THANKS FOR YOUR WONDERFUL COMMENTS…..AND HERE ARE MY LINKS OF PREVIOUS EPISODE…..
As Sanskar reached over to crank up the heat in the tow truck, Major jumped
into the space behind the seat. The sound of Swara’s teeth chattering stopped
when she sucked in a breath. She scooted toward the passenger door, pulling at her
skirt, which didn’t seem capable of covering those amazing thighs. Thighs Sanskar
had already felt as he’d carried her to the truck. Thighs that, despite the cold wind,
had been warm against his hand. Thighs that led up to a tight bottom and a slim
As Sanskar hit the brakes a little too late to avoid a fallen branch, the truck
skidded. It jerked as he drove over the debris. That’s what you get for overthinking
her thighs, jackass.
He tightened his fingers on the steering wheel and reached to turn on the radio.
Again, when his hand came near her, Swara flinched.
“Relax. This isn’t…where are you from?” He eased the truck forward as a
bluesy guitar tune wafted from the speakers.
“Kolkata.” Swara lifted her chin a bit as if being from Kolkata gave her
If she only knew.
“This isn’t Kolkata. Folks here help each other. We’re looking at blizzard
conditions. You need a place to stay. I have a place for you to stay. I’m not going
to hurt you.”
“I’m not afraid of you.” The indignation in her voice left no room for anything
else in the cab.
“Then why are you plastered against the door?” Sanskar pulled his eyes off the
road to glance at her. She looked like a twitchy rabbit cornered against a fence, but
he sensed a tiger hidden behind those huge, hazel eyes. Did the cat want to purr or
bite his head off? He wouldn’t make any sudden movements, just in case.
“If you haven’t noticed,” she gestured toward Major’s head jutting over the
front seat, “that beast of yours has a saliva control problem. I do not want drool on
my sweater.” Swara wrapped her arms tightly around her waist.
Sanskar reached a hand back and patted Major’s head. He couldn’t believe the
dog had given up his window seat. He must like their passenger.
“Don’t listen to her, buddy. She’s just a city girl who thinks wildlife is best
viewed through a television screen.”
“You really are terrible at reading people, aren’t you?” She moved a little
closer so she could put her legs directly under the heat pumping into the truck. “As it happens, I grew up in the woods of Vermont. I had more dirt under my
fingernails than most of the boys and loved catching bugs, toads, and snakes.”
“Not dressed like that you didn’t.” Sanskar gestured to her spike-heeled boots.
What possessed someone to wear shoes like that in the winter?
She shrugged. “A girl has to grow up at some point. Can’t run wild through
the forest forever.”
Why the hell not? It sounded like a perfect lifestyle to Sanskar. Very similar to
his own. Well, the one he’d fashioned out of necessity, anyway.
They drove with only the music filling the truck. Major, apparently not taking
Swara’s insult personally, had fallen asleep behind the front seat. When Sanskar
stopped the vehicle in his snow-covered driveway, the dog popped his head up and
barked. He pushed a wet nose into Sanskar’s ear, then turned toward Swara.
She held up a hand. “Don’t even think about it.” She opened the passenger
door.Major scrabbled into the front seat, ignoring Swara’s shouts as he bounded
across her lap, and hopped down into the snow.
Sanskar bit his bottom lip, trying desperately not to laugh. When Swara turned
fiery eyes his way, he couldn’t hold it in any longer. He laughed for a good twenty
seconds before wiping his eyes.
“Your animal ruined my skirt. That’s funny to you?” She indicated tiny pulls
in the expensive fabric.
He had clothes that looked far worse, and he certainly preferred his faded
jeans and T-shirts over stuffy business suits and offices and meetings and…his
chest tightened thinking about all the crap he’d left behind.
“Major would offer to buy you another, but he’s short on cash at the moment.”
He motioned to the open passenger door. “Hang on a second and I’ll shovel a path
to the door.”
He climbed out of the truck while Major barked at something in the backyard.
Sanskar grabbed the shovel he’d rested against the front door before leaving for
work in the morning. At least someone had listened to the weather reports and
made sensible plans. If Miss Kolkata had taken his advice and shacked up in the
motel, he wouldn’t be freezing his ass off shoveling a path for her majesty right
now. He wouldn’t be faced with the prospect of having her spend the night in his
Something told him she would be less than impressed by the accommodations.
