Sanskar told himself to stop staring, but despite the heat of the growing fire in
the hearth, the command froze before it could take effect. Funny, he’d thought the
oversized flannel and sweatpants would lessen her effect on him.
No luck there. Her wet hair was combed back from her face, which only
managed to make her hazel eyes look deeper, larger. Between the flames of the
hearth and candles, her beauty took on a luminous quality. It feathered along the
high arch of her cheekbones and softened the bottom curve of her full mouth.
The tightening in his chest eased into a welcome ache. It had been some time
since he’d felt like this, and he didn’t know how to curb it.
That wide-eyed gaze locked onto his, and his pulse picked up pace, the air
going thick in his lungs. After several beats of continued silence, she blinked and
“Thank you for the clothes.”
He frowned, clearing his throat to jumpstart the stalled words. They came out
rougher than he intended. “It’s not much, but you’re welcome.”
She licked her lips. His traitorous stare followed the quick flick of her tongue.
“This is a nice room. I imagine there’s a lot of light during the day,” she said.
Turning, he looked at the wide windows aligned with the western horizon. If
not for the whiteout blanketing the landscape as far as the eye could see, they
would be enjoying a nice sunset right about now. “This room is the reason I
purchased the house. It was a bit of an impulse, to be honest.” But he wasn’t going
into that now. Wiping palms that were surprisingly damp on the thighs of his
jeans, he stepped back. “Here, sit by the fire.” He shooed Major from the foot of
the armchair closest to the hearth. “Are you hungry?”
“I could use a drink,” she said, sinking onto the leather cushion. She was a tall
woman, but the chair enveloped her, somehow making her look small and delicate.
“A drink.” Yeah, he could use one of those, too. Maybe whiskey was what he
needed to douse the warm, cozy fire she’d lit in him. As cold as the house was, he
had no right to feel such riotous warmth. “I’ll see what I have.”
The kitchen, separated from the living room by a high granite countertop, ran
toward necessity. He used the flashlight to find his way more easily around the
rustic wood cabinetry. There wasn’t much he could whip up for her besides the
whiskey and a bottle of cabernet he kept around for whenever he was in the mood
to cook anything nicer than microwave dinners. “Is wine okay?” he called back
into the living room.
“I’ll take some of that whiskey,” her voice said close behind him.
Glancing over his shoulder, he watched her run a hand over the smooth wood
face of one of the cabinets. “You sure?” he asked, holding up the bottle. “It isn’t
the smooth kind.”
She rolled her eyes, and the jaded, city attitude that cloaked her face skewered
him. “Just pour me a glass. This is without doubt a hard liquor kind of situation.”
Taking a tumbler down from the cupboard over his head, he poured her a glass
and set it down on the island between them. “There you are, princess. Have fun.”
She lifted the tumbler but frowned at him as she cupped it in both her hands.
“You don’t think I can handle my liquor?”
“Did I say that?” he asked, amused. He poured a second glass and swirled the
liquid. Rarely did he allow himself to indulge in whiskey anymore. Not alone,
anyway. It had helped him cope with the most haunting events of his life. And
from coping had grown a dependency he solved by pulling up roots and changing
his lifestyle completely. In a way, whiskey had saved his life. He never took a
drink without remembering—
She took a sip.
He waited for the flinch when the burn kicked in, but she did no such thing.
Damn it, she was exceeding every one of his expectations.
“You didn’t say it, but the whole chauvinistic act leads me to believe you’re
It took him a moment to grasp the thread of the conversation. He snorted out a
“Yeah.” She set the glass down so she could prop her hands on the counter
behind her and pull herself up on top of it. Crossing her legs comfortably, she
lifted the glass again and gestured with it toward him. “You know what I’m
talking about. The sweep-the-damsel-off-her-feet thing you did back there on the
“Down here we call that chivalry, darling’.” He smiled despite himself.
“Chivalry is dead. Didn’t you get the memo?”
“Apparently not.” Truthfully, surrounded by the rustic wood of the kitchen
and with the glow of candle and firelight from the other room, if he hadn’t known
any better, he would think this was a scene straight out of another era. An era in
which chivalry was very much alive and kicking. He tossed back the whiskey in
his tumbler and set the empty glass aside. The liquid joined the curious fire inside
him and did nothing to squelch it as he’d hoped.
“So what do you do when you’re not driving a tow truck, Sanskar?” she asked.
He leaned back against the cabinet behind him and crossed his arms. “You
don’t have to do that.”
