Hey y’all! It is actually Lissa posting today! I need to make sure that everyone understands that Snippet Saturday posts are not part of the Birthday Bash so commenting is not required… Only those posts that are Sunday thru Friday in February are part of the Birthday Bash.
On the other hand, feel free to comment on Snippet Saturday posts if you’d like. There are always terrific authors with snippets. But, I did want to stress that it is not part of my birthday party here on the blog.
Now, that being said, let’s get on with it.
Today’s theme is Winter Wonderland. Hmmm… Well, I have a two books, three books that are set in Winter or Winter-y places. One is in Alaska, one is in Denver, one is in Pennsylvania.
I think I’m gonna go with the one in Denver… Sugar Rush.
“I’m going to kill him.” It would be a quick and painless death too. He wouldn’t know what hit him.
First though, she had to make it to the little cabin in the valley and deliver the truffles. And what the hell was Edward, her business partner, thinking anyway? Accepting an order — a small, one-box order at that — for someone way out here in the middle of nowhere? It was bad enough that it had snowed last night, but even worse was the fact she hated driving north through the mountains in winter. For that alone, Edward deserved to die.
What in the name of all that was warm and cozy was she doing here?
Edward usually made all the deliveries. He loved meeting their customers, loved to gab more than any woman Jane had ever met, and he always used it as an excuse to go shopping in some boutique he swore he’d never heard of before. Of course there were no boutiques where she was presently. There was nothing up here at all: only trees and mountains and snow. Lots and lots of snow.
A stop sign. Great. “What the hell do I do now?” She pressed ever so gently on the brake pedal and slowed to a stop. “This is why I live in the city,” she muttered. She could either walk or take public transportation. When it came to driving in the mountains, she drove like a little old lady: very slowly and very cautiously.
The bright red of the sign stood out like a beacon among the white snow and brown trees covering the landscape. She pulled out the written directions from the side pocket of her purse on the seat beside her. “‘At stop sign, turn right. Go a quarter of a mile to next stop sign, take a left. Follow road to cabin.’ Should be easy enough.”
In truth, Jane loved the mountains. In spring and fall, especially with the rich colors, but even in winter they were gorgeous. The changing of the seasons seemed so effortless. She wished life’s changes were as effortless. Especially where romance and men were concerned.
Ten more minutes, and she was driving down the winding trail leading to the cabin. The snow on the wood-lined drive was packed in, and she was grateful. Driving over a patch of ice would not be good right now. She might have a very boring life but wrapping her vehicle around a tree was something that really wouldn’t improve things.
She pulled up and parked next to a nice black truck, brand-new from the looks of it, and one that she’d need a stepladder to climb into.
Jane put the small SUV in park and turned off the engine. After a quick glance in the rearview mirror to check her makeup and hair, she grabbed the box of truffles and got out. Hopefully, she could get back home before the streets started to ice over. She’d also like a few answers from Edward about why she was out delivering one and only one little four-truffle box so far from the city in the dead of winter, along with why he’d insisted she dress like a pink marshmallow in heels. He might be gay, but he knew absolutely nothing about heels and snow, but he’d been so earnest about her dressing a certain way that she’d found herself bundled up and out the door before she’d even realized how absurd her outfit was.
She stepped carefully, one foot in front of the other, not wanting to completely embarrass herself while she teetered precariously up the snow-covered walkway to their customer’s front door. Did she look as comical as she imagined?
Yes, Edward was going to die for this. So help him, he’d better have DVR’d her television shows or his death would be slow and painful rather than the quick, painless way she’d been envisioning.
Lost in plotting the demise of her business partner, she slipped on a patch of ice masked as soft, powdery snow. She righted herself as she started to topple over and was able to recover her balance but not before her heart skidded to a halt in her chest. “Shit.”
Standing still, she took a couple of deep breaths and glanced around. “Right, Jane. Who the hell is going to be around to witness your clumsiness in the middle of freakin’ nowhere?” Well, unless the customer had seen it, and then she’d be completely mortified.
“Nothing to do about it now,” she muttered, again putting one foot in front of the other.
Oh Hell, let’s do another, shall we…? Let’s take a snippet from Arrested Holiday, too! Nothing says Winter Wonderland more than a snowball fight…
“Have you ever played in the snow?”
“Not really, not this kind of snow.”
“Well, put these on, and let’s go. You’ve been cooped up inside for days, and some time outside will do you good.”
