She sits up. “It’s not your fault. It was just an accident. At least I think, anyway. You weren’t just lying in wait behind that door to spring out to send me flying, were you?” She looks at me with a twisted smile.
“Ambushing them with doors isn’t my preferred way of starting conversations with women, I assure you.”
She crosses her arms, smiling slightly. Oh how I like the look of that.
“Is there someone we should call? I don’t think you should be driving with that ankle, and I’m not even considering whatever head injury you might have.”
She nods. “My father would come and pick me up if I ask, but, uh…” She looks outside.
In the time since I helped her into my home, the storm has gotten a lot more fierce. Her truck is almost completely covered with snow now, and in fifteen more minutes, there won’t be an ‘almost’ anymore.
A sigh escapes her lips. “I don’t think I’m going anywhere this Christmas Eve. Heck, I don’t think I’m going anywhere this Christmas, period.”
Christmas? With Cookie Crumble?
I should be overjoyed, but instead I’m anxious.
Oh, the things this woman does to me.
Things got weird, and they got weird quick.
I know I fantasized about him taking me hostage and ravishing me, but I never pictured myself actually lying here on his couch, on Christmas Eve no less.
And it’s not like we planned it. It was all an accident and he’s being a bit of a shy sweetheart about it. It’s cute.
“You should still call your father even if you think you can’t go anywhere,” he says, offering me a warm cup of tea as I rest on his couch.
“Why? You think he’s going to get in his snow plow to come get me?” I reply with a smile. He might. We’re farmers in rural Washington, after all, we have ways of dealing with snow if we have to. In any case, getting in my truck and driving back is out of the question, bad ankle or not.
“Just let him know what’s going on with you. I know Terry, he’s the type to worry.”
I nod. I fish my phone out of my jeans and dial him up. A few rings later, he picks up. “What’s going on, my semi-sweetheart?”
I shake my head whenever he says that. He’s got the whole ‘dad joke’ thing down pat. Thinks he’s so punny.Because chocolate chip cookies tend to use semi-sweet chocolate chips, and I’m named Cookie.... get it?
“Dad, I don’t think I’ll be able to get back home for Christmas Eve.”
“Huh? Did something happen?”
“I twisted my ankle pretty bad during my last delivery, and then the storm got a whole lot worse.” I decide not to worry him further by bringing up banging my head and cutting my hands when I tried to catch my fall. He’ll worry about the ankle enough as it is.
“Oh, that’s awful. Are you alright?” See? He’s worrying.
“I’m fine, Dad. Uh, Baker Burns is here and helping me. I’m stuck at his place until the storm lets up.”
“You’re at Baker Burns’ home? Then there’s nothing to worry about.”
I cock an eyebrow. “You know him?”
“Oh yes. He’s regularly at the Linesworth City Hall meetings. He’s earnest and seems to have a good head on his shoulders. He’s donating an ice rink to the town. We’ve hit it off quite well.”
I’m surprised to hear that from him. Dad isn’t as earnest about defending my honor as my brothers are, but he’s not exactly at the other extreme, trying to hook me up with every half-decent guy he meets.
“Stay put, dear,” he continues. “Your mother will understand. I would rather you be safe than endanger yourself trying to travel through this storm.”
“Thanks, Dad. Tell Rainier I’m sorry I can’t meet his new girlfriend. I’ll be back as soon as I can see the road again.”
“I know you will, my semi-sweetheart.”
He hangs up the phone and I’m back to my sudden awkward spot of being trapped in a house with a man I’ve had a crush on for a very long time.
“Sounds like everything is okay?” Baker asks, half-listening in on my end of the conversation.
“You’ve got my dad’s trust somehow. He thinks you’re good people.”
He laughs. “I guess that’s a compliment.”
I take in my surroundings. I’ve been outside this place dropping off milk many times but I’ve never looked inside. There’s a Christmas tree standing in the corner, but it’s pretty sparsely decorated, out of what appears to be obligation more than anything else. The place is pretty Spartan-looking, very utilitarian and not a lot of decoration.
The typical bachelor pad.
It’s dawning on me though. Christmas with the man I’ve been eyeballing for quite some time. The perfect opportunity to finally get to know him.
First we have to get over this awkwardness of barely knowing one another beyond casual glances here and there.