A bit of a tease this week from “Natural Woman”, from the STRANDED Anthology…
Blurbage: After a heartbreaking tragedy years ago, Cora has lived in a self-inflicted solitude, hidden away from the pitying looks of her neighbors.
But when one of the worst storms in years plows through, a stranded traveler requires her help. With New Year’s Eve fast approaching, Nick’s open honesty reassures her how beautiful she is. And his gentle hands teach her that there is more to her than the scars she carries.
“Time got away from me,” she explained, pushing the button on the kettle. Time to refuel on coffee. She made a mental note to check the cupboard for another can of apple juice. “Want some tea or more hot chocolate? I can have either ready in a couple minutes.”
“Don’t worry about it. I got that bugger fixed.”
Her eyes widened. “That’s wonderful! Thank you.”
Nick ran the hot water and rubbed his hands together under the faucet. “Took a lot of elbow-grease but all is good.”
Cora pulled the butter and cheese from the fridge. “After we eat, hopefully we can get to your mom’s.”
He shook his head. “Not tonight. Started raining again about thirty minutes ago. Like an ice rink out there.”
She swung back toward him. “Well, shoot. I know how anxious you must be to get out of here.”
He stared at her. Scrutinizing and pensive.
“Honey, what happened to you?”
“What?” Cora whispered as realization dawned.
Out of habit, she’d pulled her hair back into a ponytail when she started working on the quilt to keep her long hair out of the way. Swallowing hard, she reached back and yanked the elastic. Her hair fell around her shoulders, protecting her.
“No, don’t do that.” Nick pushed her hair back behind her shoulders.
She attempted to step away but he held her in place.
“Don’t turn away from me.”
“Nick,” she whispered, heart racing. If he was appalled when he got a good look at her marred face, she didn’t know how she would handle that.
“Who, what, did this to you?”
“It was a long time ago.” She shivered, wishing she could run like hell and never look back.
“I didn’t ask that.” He ran a finger down over her scar. “I want to know who did this to you.”
The fire and anger in his eyes drew her in. He seemed upset over what happened to her. Her biggest surprise was to see no pity at all. Everyone always looked at her like that. She’d gotten used to it.
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