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Moonlight On Snow:
A Love Story

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12

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"Storm? Snowbound?" He frowned, not seeming to understand the significance of the situation. "What storm? It's just snowing. What do you mean we’re snowbound? People don't get snowbound in this day and age."

"Storm, as in blizzard. That's what's happening outside." Haley sighed and returned to the stove. "Let me guess. You didn’t bother checking the weather report before you embarked on this little visit?"

"Right," he muttered. "Guess that’s mistake number three."

"Good thing this isn’t baseball," Haley said, grabbing a potholder. "You’ll learn in this country never to set out on a trip without checking the forecast. It’s an unforgiving climate."

She lifted the percolator and poured scorched coffee into two of the tin mugs. "Here. Come fix your coffee. It’s going to be a long day. A very long day."

He took the mug. His nose wrinkled in distaste. He set it on the table. "You’re not going to drink that, are you?"

Oh, brother was it ever going to be a long day, Haley thought. "We both are." At his frown, she said, "I know it’s not some fancy schmancy cup of gourmet coffee, but it is hot and liquid, and it will warm you. So bottoms up."

"Couldn’t you make us some fresh coffee?"

He sounded so morose at the prospect of drinking less than perfect coffee that Haley had to smile. Patiently, she explained, "The water pump’s probably already frozen. These gallon jugs of water," she pointed to the dozen plastic jugs lined up on the pine table, "are all we have so it’s no point in wasting the coffee because it’s a little overdone."

He sniffed. "Overdone? You mean burned."

"Hey, this may be the only coffee you get today so don’t knock it."

"Why don’t I just drive back to that little town I passed and get some more water?"

"You really don’t get it, do you?" She sighed. "Cream? Sugar?"

"That’s how I normally take it, but answer my question first please."

Haley sprinkled powdered creamer and a bit of sugar into her mug then did the same to his.

"Look, mister--" she broke off and frowned. "I’m sorry, I don’t know your name?"

"Jeff," he said, making a face as he reluctantly picked up his mug and swirled the contents.

Haley noticed he didn’t take a sip though. "Where are you from, Jeff?"

"Not Montana," he said.

The heartfelt longing in his voice surprised a chuckle from her. "That explains it I guess. A blizzard is no ordinary storm. It could blow for three hours or three days."

"Three days!"

Haley ignored his interruption. "Blizzard is wind and snow and ice. It blows so hard you could get lost going from the front porch to your car. And you could die out there. Snowbound means you're stuck in one place until it stops blowing."

"We can’t be having a blizzard."

Haley rolled her eyes. Surely, he wasn’t all beauty and no brain. "Believe me. That’s what’s happening. You’re not going anywhere until this stops."

"You’re kidding, right? You've got to be joking."

"No, Jeff, I’m not kidding." Exasperated, Haley added in a snide tone, "You won’t be charming any other ladies with your dirty dancing for a couple of days."

"There you go again about dancing." Jeff crossed his arms and planted the edge of his hip on the kitchen table. He studied her intently. "Why on earth are you ranting about dancing all the time?"

Haley frowned. "You are the stripper my sister sent me for my birthday, aren’t you?"

"The what?" Jeff exclaimed.

Haley nearly dropped her cup of coffee. Judging by the way his mouth dropped open, he wasn’t a bump and grind expert.

Embarrassed by her leap to a faulty conclusion, Haley carefully set her cup on the kitchen table before asking. "If you’re not my birthday present, just exactly who are you?"

"I’m Jeff Talent."

Haley frowned. He’d said that as if she should know who he was. She picked up her mug and sipped the thick coffee. "Jeff Talent?" The name did sound familiar.

His lips twitched as if he were straining to hold back a belly laugh. He fished around in his pockets and pulled out a small white rectangle. "My card, Dr. Gant."

"J. William Talent," she read. Her eyes widened. In shock, she stared at the EnviroMed logo. The card fluttered from her hand to the floor. "You’re–!"

"The corporate bean counter you want to impress," he said with a definite smirk on his face and amusement in his voice.

