“Leah Lundberg did the same,” Mercy reminded Gabriel. “I don’t understand why God makes some couples wait.”

“It’s not for us to question.”

“I know,” Mercy agreed, “His timing is always perfect.”

“Getting back to Hannah,” Gabriel tried again. “The Morgansterns have raised their daughter well. They couldn’t be more proud of her, and rightly so. Hannah is well loved by many.”

“Do you mind if Shirley and I entertain ourselves for a few moments?” Mercy asked, and her eyes twinkled with mischief. Gabriel noticed the angel was staring at the reader board above Times Square.

“You can go on without us,” Shirley insisted.

“No way. Listen, you two. Shirley . . . Mercy,” Gabriel stuttered, wanting to stop them before they vanished. Unfortunately he was too late. He clenched his jaw and turned to Goodness.

“You don’t have a thing to worry about,” Goodness assured him. “They can take care of themselves.”

That was what Gabriel was afraid of.

He was about to go after Mercy and Shirley himself when Goodness tugged at his sleeve. “Tell me what you know about Hannah Morganstern. You said her mother and grandmother are looking for Hannah to make a good marriage.”

“Yes,” he muttered. He would need his wits to make this assignment sound more difficult than it was.

“Well, if that’s the case,” Goodness muttered, her shoulders heaving with a deliberate sigh, “I certainly hope she isn’t interested in the young man she’s with. It’s perfectly obvious they aren’t the least bit suited.”

Gabriel’s attention went back to the street corner where he’d last seen Hannah.

“What’s wrong with Carl Rabinsky?” he demanded.

“Just look.”

“Carl, couldn’t we please stay a bit longer?” Hannah asked. She pleaded with him with her eyes, hoping she could find a way to change his mind. Carl had agreed to attend the Thanksgiving Day parade with her, but they’d barely arrived and already he was anxious to leave. She knew he was having trouble with the headmaster at the Hebrew academy where he taught and had been preoccupied most of the day.

“Ten minutes more, then,” Carl conceded indulgently. His gloved hand squeezed hers. “I’m sorry, but I told you earlier that this just isn’t my thing.”

“I know.” Hannah was grateful he’d consented to come. She only wished he could enjoy the festivities as much as she did. Hannah found the merrymaking contagious—the children, the excitement, the wonderful silliness that surrounded this time of year.

“Oh, Carl, look,” she said, pointing toward the huge float making its way down the wide street. “It’s a scene from the Nutcracker Suite.”

Carl smiled tolerantly and pointedly glanced at his watch. “Five more minutes,” he announced under his breath. “If you want to see more of the parade, you can watch it on television.”

Television. Never. Hannah refused to allow his stick-in-the-mud attitude to spoil her fun. Standing on the tips of her toes, she peered down the bustling street, hoping to catch a glimpse of what was coming next. The distinct tones of an approaching band floated toward her.

Unable to see, she edged her way into the crowd until she was wedged against the waist-high barrier to the street. She stayed there until the marching musicians passed, applauding their efforts. The tall, distinguished-looking man standing next to her whistled boisterously. Hannah looked up at him and smiled warmly. Their eyes met, and he returned the friendly gesture.

The man looked vaguely familiar, but then it wasn’t uncommon for Hannah to see someone she thought she knew. Working in the family-owned, kosher-style deli, she met literally hundreds of people on a daily basis.

His eyes were a deep, rich shade of coffee brown. They sparkled with delight as he looked down at her. He had a kind face, appealing but not particularly handsome. His hair needed to be trimmed, but that gave him a rumble-tumble look that she found endearing. It was apparent he was some kind of businessman; she could tell that much from the way he dressed and the way he stood. Besides, if he frequented her parents’ deli, then chances were he worked in one of the office buildings close by.

“Do I know you?” he asked, frowning slightly.

“I’m Hannah Morganstern,” she said. “Most people recognize me from my parents’ deli.”

“Of course. Your father serves the best pastrami in town.” He held out his hand to her. “I’m Joshua Shadduck.”

“Hello, Joshua.” The noise level made it difficult to carry on a conversation.

They shook hands, and Hannah glanced over her shoulder, looking for Carl. He wasn’t there. She scanned the crowd once more, certain he wouldn’t have left her intentionally. Carl would never do that, yet he was nowhere in sight. Anxious now, she stood on her tiptoes and looked around.

“Oh, dear,” she whispered, and bit into her lower lip.

“Is something wrong?” Joshua lowered his head close to her so she could hear him.

“My friend. I’m afraid we’ve gotten separated.”

“That happens in crowds like these.”

“I know, but . . .” She continued to study the huge throng. The crowd was moving, milling about. “I didn’t mean to leave him behind.” Carl would be worried and flustered. If she ever hoped to talk him into attending another parade, he’d be sure to remind her of this.