She had VIP Treatment written all over her, and Sanskar didn’t consider anyone VIP material. At the heart of it, people were just people. No one was any better than anyone else. Everybody had the same potential. Every life had worth. This was where he and his father had disagreed. Repeatedly…. When his throat tightened, he pushed the thought aside like he always did.
“It’s freezing out here,” Swara called from the truck.
No shit, princess. He couldn’t feel his fingers, and snow had seeped into his
work boots, icing up his ankles. He just wanted to get inside and take a hot
Sanskar cleared the rest of his narrow path and bowed before Swara, still seated
in the passenger seat. “Your Grace.” He thrust out an arm, indicating the path was now ready to accept her.
She pursued her lips and placed one of those ridiculous heels onto the running
board. The moment she put weight on it, the boot slipped, sending her tumbling
into the snow pile Sanskar had created at the end of the hastily shoveled path.
Again, laughter bubbled out of him. Twice in one day? Unusual, but she was
just so…so…unlike anyone in Elbridge….
He extended a hand to her, but she refused the help. Instead, she struggled to
her feet like a newborn calf, then stalked to his front door. She would have
succeeded in regaining her dignity if not for the compacted snow stuck to her skirt.
She turned to look at him through narrowed eyes. “Let’s go. I’m freezing.”
Sanskar put a chokehold on the shovel handle, imagining Swara’s neck in its
place. The quicker they got through this evening, the quicker morning would
come. The quicker he could get her off to Dehradun. She didn’t belong in Elridge.
She certainly didn’t belong in his house.
The screen door squeaked as he pushed open the front door.
“No locks?” Swara looked up at him as they stood close together in the
“Don’t need them.” Though someone should lock him up for bringing her
here.Her brow furrowed, as if the notion of not locking, double locking, triple
locking one’s front door was incomprehensible, then stepped inside. “It’s cold in
“What do you mean?” Sanskar shuffled in behind her and flicked the light
switch by the door. Nothing. Judging by the frostiness in his small kitchen, the
power had been out for a while.
“Let me guess; you don’t believe in electricity. It hinders your pure living out
here in the middle of nowhere.”
Sanskar growled at her as he felt his way through the dark to the hall closet. He
grabbed a flashlight and shined it on Swara.
“Stay here. Don’t touch anything.”
The last thing he needed was to have her wandering through his house. He’d
get the power running, set the ground rules, and figure out what to do with the
Standing alone in the freezing darkness, Swara wrapped her arms around
herself as a deep shiver chased through her body. Her teeth chattered. She clamped
her jaws tight and rubbed her upper arms in an attempt to rev up her circulation
through the soft cashmere. She wiggled her toes in her tight, pointed boots.
Anything to get warm. She’d never imagined Dehradun could be so cold. She’d
locked her winter coat in the trunk of the rental car along with her suitcase for the
drive to the airport, thinking she’d be plenty warm in her sweater and skirt with
the car’s heater running.
Her suitcase. Damn. Damn. Damn. Her rustic savior in denim and flannel had
whisked her away to this icebox in the woods without her suitcase. And she’d let
him. Suddenly, all she could think of were her cozy wool slacks, warm socks, and
favorite fuzzy slippers imprisoned in the trunk of the wrecked car.
“Hey!” she yelled into the empty blackness.
Pipes clanked somewhere but no response came.
“Hey!” she called again.
More clanking. Then doggy toenails clicking on the hardwood floor.
Swara raised her voice. “Sanskar!”
She jumped as a flashlight beam danced across her face. “Don’t do that,” she
He swung the light toward the wall so she could see him without being
blinded. “What do you want?” he asked.
“We need to go back.”
“Go back where?”
“To my car. I need my suitcase.”
He stepped toward her, gripped her shoulder, and marched her to the front
door. When he opened it, an icy blast blew up her short skirt, and Swara recoiled.
Sanskar aimed the flashlight out into the whirling maelstrom of white.
“I don’t think so.”
Her heart sank. He was right. Only a fool would venture out in a storm like
that, and he didn’t strike her as a fool.
