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Authors: Debbie Macomber

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BOOK: Touched By Angels
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“No,” he said harshly, and briefly closed his eyes. “For what it’s worth . . .” He stopped himself, then started again, his eyes as gentle as she’d ever seen them. He didn’t want to hurt her, that much was evident.

“Whatever it is,” she whispered forcefully, “we can work it out.”

He shook his head. “I never intended to become emotionally involved with you. We’re both intelligent enough to realize we’re all wrong together.” He clenched the muscles along the side of his jaw, and when he spoke his voice was filled with regret. “I blame myself. Matters should never have gone this far.”

“What am I supposed to do? Forget I ever met you? When I bump into you on the street, do you want me to turn and walk the other way?”

“No . . .”

“I’ve never been the type of person who can turn my feelings on and off at will. Tell me what it is you want from me. Just tell me and I promise I’ll walk out that door and it’ll be as though we’d never met.”

For a long time he didn’t answer her.

“I’m waiting,” she told him. “I’m not a difficult person to talk to, Roberto. At least others don’t seem to have a problem. Tell me,” she said again, more emphatically this time, “what is it you want.”

His hands clenched into fists. “I want you to leave New York,” he said, his voice strained. “You don’t belong here. You and all this nonsense about teaching these kids to wish for the impossible. Try filling Modesto’s head with that garbage now, why don’t you? He’s fighting for his life. We’re light-years away from anything more than survival. You’re beating your head against a stone wall, only you haven’t learned that yet. Personally I don’t want to be the one who’s left to pick up the pieces when you do.”

His words ripped open her heart, and just then she found it impossible to reply.

“There’ll be someone else for you soon enough,” he continued.

“Someone else?” She couldn’t believe he would suggest she was the type to leap from one relationship to the next in some crazy form of emotional hopscotch.

“Who you date is your own business. All I ask is that you leave me out of it.”

It, she reasoned, meant her life. He wanted nothing more to do with her.

Had she possessed a sliver of pride, Brynn would have turned and walked out. Instead she forced herself to stay, even when she knew that it meant more pain.

Her emotions battled with each other. She wanted to strike back at him, hurt him the same way he’d hurt her. And in the next millisecond she longed to throw herself in his arms and beg him to change his mind.

In the end she did neither. From some reserve of strength she knew nothing about, she scrounged up a genuine, heartfelt smile. “You’re right,” she told him, “there will be someone else.” In time. Then, because she couldn’t make herself leave without touching him, Brynn gently placed her hand against his cheek.

A muscle leapt in his face as he steeled himself against her.

“Good-bye, Roberto. Godspeed.”

She dropped her hand and was about to turn away when he reached out and grabbed hold of her shoulder and whirled her around. Crushed against him as she was, Brynn buried her face in his chest and clung. His kiss was hard and urgent, and she knew the moment he released her that he regretted ever having touched her.

“Good-bye, Brynn Cassidy. Have a good life.”

She nearly sobbed aloud, but she managed to hold the emotion inside. “You too, Roberto Alcantara.”

“How can you stand there and do nothing?” Goodness demanded of Shirley. “Roberto should have his head examined.”

“Personally, I agree, but unfortunately he has a free will to decide whatever he wants.”

“Free will? I’m telling you right now that’s the crux of the problem with humans. They can do anything they want, and they’ve let it go to their heads.”

“That’s the whole tamale in a nutshell,” Shirley concurred, then scratched her head, wondering why that sounded wrong.

“I have half a mind to shake up this city.”

Shirley wished Mercy were with her. She’d seen Goodness in this mood before, and it was downright frightening. The last time had been in Bremerton, Washington, when Goodness had gotten her hand on an aircraft carrier. The naval command was still trying to figure that one out.

“Goodness, are you thinking what I think you’re thinking?”

“Someone needs to shake up this town.”

“Personally,” Shirley said, trying to be as diplomatic as possible, “I wouldn’t advise you to mess with New York.”

Goodness appeared unconvinced. “Texas frightens the wings off me, but I can handle New York.”

“I still don’t think this is a good idea.”

“You don’t even know what I’m going to do.”

Shirley didn’t want to know. Oh my, where was Mercy when she really needed her? When Goodness was in this frame of mind, she was more than Shirley could handle alone.

Shirley glanced around her, searching for help.

“Staten Island.”

