The rain slapped against the windscreen, challenging the wipers to clear the glass long enough for Alex to see her way forward. "The plane trip from hell" didn’t begin to describe her flight from Heathrow to the States, and now this. She’d checked her map and turned off the highway onto what amounted to little more than a dirt track. One that emulated a trampoline, throwing what the man behind the counter of the hire firm called, ‘a neat little European compact, ideal for a lady’, all over the rutted surface. Surely her journey could only improve.
The raging storm muffled the bang when the front tire blew. The steering wheel jerked to her right, hurling the car into the centre of the road, confirming the worst. The air inside the vehicle turned blue as she grappled to control the car.
Thank God Americans drove on the wrong side of the road. In this case a deserted road. Instinctively she brought the car to a slithering halt and tried to release her fear-locked fingers from the steering wheel. Failing, she gave up and rested her forehead on them instead waiting for the shaking to stop. The curtain of rain and falling dusk masked her surroundings. No way would oncoming traffic see her vehicle slewed across the road until it was too late. She had to move it. How much room did she have? She didn’t fancy ending up in either ditches edging the road. O.K. She’d have to get out and check, but first, she’d ring her brother-on-law, Luke Marino, so he and her nieces wouldn’t worry. He once judged her on her modeling career. Shallow, frivolous and a useless specimen of humanity, so this latest calamity would only add to his conviction. And yet…
They’d met when he’d filled in when one of the regular photographers couldn’t make the shoot, and he'd not hidden his disdain. Why then had he asked her out for a drink afterwards? His broad shoulders, lean hips and tightly muscled body sent shivers up her spine every time she saw him and soon they became a couple. He filled her thoughts, and like a fool she’d dreamt of happy-ever-after. And then he’d met her twin, Alice. Before she could say ‘Boo-to-a-goose’, Alice had a ring on his finger and they’d left for America within a week of meeting.
Now, for the first time since her sister’s funeral, three years ago, she’d agreed to return to their ranch for their Thanksgiving holiday.
No signal! She stuffed her fist into her mouth to prevent a scream of frustration. With exaggerated care she returned her phone to her bag before wrenching the driver’s door open and stepping into the torrential rain. She popped the trunk and gazed in horror at the empty space. No tyre! In the deepening dark, her fingers searched for a nut or bolt that could hold a spare tyre beneath the trunk.
Several European cars cradled their spare wheels beneath the car body. No way would she grovel about in the rain and dirt to confirm her suspicions. Loudly, and without censorship, she damned the man who designed the car. No woman would tolerate a design that turned reaching for a spare wheel into a life-threatening operation.
Increasing winds drove the icy rain through her clothing and chilled her skin. Stalking to the verge she estimated the space for turning the car. She reckoned she’d travelled one of the four miles along this track. Could she risk trying to drive on the front rim of the car? The steering would be shot to hell. At least the car had power steering! Did she dare risk it, or stay here with the car? Darkness fell while she pondered her options.
“Why isn’t Aunty Alex here yet?” Trudi asked for the hundredth time, and Luke wished he had the answer. He’d checked the airport, confirmed she’d picked up her rental car and left over three hours ago. Rain slammed against the windows, the wind keened around the building and the dark concealed the view outside.
Mandy joined her sister on his lap, and cupped his face in her tiny hand. “I want Aun’ie Allie.”
“So do I, sweetheart. So do I.” He wrapped his arms around his children and rested his chin on their soft golden curls.
He’d tried her cell phone.
He’d checked with the police. No accidents reported in his vicinity. Did that mean…what? His fingers tunneled through his dark hair.
Since he’d brought Alice, the wrong twin, to the ranch, six years ago, she’d never stopped moaning. The isolation gave her the creeps; she wanted kids. He gave her two. They were noisy, dirty and a nuisance; she wanted out of the marriage. He negotiated total parental rights, and Alice smiled sweetly before disappearing from their lives. A week later Jim, the local Sherriff, informed Luke of his wife’s death in a head-on-car-collision.
He’d waited two years before inviting Alex to join them for Thanksgiving. Last year she declined, using work as an excuse. This year… This year she was somewhere out there in the teaming rain and the dark.
He had to go to her. Had to find her. Until he did, his soul would never rest, never be whole again. He called his foreman and asked his wife to stay with his girls.
Luke edged his truck through the muddy water swilling across the access road to the house. The curtain of rain obscured her vehicle until he almost ran into it. His headlights shone on the flat tyre, but failed to reveal any sign of the driver. Fear drove him from his truck to the car, and relief buckled his knees when he saw her curled up on the back seat.
He yanked her door open, hauled her from the car and wrapped her in his arms, and vowed never to let her go again.
This was the best ever Thanksgiving holiday of his life.
About the Author: Sherry Gloag enjoys reading and and aspiring writer of contemporary romances, because she like stories with a happy ending. She lives in the East of England, where, like those who may enjoy watching the 'Changing of the guards at Buckingham Palace', she enjoys watching the changing of the seasons in the countryside.