A holiday to remember, p.1
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       A Holiday to Remember, p.1

           Rosesof Prose
 
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A Holiday to Remember
A Holiday to Remember

  by

  The Roses of Prose

  Claire Ashgrove

  Laura Breck

  Vonnie Davis

  Christine DePetrillo

  Barbara Edwards

  Jannine Gallant

  Alison Henderson

  Jerri Hines

  Amber Leigh Williams

  Brenda Whiteside

  Story idea and final edit by Kristin Jamison

  COPYRIGHT 2011 by The Roses of Prose

  Contact information: https://RosesOfProse.blogspot.com

  Chapter One – You Want Me to Pump What?

  by Jannine Gallant

  Snow drifted from the leaden sky, huge flakes splattering against the windshield like squashed bugs. Terrific. This day just kept getting better and better.

  It never snowed in Georgia. Well, almost never. The thought of balmy days lounging beneath a magnolia tree had been the main reason Candy Wright had deserted the slushy streets and frigid temperatures of Manhattan to spend the holidays with her old college roommate. That and the fact that she’d been forced to close The Wright Way, her advertising agency, for seven excruciatingly long days. When she’d suggested forgoing the traditional week off, her senior staff assured her morale would not be improved by such an action. If their incredulous expressions were any indication, the result would be a full-blown insurrection.

  She glanced down at the glowing gas pump on the gage of her rental sedan and bit her lip. If she didn’t stop soon, she’d find herself stranded. Up ahead, the vague outlines of buildings appeared through the gloom. Thank heavens. It didn’t look like much of a town, just a wide spot in the road with a gas station. Maybe she could get a cup of coffee while they filled her tank. Both she and the car needed fuel for the drive ahead. She pulled up before the pumps and opened the car door. A gust of cold wind, damp with snow, slapped her in the face. Huddling into the soft folds of her cashmere sweater, she hurried across the oil-stained pavement, detoured around a big yellow tow truck parked smack in front of the building, and entered the convenience store attached to the open garage bay.

  Bad coffee beat no coffee at all.

  The swinging door slapped shut behind her. A dark haired, pimple-faced teen sat on a stool behind a counter cluttered with racks of candy bars and bags of chips. She headed for the coffee maker and poured dark liquid into a Styrofoam cup. Adding a packet of sugar, she carried it to the counter.

  “Can I pay for this with my gas?”

  The boy snapped his gum. “Sure, but the pump ain’t runnin’.”

  Taking a deep breath, she held back a sharp retort and spoke in a level voice. “It will be as soon as someone pumps my gas.”

  “Lady, we don’t pump the gas. You do.”

  Every other gas station she'd stopped at in small towns provided old-fashioned full service. Why did this one have to be modernized? Maybe she could sweet talk him. “It’s snowing.”

  “Yep.”

  She took another breath. The kid probably wasn’t a Mensa member. “Surely someone here can pump my gas. For a tip?”

  He snorted. “Ain’t no one here but me and Mitch.”

  It seemed obvious the boy wasn’t going to get off his butt. “Maybe this Mitch person can do it.”

  Behind the teen, the door opened, and a man stepped through from the garage bay. He reminded Candy of the guy on those old Marlborough billboards, broad shoulders beneath a denim jacket and long legs encased in faded jeans. Little lines fanned out from eyes the color of a summer sky. His hard jaw, covered with a day’s growth of stubble, was set at a stubborn angle. Firm lips curved in the barest hint of a smile as he regarded her from beneath overlong sandy blond hair. She guessed he was in his early to mid thirties, maybe a couple years older than she was. A hottie to be sure, but as different from the men she occasionally dated as a no-tell motel was from the five star accommodations she favored.

  “Did I hear my name?”

  The boy grinned. “This lady, here, wants you to pump her gas.”

  Candy watched his gaze skim over her, from the top of her mink brown hair pulled back and fastened with a gold clip, down the length of her moss green sweater to the short skirt beneath, ending with a study of her black leather boots with three inch spike heels. He rolled his eyes.

  Angry heat crept up her neck. Turning on her heel, she spoke over her shoulder. “Forget it. I’ll do it myself.”

  “Hey, don’t be in such a rush. I don’t mind pumping your gas.”

  Pride urged her to march out the door, but the snow falling steadily convinced her otherwise. “I would appreciate it. I’m not dressed for a snowstorm.”

  “You don’t say.”

  Gritting her teeth, she watched him walk toward her car. Jeans had rarely looked so fine. But a superb ass didn’t make up for a sarcastic personality. She sipped the steaming coffee and made a face. The motor oil in the rack by the grimy window probably tasted better.

  A few minutes later, the boy said, “Your tank is full. With the coffee, it comes to $52.50.”

  She paid with a credit card and took a five dollar bill out of her wallet. After signing the receipt, she left the store, dropping the cup of coffee in the trash can by the door. Blinking against the falling snow, she approached the man scraping snow off the windshield of her rental car and held out a hand with the folded bill in it.

  “Thanks, I appreciate the help.”

  He stared down at her. “How about I give you a tip instead. This storm is supposed to get worse. Highway patrol is advising motorists to stay off the roads. There’s a motel about two blocks up the street. Get yourself a room for the night.”

