As a first-year law associate, Sydney Batson knows she will be updating her resume by New Year’s if she loses her current case. So when her grandmother gets inexplicably ill while Sydney is in court, she arranges for a cab to take her grandmother to the clinic.
The last thing cab driver Finn Parrish wants is to be saddled with a wheelchair-bound old lady with dementia. But because Miss Callie reminds him of his own mother, whom he failed miserably in her last days, he can’t say no when she keeps calling him for rides. Once a successful gourmet chef, Finn’s biggest concern now is paying his rent, but half the time Callie doesn’t remember to pay him. And as she starts to feel better, she leads him on wild-goose chases to find a Christmas date for her granddaughter.
When Finn meets Sydney, he’s quite certain she’s never needed help finding a date. Does Miss Callie have an ulterior motive, or is this just a mission driven by delusions? He’s willing to do whatever he can to help fulfill Callie’s Christmas wish. He just never expected to be a vital part of it.
Praise for Catching Christmas:
“The feel-good Christmas book of the year. Blackstock’s tale of love and redemption wrapped in a holiday bow will leave you smiling. Don’t miss Catching Christmas.”—Rachel Hauck, New York Times bestselling author
“Darling and laugh-out-loud cute, Catching Christmas makes the reader think about the important things in life. I read it in one gulp and wished there was more. Highly recommended!”—Colleen Coble, USA TODAY bestselling author
“Blackstock weaves a compelling, romantic tale that is sure to get you into the Christmas spirit!”—Denise Hunter, bestselling author
- Stand-alone romance novel
- Perfect for gift giving or as a stocking stuffer
- Hopeful and encouraging Christmas story that will appeal to fans of Hallmark movies
- Includes discussion questions for book clubs
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|Publisher:||Nelson, Thomas, Inc.|
|Product dimensions:||4.80(w) x 7.10(h) x 1.20(d)|
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I'm not a violent man, but I have a dozen reasons for pulling my cab over and throwing the chattering man in my back seat onto the curb. His cheesy Christmas outfit is one of them. His love affair with Uber is another.
"Not trying to insult you or anything," the man says. "But I don't see why any of you are still working for cab companies. The Uber model is the wave of the future, don't you think? I mean, seriously, it's so convenient for consumers, with the app charging your credit card and everything. And you don't have that blasted meter staring you in the face ..."
I look at the man in the rearview mirror. "You got money or not?"
"Of course. What do you mean?"
"You sound like a guy who has a problem handing a credit card or cash to an actual human being. You'd rather put it in an app where who knows who in India or China or somewhere is saving all your data."
The man's laughter is defensive and unnatural. "How old are you?" he asks. "You don't look old enough to be suspicious of the Internet. You look like that guy Luke on Gilmore Girls. My wife would love you. You probably get that a lot."
"Never heard of the guy," I say, even though I get it at least once a week.
"The way he looked at the end of the series."
The older version, of course. I'm feeling older all the time, even though I only turned thirty a month ago.
I'm getting close to the guy's destination, something I know since I have intimate knowledge of the St. Louis street map without a GPS, so it isn't worth responding.
But the guy loves the sound of his voice. "I only took a cab because it's raining and it's rush hour. Uber spikes their prices up at times like this. And there you were, sitting at the hotel where my convention was ..."
Now I have to respond. "So you'd rather ride with some dude who hasn't had as many background checks as I have, who doesn't have to pay the same license fees and taxes, who doesn't know how to get where you're going unless he's looking at his phone while he's trying to drive, who might have been working in a lab for his day job, where he handles live viruses and doesn't believe in washing his hands —"
"Come on," the guy says. "That's ridiculous."
"Most ride-share drivers don't do it for a living, pal. I know the shortcuts —"
"But you don't take them. Come on, you know cabs go out of their way to run up the bill. Those drivers may not do it for a living, but they're good enough. And I usually know where I'm going. I can tell them how to get there."
"You know," I cut back in, "that's another thing. Good enough is really what you want? How about excellence? You watch TV on six-inch devices, you read your news on blogs, you eat fast food rather than cooking. You're happier with two all-beef patties than you are with fine restaurants or — here's a concept — homecooked meals."
