Breakdown in Clifton Forge
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by Katy O'Reilly
Description: Julie Gilbert was cursed with wealth--every boyfriend she'd ever had wanted only one thing--her money. Running away from yet another fortune-seeker, her car dies in a blizzard and she's stranded in the cold. When she's finally rescued by Sheriff Brett Rowan, her knight in shining armor turns out to have some disturbing habits--like spanking her when she doesn't behave! The plot grows deeper when political criminals come after her. They want her dead or alive. Can Brett keep her safe? Can she love a man who spanks her? And what will happen when he finds out she's rich? The answers are in this novel filled with love, drama, and adventure!
eBook Publisher: Newsite Web Services Publishing, 2008 2008
eBookwise Release Date: August 2008
29 Reader Ratings:
Available eBook Formats: OEBFF Format (IMP) [253 KB]
Reading time: 172-241 min.
She was scared, more scared than she'd ever been in her life. The weather was terrible but she knew she had to keep going, though where she didn't know.
Mile marker 203
The gas gauge leanin' on the edge of E
Something smoking underneath the hood
It's a-bangin' and a-clangin' and it can't be good
(Lyrics from "I'd Sure Hate to Break Down Here" by Trace Adkins, "Comin' On Strong" Album)
The snow swirled around the horse's legs as its rider halted him on the ridge, raising his binoculars to survey the road below. After checking for a few minutes, he nudged the horse onward.
Sheriff Brett Rowan wanted to be anywhere but out in this blizzard looking for a stranded motorist, but when old Andy Franks had called and told him he'd seen a car trying to get down the old Anders Farm road, he'd had no choice but to go looking. So far, he'd seen nothing but mounds of snow, blowing and drifting across the road. It wasn't passable, and there were no homes anywhere on it, so if someone was on it, they were stranded.
"Darn fools," he said to the horse. "Has to be some tourist; no one local would have ventured out knowing the storm was coming."
* * * *
Clifton Forge was a small town in Alleghany County, located in the west of Virginia. Storms in the mountains were unpredictable, and new residents learned fast that they needed to take a storm warning seriously. The warning had gone out twenty-four hours ago, and this storm was proving to be one of the worst they'd ever seen. The snow was already at two feet and it was still snowing.
Route 64, the main road over this area of the mountains, was now impassable. The state highway patrol was directing all cars off the road. Sheriff Rowan's officers had aided them, but now they were all safely back at the station or home. Brett himself had been relaxing in front of his fire when the call came in. He'd been out for an hour and was about to give up, when he spotted a patch of red metal covered over with snow. It had to be a car down there on the road.
He nudged the horse into action and rode down the hill to the road. It was definitely a car, and from the looks of it, could be an old abandoned one, but he had to check to make sure. Cautiously approaching, he swept the snow off the side window and looked in. What he saw had him pulling the door open immediately. Inside was a woman huddled under a bag of clothes, either sleeping or unconscious.
"This is Sheriff Rowan, come in," he yelled into his walkie-talkie.
"Yes, Sheriff, what do you need?" his deputy at the other end responded.
"I found our stranded motorist. There's no way an ambulance will make it here. I'm going to take her back to my ranch. I'll call from there," he replied and hung the walkie-talkie back on his belt.
"Miss, wake up," he said, shaking the huddled figure.
He barely heard a groan as he lifted her out of the car. Her bag stayed firmly clutched in her hands. When the wind hit her, she revived a bit, blinked her eyes, and started struggling weakly.
"It's okay, I'm the sheriff. I'm going to get you somewhere warm and then we'll talk. Hang on to my neck," he said softly, trying to soothe her.
With practiced ease, he swung up on the horse still holding the woman. He kicked his horse, moving as fast as he could across the fields. Taking this direct route, he was no more than a few miles from his house; still, in this storm it would take some time.
The woman appeared to be sleeping again, huddled against his chest, but shaking. She had no boots on, and her clothes and coat weren't heavy enough for this weather. He figured she must be from somewhere down south.
"We'll be inside soon; lean against me for warmth," he said, drawing her tighter against him.
When they reached the house, Brett dismounted, carried her inside, and set her down by the fire. He quickly stoked it with more wood.
"Stay here and get warm while I take care of Blackie."
She nodded sleepily, pulling her coat and bag closer.
As soon as the horse was wiped down and had fresh straw and oats, Brett went back to the house.
The woman, well really more a girl, was sound asleep in the chair. Her fingers had finally released their grip, and both her coat and the bag were in a heap on the floor. It appeared that the bag contained her earthly possessions, or at least what she'd gathered and stuffed in it. He wondered what she was doing here, and what she was running from.
Brett picked up the bag and headed into the kitchen. She needed to get something warm inside her. Soup and tea were soon heating on the stove. He'd spread the bag's contents out on the kitchen table and was now noting the information on her license.
