Love Me Like That(7)

By: Marie James

My anger over the change in plans assists in getting the gate closed easier than before. I climb up in the truck and spend a minute with my gloved hands held toward the warm air rushing from the vent.

“How’d you end up in the ditch?”

“Moose,” she says through her trembling lips.

“Elk,” I say.

“Huh?” she asks in confusion.

“It was likely an elk. Moose populations have been dwindling recently. Haven’t seen any around here.” I cut my eyes to her and watch her nod her head in acknowledgment. Like she has any damn interest in Montana wildlife trivia.

Once my fingers are warm enough to actually operate the truck I put it in gear and turn back toward the house. I watch as she pulls out her cell phone and looks at the screen.

“The storm is too thick right now, and reception out here is spotty on a good day,” I tell her. “I have a satellite phone at the cabin you’re more than welcome to use.”

She sighs and looks out the window. “I just need to call a tow truck.”

Who wouldn’t need to call a friend or family member after sliding into a ditch?

“You can do that, but they won’t be able to get to you any sooner. I can pull you out when it clears up enough.” The minute it’s even a possibility.

“Thank you,” she whispers softly and peers out the window again.

I wonder what she thinks because I know she does not see anything but a wall of white as we trudge slowly up the driveway. Not your concern, Kadin. I park with my side near the door.

“It’d probably be best if you slide over here and get out of my door.” She narrows her eyes at me skeptically. “So you don’t have to walk all the way around the truck.” She scoots a little closer to me but stops just short of our bodies touching. “Ready?” I ask as I turn off the ignition.

She nods her head, and I open the door against the frigid wind and icy snow that is raging in all directions. I move out of her way and point toward the front door telling her to head that way. She walks past me quickly. Closing the door to the truck, I stay close to her back as we fight our way to the front door.

The process is slow and arduous, and I’d like nothing more than to pick her up and carry her because it would cut our time out in the cold by at least half; I don’t, however, think she would appreciate a stranger putting his hands on her, especially with the way she looked at me when I suggested something as simple as climbing out of my side of the truck.

She steps aside for me to open the door as she crests the top of the stairs. Is she trying to determine if I’m a gentleman or does she suspect the door is locked? I stomp my boots on the mat to get the majority of the sludge sticking to them off and open the door, standing out of the way so she can enter first.

In the light of the foyer, I’m able to take her in. She has to be absolutely freezing. She’s wearing a thick coat and gloves, but her legs are only covered in a thin pair of running spandex.

As much as I want to bawl her out for dressing so scantily during a blizzard in Montana I keep my thoughts to myself. I have no business getting in her business.

I turn to the left and enter the small mudroom. I shrug my coat off and hang it on a hook just inside the door and kick off my boots.

“I’m going to light a fire,” I explain to her as she begins to shrug off her outer layer as well. Paired up with her thin pants she’s also wearing a thin Henley type workout top; that’s it.

I bite my tongue as I head to the den to make a fire. I stop by the thermostat on my way and crank up the heat another five degrees as well.

I throw several more logs into the already raging fire and jab at it with the poker, making sure all the logs will burn consistently. I feel her presence when she soundlessly enters the room. I frown at the sound of the crackling fire when my heart rate increases slightly in acknowledgment. I cut my eyes briefly to the drawer of the small table across the room that houses my demise, a bottle of pills and a glock; my mood being the only thing to determine which is used.

I turn to her and watch as she rubs her arms briskly with her hands. I push my tongue to the roof of my mouth to once again keep from chastising her for being out in the middle of a damn blizzard in what would easily be considered less than some people wear to bed.

“I’ve turned the heat up in the house. It seems you’re stuck here so let me show you where you can sleep.” I say instead. I need to get away from her. The sooner she gets settled, the sooner I can start in on the whiskey. I won’t allow her to derail my plans; this little hiccup is no more than a short postponement. She can sleep, and I can begin my nightly ritual of drinking myself stupid.