“I’ll help you look,” Joshua offered.

“You don’t need to do that.” She was the one to blame. If she hadn’t been so impatient to see what was ahead, she wouldn’t have lost Carl.

“Tell me what he looks like,” Joshua suggested. Since he was head and shoulders taller than she, his chances of finding Carl were far better than her own.

“Let me think,” she mumbled. She went with the most obvious: his clothing. “He had on a black wool overcoat.”

Joshua leveled his eyes on her, amusement bracketing the sides of his mouth. “Hannah, every man here has on a black wool overcoat.”

“Yes . . . I know. He’s five ten or so, and . . . he’s probably frowning. He only came because I wanted to see the parade, and he’s probably annoyed with me for disappearing like this.”

“A frowning man, five ten, in a black wool overcoat.”

Their eyes met once more, and for no reason Hannah could explain, they both started laughing.

“He’s probably given up on me and left,” she conceded, and glanced longingly over her shoulder, not wanting to miss the rest of the parade. “I should probably go back myself,” she said with regret.

“Why? Your friend can find his own way home, can’t he?”

“Yes, but . . .”

“Stay,” he urged. His hand cupped her elbow, his touch light and encouraging. His eyes smiled with warmth and pleasure, something she’d found sadly lacking in Carl. Her friend had only tolerated the merriment. Macy’s parade was one more thing Carl considered frivolous and impractical. He often mentioned the overwhelming cost of such a production. To Carl’s way of thinking, this money would be better spent feeding the hungry or aiding the homeless.

Hannah had no argument to offer. The parade would go on no matter how wasteful Carl found it to be, and she could see no reason not to enjoy it.

“Oh, look,” she said, pointing down the street at the oncoming float. She glanced at Joshua and discovered that he viewed the winter festival creation with the same keen enjoyment and wonder that she did.

One lazy snowflake drifted down from the lead gray sky. Another soon followed.

“Snow!” Delighted, Hannah held up her hand to catch a fluffy flake. It melted in the palm of her hand.

“It’s a perfect conclusion to the parade, don’t you think?” Joshua asked. Pressed against him as she was, Hannah couldn’t help noticing how warm and close he was.

“Is it over? Already?” She didn’t want it to be.

“Do you have to hurry back?” Joshua asked. “We could take a short stroll in Central Park and enjoy the snow.”

It went without saying that she shouldn’t. Her family would be waiting for her. They assumed she was with Carl, not some strange man she barely recognized. Her father had always been protective of her. She was his jewel. Hannah remembered how pleased her parents had been when she’d first started dating Carl. The fact that he was a rabbi’s son added to their endorsement of the young man.

“A stroll in Central Park,” she repeated, and then before she could change her mind, she nodded. Her willingness to spend time with him, a man who was little more than a stranger, would be frowned upon by everyone concerned.

“Goodness,” Gabriel warned, “don’t even think about it.”

“About what?” The fact that the archangel was traveling with her had cramped her style considerably.

“I know what you’ve got up your sleeve.”

“What?” Archangels knew so little about romance; what else was she to do? Gabriel thought Carl Rabinsky was the perfect husband for Hannah. Anyone with half a brain could see how ill suited the young couple was. Carl was a determined man, sincere in his faith. Unfortunately he’d fallen into a common trap. He was big on religion and weak on faith.

“I can see what you’re thinking and I’m telling you right now, it isn’t going to work,” Gabriel continued, disapproval beaming from his piercing eyes. “Joshua Shadduck is an important attorney. The two have nothing in common.”

“Joshua is Jewish, isn’t he?”

“Yes, but that has nothing to do with the issues here. Goodness, listen to me. You’re stirring up a hornets’ nest if you continue in this vein. I absolutely forbid it, do you understand?”

“Yes, but—”

“There’re no buts about it.” Gabriel’s brow was knit with a thick frown. He opened his mouth and Goodness was convinced he was about to argue further with her when a breathless but elated Shirley arrived.

“I found Brynn Cassidy,” the other angel announced gleefully. “She’s with Suzie Chang, one of the girls from her class.”

“We’re discussing something important here,” Goodness said. She refused to let Shirley interrupt her now. Not when she was about to make an important point. She glared at the archangel. “Didn’t you notice Joshua and Hannah together? It’s as plain as the wings on your back that they’re right for each other.” Anyone with eyes would recognize how lonely Joshua was. Success wasn’t all it was cracked up to be. It seemed to her that he’d come to this realization himself recently. As far as Goodness could tell, Hannah Morganstern complemented his life, and she wasn’t about to let Gabriel tell her otherwise.

“What I’m saying,” Gabriel insisted, “is that you must leave well enough alone. You think I didn’t notice the way you manipulated Hannah and Joshua? I’m not blind. You practically steered her right into him.”

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