Originally Published in A Dark Roasted Christmas (Dec. 2008)
EXCERPT from Winter Wild
At that moment, amidst the psychedelic smear of emergency vehicle lights, Aaron Danvers was hip deep in snow alongside I-65 just on the other side of what remained of a guardrail– now it was nothing more than a twisted mockery of one. Twenty yards from the road, a mini-van lay half-buried in the snow on its passenger side. The windshield was shattered, the roof crushed, and the driver’s door dangled from one mangled hinge. The vehicle’s wheels were still spinning idly. From inside the van he could hear a small child crying and his gut twisted as he fought his way through the drifting snow. This was the worst snowstorm that the Ozarks had seen in fifteen years, and the fact that it had been fifteen years didn’t escape his notice. It was an anniversary.
It had been on the exact same night in identical weather all those years ago that he’d first met his lover Jason. He’d just begun his career with the Missouri Highway Patrol and he’d been patrolling a stretch of I-65 that night. He and his partner, a seasoned female officer by the name of Mel Gratiot, had decided to stop for a cup of joe at the next exit. When he’d seen Jason that night, it was love at first sight.
Jason had been a college student, tall and gangly, smothered in layers of down and canvas against the weather. He sat in a booth nursing a cup of coffee, eyes focused on the storm beyond the glass. For some reason, he’d glanced up as the bell above the door rang announcing their entrance, along with a blast of frigid wind and crystalline snowflakes that evaporated instantly in the heat from the kitchen. His eyes were the color of a caramel apple, fringed in thick dark lashes, and Aaron was lost right then and there. Even now, he could remember the song that had been playing and the twinkling multi-colored lights that were strung in the frosted windows of the café. In the here and now that was all he could think of—those caramel eyes.
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