Chapter Two – The Winding Road
by Jerri Hines
Candy tried her cell phone again. No service. Which was worse? Being stranded in the middle of a snowstorm or having help arrive in the form of an arrogant tow truck driver. Go away.
But the flashing lights grew closer.
She sucked in a breath. I can deal with this. Glancing through the fogged up window, she couldn’t make out much except the flashing yellow lights growing brighter in her rearview mirror.
The truck pulled to a stop behind her. A door swung open, and a husky masculine form emerged. It was him. Okay, she admitted feeling a certain amount of relief. The snow showed no sign of letting up. She was stuck on a dark country road…alone. Her cell phone had no reception.
Just her luck. In the middle of nowhere, and her knight in shining armor arrived in a tow truck. God only knew how he’d found her.
Her plan to wake up in her own bed in New York had taken a detour when her car skidded off the icy road. Her hands hurt from her panicked grip on the wheel. Her legs still trembled from the car spinning like a crazed toy top. Her life flashed before her eyes in those brief moments. The last thing she needed to hear was I told you so.
Neck craned, her gaze followed him as he walked up to the side of her car. The snow swirled around him as he knocked on the window. With the greatest reluctance, she clicked the button to lower it.
“You okay?” he asked, leaning down to eye level.
Looking up into his simmering blue eyes, she felt anything but okay. She pushed back her unruly hair and nodded. “It’s Mitch, right?”
“It was only…no one has treated the roads yet…I hit a patch of ice and skidded into the bank.” Annoyed at the flustered quaver in her voice, she fumbled for words. “Do you think you could help me back onto the road? The plow should be by soon…”
“Lady, you do realize you’re in Georgia. There aren’t any snowplows in Elridge. Haven’t seen this much snow in more than twenty years, certainly not in the ten I’ve lived here.”
He stepped back and opened her door. “Let’s get you out of there.”
The wind whipped through her as she stepped into the snow. Turning her head against the blast, her body fell back. Two strong hands caught her. In one swift movement, he swept her into his arms.
“I can walk,” she protested.
“Not in those boots.”
She didn’t argue, and her grip tightened on his jacket. Amazement at the warm, sultry feeling encompassing her left her speechless. She'd never been carried. For that matter, she couldn’t remember ever feeling so safe in anyone’s arms. What that said about her love life…
Before she had time to dwell on it, he helped her up through the driver's side door of his truck. Ducking, she slid onto the seat.
And froze. Two enormous dark eyes stared at her. A scream choked in her throat.
“That’s Major. He won’t hurt you as long as you don’t try to take his seat. He likes the window. Don’t touch anything. I’ll take a look at your car.”
Touch anything? She couldn’t move! He'd left her alone with a dog, a huge dog. No, it was too big for a dog. A wolf. He’d left her alone with a wolf. She jumped when the door slammed shut behind her. Heart pounding, she glanced sideways at the animal. Where had she heard to never look a dog straight in the eyes? His ears weren’t back; his hair wasn’t raised. The large, brown canine gave her a goofy grin. Was he actually smiling? He thrust his head toward her.
Oh, my God, I’m going to die!
The door flew open. “Not good news. Your front axle is bent. You won't be going anywhere anytime soon.”
Candy leaped against his snow-covered chest.
"Whoa there. Easy, lady. The worst Major will do is douse you with his slobber.”
Was he kidding? Did he really not know he'd left her with a…a…monster?
Mitch hopped in and scooted her over into the middle, close to the brute that didn’t move, guarding his spot by the window.
“See? A big teddy bear. He’s a lab. Most labs are docile, friendly sorts, and Major is no exception.”
“You can let go of my arm.”
She released her hold. Heat crept up her neck. “I’m sorry.” She took a breath. “Thank you. I don’t know what I would have done if you hadn’t come along. But…” She took another breath. “Any idea how I’m supposed to make my flight? Do you know someone who can give me a ride to Atlanta?”
A cocky grin emerged, and gorgeous blue eyes gleamed with suppressed amusement. Was he laughing at her?
“Candy,” she offered.
“Look, Candy. I realize you’re experiencing tunnel vision at the moment, but you need to look at the larger picture. You like to be in control. Don’t like to be told what to do. But let me give you a couple of facts. Your car is inoperable. There isn’t a rental place for miles. I’m one hundred percent positive there are no flights leaving Atlanta. Not tonight. Even if you could make it to the airport, which you can’t, you’d be stuck. No one in their right mind is out driving in this. We don’t sand the roads around here, nor do we have snowplows.
“You’re lucky I headed home when I did. Right after you left the station, the electricity went out. The phones lines are down, and we have crappy cell reception under the best of circumstances.”
Her blood pressure rose. No one spoke to her like that. Ever. She couldn’t let people talk down to her and expect to run a successful business. Oh, Lord, were those tears welling in her eyes? Another unwritten rule: never let anyone move her to emotions. A sign of certain weakness. She’d learned that lesson a long time ago. The weak didn’t succeed. And she wanted—no, needed—to succeed.
“Just take me back to that motel you mentioned. I won’t bother you further.”
“Afraid I can’t do that.”
“You’re kidding, right? This is a joke?”
“No joke, lady. With all the wind, snow, and ice, a huge tree fell a couple miles back, right after I passed. Lucky it didn’t hit me. We won’t be going back to Elridge tonight. Fulton is another twelve miles up the road, and it’s even smaller. Doesn’t have a motel.”
Candy stared at him, fear edging down her spine. “Then what am I going to do?”
“Only thing to do now is get out of this weather. I’ll hook up your car and get it off the road. There’s no point in towing it anywhere until I can take it back to the station. My house is up the road a ways. It’s not fancy, but you’ll be warm and dry. I give you my word, as soon as the weather clears, I’ll take you to Atlanta. Now, it’s been a long day.”
He didn’t say another word, just put the truck in gear.