Chapter 1: A Chilly Start
Elizabeth Summers frowned as the clouds that had gathered ominously all afternoon began to shed their heavy load about four hours into her journey back home. Light at first, the flurries of snow soon began to thicken until she’d been forced to slow her car down to a crawl.
Seeing that traffic was bad on the motorway, she chose to take an alternative route along less used roads and was now beginning to regret her decision. Now only an hour from home and with darkness falling, she appeared to be the only one on the road. As the snow began to fall even more thickly, she feared that if anything happened, she’d be stuck until the snowplough arrived and it wasn’t a pleasant prospect.
Letting out an annoyed huff, she knew she only had herself to blame for leaving her parents house a few days later than she’d intended. As it was, she’d left her Uncle Rupert at a critical stage in his book and she knew he’d be desperate to get working on it again.
Naturally, when she’d explained this to her parents, they’d shared a wry smile and turned their mystified gazes to her, clearly not comprehending the appeal of returning to her uncle’s home. Rupert was her father’s elder brother, a confirmed bachelor who was more interested in books and the university he worked for than anything else.
Much as they loved her, she knew her parents just didn’t understand her at all and although she thought she was used to it by now, their lack of understanding still managed to hurt. She often thought that they must wonder where on earth she’d come from; their reserved, diminutive daughter who preferred living a quiet life in rural Hertfordshire to travelling around the globe in search of adventure like themselves.
What they didn’t realise was that, after spending most of her youth moving from state to state within America, all she really wanted to do was settle down in one place. Was that really so wrong?
Okay, maybe in this day and age, the fact that a female wanted nothing more than to have a home, a husband and a couple of kids was a little out of the ordinary, but not that weird surely?
She sighed. Maybe her unusual melancholy was because her younger sister, Dawn, had been home this time with her American fiancé, Connor, in tow. Both had been glowing with happiness and so clearly in love that it had made her heart ache, bringing back painful memories.
Once upon a time, she’d thought herself in love with a boy named Parker. It had been her last year of college when they lived in Sunnydale, California. They’d just moved.again.and she was feeling out of place and even more insecure than usual.
So, it shouldn’t really have been of any surprise that she fallen so quickly and easily for Parker’s charming ways. He was attentive from the first, his adoring interest and loving words reaching out and wrapping her up in their warm embrace until she was certain she’d found, ‘The One’. Of course, it had all been a lie and she still remembered the day she’d found out his deception as if it were yesterday.
They’d been kissing in her dorm room and it had become more heated than usual. Feeling his hand slip under her blouse and creep slowly up to her chest, she’d pulled back and asked him to stop. Instead of the usual sheepish smile and apology she’d been expecting, however, Parker had stunned her by losing his temper.
“For Christ’s sake Elizabeth! Do you want to be a virgin all your life?” he’d demanded angrily. “I mean, you should consider yourself lucky that I’m willing to overlook the fact that you’ve got no experience and don’t seem to have any idea how to turn a man on or make yourself look anything near attractive.”
Her hand had automatically gone to her carefully, but severely, plaited hair self-consciously and she’d swallowed hard past the lump in her throat, desperately holding back her tears.
“Look at you,” he’d continued derisively as his eyes had raked over her baggy sweater and jeans contemptuously. “Did you honestly think I’d go to all this trouble because I actually wanted to fuck that frigid body of yours? Like hell! I was just.”
He’d stopped and looked away then leaving Elizabeth in no doubt that there was more to what he was going to say. “You might as well tell me everything because I’m never going to sleep with you, Parker,” she’d told him quietly.
And then it had all come tumbling out. How getting her to have sex with him was merely in answer to a challenge from his friends that had quickly turned into a bet. A bet he’d invested heavily in himself, being so sure of his own charms. It had sickened her to hear the things he’d said but she’d mustered what was left of her dignity and reached for her cheque book before calmly asking how much he was owed.
He’d stated an amount and she’d written out a cheque and handed it over to him. He’d snatched it from her grasp and told her that compensating him was the least she could do and if she ever felt the urge to lose her virginal status, he’d be happy to oblige for a similar amount.
Her tears had started as soon as he’d left the room. The shocking realisation that she’d been thinking of engagements and marriage to a man who didn’t even have the decency to appear ashamed of his own despicable actions, made her want to heave.
It had shaken her to the core that she was so gullible and she’d shunned any attempts from the opposite sex to get her to date for the rest of the time she was at college. All she wanted to do was get through her final exams in one piece and leave Sunnyhell as far behind as she could.
That’s when Rupert had written and explained that he was going to take up a post at Cambridge University and asked if she wished to spend her year out after finals, staying with him and exploring England.
Her parents had been keen for her to spend the year travelling but Elizabeth had grabbed her uncle’s offer with both hands, the thought of going to a different country where no-one knew her, appealing.
