Home > One Snowy Night (Heartbreaker Bay #2.5)(11)

One Snowy Night (Heartbreaker Bay #2.5)(11)
Jill Shalvis

Rory looked at the time. Eleven thirty. On Christmas Eve, no less. Not good, not good at all, but she tried not to panic.

And failed miserably.

“So . . . what now?” she asked in what she hoped was a casual voice.

He glanced over at her as if maybe she’d given away her panic regardless. He pulled out his phone and looked at the screen. “Still no cell ser­vice,” he said in disgust. “I’m going to have to flag someone down for a jump-­start.”

She had no idea how long that would take but it surely wasn’t going to be quick and her heart sank. Getting home by dawn wasn’t looking good, but surely someone would stop. She looked out into the night.

Not another vehicle in sight.

It was like they were on Mars.

Use the past to fix the now . . . The woman’s words floated around in her head and it came to her that maybe this trip could be about more than just making up with her family. She could make up with Max. If he’d let her. “Max?”

“Yeah?”

“Did Cindy break up with you after I turned in the video?” she asked. “Is that why you’re mad at me?”

Max leaned forward and knocked his head against his steering wheel several times.

“Look,” she said softly. “I’m sorry. And I should’ve said that a long time ago. The video . . . it wasn’t about you—­”

Head still down, he snorted.

“It wasn’t,” she insisted.

Max shook his head, straightened, and slid out of the truck.

No doubt to get away from her.

Standing there in the glare of the headlights, legs spread, feet solidly planted against the wind and snow, he looked tough as hell.

But so was she, she reminded herself.

So she got out and stood next to him.

“What are you doing?” He had to raise his voice to be heard over the wind. “Get back inside.”

She couldn’t. She had to know; it was killing her. “What did I cost you, Max?”

He shoved his hands into his pockets. He was watching the highway, clearly willing a car to come along that he could flag down. But there was no one but her.

“Max, please,” she said. “Just tell me.”

He inhaled deeply. “Cindy got suspended,” he said. “A hand slap, considering. They didn’t know it was me in the tape but I had to—­” He shook his head. “We’d already moved on from each other but I still couldn’t not say anything . . . ”

She wasn’t going to like this story, she could tell. “You came forward,” she guessed.

He shrugged, like there’d been no other option.

How had she not seen that coming? No way would a guy like Max let a girl take all the blame for something he’d been involved in as well.

“And then I was suspended too,” he said.

“Oh, Max,” she breathed. “I’m so sorry.”

He turned to her then, his eyes hard. “It wasn’t the suspension that got me. Hell, I deserved it. I did it. I was there and I knew we shouldn’t be and I’m just lucky I wasn’t expelled. But Coach . . . he was royally pissed off and looking for blood. He cut me from the team for misconduct, which broke the verbal contract I had to go play for Michigan State. They dumped me.”

She stared at him in horror. “But you were so good,” she said. “Why didn’t someone else pick you up?”

“Most teams were already full. After I graduated, I could’ve walked on somewhere and tried out, but we couldn’t afford for me to go anywhere without a guaranteed scholarship. So I didn’t.”

She told herself it was the wind and icy cold stinging her eyes. “Max, I—­”

“If you’re about to say you’re sorry, save it.”

“But—­”

“Someone’s coming,” he said, eyes sharp on the road. “Get back in the truck—­”

“Max—­”

“Dammit, Rory, this isn’t exactly safe, okay? We’re out on the highway, fairly defenseless. I want you locked in the truck until I see who stops for us.”

Okay, she got that, but she hated the idea of him being out here on his own.

He laughed a little harshly, as if reading her thoughts. “I might not have ended up with a degree but trust me, princess, I’m qualified for this.”

“Call me princess one more time and I’ll—­”

“Truck,” he said tightly.

Getting that she was a liability at the moment, she did as he’d asked and got into the truck.

Which was when she realized it was empty of one oversized Doberman. “Carl?”

Nothing.

Where the hell had he gone? Realizing he must have escaped when she’d gotten out, she whirled back around to get her eyes on Max. She watched him step closer to the approaching car but not too close, bending down a little to peek into the passenger window when it slid down only a few inches.

He looked like quite the imposing figure, tall, built, fiercely serious in the moment, and she wondered what they were talking about.

Then he turned his head and looked right at her through the windshield and she knew. They were talking about her.

Max nodded to the person in the car and then he strode through the driving snow toward her.

“Max,” she said immediately when he came around, not to the driver’s side but to her passenger side and opened the door. “Carl’s gone.”

He stood there in the vee of space between the door and the body of the truck, sheltering her from the worst of the storm. “He probably went into the woods to do his business. He’ll be right back. About the car—­”

“Are they going to help?” she asked.

“It’s a guy in a big hurry to get to his wife,” he said. “She’s in labor at the hospital in Tahoe. He promised to call for a tow truck as soon as he got over the summit and got any reception.”

“Do you think he will?”

Max shrugged. “I hope so. I know him, or I know who he is. He works with my older sister at the post office. He’s a good guy, married with three other kids. He says you can hitch a ride with him so you won’t miss Christmas morning. But you have to decide right this minute. He’s out of time.”

If she went, she could get home by dawn and make amends with her family. It was perfect and she was grateful for the offer but—­

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