Authors: Makenna Jameison
Christmas with a Soldier
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents are the product of the author’s imagination. Any resemblance to actual events, locales, or persons, living or dead, is coincidental.
Copyright © 2012 by Makenna Jameison.
All rights reserved, including the right of reproduction in whole or in part in any form.
I sighed as I saw the black Jeep blocking the narrow road in front of me. Its hazard lights were flashing, blinking a warm yellow, but it was hard to see much else with the snow quickly falling. The sudden storm had come out of nowhere, and I hoped it would quickly pass so that I could make it home in time for dinner. My five-year-old daughter Hannah was staying at my parents’ house this afternoon while I finished my Christmas shopping, and I’d promised her a special evening. We had plans to bake Christmas cookies, decorate our tree, and watch some of our favorite holiday movies. I’d planned to pick her up by 4:00, and it was already 3:30 now. The sudden snowfall, plus whatever was causing the delay in front of me, was already throwing a wrench in my plans.
I turned down the Christmas music playing on my
stereo, trying to concentrate as I navigated the slippery road. Should I drive around the Jeep? Pull up behind it and find out what was going on? If the bridge up ahead was icy, I wouldn’t have much chance of getting by either. If there was an accident blocking access, then I really would be in trouble. It would take a couple of hours to navigate the winding country roads back out to the freeway and approach town from another direction. I could always abandon my car and trek through the woods, finding a spot where the creek was narrow enough to cross, and make my way back to the road leading into town. I’d have to call someone to pick me up though, and I didn’t really want my parents driving out with Hannah to come get me in this weather.
Finally deciding that it would be better just to stop
and see what was going on, I gently applied the brakes. My car slid even as it slowed down, and I felt the anti-lock brakes pumping beneath my foot. The noise and motion of it startled me, and I let my foot up ever so slightly, causing my car to slide right into the Jeep.
“Damn it,” I muttered to myself. My car’s bumper had barely grazed the Jeep’s, and I doubted there was any damage, but now I was going to have to get out in the cold to look at it with the other driver.
I pulled the key from the ignition and wrapped my red scarf around my neck. Glancing in the rearview mirror, I ran a hand through my long blonde hair, which hung just past my shoulders. My cheeks were flushed from the heat I had cranked up in the car, and my blue eyes were wide and alert.
The brisk air bit into me as I stepped outside, and despite the snow still falling, I could
tell that it was starting to slightly let up. A few snowflakes landed in my hair, and I brushed them off. I stomped my brown leather boots on the ground, looking at the imprint the sole left on the thin layer of snow, and zipped up my black down jacket as I walked toward the Jeep.
As I approached the vehicle, I saw that despite the hazard lights being left on, no one was actually inside.
, I thought. Maybe they had car trouble and had started walking on foot when no other cars came by. I looked up into the distance, and my heart fell as I saw the reason they hadn’t been able to continue: a large tree had fallen across the bridge, blocking access in both directions. I really would have to walk through the woods if I wanted to get home to Hannah at a reasonable hour.
I was just getting ready to head back to my car to
grab my cell phone when I noticed a man walking toward me from the bridge. He was pushing through some of the branches of the fallen tree, apparently on his way back after attempting in vain to get by. I assumed he was the missing owner of the Jeep and stood there watching as he approached. He was wearing fatigues and black combat boots and looked to be at least six feet tall. With broad shoulders and an athletic frame, I could tell that he was in excellent shape. His dark hair was cropped in the standard military fashion, and his chiseled face was set in hard lines as he gazed at me. I wondered if he noticed that my car had slid into his and suddenly felt myself flushing. Nothing like explaining to a handsome stranger that I’d accidently rear-ended him in the icy conditions.
“You better turn around; the bridge is out,” he called out to me in a gruff voice.
A few snow flurries continued to fall, and he shook his head, brushing the snow off himself as he approached.
, I just noticed. I was actually looking for you though because I accidentally rear-ended your Jeep.”
He walked the remaining twenty feet
to where I stood, his dark brown eyes narrowing. “You’ve got to be kidding me. As if I needed another problem today.” He brushed past me, walking over instead to inspect where our car fenders connected.
I awkwardly stepped back, letting him examine the damage. “I’m really sorry,” I said. “I slowed down, and the anti-lock brakes came on, and I got a little startled by the whole thing.”
“You’re not supposed to pump the brakes,” he said exasperatedly.
“I didn’t. I mean, I’m sorry, but I don’t think there’s any damage.”
He continued looking at his vehicle and then finally fixed his dark eyes on me. He had dark stubble covering his face, like he hadn’t shaved this morning, and his eyes looked a little tired despite the harshness in them. His mouth was set in a firm line, and I couldn’t quite tell if he was angry or just indifferent. There were no military bases near our small town, and I wondered why he was wearing fatigues. Was he here on official business? Or maybe just visiting someone? He finally seemed to realize that he hadn’t responded to me, and he cleared his throat. “Look, just forget about it. I’ve got enough on my mind without dealing with you, too.”