Sanskar shut the door with a firm click. “Looks like the power may be out for
some time. The lines are down, and I couldn’t get the generator started.”
“Won’t the power company come out to fix it?”
“Not ’til the storm’s over, and there’s no telling when that’ll be.”
Great. Now she was doomed to freeze to death in Middle-of-Nowhere,
Dehradun, with a complete stranger and his sloppy dog—if she didn’t starve first.
She felt a whine coming on and couldn’t muster the strength to suppress it. “But I
can’t stay here in the dark with no clothes and no food.”
Sanskar laughed. “I have food. We just won’t be able to cook it on the stove.
Besides, I thought you said you grew up in the woods. What happened to your
“I ditched them for civilization.”
“Well, better bring them back. You’re going to need them.”
Swara closed her eyes. She never should have come on this trip. She should
have stayed home in her comfortable apartment on the upper West Side where she
had heat and light and…do what? Spend the holidays alone? Ever since her
mother died, she’d dreaded spending holidays by herself. That’s why she’d wanted
to keep the office open. If she worked straight through this cursed time of the year,
she barely noticed. Tears tickled the back of her throat, and she balled her fists.
I will not cry. No matter what.
But she made no promises about pouting. “I’m cold and wet and need a hot
Sanskar raised his left brow at her tone, but she didn’t care. Let him think she
was a spoiled princess. At least he was in his own home.
Then he smiled, and a tiny flame of warmth flickered inside her. “You’re in
luck. We may not have heat or light, but we do have hot water.”
“The water heater’s gas. Just don’t take too long. The pump’s running on the
back-up battery, and I don’t know how long it will last. I’d hate to have to resort to
melting snow for water if the power doesn’t come back on in a couple of days.”
“A couple of days!” That wasn’t possible, was it?
He shrugged. “You never know. Follow me. I’ll show you the bathroom.”
Swara didn’t balk when he grasped her small, cold hand in his big, warm one
and led her down the dark hall to a compact, white, spotlessly clean bathroom with
an old-fashioned claw foot tub. A large, round rain showerhead projected from the
wall above it.
Sanskar turned the taps to adjust the temperature, then pulled the valve for the
shower. Water cascaded down, and clouds of steam boiled up to fill the frigid
room. He opened a cupboard and handed her a thick, white towel. “Here.
Remember, don’t take too long.”
“But I don’t have anything to wear.” Her sweater and slip of a skirt were
damp from the snow.
“I’ll leave something next to the tub for you.”
“I won’t be able to see.”
“I’ll leave you the flashlight.” He set it on the toilet seat, aimed at the ceiling.
“Now you won’t be able to see.”
He heaved a sigh. “I’ll be fine. I know every board and nail of this place.”
The door clicked sharply behind him.
It crossed her mind that stripping down to nothing in the house of a man she’d
known less than an hour might not be the brightest move. But common sense
didn’t stand a chance against the siren call of hot water. Thirty seconds later, she
stood stark naked under the spray as the glorious heat brought her chilled flesh
back to life.
With a sigh of regret, she turned off the water much sooner than she would
have liked and poked her head around the curtain. In a neat pile on the bath mat
lay a pair of gray sweat pants and a red plaid flannel shirt. She grabbed the towel
and rubbed her skin briskly to generate as much heat as possible before slipping
into the clothes Sanskar had provided.
They were obviously his. Swara tightened the drawstring of the pants and
rolled the legs until her toes peeked out. She felt warmer already. Then she pulled
on the soft, worn shirt and turned the cuffs several times to free her hands. A pair
of thick wool socks completed the ensemble. She wiped a dry end of the towel
across the steamy mirror, peered at her image, and stifled a snort. Definitely the
Anti- Fashionista. It was a good thing no one she knew could see her now.
When she opened the bathroom door, a faint glow drew her down the hall
toward the living room. She turned off the flashlight and followed the light. When
she stepped into the living room, her breath caught in her throat. A dozen lit
candles flickered on the coffee table, end tables, even the windowsills.
Sanskar knelt in front of a crackling fire in the stone fireplace, tucking more kindling around the logs. He turned his head toward her then rose in one fluid movement.