“No,” Shirley cried in a panic, leaping in front of her friend, “not the Statue of Liberty!”

Goodness pretended not to notice her, which frightened Shirley all the more. “Let me see,” Goodness mumbled, “what could I do to jar a few folks into realizing the error of their ways?”

“Don’t you think we should talk this out first?” Shirley asked hopefully. “I mean, just because matters are going poorly with my assignment, there’s no reason to take it out on the entire city. There’re plenty of good things happening, too.”

Goodness hesitated, and hope surged through Shirley that she might be able to reason her friend out of pulling some disastrous stunt.

“I’m sure everything must be going well with Hannah and Joshua.” As soon as she spoke, Shirley recognized the error of her ways.

“As a matter of fact, they’re not going well at all.”

“Oh, I’m sorry to hear that.”

“Hannah and Carl have set their wedding date for June sixteenth.”

“But I thought . . . didn’t you say that Hannah had fallen in love with Joshua Shadduck?”

“She has, and he’s head over heels crazy about her.”

Shirley assumed this would be good news. “I thought that was what you wanted.”

“It is.”

Shirley remained puzzled. “The last thing you told me was that Hannah had agreed to break off her engagement with Carl.”

“That’s what I thought, too,” Goodness said with a disgruntled sigh, “only it didn’t happen that way. Instead her family pressured her into setting a wedding date, and before she knew what to do, it was all decided for her. She’s scheduled to marry Carl Rabinsky in June.”

“Oh, poor, poor Hannah.”

“Hannah nothing,” Goodness cried. “What about Joshua? He trusted her. She’s supposed to be in love with him, remember? The fact is, I don’t trust Hannah to do the right thing by Joshua.”

“There’s plenty of time yet,” Shirley said in an effort to placate her friend. “Just because Hannah and Joshua’s relationship has gone slightly off course doesn’t mean you should do anything so drastic as disrupt the best-known New York landmark.”

Goodness didn’t agree or disagree with her. “I’m so frustrated with these humans, I could scream.”

Shirley was about to suggest just that when to her great relief Mercy arrived, looking serene and happy.

“What’s happenin’?” Mercy asked as though she hadn’t a care in the world.

While Goodness went into a short explanation about Hannah and Joshua, Shirley studied the other angel. Then it came to her in a flash. Mercy had been up to something herself.

“Mercy, I’m shocked at you,” Shirley cried. Oh my, what would Gabriel do if he learned about this?

“What?” Mercy asked, but wasn’t able to hide a guilty look.

“Tell me where you’ve been!” Shirley asked, her eyes narrowing.

“Me?” Mercy had perfected that look of innocence. She might even be able to fool Gabriel.

Although she asked, Shirley knew. “Don’t tell me, please don’t tell me you’ve been riding the escalators again?”

Mercy shifted her gaze away. “Just for a little while.”

“Mercy.” Shirley was outraged. One of them had to show a little responsibility. Why oh why did it have to be her?

“I can’t believe you’d jeopardize our entire mission by doing anything so silly.” She closed her eyes and shook her head.

“Actually, I’m in the mood for a little fun myself,” Goodness said.

“Goodness, no,” Shirley cried.

“You wanna have some fun?” Goodness asked Mercy.

“Oh, I have been, but after what happened this afternoon, I’m game for just about anything.”

Shirley opened and closed her mouth. At this point her protests would fall upon deaf ears, and she knew it.

A twinkle sparked from Goodness’s eyes as she smiled over at Shirley. “Are you coming along or not?”

“You’re headed for trouble.”

Goodness laughed. “So what else is new? There’s only so much of this being on my best behavior that I can take.”

Mercy released an exaggerated sigh. “Boy oh boy, do I identify with that. I can’t remember the last time I slid down an escalator railing. By golly, it felt good.”

“If you want the truth, I would have thought you’d have discovered the Holland Tunnel before now.”

The corners of Mercy’s mouth started to quiver.

“What did you do?” Shirley asked suspiciously.

Mercy gave an innocent shrug. “Remember that traffic jam all the newspapers reported not long ago?”

“You caused that?”

Mercy grasped her hands behind her back and shook her head. “Not me. I didn’t have a thing to do with it.”

Goodness’s eyes lit up brighter than a Fourth of July sparkler. “If Mercy can mess around with the Holland Tunnel, then no one’s going to mind if Lady Liberty takes a short stroll.”

