Read Love at First Snow: A Christmas Miracle Online

Authors: Boroughs PublishingGroup

Tags: #romance, #love, #christmas, #football, #snow, #cabin, #kitten, #mountains, #second chances

Love at First Snow: A Christmas Miracle (2 page)

BOOK: Love at First Snow: A Christmas Miracle
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“I can’t. I have some things to finish
here.”

“Liar.”

Sarah didn’t deny it. Normally she spent
Christmas Eve on the boat with her friends and her dad, but this
Christmas was different. She just didn’t want to go down there with
all those people making merry. She’d be one heck of a downer. They
didn’t need that, and she didn’t need the guilt. New Year’s might
be a different story. She couldn’t wait to ring out this hellacious
year and look to the future.

“Mark’s here.”

Sarah blew out a breath and tamped down her
exasperation. Cari was always trying to fix her up. “You know I’m
not interested in dating right now.”

“He’s a nice guy.”

“Exactly why he doesn’t need to get mixed up
with me. The clinic is my life right now. I don’t need a guy
muddying the waters. You know I don’t have time for a relationship,
even if I wanted one—which I don’t.”

Sarah’s boyfriends had been few and far
between with her pre-vet and vet school studies monopolizing all
her spare time. Once out of college she’d dived into the vet
practice with her father, as well as traveling to neighboring
islands for vaccination clinics and her animal rescue work. Spare
time didn’t enter into her schedule. After her father died, she’d
given her heart and soul to the practice with no room for a social
life. If her friends wanted to see her, they made an appointment to
bring an animal into the clinic.

“Promise me you’ll be at dinner tomorrow.”
Cari didn’t give up easily.

“Absolutely, even if I have to snowshoe. I
wouldn’t miss your prime rib for anything.”

“Okay, then. We’ll see you tomorrow. But if
you change your mind—”

“I know. I’m always welcome. Thanks.” Sarah
hung up the phone before Cari had a chance to argue.

Crossing the room, she paused to straighten
the bags of dog food stacked on the shelves against one wall. With
a sigh she gazed around her little clinic, her home away from home
for close to five years, turned out the waiting room lights and
stepped into her tiny office, which was crowded with piles of
veterinary journals and animal care books.

Pushing a bunch of papers out of the way,
Sarah picked up a picture half-buried on her messy desk. Her
mother, frail and gaunt, lay in a hospital bed but still managed a
smile for the camera. Next to her, a ten-year-old Sarah clutched
her hand, looking like crap. A few hours after that picture was
taken, her mom succumbed to a long battle with cancer and young
Sarah’s world caved in. For years it’d just been her and her dad.
Until two years ago. She couldn’t believe how much it still hurt.
At times the pain almost drove her to her knees. Orphaned at
thirty-two, without family at Christmas.

Sure, there were lots of people who had it
worse, but she couldn’t help feeling a little sorry for herself.
The holidays drove home how alone she was, and how much she missed
having a family. Even a bickering, dysfunctional family beat the
hell out of an empty house on Christmas.

Loud pounding on the clinic door ended
Sarah’s pity party. She hurried to the door and turned the lock,
not bothering to check who it was. This was the San Juans; no one
worried about stuff like that around here. Cyrus just watched. He
knew the drill. He’d seen this happen before. Assuming they
wouldn’t be going home anytime soon, he sank down on his dog bed
and was snoring before she’d even opened the door.

A large, imposing man filled the doorway. In
his big hands he held a tiny kitten. The kitten looked dead.

Sarah glanced up and gazed into the most
intriguing pair of troubled, blue-gray eyes. The man’s brow was
furrowed, and his lips were drawn into a thin, tight line. His
shoulders stooped, as if the weight on them was immense. His gaze
dropped to the kitten.

“Can you help him? I found the poor thing in
the snow outside my cabin.”

Sarah held out her arms. With extreme
gentleness for one so brawny, the man transferred the kitten to
her. It mewed in protest but didn’t struggle—as if it could. She
ran her fingers over the mangled little guy, checked his vitals.
Miraculously, the kitten started purring.

“Follow me.” Sarah didn’t wait for the man
but hustled the kitten into an exam room and set up an IV. The cat
was so badly dehydrated she needed to get some fluids into him
immediately and warm him up. She lay him in a box lined with
towels, prepared the IV then tucked a small blanket around him.

“Will he make it?”

The voice was world-weary, but Sarah jumped,
having forgotten all about the kitten’s savior.

“Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.”

She met the man’s gaze and really looked at
him for the first time. She’d never met someone with such a
physical presence. A ruggedly handsome face bore a shadow of dark
stubble on a strong jaw, and a lock of rumpled hair fell over one
side of his forehead, adding a bit of a bad-boy impression. Lines
of fatigue creased his face, making him look much older than he
probably was. He was actually quite handsome if you liked the
rugged, athletic sort. But those kind eyes reflected such deep
sorrow that he must have suffered some incredible loss or
tragedy.

Sarah knew what that was like. Still, there
was no time for sorrow. There was a kitten to be healed.

 

Chapter 2—The Weather Outside…

Blake forced his gaze away from the woman
with the soft brown eyes that looked right into his soul. She saw
too much. How the hell he knew that…? Well, he just did. Some
things couldn’t be explained; they only had to be dealt with. Maybe
he should just give her a reasonable amount to care for the cat and
find it a home. Then he could be on his way.

Yeah, but on his way to what? An empty
house? A big dinner with no guests? An uncertain future?

Shaking his head, he focused again on the
kitten. The little guy lay curled in tight ball, eyes squeezed
shut. When Blake bent down close he heard the purring. A smile
tugged at the corners of his mouth. The kitten was a fighter. He
could appreciate that. He should learn from it.

A clock ticked on the wall, and he glanced
at it as he straightened. Seven-thirty on Christmas Eve. He had
nowhere to go except a home filled with painful memories—but he’d
bet his hockey skates the doctor needed to get to her family.
Hanging next to the clock was the good doctor’s diploma from vet
school.
Dr. Sarah Whitney.
The name fit her. She wasn’t the
type of woman he’d dated recently, yet something about Dr. Sarah
Whitney did it for Blake in a big way. Maybe it was that she
reminded him of what he used to want. Her light brown hair was
pulled back in a ponytail. That tall, slender body with those long
legs indicated an active, outdoorsy person, not someone who got fit
in a gym. Her earthy, casual appearance showed a woman unconcerned
with clothes, makeup, and jewelry—totally the opposite of the women
who hung around the ice arena on any given night, the women with
whom he’d been recently soothing his pain. He found her sexy. Very
sexy.

She left the room briefly, and Blake
watched, liking how her jeans hugged the soft curves of her behind.
A huge dog sprawled in its bed studied him through one half-closed
eye, as if to say,
Good luck, buddy.

On cue, Dr. Whitney walked back into the
room. “How’s our patient?”

He gave the cat a glance. “Hanging in there.
Hey, I’m sorry to take up your time on Christmas Eve.”

A shadow crossed the woman’s face, which
quickly hardened into an emotionless mask. “No worries. My plans
tonight consist of a good book, hot-buttered rum, and a roaring
fire.”

“Sounds pretty good,” he admitted. Too bad a
hot, intelligent woman like her had to be sharing that hot-buttered
rum with a significant other. Probably another doctor or
something.

“Yeah, quiet holidays can be a welcome
relief from big gatherings with family and friends.” She spoke with
conviction, but her eyes told a different story. He wondered if
that story was similar to his own.

“Yes, sometimes that’s true,” he allowed.
“No family dramas, no bickering or that type of thing….” He’d give
everything he possessed for a family drama right about now. “I’m
Blake by the way.”

“Sarah Whitney.” She stared out the window,
her gaze faraway. The snow kept accumulating. “Sometimes snow seems
so barren, so lonely. It blankets everything in white,
beautiful…but cold and stark, especially at night.”

Especially when a person didn’t have anyone
to warm their bed. Was someone warming Dr. Whitney’s bed? Was there
anyone special in her life? But…why the hell did he even care? Sure
she turned him on, but he barely knew the woman.

Part of him disagreed. He felt as if he’d
known her for a very long time.

She continued to stare out the window, and
Blake nodded, thinking again about what she’d said. He hadn’t seen
snow the same since it contributed to his family tragedy. He didn’t
say that, though. He just said, “I’ve been coming here since I was
a child. I don’t remember a snowfall quite like this.”

“No, we don’t get it much here. And this is
even worse than the Christmas Eve storm four years ago.”

Blake stiffened. He fought to breathe, like
someone had slammed him into the boards from behind. He looked away
and regained control. “Like I said, I apologize for keeping
you.”

