although his work in the rodeo had so far kept Louise’s intended fit and trim, Heidi had no doubt that Brady would end up needing a whole new wardrobe before their first year of marriage was through—Louise’s food was that amazing.
In fact, it was Louise and Brady’s shared connections that had earned them a slot in the filled-out schedule of Anchorage’s premier wedding resort. Heidi, for one, had never seen such a perfect place to join two souls. The elegant warmth of the chapel just exuded love, and the decorations that adorned the aisles and altar were so perfectly Louise and Brady that Heidi couldn’t picture their wedding any other way. She wouldn’t have changed a thing…
Well, except for her mother’s behavior, maybe.
Heidi was here to support her friend—her best friend—and to help lead her into this new chapter of life. Heidi’s mother had different ideas.
“Marrying a gentile, is she?” Judith Gold raised an eyebrow at the news. “And at some resort? Hmm. Isn’t what I would have chosen, but it’s nice enough, I guess. You’ll be married in a temple, though, right? Oh, speaking of which, gentile groom or not, there will still be plenty of nice Jewish boys at the party afterward. Every mother in town will be sure their sons and daughters make it out. Eligible Jewish grooms will be coming out of the woodwork to attend this thing, and of course as the one officiating, they’re all going to notice you. Think of the potential! Yes, I’m quite sure you’ll meet the perfect Jewish boy to make your husband before the evening is through. I’ll make some calls, all right? What can I say? I worry about you. You’re almost thirty, you know. Don’t worry, Heidi, I’ll do my research in advance so we can make the most of this wedding.”
Sometimes Heidi played a game with herself to see how many times her mother could work the word Jewish into a single conversation, or mention Heidi’s age and marital status in an afternoon, or promise to find her a husband over the course of a phone call. Sometimes she thought of getting married to the first man who bothered to ask just so her mother would stop pestering her, but no—that wouldn’t be honest, even though it would be peaceful.
So, exhausted as always, Heidi had agreed to meet the three eligible Jewish bachelors her mother had lined up for that evening. God willing, they’d be better than the last blind date her mother had fixed her up with.
When would Judith learn that just because a man was Jewish didn’t mean he would be right for her Heidi? Perhaps if enough time passed, Judith would finally lose hope and stop asking… or lose her memory and forget about this nonsense altogether.
A terrible thought, but one that brought a relieved smile to Heidi’s face all the same.
With Heidi’s guidance, Louise and Brady exchanged rings, lit the unity candle, and then finally smashed the glass underfoot to commemorate the destruction of the Temple at Jerusalem all those years ago.
Her friend was a married woman now, and while Heidi beamed with joy for the woman who had been like a sister to her growing up, she also felt incredibly alone. She knew what happened when her other friends all got married off, and doubted it would go much differently with Louise.
At first, the change would be subtle, but then Louise would miss more and more girls’ days in favor of a lazy Saturday or a weekend getaway with the hubby. Soon she’d be too tired, too busy, and eventually too pregnant, too wrapped up in the kids, to make time for anyone else.
The two friends had already been separated for nearly fifteen years when Louise’s family had left Anchorage for New York their sophomore year of high school. Last summer, Heidi had been overjoyed when she learned that Louise was returning to Alaska and that she had rekindled the old flame with her elementary school boyfriend to boot.
Truly, Heidi felt happy for her friend, but at the same time, a longing began to build in her heart. When she’d taken her vows as a rabbi, she’d committed to putting God and His work first in her life—but did that mean there couldn’t be a second, a third, or even a fourth thing to keep her nights just as full as her days?
Sigh. Maybe it wasn’t such a bad thing after all that her mother was so committed to fixing her up.
* * *
Sam could still remember the first time Brady and his talkative, take-charge fiancée had arrived in his office, seeking pre-marriage and newlywed counseling.
“We want to do everything by the book,” Louise had explained. “Be that the Bible, the Torah, or something by Dr. Phil, we want to build our life together on a strong foundation. We’re committed to putting in the time.”
Brady bobbed his head in agreement and flashed his signature grin toward Sam. It was the same one women all over the country went weak in the knees for. There’d be more than a few broken hearts now that Bucking Brady Rockwell was officially off the market.
“Since Louise’s rabbi will officiate,” Brady said. “We thought you could help us out with the other stuff, Pastor Sam. Can you fit us in?”
Sam glanced down at the giant desktop calendar in front of him. His days were packed with counseling sessions, retreats, volunteer work, and other pastorly duties, but Brady’s family had been a part of the church community for even longer than Sam had himself. The young man’s mother even served as one of their Sunday School teachers for Pete’s sake. Of course, Sam could find a way to fit these two love birds in somewhere, somehow. Though if he was being truly honest with himself, he would have found a way even if he didn’t have such a close bond to the seeker’s family. If God wanted him to help a young couple out, who was Sam to say, “Sorry, too busy”?
“I’d be honored,” he’d said that day, and now here he was a full six weeks later, once again late for one obligation in order to fulfill another. Sam raced through traffic in his tiny Ford Focus. He wouldn’t miss the reception for the world, even though he’d already missed the ceremony. True, he never turned away a flock member in need, and that afternoon a young woman had shown up in his office crying big, blistering tears and admitting that she wasn’t ready to be a mother despite the giant belly that swelled out before her. By the time they had finished speaking, the girl had smiled through the tears and said that if Sam believed in her, then she believed in herself, too.
