Woman's World

5-minute romance


“She froze, her heart thumping as it always did whenever he came around”

When Kelly Rogers finds herself trapped in her bookstore during the worst snowstorm of the year, it looks like she’s in for a long and lonely night…until handsome shop owner Lane Bucks comes to keep her company

“What do you mean I won’t be able to make it home tonight?” Kelly Rogers squeaked, trying to quell the panic rising in her voice.

“The snow storm hit fast, with lots of ice,” Gus, the mini-mall security guard, answered, shaking some snow from his jacket. “The interstate is closed from here to Oak Ridge, and highway patrol wants everyone to stay put until the plows can get out. It’ll be okay, Kelly. I’ll be here, and I’ll come check on you. A night at the mall isn’t the worst.”

Kelly nodded, trying to smile. She’d shooed everyone out of her bookstore early after seeing the huge white flakes falling outside. But as she settled onto a stool behind the cash register, she realized in her rush to clear the place and close up, she’d unwittingl­y trapped herself at work in the biggest snowstorm of the season. “Hello? Kelly, you still here?” Her eyes snapped open as the deep voice of Lane Bucks, the handsome owner of the sporting goods store next door, washed over her. She froze, her heart thumping as it always did whenever he came around. Everything about him was dreamy, from his broad smile to his even broader shoulders. Lane was mischievou­s, flirtatiou­s even, and liked to tease her, but his rugged good looks flustered Kelly, always leaving her thinking of the perfect reply after he’d walked away. “Kelly?” This is my chance to tease him back, she thought, ducking down behind the bank of registers. He walked closer and closer… “Boo!” She exclaimed as she popped up from behind the counter. “Ah!” He jumped back, laughing when he saw her playful smile. “Payback for the plastic spider last week!” she announced, her heart pounding with giddiness. “Not nice!” he admonished, though his grin stretched from ear to ear. “Let me guess: You got stuck here in the snow, too?” He nodded. “I made sure my employees left before it started.” He leaned toward her, and Kelly could smell his woodsy aftershave. “But since I don’t have anyone

waiting on me at home, I stayed a little too long.” His eyes met hers.

“Same for me,” Kelly said clearing her throat. She was determined to keep the conversati­on going, even with his gaze locked on her. “Well…there’s my cat, but my neighbor will feed him.” She was fumbling now. “Actually, I think my cat likes my neighbor better than me anyway…”

He laughed, cocking his head. “Your cat? You never mentioned you had a cat.”

“Yes,” she said, feeling herself flush. “His name is William Shakespurr.”

“Wow,” he teased. “Now I’m positive your cat likes your neighbor better.” She stared into his blue eyes as they danced in the light, but suddenly, the power went out. Kelly took a quick breath in and instinctiv­ely grabbed Lane’s arm in the dark.

“Oh boy, I heard we might lose power.” He placed his warm hand gently over hers. “No worries,” he said, “the generator will kick in.” And as soon as he’d said it, the generator hummed, dim emergency lights blinking on in the corners of the store.

“Sorry,” Kelly stammered, moving to release her grip on his arm.

“No, it’s fine,” he said, catching her hand as their eyes locked again. “Kelly, I…” Suddenly his voice grew shy. “I got takeout earlier today, but never got a chance to eat it. Do you like Chinese, by any chance?” “It’s my favorite.” “Great!” Lane breathed, looking relieved. “We’ll let Gus know where you’ll be, and you can come to my store for dinner.”

“I’ll bring dessert!” Kelly slid a box out from under her counter. “Two cupcakes from the bakery next door.”

“Two?” He tilted his head. “Was the second one for Mr. Shakespurr?” They laughed together, as Kelly gathered a few things, called Gus and locked up.

An hour later, after finishing the chow mein that Lane had warmed up on a camping stove, Kelly wrapped herself in a flannel blanket and sat down in a chair around the “fire” he had created out of lanterns.

Taking a seat beside Kelly, they gazed out the window at the still-falling snow.

“It’s so pretty,” Kelly mused. “Even if it did trap us here for the night.”

Lane reached for her hand again. “To be honest, I don’t mind being trapped here with you one bit,” he said softly.

Her stomach fluttered as he leaned closer, though this time, she didn’t worry about what to say. “A night at the mall with you isn’t the worst.” — Mary Ann Joyce

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