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.”
“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.”
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.
“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.”
“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.
“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.
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.