She was Julie Gilberts, age twenty-seven, of Richmond. Her wallet had thirty dollars and a credit card; nothing more. He replaced the contents and closed the bag. The soup was ready, so he placed it on a tray with the hot tea and took it and the bag back to where she was sleeping.
"Wake up Julie," he called.
With a start, she woke and jumped up, her legs trembling.
"Wh ... where am I? Wh ... ooo are you?" she stammered, her deep gray eyes wide with fright.
"My name's Brett Rowan, I'm the sheriff of Clifton Forge, Virginia. It appears that you broke down on the old Anders Road and were caught in the snowstorm. Fortunately, someone saw you turn off the highway and called me. Now sit down and have some soup," he told her.
Julie slowly sat down, eyeing him warily. She was starving and still cold. Her head ached ... in fact she ached all over. It had been hours since she'd slept more than a snatch here and there, and she felt exhausted.
Brett watched her as she nearly inhaled the soup and tea. Without her asking, he took the bowl and cup and refilled them. She blushed with embarrassment when he handed them back.
"I'm sorry, I'm not usually this much of a pig, but it's been a while since I ate," she said quietly.
"Want to tell me what happened?"
Julie really didn't want to tell him anything. What she wanted was to get away from here and on her way as soon as she could. She didn't know how much time she had, but she realized she had to tell him something. She remembered the panic she'd felt when she was in the car.
I'd sure hate to break down here
Nothin' up ahead or in the rear-view mirror
Out in the middle of nowhere knowin'
I'm in trouble if these wheels stop rollin'
God help me keep me movin' somehow
(Lyrics from "I'd Sure Hate to Break Down Here" by Trace Adkins, "Comin' On Strong" Album)
"I ... I was on my way to visit a friend, and I was running out of gas, and the car was making a funny sound. I knew there were no towns for miles as I'd just passed Clifton Forge. I decided to get off and see if I could find a road back," she told him in the softest voice she could. The entire time she kept her head down and wouldn't look him in the face.
Brett could tell that was only partially the truth. She was definitely running, but he decided not to pursue it right then. He'd run a check with Richmond later, but for now he needed to get her to bed.
"Ok, Julie, looks like you're stuck here with me until this storm decides it's done. You look exhausted, so I suggest you get a nice hot shower and then into bed. I'll show you the guest room." He grabbed her bag and headed off down a hall.
Julie blushed beet red, but followed him. She wondered what he thought of her 'suitcase' but since he didn't say anything, she didn't pursue it.
"Thank you," she said, after he'd shown her the bed and bath.
"You're welcome. I'll see you tomorrow," he replied, closing the door gently behind him.
Brett waited until he no longer heard any noise from the guest room, then called the station.
"Tom, I need you to run some plates and see what information you can find out about Julie Gilbert, Virginia drivers license G 543-7896-90. The plates are Virginia, VFG 348. I want to know a bit about my houseguest, alias the stranded motorist. Call me when you have something," Brett hung up.
He realized he was hungry and made himself some dinner while listening to the police scanner. It was pretty quiet, seemed all the motorists were safely off the roads and in this weather, crime wasn't likely.
He'd finished his meal, cleared away the dishes, and was just sitting down with a brandy to watch TV, when Tom called.
"Not a whole lot to find out. Ms. Gilbert has no traffic offenses and the plates are registered to a Victor Frank Gilbert in Alexandria. I'd say it's her father since the address is different from her license. The car is a 1999 Oldsmobile Cutlass. She has no criminal record under that name; we could run more if we had prints. Do you think something's up?" Tom asked.
"No, just think she's running from something, not sure what, but she's hiding the truth from me. Thanks Tom, I'll check in tomorrow morning. Not sure I'll get in, unless this stops and they plow, plus I have my guest to look out for, and her car isn't going anywhere soon."
* * * *
Julie fell asleep as soon as her head hit the pillow. She couldn't remember the last time she'd really slept; it must have been at least ten days ago, not since this nightmare had started. Finally she felt safe, at least for now; no one would find her here.
A real nightmare began sometime after midnight and was so real that Julie found herself sobbing as she woke. She lay there quietly tensed, hoping that Brett hadn't heard her. The last thing she wanted to explain was why she was crying. She got up, found some aspirin in the bathroom's medicine cabinet, took a couple, and went back to bed. Her throat was sore and her chest felt tight, but perhaps it was just left over from the dream. Soon she was sleeping again.
Brett had been sleeping when a sound from the guest room woke him. He looked at the clock; it was 1:00 a.m. There were no further sounds and he went back to sleep, only to be wakened by coughing around 4:00 a.m. It stopped, and he slept fitfully until six, when the coughing roused him again. Throwing on a robe, he went to investigate.
Julie was tossing fitfully in sleep and coughing hard. He put a hand on her head and knew she had a fever. Just what he needed ... snowed in with a sick guest.