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Authors: Debbie Macomber

Touched By Angels (27 page)

BOOK: Touched By Angels
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“What do you plan to do, marry him and make him feel better?”

“Of course not.”

“That’s what it sounds like, Hannah.” His voice was gentle, but she knew he was disappointed.

“I’d never marry Carl. I promise you that. Please, you’ve got to believe me.”

He said nothing, as if placing his faith in her were something he wasn’t certain he should do. Hannah fought to keep from blurting how much she loved him.

“Young man, is my daughter helping you?”

It was her father. Hannah tensed, and her eyes pleaded with Joshua’s not to reveal their secret. It would only be for a while longer, she promised him silently.

He pulled his gaze away from her. “She’s been very helpful,” he answered.

“Are you ordering a meat tray?”

“I thought I might give it a try.” He reached for a brochure and began to leaf through it. “You’re Mr. Morganstern, aren’t you?” he said just when it seemed her father was about to turn away. Hannah didn’t understand why Joshua didn’t let him leave. Certainly he felt as awkward about all this as she did.

“Yes.” Her father’s warm smile came through on the lone word.

“Joshua Shadduck,” Joshua said, extending his hand across the counter.

Her father hesitated before peeling off the protective plastic glove from his fingers and exchanging handshakes.

“This is my daughter, Hannah.”

“Actually, I’ve met Hannah before,” Joshua said, his gaze resting on her.

Hannah tensed, afraid Joshua had completely lost his patience with her and was about to reveal the truth.

“She’s delivered lunches to my office a number of times. Hannah’s a wonderful young woman.”

“Thank you. Naturally her mother and I share your opinion.” Her father placed his arm affectionately around her shoulder. “Where’s your office?”

Joshua told him.

“So you’re an attorney.”

Hannah noticed that her father’s voice had gone a shade cooler and wondered if Joshua had sensed the difference himself.

“I was recently made a partner in the firm,” Joshua explained proudly.

“Congratulations.”

“I’m rather pleased myself.” Joshua’s gaze returned to Hannah.

It must have been the warm way in which he regarded her that prompted her father to continue the conversation.

Generally he didn’t spend a lot of time chatting with customers.

“We have reason to celebrate as well,” he said, gently squeezing Hannah’s shoulder. “Our daughter was recently engaged.”

Joshua’s smile dimmed somewhat. “Then congratulations are in order.”

“Thank you,” she said without emotion.

“My wife and I feel truly blessed to have our daughter. She’s our greatest joy.”

“Dad, please, I’m sure Mr. Shadduck doesn’t want to hear all this.”

“Nonsense. You do my heart proud. The world is a better place because of you.”

Hannah was embarrassed, and she was certain Joshua found all this amusing.

“She’s a lovely girl,” Joshua told her father.

“She’ll make a beautiful bride, don’t you agree?”

“Oh yes,” Joshua was quick to concur.

“I’m sure my wife and I will be sending out wedding invitations to a select few of our most valued customers. Now that the date’s been set we can start making up the guest list.”

Joshua said nothing, but his eyes narrowed fractionally.

“Daddy, I don’t think—”

“The wedding date for your daughter has been set?” Joshua interrupted.

“Yes, we decided that only last night, isn’t that right, sweetheart?”

Hannah nodded miserably.

“June sixteenth,” her father informed him.

Joshua’s gaze didn’t leave hers. “Congratulations, Hannah,” he said. “I’m sure you and your young man will be very happy.” Having said that, he turned and walked out the door.

Fifteen

Trey didn’t dislike New York. If anything, he was pleasantly surprised. He’d expected it to be the concrete jungle he’d read about, with treeless, crime-ridden streets. He was confident there was plenty of crime, but he hadn’t seen any. And even in the heart of Manhattan he’d noticed an abundance of trees.

If he had any complaints, it was the noise. He wondered how a man was supposed to sleep through all that racket. The traffic outside his hotel never ceased—horns honking, brakes screeching. And he was bombarded by an array of sounds he could never hope to identify; he heard them all, even twenty stories up in his hotel room.

