With nothing else to do, I slipped on my boots, jacket, and hat. Slipping out the front door, I pulled my gloves out of my pockets and put them on. Snow always made me feel better. I liked shoveling. I was weird, but it helped me think.
It was brutal outside, though. The wind whipped down the valley. There weren’t any other houses near this one, and other than the forest full of pines, the land was empty.
I made my way carefully down the stairs and hit the ground. Last night the snow had been packed down, but now it came up to my calves and it was wet and heavy. I waded around the stairs and made my way to the front of the garage. Looking around, I saw the shovel propped against the wall under the stairs.
Shuffling back up the slight incline, I grabbed the shovel and turned, taking a sheet of snow in the face. It stung like a bitch.
“Jesus,” I muttered, shaking my head.
Dragging the shovel out to the driveway, I started clearing a path. There wasn’t any point to it. Wind was blowing snow back onto the tiny section I cleared, and when Saint Snow-dumbass or whatever they were calling it finally got here, it would be a total white-out, but I liked the burn in my arms and how everything seemed different outside, freezing my ass off and sweating at the same time.
Maybe trying to kiss Kyler and getting rejected wasn’t such a bad thing. I could learn from this experience. Get some perspective or something, because it was probably well beyond the time I should be letting go of this stupid unrequited love stuff.
He didn’t want me.
I wanted him.
The only way to fix this was to find someone else. And there was Paul. Nothing was wrong with him, and before Kyler had hijacked me at the bar, there was a good chance that he was going to ask me out. At least that was how it’d sounded, and according to both Kyler and Andrea, Paul was attracted to me. He didn’t need to be swimming in beer to want me, so he got bonus points right there.
Too bad Paul wasn’t snowed in here.
Oh, who was I fooling? Even if Paul were here, it wasn’t like I’d be spending the entire time in his bed or something, but he could’ve been the perfect distraction.
I stopped, brushing snow off my face. Using Paul as a distraction was really shitty, but if I could just let go of Kyler, I could fall for Paul. Couldn’t I? He was nice and handsome and fun. As far as I knew, he didn’t sleep around. We had career goals in common.
My heart didn’t like the idea, though. Like I was betraying Kyler or something, and that was just stupid. But I felt…icky even considering it.
Everything in my life was where it needed to be. I would graduate in the spring, enter grad school, and for the most part, I had my shit together, but relationships? I missed the boat on that one. It was the one thing I couldn’t fix or figure out. I was twenty-one, but it was like I was stuck at sixteen when it came to my love life.
In reality, I was stuck on one word: frigid.
Seemed stupid to be so affected by some guy saying that, especially with my psychology background, but that one word summed up years of a relationship and my own actual real sexual act.
I couldn’t get past that, just like I couldn’t get past Kyler.
Half-tempted to throw myself face-first into the snow, I began shoveling with vigor. I had half the snow moved off a decent section of the driveway when I heard something rumbling in the distance. Turning around, I held the ends of my hair back from my face and tried to see through the snow.
What the hell was that noise? There was nothing around here. We were too far from the street to hear anything and I doubted anyone was up on the slopes today. Dropping the shovel as the noise—the hum of an engine—grew louder, I still couldn’t see anything. Thinking I might have some tequila still left in my veins, I twisted around, and then I saw it.
Two small headlights belonging to a snowmobile were a couple of yards away from me, flying over the snow and kicking up loose flakes.
My brain absolutely refused to comprehend what was happening at first, but instinct kicked in. Air expelled out of my lungs in a painful rush. It was coming fast—too fast. I froze maybe only for a second and then I started backpedaling, panic making my movements clumsy.
“Hey!” I yelled, waving my arms, but the wind carried my voice away.
The snowmobile was heading straight for me! Didn’t they see me? My heart turned over.
Twisting away, I turned and tripped over the handle of the shovel. My knees sank through the snow and I quickly pushed myself up, fear coating my insides in ice as I looked over my shoulder. It was right on me, so close I could see the white helmet with the red and yellow stripe down the center and the dark shield covering the face. I couldn’t get out of the way. It was going to run me over.
A tiny part of my brain, that wasn’t completely overcome with panic, couldn’t believe that this was how I would die. Being run over by a rogue snowmobile during a blizzard? Life was so cruel.
Something hit me in the waist and I was flying ass-over-teakettle. I hit the part of the driveway I’d just cleared for no freaking reason. Black starbursts filled my vision, and the last thing I remembered was hearing my name, and then there was nothing.
I must’ve only been out for a few seconds—long enough to leave me feeling disorientated when I blinked open my eyes.
Kyler’s hands were on my cheeks, his brown eyes nearly black. “Sydney! Say something, baby. Talk to me.”
My tongue felt like a wool brush. “Ouch.”
