Where am I, she thought, I'm cold. She opened her eyes, and saw that she was in a cemetery, huddled on top of a tombstone. How had she gotten here? Had the spell she'd never intended to cast from the tattered grimoire actually worked? It must have, she thought, and then wondered what she had done.
No, she thought, I can't be here, wherever here is. She tried to read the letters on the stone weren't readable, it was still too dark, although the pale winter sun was sending streaks through the dark sky. Surely, any moment now she would wake up and be back in her room . All she knew was that she was unbearably cold and began to shiver violently. What should she do, where should she go? How was she to get back home, if it was even possible?
She began to cry, although she wasn't really a crier she felt scared and overwhelmed. The tears momentarily warmed her cheeks but then they too turned cold. What am I going to do, was a pointless thought because without someone's help, someone to rescue her, she could get sick, possibly die of exposure.
Then, as the sun started to come up he came, her rescuer, she hoped. A tall man dressed all in black, wearing a black overcoat, and carrying three red roses in his hand. He saw her at the same time she saw him, and she sat up, hopeful that soon she would be warm, dry, and fed, because she had become aware of a raging hunger.
When he caught sight of her, his shuffling gait changed to a run, and soon he was standing over her. "What are you doing on my son's grave?" he demanded, his tone not at all friendly, until he took in the sight of her.
She was clad only in a jersey and light jeans, and there were snowflakes in her white hair. His anger melted as he watched her shiver. With her long, pale hair falling around her, she looked like a lost angel fallen from heaven. He peeled off his overcoat and wrapped it around her. "You don't have a coat, you're not wearing shoes, why would you be so stupid to go barefoot in the middle of winter?"
She clutched his coat tightly around her. "Why? I don't even know how I got here. I'm not even from here. For all I know my being here is somebody's idea of a bad joke. All I want…" she started to say, but didn't finish, her teeth were chattering, and she was too cold to talk.
"Do you need help, do you have a place to stay?" she shook her head, "Then I'm going to put you up at a motel. Are those your only clothes?" He looked at her, sternly, wondering what was going on, but most of all, he felt sorry for her. He could see the red rims of her eyelids, he recognized a woman who had been crying when he saw one.
He picked her up, hugged her close. She was crying softly, small, sobbing sounds. "Don't worry," he said, "There's a place on the edge of town, not very fancy, but they have fireplaces in the room.'ll get you checked in and see about getting you something to eat."
"But I have no money," she wailed, "I can't pay for it."
I already figured that, he thought, you're not the first person in a jam I've helped. "Don't worry about that now," he said, "Let's get you warm, and get you some food. Let's take this one step at a time, you hear? You'll catch your death if you're not careful, and I don't want that on my conscience. No sense you trying to walk in the snow with those bare feet." She gave her up her protests and snuggled against his warmth.
"Don't you need your…" she began but he hushed her.
"I'm okay, my car's still warm. I'm from Ontario, I'm used to winters worse than this. You're chilled, and I don't want you to get sick."
They reached the parking lot, and he managed to maneuver her into his car without putting her down. He closed her door, then hurried over to the driver's side and got in.
He'd been right about the car being warm, when he turned the ignition, the fan began blowing warm air. She started to pull off his coat, but he stopped her, saying, "Don't, I'm fine. We don't have that far to go."
She leaned against the window and closed her eyes. He was playing something on the radio that she didn't recognize. He began to sing along, and she realized he had a strong, maybe even professional, voice. She wished he would go on singing and that they wouldn't have to stop, just drive on and on in the snowy landscape, just the two of them forever.
He pulled up to a small motel surrounded by tall firs, and parked near the entrance, leaving the engine running. "Stay inside," he instructed, and she had no wish to argue. She tucked her feet inside his coat and waited while he talked to the proprietor, a tall, lanky woman with long red hair.
He came out, carrying two keys, one of which he slipped into his pocket. "I got you one with a kitchenette, it's at the end of the row. There's wood for a fire, and Pattie, the owner, will give you more if you ask. She's going to find some sweats and some socks for you, maybe even a pair of shoes." He got behind the wheel and drove to the end of the row of cabins and parked in number nine.
She opened the door, but he instructed her to wait. He got out, then came to her side, lifted her out seat and carried her in. He deposited her on the bed and took his coat from her. "Get under the covers," he instructed, "Pattie told me there's some extra blankets in the closet." He turned on the heat and busied himself with building a fire in the fireplace. When he was satisfied, he took the blankets from the closet and laid them on top of her.
"Get your wet stuff off and give it to me so I can hang it up to dry. You'll be warmer with it off." He looked at her, expecting her to do as he'd said.
"You want me to take off my clothes? You've got to be kidding." She clutched the covers tightly around her.
"Yes, I'm serious, and I mean all of them. You'll be warmer with dry covers."
She looked at him skeptically. "Turn around."
"Turn around while I get undressed, okay? Please?"
He smiled, "Why don't you just…"
He complied, the smile still on his face. "Okay," she said, "You can turn around now." She held out her clothes but pulled her hand back when he reached for them. "I need something to put on, would you please give me your shirt." Though worded as a request, it was clearly an order.
He unbuttoned his flannel shirt and handed it to her, taking her wet clothes. "Taking the shirt off my back, I see."
"If you want to put it like that. I'll feel better if I have something on, okay? I'm feeling helpless and dependent, and I don't like it. I hate having to accept help from you, or anyone." She began to cry again, feeling foolish, but somehow couldn't help it.
He sat next to her and put his arm around her shoulders. "Hey, it's okay," he soothed, "Everybody needs a little help sometimes. Pattie, the woman who owns this place, said she'd bring you a few things. We'll get you settled, just relax and try not to worry. I'm going to get us some breakfast, bacon and eggs okay? And coffee?"
She nodded, and he tightened the arm he had around her, pulling her to him. She looked at him, really looked at him, for the first time. He was tall, at least six feet, and solidly built. His hair was dark and complimented his brown eyes. He had a sensual mouth, almost too beautiful for a man. She wondered what it would be like to have that mouth kiss her.
"Hey," he said, peering at her closely, "You've got beautiful eyes, I don't think I've seen eyes that color before. It's like they're kind of a blue green. You're very attractive, now that I've got a good look at you. I'll be back, get under the covers and get warm."
He added wood to the fire, then left, pausing to look at her as if he wished to study her. Then he closed the door behind him. The roar of his Caddy's engine let her know he had left, and she snuggled down into the covers, wondering what she'd gotten herself into.