Faith Leary had kicked off the holiday season the same way every year since she’d reached adulthood—standing in the express checkout line at Carlucci’s Market the day before Thanksgiving. 'Cause nothing said “Happy Holidays” better than a dented can of cranberry sauce.
Though this year was a little different. She’d made a major score. Only one of the two cans of cranberry sauce she held was dented. Her mother would have only half as much to complain about.
And speaking of things to complain about…she tapped out a sharp beat with her toe on the dingy linoleum floor. She stretched up onto her toes and leaned sideways in an attempt to see around the man in front of her. The customer at the register pulled out a wad of coupons and Faith bit back a groan. With a quick huff to blow the fringe of bangs out of her eyes, she shuffled both cans of cranberry sauce into one hand and dug into her over-sized bag with the other. She stirred through the debris living in the bottom of her purse until her fingers wrapped around her phone.
The line didn’t move an inch.
Faith checked the time. 2:10. She’d promised Mrs. Marshall she’d arrive no later than 2:30. If she didn’t make it, she’d have to wait until after the Thanksgiving weekend to get paid for walking Mrs. Marshall’s ancient Lhasa Apsos. She had a few bills to pay, and in another week her rent was due. Her negative bank balance meant she couldn’t afford to hold off on getting her paycheck.
That’s what you get for waiting until the day before Thanksgiving to buy cranberry sauce. Honestly, Faith. She cringed and almost turned to see if her mother stood behind her in the grocery line. She stopped at the last minute. That voice was all in her head.
Decisions, decisions. Stay in line and miss any chance of making rent on time this month or put down her only contribution to Thanksgiving dinner and risk her mother’s anger? Eviction was the worst that could happen if she paid her rent late. And that was a lengthy process. Her landlord worked with her in the past. Maybe he’d do it again.
There would be no working things out with her mother. For the rest of her life she’d hear about the Thanksgiving she’d completely ruined by waiting until the last minute to get cranberries. Sighing again, Faith dialed Mrs. Marshall and told her she wouldn’t make it.
Faith checked her phone again when she reached the head of the checkout line. 2:20. Was it possible only fifteen minutes passed?
“That’s $3.58,” the cashier said around a huge gob of gum.
Faith once again plumbed the depths of her bag, this time in search of her wallet. Opening it, she found two crumpled dollar bills. Wasn’t there a five in there yesterday?
Oh, wait. She gave it to the bartender when she bought a Coke at the place her band played last night. What remained in her wallet was the change he gave her. She offered the cashier a weak smile as she dived back into her bag. Surely she’d stuck a few singles in a pocket here or there.
Dragging her fingers across the crumb-coated bottom, they closed around some change. Snatching it up, she counted out seventy-two cents.
She squinted at the price glowing green on top of the cash register, mentally cursing any store for having a cash only line in this day and age. “How much is it again?”
“$3.58,” the cashier repeated in a bored tone.
Faith went in once more, this time coming up empty-handed. She pulled items out, piling her sunglasses, lip gloss, tissues, and a half-eaten Hershey bar on the conveyor belt. The toe of the man in line behind her started tapping and she ground her back teeth together.
“Let me get that for you.”
Faith turned toward the end of the checkout lane. A pair of sky blue eyes met hers, their color enhanced by the dark hair dipping over his forehead. He offered her a friendly grin and her lips curled in response. Her gaze drifted down, admiring his strong jaw and then roaming even lower…locking on the spot under his chin.
She blinked once, then again. The vision in front of her didn’t change. His black shirt and white tab collar were still there.
Holy crap. How fast does a person get sent to hell for checking out a priest?
Faith turned back to the cashier and forced down all thoughts of what she had almost done. She had absolutely not been about to start batting her eyelashes at a priest. Nope, not her.
At least there was one good thing about all this—with a priest bearing witness to this whole mess, the people behind her would probably refrain from showering her with stinging insults and settle for dirty looks.
Faith dug in her purse again, avoiding eye contact with the priest. “Thanks, but it’s okay. I’m sure I have–”
“Lady,” the man waiting in line behind her said, “take the money so the rest of us have a chance to make it home before Thanksgiving.”
Faith’s shoulders dropped and she turned to the priest. “I can pay you back.”
“Don’t worry about it. Consider it my good deed for the day.” He flashed another grin that made her want to melt into a puddle at his feet. You know, before she remembered the whole priest thing. He handed her the two dollars and she paid for her cranberries and stuffed her belongings back in her purse.
She turned back towards the priest to offer her thanks, but he’d already disappeared.
She grabbed her bag and hurried outside before the other patrons had a chance to grab their torches and pitchforks.
Holidays sure did seem to bring out the best in people.
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Genre - Contemporary Holiday Romance
Rating – PG
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