This scene is at the very beginning of the book—Joy and Alex meet when he almost hits her with his car while she’s hiking up a mountain road in the dark. This isn’t something Joy would normally do, but she’s doing a lot of unexpected things since losing her job and spending her last penny to fix her piece of junk car, which coincidentally, still isn’t working.
The black car came into view, up at the very top of the hill. She inched closer to the side of the road to be safe. She waved her hand to make sure the driver saw her, and he seemed to, slowly moving to the center of the road. She looked down at her feet for an instant and the next thing she knew, the car was skidding across a patch of ice, drifting closer to the opposite side. She could see his exact trajectory. He was going to go into the ditch. The car turned sharply. An overcorrection. The back end fishtailed. The car slid sideways. The tires crunched against the snow again. The driver had slammed on the brakes. But it kept going. Coming right for her. Run. That was all she could think. But which way? Up seemed like the only answer. Her feet slipped. She fell forward, clawing at the snow with her hands, scrambling out of the way. The headlights blinded her. The car barreled at her. She righted herself and scrambled. Not enough time. She did the only thing she could do. She dove into a snowbank.
Cold shot through her entire body, like a tidal wave fueled by adrenaline. She took a sharp breath, her lungs filled with unbelievable iciness. Her throat tightened. She couldn’t breathe. Snow was everywhere. Like she’d jumped into the deepest part of the ocean and was surrounded by icebergs. She flailed about, all arms and legs, struggling to stand. She couldn’t get a foothold. There was no solid ground. Only snow to breathe and swallow. Did people drown in snowbanks? She was about to find out. Leave it to her to be the first person to accomplish such a feat. As she struggled with her arms, trying to push herself up, something grabbed her leg. Oh God. A bear.
It was full-on panic—flailing, fighting and kicking. She screamed at the top of her lungs and managed to roll to her back. Whatever had her in its clutches was pulling on her now. She dug her hands into the snow, trying to stop her progress, but the beast was too strong for her. She couldn’t fight it off. She was going to get eaten by a bear. Now she wished she was back to drowning in the snow.
With a thump, her butt landed on hard ground. The bear let go. She kicked and screamed. A dark figure loomed over her. It was lit from behind. Wait a minute. If this was a bear, he had very nice shoulders and an awfully nice head of hair.
“Are you okay?” the figure asked, desperately. “Give me your hand.”
Joy was finally able to sit up, but she couldn’t stand. She was still gathering her wits. She stared at the figure. A man. It was a man. Behind him was a car. The car. The lights beamed across the road. The man in the car had pulled her out of the snowbank. It was all starting to come together. He crouched down in front of her, grasping her shoulder.
“Are you okay?” he asked again. “Are you hurt? Can you hear me?”
She wasn’t merely disoriented when her eyes were able to focus and he came into sharper view. For a second she thought she might be dead. Wow. He’s handsome. He’s like a fairy-tale prince. A real one, with thick dark hair that held a perfect wave. His eyes were icy blue. He even had a dimple in his chin.
That was it. She was dead.
The handsome prince dug in his pocket and pulled out a phone. “I’m calling an ambulance. You must be in shock.”
Joy instinctively grabbed his wrist. “No. No. I’m fine.” She took a deep breath and as the air fully filled her lungs, she realized she was not dead. Plus, her hand had landed on firm man. A real man. “I’m so sorry. I just… I didn’t know what to do and it was my first instinct to jump into the snow. I’m sure that seems crazy.”
“Do you think you’re okay to stand up?”
“Probably.” She nodded. As soon as she was on her feet, she saw that she had not been crazy to leap into the snow. The rear end of his car had stopped just shy of the bank. “Wow. I could have been hit.”
“I’m so sorry. I ran into a patch of ice and lost control of the car. Sometimes these precision vehicles do what you want them to and sometimes they don’t.” The handsome prince had a very deep voice, rich and authoritative. He was probably really good at telling people what to do. He was tall. And good God, now that she could see his face in its entirety, she couldn’t help but notice that he was unbearably handsome. He was all high cheekbones and full lips. A strong jaw and brow line. There was nothing soft about him. Everything was defined. He wore a black wool coat and black leather gloves. “Do you mind if I ask what in the world you were doing out here walking alongside the road in the dark?”
Oh yeah. That. “Hiking.”
“Hiking? In those boots?” He pointed at her feet, which were clad in her brown leather boots with the chunky heel. They were surprisingly comfortable and made her butt look damn good in jeans. She didn’t wear them at work though. She donned the chef’s clogs that were currently in her bag for the long hours on her feet.
“Yeah, I know. I guess I’m just a slave to fashion.” She tittered nervously.
He narrowed his focus on her, his eyebrows drawing together so tightly they nearly touched. “Okay. Well, I don’t think it’s a good idea for you to finish your hike. Why don’t you let me drive you home?”
Home? Oh no. That would never work. Her home was the Marshalls’ home and absolutely no one was supposed to know she was there. For all she knew, this guy was a friend of the Marshalls. They not only knew a lot of people, most people knew of them. “I’m fine. Really.” She waved him off.
He shook his head. “No way. You are not fine. You should see yourself right now. Your hair and your makeup.” He drew a circle in the air in front of her face. “Plus, I’m not entirely sure you didn’t hit your head. I’m driving you home. If my mother were still alive, she’d be horrified if she found out that I was anything less than a perfect gentleman.”
Oh sure. Bring your dead mother into it. “No, really…”
“No. Really. I insist. Either that or I call an ambulance for you. You’re not walking home.”
Joy blew out a breath and knew it was time to relent. If they got to the top of the hill and he said a peep about the Marshalls, she’d have to come up with a quick excuse. In the meantime, at least with Prince Charming around, she was fairly sure she wasn’t in danger of being arrested. “Okay. Sure. That’d be nice.”
“Uh. The Santiago family? They’re letting me stay here for awhile.” Her voice was a bit shaky and unsure. Maybe she really had been hurt in the fall.
“Hmm. I don’t know them. You’re staying here by yourself?”
“Well, yes. Wanted some time to myself. Life gets crazy.” Joy collected her things and opened her car door. “Thank you, again.” She turned back to him only this time, there was a momentary connection difficult to ignore.
“Of course. It’s the least I can do.” Something about this wasn’t right. “Hey. Is it okay if we exchange numbers? I want you to be able to call me if you aren’t feeling well.”
She pressed her lips together like she was trying to escape a deeply uncomfortable situation. “How about I just take your number?”
Fair enough. “Sure thing.” He rattled off the digits and she put it into her phone, or at least he thought she did.
With that, she climbed out, closed her door, and scaled the grand sweep of stone stairs leading up to the front porch. Joy was tall, her legs long and lithe, but she looked tiny compared to the massive wood double door. She keyed her way in and as soon as she disappeared inside, he put the car into Reverse and backed up. Her sweet fragrance lingered—an aroma like spun sugar. It’d been months since he’d been on a date with a woman, and even just a few minutes with Joy was going to haunt him. He had a sense she was holding back or hiding something.
Hopefully, it wasn’t that she’d been hurt in the accident.
There’s a sexy secret under the tree this Christmas . . .
With no money and her real name under wraps, chef Joy McKinley isn’t expecting the greatest Christmas. At least her hideout is a luxury mountaintop estate. But when a gorgeous, gallant, incredibly sexy billionaire ends up snowbound with her, Joy wishes she could tell Alexander Townsend the whole truth about herself. Especially when the one thing she shares is her bed—and then discovers he has as many trust issues as she does. Will keeping secrets cost Joy the best Christmas gift she’s ever received?
*Snowed in with a Billionaire will be released December 1, 2017.