She glanced up, and he suspected she saw
more in him at that moment than most people did in an evening. “You
don’t need to apologize. You aren’t keeping me from anything.” She
studied him then. “You’re not a local. I’d know if you were. Are
you here for the holidays?”

“Yeah, I come every year.”

“You have friends on the island?”

“No, not really.”

“Oh. You’re here with family.”

“Nope, just me.”

His stomach clenched at the thought of how
very alone he was, and something flickered in her brown eyes.
Sympathy? Mutual commiseration? Understanding?

“I’m sorry,” she said. “I didn’t mean to
pry.”

“That’s okay.” Blake stroked the thin little
kitten. Only it was as alone in the world as he.

“It would be best if you take him home with
you tonight. I hate the thought of leaving him overnight in this
clinic by himself, and I’ll have to wait until he’s stronger to
deal with the leg injury. It’s an old one. I’ll send some medicine
and some soft cat food with you.”

Blake opened his mouth to protest, to let
her know he’d just done a good deed. That’s all. But the animal was
a stray, had no one, just like him. He couldn’t do it. He couldn’t
abandon the little bugger. Not on Christmas Eve.

“Okay,” he said. “I’ll take him.”

“Do you live far?”

“I live at the end of Madrona Lane on the
water side.”

“The big three-story A-frame?”

“Yeah, that’s the one.”

“Harlan Matthews, the former mayor of Friday
Harbor, built that place years ago.”

He nodded. His dad bought the place from
Harlan Matthews just before Blake was born, and it had been the
family vacation spot ever since. Anymore, he only visited once a
year—around Christmas, usually for a night—yet he couldn’t bring
himself to sell it.

“Nice house. I didn’t realize anyone
actually lived there.”

“It’s a vacation house. Doctor, what do I
owe you?” he asked.

“It’s Sarah, and nothing.” She smiled a sad
half-smile. “It’s Christmas Eve.”

“Well…I’d love to offer you something for
keeping you so late,” he said.

She carefully wrapped the kitten in a towel
and placed him in a cardboard cat carrier then filled a bag with
cat food. “Merry Christmas.”

When she smiled at Blake, a genuine
heart-thumping, pulse-pounding, set-a-man-on-his-ass smile, he
said, “I make killer hot-buttered rums, old family recipe. I just
happen to have some batter.” Yeah, sorry soul that he was, he’d
made some just that afternoon. Getting blitzed on hot-buttered rums
on Christmas Eve had once been a family tradition.

“Are you inviting me for a drink?”

He never got embarrassed in front of the
ladies. It just didn’t happen to him. But heat raced from his neck
to his face. “I guess I am.”

Regret flashed in her eyes. “I’d better go
home. Cyrus here is tired.” She pointed at the big lug of a dog
snoring in the dog bed. As if sensing they were talking about him,
the beast thumped his tail.

“Okay, well, if you change your mind, you
know where I live.” Blake hoisted the cat carrier in one hand and
grabbed the bag of food with the other.

The doc held the door open for him. “Thanks
for the offer,” she called as he trudged to his SUV.

Blake got in and started the engine. Then he
got out and wiped the snow off the windows. The accumulation was
astounding. He hesitated, torn between leaving a woman alone to
navigate the snowy roads and minding his own business.

With a sigh, he got back in and drove out of
the parking lot. He could barely take care of his own troubles, let
alone someone else’s.

 

Chapter 3—Ho, Ho, Ho, and Hot Buttered Rums

Sarah puttered around the clinic for another
hour or so then left. She gripped the steering wheel with white
knuckled hands as she drove down the county road. If it weren’t for
the trees lining the sides, she’d never be able to tell where it
was. Clearings proved especially tricky, and she crept along, her
truck in four-wheel drive. Cyrus rode shotgun, now fully awake.
Obviously, he didn’t like the road conditions either.

After a few miles, the snow came down
harder, making it difficult to see anything, even the trees. The
blinding snow cleared for one miraculous moment, and she recognized
the driveway on her left: Blake’s house. Sarah slowed the truck to
a crawl, pulled toward Blake and the kitten by some unknown force.
Something about Blake drew her in, something that compelled her to
stop, to check on him, even though it’d been less than an hour
since she’d last seen him. A sucker for wounded animals, she
guessed one damaged male fit in that category, too. Maybe she’d
take him up on that hot-buttered rum, which sounded darn good right
now.

BOOK: Love at First Snow: A Christmas Miracle
9.83Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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