Holli took the boots from him and sat down to put them on. “It’s cold out.”
“Taking me outside to play in the snow isn’t going to violate my house arrest agreement?” she asked as he was walking into the bedroom and she was tugging the sweatshirt on over her head. Layering clothes had never been her favorite thing about winter, but at least it kept her warm. She reached up inside the arms and pulled the sleeves of the long-sleeved T-shirts down and smoothed everything into place as best she could. Everything she wore was black. She had to look like a charred marshmallow.
“No more than what was going on before in the bed and no more than the attraction between us.”
He was pulling on a sweater over a long-sleeved T-shirt as he walked back into the living room. The sweater being pulled over his head ruffled his hair, and the casual intimacy of the moment struck something deep inside her. Spending time with him alone, playing, laughing, talking as though they were friends, involved…it wasn’t a good idea. She was going to fall for him, and it was going to be more than his good looks and his kindness that wormed its way under her skin. “Maybe you should have taken me to a hotel and had someone else guard me.”
He tweaked her nose as he passed her to get some boots sitting by the door. “No. Trust me; there’s no one better for the job than me.”
“I’m not going to run.”
“That’s not what I mean. C’mon. Put some of that lotion on your face and let’s go.”
He was like a kid, and his excitement was contagious. Holli quickly put the moisturizer on and set the tube on the counter before letting him help her into her jacket. He shoved a baseball cap on her head and ushered her out into the cold hallway. She shivered.
“Oh damn. Here.” He handed her a pair of gloves he pulled from his pants pocket. “I forgot to give these to you. Mrs. Collins said you could hold on to them until you leave.”
“Nice of her.” Holli quickly put them on, and though it wasn’t immediate or scalding warmth, they were wonderful against the bite of the wind as they stepped outside. “These her boots too?”
The snow was even more blinding outside and even more beautiful. She stood there, looking up, letting it fall on her face. “This is real snow. We don’t get this in Atlanta.”
“What do you get?”
“It’s not powder. It’s wet and icy, but this is…this is delicate, and there are actual snowflakes.”
“We get the icy stuff too, but we’ve gotten a lot more powder this year than normal.”
Holli walked a little farther out into the small backyard but stopped short when a ball of snow hit her square in the chest. “Hey!” Michael’s smile was all innocence. She didn’t buy it for a second. “Weren’t you ever taught not to hit girls?”
“Yes, but snowball fights don’t count.”
“How do they not count?” He was already rolling another ball between his hands, his eyes trained on her. “Oh I see. You’re not gonna play fair.”
“I always play fair.”
He drew back his arm, his fingers… Wait. Were those his knuckles on top of the snowball? She squinted and tried her best to focus, to see clearly. Was he going to…? Oh hell no. He was going to send a knuckleball her way? Two could play that game. One of the greatest knuckleball pitchers of all time played for the Atlanta Braves, and Officer “Pretty Boy” Hunky wasn’t about to show her up. “Unless what?”
Holli dropped down, shed her gloves for the time it took to mold the snow into the right size ball. Her fingers were so numb and cold she could hardly feel what she was doing, but it was going to be well worth it. She pinched off little bits of snow until she had the perfect size pile of powder sitting in her palm. “Unless what, Hunky?”
Carefully she laid the mock baseball down, then picked up the gloves again, making sure to pick a few pieces of fuzz off. After slipping her fingers back inside the blessed semiwarmth, she scooped up the snow baseball, packed the fuzz from the gloves into it so that it could be seen clearly, and took her stance.
“Unless it’s something I really want.”
He looked for all the world like he was waiting patiently, but she knew better. He was in competition mode, just like she was, and there was no patiently waiting about either of them.
“And then I stop at nothing until I get it.”
He let his snowball fly the second she drew her arm back, then shot it forward to let hers go. She moved as soon as it was out of her hand, narrowly missing getting tagged dead center of her chest. Officer Hunky wasn’t quite so fortunate.
He placed a hand over his heart. “Where’d you learn to throw like that?”
“My family, namely my grandpa and my dad, watch baseball religiously. I watch too. It’s what we do in our house every summer. Hot dogs, chips, sodas, baseball. If we aren’t at the games, we’re planted in front of the television watching them.”
“But that was a knuckleball.”
Holli grinned. “It was,” she said proudly. “How could you tell?”
“I saw the dark speck of something coming right at me.”
