Home > Saving Abby (The One I Want #6)

Saving Abby (The One I Want #6)
Author: Ellie Masters

 

1

 

 

MOOSE

 

 

Nothing helps leave the past behind like a thousand miles and a snowstorm to cover my tracks.

Whoever heard of a blizzard in May?

Isn’t there some kind of law against that? It’s time for flowers and rain showers, not blinding white and freezing cold. In all the summers I spent in Peace Springs, there’s not one memory of snow in May. It feels as if I’m entering a hell that’s literally in the process of freezing over.

Not that Peace Springs is hell.

Hell is a thousand miles behind me in Redlands, California. Peace Springs is my future and holds the fondest memories of my life. I spent my summers in the quiet town. I just never saw myself living here as an adult.

I increase the speed of the wipers. Not that it helps. A thick layer of snow builds on the windshield making the road disappear. I flick the high beams, but that only makes things worse. The light reflects off the falling snow, turning the seething mess into an impenetrable wall of white.

On my last check, Peace Springs was less than ten miles away. I’m almost there. Although, it could well be a hundred miles away with the mess outside.

A hot meal, warm bed, and getting off the snowy highway top my list of things to do. I’ve been on the road since way before dawn, fleeing my past, while leaving sunny California in my dreams.

More like leaving a nightmare behind. My insides clench with lingering fear and righteous anger. Thoughts of Scott make me hyperventilate and that shakiness returns.

I lean forward as if those extra three inches will magically make it easier to see the damn road. As if those three inches will take me further from a painful past.

As for my future, my uncle promises I’ll enjoy working in Peace Springs. The idea of being a small-town doc appeals to me, but it intimidates me too.

Do I know enough to help my patients? Are my emergency skills up to par? What will I do when there’s no one to look to for help?

I’m fresh out of residency, which means I’m knowledgeable and confident, but also aware of how much I’ve yet to learn.

The only reason I agreed to this move is because my uncle needs help.

Okay, that’s not the only reason.

I desperately needed an excuse to leave Southern California.

My uncle’s request came at the best possible time.

Peace Springs is growing, he says. He’s looking to retire soon, he says. Taking over his medical practice will be a great experience for a newly licensed family medicine physician. He has more reasons why I should come than I have excuses why I shouldn’t.

It makes sense to relocate, for many reasons.

Redlands holds bad memories. My parents’ deaths being merely one among many. That’s the reason I told him I’d come, but he really gave me the perfect push to finally leave my abusive ex-boyfriend.

A push is exactly what I needed.

A reason to leave.

I wasn’t strong enough to leave on my own.

Leaning over the steering wheel, I peer through the windshield and curse the falling snow. For a girl born and raised in Southern California, I’m used to endless sunshine, sprawling cities, tall buildings, and highways six and eight lanes wide. Not this tiny road the locals claim is a highway.

My sigh fills the cab with a mixture of regret and frustration. It also fogs the window. I lean forward, pulling my sleeve over my hand to rub away the moisture.

This is a permanent move, Abby. Embrace it.

I know.

My hopes for establishing a sustainable practice in Redlands died when one punch to my face became one too many.

I glance at the back seat to check on the Boston fern. The houseplant is the only thing Scott let me take. He thinks I’m throwing a hissy fit and will come crawling back to him. That I’m testing him.

But I’m not.

I took the fern, and by hell or high water, I’ll transport the darn thing all the way up the coast. Not because the plant means anything to me, but because Scott wouldn’t let me take anything else.

My entire life is condensed into three suitcases, a potted plant, and … Holy crap!

A moose!

My scream shatters the silence. Stomping on the brakes, I wrench the steering wheel hard to the right.

The massive animal stands placidly in the middle of the road—watching me—breathing out—whereas my pulse thunders in my ears and my stomach leaps to my throat.

The tires slide over the ice. Counter-steering, I point the car back in the direction I want to go. I’ve read that’s what you’re supposed to do, but it doesn’t work. My Jeep slides into a spin.

Coming full circle, the moose and I trade stares again. It snorts, blowing out twin plumes of steam from its nostrils, while the Jeep launches off the road.

I plow straight into a ditch.

A loud bang sounds. Something slams into my face. A fine, white powder coats the inside of the car, making me cough and gasp for air.

The airbag deployed, saving my life, but damn does it hurt. My heart hammers and the ragged pull of my breaths scrapes in my ears.

“No, no, no!”

This can’t be happening.

And what’s up with moose on the loose?

What’s next? Lions, tigers, and bears?

More likely, I’ll find mountain lions, wolves, and bears.

Outside, snow piles up on the hood of my car.

I punch the airbag out of the way. The bridge of my nose hurts. My cheekbones are tender. My eyes sting. My lids drag against the grit from the powder. I go into damage control.

Okay, what hurts?

No pain in my ribs. My shoulder hurts from the seatbelt, but nothing seems to be broken. I wiggle my toes and move my legs.

No pain there.

Where’s my phone? It was in the drink holder a second ago.

I search while the outside temperature steals my precious heat. Staying put might seem wise, but what if no help ever comes?

There hasn’t been another vehicle on the road for miles. Even in the daylight, will anyone see my Jeep? Or will the snow cover it, encasing me in a chilly grave?

I flip on the emergency flashers.

My phone?

There, on the passenger floorboard. I grab it and stab at the screen.

No reception.

Not that it matters. The battery is down to less than five percent and won’t last much longer.

The engine sputters, coughs, and dies. The heater quits. A chill creeps in through the windows. I place my palm against the glass and withdraw with a hiss. There are only a few hours left until midnight, which means it will only get colder outside.

Thanks to that damned moose, I’m half-buried in a ditch. Real fear sets in as the encroaching cold seeps through the metal of my car.

There’s no way to get my Jeep out of the ditch. I try to crank the engine over, but nothing happens.

Do I wait out the storm? If I get the engine running, is it safe to keep it going? I remember something about keeping the exhaust clear, but with less than a quarter tank of gas, the engine won’t last through morning.

Staying warm and dry is my top priority.

And finding help.

Twice, I turn the key, but the engine refuses to start. Do I stay with the vehicle? Or will I be safer walking along the road?

The wind dies down. A stillness hangs over the countryside. It’s oddly tranquil as the snow continues to fall.

If it wasn’t for my life and death situation, I might take a moment to admire the beauty of it all, but there’s no time for that.

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