  Blood pounded behind her temples at his big strong man is smarter than the dumb little lady tone. When her male colleagues spoke to her that way, she wanted to… She closed her eyes for a moment and shoved the five back in her purse.

  “I’m afraid I have a plane to catch.”

  “In Atlanta?”

  She opened the car door. “That’s right.”

  His gaze drifted to her bare left hand. “Let me guess. You went home to your family for Christmas, and your boyfriend is chomping at the bit, waiting for your return. No man is worth risking your life. Change your flight.”

  “If I were you, I wouldn’t quit my day job. Your fortune telling skills are pathetic.”

  A wide grin stretched across his face, revealing even white teeth. There was something familiar about that smile… She shook her head. The man was a complete stranger. He probably looked like some bit actor she’d seen in a movie.

  “Well, at least I won’t be the one scraping you off the pavement. My shift’s nearly over.”

  She raised one brow. “I don’t understand.”

  He jerked a thumb over his shoulder. “I drive the tow truck.”

  It figured. “Thanks for the vote of confidence.” She slid onto the car seat and slammed the door. Pulling out of the gas station, she glanced into the rearview mirror. Mr. Hottie Mitch Whoever stood with his arms crossed over his chest, watching as she drove into the blinding snow.

  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 si
gn 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?”

  “Yeah, Mitch…Johnson.”

  “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.”

  “Sure, friendly.”

  “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?

  “Look, lady—”

  “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.

  Chapter Three – What to Do With a Princess

  by Christine DePetrillo

  As Mitch reached over to crank up the heat in the tow truck, Major jumped into the space behind the seat. The sound of Candy’s teeth chattering stopped when she sucked in a breath. She scooted toward the passenger door, pulling at her skirt, which didn’t seem capable of covering those amazing thighs. Thighs Mitch had already felt as he’d carried her to the truck. Thighs that, despite the cold wind, had been warm against his hand. Thighs that led up to a tight bottom and a slim waist.

  As Mitch hit the brakes a little too late to avoid a fallen branch, the truck skidded. It jerked as he drove over the debris. That’s what you get for over-thinking her thighs, jackass.

  He tightened his fingers on the steering wheel and reached to turn on the radio. Again, when his hand came near her, Candy flinched.

  “Relax. This isn’t…where are you from?” He eased the truck forward as a bluesy guitar tune wafted from the speakers.

  “Manhattan.” Candy lifted her chin a bit as if being from New York gave her superiority.

  If she only knew.

  “This isn’t Manhattan. Folks here help each other. We’re looking at blizzard conditions. You need a place to stay. I have a place for you to stay. I’m not going to hurt you.”

  “I’m not afraid of you.” The indignation in her voice left no room for anything else in the cab.

  “Then why are you plastered against the door?” Mitch pulled his eyes off the road to glance at her. She looked like a twitchy rabbit cornered against a fence, but he sensed a tiger hidden behind those huge, hazel eyes. Did the cat want to purr or bite his head off? He wouldn’t make any sudden movements, just in case.

  “If you haven’t noticed,” she gestured toward Major’s head jutting over the front seat, “that beast of yours has a saliva control problem. I do not want drool on
my sweater.” Candy wrapped her arms tightly around her waist.

  Mitch reached a hand back and patted Major’s head. He couldn’t believe the dog had given up his window seat. He must like their passenger.

  “Don’t listen to her, buddy. She’s just a city girl who thinks wildlife is best viewed through a television screen.”

  “You really are terrible at reading people, aren’t you?” She moved a little closer so she could put her legs directly under the heat pumping into the truck. “As it happens, I grew up in the woods of Vermont. I had more dirt under my fingernails than most of the boys and loved catching bugs, toads, and snakes.”

  “Not dressed like that you didn’t.” Mitch gestured to her spike-heeled boots. What possessed someone to wear shoes like that in the winter?

  She shrugged. “A girl has to grow up at some point. Can’t run wild through the forest forever.”

  Why the hell not? It sounded like a perfect lifestyle to Mitch. Very similar to his own. Well, the one he’d fashioned out of necessity, anyway.

  They drove with only the music filling the truck. Major, apparently not taking Candy’s insult personally, had fallen asleep behind the front seat. When Mitch stopped the vehicle in his snow-covered driveway, the dog popped his head up and barked. He pushed a wet nose into Mitch’s ear, then turned toward Candy.

  She held up a hand. “Don’t even think about it.” She opened the passenger door.

  Major scrabbled into the front seat, ignoring Candy’s shouts as he bounded across her lap, and hopped down into the snow.

  Mitch bit his bottom lip, trying desperately not to laugh. When Candy turned fiery eyes his way, he couldn’t hold it in any longer. He laughed for a good twenty seconds before wiping his eyes.

  “Your animal ruined my skirt. That’s funny to you?” She indicated tiny pulls in the expensive fabric.

  He had clothes that looked far worse, and he certainly preferred his faded jeans and T-shirts over stuffy business suits and offices and meetings and…his chest tightened thinking about all the crap he'd left behind.

 
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