Her grin grew bigger. “My dad was a big Phil Neikro fan, and when he left the Braves, dad kind of broke tradition and would watch Phil play wherever he was and when I was old enough, he taught me how to throw one. I can throw all kinds of pitches. My aim is generally way off, but well, you’re a pretty good-sized target.”
As she’d been talking, she’d been kneeling down in an ever-growing pile of snow, making snowballs. She kept her eyes on him for the most part, making sure she didn’t look like a threat, making it appear she was just playing in the snow.
“I’m a baseball fan too.”
“I didn’t see anything in your apartment for a team.”
“I’m a Phillies fan. And you’re wearing my Phillies hat.”
She yanked the hat off her head. Sure enough she was. She hadn’t noticed what was on the cap when he’d stuffed it on her. “Yuck.” She tossed it at him, then made a sour face and stuck her tongue out as though she were spitting something out. “Terrible taste. I can’t believe I had that on. If my family ever finds out, they’ll skin me alive.”
He looked so affronted she forgot her own distress, genuine though it was, and had to bite the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing out loud. “Yes, terrible. A Braves fan does not wear a Phillies hat, no matter the circumstances.”
“You’re just jealous.”
“Oh yeah, that’s exactly it.” Sarcasm dripped from her tongue and another snowball hit him square upside the head.
“Now you’re playing dirty. I wasn’t looking.”
“Me? Play dirty? No.” She shook her head. “I wouldn’t do that.” Two more snowballs flew at him, small ones that, when held together, were about the size of a regulation softball. Her aim had been his stomach but went a little south. “Oh God.”
She ran toward him as fast as the cockamamy outfit and boots would let her. The piling snow didn’t help either. He dropped to his knees and fell over, clutching his crotch. She dropped down beside him, wanting to touch him but afraid of hurting him. “Oh God, Michael. I am so sorry.” And she was. She’d been hoping to play with that part of his anatomy later, and now she’d just drilled him with hard-packed snow. “How bad are you hurt? Do you need to go to the hospital? Talk to me, say something.”
“You play dirty snowball fight,” he croaked out. He followed that with a great deal of whimpering and rolling around.
“Michael?” When he didn’t answer her and just kept mewling like a wounded animal… “Well, I guess there’s nothing else to do but hide your body.”
Holli scooped up an armful of snow and dropped it over his hips and groin area.
“What the –”
She followed that with an armful dumped on his chest and then one over his face.
“What the hell are you doing?”
“Burying you.” She pushed snow up against his body and packed it in tight. “You’re evidently on death’s door, what with all the dramatics. Your body should keep for a few months as long as the temperature stays around freezing. In the spring they’ll find you, and I’ll be long gone.”
He blew snow out of his mouth and shook his head against the ground to dislodge even more from his face. “You’re a coldhearted woman, Holli. I was trying to show you a good time, and you insult my choice of baseball team and then fire shots below my belt. That’s just wrong.”
“And has the snow reduced the swelling and the pain?”
He laughed, low and dark. The sound made her shiver, and for once since she’d been in the north, she welcomed it.
“No. In fact, it’s even more swollen now, and the pain is excruciating.”
Holli clucked her tongue and shook her head sadly. “I guess the only decent thing for me to do then is to put you out of your misery.”
“Definitely. I think that’s your only recourse.”
Next thing she knew, she was flat on her back in the snow, and he was braced on his arms above her. They stared at one another for a few excruciatingly long seconds before his mouth was on hers, his tongue in her mouth, his body heating hers from the inside out.
He tasted like chocolate, like a fantasy, and she kissed him with an urgency she absolutely felt. She only had him for a couple of days, just a small moment in time before life would return to normal again.
She started to cling to him, to wrap her arms tight around his neck, but he was up, gone from her for the second time that morning, and she had to wonder what she was doing wrong. “Why do you keep doing that?” she asked, still lying in the snow instead of taking his outstretched hand.
“You kiss me; then you pull away just as I start to get into it. What’s wrong with me?”
“Nothing. There is nothing wrong with you. I thought you might like to get out of the snow and cold, especially since you refuse to wear my hat. But if you’d rather stay” — he knelt on the ground and tugged her up to straddle his thighs — “we can stay.”
Oh yeah, now I’m ready for something hot and delicious… But I’ll have to settle for some coffee…grins.
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Stay warm and safe, y’all!