Welcome to the ninth chapter of a twelve-chapter story I am sharing on the blog. This is being shared with minimal editing, just for fun, but it will be fully edited once it is complete.
You can catch up on chapters HERE.
If you would like to read more about the characters in this story, you can find full-length novels on Amazon for purchase or on Kindle Unlimited HERE,
The first three chapters of the first book, The Farmer’s Daughter, can be found HERE.
Once all the chapters have been shared here, I’ll be providing a free Book Funnel link to blog readers and placing the story on Amazon for 99 cents.
Molly unhooked the ponytail she’d had her hair pulled up in and let her curls fall down across her back and shoulders. “Alex, I’m perfectly capable of making the drive to Burdett and back on my own.” She folded her arms across her chest and tipped her head slightly, narrowing her eyes. “Wait a minute. It’s not me you’re worried about, is it? It’s your truck.”
Alex laughed. “No! I am not worried about my truck. You’re a perfectly capable driver. There are snow squalls expected though and I –”
“You thought what? Think you can stop the snow squalls from happening?” She let out a small laugh. “Alex, I’ve been driving these roads in the winter a lot longer than you have. I’ll be fine. Promise. You really need to rest your back.” She pulled her lower lip between her teeth briefly and let it go again. “But if you really want to go then I wouldn’t mind the company. I’ll drive though so you can push the seat back and relax.”
Now that the freezers at the store were fixed, more inventory could be added to them and there was a delivery of fresh goat milk and cheese a half an hour away. Molly had volunteered to go, but Alex had overheard and didn’t like the idea of her out on her own in possibly bad weather.
Worrying about her was foolish, and he knew it. Like he’d told many people over the years, including Molly herself, she could handle any situation that rural life threw her. She didn’t need him to protect her. Truthfully, though, he did want to try to protect her. He also wanted her company after a busy few weeks of barely seeing her due to work on the farm, recovering from his injury, and painting the truck.
Once inside his truck, she flicked on the radio, pushing buttons until she found a station playing Christmas music. She pulled her hair back up into the ponytail again and he found his gaze focusing on the skin exposed at the back of her neck. He resisted the urge to trail his fingertips along it.
She made a face as she clicked the seatbelt in, then wiggled back and forth a little in the seat.
He quirked an eyebrow. “What’s the matter with you? You have an itch on your rear or something?”
She laughed, a small dimple dotting the skin next to her mouth. “No. It’s just your truck feels so — I don’t know – clunky.”
He scowled. “Clunky?”
“Yeah, like too big or something.”
“It’s a four-wheel drive. Heated memory seats. Maximum horsepower. Back-up camera. GPS integrated into the dashboard. State of the art paint job. What’s not to love?”
She sighed, shifting the truck into gear. “It’s lovely. It’s just not my truck.”
Oh. Right. That.
He reached over and laid his hand over hers. “Hey, I know. It will be back soon. Have you got ahold of Bert?” Hopefully not. “What did he say?”
“I did actually.”
“He said the engine was in pretty bad shape so he’s working on it. He had some other jobs to finish up first.” Not a lie. Good job, Bert. She lifted her shoulders briefly then dropped them again. “I don’t mind, really. I’m just glad to hear it might be able to be saved.”
If Brad was able to pick up that part tomorrow then the verdict should be that it would definitely be able to be repaired, not maybe.
Houses decorated with Christmas lights, a few with Christmas-themed inflatables in the front yard, slid by as they drove toward Spencer. They drove around the town via the by-pass when they reached town limits and headed on to Burkett, another 25-minute drive beyond.
Alex closed his eyes and enjoyed Molly’s singing as she crooned out carol after carol, mixed in with a few country hits and a couple of worship songs.
“Did I ever tell you about the time Grandpa picked me up in this truck from elementary school?”
Her question came out of the blue, halting her singing.
He’d started to doze and jerked awake to listen to her. “No, actually. I don’t believe you have.”
“He pulled up in front of the school and honked the horn. We were letting out early because of weather and he’d volunteered to get me so I’d get home faster than I would have on the bus. About a mile from home, we hit that bridge over Shaver’s Creek and the snow started falling faster. Right after the bridge there was a left turn and Grandpa hit the accelerator and did a donut right at the end of the road. The truck turned all the way around, 360, and ended up facing back the way we were supposed to be going.”
Alex chuckled. “That totally sounds like something Ned would do. Or did he do it on purpose?”
She looked at him, meeting his smile with hers. “Of course he did it on purpose. He thought it was the funniest thing ever to see my eyes almost bug out of my head, he said. Later he said it might not have been the smartest move because we could have flown over the embankment into the creek by the road, but in the moment it sure was fun. For him anyhow. For me, I almost wet myself. I thought we were going to die.”
The story reminded Alex of his own grandfather. “My grandfather did something similar when he took me flying one time. He had a private pilots license. He took the plane into a nosedive and just when I thought we were going to crash into a mountainside he ripped it back up again. I was ten and I’m not going to lie, I did pee myself just a little bit.”
They laughed together as Molly turned into Brookings Family Goat Farm’s driveway. Josiah Brookings met them outside the barn and within fifteen minutes they had the inventory loaded in Alex’s truck.
