High Plains Hearts

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Authors: Janet Spaeth
the clock over the stove. It was nearly nine!
    Her toe caught in the rug, and she stumbled over Cora, who didn’t so much as twitch a hair. Nothing was going to move her from her salmon breakfast.
    A quick shower and speed dressing got her in the store in half an hour. She flipped the sign on the window from Closed to Open and unlocked the door.
    Saturday mornings were generally slow, times when she dusted the inventory and wiped down the display cases and shelves. She tried to keep up with it on a catch-as-catch-can basis through the week, but she relied on Saturdays to do a more thorough job.
    She took all the birthstone crystal angels off their shelf for detailed cleaning with the tiny brush she used specifically for the delicate items. A slight movement startled her.
    It took a moment for her to identify the source of the motion—Cora had plopped herself in the spot vacated by Faith’s departure.
    Tess thought about how easily she had moved into calling the angel Faith, although the logical part of her still considered it foolish and misguided. But something about the zany angel made the name fit. It didn’t make sense.
    Neither did the fact that she missed the angel. The hole it left was more than in the display area. How many times had she greeted it when opening? How often had Cora blissfully rubbed up against the rough grain of it, as if brushing herself on the textured robe? And straightening the wayward halo was part of the daily ritual.
    Rats. She wanted to see Faith again.
    The bell on the door tinkled a welcome as Jake walked in the front door.
    “Are you always as hungry as I am the morning after a big meal?” he asked without preamble, sliding a bakery box across the counter to her.
    “Oh, you didn’t need to,” she answered. The most delicious aroma wafted from the box to her nose, and her stomach replied with a loud growl that startled Cora out of a sound sleep. “But I’m glad you did,” she added hastily, tearing into the box.
    What met her eyes was a true sweet tooth’s delight indeed. The selection of doughnuts and other pastries was astonishing. It was enough to stop any diet dead in its tracks. Twisted cinnamon rolls were nestled next to white frosted cake doughnuts sprinkled with tiny decorations.
    He picked one up and held it out to her proudly. “Check it out.”
    The little candies were white angels! “I’ve never seen these,” she marveled. But, even as she spoke, the businesswoman in her was taking note. “I wonder where they came from. I should—”
    He pulled a slip of paper from his pocket and handed it to her. “Here. I already asked. And I called my distributor—he’s making a delivery to us on Monday—and he said if you want him to bring some then, he sure can do that.”
    “To sell? For me to sell?” she asked numbly, feeling as if the morning had suddenly gone into fast-forward—but she hadn’t.
    He nodded. “They sell them in large bags for bakeries, but he said he thought they might have some in smaller packets for retail sale.”
    “Wow.” That was all she could manage as he moved in a blur. Maybe she was still too groggy from sleep to keep up with him.
    “You look like you could use some coffee,” he said sympathetically. “I didn’t know what you had here so I also brought—ta-da!—a thermos from Panda’s. It’s a blend called Spice of the Season. It has some cinnamon in it and nutmeg, ginger and a few other mysterious ingredients I couldn’t divulge to anyone, including my own dear mother. Trade secret.”
    He had even brought cups.
    She pulled out two chairs from a wrought-iron table set and pushed the display of angel-animal beanbags on the tabletop out of the way. “We can sit here.”
    Cora was over like a silver flash.
    “Is it okay if I feed her?” he asked as the cat looked lovingly up at him.
    Tess could see her having to feed Cora only gourmet food and pastries for the rest of her life, and she fought it as hard as she could. Her cat

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