When a major snow and ice
storm hits Seattle, the power goes out and
SEATAC airport is closed. Stranded at the airport, bridesmaid Ellen Davis and best man
Zack Kallen must find another way to get to her
sister's wedding in Spokane. They share a rental
car and head out on the treacherous roads. Both
are determined to make it to the wedding, but
for different reasons. Ellen wants to see her
sister get married; Zack wants to stop the
wedding. But when icy roads and a herd of deer
send their rental car off the road and into a
snowbank, Zack and Ellen are stranded again. As
they await rescue, they find a fiery
attraction and learn what real love means. But
to find happily ever after, they must first
survive dangerously freezing temperatures and
other perils of the night.
"This wonderful trio of short stories reminds
readers that the holidays can sometimes be magical --
especially when you least expect it." -- Sandra
RT Book Reviews
"The three stories in this collection are all
winners as far as holiday short stories go.
...definitely a good holiday read!" --
A Chick Who Reads
weather conditions, all flights for Seattle-Tacoma
International Airport have been canceled until further
notice. Please see your airline service agent for
suppressed a groan as the airport public address system
repeated the grim news that had her, and eighty gazil-lion
other holiday travelers, standing in line to rent a car
two days before Christmas.
Next in line to
speak to the car rental agent, she refused to give in to
the frustration and aggravation gnawing at her. Everyone
was tense and grumpy because of the inconvenient
weather, but if it killed her, she'd maintain the
pleasant holiday cheer that those around her seemed to
The tall man in
front of her took the key to his rental and the folder
of papers he was handed and stepped aside. Ellen moved
to the counter while he glanced over and signed his
"I need whatever
you have left. I'm not picky as long as it has wheels
and can get me to Spokane by tonight," she told the
frazzled woman behind the desk.
From the corner
of her eye, she noticed the tall man glance up at her.
While the rental agent tapped her computer keys, Ellen
cast him a polite glance, caught his eye and smiled.
and oh-so-handsome in his suede bomber jacket and faded
jeans, he returned a lopsided grin and continued to
watch her. Ellen's stomach did a jittery dance under his
"Looks like we
have a Taurus or—"
Ellen turned her
attention back to the rental agent when she spoke,
conscious of the man's lingering gaze. "I'll take it."
"Or for just ten more dollars I can put you ina—"
swallowed the room.
With a flicker
and a collective groan from the horde of weary
travelers, the power blinked out. Halogen emergency
lighting struggled on throughout the terminal, casting
the reservation lobby in a surreal dim glow.
Ellen squelched the flutter of panic that tickled her
gut. Soon she'd have a car, and with luck, she could
still make her sister's wedding rehearsal dinner tonight
ma'am." The agent frowned and banged her keyboard. "I
lost my computer when the power failed. I can't access
"So just give me
the Taurus you mentioned. That's fine." She tapped her
toe nervously, anxious to simply get on the road before
the freak snowstorm pounding Seattle got any worse.
"I can't do that. Without the computer, I can't rent
anything else today."
"Excuse me? You
just said you had a Taurus." Hearing the tension that
had crept into her voice, Ellen gritted her teeth so
hard her jaw ached. She battled down the rising stress
and tried again. "Can't you do the paperwork by hand?
You know you have the car, so—"
The woman was already shaking her head, her
expression hard and unsympathetic.
apparent lack of concern for her predicament and the
plight of the other stranded travelers frayed Ellen's
"Then how am I
supposed to get to Spokane? Do you have any idea how
upset Trixie will be if I miss her wedding?" Her voice
trembled, and tears of frustration and disappointment
tightened Ellen's throat.
The car rental agent gave her a bored look. "That's
not my problem."
Ellen saw red.
Forget patience and holiday cheer and a spirit of
cooperation during a crisis. She was ready to climb over
the counter and throttle the rude woman.
"What?" she snapped. Her hands shook as she struggled
for a calming breath.
corridor, an alarm blared, and the grumble of the crowd
behind her spoke for the growing unrest in the airport.
"Excuse me." A
warm, steady hand gripped her elbow, and Ellen pivoted
to face the handsome man… who'd gotten the last car
before the airport lost power. "Did you say you were
going to a wedding? In Spokane?"
Ellen knitted her brow. "I— Well, yeah. How'd you—"
"Trixie Davis and Sean O'Banion?"
She blinked, stunned. "Yes. Why?"
dentist-perfect grin spread across his face. "I'll be
damned. Me, too. Would you like to ride with me?"
A startled laugh hiccupped from her throat. "You're
going to Trixie and Sean's wedding, too?"
He held out his
hand. "Zach Kallen. Sean's best man."
