Wrapped in Red:A Three Rivers Romance Novella

By: Meghan M. Gorecki

Chapter One





“Magical? More like laughable. It’s only November.” The first snow of the season was flying so thick and fast that Merry pulled over onto the pothole-riddled shoulder and turned on her blinkers. Because of course her wiper blades decided to become anemic. I don’t have time for this. Some enviably voiced diva warbled about Christmas being magical, and it reverberated against Merry's last nerve. She punched the volume knob to "off." Burrowing deeper into her wool coat, she grabbed for the ice scraper and braced herself before opening her door to emerge into the near whiteout.

All because this latest guy had cut their date short claiming he had to do laundry. If she could kick herself, she would. For more than just getting her hopes up.

After plucking the wiper blades up and down to clean them until her fingertips were numb, Merry glanced up at the sky only to have fat snowflakes fall on her lashes before she slipped back inside her stiflingly hot car. She could just hear her dad's Pittsburgh accent chiding her with nothing but a paternal kindness about buying winter wiper blades for her PT Cruiser. Some things never changed. Merry turned the radio back on, Irving Berlin's Count Your Blessings streamed from her speakers, and the melted snowflakes on her lashes turned to tears.

Counting blessings only served to raise her hopes, lure her into a deceptive peace right before life would come and kick her down. Blessings—they were getting increasingly harder to identify these days.

With her turn signal on to merge back onto an empty road, Merry took a deep breath, changed the radio station, and pulled out into the white din. In an instant her tires began whirring and spinning, sending the back of her car swinging into the oncoming lane.

“Ohh crap.” Glancing over her shoulder, Merry gauged how she would have to steer to avoid the guardrail. Maybe she’d get lucky and there wouldn’t be any jag-offs out in this weather to crash into her.

“Come on, baby. Come on.” Tires protesting, she shifted a smidge into the right direction. Tires…shoot. Dad had told her when she had a spare few hundred dollars he’d find the best winter tires and mount them for her. Except her school loans were almost paid off, proving that God did provide, as Gram always said. Even on a librarian and freelance editor’s salary. But not enough for snow tires at the moment.

“I am an independent, self-sufficient…” Merry craned her neck and squinted through the snow. Good. No oncoming headlights. “…Twenty-six-year-old woman. I can do this.” Blind spots were clear, so Merry muttered a two-word prayer, faced forward and shifted to neutral in hopes of drifting.

Her slippery heel slammed on the brakes when the blinding lights of a truck sent blood rushing to her ears. Just a few yards away, the truck stopped, and its four-ways started flashing. What the heck?

Merry shivered in spite of the warmth, locking her doors and pulling her parking brake. A knock on the window set her jumping out of her skin to bump her head on the roof. When she lowered the window, fresh, perfect snow blew in and she stuck her head out, trying to see through the golden-white fog. “Can I help you?” Now she’d be officially late for Sunday dinner with the family.

The stranger lifted both hands in mock surrender and his five o’clock shadowed jaw widened into a smile. “Just wondered if you could use a hand. I have salt in my truck…” The broad-shouldered red plaid coat jogged around the car before skidding to a stop in front of her window again. “And you seem to be getting nowhere fast.”

Chafing at the thought of needing a rescuer, Merry was at least glad she now would not have to call her dad and brother to bail her out of this snowy shoulder. “Sure. Thanks.”

And so the tall stranger strode back to his truck, skidded to a stop and almost fell over. Merry snorted around a laugh and brushed the melting snow off her lap. Another knock on the window and she slowly rolled it down so the snow dusted man could practically stick his head inside. “If you want I can wrangle this to point in the right direction in the lane for you.”

She pressed back against her heated seat. Danger, Will Robinson. This guy could easily hop in her car and speed away, leaving her stranded. Then again, not many people just pull over when they see someone stuck in the snow. And the risk of giving him the benefit of the doubt was far preferable to calling a family member, which would result in both an interrogation about her date and she'd get razzed for weeks about getting stranded.

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