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JoAnna's Rescue

Author(s): LuAnn Nies

To keep all that she has left of her family, JoAnna Walker is willing to marry a man she doesn't love. She will survive if she can only spend one night in the arms of the love she thought she'd lost forever.

 Jeffrey Thornton's work forces him to return to his hometown and the painful memories he left behind.

 A blizzard leaves Jeff and JoAnna stranded, but the snow isn't the only threat to their survival.


Chapter One

Razor sharp cold air sliced at JoAnna’s red cheeks, the sting bringing tears to her eyes. Leaning into the wind, she struggled to put one foot in front of the other as she fought her way across the yard. Wyoming winters were known to be dangerous and unpredictable. Without warning, the weather could shift and change, causing the temperature to drop thirty to forty degrees within a matter of hours.

Earlier when she awoke, it had been sleeting, and the thermometer read thirty degrees. By late afternoon, the temperature had dropped, and large white flakes obstructed her vision. It wasn’t uncommon to be snow-bound for days in the mountain area.

JoAnna trudged through the building snowdrifts onto the back porch and switched on the light. The warmth and familiar smells of the old farmhouse gave her comfort. Cold and tired, she longed for a large cup of something hot and a warm flannel nightgown.

As the evening grew late, the howling wind whipped through the darkness, causing the snow to swirl in tiny tornadoes, reluctant to land in any particular spot.

She snuggled under a layer of quilts on her bed and watched the local TV weather and nightly news channel.

“Sleet turning to snow, falling temperatures, high winds, and zero visibility are the causes for a winter storm warning and a driver’s advisory. Stay tuned for the snow predictions and road closings.”

Thoughts of all the things that still needed to be done outside roamed through her mind, and she sighed. There always seemed to be something. Running the farm alone was something she thought she could do, but lately everything seemed to be going wrong. Her father’s old tractor would no longer start, and she had run the old pickup truck into the corner of the wood shed, causing part of the roof to cave in.

In addition to the numerous repairs outside, the old two-story farmhouse needed its share of repairs, too. The painted trim around the windows and doors had faded, chipped, and cracked.

The farm and remaining land had been in her family for several generations. But being the only one left, the threat of losing everything made her sick to her stomach.

After her father died, she’d been forced to sell most of the herd plus three hundred and twenty acres of land to help pay the monthly bills and taxes. She feared that sooner or later she would have to sell more of the land or the rest of the herd.

She sighed and snuggled deeper under the covers. She wasn't sure which had run out first, time or her energy. She had planned on having more accomplished before cold weather set in and the snow fell. However, with the gardening, yard work, housework, farm-work and her basket business, she hadn't the time or money to attend to the larger things that needed repair.

Hoping the water pipes wouldn’t freeze, she had turned down the thermostat as low as she dared. Even with the wood cook-stove in the kitchen stoked-up, the old farmhouse still felt cold. Hoping to keep all the heat on the main floor and stretch the fuel oil a little further, she had placed plastic over the windows and closed off the stairway leading to the second floor.

When she had checked the fuel oil tank in the basement that morning, the gauge read nearly empty. Maybe with the sale of her Christmas baskets and goodies, she would be able to order more fuel soon.

Her mother, Grace Walker, had passed away just after the previous Christmas. For almost a year now, JoAnna had been on her own. The doctor said her mother’s death resulted from pneumonia, but she knew her mother had really died from a broken heart.

Four years earlier her father, Robert Walker, had suffered a stroke. JoAnna and her mother took care of him at home as long as they could. Although it had been hard, they did the best they could. Thankfully, JoAnna had been physically strong enough to move him around. But it wasn’t  long before they realized that Robert needed to be moved into the nursing home in Pine Ridge. JoAnna noticed how lonely her mother was and how her health faded over the next couple of years. It was only a matter of time before Grace became too frail to work, leaving all the responsibilities to her daughter.

“Two to three feet of new snow is expected to fall during the night with temperatures dropping into the low teens before morning. All roads are closed in the mountain area including County Road 68 through Walker’s Pass. No driving is advised at this time.”

JoAnna poked a hand out from under the mountain of quilts, reached for the remote and turned off the TV. With the amount of snow that had already fallen and what was expected tonight, it didn't look as if she was going to make it into town tomorrow.

An icy northwest wind rattled the old windows, and a cold draft wound its way through the cracked plaster walls. Pulling the covers up around her neck, she settled in for the night. Gabby, her old gray cat, jumped on the bed and curled up close. The farmhouse grew quiet; the only sound was the soft ticking of the antique cuckoo clock in the living room. Tomorrow would be a long day, but tonight she was safe and warm.

* * * *

If anyone deserved a nice quiet Christmas vacation it was Jeffrey Thornton. After years of self-discipline and hard work, he’d finally made senior partner in one of the largest architectural firms in the United States, which had offices in Seattle, New York City, and Billings, Montana. 

For the past two years, Jeff had spent Christmas alone in his New York apartment. Returning each year to his parents in Pine Ridge, Wyoming had been unappealing to him. Conflicting memories, both pleasant and unpleasant, haunted him. Yet this year, due to work, he found himself in Billings at Christmas time, and since he was only a few hours from his childhood home, he decided it was time for a visit.

Jeff half-heartedly listened to the forecasts and was aware of the approaching snowstorm. He rented a four-wheel drive Jeep and didn’t anticipate any trouble getting home before the worst of it hit. He had just a few things left to clear up at the office, and he would be on his way.

“Alyssa,” Jeff hollered through the open door. “Did you put the Pine Ridge papers in my briefcase?” He shuffled a pile of files on his desk. “I can't find them!”

Alyssa entered his office and handed him a file. “Here they are. I just finished making the copies you asked for.” She settled on the corner of his desk and replied with a note of irritation in her voice. “I would have gotten them done sooner if I’d had more notice.”

Jeff glanced up and treated her to his boyish grin, which almost always put him back in her good graces. “Sorry, but this vacation is turning into a business trip. Since I’m already going to be there, I thought I would take care of this matter at the same time.” He took the papers, placed them into his briefcase, and flipped the latch shut. He then took one quick glance around his office to make sure he wasn’t forgetting anything. “There. I think I have everything. Will you drop me off at Jerry's Car Rental? My car’s in the shop getting snow tires put on it.” Jeff grabbed his jacket from the back of his desk chair and headed for the door.

“Are you sure you want to drive down to Pine Ridge today?” Alyssa asked, switching off the lights and pulling the office door shut. “There’s a big storm coming tonight. It sounds pretty ugly.”

“Don’t worry. I rented a four-wheel-drive. It should only take me about three hours to get to my parents’ house. I’ll be home long before the worst of it hits.” He closed his eyes and smiled with contentment. “I'll be drinking a brandy in front of a warm glowing fire by seven o'clock.”

Best laid plans or Murphy's Law, whichever one you want to pick, the quick trip to Jerry's Car Rental wasn't so quick. Jerry's niece/secretary had accidentally deleted his application from the computer, and Jeff needed to fill out all the paper work again. After what seemed like hours, he was finally out the door and on his way.

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ISBN (Print):
ISBN (Electronic): 9781612357041
Genre: Contemporary
Date Published: 09/28/2013
Publisher: Melange Books

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