Ellen gaped. "No way!"
"Way." He smiled again, a dimple pocking his cheek,
and her pulse danced.
Exhaling the knot of oxygen that had been logjammed
in her chest since the airport closure was announced,
she nodded. "If it's not too much trouble, yes. Please.
I don't think I'm going to get there any other way."
Zach gathered his backpack and slung it over a
"Then follow me. I'd like to get over the mountains
before they close the highway."
Ellen gathered her purse and wiggled through the
press of bodies clogging the lobby in front of the
rental desk. Aggravation and desperation were written on
the faces of the people still waiting to find a way to
reach their loved ones for the holidays. When she caught
up to Zach, she gave him another appreciative smile.
"Thank you. You're my hero."
He shrugged. "It only makes sense to share a ride if
we're headed the same place."
"Just the same…you're a lifesaver." She jogged to
keep pace with his long-legged strides and gave the dim
corridor an uneasy glance. The watery gray light that
seeped through the large windows along the terminal did
little to dispel the pervading gloom the snowstorm and
power outage cast.
They passed a large Christmas tree in the airport
lobby as they headed outside. The darkened strands of
lights and shifting shadows filled Ellen with a hollow
ache. Twinkling lights brought life and beauty to a
Christmas tree. Without the strings of lights ablaze,
the tree seemed lonesome, dead and dreary. She prayed
this holiday weekend, and especially Trixie's wedding,
didn't fall victim to the snowstorm like the tree,
losing their sparkle and joy. Already the blackout and
bad weather threatened to ruin the occasion for Ellen.
"I don't know what I'd do if I missed my sister's
wedding," she said breathlessly, trying to keep up with
Zach. "We've been dreaming of this day since we were old
enough to dress our Barbies in white dresses and
practice writing Mrs. in front of our names."
Zach tossed a disgruntled look over his shoulder.
"Been on the husband hunt awhile, have you?"
"I didn't say that. You make us sound desperate or
calculating. But most girls dream of a fairy-tale
wedding to the man they love long before they know who
that special someone will be. And Trixie and I have put
hours into planning her wedding. If I miss it—"
"You won't." He gave her an even look, full of
assurance. "I'll get us there one way or another."
His confidence calmed a few of the jitters dancing
along her nerves. As they stalked past the luggage
carousels, she sent the conveyers a longing glance. "I
guess snagging my luggage is out of the question, since
I checked it through to Spokane."
"Which is why I always carry my bag with me." Zach
patted the backpack on his shoulder and gave her a
"A carry-on wouldn't have worked for me. I was
packing for a week, including the wedding and all that
entailed. My bag weighed a ton." Ellen dodged a
frazzled-looking family and sent the mother a
sympathetic smile. Getting stranded in a powerless
airport this close to Christmas had to be a parenting
Zach slowed his pace momentarily, allowing Ellen to
catch up. "Never fear. Your suitcase will be sent on as
soon as the airport reopens and flights resume."
She pulled a face, unconvinced. "I can hope. That
won't help me for the next day or two, though."
When they stepped out of the terminal and headed into
the parking garage in search of the rental car, a blast
of wintry wind slammed into them. The chill sank all the
way to her marrow.
Without the security lights, the lower levels of the
parking garage were as dark and cold as a tomb. Only the
occasional moan of the storm winds in the rafters broke
the eerie stillness. As if, because of the blackout and
the snowstorm, all of Seattle had fallen into a
deathlike slumber. A chill raced through Ellen, wholly
unrelated to the ice pellets peppering the streets or
the arctic wind whipping through the rental level of the
Picking up her pace, she inched closer to Zach's
solid build. In his wake, the scent of leather and pine
filled the air, and Ellen inhaled the heady aromas. In
addition to his chiseled features and startlingly blue
eyes, Zach walked with a confident, loose-limbed stride
that exuded strength—and perhaps a tad of arrogance.
When a skittering sound rustled in the shadows,
another uneasy jitter crawled up Ellen's spine. She
determinedly focused on Zach's sexy walk and broad
shoulders rather than the biting cold, the dark garage
and the nip of foreboding the nasty weather stirred in
While she was lost in thoughts of her companion's
snug jeans, her foot hit an unexpected patch of ice. She
grabbed for the bumper of the nearest car to catch
herself—triggering the shrieking wail of the car's
security alarm. With a gasp, Ellen jerked away, her
nerves jumping. Again her feet skidded on the slick ice.
This time, Zach appeared at her side in a heartbeat,
catching her under her arms and hauling her up against
the solid wall of his chest.
Ellen sank her fingers into the warm suede of his
coat and raised an embarrassed grin. "Oops," she shouted
over the loud alarm.
