Good morning. Welcome to this week’s edition of Tuesday Tales and Candace Kayne’s Christmas. The novella is unfolding as it should. Tuesday Tales is a closed weekly blog in which talented authors share their works in process. I was honored to be invited to join in 2015 and the thrill of being part of this awesome group continues. With their help, I created Hello Again, which was published in 2016, and hope to finish Wedding Bell Blues in 2017. This week, I continue with the novella I began in December, Candace Kayne’s Christmas will wrap up next week. This week’s word is COFFEE. Apologies to all since the post is longer than usual.
“Thanks for everything, Ruth,” Bill said, putting his suitcase into the trunk of the rental car. The winery owners had been a huge help. With their assistance, he’d met with all of the local entrepreneurs—except Candace. She’d refused his invitation, claiming she wasn’t feeling well, and had offered to get together with him the next time he was in Willow Grove. It was true she’d sounded sick, but he was convinced there was more to her reticence than that.
“I wish I could put you up again tonight,” Ruth said, a frown marring her brow. “But now that the whole family is here, there’s no more room at this inn. You aren’t planning to drive all the way back to Georgia, are you? They say the storms even worse along the coast.”
“Don’t worry about it. My plane’s waiting in Rochester, and that’s only eighty miles from here. I’ll be fine. You just take care of yourself and that baby.”
She rubbed her barely protruding belly. “I will, but that drive will be miserable. You get white-outs in this kind of weather. When will you be back?”
“Mid-January, but this time, I’ll be smart enough to book a room since I’ll be here at least a month.” When he’d arrived in Willow Grove, he’d intended to spend his two weeks at the motel he’d visited last spring, only to discover it, and most of the others in town, were closed for the season. The two Bed and Breakfasts and the one winterized motel were booked solid with out of towners home for Christmas. He hadn’t relished the idea of driving back and forth to Rochester each day. Thankfully, Ruth had opened her home to him, even if he had outstayed his welcome by a couple of days, but now, he really needed to get back to Savannah. Tomorrow was Christmas Eve.
“You could stay with us again,” she offered. “The in-laws and out-laws will all be gone by then.”
Bill laughed. “You’ll have enough on your hands without me underfoot. Tell Lucas I’ll be ready for that Candyland rematch when I come back. Merry Christmas, Ruth.” He kissed her on the cheek, got into the rental car, and waved goodbye.
Twenty minutes later, he sat in his car pondering the cruelty of Mother Nature, while a boy dressed in winter gear that probably resembled what people wore on expeditions to the South Pole filled his gas tank. The wind whipped snow around, reducing visibility to zero. That eighty miles to Rochester might as well be a thousand now. There was no way he would be able to drive there today.
“That’ll be twenty-five dollars,” the gas jockey said.
“I’m using a credit card,” he answered.
“No problem, but you’ll have to come inside. The portable machine doesn’t work in this weather.”
Bill got out of the vehicle, locked the doors, and followed the boy into the convenience store attached to the gas station. A fire blazed in the wood stove. He recognized the man sitting in the rocker.
“Good morning, Mr. Simpson. Looks like we’ll have that white Christmas for sure.”
“You can say that again,” the crusty garage owner said, as he stood. “I hope you aren’t planning to drive to Rochester.”
“He owes Twenty-five for gas, Elmore,” the boy said, hanging his wet gear near the stove.
“Thanks, Stan. Go finish your breakfast. Your Pa’s coming to get you. I don’t think we’ll have too many customers today. The highway’s closed.”
“Not the highway to Rochester?” Bill asked. “I know it looks bad but—”
“Not only looks bad, is bad,” the man said cutting him off. “Just came over the scanner. Tractor-trailer jackknifed and flipped over. Caused a dozen fender-benders. The state police have closed the highway until further notice. It’s going to take a while to get that mess cleaned up in this weather.”
Bill scowled. “That can’t be the only way to the city.” Surely there was another way out of here.
The man shook his head. “It might as well be in this weather. None of the lesser highways will be plowed. The police are urging everyone to get off the roads. You best get yourself back to Ruth’s.”
Going back to Ruth’s wasn’t an option. Bill handed him his corporate card, signed the slip and went back outside. Once in the car, he pulled out his cellphone and called his pilot.
“Sam, it’s me,” he said as soon as the man answered.
“Yes, sir. I was just about to call you,” he said, concern heavy in his voice. “I’m afraid all planes have been grounded by the FAA until further notice.”
Sighing, Bill ran his hand through his wet hair. “There isn’t much we can do. Have you got a place to stay?”
“Yes, sir. According to the Weather Channel, the storm should let up early tomorrow morning. We should be home in time for the Christmas Eve play.”
“I hope so. Listen, I’ll stay put here—they’ve closed the highway and the locals tell me traveling on the side roads in this weather isn’t a good idea.” Would staying in the car be any better? “I’ll leave as soon as I’m able and meet you at the airport some time tomorrow.”
He ended the call.
“So, what the hell am I supposed to do now?” he asked aloud.
The only answer was the icy wind’s unending howl.
He reached for his phone once more and dialed his home.
“Kayne Residence, Marian speaking.”
“It’s me. I’m afraid I won’t be home today as planned. Mother Nature has her own ideas about holiday travel, and I’m stuck in Willow Grove until tomorrow.