“You two be safe out there,” Josiah said as he shook Alex’s hand. “The weather says we’re supposed to get snow squalls.”
“We should be fine. Molly’s driving and she’s a lot safer than I am. Take care and see you next month.”
Josiah waved as he walked back up the long drive to the house, leaving Alex and Molly standing in an orange ring of light under the light pole.
Alex paused, reaching down and scooping up a handful of snow, smirking as he packed it. Molly was already starting to climb into the truck when he tossed the ball, striking her in the shoulder.
She turned quickly, mouth dropping open. “Alexander Stone, what do you think you’re doing?”
He grinned, reaching down for more snow. “Just some minor physical therapy for my back. It’s good to do some light stretches for it.”
She pointed at him. “You drop that snowball.” She took a step back, now waggling the finger at him. “Don’t you dare start something that I’m going to finish.”
He tossed the snowball at her, snow shattering down the front of her winter coat as the ball hit her chest. “Molly Tanner, you know I’m the snowball fight champion five years running. Don’t let your mouth write a check your bottom can’t cash.”
Molly snickered as she stooped to gather snow in her hands. He grunted a few seconds later when a snowball hit him in the thigh. After that the snowballs flew fast and furious. He kept his distance and then decided the one way to win was to get close and get as much snow down the back of her winter coat as possible. She anticipated his move though and put her hands up to block him, which resulted in a brief wrestling match, during which she slipped and started to fall. He caught her under her arms and helped her regain her balance, laughing hard. She stepped back away from him in a fit of laughter and leaned her against the truck, breathing hard. Placing one hand on either side of her he leaned close, catching his breath.
“Looks like I win.”
She smiled, a sparkle in her eyes. “You didn’t win, you cheated. You clearly pushed me onto that patch of ice.”
“I clearly did not push you. You were just overcome by my snowball throwing power.” He moved his head closer to hers. “Besides, anytime I get to be this close to you, I win.”
Her voice was a whisper, her mouth a mere inch from his. “I remember another time we were pushed up against your truck like this.”
“I remember it too. Fondly.” His lips grazed her cheek, then her mouth. “Very fondly.”
She smiled as he lowered his head toward hers. They stood there for several moments, her arms around his waist as they kissed, snowflakes falling around them, before she pulled her mouth away slowly.
“We’d probably better get on the road in case it starts getting slick out.”
He reluctantly agreed and they climbed back into the truck cab, him wincing as a light pain shot through his back.
While Christmas songs weren’t what he’d normally listen to alone in the truck, he pushed the seek button until he found one, simply so he could hear Molly sing. He seemed to be catching her love for the season.
Ten minutes into their drive the road in front of them disappeared in a blur of white. He noticed Molly’s knuckles turning white. “You okay?”
She nodded quickly. “Yes. I’m fine.”
“A little bit.”
“You want to pull over?”
He laughed as she maneuvered the truck gently off the road. “I thought you could handle driving in this weather.”
“I can and one way of handling it is knowing when to pull over and when not to.”
She shifted the truck into park. “The squall should pass soon. This will give us time to chat because I realized today that I have never asked you if you have any favorite Christmas movies.” She held up her hand as he started to answer. “Die Hard is not a Christmas movie. I’m not debating that again.”
He smiled as he propped his hands behind his head. “It is a Christmas movie, but I’ll let you believe what you want. As for other Christmas movies, I haven’t really watched a ton, but I guess It’s A Wonderful Life is good. Miracle on 34th Street. White Christmas.”
She flipped her hair over her shoulder and laughed. “Jason made you watch those with him, didn’t he?”
“Of course, but I liked them. What’s the one we watched together last year?”
“Christmas in Connecticut.”
“Yeah, that one wasn’t too bad.” He grinned and lowered his arms, leaning toward her. “Of course, anything is good as long as I’m with you.”
She placed a finger on his lips and tipped her head toward the windshield. “Looks like the snow squall has let up. We’d better keep going if we want to get back to Spencer.”
He smiled against her finger. “If you say, so, but there’s nothing wrong with stealing some kisses while we’re here.”
She kissed him briefly. “I’d like that, but I need to get back to pick Liz up from the library. The heat is broken in her car. Mom and Dad said I can borrow their car tonight.” She turned back to the steering wheel and placed her hand on the shift lever but didn’t move it. Her gaze drifted out in front of them, at the road now visible. “You know, this is the first Christmas since we lost grandpa that I really feel happy about Christmas again. This time of year used to give me such a warm feeling but so much about it seemed dull and lifeless since losing Grandpa. This year feels different. I don’t know why.” She sighed, eyes glistening. “There is something wildly beautiful about the spirit of Christmas, the way it reminds us all to take time to pause and tell those we love how much they mean to us.” She pulled her hand briefly from his and wiped at her damp cheek. “Sorry. I don’t know why I’m so sappy tonight.”
He leaned across the seat and kissed her cheek. “I don’t mind sappy if it’s coming from you.”
She squeezed his hand then looked out the windshield. “Looks like that snow squall has cleared up. Let’s see how much closer we can get to home.” He gazed out the window at the now clear sky that moments before had been swirling with white. Stars sparkled against a dark blue sky. She was right. There was something wildly beautiful about Christmas, especially when he saw it through her eyes.