Sam reminded her that God believed in her, and that was the most important thing—that He never gave us challenges we weren’t strong enough to overcome, that our troubles were often blessings in disguise like this child would be for her.
Indeed, she would be a good mother to that baby, just as Louise and Brady would be good partners to one another. They were as different as could be. She was the classic Type A type of woman while he tended to be more laidback and happy to take life as it came. He was a strong Christian, while she’d been raised Jewish. They insisted on honoring both faiths, and that meant regular attendance at Sunday services as well as dutiful trips to the temple for all the High Holy Days and even the occasional Seder dinner.
It gave Sam great happiness to join them on this celebration as they entered into holy matrimony. Besides, he always enjoyed fellowshipping with members of his congregation, especially off the clock like this. It was nice to blend into the sea of well-wishers and let someone else take the spotlight for a change. The young pastor did it all because that’s what he’d been called to do—and besides, he’d never been one to ignore God’s requests. The trouble came not from what God wanted from Sam, but from what so many others seemed to want for him.
“Excuse me for saying so, Pastor Sam, but God didn’t give you that handsome face to keep it all to yourself. My granddaughter is coming to town for a visit. Let me bring her by. Oh, I know sparks will fly!”
“Pastor Sam, you’re a good man and you deserve a good woman. I have a feeling you’d really like my hairdresser’s cousin’s neighbor’s daughter. Just meet her. You’ll see!”
He’d never really felt called to marriage, but that didn’t mean he was opposed to the idea. He’d just rather focus on his work instead. Sam never knew exactly how to handle all these little old church ladies who loved him so. In fact, he sensed that if he did agree to a date with any one of their matches, suddenly he’d have to take out every eligible woman within a fifty-mile radius of the church—and, frankly, he just didn’t have time for that.
As it was, he’d already shown up—yikes!—more than an hour late for the reception. Luckily, he’d brought the perfect gift with him. That had to count for something, right?
He dashed into the decked-out hall and took a moment to look around. First, he needed to say his hellos to the father and mother of the groom, then he could find the happy couple and offer his late, but earnest, congratulations.
Upon spying the newlyweds standing up near the stage with both sets of their parents, Sam rushed out across the polished dance floor, his foot connecting with the hardwood surface at the exact same moment the band swelled to life.
“And now, ladies and gentleman, the new Mr. and Mrs. Rockwell would like you all to join them in their first dance as a married couple,” the lead singer announced into a microphone tied with a beautiful bit of fabric.
Now everyone filtered onto the dance floor arm-in-arm with their chosen partners. Everyone, that is, except for a few stragglers who had hung back to relax and watch the others enjoy themselves—or perhaps instead to scowl bitterly at not having had someone ask them to dance. One such woman sat on a raised stage reserved for the bridal party. She didn’t wear the same maroon silk dress as the bridesmaids nor did she look enough like Louise to be a sister. No, this woman had glowing strawberry tresses and wore a shining silver dress with a neckline that rose modestly to the top of her collarbone but still exposed her gorgeous, toned arms.
When she noticed him watching her from afar, her frown transformed into a shy smile.
As the corners of her lips rose, Sam felt something funny happen in his chest.
Thump. Thump. Tha… thump.
His heart had actually skipped a beat, as if the whole world had paused to take in this moment, the moment when first he saw one of God’s angels standing here on Earth.
Oh, he had not felt like this before, not ever. The only thing to do now was to cross the room and introduce himself, for he could not imagine a world where he simply turned away and carried on with pastorly business. She continued to watch him as he dodged a number of blue-haired ladies who insisted upon kissing him on his cheeks. He did his best to break away politely.
When at last we reached her, she spoke first. “You’re late, you know,” she said with another world-stopping smile.
He placed a hand to his heart reflexively. “I’m Sam.”
“And I thought my mother had run out of show ponies to parade by.” She laughed, and it was beautiful. “Well, you already know who I am, but out of respect for proper greeting protocols and all that jazz, I’ll introduce myself anyway.” She stood and offered her hand. “Hi, I’m Heidi.”
He took her hand, soft and small, in his much larger palm, and noticed that the top of her head came up to just under his chin as if she were made to fit perfectly in his arms. Luckily, this wedding provided the perfect opportunity to test that theory out…
“Dance with me?”
Just then the song switched from a slow, tinkling ballad to a boisterous rendition of Hava Nagila.
Heidi laughed and rolled her eyes. “Remember, you asked for this!”
And just like that, she pulled him onto the dance floor and into the center of the large ring of folks who had gathered to raise two chairs into the air, one holding Louise and one holding Brady.
This tradition was new to Sam, but he couldn’t help laughing as the crowd of wedding guests pulsed around him. Frankly, he’d have enjoyed far less exuberant activities, if only he could keep this beautiful woman at his side.
He’d only just met her, but already he knew she’d been sent to him for a purpose, and a wonderful one at that.
Praise God for this glorious gift!