Sasha hadn’t counted on snow.
Just a few miles west, the sun splashed down on the Pacific, and sandy beaches encircled her island hometown like a brown sugar rim on a fancy cocktail. She’d packed up her little red roadster with presents wrapped for the east county charity event her cousin had planned and headed across the long bridge to the city to hit the highway.
She stopped for a tree at a ranch just outside the city, and the guy helping her load the fir into her car mentioned the weather. “Ya sure yer gonna be okay? I heard there’s snow expected up the mountains.”
“Thank you. I’ll be fine.”
As she drove east into the hills, however, the air chilled. Soon the bright little car chugged up winding mountain roads. Sasha pulled over at a scenic lookout in order to slip into her winter coat—a faux fur—and some gloves. She gazed across the canyon, stunned by the layers of trees, rock, and hills. Clouds were rapidly filling the sky, however. She jumped into the car and sped on.
And then it began to snow. She clamped her fingers around the wheel, gritted her teeth, and prayed that her tires didn’t slip. She turned on her favorite Christmas playlist and sang along for courage. Twilight descended.
Just as she entered her cousin’s town-a quaint old mining village that now drew artists and craftspeople and writers who preferred a quiet country setting to the gleaming city-the snow clumped into big downy flakes that fell like wads of wet paper and mounted rapidly.
Sasha crawled along the Main Street with its old-fashioned lamps glowing and every window in every shop decorated with a red-bowed wreath. Ahead, she spotted a crowd of grownups and children gathered in front of a white-steepled building. It was the former church turned art center her cousin owned and managed, the venue for the charity event.
She pulled the little red roadster to the curb and waved at her cousin Winnie who ran up, breathless. “I was so worried about you!”
Sasha laughed. “No worries. Just help me get this stuff out of the back so I can put the top up.”
Winnie called some people over, and soon everyone was gathered inside around the tree. Children ripped into the presents with squeals of delight. Parents beamed. Everyone sipped hot cocoa and eggnog and tucked into beautifully iced sugar cookies. Someone began to play the old upright piano, and soon everyone was dancing to “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree” and singing at the top of their lungs.
Sasha, still chilled from her drive, stood near the electric fireplace heater at the side of the room and sipped lukewarm cocoa trying to get warm.
“Is that your red car out there?”
Sasha turned toward the deep, masculine voice. A tall…no, a massive man gazed down at her. “Uh, yeah.”
“It’s blocking the entrance to my shop.”
“Oh, gosh! I’m sorry. With the snow, I didn’t see the curb. I’ll move it now.”
Sasha followed him outside. He strode through the mounting snow ahead of her. He reminded her of a bear—towering, heavy, almost lumbering, but sure footed. He, too, wore a fur, maybe not faux, and a cowboy hat. He looked like someone out of a movie, something set in the Old West.
“You can move it down there.” He nodded to a spot across the street. His face was stern, but with deep crinkles at the corners of his eyes.
“This is your shop?” She glanced at the sign which read Cooley & Martinez Antiquarian Books. “Are you Cooley or Martinez?”
He tipped his hat and grinned. “Jones, ma’am. Tomas Cooley Jones.”
“Ah,” she said. “A family business.”
“My granddaddy started the place.”
Sasha looked longingly at the store. “I love books.”
“All the best people do.” He reached out a big hand and wiped snow from her windshield. “I’d offer to move the car for you but I don’t think I’d fit.”
She laughed. “I think you’re right. Meet you back at the center in a few?”
“I’ll walk you back, ma’am.”
She held out a gloved hand. “It’s Sasha. Sasha Martinez. Nice to meet you.”
Happy Holidays to all of you, my Dear Readers. I appreciate you more than you can imagine. Wishing you peace, joy, and love.
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