“Goodness, no.”

“Oh, come on, Shirley, let your feathers dangle a little. Gabriel isn’t going to hear about this.”

“I don’t think we should risk it,” she said cautiously. “Really. Shouldn’t we talk this out?”

Goodness shook her head. “Are you in or out, Shirley? It’s time to separate the wheat from the chaff.”

“Ah . . .”

Goodness and Mercy started to pull away. “I’m in,” Shirley said hastily. “I just hope I don’t end up playing a harp for all eternity.”

The talk filled the deli all day, until Hannah was sick of hearing about it. Some people, obviously tourists, claimed that the Statue of Liberty had done a 360-degree turn. It was by far the most ridiculous thing Hannah had ever heard.

Someone from the financial district claimed he’d watched the grand lady make the complete rotation. There were said to be news tapes of it as well.

Hannah remained skeptical. Years earlier, some magician claimed to have made the Statue of Liberty disappear. All this talk now didn’t impress Hannah. Besides, she had other matters on her mind.

She needed to see Joshua and had been unable to reach him all afternoon. Making phone calls during business hours was difficult for her. Privacy was always at a premium in the kitchen, and she didn’t dare risk someone listening in on her conversation.

When she had a free moment, a rare commodity this busy time of the year, she raced upstairs and phoned Joshua’s office. Unfortunately he was out, but his secretary promised to give him the message as soon as he returned.

But Joshua couldn’t return her call, and they both knew it, so Hannah was left to fret. When she did see him, she wasn’t sure she could tell him about what happened.

December was the busiest month for the deli. Her father’s meat and cheese trays had a reputation that was citywide. After the normal lunchtime rush, Hannah was left to deal with people who stopped by to order the trays.

She was busy with a customer when she saw Joshua. Although she was desperate to talk to him, this was the worst possible place.

“I think I’ll change that from slices of cheddar cheese to Monterey Jack,” Mrs. Synder, a longtime customer, was saying.

Hannah bit into her lower lip and watched as Joshua made his way to the counter where her father was making thick pastrami sandwiches.

“Monterey Jack,” the woman repeated, louder this time.

“Oh, sorry,” Hannah said, and quickly made the notation.

“Do you have Greek olives?”

“Yes. No,” she said quickly, correcting herself.

“Do you or don’t you?” came the impatient question.

“No, I’m sorry.” Hannah forced herself to concentrate on completing the order form.

“How much will that be?”

Grateful that she was close to finishing, Hannah quickly tallied the figures.

“Really? I expected it to be much more than that,” Mrs. Synder said, looking pleased.

Hannah immediately refigured the total. She was prime for making a mistake.

“Do you still serve that fantastic cheesecake?” the woman asked.

A male voice answered the question for her. “It’s the best in New York.”

Joshua.

Hannah’s head snapped up. “Thank you,” she said, her gaze connecting with his. “My mother makes it herself.”

“Throw one in for me, then,” Mrs. Synder said, grinning broadly.

“I’ll be happy to.” Hannah added the cheesecake to the tally. “Everything will be ready for you the afternoon of the twenty-second.”

“Thank you for your help.”

Hannah’s gaze moved past Mrs. Synder to Joshua. His eyes were warm and tender as they met hers.

“Can I help you?” she asked, turning the page on her ordering pad. She could feel the color creep up her neck. Anyone who knew her well would realize that Joshua wasn’t just any customer.

“Hello, beautiful.”

“Joshua,” she mumbled under her breath, “be careful, someone might hear you.”

“That doesn’t bother me. You are beautiful.”

“Thank you. I think you are, too.”

He laughed then, but not loudly enough to attract attention. “You phoned me?”

She nodded and chanced a look in her father’s direction. She was grateful to see that he was otherwise occupied. Her mother was busy in the kitchen but could appear at any moment.

“You talked to Carl?”

She hesitated, then nodded. “But I wasn’t able to break the engagement.”

Even from her side of the counter, Hannah could sense Joshua’s frustration.

“I couldn’t tell him, not then,” she hurried to explain. “When I arrived, I learned that he’d been fired from his job. He got in an argument with the headmaster. Carl was depressed and miserable. I couldn’t add to his distress.”

BOOK: Touched By Angels
2.79Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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