It’s two days before Christmas and bestselling children’s author Grace Alberts needs to fulfill a promise—to make it to a book signing for the kids at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the place that did so much for her during a very rough time. But the weather’s getting awful and all flights are cancelled out of Boston, where she’s wrapping up her book tour. Then in walks her annoying but extremely sexy ex-husband, who (as usual) thinks he’s got all the answers.
Graham Walker just stopped by to get a book signed for Grace’s biggest fan, his niece, and wish Grace a Merry Christmas—why not? But he soon finds himself troubleshooting her dilemma. He’s got a Range Rover that can plow through a hundred-year Nor’easter. He’s even headed home to Philly. Trouble is, Grace’s and his past is a disaster, something he has no intention of reliving while driving through a winter storm, no matter how much he once loved her. And maybe still does.
Bad weather has a way of bringing out the best and the worst in people, and when a run in with some deer antlers leads them to a forced stop in Mirror Lake, Connecticut, anything can happen, naughty or nice. Maybe a bit of enforced alone time and some Christmas magic can be just what it takes for them to face their past—and each other—once and for all.
As soon he could, Graham exited the highway and stopped at a convenience mart for gas. It was a relief having something to do. If he didn’t stop reacting to Grace—his whole body on alert, his pulse pounding, his imagination racing to places it had no business going—well, it was going to be a very long trip.
“I’m Dreaming of a White Christmas” blared from a speaker as Graham filled the tank. He turned up the collar on his coat, wishing he had on more comfortable clothes for the long drive.
He wished everything was more comfortable on this crazy drive. When he walked into the store, Grace was buying pretzels and a coffee. He got a coffee too, and paid for her things before she could protest. At the last second, he asked for a couple of lottery tickets, an instant scratch-off game and one of the daily numbers tickets.
“You still buy those?” she asked from her spot in front of him in line.
He used to buy them all the time. He hadn’t, though, since those days when they were broke and poor and winning would mean a ticket to a new life.
But today was…different. He’d bought it on impulse, maybe as a talisman for luck. To survive the drive intact. Or more than that. Something deep down inside made him buy it because it reminded him of the old days.
When they were broke. When all they had was a mattress on the floor and an old steel shelf from his dad’s garage where they kept their underwear and socks. When dreaming of winning the lottery brought visions of a less dumpy apartment, furniture, a car.
Those had been the happiest times of his life. They’d been so in love. They’d had everything and never even knew it. But of course he couldn’t say any of that.
“You sure you’re not hungry?” he asked. “It’s a five-hour drive in good weather.”
She looked hungry. He knew her well enough he could tell. She was a little pale, a trace of dark circles under her eyes. Or maybe she was like him, too nervous and keyed up to think about food. “We can stop and get something after we’re on the road for a while. Does that sound good?” he asked.
“I thought you hated to make stops,” she said, her mouth pulling up in a smile. “When we were married, I used to have to barter for pee breaks.”
“Maybe I’ve learned to be a little less…”
“Ha ha. In all fairness, I recall several road trips where we made plenty of stops at rest areas but never got out of the car.”
That made her blush.
“We were young,” she said, clearing her throat. Their eyes met, and he could swear he saw a piece of the same heartbreak that was currently wreaking havoc with his entire body.
“We’re still young,” he said, his frustration coming through a little. It was just that they were acting like a pair of eighty-year-olds reminiscing over times that were gone forever.
They could still create good times.
Oh hell. There he went again. It had taken him so long to get over her. Longer yet to even look at another woman. And here he was, two years later, after just thirty minutes in her presence, fantasizing about everything he’d worked so hard to leave behind. Old habits died hard.
When the clerk handed him the lottery tickets, he pocketed the daily number one for later and handed the scratch-off one to Grace. Another old habit.
She looked at him and then the ticket and frowned. “You want me to scratch off the numbers?”
“You’re crazy,” she said.
“For old times’ sake,” he said. “Well, why not? We may as well start this journey off on the right foot.”
She rolled her eyes, but for a heartbeat, something flickered in her eyes. He wasn’t sure, but maybe she’d been touched a little by the corny gesture.
“Oh, all right,” she said, using her nail to scratch off the numbers.
“We didn’t win,” he said, looking over her shoulder. Of course they hadn’t. They’d both lost, badly, a long time ago. Except that had nothing to do with a lottery ticket.