He quirked an eyebrow but didn't release her. She
made no move to pull away, either. The wide span of his
hand at the small of her back, anchoring her close to
his sturdy frame, suffused her with a sense of safety
and comfort when so much else had gone wrong today.
What would she have done if Zach hadn' t been
standing in line with her, hadn't offered to share the
rental car? She'd be stranded here in a city with no
power while her sister walked down the aisle. Shoving
the dreary thought aside, she squared her shoulders.
He arched one dark eyebrow and gave her a measuring
glance that sent a tickling warmth to her belly. "You
okay? Got your land legs back?"
"Yeah, thanks." Even though standing snuggled
securely in Zach's arms had tremendous appeal, she
His expression sobered. "A guy at the gate had a
radio, and I heard him tell his friend the authorities
were trying to keep I-90 through Snoqualmie Pass open as
long as possible. But if the storm doesn't ease up, the
interstate could be closed soon. Even if the roads are
open, driving will be tricky."
Zach's warning revived the knot of anxiety that sat
in her chest.
"Then I guess we need to hurry if we are going to
reach Spokane in time to help Trix and Sean celebrate
their marriage." When Zach's face grew dark, Ellen
hesitated. "What is it, Zach?"
"You may be going to celebrate with your sister, but
my rush has nothing to do with revelry. I'm going to
Spokane to save Sean from making a big mistake. I'm
going to stop the wedding."
Excuse me?" The stunned expression Ellen gave him was
almost comical. Almost.
Except that Zach was dead serious about saving his
best friend from an ill-advised commitment. He turned
without answering her and continued down the unlit row
of cars, squinting into the darkness to find his rental.
"Zach, wait!" The clatter of Ellen's high heels on
the cement— what had she been thinking with that shoe
choice in weather like this?—echoed off the garage walls
as she hurried to follow him.
"I know you want to debate my reasons for going to
the wedding," he said without breaking stride, "but can
we do it in the car? The storm won't hold off while we
argue over the wisdom of this wedding."
Spotting the white sedan in the correctly numbered
parking spot, Zach pulled out the key fob and clicked
off the door locks. He tossed his backpack on the rear
seat, then opened the passenger side door for Ellen.
She stopped at the rear bumper and braced a hand on
her hip. Even in the dark garage, he could tell her
glare shot daggers. "Stop the wedding? Are you insane?
You said you were Sean's best man!"
"And as such, it is my job to look out for his best
interests. In my opinion, that means convincing him
not to say, I do." He motioned for her to get
in the car.
She didn't budge. "Trixie is what's best for Sean.
They're in love!"
Zach sighed. "Can we debate that point on the road?
Ellen marched closer and stuck her face in his. A
sweet, floral scent swirled around him, teasing his
nose. Her eyes flashed with green fire, and her ivory
skin flushed with ire. "I won't let you do this to my
Zach kissed her. Just a quick smack on the mouth, but
it served his purpose. He derailed her argument, stopped
her talking. He'd taken one look at the pout in her
plump, raspberry lips and given in to the impulse.
Ellen blinked at him, a stunned, quizzical dent in
"Get in, please. We'll talk as we drive."
She drew an
unsteady breath and released it slowly, her wary gaze
taking stock of him. Finally she ducked her head and
climbed in the front seat. As Zach rounded the front
bumper, he cut a side glance through the windshield in
time to see her press her fingers to her lips. As if her
mouth still tingled from his kiss.
He squashed the
urge to imitate her gesture, though the effect of that
short, tactical kiss still sizzled through his system.
The taste and feel of her lips rocked him to his core.
You need your best game on to tackle these icy roads.
Don't let a tempting bridesmaid distract you from the
task at hand.
Zach pulled out
of the parking garage and into the pinging snow and
sleet that had brought all of Seattle to a halt and
knocked out power. Until the storm cleared and the
utility company could get the lights back on, Seattle
was in for a messy, inconvenient Christmas holiday.
He gritted his
teeth as the front tires of the Malibu he'd rented lost
traction for a moment. Thanks to the storm tracking from
Seattle across the Cascade Mountains, he faced a
tedious, treacherous drive to Spokane.
"Do we have snow
tires?" Ellen cast a dubious gaze at the dark clouds
that spit icy precipitation. Her face reflected the same
concerns churning through him.
"Doubt it. They're generally not needed in Seattle,
so rental companies don't put out the bucks."
He took the steep
driveway of the parking garage slowly and merged onto
the main access road leading away from the airport.
Traffic was almost nonexistent.
Anyone with a
brain was hunkered down at home rather than tackling the