“I’m not surprised. Mr. Kayne has been watching the weather like a man possessed.”
Bill pursed his lips. “I’m sure he has. Grandpa worries about me every time I travel. Well, come February, I’ll be doing a lot less of it. Can I speak to Scotty?”
“Of course. He’ll be disappointed.”
The last time he’d spoken to his son had been three days ago when he had promised to be home in time to attend his school Christmas play rehearsal tonight. Damn it! How many more significant things would he miss? None if he could help it.
While he waited for his housekeeper to call his son, he examined what he could see of downtown Willow Grove. Through the curtain of snow, over on his left, he spotted the Eden Café. He probably could’ve sat out the storm there, but Cynthia had closed for the holidays. She’d left yesterday to visit her daughter-in-law in Buffalo.
What a difference a day makes.
“Dad?” Scott’s voice pulled him back.
“Hi, champ. Listen, I’m really sorry, but I’m snowed in up here. I won’t be home tonight, but I’ll be there for the pageant Christmas Eve, I promise.”
“Is there a lot of snow?” the boy asked, never having seen the stuff.
“Yeah. There’s at least a foot of it and more coming down.”
“Will it still be there when we move?” His excitement was tangible, clearly overshadowing his disappointment at his father’s absence.
Bill laughed. “I can’t say for sure, but I doubt this is the only snowstorm they’ll have. Are we good?”
“Yeah, Dad. Tonight’s only a rehearsal. Take some pictures for me?”
“I will. Maybe I’ll have a special surprise for you when I get there. I love you.”
“Love you too, Dad.”
The special surprise was tickets to Disney World, already packaged at home.
Bill waited for the line to go dead before ending the call. Scott had grown up a lot since his mother’s death. For a five-year-old, he was old beyond his years. Marian and Grandpa tried to make things easier for the child while he was away, but losing one parent and the other on the road 80 percent of the time, left his son as much an orphan as he’d been before the adoption.
A knock on the window startled him.
Lowering the power window, he stared into Elmore’s dark eyes.
“You fixing to stay here until the storm blows over?” he asked.
“Not sure what I’m going to do. I can’t go back to Ruth’s. All of the family arrived earlier this morning before the storm got bad. I was thinking of getting coffee while I figure out my options. Is there anywhere I can park without risking getting boxed in when the plows pass?”
“You can put your car inside, and I’ll drop you at Candy’s on my way by. Sally will know where you can hold up.”
Bill followed Elmore’s directions, parked the car, and grabbed his suitcase out of the trunk. His feet were cold and wet, the shoe-boots not anywhere good enough for walking through the accumulation of snow. He would definitely need to make sure they had the right kind of clothing when they came back. Winter gear, Savannah style, was useless here.
“Called Sally and told her you were on your way. She’ll let Candace know,” Elmore said. “Get in.”
Bill walked around to the passenger side of the tow-truck. The inside of the vehicle was warm and toasty, but he was so cold, he doubted he would ever feel warm again.
Less than five minutes later, Elmore stopped in front of the old brick and limestone building.
“Thanks for the lift,” he said.
“No problem. What you’re going to do for this community is thanks enough.”
Bill waved as the truck drove off. He steeled himself to go inside. This was no time to be a coward. He’d always believed that like knew like, and though they might not be blood relatives, he was every bit as much a Kayne as she was. Time to get in out of the cold.
Pushing open the door, he stepped into the warm, cozy atrium that separated the four stores. Decorated as it was, the place felt more like home than any place he had ever been. At the far end of the room, a woman stood with her back to him, tight, caramel-colored curls hung down her back. Her legs were incased in tight jeans, a pale blue sweater ending just below her butt. She turned at the sound of the door, and Bill stopped breathing.
The only picture he’d ever seen of Cousin Candace had been the black and white picture from her wedding. In no way had that prepared him for the woman looking at him, her head cocked to one side. His jaw dropped open and he snapped it shut.
“What? Surprised to find a Creole-Mohawk-Irish relative in your family woodpile, Mr. Lamont?” she asked, a forced smile, half frown, on her face. “In or out. It’s too cold to leave the door open.”
Mumbling an apology, too stunned by what she’d said to comment on it, he closed the door behind him and stepped into the room. In the heat, snow melted off him, puddling at his feet.
“Mr. Lamont,” Sally said, coming out of her shop with a towel. “Elmore just called and told me you’re stranded here. Poor you. I’d offer you my couch, but my brother’s here for Christmas and my son’s home from school.”
“That’s okay,” he answered, grateful his voice even worked.
“He can stay in my spare room,” Candace said, her voice as breathy and sexy as the rest of her. “Wouldn’t want the town savior to catch cold now would we?”
She set down her coffee cup and walked over to him, her blue-green eyes flashing her fury.
“So Mr. Kayne-Lamont, what do you really want from the town of Willow Grove?”
Bill’s cheek’s heated and not just from the difference in temperature.
“Kayne- Lamont?” Sally asked Candace, her face all scrunched up in confusion. “Kayne as in your Kayne?”
“Yes,” Bill answered. There was no point in lying. The lady looked mad enough to spit nails as it is. “I’ve come for you, Candace. I’ve come to take you home.”
Come back next week for the ending to Candace Kayne’s Christmas.
Don’t forget to check out all the other delicious stories coming your way today on Tuesday Tales.