“Make small talk,” he told her. “If you want, I can show you the guest room,
and you can shack up there for the night. Neither Major nor I will bother you.”
Her shoulders stiffened.
“I thought making conversation would be more pleasant than listening to the wind howl. My mistake.”
He frowned, cursing himself as she hopped down from the counter and took
her drink into the living room. He didn’t know what about her amused him one
moment and put his back up the next. The part of her that could sip whiskey like
water intrigued him to no end, but the city part reminded him all too much of the
types he used to date—the kind of woman who had been drawn to his name and
the money behind it. Not the real man inside, the one he’d given up everything to
save. He ran a hand through his shaggy hair and sighed, forcing his shoulders to
level off as the breath and tension filtered out of him.
Then he poured himself
another glass, afraid she might be right about one thing—this was on its way to
becoming a situation only hard liquor could solve.
Sanskar turned the heavy glass in his fingers before he slammed it down on the
counter. Adding alcohol to an already explosive situation was the wrong move.
He’d bustle that tempting bundle into the spare room. If she wanted to stay up,
he’d see about getting the generator started.
The small battery-operated weather radio on the counter crackled to life. “…
long range forecast predicts this storm will hover over western Dehradun for the
next forty-eight to seventy-two hours with accumulations up to three feet…”
“Oh. My. God.” Swara stalked into the kitchen, grabbed his glass and drank it
in one gulp. Her watering eyes searched his. “What are we going to do?”
“I’m going to get the generator started, and you’re going to bed, princess.”
Sanskar put the whiskey bottle in the cabinet and closed the door.
Swara squared her shoulders so abruptly he thought he heard tendons snap
“Stop calling me princess, like some kind of reverse snob. My name is
Sanskar wondered if helping this woman was punishment for old sins. He
inhaled her sweetness and wanted to run his tongue over the soft skin exposed by
the drooping collar of his oversized shirt.
Instead he slapped the flashlight into her hand and pointed her toward the
spare bedroom. “Go!”
Swara watched Sanskar disappear quicker than a tax refund. She wasn’t tired
enough to sleep, so she wandered back into the living room and slowly piled more
wood on the fire. Major sprawled like a lifeless bearskin rug in front of the hearth.
He didn’t move when she stepped over him. The howling wind scraped on her
nerves like sandpaper. Despite Sanskar’s outrageous remarks, his strength and
positive attitude kept her fears at bay.
She turned slowly, studying the masculine furnishings in the flashlight beam.
The overstuffed leather sofa and chairs suited him. To her surprise a large fir tree
stood in the corner, partially decorated. She no longer bothered to decorate her
apartment for the holidays, and the idea of celebrating made her stomach clench.
Maybe he’d had company for Christmas. Everything else in the room shouted
bachelor. Even the heavy photo frames perched on the mantel looked like he’d
picked them out. Without stepping up onto the hearth, she couldn’t make out the
details, but they looked like outdoor scenes.
A loud thump followed by a muffled curse from the basement made her smile
as she stifled a yawn. Finding her bed sounded more and more enticing. She
wandered down the hall, looking for the guest room. After briefly glancing into
Sanskar’s room, she snapped the door shut. The king-sized bed covered with a fluffy
goose-down coverlet looked too inviting. Her breath hitched at the idea of Sanskar
Swara shook her head. She had to stop thinking of him as an attractive, s*xy
male. As she opened another door, several lights flickered and came on. A
computer screen turned blue as electronic equipment hummed to life. A fax
machine spat out a page. They must run on a backup battery. The office was better
equipped than her office in Kolkata.
She resisted the urge to check it out, slowly backing away. For a small-town
tow truck driver, Sanskar had an enormous amount of high-tech equipment. She
rubbed her forehead. He seemed, somehow, more than he presented.
The next door opened into what was obviously a guest room. The double bed
stacked with pillows called her name.
Sanskar noisily climbed the basement stairs.
“Swara,” he shouted. “I started the generator. The furnace will kick on in a
minute and warm the bedrooms.”
“That’s great. I was just thinking about going to bed.” Only not alone. She
rubbed her arms as she walked back toward the front room.
Sanskar stood next to the door. She glanced past him at the swirling snow
visible through the tiny window. Wind rattled the pane. A horrendous tearing,
snapping roar shook the earth.
Sanskar stepped back, pulling her with him. The sound of metal crunching and
glass shattering made her cringe. After a minute, he cautiously pulled open the
door. Snow blew in chilling her to the bone.
She stared at the enormous tree flattening Sanskar’s truck…..!!!
Credit to: JANPA