Some girls have all the luck. Here I was, snowed in with a huge, growly male, not a stitch of clothing over his muscular chest. Raw, big-boned maleness, all sloe-eyes and dark, silky hair.
Except . . . the only thing those sloe-eyes were fixed on was the crumb of cookie in my fingers. And while he might indeed be a charming, growly male, Wilson was also one hundred percent genuine German Shepherd.
But if I had to be stuck in the outback during a blizzard, at least my dog was here with me. At least I wouldn’t freeze to death in this remote cabin all alone. Sure, he suffered from a serious lack of conversational skills. But Wilson was still far better company than the boyfriend I’d left behind back at the hotel. Ex-boyfriend, I reminded myself firmly.
I squinted out the front window again. A white lump was all that remained of my VW Bug in the driveway. The bird feeder on the porch railing – visible a mere half an hour ago – was now completely engulfed in the ocean of white.
Somehow the weatherman’s blithe “six inches of snow” forecast had gone horribly, catastrophically wrong. Mother Nature evidently mistook inches for feet. Which she was cheerfully delivering in one howling, whirling tornado.
I backed away from the window as the cabin shook in a fresh burst of Icelandic fury. This vacation cabin clearly had been built for shelter from gentle April showers and wafting September breezes. Weather-stripping and insulation? Nah.
Not that I was complaining about the current tin roof over my head, mind you. Well, I was, but beggars can’t be choosers. When I’d coasted in the drive on gas fumes, this tiny cabin had appeared amid the storm like a godsend. And sooner or later, someone would find us out here. Wouldn’t they?
I shivered. Not entirely due to the frigid indoor air.
Wilson whimpered and eyed the remaining chunk of cookie in my hand. I tossed it to him and he gulped it down mid-air, then shot me a hopeful smile.
“Sorry, dude. That’s all I have. Unless. . .” My eyes swept the shelves lining the cabin wall. Perhaps someone left some cereal or a few crackers behind? But no. The walls were as bereft of edibles as the woodstove was of logs, kindling, and matches.
Tugging the collar of my parka tighter around my neck, I kicked myself for the umpteenth time for forgetting my warm, knit ski cap when Wilson and I beat our hasty retreat this afternoon from the hotel. Where we’d just walked in on Mr. Personality giving some very personal attention to the personal chef he’d supposedly hired for . . . umm, cooking lessons.
At least I’d found out now, rather than after the wedding, I muttered, laying my forehead against Wilson’s neck. A tear seeped into his sleek fur.
Wilson growled slightly.
You’re so right, Wilson. I’m totally better off without him. He was a sweet-talking, two-timing, skirt-chasing, no-good –
I was just getting started, but all that inner steam was making me feel better already. A good dose of anger was therapeutic. My icicle-fingers had even started to tingle as if trying to come back to life again. Or maybe that was the natural progression of frostbite. I tried not to think about that.
Face still buried in Wilson’s fur, I swore I’d never, ever trust a man again who owned a shiny-new spatula. Never fall for anyone with an unopened edition of Joy of Cooking in his kitchen and unthumbed issues of Gourmet on his coffee table. The absence of grease-spatters on his AGA stovetop should have told me he was a culinary fraud. A pretender. The romantic equivalent of a con artist. And delivering pop-tarts as breakfast in bed — that should’ve been a clue, right? Not to mention when he’d mistaken Wagyu for a new breed of goldfish.
Wilson growled again, a bit louder this time. I raised my head and glanced toward the window, finally hearing something too. Was that the crunch of oversize tires in the driveway?
Dislodging Wilson from my lap, I rose and peered out the window again. Something large and John Deere-green was lurching slowly down the driveway, lifting a bucket and backing up before lunging forward again. Piles of Mother Nature’s unwanted bounty began flying, Everest-sized mountains taking shape as the sweeping curve of the driveway was slowly revealed.
Closer, he came. Closer. And –
“Don’t! – hit! – my –” I pounded on the window. He couldn’t hear me, of course.
Wilson’s bark echoed at the exact same moment as the ear-splitting crash.
Just my luck, right? My rescuing hero had found my VW Bug. Neither it nor the John Deere would be quite the same again.
I threw open the front door as a hooded figure waddled slowly toward the porch, a thick layer of white coating every upward-facing surface.
“Sorry about that, ma’am,” he huffed as I slammed the front door against the wind. “I was just trying to plow you out.”
One gloved hand reached up to tug off his hood, a small avalanche of snow landing at his feet. “I’d call for help, but there’s no reception out here.”
I nodded, already aware of that depressing fact. Wilson sniffed the newcomer’s pants leg hopefully, wondering if he’d brought treats.
Grey eyes twinkled down at me as the man rubbed his hands together. “Darn chilly in here! I think I spotted a wood pile out back last time I drove by. I’ll see if I can’t get us a fire going.”
Fire?! Warmth?! I nodded stiffly, hoping my lips had enough residual movement to pass as a smile.
“Be back in a flash.”
Half an hour later the woodstove had roared to life, with a hip-high pile of firewood stacked neatly beside it. My fingers had defrosted sufficiently to curl around a thermos mug rescued from the incapacitated John Deere.
“Mmm,” I murmured, surprised. “Good coffee! What is it?”
“Blue mountain. Gotta carry the essentials,” he chuckled.
Reaching deep in his jacket pocket, he produced a dog biscuit the way a magician materializes a silver coin. Wilson’s tailed wagged excitedly as he accepted the treat from this new best friend.
My stomach growled. “Don’t suppose you’ve got any human-style junk food hidden in that pocket? Cheetos? Potato chips? Twinkies?”
Those grey eyes crinkled in a smile as he dug in his other pocket and produced a small metal tin. “Just a few roasted macadamias and glazed pecans. But once we get out of here I hunt up whatever junk food you might like.”
I eyed the tin with amazement. Macadamias — my favorite. I grabbed the tin, suppressing a moan of pleasure as I popped open the lid. “Actually, I’m not really much of a Twinkies girl.”
By now, Wilson was curled up between us, his chin resting familiarly on the man’s boot. To Wilson, anyone with dog treats in his pocket counts as family.
“I owe you a serious apology for what I did to your car. I’ll fix it, of course.” Those grey eyes shifted now, studying me. “Ever tried Wagyu beef? There’s a new Japanese place in town. Or I’m pretty good at stir-fry myself.”
A virtual parade of unhappy images ran through my mind: shiny spatulas, spotless stoves. Scantily-clad chefs, philandering pop-tart-ophiles. Lessons learned.
I still didn’t know this stranger’s name. But Wilson already adored him. Macadamias and Jamaican coffee counted as survival standbys in his book. And he’d never, ever mistake Wagyu for a designer goldfish.
Maybe, just maybe, today was my luckiest day ever.