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Authors: Debbie Macomber

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BOOK: Touched By Angels
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Shirley shook her head slowly. “It seems to me working together is what got us into this mess.”

“All right, let’s each report what’s happening with our charges,” Goodness suggested, and gestured for Shirley to go first.

“Well, as you can see,” Shirley said, pointing to Brynn, who sat in the corner of the parish hall, “Brynn has said good-bye to her class. She’s miserable, and blames herself for Mike’s death.”

“What’s going to happen to her?”

“I haven’t a clue,” Shirley said, and sounded thoroughly miserable. “Gabriel was right, this assignment was too much for me. I’ll leave him to pick up the pieces. It’s going to take an archangel to bring about some good from this tragedy.”

“Roberto loves her,” Goodness said, studying Emilio’s brother.

“Yes, I know,” Shirley said sadly. “Letting her leave is a sign of how much he cares for her.”

“There’s nothing more you can do?” Mercy asked. “Perhaps what Brynn needs is a little talking to from the three of us.”

“I’m afraid that would send her packing faster than anything.”

“Okay, okay,” Goodness said, looking to Mercy. “What’s happening with Jenny?”

“I thought she’d be overjoyed to get this chance to star on Broadway. It’s been her dream.”

“And she isn’t happy?”

Mercy shrugged, apparently unable to come up with an explanation of her charge’s behavior. “She’s moped around the apartment for two days now. I’m afraid she wants Trey with her and a chance to star on Broadway, but she can’t have both.”

“Oh boy,” Shirley muttered. “And what is Gabriel going to say about that?”

“I don’t know, but I have the distinct notion he’s going to think I was responsible for getting the play’s director to notice her. I wasn’t, truly I wasn’t.”

“I believe you,” Shirley murmured, but her opinion wasn’t the one that mattered, and all three knew it.

“That leaves me to tell you about Hannah,” Goodness said, and her disappointment was keen. “She broke off the engagement with Carl.”

“Good.” Both Shirley and Mercy brightened.

“But it was too late.” Goodness told them that Joshua was dating Carol seriously now.

“Joshua found someone else?” Shirley asked. “I don’t believe it.”

Mercy crossed her arms and pursed her lips. “Men can be so fickle.”

“In my opinion he still loves Hannah.”

“But he doesn’t know that Hannah broke her engagement with Carl, does he?”

“It might have made a difference,” Shirley insisted.

“It’s too late,” Goodness informed them sadly. “Hannah saw him with the other woman.”

“We can fix that,” Mercy said confidently. “This sort of thing is right up our alley.”

“It won’t work. Not this time.”

“Why not?” Shirley insisted.

“Because Joshua has decided to cut his losses and look elsewhere for a wife.”

“And Hannah?”

“Hannah will live with her parents the rest of her life and never marry.”

“Just a minute,” Mercy said, and rolled up her sleeves. “We can fix that, and while we’re at it, there are ways to deal with men as stubborn as Roberto.”

“What about you and Jenny?” Goodness asked.

Some of Mercy’s brightness dimmed. “I don’t know what we can do about Jenny and Trey.”

Shirley rubbed her chin. “I have an idea. All isn’t lost yet.”

Eighteen

From inside his office Joshua heard the raised voices of the receptionist and an angry man. He stepped into the hallway and heard David Morganstern, Hannah’s father, demanding to see him.

“It’s all right, Julie,” Joshua said, coming forward, “I’ll see Mr. Morganstern.”

David shot the receptionist a look of triumph and straightened the cuffs of his coat sleeves. “I told you Mr. Shadduck would see me.”

“He doesn’t have an appointment,” Julie told Joshua, “and he refused to make one.”

“It’s all right, Julie.”

Joshua escorted David into his office. The older man paused in the doorway and looked around. He didn’t seem overly impressed. “Mighty fancy digs you have here.”

“Thank you.” Giving the impression of nonchalance, Joshua sat down at his desk and invited Hannah’s father to make himself comfortable. “What can I do for you, Mr. Morganstern?”

David sat on the cushion as if he expected it to jump up and bite him at any moment. “I’ve come to ask you a few questions, young man. I recently learned, through no fault of my daughter’s, that you’ve been sneaking around with Hannah. I want you to know I don’t like it one bit.”