He stared at me a moment, and then he laughed. A second later, he pulled me into a sitting position and to his chest. He was so warm I wanted to crawl into him. “Jesus, you scared the shit out of me.”
What did I do other than almost get run over? I buried my head into the front of his sweater as I clutched his sides. “I think I saw my life flash before my eyes. It was pretty lame.”
His embrace tightened, squeezing me until I thought he’d crack a rib. “I didn’t think I’d get to you in time, that…” He trailed off, pressing his lips against my chilled forehead. “I knew I should’ve come outside when I saw you go for the shovel, but I know how you like doing that shit.” There was a pause and then he cursed again. “Syd…”
“I’m okay.” And I was, other than a little shaken up and having a soaked and freezing butt. “They didn’t see me. Close call.”
“Didn’t see you?” Kyler pulled back, fury etched into the striking lines of his face. “There’s no way that asshole didn’t see you.”
Kyler stood, bringing me along with him. I was a little wobbly, so he held on as the wind whipped at us, throwing sheets of icy snow around us. “The asshole had to see you. I could see you from the porch!”
My heart tripped up. “But…”
“He saw you.” Anger hardened his voice, giving it a scary edge. “Come on. Let’s go inside and get you warmed up.”
Before I could process what he was saying, he swooped me up and started toward the porch steps. “I can walk,” I protested.
“This makes me feel better, so don’t even argue with me.”
I did start to argue, but when I opened my mouth, I ended up taking in a mouthful of snow, which caused me to hack up a lung. Attractive. Once inside, Kyler didn’t put me down until we were in the living room and in front of the fireplace.
“What do you mean the person on the snowmobile saw me?” I asked as he worked the logs in the fireplace. “That means they were doing it on purpose.”
“That’s what I said,” he all but growled. There was a bright spark as he stroked the flames to life, easing some of the bone-chilling cold. “He saw you. I don’t know why someone would do that, but they did.”
I opened my mouth again, but nothing came out. I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t believe that anyone would’ve purposely tried to run me over. It wasn’t like Kyler to be so paranoid, but I didn’t know anyone here, so it wasn’t like I’d had a chance to piss someone off bad enough to want to run my ass over.
“I don’t want you going outside by yourself,” he said, his back still to me as he messed with the fire.
“Okay,” I said, only because I didn’t want to start an argument.
He stood, shaking the wet flakes out of his hair. “You should get out of those clothes before you get sick.”
Feeling a little bit like a misbehaving child and not sure why, I left to do what he asked. Since it was late and I doubted we’d be going anywhere, I changed into a pair of flannel pajama bottoms and a long-sleeved shirt. When I went back down, Kyler had changed into dry sweats and the fire was going strong.
He handed over a blanket and I wrapped it around me, grateful. I felt like the snow had gotten inside me. I sat beside the fireplace, watching the flames lick at the bricks. Outside, the wind was really starting to pick up, rattling the house. It seemed like the wind was finding every little crack in the house and making its way inside.
I clenched the blanket tighter as I scooted closer to the fire, shivering. Kyler watched me for a moment, and then he stood from where he was sitting on the couch. Grabbing another blanket, he walked over to where I was and sat behind me. I stiffened.
“It’s okay,” he said. “I have an idea.” He spread his legs out on either side of me, and then got an arm around me. Tugging me back, he wrapped the blanket around us. “See? We’re like a burrito.”
I stayed put, not leaning against him, but I could already feel the warmth coming over me. Being this close to him was nerve-racking in a way it never had been before, so it took me a few moments to find my voice. “It’s a pretty cool burrito.”
“I think so.” A couple of moments passed. “What do you think the gang is doing back home?”
I focused on the flames. “Probably hanging out with family. I think Andrea was going to go to Tanner’s parents’ house.”
“Are they together?” Confusion marked his question. “I never know what’s going on between those two.”
I laughed and began to relax, loosening my white-knuckle grip on the blanket. “I really don’t know, either. It’s anyone’s guess.”
“Those two are crazy. I don’t even think they’ve gone out on a date.”
“They haven’t. I don’t think they’ve done anything, but I still bet they’ll end up married with tons of babies.”
Kyler chuckled as he leaned back against the foot of the recliner behind him. “You know what I was thinking?”
I glanced over my shoulder at him. His head was tipped back, exposing the expanse of his neck. He had a sexy throat. Hell, the boy had a sexy everything. A smile tugged at my lips as my chest warmed up. “What?”
“I was thinking about changing majors.”
“Huh?” I laughed. “You’re graduating in the spring, Kyler.”
He grinned as he lowered his chin. His eyes were a warm brown. “It’s too late for that?”
“Probably.” I wiggled around so I was half-facing him. He spread out one leg, giving me more room. “You don’t want to do business management? Like your mom and stepfather?”