Today's Reading

"I'll do my best to have them there by four, Dr. Stockton. I apologize for the inconvenience. Now, is there anything else I can help you with? I saw you looking at the new Liza Holcomb thriller." She picked up the book and handed it to Jenna. "It's a fabulous book. Scariest stalker story I've read in years."

Jenna quickly returned the book to the display table. A stalker story? That was all she needed. "No, thank you. All I need today is what I ordered. Thank you for the help. You have my phone number. I trust if there is any further problem, you will give me an immediate call?"

"Yes. Of course."

"Perfect. Merry Christmas, Ms. Thomas."

"Merry Christmas to you too, Dr. Stockton." The manager gave her a bright smile that didn't quite hide the worry in her eyes.

Jenna headed for the door, glancing over her shoulder before pushing it open. The elf was on the phone, the angel had been replaced at the register by a reindeer, and Frosty the Snowman was on hands and knees beside the urn of mulled cider wiping up a spill. She sighed. Angels with attitude aside, she liked this little store. She really hoped they didn't let her and the children down.

Outside, the jangle from the Salvation Army bell ringer mingled with the shrieks and laughter of children embroiled in a snowball fight in the park across the street. Jenna tugged leather gloves from her coat pocket and pulled them on as she walked to the street corner and waited for the light to change. Her gaze drifted back to the snowball warriors. It did her heart good to see healthy, happy children playing, especially after a morning like this one.

When the walk signal flashed on, she crossed the street and cut through the park headed for her car, which she'd left in a lot a block away. Her thoughts returned to her to-do list. She could save a few minutes if she bought cookies at the grocery store instead of making the extra stop at the bakery before picking up Reilly from daycare. But she'd promised Reilly a gingerbread man from—

Whack.

Something cold and wet stung her cheek. What in the world? Reflexively, Jenna lifted her hand to her face and the remnants of...a snowball. She'd been hit with a snowball. Had the battlefield moved without her noticing and she'd been struck by an errant shot? Or had the attack been deliberate? If that was the case, one of these heathens was about to get a piece of her mind.

But when she turned to identify the culprit seconds after the snowball landed, her gaze skidded over a group of youngsters to an adult standing nearby. The pockets of a black wool coat concealed the man's hands. A black knit cap pulled low on his brow and the matching scarf looped around his face shielded everything but his eyes.

Eyes that watched her.

A shiver of fear skidded down Jenna's spine. She whirled around and picked up her pace. By the time she reached her car, she was all but running. She thumbed the key fob and unlocked the door as she approached, then locked it again the moment she was inside. She sat behind the steering wheel breathing hard, her heart pounding. Her gaze locked on the path through the park.

Nobody had followed her. Chased her. She'd let her imagination run wild.

"You didn't imagine the face full of snow," she muttered.

She should call the cops. File a report.

Sure. Be one of "those people." Tie up a law enforcement officer's time over a child's prank. Because surely, that's all it had been. One of those kids probably threw the snowball, and the guy dressed in black probably saw it as it flew by. He'd watched her to see if she'd pitch a fit about it.

She slipped her key into the ignition, started the car, and did her best to dismiss the incident. Forty minutes later—after stops at the dry cleaners, grocery, bakery, and party store—she made it back to the office in time for her one-thirty appointment with five minutes to spare. If she'd checked her rearview mirror more often than usual and paid close attention to those around her as she completed her errands, well, she was simply being responsible.
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Today's Reading

"I'll do my best to have them there by four, Dr. Stockton. I apologize for the inconvenience. Now, is there anything else I can help you with? I saw you looking at the new Liza Holcomb thriller." She picked up the book and handed it to Jenna. "It's a fabulous book. Scariest stalker story I've read in years."

Jenna quickly returned the book to the display table. A stalker story? That was all she needed. "No, thank you. All I need today is what I ordered. Thank you for the help. You have my phone number. I trust if there is any further problem, you will give me an immediate call?"

"Yes. Of course."

"Perfect. Merry Christmas, Ms. Thomas."

"Merry Christmas to you too, Dr. Stockton." The manager gave her a bright smile that didn't quite hide the worry in her eyes.

Jenna headed for the door, glancing over her shoulder before pushing it open. The elf was on the phone, the angel had been replaced at the register by a reindeer, and Frosty the Snowman was on hands and knees beside the urn of mulled cider wiping up a spill. She sighed. Angels with attitude aside, she liked this little store. She really hoped they didn't let her and the children down.

Outside, the jangle from the Salvation Army bell ringer mingled with the shrieks and laughter of children embroiled in a snowball fight in the park across the street. Jenna tugged leather gloves from her coat pocket and pulled them on as she walked to the street corner and waited for the light to change. Her gaze drifted back to the snowball warriors. It did her heart good to see healthy, happy children playing, especially after a morning like this one.

When the walk signal flashed on, she crossed the street and cut through the park headed for her car, which she'd left in a lot a block away. Her thoughts returned to her to-do list. She could save a few minutes if she bought cookies at the grocery store instead of making the extra stop at the bakery before picking up Reilly from daycare. But she'd promised Reilly a gingerbread man from—

Whack.

Something cold and wet stung her cheek. What in the world? Reflexively, Jenna lifted her hand to her face and the remnants of...a snowball. She'd been hit with a snowball. Had the battlefield moved without her noticing and she'd been struck by an errant shot? Or had the attack been deliberate? If that was the case, one of these heathens was about to get a piece of her mind.

But when she turned to identify the culprit seconds after the snowball landed, her gaze skidded over a group of youngsters to an adult standing nearby. The pockets of a black wool coat concealed the man's hands. A black knit cap pulled low on his brow and the matching scarf looped around his face shielded everything but his eyes.

Eyes that watched her.

A shiver of fear skidded down Jenna's spine. She whirled around and picked up her pace. By the time she reached her car, she was all but running. She thumbed the key fob and unlocked the door as she approached, then locked it again the moment she was inside. She sat behind the steering wheel breathing hard, her heart pounding. Her gaze locked on the path through the park.

Nobody had followed her. Chased her. She'd let her imagination run wild.

"You didn't imagine the face full of snow," she muttered.

She should call the cops. File a report.

Sure. Be one of "those people." Tie up a law enforcement officer's time over a child's prank. Because surely, that's all it had been. One of those kids probably threw the snowball, and the guy dressed in black probably saw it as it flew by. He'd watched her to see if she'd pitch a fit about it.

She slipped her key into the ignition, started the car, and did her best to dismiss the incident. Forty minutes later—after stops at the dry cleaners, grocery, bakery, and party store—she made it back to the office in time for her one-thirty appointment with five minutes to spare. If she'd checked her rearview mirror more often than usual and paid close attention to those around her as she completed her errands, well, she was simply being responsible.
...

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