I narrowed my eyes slightly
, taken aback, confusion flickering across my face.
Dealing with me, too? What a jerk,
I thought. It’s not like I’d intended to get into a car accident this afternoon. And it’s not my fault that he’d stopped and abandoned his car in the middle of the road. If he wanted to go check out the bridge, he should have at least pulled off the road first.
“Whatever,” I said, holding my hands
up in defeat. I turned back to my car, and as he stepped away, a piece of paper fluttered to the ground.
walked off in such haste that he was already pulling open his door as I bent down to retrieve it. “Hey!” I called out after him.
“What?” he snapped, turning back to
I instinctively stepped back, the paper
still in my hand.
“Where did you get that?” he asked angrily.
“You just dropped it,” I replied, looking warily at him.
He walked back over, this time stopping directly in front of me. He was 6’1” an
d towered over my small frame. My eyes ran up over his broad chest and shoulders, memorized the lines of his strong jaw, and eventually met his gaze. Although his eyes seemed to soften slightly as he took in my expression, I started to feel slightly concerned. Although this road led back to town, there were no other cars in sight. Of course, no one could come from the opposite direction, leaving town, with the tree blocking the bridge. There could be a whole traffic jam on the other side of it for all I knew. I was stranded out here with a complete stranger, one who seemed to be a bit of a jerk at that—a handsome jerk, but not that it mattered. I needed to get going and didn’t want to waste another minute figuring out what his problem was.
“Here,” I said, thrusting the paper at him without even glancing at it. “Have a nice life.” I turned and walked back to my car,
angrily climbing inside the driver’s seat. I watched as he shoved the paper in his pocket and walked away.
“What a jerk,”
I muttered to myself. I grabbed my cell phone from the dashboard and realized that I didn’t have any reception.
Great, just great,
I thought. The sensible thing to do would be to turn around and drive to the highway. I’d certainly get reception from there, and I could call my parents and tell them I’d be there to pick up Hannah in a couple of hours. I hated the idea of disappointing Hannah, though. She’d so been looking forward to our evening together. I could just pull off the road and leave my car here, take a quick twenty-minute hike through the woods, then call someone to pick me up when I reached the road from the other side of the creek. Hannah and I could still have our mother/daughter evening together, and I could come back to retrieve my car tomorrow.
Deciding the lat
ter would be my plan, I quickly gathered a few of my things and stuffed them into my backpack. I’d leave the Christmas presents that I’d purchased in my trunk, but some of the things I’d picked up for Hannah and me to use tonight made it into my pile of what to bring with me: sugar cookies, frosting, and sprinkles for our cookie decorating; a tin of chocolate shavings for making our special homemade hot cocoa, and candy canes that we’d use when decorating our tree. I tossed in a bottle of water and finally added my small purse, containing my wallet and cell phone.
Opening my door to get out, I noticed that the mysterious solider still hadn’t left either. He’d pulled up a few feet though, probably as eager to get out of here as I was. I decided it wasn’t really my problem what he did, and I
quickly walked around my car to head into the woods. With any luck, in twenty minutes I’d be in my parents’ warm car, riding home to Hannah.
“What are you doing?” the soldier’s angry voice called out. I heard him slam his door and come stomping toward me.
I wheeled around to face him, annoyed that he was still even here. His dark eyes blazed as he looked at me, and I wondered why on earth he cared where I was going. “Cutting through the woods,” I said shortly. “So like I said earlier, have a nice life. Goodbye.”
“You can’t cut through there,” he said in disbelief.
“Uh, sure I can. And what’s it to you anyway? You told me you have enough problems to deal with.”
“I’m not letting you run off and get lost in the woods.”
I laughed, thinking this guy really was crazy. A few minutes ago he’d wanted nothing to do with me, and now he was suddenly concerned about my wandering off alone.
“I’ll be fine,” I said, rolling my eyes as I turned away.
“Then I’m coming with you.”
“You are not coming with me,”
I said, glaring at him.
It was his turn to look slightly confused.
“Look, I figure you’ll need help finding your way through the forest. I need to get into town tonight also. We’ll make our back to the road, then each be on our way. You’ll never have to see me again.”
I sighed, exasperated. “
Look, I’m not letting some strange man come traipsing through the woods with me. You could be some serial killer for all I know. Or maybe just a complete lunatic. I’m in a kind of a hurry here, so for the last time, goodbye.”
A slight smile tugged at his lips, and I could tell that he was trying not to laugh at me.
Annoying, cocky, and handsome,
I thought to myself.
“Well I’m glad you find it so funny,” I said, sulking.
“Wait here,” he said, starting to turn away. “I want to show you something.” He jogged back to his Jeep and pulled out his gear. It certainly looked like he had every intention of
following me. Both our cars were here, so they could probably trace his plates if something did happen. But really, I knew better than to wander off with some random stranger. It looked like I was going to have to make the long drive after all.