Writer Kaleigh Templeton types The End on her latest romantic comedy script and heads out for a much-needed vacation. That this week is the first time her young son is spending Christmas with his father provided the perfect reason for Kaleigh to pitch in at her best friend’s mountain inn. Stopping for coffee at a roadside restaurant, she encounters a brash, impatient hunk who definitely needs a dose of Christmas spirit. Five miles down the road, her SUV sputters to a stop, and she pulls into a turnout. Before she can hike to the closest callbox, she watches a huge truck pull in behind and faces the gruff guy from the restaurant. Of all the rotten luck.
Ex-Ranger Vonn Lennart needs some ski therapy to provide clarity as he decides his next career move after the end of his military service. With a goal of opening a security company, he has to make some fast cash and is contemplating a job offer of military consultant on a big-budget movie to film in the spring. On the drive to his vacation spot, he keeps running into a perky brunette who he discovers is staying at the same inn. Their paths cross several times, and he’s intrigued, even asking her opinion of the movie script. But when things get messy with the appearance of her ex-husband and a kid, Vonn wonders if he’s in over his head.
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Fingers tapping on the steering wheel to the beat, she soon forgot the rude man. A sign appeared for the first road that led to several church-run camps. Right about here was where radio reception from her favorite Los Angeles station got fuzzy, but she could still catch most of the lyrics.
Around the next curve, a red Check Engine light flashed on the dashboard.
“No, no, no. What is going on?” Kayleigh peered ahead for a sign announcing the next safe place to pull over. Her father’s admonition about not ever driving with a lit trouble light rang though her head. Don’t damage Lemondrop—the car she bought for cash with the first-year royalties from her initial book series. She steered into the next turnout, rolling up to the front of the curved patch of asphalt, and punched on her hazard lights. This far up the mountain was past all the Cal-Trans call boxes. Kayleigh lifted her cellphone from the outside pocket of her purse and check the signal strength.
Now she had to wait for a Good Samaritan to come along. She depressed the lock button and listened to the satisfying click. Maybe that person had cell service, and she could call Todd to come collect her. But could she accept help from a random stranger who stopped? Moreno pretty much ruined her trust in anyone keeping his or her word. Bright lights brightened the interior of her car. A glance into both the rearview and side mirrors gave only one clue about the vehicle—that it was taller than hers. Maybe she’d get lucky and the driver was the deputy sheriff, who lived in the tiny town she’d passed.
Footsteps moved closer on the pavement.
She tensed, then breathed out a long breath. Inside the car, she was safe.
Bare knuckles rapped on the driver’s window.
Turning, she stared at a set of muscled abs covered by a tight, black thermal shirt. Oh my. With a cheek pressed to the cold window, she glanced upward, then rounded her eyes. Her pulse beat a bit faster. Lit by the truck’s headlights, the man’s face was cast in shadow. But she still recognized him.
The dark-haired man leaned down. “What’s wrong?”
Relieved she could hear him clearly from inside the SUV, she waved a hand toward the dashboard. “The check engine light came on. If you have phone service, could I borrow your cell?”
“Pop the hood.” He straightened and walked toward the front of the car.
The tone of his voice forced her to pull the lever. Here was a man used to issuing orders and being obeyed. She scrunched down in the seat enough so she could watch his hands through the slit between the open hood and the base of the windshield.
Angling his head in all directions, he touched engine parts and moved hoses.
At least, the guy looked like he knew what he was doing. Unlike Moreno, who relied on the dealer to keep his luxury sedan running in tip-top shape. Kayleigh stared at Coffee Guy’s hands and imagined submitting herself to his tactile inspection. Sucking in a breath, she straightened. Heat flamed her cheeks, and she grabbed for her cup, sipping her cooling coffee.
Being a divorced single mother for the past two years hadn’t allowed much time for dating. But that was no excuse for her thoughts to veer into a weird direction. Tisha told Kayleigh that she needed to put herself out there…but with a total stranger?