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The Gamble

By:Kristen Ashley

ot and put the bags back in and when I tried to close it, it wouldn’t move.

This was because Unfriendly, Amazing-Looking Man was now outside, standing by my car and he had a firm hand on it.

“Let go,” I demanded.

“Come back into the house, we’ll work somethin’ out, least for tonight.”

Was he mad? Work something out? As in, him and me staying in the A-Frame together? I didn’t even know his name and, furthermore, he was a jerk.

“Thank you,” I said snottily, “no. Let go.”

“Come into the house,” he repeated.

“Let go,” I repeated right back at him.

He leaned close to me. “Listen, Duchess, it’s cold, it’s snowing, we’re both standin’ outside like idiots arguing over what you wanted in the first place. Come into the damned house. You can sleep on the couch.”

“I am not going to sleep on a couch.” Then my head jerked and I asked, “Duchess?”

“My couch is comfortable and beggars can’t be chosers.”

I let that slide and repeated, “Duchess?”

He threw his other hand out, his gaze drifting the length of me as he said, “Fancy-ass clothes, fancy-ass purse, fancy-ass boots, fancy-ass accent.” His eyes came to my face and he finished firmly. “Duchess.”

“I’m American!” I shouted.

“Right,” he replied.

“They don’t have duchesses in America,” I educated him.

“Well, that’s the truth.”

Why was I explaining about aristocracy? I returned to target.

“Let go!” I shouted again.

He completely ignored me shouting and looked into the boot.

Then he asked what I thought was insanely, “Groceries?”

“Yes,” I snapped, “I bought them in Denver.”

He looked at me and grinned again and again I thought it was insanely before he muttered, “Rookie mistake.”

“Would you let go so I can close the boot and be on my way?”

“Boot?”

“Trunk!”

“English.”

I think at that point I might have growled but being as I was alarmed at seeing only red, I didn’t really take note.

“Mr…” I hesitated then said, “whoever-you-are –”

“Max.”

“Mr. Max –”

“No, just Max.”

I leaned toward him and snapped, “Whatever,” then demanded, “Let go of the car.”

“Seriously?”

“Yes,” I bit out. “Seriously. Let. Go. Of. The. Car.”

He let go of the car and said, “Suit yourself.”

“It would suit me if I could travel back in time and not click ‘book now’ on that stupid webpage,” I muttered as I slammed the boot and stomped to the driver’s side door. “Idyllic A-Frame in the Colorado Mountains, not even bloody close. More like Your Worst Snowstorm Nightmare in the Colorado Mountains.”

I was in the car and had slammed the door but I was pretty certain before I did it I heard him chuckling.

Even angry, I wasn’t stupid and I carefully reversed out of his drive, probably looking like a granny driver and I didn’t care. I wanted out of his sight, away from the glorious yet denied A-Frame and in closer proximity to a bed which I could actually sleep in and I didn’t want that bed to be in a hospital.

I turned out of his drive and drove a lot faster (but still not very fast) and I kept driving and I didn’t once look into my mirrors to see the lost A-Frame.

Adrenalin was still rushing through my system and I was still angry as I think I’d ever been when I was what I figured was close to the main road but I couldn’t be sure and I hit a patch of snow shrouded ice, lost control of the rental and slid into a ditch.

When my heart stopped tripping over itself and the lump in my throat stopped threatening to kill me, I looked at the snow in front of my car and mumbled, “Beautiful.” Then I went on to mumble, “Brilliant.”

Then I burst out crying.

* * * * *

I woke up or at least I think I woke up.

I could see brightness, a lot of it, and a soft, beige pillowcase.

But my eyeballs felt like they were three times their normal size. My eyelids actually felt swollen. My head felt stuffed with cotton wool. My ears felt funny like they were tunnels big enough to fit a train through. My throat hurt like hell. And lastly, my body felt leaden like it would take every effort just to move an inch.

I made that effort and managed to get up on a forearm. Then I made more of an effort and pulled my hair out of my eyes.

What I saw was a bright, sun-shiny day out of the top of an A-Frame window through a railing. I could see snow and lots of it, and pine trees and lots of those too. If I didn’t feel so terrible, I would have realized how beautiful it was.

Cautiously, because my stuffed up head was also swimming, I looked around and saw the loft bedroom from the A-Frame website.

“I’m dreaming,” I muttered, my voice was raspy and speaking made my throat hurt.

I also needed to use the bathroom which I could see the door leading to one in front of me.

I used more of my waning energy to swing my legs over the bed, I stood up and swayed mainly because, I was realizing, I was sick as a dog. Then I swayed again as I looked down at myself.

I was in a man’s t-shirt, huge, red, or it was at one time in its history. Now it was a washed out red. On the left chest it had a cartoon-like graphic of what looked like a man with crazy hair, madly playing a piano over which the words “My Brother’s Bar” were displayed in an arch.

I opened up the collar to the shirt, peered through it and stared at my naked body, save my still in place panties.

I let the collar go and whispered, “Oh my God.”

Something had happened.

The last thing I remembered was bedding down in the backseat of the rental having covered myself with sweaters and hoping someone would happen onto me somewhat early in the morning.

I’d tried unsuccessfully to get the car out of the ditch and, exhausted and not feeling all that well, I’d given up. I’d decided against walking in an unknown area to try to find the main road or happen onto someone who might just be stupid enough to be driving in a blinding snowstorm. Instead, I was going to wait it out.

I also suspected that I’d never get to sleep not in a car,

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