Christmas carols played softly in the background. The scent of spiced cider perfumed the air. Shoppers munched happily on gingerbread cookies and perused the bookshelves for that perfect gift.
Dr. Jenna Stockton imagined ripping the halo off the angel's head and choking her with it. Instead, she reached deep within herself for patience and managed to find a smile for the costumed character behind the bookstore counter. "If I could speak with your manager, please?"
"She's awfully busy."
Jenna thought of the ridiculous length of her own to-do list as she fought to keep her smile from turning into a sneer. "Yes, well, it's that time of year, isn't it? Your manager?"
The little angel gave a haughty sniff, and then said, "If you'll step out of line, please?"
Without missing a beat, the angel turned a bright smile toward the woman waiting behind Jenna. "I'm so sorry for this unfortunate delay, ma'am. I'll be as quick as I possibly can."
Jenna didn't snarl like a rabid dog. She didn't. She smiled at the woman behind her in line. Sweetly. Without canines.
The woman and the four people behind her each gave Jenna an annoyed glower. She gave them all a smile too, then reached for the nearest book, which she pretended to read until the clerk returned, accompanied by a fiftysomething woman dressed like an elf. The angel gestured toward Jenna and said, "This is the one, Ms. Thomas."
The elf spoke in a harried tone. "May I help you?"
"I hope so." Especially considering that I went out of my way to support a local business rather than ordering online. Jenna set down the paperback. "I placed a special order two weeks ago and someone from this store called me last week to tell me it was in. However, your...angel...can't find it in your computer system, so she insists I'm mistaken."
"Do you have your receipt?"
"Not with me, no."
"Well, if you'll come back—"
"I don't have time to come back. I ordered the books for an event that begins"—Jenna checked her watch—"in forty-five minutes. I'd like you to check your stock room. My name is Jenna Stockton."
"Ms. Stockton, I can't—"
"I ordered thirty copies of New Adventures in the Christmas Angel Waiting Room'"
"Oh." The manager pursed her lips. "Oh. I recall that order."
Then the manager winced. Uh-oh. Maybe not so good. Jenna drew a deep, calming breath, then asked, "If you will get it for me, please?"
Jenna closed her eyes.
"I'm afraid we had some internal miscommunication. We sold out of our stock of that particular title and an employee unfortunately failed to notice the hold notice on your order. She put them on the shelf."
"How many are left?"
"It's a popular title," the manager hedged.
Jenna leaned forward. "The books are for pediatric cancer patients at Children's Hospital. The Christmas party is at four o'clock."
"Oh dear," the manager repeated. "Four o'clock you say?"
Jenna nodded curtly.
"I'll call our distributor. If you can stop back by—"
"You'll need to deliver them directly to the hospital. To the attention of Dr. Jenna Stockton." She removed a card from her purse and handed it to the manager. "Here's the address. Take them to the information desk in the lobby. I'll tell the volunteers working there to expect them."
"But we don't have a delivery—"
Jenna folded her arms and gave the manager her best take-no-prisoners look.