I slide several times while turning corners, and curse myself for not replacing my tires before the snowy season.
Truth be told, I should just get a new car. A bigger one, with all-wheel drive. Especially since I show homes all over this valley, which means I drive through snow, mud, and the elements every day. It hasn’t been a matter of not being able to afford a new vehicle, it’s been a lack of time. Between the move home, starting the new job, and my soon-to-be sister-in-law’s horrible attack at the hands of her ex-husband, there just hasn’t been time to car-shop.
As I approach the little house that I rent from my best friend, Cara, I see that the snowplow, thankfully, has been down my street already, but then I see that they blocked in my driveway.
I hit my fist on the steering wheel and curse a blue streak as I pull my car to a stop at the side of the road, jerk my ballet flats off my feet and toss them in the passenger seat, then reach into the backseat for my boots.
I have to shovel the goddamn driveway.
I trudge through the knee-high snowbank that is currently blocking my driveway and grab my snow shovel, gazing over at Ty’s old house, which now sits empty with a For Sale sign perched near the curb. I miss having my brother close by.
I dig in, tossing clumps of snow into my front yard, and when I’ve finished, I climb back into my still-running car.
It takes me three tries to get it into the driveway.
I definitely need a new car.
Finally, I stomp up to my front door, wet, sweaty from shoveling, and bone-tired. Pushing inside, I frown at the cold air that greets me. Did I turn the thermostat down that far?
I immediately cross to the thermostat and crank the heat, then rush into the bedroom and quickly replace my wet clothes with warm sweatpants, a T-shirt, and a heavy gray sweatshirt over that.
I wrap my favorite quilt around my shoulders and grab my laptop and settle on the couch, ready to type up the paperwork for the Langtons.
The Langtons, who can’t keep their hands off each other.
I smirk and rub my cold nose on my sleeve, then sniffle. Damn, it’s really cold in here.
Maybe I need something to help keep me warm, like a dog. Or a cat. Or a man.
Not a man!
“Why am I in Montana in the middle of winter in a cold-as-hell house?” I ask the room at large and stomp across the room to check the thermostat again.
No wonder I’m freezing my nipples off.
Maybe the pilot light thingy on the furnace blew out? I have no idea what to do. I dial Ty’s number with numb fingers and curse when I get his voice mail. He’s probably keeping warm with Lo.
Well, that leaves Cara.
“Hello?” she answers on the second ring.
“Hey, I think there’s something wrong with the furnace. It’s fifty-eight degrees in here, and I’ve cranked the heat and nothing is happening.”
“It’s way too cold outside for you to be sitting in a house with a broken furnace.”
“You think?” I roll my eyes and burrow under my blanket again. “I can’t reach Ty. I know the roads are horrible right now, but I’m just not sure who to call after five p.m. around here. Everyone has gone home for the day.”
“I’m sure Josh can fix it,” she replies, and I hear Josh laugh in the background.
“It’s a long drive into town in the snow, Cara.”
“Josh can handle the snow,” she replies confidently. “He’ll be there in about a half hour. Are you okay until then?”
“Yeah, I’m bundled up. If need be, I can shovel my driveway again and I’ll be nice and sweaty in no time.”
“Well, that sounds . . . gross,” she replies with a giggle. “No sweating. Just stay warm.”
“I’ll try. Tell Josh thanks.”
I hang up and fix myself some hot cocoa while I wait. Josh will fix the furnace, and everything will be back to normal in no time.
Just as I’m settling back into the cushions of the couch, surrounded by all of my throw pillows and blankets, there is a knock on the door.
Thank God, I thought I was going to suffocate under all that fabric.
With my trusty quilt held around me, I jog to the door and fling it open.
“I’m so happy to see you!”
The man on the other side of the door offers me a slow grin, allows his chocolate-brown eyes to roam from the top of my messy hair to the soles of my wool-covered feet, and then steps inside out of the snow and takes his army-green beanie off his head, uncovering rumpled brown hair. He stomps the snow off his boots and sets a tool chest on my floor.
My brain has locked up. I was ready for Josh.
I wasn’t prepared for his twin brother, Zack, or the damn tingle of awareness that zings through me at just the sight of him. The man is a good twelve inches taller than my five foot two and he’s just . . . big.
And the sexiest thing I’ve ever seen in my life.
“Hello?” Cara answers her phone and giggles while my brother, Josh, nibbles at her neck. Seth and I are on the couch, controllers aimed at the TV mounted above the fireplace in Josh’s living room. Seth’s black Lab, Thor, is curled up by the fire, snoring. I hear Cara say, “It’s way too cold outside for you to be sitting in a house with a broken furnace.”
“Is that Jilly?” Josh asks softly. Cara nods, and now I’m completely focused on the conversation happening over the phone rather than on the virtual cars that Seth and I are racing. I crash and burn.
“I win!” Seth exclaims.
“I’m sure Josh can fix it,” Cara says, and Josh laughs.
Fuck that. If Jill’s furnace is broken, I’ll go to town to fix it. It’s too cold and stormy outside for her to be alone in that house with no heat.
Cara wraps up the conversation, assuring Jill that Josh can drive competently in the snow and that he’ll be there soon.
“I’ll go,” I announce when she hangs up. Cara and Josh both look at me in surprise.
“But Dad, we’re racing,” Seth protests.
“You can race with Uncle Josh,” I reply and stand to grab my coat and boots.
“I can go in with you,” Josh offers, but I shake my head no.
“We shouldn’t both be gone in this weather.” I shrug into my coat, step into my boots, and pull my beanie over my head. “I won’t be long. Is it okay if Seth and Thor stay here until I get back?”
“Of course,” Cara says and smiles at Seth.
“I’ll kick Uncle Josh’s butt at this game,” Seth proclaims. I wave at them and jog through the heavy snow to my truck.