Out of the darkness, from the heart of the howling
snowstorm, a hunched-over man staggered up Meganâ€™s front
steps. She wrenched back from the door, her heart pounding
in her chest. Panicked, she skittered behind a couch.
Who the hell could he be? Nobody could have walked or driven
here in this weather. Her breath came in fast rasps. The
lights flickered again, then again. Her eyes trailed to the
fireplace tools on the hearth.
Maybe she should grab the iron poker. Just in case.
The lights wavered, struggled to hold on. From outside, a
solid, deadweight thump startled a gasp from Megan.
The words were so quiet they mightâ€™ve been a thought, but in
her current state she still whirled, fully expecting the
impossibleâ€”that someone else was crouched next to her
behind the sofa. Of course, she was alone. She peeked around
the corner of the couch, her panic subsiding into a feeling
Help who? The man. Just a regular, ordinary man. Who must be
in trouble. She remembered how he seemed to stumble on the
steps and the thump. Heâ€™d fallen. She rushed from her hiding
place like a sprinter at the sound of the gun. Peering
through the sidelight, she whispered, "Oh, shit." She was
She tore open the door. Jesus, he was big. No one she knew
from the neighborhood, though there were always tourists
renting surrounding cabins to take advantage of Deep Creek
Lake and the Wisp Ski Resort.
God, he wasnâ€™t dressed to be out in this weather. No coat.
What the hell was she going to do with him?
Cold wind buffeted her and nipped at her skin, making her
nearly frostbitten cheek tingle uncomfortably. Her
hesitation wavered, then dropped away completely. What
choice did she have? She couldnâ€™t leave him out in this
The bitter wind sank into her bones as she stepped shoeless
and coatlessâ€”like himâ€”onto the porch. She didnâ€™t
have to check for a pulse. Each shallow breath sent up a
small fog from his mouth. Megan crouched behind his
shoulders and wedged her hands underneath. Two fistfuls of
red plaid flannel in hand, she pulled. He barely budged as
she grunted and tugged. She tried two more times.
Shit, but it was mind-numbingly cold. "Come on, dude. Work
with me, will ya?" she muttered, her hair whipping around
Megan rethought the problem and stepped around to his bare
feet. How could someone walk to this cabin without shoes?
She shook her head and crouched, back facing him, between
his legs. Securing an ankle under each armpit, she cupped
his heels and pushed herself into a standing position. This
time, when she moved, he moved. The guy was so big and
heavy, she felt like Rudolph pulling Santaâ€™s sleigh without
the help of the other eight reindeer.
The warm air from inside the cabin embraced her body, its
comforting tendrils drawing her over the threshold and into
the slate-covered foyer. The lights flickered again, sending
out a quiet electrical hum that raised the hair on her arms
and the back of her neck. She tried to drag the man
carefully, but his head still thumped as it crossed the
shallow ridge of the doorjamb. She winced. "Sorry."
As soon as he was clear of the door, she set his feet down
and ran to close it. The indoor temperature had probably
dropped twenty degrees while sheâ€™d been outside figuring how
to lug his sorry butt in.
She engaged the dead bolt, and the lights died. She gasped
and pivoted, flattened her back to the door. He lay, right
where she left him, melting snow all over her hardwoods.