The city had its own clamor, nothing like the sounds in the country: the cry of a lone wolf, the hoot of an owl as it flew with the moonlight bouncing off its wing . . . Trey imagined that given the opportunity, he’d become accustomed to city noises. But there was a snowball’s chance in hell of his ever living in New York City. No, he was a country boy, and like John Denver, he thanked God for that. Too much more of life here and he’d have men with nets chasing him through Central Park.

An early riser by nature, Trey was up and out the door just after dawn, heading for the hole-in-the-wall doughnut shop across the street from the hotel. The hotel served a decent cup of coffee, but there was no way he was going to pay a buck fifty for a two-bit cup of coffee. The doughnut shop was more to his liking, although he couldn’t say that anyone had been all that friendly. He’d been coming in for coffee and a doughnut every morning since he’d arrived, and no one had said much of anything to him.

The same people were there every morning, too. Some businessman who drank his coffee and shared his company with the financial section of the newspaper. A lady who came in wearing tennis shoes and walked out in high heels.

Trey sat at the counter, sipping his coffee and watching the short-order cook, a rotund fellow with a prickly disposition, fry an order of hash browns. A waitress who looked to be in her forties bustled around refilling coffee.

Actually, Trey realized, he wasn’t in the mood for company this morning. He had some heavy-duty thinking to do.

Twice he’d asked Jenny to leave New York and come back to Montana with him. Twice she’d told him no. The time had come for him to play his trump card, give her some incentive to return to Custer.

He planned to ask her to be his wife.

Generally when a man proposed to a woman he was fairly confident of her response. Trey figured his chances with Jenny were less than fifty-fifty. Although he’d worked hard to build up his herd, he didn’t have a whole lot in the way of material wealth to offer her. A few hundred head of cattle, a run-down house that badly needed a woman’s touch. And a heart so full of love that he nearly burst wide open every time he thought of Jenny and himself raising a family together.

Trey was a realist, and he was well aware that he couldn’t compete with the bright lights of Broadway. He didn’t have any diamond ring to offer her, either. Not yet.

The fact was, he hadn’t thought about asking Jenny to marry him until after they’d kissed that first time. He’d always dreamed it would be like that with them, but the reality had knocked him for a loop. Jenny’s kisses gave him hope that she might harbor some tenderness for him.

Never having proposed to a woman before, Trey had no idea how to go about it. Did a man of the nineties get down on one knee? Should he remove his hat and place it over his heart? None of those things sounded right to him. But since he was asking Jenny the most important question of his life, he didn’t figure he should do it without showing some semblance of respect.

On impulse, Trey slipped off the stool and looked around the doughnut shop. The place held the same five or six people who frequented the place every morning.

“Can I have your attention, please,” he said in a loud voice.

The businessman lowered the newspaper. The cook turned around, the spatula raised in one hand.

“My name’s Trey LaRue,” he said. “I’ve been having coffee here every morning since I arrived in this city, and it seems time I introduced myself. I take it you folks all know each other.”

The five other customers stared back blankly.

“You don’t know each other?”

“No.” It was the woman with one high heel and one tennis shoe.

“Well then, don’t you think it’s time you introduced yourselves to one another? I’m Trey, and I’m visiting from Montana.”

“Hello, Trey,” the waitress responded. “I’m Trixie.”

“I’m Bob, and I’m in advertising.”

“I’m Mary Lou, and I’m an assistant editor at a publishing house.” She waved one shoe in greeting.

The others went around the compact space and introduced themselves and told what they did for a living. Trey acknowledged each one with a brisk nod.

“What brings you to New York?” The question came from the cook, whose name was Steve.

“I came to ask a special woman to be my wife.”

“Has she agreed?” This came from his editor friend.

“Not yet.” He splayed his fingers through his hair, feeling less confident about his decision. “The fact is, I haven’t asked her yet. I’m not exactly sure how to go about it.”

“Just come right out and ask her,” Bob advised.

“But wine and dine her,” was Trixie’s advice.

“Yeah,” Bob teased, “get her good and soused first.”

Mary Lou shook her head slowly. “Don’t you listen to any of that. You tell that young woman what’s in your heart. That’s all you need to do, and if she feels as strongly about you as you do about her, nothing else will be necessary.”

“I shouldn’t take her to a fancy dinner, then?” Trey asked. His newfound friends confused him more than they helped.

