"Keri is miserable with Rob." Angela's voice revealed her concern and frustration. "She doesn't even need to say it to anyone. She shoots daggers at every man who comes through Kaleidoscope. She'll definitely take my suggestion of a skiing vacation at the cabin over Christmas. No worries about that, Dandy."
The long-time foreman on Angela's uncle's ranch in Fever, Texas sounded old and frail. Following a burst of wet coughing, Dandy came back on the phone line. "And I'll get m'boy Josh up there to the cabin 'same time, Angel-face."
"And once Keri and Josh are back together again...they'll fall in love and everything will be fine."
"Everything'll be jes' fine," Dandy agreed. "Ain't no way I'll let m'boy make the same stupid mistakes I made at his age."
Are you all right? hovered on the tip of Angela's tongue when his coughing began again. What held her back was knowing the sweet old guy would just say he didn't plan to live forever anyway.
Lately, Dandy seemed fixated on making sure Josh was happy. It was almost as if...well, as if Dandy believed this might be his last chance to make sure Josh got the future happiness he was currently denying himself. Dandy had called three times in the last week to check up on Angela's progress in their matchmaking scheme.
Christmas was a season of miracles, wasn't it? Her and Dandy's Christmas wish for their friends and family just had to come true.
The cabin in the woods at the approach of evening was more picturesque than she could have imagined.
Too bad all I want to do is drop into bed and sleep.
After parking the rental car, Keri trudged awkwardly up the stone walk pushing an oversized rolling suitcase, the matching toiletry case slung over the same arm, skis and purse on the other. She noticed that the path from the road had been shoveled and could only guess that her boss and close friend, Angela Lewis, who'd offered her the use of her family's cabin, had called ahead to have the path cleared for her.
The log cabin was rustic and old-fashioned looking, but beautifully kept up. Much as she wanted to appreciate that she had it all to herself for free for a full two weeks, she could barely keep her eyes open. She hadn't slept the night before. Between that, the flight and boring airport time, then the drive out to the cabin, all she wanted was a warm bed.
The cabin would be cold inside. Angela had warned her that it was as rustic inside as out, though they did have running water and electricity. A fireplace in every room would heat the cabin during her stay here. In theory, it sounded romantic, but Keri wasn't sure her crash course in how to build a fire would be any help when it came time to try it in a real fireplace.
The light over the front door came on at her approach. Propping her skis against the side of the door, she dug into her purse for the key Angela had given her. Her handbag was a cluttered mess. She finally had to set down the make-up case so she could go through it. Light snow fell around her. The cold seeped in while she tried to locate the key with the platinum moon keychain in the dark confines of the bag.
Perfect ski conditions, she told herself, growing frustrated as the key eluded her. Crouching down, she started taking things out of her purse. Angela had given her the key a couple weeks ago, when Keri took her up on her annual offer to her five employees to use her family's cabin in Portland, Oregon, not far from Mt. Hood. The pile beside her began to grow as snow came down harder. I've come seventeen hundred miles. Without the key. What could I have done with it? I don't remember taking it out of my purse since Angela thrust it in my hand.
Keri cast her mind back to the day Angela gave her the key, insisting she take it and use the cabin over Christmas. She'd been talking about how her grandfather had built the cabin, intending it to be a family heirloom. Angela considered her employees her friends and therefore her family. The rest of her birth family wouldn't mind. If someone asks, just tell them you're a friend of Angela's... Only half listening, Keri had dropped the key into her purse.
The moon keychain finally came to light in the darkest depths of her handbag, and she pulled it out with a growl. As she piled the junk back in, she saw a receipt from Krispy Kreme. Rob loved Krispy Kreme doughnuts. The morning after their third date, she'd run out and bought them coffees and a dozen--
I don't want to think about Rob Channing and his love affair with Krispy Kreme. Or how stupid I was to invite him to move into my apartment. Or what I was silly enough to think that move meant. And what a disappointment it's been in the six months since. I'm here to forget all that. Sure, the plan was that he'd move out while I was here, but...
Keri rose on her feet with the key firmly in hand. After she shoved the door open, she frowned when she saw a glow of light ahead. Quickly, she scooped up her luggage, skis and purse, then entered. She couldn't help wondering if Angela had called ahead and had someone make the house ready. It would be just like her. Still, hadn't she said something about how rustic this place was? Keri would have to stock the kitchen on her own. Shovel the walk. Build her own fire to heat the cabin. That didn't get into doing laundry, dishes and cleaning before she left so the cabin was as clean as when she came.
She'd almost chosen another place because of all that. What did she know about cooking, shoveling or building a fire? She ate in restaurants so she wouldn't have to cook. All her life, she'd lived in places where caretakers shoveled the snow, mowed the lawn, kept up the building maintenance. The closest she'd ever come to building her own fire was lighting too many candles and almost setting the bathroom on fire when she forgot to put them out.
The cabin was cozy and warm. A fire burned in the main room. In the pleasant, crackling glow, Keri saw couches, a small table set up with a chess game, a king-size bed already made up. The main room connected with the kitchen nook. Modern appliances almost seemed to clash with the wood table and chairs set. She knew the room toward the back must be the combination bathroom and laundry room.
Glancing to the right, she saw a ladder near the bed that she figured led to a loft.
Ang, you knew I'd freak out about being in the backwoods and taking care of myself here. You must have been as surprised as I am that I came anyway. I just needed this time away, without a phone that might tempt me to call Rob.
Forcing herself not to follow that line of thought again, she dumped her things near the rocking chair in the dark corner beside the bed. When she shrugged out of her heavy parka, she realized the room was warm enough to warrant her usual sleep attire. Smiling for the first time in what felt like six months, she slid nude under the thick, down comforter. Not so bad, she thought on a sigh of pleasure. If she could forget Rob long enough to enjoy herself, her vacation could help her get her head on straight about the mess her love life had turned into.