And so, she’d left and gone to stay at her uncle’s old rambling home that stood just outside Cambridge. As time went on, she’d realised that she’d come to love the place and her Uncle Rupert so much that she decided to stay. Surprisingly, her parents had followed her over just a couple of years later and now resided in the Lake District near Windermere. They still travelled regularly and Dawn was definitely a girl after their own hearts, enjoying the thrill of visiting new and exciting places as much as she could.
Shortly after her parents moved, Rupert had started working on writing a book about the Occult and its effect on modern society. Elizabeth had offered to type up his notes and from there on out they’d become a winning combination as she’d surprisingly found that she had a talent in making her uncle’s bland notes extremely readable.
At least, that’s what her uncle’s editor had told her when they’d spoke on the phone only a month before. Liam Connell was a friendly young man who had taken over his father’s publishing firm and was determined to improve business. He flattered her non-stop over the phone, even going so far as to requesting that she call him by his nickname, Angel. He’d explained that his mother had called him that as a child and because he liked it, he wanted all his friends to use it, especially when he was positive they would become very good friends when they finally met.
Elizabeth wasn’t so sure, but humoured him anyway. There was no way on earth she’d return the compliment, however. Her nickname was awful. Buffy. Just thinking it made her cringe. It sounded far too frivolous for someone as grounded as her and she constantly asked her parents to stop calling her it, but to no avail.
Dawn had started the whole thing off when she was a baby. Unable to pronounce Elizabeth properly, her younger sister had come up with what she, in her toddler mind, considered the nearest thing. Elizabeth’s parents had loved it and had taken to calling her it as well. And now, years later, she was stuck with it.
At least her uncle didn’t call her it though. He was aware of her dislike and refrained from using anything other than Elizabeth. Thinking about her uncle brought her mind back to the book and Angel. He’d made such an effort to be nice to her; she was sure he thought she might stop helping her uncle and therefore leave him without a finished book. Truth was, she didn’t need buttering up. She was thoroughly enjoying her work and often stayed up late to finish up a chapter, especially the one’s on the modern day witches, or Wiccan’s, as they were more commonly called nowadays. She found those especially fascinating.
A bump in the road brought her out of her musings with a jolt and she blinked a couple of times at the sudden brightness that was directed straight at her. With a gasp, she realised that an oncoming vehicle was heading directly for her and immediately braked as she automatically turned the steering wheel in order to avoid a crash.
With a dawning horror, she felt the car slide and go into a spin before leaving the side of the road and going straight into a ditch. Hitting the bottom, it came to a stop jolting her forward so that she hit her head against the steering wheel. “Ow,” she groused, touching her hand delicately to the bump that was now forming. “Just great!”
Unclasping her seatbelt, Elizabeth opened the car door and was immediately buffeted by the wind and snow that was eddying all around. Gripping her coat around herself tighter, she gingerly got out and surveyed the damage to her car. With a sinking feeling, she realised that it was well and truly stuck. Only a tow-truck was going to be able to pull it out now.
With a sigh of resignation, she mentally ran through what supplies she had in her car, thankful that her mother had insisted upon making her a flask of coffee and some sandwiches. Add to that a warm car rug and the fact that the road seemed to be deserted; Elizabeth was faced with the unwelcome reality that she’d have to spend the night in the car.
Just as she was about to open the boot to retrieve the rug, the distant sound of a car engine reached her ears and she turned back to the road. Squinting, she saw twin headlights heading her way and discerned the shape of a large 4 x 4 vehicle in the swirling mass of white. Without thinking, she stepped out into the road, belatedly realising that the sudden sight of her would probably cause the driver to brake and possibly end up in the same predicament as herself.
The driver obviously thought the same and glared at her as he pulled to a halt, mouthing something she was sure was less than complimentary in her direction. He got out and slammed the door then stalked around the front of his car and came to a stop directly in front of her, allowing Elizabeth to get her first good look at the person who, she hoped, would be her saviour.
He was taller than her by a few inches and, from what she could tell under the thick sweater and long leather coat he wore, was of average build. His overlong hair was curly and if the dark rooted, white tipped strands were any indication, growing out of a bleach job. The lower part of his face sported a scraggly beard of more than a few days growth making it impossible to judge his features properly, but if his eyes were anything to go by then he was gorgeous. Bluer than anything she’d ever seen, his eyes felt as if they pierced her through to her very soul and she gave a small, involuntary gasp at the chill that ran up her spine. Dragging her gaze away, she noted that snug black jeans and sturdy boots finished his ensemble, giving him an air of ‘bad boy’, but to her relieved eyes, he looked like an angel. A scruffy one, but an angel nonetheless and she was certain that, for all his image, he would be helpful.
“Next time you decide to do something as bleedin’ brainless as walking out in front of an oncoming car in a soddin’ blizzard, I’ll bloody run you over!” his deep voice suddenly ground out, the harshness of his tone causing her to wince slightly.
Or maybe not.