Authors: Rachel Hanna
Thank you so much for picking up Snow Jam! I know you’re going to fall in love with these characters and their story.
Before you start reading, however, please make sure that you sign up for my VIP New Release list! If you do, you’ll be notified immediately every time I release a new book.
The next book in this series will be coming out soon, so
to get on the notification list.
The first time I saw him, an amazingly rugged, gorgeous, young Robert Redford of a man, he was covered in snow. Which I'm afraid of.
It didn't bode well.
I admit it: I'm afraid of snow. People have all kinds of crazy phobias, right? Mine just happens to be snow.
Nothing bad has ever happened to me because of snow. I've never been trapped in a snowstorm or lost in a blizzard or caught in an avalanche. I've never been snowed in with no heat or food and the bathroom frozen solid. I've never skidded off a highway into a snow bank and had to await rescue.
It's really not even snow that I'm afraid of. It's what the snow represents. It's a form of claustrophobia. So while other people are exclaiming about how beautiful it looks, all crystalline and catching the light as it falls, all lush and silent and Christmas-like, I'm thinking about not being able to get to the store, or to work, or just out.
It makes me feel trapped.
I don't like feeling trapped.
That's exactly what I was feeling. Because while snow had never done anything to me before, it was doing it now.
I've heard that Georgia is always a bit surprised when a big snowstorm hits. Frankly, I think that's probably true everywhere. Blame it on technology. We think we can control everything because we're so far advanced, but Mother Nature has tricks up her sleeve that there's nothing we can do anything about. And this snowstorm came late in the year. Everyone should have been starting to plan to lose those last few winter pounds and hitting the tanning salon so they weren't all pasty winter white when spring hit. Gardeners were definitely ordering seeds and making plans. Animals were thinking about coming out of hibernation. And the flowering peaches and cherry trees were making initial movements toward their annual showy displays. It was the very end of February, the very start of March. Almost spring, right?
Then, bam! Snow.
I didn't even
yet. Somehow that made it worse. When the snowstorm that turned the interstate I was traveling into one of the so-called Snow Jams hit, I was still technically a resident of sunny Las Vegas, enjoying my 300 sunny days a year, blithely aware it would never dare snow on Sin City. But the economic rollercoaster of the 21
century was still rolling and I'd lost my job as an economic development specialist and had flown to Georgia for the last of a series of interviews, this one in person.
If I got there.
As the tall, broad, gorgeous apparition made his way toward my car, one of the many stranded on Interstate 75 in the unanticipated blizzard, I frantically posted to social media and texted friends.
Did anyone order me one rescuer, tall, blond, handsome? Speak up, because he's big and coming my way and I'm worried.
It was taking him a while. The sides of the road and the median were nothing but piles of snow, except where they were piles of snow mixed with road debris from where drivers tried to force their way off the highway by way of the shoulder.
No immediate response from assorted friends. I had friends in Georgia, hence the hope for the new job, in the wilds of Hanlin, north and west of Atlanta up Interstate 75. Pretty place according to all the Google Images, and not supposed to strand motorists on highways under tons of snow.
"It's not that much snow, Mya," my sister Jill would have told me. Though she probably would have called me Michelle, since Jill tends to eschew nicknames. She's very straight laced and reality based. Which is one reason I hadn't called or texted Jill when I got suck along with every other traveler on this road. She thinks she's always right (Curse of the Younger Sister) and she often is (which sucks). She's also happily married at 23, with two kids, a cat, a dog and a Porsche SUV, and I'm still single.
The guy in the sheepskin jacket, hat pulled low, scarf around his throat, gloves making his hands look crazy big, was nearly at my car now. Couple more skidded-out rear-wheel drive vehicles to pass and he'd reach my door. Not that I knew for sure he was coming my way
not like I was expecting anybody to come looking for me on Highway 75 above Marietta, Georgia.
My phone chimed. I looked down at it hurriedly.
"Relax," Sunny said. Best friend since high school, freshman year. Sunny's one of those weird, six degrees of separation types. She always knows someone. She probably knows Kevin Bacon. "His name is Rick Barnes. He's part of a volunteer Facebook Jeep rescue team. Be nice
he didn't make it snow."
I sent back "K" because there wasn't time for anything else. He'd reached the side of my car and was standing there exhaling clouds of vapor into the cold late afternoon air.
"Mya? My name's Rick Barnes." Then he did something very strange. He put one hand over his heart and said in a strangely foppish voice, "I have come to wescue you."
"Um?" I asked, staring. I could feel how wide my eyes were.
Rick Barnes sighed. "It's a movie quote. Now I can't remember which one.
"Oh," I said, not at all relieved.
Sensing my hesitation, he unwrapped the scarf from his lower face and smiled, which was dazzling. "Not crazy. Just a movie buff."