Haley didn’t know if it was the smirk or the simmering humor beneath his words, but her temper went from zero to sixty in a nano second. "How dare you make me think you were . . . were...!" The enormity of her mistake hit her. Her mouth shut with an audible snap. Crimson stained her face.

Jeff grinned. "A male stripper? Hey, that was your imaginative leap to a weird conclusion."

Oh, if the floor would only open and swallow her, she prayed. Her eyes narrowed. Her spine stiffened, and she drew herself erect. She stepped closer to her new boss and came out verbally swinging.

"It’s bad enough that I have to endure your checking up on me, Mr. Talent, but it’s unpardonable that you show up, invading my privacy, a week ahead of schedule. Just what do you mean by barging in here so late at night?"

"Don’t get your microscope all steamed up, doc," Jeff said easily.

"It’s Dr. Gant," she snapped. "Not doc." Unfortunately, she thought, that seemed to amuse him even more.

"Dr. Gant, for the record, I don’t want to be here any more than you want me here."

"Oh, well, don’t let me keep you. By all means leave, Mr. Talent. Please."

"Hey, I’d be glad to. Just figure out which snow drift out there is my rental car, and I’m outta here!"

Haley didn’t have an answer to that one. She tried to control her temper. "We’re stuck with each other so we might as well be civil."

"You first, doc."

At the word doc, her eyes narrowed. "Apparently, I am first. I asked you not to call me doc. At least I’m making an effort to be civil. Which is more than I can say for you. Since you’ve arrived, you’ve misled me, insulted my coffee, and laughed at me."

"Settle down, Dr. Gant. I didn’t intend to insult you. I’ll be on my best behavior from now on. I just can’t believe that we might be holed up here as long as you said. This is the twenty-first century for Heaven’s sake. Won’t someone come looking for you?"

"No. I hate to tell you this, Mr. Talent, but you’re not in New York City. There’s no Starbucks around the corner and no cab to call to make a quick exit. So let’s just see if we can get along. Okay?"

"What about sending an email message?"

"Sorry. My laptop battery died just before you arrived."

"And my cell phone has been useless since I left the car rental agency." Jeff sank heavily onto one of the kitchen chairs at the table and lifted his cup of coffee in a silent toast. He sipped. A grimace that suggested pain creased his forehead, and he set the cup down and shoved it away. "Maybe we should just get down to business. Perhaps you could explain your failure to follow company procedure."

"What? I’m exhausted. I’m certainly not going to sit here and be grilled over not filing some report for an office-bound pencil-pusher."

"Let me get this straight. Are you calling me an office-bound pencil pusher?" Anger colored his voice.

"If the Italian loafer fits," Haley muttered, staring at the expensive shoes on his feet.

From there, things went progressively downhill. Their voices rose steadily as they argued about Haley’s refusal to send periodic reports as requested by the company.

"Well, what about the end of year report you’re supposed to file?" Jeff asked. "Are you going to just ignore that too?"

"Yesterday was the end of the year," Haley snapped. "So technically, that report is not due until today."

"So are you saying you have it ready to turn in today?"

"Not yet!" Haley snapped. "I’m working on it."

A huge blast of wind shook the cabin, making them both jump. Jeff rubbed the back of his neck tiredly. "I’m beat. Let’s call a truce. Why don’t we table this discussion until later? If you’ll point me to the bathroom, I’d like to wash up then get about forty winks."

The expression on Haley’s face aroused Jeff's suspicions. She smiled. Not just any smile. She beamed. Uh oh. "What?" he asked, warily.

"I imagine you do want to freshen up."

"Yes so just point me to the bathroom." He looked around and frowned.

Haley's lips twitched. She pointed. "See that quilt on the wall?"

When Jeff nodded, she said, "There's a door behind it that leads onto a tiny enclosed back porch protected from the wind. Go out the back door and straight down the path. You'll see the privy in a stand of loblolly pine about fifty feet away."

Jeff blanched. "You're jerking my chain, right?"

Haley said nothing. She just shook her head.

"But... but... it's winter outside."

She nodded. "Yep, and it doesn't have central heating or running water."

"You said there was a blizzard. If I can't get to my car, how can I get to an outhouse?"

Haley struggled to hang onto her laughter. "Ever heard of a chamber pot?"

 

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