Read Another Snowbound Christmas Online

Authors: Veronica Tower

Tags: #Erotica/Romance

Another Snowbound Christmas (12 page)

“So you met him last Christmas?”

“Yes,” Kara told her. She knew she couldn't tell her
everything
that had happened last year, but the bare outlines of the story wouldn't scandalize anyone. “We were sitting next to each other on our flight back to Detroit but the snow wouldn't let the plane leave the airport. So he overheard me call Bobby asking him to pick me up, and he was still there when I discovered that Bobby was cheating on me with someone else. You can imagine how I felt about that—Bobby letting me come out to visit him while he was already in a relationship with another woman.”

“Yes, I can,” Becka told her, and Kara remembered that her husband, Wilson, had carried on an affair for the entire time they'd been married. Long enough to make any sane person wonder why he'd married Becka in the first place.

“Well, you know it hurts,” Kara said. “And Ron stayed with me the whole time in the airport, talking to me, making sure I ate, distracting me from my problems.” She had a strange impulse to share just
how
Ron had distracted her in the airport, but fortunately Mama interrupted before Kara could say something she'd later regret.

“Ronald took advantage of Kara's emotional vulnerability,” she explained to Aunt Edie.

“Why would you say that, Aunt Margaret?” Thea asked. “Maybe if they'd had a one night stand you could say that, but they've been together for a year now. I don't see how Ron is taking advantage of her.”

“He's living off of her!” Mama said. “He moved out of his apartment so he wouldn't have to spend money on rent.”

“Oh, Mama,” Kara said. “Don't you ever get tired of stretching and bending the truth?”

“Kara!” Mama snapped. Then uncharacteristically she turned to Ruth for the second time that evening, seeking support. “Ruth, are you going to just stand there by the stove and let your sister talk about me like this?”

“I'm working on dinner, Mama,” Ruth said, “by
myself
, as usual.”

“Can I help you, Ruth?” Kara asked.

“Oh, no!” Ruth said. “You do not get to use me as an excuse to get out of the hole you've dug yourself into. You have to do that all by yourself.”

Kara sighed. It was almost impossible to get along with Ruth. Whether you offered to help or didn't offer to help, you were always in the wrong. Too bad Liz wasn't here to help her, but Kara's little sister was visiting Travis’ parents this Christmas and using Kara as her excuse to get away.
Kara missed Christmas last year. What's wrong with me missing it this year?
Of course she forgot to mention that Kara had been snowed in at the airport trying to catch a flight home.

“So what's your point, Kara?” Becka asked bringing her thoughts back to the conversation Mama had succeeded in interrupting. “If you're supporting him—that does sound like he's taking advantage of you.”

Kara frowned at her, wondering why Becka was joining Mama in attacking Ron. “Because I'm not supporting him, Becka. Mama knows this. She just chooses to conveniently forget so she can make Ron look bad.”

“Kara!” Mama began, but Kara ignored her and kept talking.

“Ron pays half the mortgage, half the cable and utility bills, and buys half the food—more if you count all the times he treats me to a night out for dinner.”

“It's still not proper,” Aunt Edie said. “You're living in sin with him.” It was impossible for Kara to tell if the full account of Ron moving in with her improved her impression of Kara's boyfriend or not.

“That's a different issue, Mom,” Thea said. “All Kara is saying is she's not supporting Ron. He picks up half the bills.”

“And so I'm able to save a lot of money because Ron's living with me,” Kara added. Her family had always respected thrift. It ought to be worth a few points to mention that.

“Dinner's ready!” Ruth announced, blessedly terminating the conversation. “Kara, would you call the men? Thea, could you get the kids?”

Maybe
, Kara thought,
Ruth was willing to be more helpful than she had thought.

[Back to Table of Contents]

Chapter Fifteen

Dinner was excellent—not at all like the parsimonious overly-elegant fare they'd had last night at the Miller house. Whatever else Kara could say about Ruth—and as the middle child of three daughters, she could say an awful lot about her older sister—Ruth was a really good cook.

“Ruth,” Ron announced, “I've said it before and I'll say it again. When the kids are old enough to get themselves to school and back by themselves, you should open a restaurant!”

