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Storm (Ashes & Embers #1)

By´╝ÜCarian Cole

would put him at about six-two or taller.

"Please, don't drop me," I say, hanging on to him, but trying not to touch him at the same time.

"Are you kidding me? You weigh next to nothing. Don't you eat?"

"Yes, I eat. You feel very big." I immediately want to take my words back once I realize what just came out of my mouth. "I mean . . . I can feel the muscles in your shoulders and back." Heat rises to my cheeks and I beg the universe to swallow me up.

He's laughing at me. "Shit, you keep talking like that and I might drop you."

"At this point, I don't think I care. I just want this ordeal to be over."

Finally, we get to the road and he treads over to his big, black pick-up truck, which is now covered with a few inches of snow. The rate of snowfall is alarming to me, even as a New Hampshire native. I reach over and open the passenger side door when we get close enough.

"Oh, my God!" I scream. "A wolf got in your truck!" I turn my head away from the hulking beast and bury my face into his neck.

"Calm the hell down! It's just my dog. Are you always this crazy?"

"He's huge!" I scream, not looking at the enormous furry thing panting at us.

Eyeliner Sasquatch tries to put me in the truck, and I scream some more, kicking my legs out. "Are you sure he won't bite? He's looking at me like I'm lunch."

The guy holding me grinds his teeth, then starts yelling.

"Niko! Get in the back." The dog whimpers. "In the back! Now!" The wolf-like dog relents and jumps into the back seat of the extended cab. Sasquatch puts me down on the passenger seat.

"Don't be afraid of him. He's not going to hurt you. He's a big teddy bear."

I run my hands through my long hair, which is wet and slightly crunchy from the snow. "You and your dog are both kinda scary. No offense."

"None taken. Now, let's get out of here." He starts to close the door, but I put my arm out and stop him.

"Wait! I just remembered my purse and travel bag are still in my car."


"I need them. All my stuff is in there."

"Really?" he asks. "Are your meds in there, too?"

Meds? What's he talking about? "Huh?" I tilt my head at him.

"You must be on some kind of meds for whatever mental illness you have. You want me to walk all the way back down that fuckin' ditch just to get your bag full of clothes and more stupid shoes?"

"I'm sorry, but my laptop is in there, and it has all my work on it, which I need for my meeting-"

"There's no way in hell you're getting to that meeting this weekend, honey. Just sayin'."

"I still need my things! I can't just leave my personal stuff out here in the middle of nowhere!"

He lights up another cigarette, takes a long drag, and stares off into the woods toward my car. I see smoking is a pattern with him when he is thinking. "Fine!" he finally says. "Just sit there and try not to get into any more accidents, okay? And don't touch anything."

I shiver as I watch him trudge back down the hill to my car. I am acutely aware of the humongous dog in the backseat breathing down my neck. I do not want to be alone in the truck with this animal, or his owner, or both of them. I can't understand how this day went so wrong, so fast! I should be at a cozy hotel right now, soaking in a nice hot bath and ordering room service-not sitting in a blizzard with this stranger and his obscenely huge dog. I snap down the sun visor and flip down the mirror so I can keep an eye on the dog behind me. I can see he is watching me in the mirror with his tongue hanging out. He seems to be smirking at me, just like his master.

After what seems like eons later, I see Sasquatch walking back up to the truck, the snow swirling around him. He opens the truck door, throws my bags in, and climbs in behind the wheel.

"Thank you," I say.

"Are you sure you don't want a latte? Maybe I could walk to Starbucks in this blizzard for you and get you a coffee."

Actually, I could totally go for a nice hot white chocolate mocha right now, with some whipped cream and those little chocolate curls they put on top for the holidays.

"I'm sorry, okay?" I say to him. "Let's just go." I just want to get away from this guy and find a way to get to my hotel or back home as soon as possible. And now I really want a white mocha, like yesterday.

He starts his truck and the engine roars. "My cabin is about two miles up the road." He turns the heat up higher. "Once we get there, we can call a tow truck for your car if the phones are working."

"And what if the phones aren't working?"

"Then I guess you'll have to hang out until they are working, or until they plow the roads enough for me to drive you to town."

I let out a big, aggravated sigh. "This day sucks."

He nods in agreement. "A wicked lot."

The snow is now coming down so hard and fast, we can barely see out the windshield. I don't remember the last time I've seen such a bad snowstorm. In a twisted way, I'm kind of glad my car got stuck because I can't even imagine trying to drive myself in this snow right now, especially as it's now becoming even darker out.

We drive slowly in awkward silence when suddenly a deer jumps out from the woods on the side of the road, right in front of the truck. I scream as Sasquatch swerves and the truck starts to slide and spin, gaining speed. He throws one arm across my chest to hold me against the seat as he tries to regain control of the truck, but it's not working. I scream again as the truck flies off the road and into the woods, crashing downhill and plowing down small trees, until it finally comes to a halt, wedged amongst a bunch of larger trees on the side of a hill.

"Fuck!" He slams both his hands against the steering wheel. "I can't fucking believe this shit!" He turns to me. "And why the fuck wasn't your seatbelt on?"

I move away from him and smash myself against the door. "I'm sorry." My voice sounds small and weak. My h