Kylie—my new neighbor—with her smartass mouth and destructive dog. It’s obvious she doesn’t belong here with her designer boots and city girl attitude but she’s stubborn and won’t listen to reason. Despite all that, there’s no denying I want her. Her sass and defiance get under my skin and admittingly turn me on. It’s a love/hate relationship in the most inconvenient way possible.
When a snowstorm comes barreling through, it’s Kylie who’s at my doorstep needing heat and food because she’s completely unprepared. Although I warned her, she finally admits I was right. Between my hatred for her dog and her distaste for me, things are bound to get complicated.
Secluded in my cabin together means the temperature rises, the gloves come off—but most of all—the arousal and chemistry moving between us reaches its breaking point.
“It’s okay, Kozmo.” I reach out and grab his collar, gently pulling him toward me. He lays down by my feet and I stroke his head, trying not to show that I’m pretty damn terrified of the storm raging outside. It’s not even about the weather per se, but the fact I’m so not prepared for this crap.
The fire crackles, and I turn and look at the hearth, the flames a lot less intense than what they were an hour ago. The firewood stacked up in the corner of the room makes me nervous, seeing as there are only a few logs left. They’d been here when I first moved in, and I hadn’t even thought about replenishing the stock so soon, not when I’d been busy unpacking and cleaning.
I grit my teeth as I think about Luke—Mr. Ruthless—next door and his warning. There’s no way in hell I was going to admit he’s right—that I’m unprepared and out of my element. Fuck him and his arrogant attitude.
I bring the blanket around me a little higher just as the lights start to flicker. Tilting my head back and looking up, I stare at the ceiling and say a silent prayer that the power doesn’t go out. I may have enough food stocked to weather out this bitch of a storm, but that doesn’t mean I can cook any of it without a fire or electricity.
The wind howls outside, and I curse the weatherman and his shitty forecast. “This weekend my ass,” I mutter. And then it’s like Mother Nature says a big “fuck you” as the lights go off. Rosie whimpers even louder, so I lift her into my lap, trying to calm her. She’s not used to this insane weather.
“Shh. It’s okay, girl. It’ll come back on, and everything will be okay. The storm will pass soon.” I know why I’m saying this—trying to reassure myself and feel better about the situation—but it’s grossly clear that I’m not at all prepared for a storm like this. I didn’t check the generator, and my wood stockpile is nonexistent.
The longer I sit here, the lower the flames get, and the colder it becomes. I set Rosie aside and get up to toss the remaining logs in, stoking them and walking over to grab a blanket. I move down in front of the fire to keep warm and call the dogs over.
“Come here,” I call for Kozmo and Rosie. Both of them shuffle over and lay beside me, curling around my body. I glance at the front window, the sheer curtains not hiding the pellets that are assaulting the glass like tiny bullets. I only hope it’s strong enough to withstand it and not break.
Mr. Ruthless was not right. He was not right.
He might be a little right.
An hour later and I’m still in front of the now dwindled fire, the embers the only thing alive in the damn hearth. The electricity shows no signs of coming back to life. The blanket is wrapped tightly around me, but it’s not helping keep the chill out of my bones. And the storm—the fucking storm is still going stronger than ever outside.
No way this is ending anytime soon.
I stand and head to the kitchen. Because I’m trying to stay positive, I check the stove. Nothing. I walk over to the fridge and open it. Nada. Because I have nothing better to do, I try the light switch. Zilch.
Dammit. When this storm is done, and the weather isn’t shitty, I’m investing in a crap load of fuel and a gas stove.
I glance at the front door, thinking over my options. No…no way in hell am I going to entertain the idea of asking him for help. Nope. No way in hell.
Another hour passes, and I’m visibly shaking, the cold too much for the pups and me to handle. I have no idea how long the storm is going to rage or when the power will come back. Thinking about my options, I could stay here and freeze to death, my dogs having to survive by eating my frozen body. I snort and shake my head at the ludicrous thought. Perhaps this is where I start going crazy, talking to myself and hallucinating.
Rosie burrows under the blanket farther, pressing against my body for heat. Kozmo is only halfway under the blanket, his head poking out as he stares at the front door, still on guard duty.
The fire has since died, the embers a distant memory.
“Fuck this,” I say and walk over to put my boots and jacket on. “If he wants to start shit or even have an ‘I told you so’ attitude, I’ll give him a piece of my mind,” I say to Rosie and Kozmo as if they can understand me. “Come on, guys. We aren’t staying here and freezing to death.”
Kozmo is by my side a second later, but Rosie takes a little coercing to get out from under the warmth of the blanket. She hobbles over to me, and I scoop her up but walk over and grab the blanket to wrap her up. I have no doubt Kozmo will be fine walking in this weather. He’s a tank on the best of days. Taking a deep breath, I reach for the handle.
I stay like that for a moment, afraid to open the door and no doubt get an onslaught from the weather. “Ready, boy?” I look down at Kozmo. He tips his head back and makes a whiny noise. Exhaling deeply, I pull it open.
Immediately the wind pushes back, the frigid air enough to take my breath away. I duck my head and step outside, Kozmo following right behind me. Once the door is shut, I haul ass down the porch, around the side, and make my way up the hill. The snow is violent as it slams against me, pushing me forward then back again. What pisses me off more than this weather is the fact I have to force myself to go ask him for help.
I slip more times than I want to admit, but I keep going until I’m finally standing at his front door and see his lights. He has power, which doesn’t surprise me when I hear his generator roaring. I know he’s going to rub that shit in my face. I bring my frozen knuckles down on the wood three times and take a small step back.
A moment later the door flies open, and Luke stands in front of me. His plaid flannel is unbuttoned and showing off the white T-shirt beneath that’s stretched across his hard chest. His broad shoulders block out everything behind him but I ignore the smug as hell smile he’s wearing, and instead focus on the heat seeping from the inside of the cabin and washing over me.
He says nothing as he steps aside and allows me and the dogs to enter. I’m biting my tongue fiercely right now, but I swear to everything that is holy, if he says one thing about being right, I’ll unleash the She-Bitch on his ass.
Jenika Snow, a USA Today bestselling author, lives in the northeast with her husband and their children.
She prefers gloomy days, eats the topping off of her pizza first, and prefers to wear socks year round.