The guy leans forward on the seat, and I fight my urge to shove him back. "What is your problem?" he asks. "What does my diet have to do with driving a cab?"
Nothing, but it has everything to do with me. I'm seriously losing it. I'll never make it through this Christmas season.
I reach the guy's destination, and pulling over to the curb, I check the meter. "Eight bucks," I say. "Do you want a receipt?"
The guy doesn't move. "I asked you a question."
I turn and look back at him. "You want me to keep that meter running?"
The guy shakes his head, pulls out his wallet, and hands me a ten. "Give me a receipt, since I don't have it on an app."
I'm pretty sure the guy doesn't intend to tip me, so I fish two dollars out of my pouch and hand them back to him with a receipt. The guy snatches them and opens his door.
"Want my card?" I shout after him.
He slams the door, and I chuckle as I drive away.
You run into jerks in every line of work. Unfortunately, I meet more than my share, especially this time of year, when there are Christmas parties every single day.
My radio crackles, and my dispatcher comes on.
"Finn, where are you?"
"Northwest," I say. "What you got?"
"Someone in that area called for a cab. Address is 113 Sensero Drive."
I groan at the address. "Come on, LuAnn, that's a residential neighborhood. I was going back to the airport."
"You're the closest. I was supposed to book this earlier, but I didn't."
Why didn't the person call Uber? It's getting rare for people who aren't accustomed to looking up a phone number to call the cab company. And they love to watch the progress of their Uber drivers on their phones, which I consider another way the government can keep tabs on us. Just sign up to drive for a ride-share company, and you, too, can be tracked anywhere and everywhere.
Most of my fares these days are airport or hotel fares, and those are the easiest. Sure money, sure pickups, and not a lot of time lost waiting for someone. As irritating as those fares can be if they've been drinking, they pay my rent.
But occasionally we get a call from an actual house. It's usually someone who doesn't know how to use a smartphone. Those can be the most irritating fares.
I do what I hate and type the address into my dashboard GPS, since I refuse to do it on my phone as a matter of principle. I follow the voice guidance as I drive.
It's a white ranch-style house that looks like it needs a good coat of paint. The grass could use a mow. They probably aren't big tippers. Great.
I tap my horn and watch the door. There's no sign of anybody, but I see through the screen door that the front door is open. As I wait, I turn on the radio and scan through "I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus," "Santa Baby," and Michael Jackson's version of "Santa Claus Is Coming to Town." It's been all Christmas, all the time, since Thanksgiving. I wonder if these oblivious station managers really think that if they take a break and play a Top 40 song people will flee in search of more "Jingle Bells."
Time is wasting. I'm going to the door. Try getting an Uber driver to do that.
I straighten my backward baseball cap and go to the screen door. I make sure my knock conveys my impatience. When no one answers, I move closer to the screen and look inside.
An old woman sits in a wheelchair, her head tilted forward. Either she's sleeping or she's dead. Great.
I look back at my cab. I could tell LuAnn that no one came to the door, which is true. I could just drive off, but the woman will probably wake up and call back and complain that no one came.
I knock again on the screen door. "Hello?" I yell.
The woman jolts awake. "What?"
"Did someone here call for a cab?"
The woman looks around, as if she doesn't know if anyone else is there who may have called. "Yes ... uh ... oh yes. Thank you so much."
"Do you need help?"
"Yes, please. That would be so nice."
I open the screen door and step into the small front room. Her purse sits on the table, so I point to it. "Do you need your purse?"
"Please," she says.
I wheel her out the door, carrying her purse. "Should I lock it?"
"Yes, thank you."
I lock the doorknob and pull it shut.
The woman reminds me a little of my own mother in her last days, and that familiar bitter acid burns my stomach. I roll her to the car.
"Uh ... can you stand up or walk?"
"With a little help," she says. "My name's Callie. What's yours, honey?"
