- Shopping Bag ( 0 items )
A pitiful sob startled Kirsten Hansen out of her search for packing tape. She peered around the center-of-the-aisle display. There, crying her heart out, was a tiny dark-haired tot, obviously alone. Stepping around the bin piled high with bedspreads, Kirsten crouched in front of the toddler. "Have you lost your mommy, sweetie?"
"No," the child cried, her chin quivering.
Kirsten gazed around the Halloween decorated Wal-Mart store, crowded with shoppers. No frantic mom in sight. Should she pick the kid up? Take her by the hand? Or just leave her where she was and find an employee? One couldn't be too careful these days. The heart-rending wails decided the issue. Scooping the little girl into her arms, Kirsten held her close. "Don't cry, sweetie. We'll find your mommy."
"Da-dee," the tyke said around waning tears.
"It's your daddy we need to look for?"
The little girl's head bobbed against Kirsten's shoulder.
"What's your name?"
"Ope," she sniffed.
Ope, the toddler's effort to pronounce what? Kirsten should've known she wouldn't understand. Her nephew, Steve, was four and it was only in the last few months that she'd been able to understand most of what he said. She turned and started toward the customer service desk at the front of the store.
"Hope! Where are you?" A deep, resonate, anxiety-ridden voice sounded behind her. Spinning around, Kirsten's gaze beheld as gorgeous a hunk as she'd ever seen. In an instant her brain registered raven's wing-black hair, short on the sides and curly on top, dark, dark eyes, and a face shadowed by a heavy beard she'd bet was always visible even if he'd shaved fiveminutes before.
Hope lunged toward the man. "Da-dee."
"You scared ten years off my life, little girl." He took her and placed her in the shopping cart basket loaded with disposable diapers.
She immediate tuned up to cry again and started to climb out of the seat. "No!"
He reseated her and fastened the safety belt around her waist.
"No! No! I want down."
"You have to stay in the cart," he said, his tone exasperated. "If you wander off again we might not be so lucky to have such a nice lady find you."
Hope pulled at the mesh belt. Her determined wails drew frowns from the passing shoppers.
The man looked at Kirsten and flashed a brief smile. "Thank you. I'd better check out and take her home before her tantrum gets me arrested for child abuse."
The mention of child abuse tightened Kirsten's stomach into a hard knot. He's trying to lighten a bad moment . "Looks like a case of the terrible twos to me," Kirsten replied.
"In spades. Thanks again."
Rooted to the spot, she watched him roll the cart down the aisle, his jeans-clad backside as appealing as his front. She shook her head and sighed, annoyed with herself. She'd sworn off men, vowed to have nothing more to do with the Y chromosome sex. Still, what red-blooded woman wouldn't notice such a good-looking guy? That's all she'd done. Notice. Besides, he wore a wedding ring. Definitely off limits, even if she was interested, which she was not .
Copyright © 2004 Virginia H. McBlain