I almost missed what he was saying. From a distance I'd seen his face when the scarf had come free. Up close? Wow. Seriously good looking in a rugged outdoorsy kind of way. At the same time, I could imagine him smoking down a cigarette before getting on a motorcycle. Or a surf board.
He spoiled the illusion by pulling the scarf back on, but I couldn't blame him. The snow had stopped and the temperature had seriously dropped. "I guess I shouldn't quote out of the blue when coming across stranded female motorists in the wilds."
I looked around. Hardly in the wilds. Atlanta was about 90 minutes behind me, apparently receiving another threatening two inches of snow. The last time a "snow jam" had left motorists stranded and children sleeping overnight at their schools, the state officials had claimed never again.
Maybe they'd kept that promise. It was possible traffic was flowing nicely all the way through Atlanta, snow or no snow. But out here on the highway, nobody was going anywhere. It doesn't take a lot of snow to cause serious traffic problems when there are a lot of vehicles sliding around in it and kicking it up to reduce visibility. It also doesn't take a lot of snow when the place it's snowing doesn't routinely
a lot of snow.
I shoved my shoulder against the rental car door. It seemed to have frozen shut. The temperature was really dropping out here. I wanted out of the car and off the highway but I needed to know who this guy was first. Despite the tingle I got every time I looked at him. He had green eyes, the kind that crinkle at the edges and look like he's
well, honestly, smirking more than smiling. I liked his eyes, though. I was predisposed to trust him because he seemed heaven sent and because I wanted out of there. I had an appointment the next day that I couldn't miss.
And because he was damned good looking. That made me want to trust him, too.
"Who sent you?" I asked. This Rick Barnes was really good looking but I didn't know what he thought he was going to do now or how he was going to rescue me. And I needed to know he was the person Sunny thought I was talking about.
One of my goals in life is to avoid becoming an urban legend and cautionary tale. "Never get in a car with strangers, kids. You don't want to end up like Mya Powers. She got into a car with a beautiful man during a snowstorm and was never heard of again."
"Sunny Davis. Lives in Roswell, Georgia. Said you knew her."
Rick gestured back over his shoulder where I could now see a black Jeep Renegade parked, spewing exhaust into the blue evening's frigid air. "Part of the Jeep rescue." Now he motioned at all the cars around us. "Pretty much everybody is texting or using social media. Passing time or calling for help."
If I squinted, I could probably make out all the tiny little glares of light from tiny little screens in all the parked and/or slewed and broken cars on the icy freeway. I'd done it, reached out to family and friends, to anyone who might have a suggestion.
"Because let's face it, the authorities are not getting this sorted out very fast." He glared up at the sky. "There's more coming. Grab your stuff and let's go."
I balked. He'd been Sunny approved, which meant he was a good guy. He knew my name and he knew Sunny and some details about her and our friendship. He was the kind of gorgeous that made my breath come short, and I liked the hopeful tingle I felt whenever he looked at me. But the dictatorial
Grab your stuff and let's go
? I've never been one of the caveman type.
then again, I hated snow. More was coming.
I had nowhere else to go.
I started to get out of the car. The film of ice on the door cracked and it opened about an inch. My rescuer pushed the door back closed. I stared at him.
"See if you can ease it over to the shoulder. You can't just leave it sitting there."
It was a rental. Other than the fact that I'd have to pay for it, I kind of could. I started the car, which caused the seatbelt to bong at me, and put it into drive. It moved okay, sliding a little and I hate that feeling; it's the loss of control coupled with a sort of instant nausea. But the car allowed itself to be eased over onto the shoulder and the minute I put up the window and turned it off, Rick Barnes opened the door for me.
Still irritated, I took a haughty step out, ruined the next instant by the fact that I slipped and staggered to catch my balance against the window and door frame. He didn't say anything but I got the impression Rick both knew I was feeling bitchy and was amused by the results. He had the common sense not to comment. Apparently he might quote unknown movies at unsuspecting stranded female motorists, but would not push his luck to the very brink.
I held the key aloft, used the fob to open the trunk, carefully picked my way around in the snow. Atlanta's embarrassment over the first Snow Jam reported in national media had been in part because the accumulated snow had been something like two inches. That had been enough to bring the city to its knees.
Out here, north of the city and headed for Hanlin, I could now see that there was quite a bit more snow covering the ground. I loathed all of it, but at least it justified my paranoia and all the stalled cars.
Out of the trunk I pulled my laptop in a messenger bag, my carry-on and a purse that had been tucked into the carry-on during the flight. I took a quick look around the trunk, but I knew I wasn't leaving anything behind.
I was stalling. Because he was so attractive, and because he was a stranger, and I'm not overly good with strangers. I'm shy. I'm not good with attractive men, either. I tend to slip in the snow and take offense at the slightest little things. Then again, I also get tongue tied in the presence of pretty, which annoys me and makes me bitchy.
"Need a hand?"
Of course he'd followed me around the car. And of course he'd found me standing there staring at the now-empty trunk.