The man in the truck frowned when he Helene her approach. He shut off the engine and got out, glowering.
Helene stopped in her tracks. He was angry and surly, but one of the handsomest men she’d ever met.
“Hello, I’m Helene Marcos. I hear you’ve bought the last of the trees. I was wondering if you’d be willing to part with the blue spruce.”
He was already frowning and shaking his head. He ignored her hand and raised his chin at the young man, telling him to start loading with a jerk of his head. Tipping his head at Helene, he frowned. It wasn’t so much anger, she sensed, as a dislike of the cold wind. His eyes watered. A startling blue, they made a stark contrast with his sleek, black hair.
“The blue spruce. Could I buy it from you? I’ll be happy to pay whatever you did, plus ten percent?” Her voice rose to a childish, almost whimper. She hated when she did that. It made her sound like such a child. As if the blonde hair and big blue eyes weren’t enough of a problem.
“What? Why not?”
“I need it. I ordered, and received, fifteen very specific trees. I was lucky they weren’t taken with the rest.”
Helene could feel tears in her eyes. “Surely one….”
“Look, Miss….” he’d already forgotten her name. “I work for a party planner and we have a gig Sunday night. I contracted for fifteen trees. I’m being paid for fifteen. I can’t bring fourteen.”
“But the blue….”
“Is the center piece of the display. Look, I’m sorry. If I could….” He snorted in frustration, running his hand through his hair. “There’s another lot, about two blocks down. Maybe they have a spruce?”
Her eyes filled with tears. “Sure. I’ll go look. I kind of wanted to shop here. I mean, they got robbed. By the looks of them, they’re counting on the money. I just thought….” A shuddering breath caught in her throat. The tears tickled her eyelashes. “Never mind. It’s not your problem. Thank you.” She turned and walked back to the lot, hoping to find another tree for her mother’s Christmas.
Abraham Carson watched the petite blonde walk away and let out a low groan of frustration. Gallantry warred with every other emotion in him. He wasn’t a greedy man, but he did have a contract to fulfill. And he’d seen three blue spruce trees at the other lot on his way here. Not as nice as this one….
“Miss!” he called. “Miss—Marcos?” he bellowed, extending his arm in a gesture of frustration.
She turned, her eyes wide and liquid.
Dammit. Not tears. Dammit! No tears!
“I’ll—I’ll find another tree. And you don’t have to pay extra, just give me what I paid for it.”
An angelic smile wreathed her features. “Are you sure?”
“Yes.” He wasn’t, but what else could he say to that sweet face. “Yes, I’m sure.”
“Oh, thank you!” She ran over to him, placing a warm kiss on his cold cheek. “Thank you. Do you mind a check?”
“Not at all.”
“I promise it’s good. I work at Dr. Staley’s office on Tenth, though, if you have any problem with it.”
“I’m sure I won’t.”
She held her pink checkbook, full of checks scattered with hot air balloons, purple pen poised over the page. Her blue eyes widened expectantly and he realized she was waiting for his name and the amount.
“It was umm, seventy-five….” So he shaved off a few bucks. “And you can make it out to Carson’s Party Planners.”
Flashing a five star smile that struck him deeply, he waited while she wrote out the check. She handed it to him, grinning, thanking him. The check smelled like violets. Resisting the urge to sniff it, he folded it, putting it in his wallet. His boss, who was also his sister, would probably kill him. But he was a softy at heart, which was why she handled the business side and he just picked things up. He really couldn’t be trusted in a more official capacity.
“Thank you so much. My mother is really ill, and this will make her happy. I wanted the perfect tree and she always loved blue spruce.”
Could he feel any more like a complete tool? Not likely. A sick mom. The perfect tree. But the smile and those big, blue eyes, made him feel less like a heel. She kissed him again and his heart lurched.
“You’re very welcome, Miss Marcos. I hope you and your mom have a very Merry Christmas. And I’ll keep her health in my prayers.”
This smile was damn near angelic. Why had he said that? He hardly prayed anymore. His days as a choir boy were well behind him, but he hadn’t lost that grain of truth and hope that had been part of his life since he was a child.
“Hey, Chet, can you load up the lady’s tree?” he called to the young man. “The blue spruce.”
“Sure thing, Abe!” The young man hoisted the tree onto his shoulder and carried it to her car. He got it safely roped on the top and attached the red bandanna she had brought for the base of it. Whistling happily, he nodded when he accepted the tip she gave him.
Standing side by side, Abe and Chet watched Helene drive away.
“You seriously only charged her seventy-five? That was a hundred dollar tree.”
Abe watched the car turn the corner, blinking rapidly against the cold once it was gone. “Yeah, well…. I’m a sucker for big blue eyes and tears.”
“She cried? Oh, hell, I would have given it to her for free!”
Abe chuckled, knuckling the kid’s head. “I almost did, but Tina would decorate a tree with my balls if I did. Now, I have to go down the way and spend my own money on another tree.”
© 2016 Dellani Oakes