Ruth tried to hide how much this complement pleased her. “I'm not really that good,” she said, “and think how expensive a venture like that would be.”

“We'd all help you,” Ron said. “Heck, I'd invest in you! We'd look for a building that Al and I could fix up. Kara could keep your books. Liz could get all your permits. It would still be a lot of work, but we could handle it if you're willing to handle the kitchen.”

Kara was never quite certain if Ron was serious or if he were teasing her sister when they talked about the restaurant. She liked Ruth's cooking, but she really wasn't certain that it was
restaurant caliber
fare. She did like the way her sister beamed, however, when Ron praised her.

“Ron's right, honey,” Al told his wife. “This is excellent!” To make his point, he shoveled a large forkful of turkey, smothered in mashed potatoes and gravy, into his mouth. Most people ate the turkey with some gravy or the mashed potatoes with some gravy, but Al like to combine all three into one serving.

“Well, if Albert's not making enough to support you,” Mama said, “there are less risky ventures you could try to bring in some money.”

Ruth visibly deflated at her mother's barb.

“Their finances are fine, Mama,” Kara said. It was the simple truth. She ought to know, she did everyone's taxes for them. “We're talking about dreams and ambitions.”

Mama did not look convinced. “No one is fine in this recession,” she said. “We're all family here. There's no need to put on airs or false fronts.”

“Actually,” Al volunteered, “a garage like mine does pretty well in a recession. People can't afford to get rid of their cars and buy new ones so they have to get the old ones fixed. We're doing better now than we were five years ago.”

Mama, of course, turned this into a bad thing. She shook her head. “That sounds a lot like taking advantage of other people's misfortunes.”

“I suppose,” Thea said, “that it's all a matter of your perspective. When my little Escort broke down last summer, it was a Godsend that Al was able to get it running again for me.” She smiled sweetly at him. “And of course it's especially nice that he never charges me for the work.”

Al shrugged. “You're family, Thea.”

“You're a credit to this family, Al,” Aunt Edie told him. Ruth's eyebrows shot up in surprise at the seldom heard complement from the usually negative older generation. “Ruth is lucky to have found you.”

Kara's sister opened her mouth to thank their aunt for the praise when the older woman spoiled it with a disapproving glance at recently divorced Becka.

Ruth closed her mouth again without speaking.

Kara decided to help out by changing the subject. “Is it still snowing outside?” she asked. In her mind, she could hear her mother say,
It's certainly not snowing inside, is it?
But fortunately Mama remained silent as she turned with the rest of the extended family to look out the kitchen window through which huge flakes of snow could be seen peacefully falling to earth.

“The roads were quite treacherous on the way over here,” Aunt Edie observed.

“They really weren't that bad yet,” Thea disagreed. “We'd only had an inch or so more since the snow last night, but that looks a lot heavier now.”

“What's the forecast?” Kara asked. “I thought the snow was pretty much finished last night.”

“I don't know,” Ruth told her. “I've been listening to iTunes all day—not the radio.”

“We had the radio on in the garage,” Al told her. “They've been watching a storm out over the Great Lakes but they weren't predicting it to get bad until after midnight.”

“Well, that looks bad,” Aunt Edie told him.

Thea put down her fork and got up to look out the window. “I hate driving in deep snow.”

“Kara and I could drive you home if you need it,” Ron volunteered. “It might be a little crowded in my Jeep but it will get you there.”

“Or you could stay overnight here if you prefer,” Ruth assured them.

Thea clearly didn't like either of those options, but she also wasn't anxious to disrupt the holiday spirit. “It's probably not that bad yet,” she said. “I guess we'll just keep an eye on the weather for a while.”

* * * *

[Back to Table of Contents]

Chapter Sixteen

“I think that's done it,” Al said.

The radio in the garage was playing Gene Autry's
Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer
. Snow continued to fall heavily outside.

Kara picked up a broom and began to sweep sand off the floor. Ron and Al had poured six fifty-pound bags into the base of the basketball hoop and they hadn't been particularly neat about it. “It doesn't look like you can even stand it up in the garage,” she noted.

“The height of the backboard is adjustable,” Ron assured her. “That way if Jenny and her friends want to play, we can lower it down and if Marc and his friends want to play, we can raise it to regulation height.”

