© 2016 A. B. Panell
All Rights Reserved.
A sharp wind blew around me, tugging on the coat and scarf I wore. I pulled the edges of the coat’s hood closer to my cheeks, hoping to ward off the brunt of the sudden chill. Who I was I kidding, though? The storm going on around me refused to relent.
You should have stayed home, Heddy, my conscience chided.
Yeah, well, you know I can’t.
There’s a blizzard going on.
So . . . Go home.
You know you want to.
But I . . .
The sound of a horn beeping broke through the silent battle I was having with myself. I watched a car slide in my direction, its driver frantically waving at me. Fear rooted me in place. Try as I might, my feet refused to move.
Inch by inch, the car slid closer and closer. The driver shoved the vehicle’s door open and threw himself toward the snow-covered street. Seconds later, he bounded to his feet, skirting the edge of the sliding vehicle and throwing himself at me.
We tumbled to the ground and rolled across the snow, barely avoiding the car as it slammed into the pole nearby. The momentum of the fall catapulted us down the grassy knoll. Minutes later, we came to a stop at the bottom.
“Are you crazy?” the man asked, pushing himself off me.
“I don’t think so,” I said, and sat up.
“Didn’t you see me waving?”
He raised an incredulous brow. “Sort of?”
“It’s snowing, you know.”
The man sighed with exasperation. “Figures I’d get stuck with a nutter.”
I stood up and dusted the snow off my jeans and coat. “Excuse me?”
He ignored my question and said, “What are you doing out in this storm anyway?”
“I could say the same of you.”
The shadows obscured his eyes, preventing me from seeing what color they were. Nevertheless, his intense stare focused on me.
“How about we start over?” he asked.
“Sure,” I said, holding a hand out in front of me.
He slid his large glove covered hand against mine. “I’m Barry James. And you are?”
Barry frowned. “Come again?”
My cheeks grew warm. “Umm . . . I’m Hedwig. Or Heddy.”
He chortled and shook his head. “You have a last name, Heddy?”
Man, can this get any worse?
His lips pursed. “And?”
“Uh . . . Stanton.”
“Interesting,” he said, and pumped my hand with gusto. “Nice to meet you, Hedwig Stanton.”
Blood thundered in my ears, and my cheeks grew even warmer. “Please, call me Heddy. All my friends do.”
Barry arched a thick black eyebrow, his face full of curiosity. “But we’re not friends, are we, Heddy?”
Stop, just stop!
“Umm . . . no.”
The hint of a smile darted across his mouth. “We could be.”
My heart pounded hard inside my chest. “Maybe?”
He let go of my hand and turned to face the hill we’d rolled down moments ago. “Shall we?”
Barry pointed to the top of the hill. “My car’s up there.”
I gathered the little that remained of my composure and nodded. “Oh, yes.”
Amused laughter burst from his lips. “I’ll forgive the fact that you’re dazed and confused. We did tumble down the hill, after all.”
“I . . . I’m not usually this clueless.”
He took a step forward and clasped my hands in his. “I’ll let it slide. This time. Next time, though . . .”
My mouth grew dry. “There’s gonna be a next time?”
Barry leaned closer, his warm breath fanning across my cheeks. “‘Course, there is. Now, let’s go see how bad the damage to my car is.”
I allowed him to lead me up the hill, dreading seeing how bad the damage to the car would be. I’d caused his accident, though I hadn’t meant for it to happen.
Minutes later, we stood side by side, eyeing the blinking lights of his black BMW. The car was wrapped around the pole.
It mind-boggled me that it suffered so much damage given the fact that the car had slowly slid down the road. Still, if it hadn’t been for me, Barry would probably have moved the car so that it missed the pole completely.
“Now what?” I asked, sliding my gloved hands into my coat’s pockets.
Barry pointed to a set of blinking lights slowly making their way down the hill. “A tow truck’s headed this way.”
I glanced at the flashing lights. “Ain’t that something?”
He grinned. “Yes, it is. You’re a lucky girl, Heddy.”
“Why’s that?” I asked, and rolled my eyes at him.
“You cause an unexpected accident, but you still get to go home.”
Barry nodded. His smile broadened.
“Yup. And the best part?”
“Yes?” I stared up him, afraid of his answer.
He moved closer, his eyes boring deep into mine. “I get to find out exactly where you live.”
A light of something unexplainable flashed in the depths of his eyes.
My pulse raced. When I’d set out for work this morning—despite the fact that I should have stayed home—I’d never expected to cause an accident, much less meet such a gorgeous man.
Because let’s face it, my libido cooed. With his disheveled black hair, his—are those eyes of his green? Heck, he looks far too yummy. Can we take home?
Barry cleared his throat, the sound breaking through my reverie. “You okay?”
I shook my head to clear it. “Yeah.”
“I’m sorry if I came across as creepy with what I said.”
My face grew warm once more. “You didn’t.”
He smiled, flashing his pearly whites in my direction. “So . . .”
“Fancy a nice cup of chocolate?”
Is he for real?
I pointed to the car wrapped around the pole. “Don’t you have to take care of that?”
Barry glanced at the vehicle. “Yeah, but that doesn’t mean we can’t have a cup of chocolate, right? Or coffee, maybe?”
His tone of voice sounded far too hopeful. I should have nipped things in the bud, but I confess that curiosity got the best of me.
“Sure, why not?”
Barry’s smile broadened further. “Awesome. So . . . I guess this means I can swing by someday soon?”
I chuckled and shook my head, digging my cellphone out of my pocket. “Maybe. How about you give me your phone number and we’ll take it from there?”
The sound of the approaching tow truck rumbled in the distance. He eyed the device, his lips curling into the perfect O.
He reached out and wrapped his hands around mine. “No worries, Heddy,” he said. “I’ve a feeling we’ll be seeing each other again soon enough.”
The tow truck slid to a stop nearby minutes later. Its driver pushed the door open and shouted in our direction.
“Need a tow?”
Barry squeezed my hands with reassurance. “Yes, we will,” he said, and turned toward the driver. “Yup. The little lady needs a ride, too.”
The driver nodded and set about in pulling the car off the pole.
I slid the phone back into my pocket. “No, I don’t.”
He glanced over his shoulder at me. “You don’t?”
“No.” I turned and pointed to a row of houses a block and a half away. “I live nearby, actually.”
The hopeful look on his face vanished. “Well, that sucks.”
“Who knows?” I said. “Maybe we’ll see each other again, though.”
Barry smiled once more. “Maybe,” he replied, and winked at me. “I guess this is it.”
I bit down on the corner of my lower lip, watching the driver secure the car to tow truck. “Yeah.”
He took a step toward me and clasped my hands in his. “I’ll see you soon, then, Hedwig Stanton.”
The fact that he remembered my full name made me smile.
Barry dipped his head and brushed his lips against mine. The kiss was brief, but it incited my baser desires. He let go of me and rushed in the tow truck’s direction. Hopping into the passenger’s seat, he drew the window down and waved as the driver slid into his seat.
“Until we meet again,” Barry said, and waved.
I returned the gesture, watching the tow truck pull away and slowly head down the hill. Minutes passed before I realized that the snow and wind blowing around me was growing thicker and colder. With one last look at the hill, I tucked my chin against my chest.
If only, I thought, and walked in the direction of my home.