"Finn," I say, folding up her footrests so she can reach the ground. I help her up. She's very weak as she takes one step, then falls purposefully onto the car seat. I wait for her to pull her feet in, but she just stays there with them hanging outside the car. Sighing, I bend down, pick up her feet, and put them into the car.
I close her door and load the wheelchair into the trunk. When I get behind the wheel, I start the meter, wishing I could add the fifteen minutes it took me to get her into the blasted car. "Where are you going, ma'am?"
She doesn't answer, so I look back at her. She's already asleep again. Unbelievable.
So where am I supposed to take her? I call LuAnn back on the radio. "Hey, this fare I just picked up at 113 Sensero Drive? Did she tell you where she wanted to go?"
"Yeah," she says. "She wanted to go to a doctor's appointment at St. Mary's Hospital. Her appointment is at two."
"Okay, thanks." I look back at her again and realize she isn't belted in. She'll probably fall over when I start moving. Sighing, I get out and go around the car, hook her seat belt.
I pull away from the curb. At the first intersection, I glance in the rearview. She does fall forward, but the belt holds her body up.
Is she sick? She looks as frail as a toothpick, and she has to be in her nineties. What kind of family would leave her to get to the doctor on her own? Isn't there someone who could have done this for her?
It only takes a few minutes to get to the hospital. I go to the clinic wing and pull up to the entrance. She's still sleeping, so I go around to her door. I bend over and unclick her seat belt. "Ma'am? We're here."
She comes awake and looks up at me with vacant eyes. "What?"
"The doctor's office. You have an appointment at two. This is the place, right?"
"I ... I'm not sure. Heavens, I don't know where my manners are."
"Yes. I'm Callie. And you are?"
"The cab driver."
"Oh," she says.
"It's six-fifty," I say a little too loudly, assuming she's hard of hearing. "I'll get your wheelchair."
She has ten dollars in her hand when I come back. I shove it into my pocket, then help her into the chair. "Ma'am, can you get yourself to the office?"
"The doctor's office. This is the clinic where your appointment is."
She looks toward the building. Zero sign of comprehension. Nada. She could be going into a movie theater for all she knows.
"Can you wheel yourself? Or do you need me to push you in there?"
"That would be so nice," she says. "I'm Callie. And who are you?"
"Finn." I slam the door a little too hard and lock it even though it's still running. My luck, some patient doped up on painkillers will hijack it and try to fly with it. Hopefully I can get back before someone lobs a brick through the window.
I roll her through the doors. "Do you remember who your doctor is?"
Of course she doesn't. She looks confused and opens her purse, sifts through for something.
"Ma'am? Your doctor?"
When she doesn't find whatever she's looking for, I push her toward the check-in desk. "Ma'am, what's your last name?" I ask her.
"Callie Beecher," she says.
"I'm Finn," I say quickly before she can ask me again. I have to wait in line as patients before me sign in with the slowest scrawls I can imagine.
Callie gradually comes alive as she looks around at all the people in line. She taps the young woman standing in front of her. "I used to have hair that color." Her voice is loud, commanding attention. "Red on the head, they used to say. Do they say that to you?"
"My granddaughter has hair that color, but she dyes it blonde. My daughter's wasn't red, though. Hers was naturally blonde, thankfully."
Past tense. The woman must have outlived her daughter.
"She cried when her baby had red hair," she drones on. "She said redheads are hideous. I tried not to take it personal."
The girl looks graciously amused. "She said that?"
Callie's expression goes blank for a moment, and I'm pretty sure she's lost her train of thought. She looks around, then her gaze settles on the girl again. She stares at her for a moment, as if it's the first time she's seen her. "You won't be winning any beauty contests, but I think you're pretty."
"Thank you." The girl clearly has a sense of humor — she grins at those gasping and chuckling around her. In spite of my irritation, I can't help grinning, too.
A nurse who hasn't missed many meals comes out a side door and calls to the next patient.
Callie notices her, then looks over at the redhead. In a voice way too loud for the room, she says, "Are my thighs that big?"
The nurse turns, fire in her eyes, but when she sees that the person insulting her is older than Methuselah, she just shakes her head. Everyone around us stifles a grin.