Joshua folded his hands on top of the desk and waited.

“I wanted to meet the man face to face who played havoc with my daughter’s life.” It was clear David’s feelings ran strong and fervent. The older gentleman bolted out of the chair and stood directly in front of Joshua’s desk.

Joshua wondered exactly how much David knew about the two of them and feared saying more than he should.

“Your silence tells me everything I need to know,” David said, spitting out the words, revealing his distaste. “I find you to be the most despicable kind of man.”

Joshua didn’t blame Morganstern. His behavior had been less than honorable. He’d never been comfortable meeting Hannah on the sly, kissing her, urging her to continue their relationship while she was engaged to another man. He wasn’t comfortable now, offering excuses.

“How is she?” Joshua couldn’t keep himself from asking.

“How do you think?” David demanded.

“You have my apology,” Joshua said, hoping the other man understood the full extent of his regret.

“What about Carl? Are you willing to apologize to him, too? What about Hannah? My daughter gave you her heart, and it meant nothing to the mighty, powerful attorney. You people seem to think you have the right to disrupt lives. It’s time someone made you accountable for your actions.”

“You want me to apologize to Carl?” Joshua asked, willing to do whatever he could to appease Hannah’s family and make matters easier for her. Personally he thought the less Carl knew about him, the better.

David considered his offer, then shrugged. “No. Carl and our family aren’t exactly on speaking terms.”

Joshua leaned forward slightly, wondering if he’d heard him correctly. “Why aren’t you?”

David sat back down and eyed Joshua suspiciously. “You mean to say you honestly don’t know?”

“I wouldn’t ask if I did.”

“Hannah loves you.”

The confirmation of her feelings should have brought him joy; instead he was filled with a deep, painful sense of loss. “I love her, too.”

“Not in my book,” David fumed. “You leave her to face Carl alone, and when she breaks the engagement, you dump her.”

It was Joshua’s turn to bolt upright. “Hannah broke off the engagement?”

David frowned and nodded. “You mean to say you didn’t know?”

Joshua came out from behind his desk. “No.”

“She defied both her mother and me when we insisted she not see you again. Then less than a half hour after she leaves, she returns, tells us how sorry she is for having upset us, and goes to her bedroom. She hasn’t been herself since. She won’t talk about you or Carl, but it’s plain as the nose on my face that she’s miserable.”

“She never told me. I knew how difficult all this was for her. She didn’t want to hurt anyone, least of all her family and especially not Carl. Every time she promised to break the engagement something more would happen to prevent it. I felt the only thing I could do was step aside.”

It was clear David wasn’t interested in hearing explanations. “Do you or don’t you love my daughter?”

“I love her,” Joshua said with conviction.

“Then what are your intentions?”

He didn’t hesitate. “I want to marry her.”

David glanced around the office once more, this time with a less critical eye. “Talk to Hannah first, and then you and I might strike some kind of agreement. We could do with a lawyer in the family.” He started toward the door, then stopped abruptly and turned around. “Are you coming or not, young man?”

Joshua laughed and reached for his coat. “Coming.”

David nodded once, profoundly. “Good, that’s exactly what I wanted to hear.”

Hannah was working the counter when Joshua walked inside the deli, her father at his side.

“Hannah,” David shouted, “you’ve got company. Take him upstairs and serve him a piece of your mother’s cheesecake.”

Hannah ignored her father and directed her question to Joshua. “What are you doing here?”

“I came to talk to you. I suggest we go upstairs as your father advised.” They’d already attracted more than enough attention.

“Go,” Ruth Morganstern insisted to Hannah. “This way, young man,” she said, and directed Joshua around the counter, pointing the way to their private quarters.

Joshua followed Hannah up the stairs. She paused halfway up and turned to face him. From her position on the stairway they were at eye level. It required more discipline than he’d needed in quite some time not to kiss her right then and there.

“What did my father say to you?” she demanded. Her eyes were full of fire. “I don’t need your pity, Joshua Shadduck.”

“My pity?” This came at him out of the blue. “If anyone is asking questions, it should be me. The last thing I heard was your father inviting me to your wedding to another man.”

Hannah’s shoulders went stiff. “The last time I saw you, you were kissing another woman.”