“Too bad we can't try it out at regulation height in the garage,” Al said.

“Why do it in the garage?” Ron asked. “Let's take it outside and give it a try.”

Kara glanced at the small windows in the garage door. Sure enough, snow continued to fall heavily outside. It was actually the reason she'd come into the garage five minutes before. They'd had two inches of snowfall since dinner and Aunt Edie had decided it was time for her and her daughters to go home. “You do remember it's snowing?” she asked.

Ron just grinned.

Al grinned, too. “You know I can't remember the last time I played hoops with snow on the ground,” he said.

“That's because you can't bounce the basketball in the snow,” Kara reminded them.

Both men just kept grinning.

Kara tried one more time to divert them from insanity. “Was this present for Marc or you men?”

Al answered by flicking the switch on the automatic garage door opener. “If we take the hoop out and pull Ruth's car back into the garage,” he said, “we ought to even be able to dribble a bit. The driveway will be clear where her car used to be.”

“I'm game if you are, old man,” Ron told him. “Shall we get Marc?”

“Can't very well have a Christmas basketball game without my son,” Al said. “You think you can handle the both of us by yourself?”

The garage had been cold compared to the rest of the house even with Al's space heater running, but now that the garage door had been opened, it was quickly becoming frigid.

“Of course, I could,” Ron assured him.

Kara frowned. She had seen Ron exhibit this sort of cocky machismo when they got together with his friends, but it had rarely come out this strongly with Al before.

“But I won't have to,” Ron continued, “because Kara will be on my team.”

Kara jerked her head around to stare at him. “I am not playing basketball in the snow,” she said.

Halfway through her sentence, Thea came out into the garage. “Hey, Kara, Al, Ron, it looks like we're really leaving—” she stopped as Kara's words sunk in and she saw the completed basketball hoop and the open garage door. “Did you just say we're playing basketball in the snow?”

“No—” Kara started to tell her, but Ron was already saying the opposite.

“Just a quick game,” he told Thea. “You want in? Marc and Al are going to need help when Kara and I start pressing them.”

Thea stood with her hands on her hips for a moment while a broad smile slowly took shape on her face. “Just try to stop me!” she said. “I'm in!”

Kara made one more half-hearted effort to restore some sanity to the occasion. “I don't think you can play ball in the snow,” she said.

“People play football in the snow all the time,” Ron reminded her. “Basketball won't be that much different.”

[Back to Table of Contents]

Chapter Seventeen

Basketball was different.

It took a few minutes to find their coats and grab the children. Jenny, unsurprisingly, wanted to play as well, so Kara and Ron took her on their team. Then, with Mama and Aunt Edie complaining, the whole family made their way out into the yard for the game. The snow was four inches deep in the driveway—except for the small spot where Ruth had parked her car. Al's car still sat at the front of the driveway near the street, but if they were careful, there was just enough room to dribble a little and shoot.

Ron tossed the ball to Marc and told Jenny to go out and cover him. Kara took a stance near Thea. She was a lot more athletic than she'd been a year ago when she met Ron, but she didn't know if that meant she could cover her cousin. Marc quickly dribbled around Jenny and shot for the hoop. Ron batted the ball away so that Al recovered it. Marc and Jenny both howled with excitement as their father shot and the ball bounced off the rim. Kara put her hands up to catch it but her cousin, overcome by a surprising burst of competitiveness darted in front of her and snatched the ball out of the air.

Suddenly the cold mattered a lot less to Kara. She leapt up in her good clothes and long coat and blocked Thea's shot from behind. She was feeling pretty good about herself until the soles of her fashionable boots hit the slick pavement and she and Thea both fell over into the snow.

“Ha, ha, ha, Aunt Kara!” Jenny squealed.

Ron, showing more interest in the game than his girlfriend, scooped up the ball, bounced it twice, and sank the first basket of the night.

“Why don't you help your woman up, Ron?” Al said. “We can wait.”

“Thanks!” Ron said and hurried over to offer Kara and then Thea a hand. Al waited patiently while Kara got to her feet, but the moment Ron started helping Thea he passed the ball to Marc and shouted, “Shoot, boy, shoot!”

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