"No, ma'am," the redhead giggles.
"I used to have cable TV," Callie goes on, "and I would watch that show about the chubby nurse. What was her name?"
The girl is losing control of her giggles now, and tears are surfacing in her eyes. "I don't know."
"She had a pretty face, though."
I don't make eye contact with Callie for fear she'll try to pull me into her lunacy.
Finally, the person in front of us is finished, and I move to the front. The bored receptionist looks up at me. "Help you?"
"Yes, I have Callie Beecher here to see the doctor."
"I don't know."
"We have thirty doctors here."
I lean over the desk. "Can you look her up? She's having some memory problems."
The woman types in the name. "Her appointment is with Dr. Patrick. Wait over there and they'll call her."
"She might be a little hard of hearing, and she falls asleep a lot, so you might need to go get her when they call her."
The receptionist looks like she couldn't care less, but she gives me a noncommittal nod.
I push Callie to the waiting area, lock her wheelchair, and bend toward her. "Ma'am, here's my card. If you need me to come back and get you when you're done, just call this number."
The middle-aged woman sitting next to her looks at me like I'm pond scum. "You're leaving her alone?"
"Lady, I'm just the cab driver."
"Her name's Callie Beecher. Would you keep an ear out for them to call her?"
"Yes, if they don't call me first."
I look down at Callie. "Ma'am, you put that card somewhere where you can find it again, okay?"
She tucks it into her purse, then turns to the woman next to her and says, "I don't know where my manners are. I'm Callie. And you are?"
I take that opportunity to slip back out to my cab.CHAPTER 2
My hair is driving me nuts. My bangs are too long and falling into my eyes, but I don't have time to go to the hairdresser. I should probably just whack it off myself, but that has ended disastrously before, usually when I'm stressed. When I was a teenager studying for my SATs, my dad hid every pair of scissors in the house so I couldn't scalp myself.
"Yes, I'm holding for the doctor ... No, he can't call me back, because I'm going to be in a meeting. Please, can I just speak to him now? It'll take five minutes ... Okay, one minute. I can talk fast."
I glance through the glass wall into my law firm's conference room. Half of the meeting's attendees are already there, though they're hardly aware of each other since most of them are focused on their phones. I hear voices up the hall, and I see the partners walking in a pack toward me — just as a woman picks up at the other end of my call.
"Hello, this is Sandra, the nurse. The doctor's in with a patient. Can I help you?"
"I've already talked to you, Sandra," I say, lowering my voice to almost a whisper. "I asked you to have him call me, and you didn't."
"I'm sorry, I'm having trouble hearing you."
The partners are lingering at the door, not three feet from me. I have to get in there now. "You already have a message from me to give him. Please give it to him. If he calls me I'll try to answer. Please. It's important I talk to him as soon as possible."
I click off the phone, plaster a smile on my face, and greet my bosses as I slip into the room. I take my place among the other first-year associates, who suddenly look engaged as the heavyweights enter the room. My friend Joanie has saved me a chair next to her, too close to the Christmas tree decorated by the priciest interior decorator in town. The heat of the incandescent lights is going to make me sweat.
"Did she get there?" Joanie whispers behind her hand as I sit down.
"Who knows? If the cab company didn't send someone, I'm suing them."
"I covered for you at lunch. They don't know you were late."
"Thanks. I had to get her dressed. She was still in her pajamas."
"You have got to get help for her."
"I know, but I can't afford it."
The meeting comes to order, and I try to focus on the senior partner who's presiding — the Southerby in Southerby, Maddox, and Hanes. But my mind keeps wandering to my grandmother who was staring into space last night in front of her hours-old Meals on Wheels lunch, which she hadn't touched.
Her decline in the last few days has been so rapid. Maybe it's just some virus that has made her seem worse than she is, or maybe she isn't sleeping well. I was going to take her to the doctor today myself, but then the partners called this meeting for the exact same time as the appointment. I couldn't risk missing it.(Continues…)
Excerpted from "Catching Christmas"
Copyright © 2018 Terri Blackstock.
Excerpted by permission of Thomas Nelson.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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