He frowned. “Who?”

“How should I know?” she flared.

The door at the bottom of the stairs opened. “Upstairs, Hannah. The entire deli is listening in on your conversation.”

If ever Hannah needed an incentive, this appeared to be it. She raced up the remainder of the stairs.

Joshua was left with no choice but to follow her, which he did gladly. He found her standing in front of a window, looking out, her back to him, her arms folded around her middle.

“Her name’s Carol,” he said gently, wanting to clear the air as soon as he could so they could move on to the more important matters. “I’ve known her for a number of years.”

“You should marry her,” she suggested, turning to face him.

“I can’t. She’s a wonderful woman, but she isn’t you. You’re the one who owns my heart. You have from nearly the first moment we met. I had to let you go, Hannah, surely you understand that. My love was hurting you. The family pressures on you to marry Carl were overwhelming. Stepping aside was the only decent thing to do.”

“It didn’t take you long to recover, did it?”

She was jealous of Carol, and Joshua thrilled at the realization. “I see it’s done a bit of good for you to know how I’ve felt these last few weeks. It wasn’t easy on me when you were spending time with Carl. It was probably the most difficult thing I’ve ever done.”

“I always loved you, and you knew it. You never had a single reason to be jealous.”

Joshua longed to hold and kiss her too much to argue the point. “Are you going to marry me or not, Hannah Morganstern?”

Her eyes searched his as if she questioned the sincerity of his proposal.

“I love you,” he added tenderly, and held open his arms to her.

It didn’t take her long to find her way into his embrace. When she slipped her arms around his middle, Joshua sighed with a sense of peace, of homecoming. He’d been waiting all his life for this woman, and now that she was his, he didn’t intend to lose her.

Tunneling his fingers through her hair, Joshua positioned his mouth to kiss her.

“I’ve been so unhappy,” she admitted on the tail end of a soft moan.

“Me, too.” He kissed her again.

“But you weren’t lonely,” she accused. “I was miserable and lonely.”

“I love you, Hannah,” he said, laying his heart at her feet. “You’re going to marry me, aren’t you?”

“Oh yes.”

“Good.” He held her against him protectively. “It’s the oddest thing,” he mumbled, nuzzling his face close to hers.

“What is?” she said, thrilling him with small kisses along the underside of his jaw.

“Your father claims I gave him my business card. I never did. I haven’t a clue where he got it.”

“Me either,” Hannah said. “Does it matter?”

Joshua chuckled. “Not in the least.”

The last thing Brynn anticipated when she was ready to leave New York was car problems. Ever since Roberto had worked on her carburetor, her Escort had been running like a dream. Now, however, the engine wouldn’t so much as crank.

The first thing she did was contact her family and tell them. Her parents were concerned about her, and they weren’t happy to have her traveling home alone, but she couldn’t very well desert her vehicle.

Sitting inside her apartment, she thumbed through the telephone directory, looking for a garage listing, knowing full well her chances of finding someone willing to work on her car on Christmas Eve were damn near impossible.

Her doorbell chimed, and disheartened, Brynn slipped off the stool. When she checked her peephole the first person she saw was Emilio, but there were a number of others she recognized with him.

After flipping open the latch, she found herself facing a throng of her students and their parents.

“What’s going on here?” she asked. There must have been close to fifty people jam-packed into her hallway.

“We don’t want you to leave, Miss Cassidy,” Emilio said, serving as spokesperson for the group. “After Mike’s funeral a number of us went and talked to Mr. Whalen. We asked that the school refuse to accept your letter of resignation.”

“I don’t know how much we were able to influence him,” Yolanda said, laughing nervously. “I think our parents had a far greater impact.”

Suzie Chang’s delicate mother pressed forward and in halting English said, “You say it honor to have Suzie in class. We say it greater honor to have you for teacher.”

A cry of agreement followed the Chinese woman’s words.

“We love you, Miss Cassidy.”

Brynn couldn’t speak for the lump in her throat. Never in all her dreams had she expected anything like this.

“Mr. Whalen says you can have your job back, if you want it,” Denzil’s mother told her. “For the first time in his life, my son’s doing well in school. He’s talking about something other than video games.”

BOOK: Touched By Angels
11.59Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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