“Dinner and champagne won’t hurt,” Trixie assured him, “but Mary Lou’s right. Just tell this special lady what’s in your heart and go from there.”

That sounded like a lot less trouble than getting down on one knee, Trey decided.

“You might try singing to her.”

Everyone turned to stare at Steve, Trey included. As far as Trey was concerned, there were certain things a man didn’t do, and break into song was one of them. One of Jenny’s male friends might consider that, but not him.

“Women like romance, and there ain’t nothing more romantic than to sing. You don’t even have to have that great a voice,” Steve added, a cigarette hanging from the side of his mouth.

“I won’t be doing any singing,” Trey said emphatically.

“You love her, don’t you?” Steve smashed the cigarette into an ashtray.

“Yeah.”

“Then romance her.”

“He’s right about that,” the assistant editor acknowledged. “There isn’t a woman alive who doesn’t want to be courted by the man she loves.”

Singing was out of the question, but there were other ways to prove he was as tenderhearted as the men she’d dated in the big city. “What about flowers and chocolates?”

Only the day before, Trey had walked into one of those fancy sweet shops by accident. He’d been blown away at the prices. Why, a man could feed a horse for a month on what they wanted for a box of chocolates! French ones.

Mary Lou shook her head. “Be more imaginative than that.”

“Jenny loves those fat bagels vendors sell on the street corners here,” he said, thinking out loud.

“You can’t woo a woman with bagels,” the guy in advertising insisted. He folded the newspaper and tucked it under his arm. “I’ve got to get to the office. You’ll let us know what happens, won’t you?”

“Sure thing,” Trey promised. He checked his watch. It was early yet. Jenny would still be sleeping, but he’d told her he’d be by to pick her up this morning. She wanted to take him up to the top of the World Trade Center.

Trey left some change on the counter. “I appreciate the advice,” he told his newfound friends.

“Good luck,” Trixie said with a smile.

“If he’s getting married, he’ll need it,” the short-order cook teased, then laughed when Trixie swatted him across the backside with a dishrag.

An hour later Trey stood outside Jenny’s apartment complex. He paced the sidewalk in front of her building, rehearsing in his mind what he wanted to say. It took another ten minutes before he’d gathered up enough gumption to go inside.

He’d no sooner knocked than the door flew open and there was Jenny, standing on the other side. When she saw him, her face lit up with a smile as bright as a July sun. As long as he lived, he’d never grow weary of seeing Jenny smile.

“Mornin’,” he greeted her, touching the edge of his hat in a genteel salute.

“Oh, Trey, you’ll never guess what.”

Before he could prepare himself, she leapt into his arms. Whatever it was that brought Jenny this close must be good, he thought.

“Irene phoned this morning!”

“Irene’s your agent, right?”

“Right.” Then, not giving him an opportunity to ask anything more, she blurted out, “John Peterman phoned and asked if she had an audio of me.”

Trey didn’t know who this John Peterman was, but he was fairly certain he wasn’t going to like the other man.

As soon as she could, Hannah left the deli to find Joshua. If she explained how she’d been pressured into setting a wedding date, surely he’d understand. Surely he’d be sympathetic and willing to listen to reason.

The angry, pained look in his eyes haunted her, especially knowing that she was responsible for putting it there. Joshua didn’t deserve to be treated as if she were ashamed of loving him. Yet she could find no fair way out of this dilemma.

Her first stop was at Joshua’s office. When he wasn’t there, she didn’t know what to do. Depressed and miserable, she started walking, barely aware of her destination. She was unconscious of the street sounds, the people who moved crisply past her; all she could think to do was walk.

She appreciated Joshua’s feelings. If the situation were reversed, she’d feel the same way. Joshua was an honorable man, and it went against his grain to be involved with a woman engaged to another man. Nor was he comfortable meeting her without her parents’ knowledge.

Hannah didn’t like that aspect of their relationship, either, but for now it couldn’t be helped. She didn’t want to break the engagement with Carl until this matter with the school had been cleared up.

Suddenly aware of her surroundings, Hannah realized she was close to her grandmother’s apartment.

BOOK: Touched By Angels
4.16Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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