Barnes and Noble
Polly McCrillis/Isabel Mere
four novella with romance during the holidays themes
Leah parked in the last row of the lot behind Lakeside Amusement Park and admired the sand color and dark brown trim. It had been years since she'd been here. Walking toward the main entrance, she rehearsed what she planned to say to Mr. James. Eyes lowered, she didn't see the base of a ladder sticking out from the bed of a pickup. At the last second she ducked, but not fast enough.
"Son of a…" She slapped a palm to her temple, as a flurry of white specks danced behind her eyelids.
"Hey! Are you okay?"
Leah opened an eye. A red and black flannel shirt above a pair of jeans waved at her. No. That couldn't be right. Shirts don't wave. I'm seeing things, she thought. Must have dislodged some brain cells.
Something tightened around her waist curtailing screams for help.
"I've got you. Lean against me."
Easy enough since she was having a tough time not leaning. Whoever he was, the person attached to the basso voice smelled like a tree. Fresh cut Christmas tree. Tall and piney with sap oozing down the trunk. She giggled at the image of sap trickling down a man's torso. Eww. Sticky.
"Watch your step," said Robert Goulet's voice-twin.
"Little late for that," she mumbled and giggled again. His grip tightened, hoisting her so high up the tree trunk the toes of her shoes skimmed the ground.
"Sense of humor is intact," Tree Man remarked. "That's a good sign."
"Huh. I don't know about that. I didn't have one before now."
"Two more steps."
"Yeah, I see them. I've got it from here, thanks."
He stopped moving but didn't relax his grip. "You sure?"
"Uh-huh. Just a little dizzy there for a minute but I'm good." Head lowered, she fingered her right temple and brow and tested her blinking mechanism. Everything in working order. When she stepped back the warm pressure around her waist disappeared and she felt a rush of disappointment. She looked up.
Mr. Christmas Tree let out a low whistle. Leah's eyes stopped at his puckered mouth, moved upward past the not-totally-straight nose and stopped at eyes, dark as brownie batter and the prettiest man eyelashes she'd ever seen. Brown with tan tips. The same tan dusting his reddish-brown hair and eyebrows.
He raked fingers through his hair. Tan colored specks rained onto his shoulders.
"I am so sorry," he said soberly.
Sawdust, Leah realized as more fell from his hair. "About what? You didn't do anything."
"Uh, well, not real-─"
"Someone's waiting for me so I need to get going." Leah stuck out a hand and smiled. "Thank you…?"
"Dalton." Her hand disappeared in his wide grasp. "Dalton Bream."
"Leah Redmond. Thanks for your help." Inside the theatre the sound of electric drills and hammering intensified the headache beginning behind her right eye. Time to get this non-audition over with and go home.