Chapter One


A winter storm knocks on the door of Snowmass, and I’m stuck right in the middle of it. I’m supposed to be enjoying the holidays with my parents during my short break from school, but I’m quickly getting bored and could use some extra money. As I look out the window and watch the snow fall around, I contemplate going back to my old job again at Monroe's Grocery.

The owner stepped down since I left for college and his son is now running the place. I make it a point to send him a text after a hot shower because I need something to help warm my core. It’s been so colder this winter than usual. It’s times like this when I miss the summer and warm sunshine.

After my shower, I send Ray a text, and he was happy to have me back since they’re currently shorthanded. We text back and forth, and he asks me to take on the afternoon cashier shifts, starting tomorrow. I’m smiling like a crazy person, happy I’ll be able to break out of the confines of the house. Though the afternoon shift is usually slow and boring, anything is better than my current situation. Monroes’ the only store for miles and has become a one-stop shop for the locals who don’t want to travel to the next town over to buy essential items. However, with a new winter storm threatening to keep us snowed in for days or possibly weeks, everyone and their cousin is stocking up on necessities.

The next morning, I wake up and tell my parents I’m going back to work. At first, my mom is apprehensive, but she understands I need my independence. Soon I’m leaving and driving to the store. I walk into the old building, and it feels as if the only thing that’s changed in the place is me. Throughout my shift, I see some old faces as well as meet new ones. I’m grateful for the steady line of people to keep my mind busy, and the distraction has been welcoming.

Most everyone that’s been through my lane has been pleasant until him. This huge lumberjack of a man slams down his basket on the conveyor belt and stands there, arms crossed over his chest. Thoroughly annoyed with his attitude and rudeness, I'm tempted to say something, but I bite my tongue as I scan his items, one by one. Most shoppers are kind enough actually to unload their items from the basket onto the belt, but this man is obviously above that. Swallowing down my annoyance is becoming very difficult. I know this is a personal pet peeve, so yelling at him for having a different mindset wouldn’t be right. Instead, I try small talk hoping it’d lighten the mood.

“Are you prepared for the storm?” I ask, trying to be as sweet as can be.

Nothing. He doesn’t even make eye contact with me.

“A lot of people are saying we’re to get enough snow to keep us in for days. I can’t even remember the last time we had a storm that bad. Even here.” My efforts are met with him looking at me as if I had been an annoying ant that keeps coming back to his picnic. When he finally speaks, I’m taken back by his rudeness.

“Are you done? I'm in a hurry and don’t have time for small talk.” He looks at me with raised eyebrows and unfolds his arms. When I can’t form more words, he shakes his head and reaches back for his wallet. Despite the cold, this giant of a man is wearing a T-shirt, and his muscles ripple with every move. Dumbfounded by him, I concentrate on getting my head on straight and refocus.

“Fifty-three dollars and eighteen cents.” I try to smile at him, but he refuses to look at me. What a rude ass! It’s been a long time since I’ve had to deal with an attitude like his. It takes everything I have not to groan out loud as he throws some bills on the belt, grabs his bags and walks towards the door.

“Hey! Don’t you want your change?”

He shakes his head, not even missing a step as he continues out of the store. I'm in shock at how rude he was. I realize some people aren’t made to get along with folks, but I'm just not used to someone like that being here. It's a small, quiet town and everyone's always so lovely and helpful.

He doesn’t fit the town mold, at all. Maybe that was why he bothered me so much? I have no idea, but I can’t seem to let it go. I'm lost in my world, not even noticing the line forming at my register. Finally, another customer coughs and pulls me back to reality.

“Oh! Sorry Mrs. Anderson.” I methodically finish the last few transactions to end my shift. I'm happy to head home and take a shower to clear my head.

I say goodnight to the other girls on my way to the back to clock out. As I pass the office, I tell Jason, Montey’s son, that I'm heading out.

“Hey, Taylor! Hold up.” He quickly moves to the doorway of his office to keep me from getting too far away. “How long are you in town?”

“Um, for a month or so. I'm supposed to be back at school by the second week of the new year, but I may go back earlier. Why?”

“Well, I was hoping we could go out for a couple of drinks sometime before you leave. What do ya say?” He shoots a thousand watt smile in my direction, apparently trying to use his charm. Jason’s a handsome guy with a sporty, muscular build and dirty blonde hair. His bright blue eyes are boring into my soul begging me to say yes.

“Wow, I'm flattered. Really. But I'm going to pass. I’m sorry.” For a second, his face falls with obvious hurt, but he recovers fast enough for me to second guess what I just saw.

“No worries. We’ll see you tomorrow.”

I smile at him. “Yeah. Night. Be careful out there.”

“You too!” He says as he walks back to his desk to sit down without giving me a second glance. I’m sure rejection isn’t something he’s used to, but he’ll get over it…and himself. I can’t help but chuckle as I continue to my locker in the break room. I clock out, grab my purse and jacket then walk out of the door.

I decide to grab a few groceries, in case we do indeed get snowed in. My parents are usually pretty stocked and ready for times like this, but I never shopped for myself when I arrived. I pick out a few of my favorite things I don’t think I can live without, along with some extra batteries, a couple of flashlights, magazines, and puzzle books to pass the time in-case we lose power.

Once I pay for my items, I grab the bags and head out the door. With that first step, my face is pummeled with freezing wind and snow. The weather has dramatically changed since I arrived for my shift. Hiding my face the best I can into the collar of my coat, I make haste toward my truck to hurry and get warm. I'm surprised to see there’s already six inches of snow piled on top. I quickly thank my stars for having remote start and make my way to the truck. The wind is blowing freezing air in my face, and my hands are cold despite having gloves on. I q

uickly hop into my vehicle, remove my gloves, and place my hands in front of the vent.

When I can finally feel my fingers again, I head home. At the current rate of snowfall, I wouldn’t be surprised if another six inches makes landfall by the time I get back. I have to keep a slow pace since I can only see a few feet in front of my truck, praying no one is in front of me. Suddenly, I come upon a truck on the side of the road with a large figure standing at the front of it, looking under the hood. I slow, noticing there seems to be something very wrong with his vehicle by the smoke that’s coming from under the hood.

Tags: Kelsey King Mountain Man Romance