As a blizzard bears down on Northern Minnesota Kelsi’s lights flicker then go out right after a large crash echoes through the wilderness. A truck holds an unconscious stranger she is being pulled to, but who is Jace Runyon and why was he driving so fast on a road no GPS even knows exists?
“Never surrender,” she teased as she hopped up and gave a little kick’s worth of snow to his face. “I don’t know about you, but I’m starving.”
Jace rolled on his back and looked straight up into the air. A few pine trees stretched to the heavens, and he guessed he needed to be thankful for the mood killing ice to his junk. No reason to push this further than the few nights’ stand it could end up being. Pushing himself up, he finally caught sight of his truck, or what remained of it. Kelsi wasn’t lying. There really was a transformer sitting on top of his truck. He wondered if the wires still at the top of the pole were live. Either way, it had to have taken out more than just her power.
When he walked into the cabin, the shift in temperature was apparent immediately. Kelsi was slicing a roast and plating the meat. It was then he saw the Dutch oven that must have cooked the food over the fire.
“Crews are being dispatched all over the Northland,” a voice from a wind-up radio spoke. “There are over fifty thousand customers without electricity tonight, and with the temperatures threatening to drop significantly in the next few hours, officials are directing people to the Roseau area schools where generators are set up to keep the heat on until all electricity is restored. Latest reports have the temperatures dropping to negative thirty-five tonight with a wind chill of negative sixty.”
The light on the radio dimmed a bit, and Kelsi turned it off. “Maybe we should have kept the snow pack on the roof for insulation.” She lit two more candles and placed them under the terra cotta planter, then tossed the first two into the trash. “Before you get completely out of your snow gear, would you mind bringing in a few dozen more logs? I have another planter set up, but I only have so many tea lights.”
Jace did as instructed, and soon, they had a pile by the fireplace that should keep them going for a few days if the wind didn’t totally get them.
While they ate, Kelsi laid out a plan to seal in the heat. “My brother tried to call me,” she stated plainly. “I’m surprised the signal made it through. I tried to call him back, but even with roaming, I couldn’t get through. It’s for the best.”
“Why?” Jace asked. “Because you’d have to tell him about me.”
“He’d freak out and rush to my side if he knew I had a stranger in my home.”
“But he’s fine with you being alone in your cabin?”
“Better than with a man I…” Kelsi trailed off and forked a carrot.
“With a man that you what?”
“Nothing.” She popped the carrot in her mouth and then held her hand over her lips.
“Outside, the kiss,” Jace said hitching his thumb over his shoulder. “I—”
“Should have done it sooner,” she replied. “You know, since I’m going to turn you into immigration for crossing the border illegally.”
“You wouldn’t?” Jace sobered at the thought he might have crossed illegally.
“I might,” she replied coyly. “You don’t know my level of crazy.”
“I haven’t seen a dozen cats living with you.”
“Oh, crap,” she said as she stood up quickly.
Jace jumped up too. Was there an animal in the cabin?
“Just kidding, but it’s sweet to know you actually cared.” Kelsi sat down.
Now he knew she was a special kind of loco.
“So, Captain Runyon—”
“I’m a captain now?” he asked a bit bemused.
“Would the Mounties really send a low ranking person to invade the country single handed?”
“I do have mad skills.”
“And you can handle my type of crazy.”
They kept to surface details as they continued with their meal. Jace watched as the sun set and the natural light left the room, replaced by the glow of a few larger candles causing flickers and shadowing that brought out the features on Kelsi’s cheeks. He wanted to trace each one as he explored every inch of her. Instead of good plates, she used paper ones, so the only clean-up they had, helped to fuel the fire.
“You sure like K.T. Stamp,” he said as he stood by her bookshelf.
“Uh-huh,” she replied, and placed another log on the fire.
“I didn’t know he wrote that many books.”
“She,” she corrected. “She wrote that many.”
“Huh, I always thought K.T. was a guy.”
“You notice how when you say the initials it sounds like Katie? It’s kind of her way of making the point. Sci-Fi isn’t just for the guys anymore.”
“I watched every episode of The Charter Trilogy.”
“Did you now?” A smirk lit up her face. “And how many of K.T.’s books have you read?”
“Um, I said I watched the TV show.”
“Picking up a book too much for you?”
“No, I have to work two jobs. I’m not really in a position to read freely.”
“You have free time now.” Her suggestion was followed by her coming closer to him.
“Those books haven’t been read.”
“Those copies haven’t,” she said. “I can assure you those books have been read in many countries thousands of times.”
“Are you the president of her fan club?” Jace stepped into Kelsi’s personal space and tucked back her hair. “If so, tell me all about her books. What makes you a mega fan?”
“Right now, it’s Captain Morley of the Third Fleet,” she replied, practically breathless.
“Sounds almost as important as an undercover Mountie,” he challenged, and leaned down to capture her lips. With one hand cradling her face and the other resting on her hip, he discovered she could step back and safely let him take command.
He walked her backward toward the bed, and she gasped when the back of her knees hit the mattress. “Jace…I—”
Placing his finger over her lips, he silenced her. “You only have so many candles and logs to heat this place. How about I show you an alternative heat source?"
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