Baby, It's Cold Outside
By Ellen Addie
Self-professed winter virgin and Los Angeles transplant Miranda Todd faces the excitement of both her first snowstorm and the unexpected arrival of one of her favorite customers from her small town diner, handsome Caden Doyle, on her doorstep. A fireplace, delicious food, and clever conversation turn into something more much when Miranda and Caden decide to explore their mutual attraction amid the swirling snowflakes of the first big winter storm of the season.
"Snowfall amounts of up to one foot are expected overnight. Stay tuned to this station for further details throughout the afternoon."
Miranda Todd pursed her lips and exhaled. Am I ready for this? she asked herself. She had moved out to the country in July, when it was warm and sultry, and here it was early December. No leaves on the trees anymore, and a decent winter—heck, it wasn't even technically winter yet!—storm on its way. The prospect scared her a little; she was from Los Angeles, not the East Coast, and didn't know squat about wintertime. But she would learn, just as she'd learned, at least a little so far, about life in a small town: people were nice, people were nosy, and folks cared whether you lived or died.
That last part she particularly liked. The anonymity of life in Los Angeles had long ago lost its appeal for her. When she was informed that her Uncle Pat in Maine had died and left his house to her she saw it as a chance for a change. Maybe she was a little impulsive but she gave up her job in television promotion to move here and open up a little coffee shop. She discovered she liked cooking for people and the town had needed a new gathering spot since her Uncle had closed his bakery five years ago. Now, with a few of his prized recipes and a little big city flair, she was settling in. Except for this winter thing.
"Hey, Miranda, could I have a quick fill-up?" Jessie Chisholm, the bald owner of the local hardware store asked, holding up his cup. "People are going to be looking for batteries and candles today, for sure. I need to get back to the store."
"I'm sorry," Miranda smiled as she scooted over to pour hot coffee into his porcelain mug. "I think I'm freaking out a little over this storm," she fretted. "I just don't know what to expect."
"Well, you've got your firewood, right?" he asked her, ticking it off on the fingers of one hand. "And you've got plenty of water? Lots of food? And something to read in case the power goes out? Won't be any TV, girl!" he laughed.
"That's probably the scariest prospect for me, you're right!" she grinned. "Yeah, I think I'm set, theoretically. I just...well, it's my first winter," Miranda shrugged. "I'm a winter virgin," she joked.
On those last words the door from the outside opened, and Caden Doyle strode in, whipping off his gloves "Gee, I sure wish I'd heard the front end of that conversation," he said loudly, eliciting a laugh from the other customers at their tables. Miranda's eyes widened in surprise, she couldn't believe what she heard him say. He was normally reserved, or at least quiet.
Maybe he was loosening up. Or maybe business was good. Caden was a horticulturist who owned the local nursery, and during the winter he kept people in firewood, did woodworking and maintained cottages for the summer residents. Miranda didn't know too much about him personally other than that he was single, always seemed to have a good tan and had a strapping build that reflected his outdoor lifestyle. He was good-looking, handsome in a natural unpretentious way, not the L.A. girly-boy model type she was used to. A good way, she had to admit. They'd had pleasant joshing conversations when he'd come in, but she hadn't been able to get much more out of him. She didn't want to push the flirting; no sense in getting a reputation as a big city, big mouth hussy, not when she thought he was, well, pretty appealing. She hoped good things would come to those who wait.
"Go ahead and sit anywhere," Miranda called out to him, watching as he circled the room and greeted friends, finally taking a seat at a booth across the room. He picked up a menu and began perusing it as Miranda turned her attention back to Jesse. "So I shouldn't worry too much?" she inquired hopefully.
"The town hasn't lost anybody yet!" Jesse assured her as he rose from the bench and plopped down a bill on the table. "Keep the change, kiddo," he instructed, smiling, as he put his coat back on and walked out.
"Thanks!" she called after him, then did a quick sweep around the room checking on her customers, ending up in front of Caden's booth. "Made up your mind yet?" she asked, looking down at his tousled dark brown hair.
He looked up at her, his puzzled expression incredibly appealing. "What time is it, anyway?"
Miranda checked the clock on the wall. "A little after eleven."
"See, now I don't know whether to have breakfast or lunch," he chuckled. "I left the house early this morning without anything to eat, but the idea of a hamburger now seems weird, except so does pancakes."
"You've got a problem, buddy," she commiserated with a smile. "Why don't you just have some coffee until you can figure which way to go," Miranda suggested, pouring him a cup. "And hey, thanks for delivering that load of firewood the other day."
"You got it just in time, didn't you?" Caden said. "That's what I've been doing all morning. You going to be okay with this storm?" he asked, with some concern in his voice. "Being a winter virgin, and all..." Caden added, slyly.
"Oh, sure, thanks for asking," she smiled. "I guess for you, a big approaching storm is sort of like...whoopee!" She made an exuberant gesture with the coffee pot that sent the liquid sloshing around and nearly over the side. "Oops! I mean, good for business," she explained quickly.
He nodded and laughed with her. "That it is," he admitted, then went back to studying the menu. One of the other customers waved her over and she left Caden to make his decision.
"I'm still completely stumped about lunch or breakfast," he said when she came back to his table.
"Can I make a suggestion? How about a Monte Cristo sandwich? It's sort of breakfast, and sort of lunch, and completely delicious," Miranda explained. He looked up at her with his dark green eyes. "We do a ham and cheese sandwich then dip it in egg batter, lightly fry it, and sprinkle powdered sugar on top. You can use jam on it if you want, too." She tried to read interest in his handsome face. "I think you'd love it."
Caden smiled. "I think I would, too. Make it a Monte Cristo."