Nina Santangeles squinted into the swirling snow and tapped the GPS again, as if doing so would make the damn thing pick up a satellite signal through the blizzard. She really should have written down the directions to her parents’ new house. She knew how to find the city they’d moved to, but not by this route. The turnpike had closed due to the weather, so she’d been forced to take unfamiliar back roads.
Wiping condensation off the driver’s side window Nina tried not to think about the questions and accusations awaiting her. The first New Year’s Eve spent with her family in several years was more likely to resemble a reality TV show than the model for a Norman Rockwell painting. Explaining why she’d ended her two-year marriage should be easy, especially now that Matt’s arrest had made national news, but with her family, nothing was ever that cut and dry.
Why was she doing this? They didn’t even know she was coming. The last phone call with her mother had ended with Nina saying she’d think about coming to the party. She could turn around right now and go home and no one would be the wiser.
You can’t hide from them forever, coward.
The tires skidded, so she eased off the accelerator. The snowfall was getting thicker. She could barely see the yellow line in the middle of the road. As usual, the weather forecasters were just a bit off the mark. This morning they’d assured everyone the really bad snow wouldn’t start until after midnight. Consequently, she’d packed an overnight bag. But if she’d known it would be this heavy by late afternoon she’d have left her apartment earlier. Or not made the trip at
A street sign loomed ahead, and Nina leaned forward, straining to read it. She slowed the car, cursing under her breath when she realized it wasn’t the street she was looking for. Where the hell was Jamestown Lane? Google Maps had showed it to be no more than one mile past Chamberlain. Surely she’d come that far by now. She’d turned around after not being able to get on the turnpike nearly twenty minutes ago and passed Chamberlain shortly thereafter. How had she missed the street?
Pulling over to the side of the road she fiddled with the GPS again. Nothing. Nina banged her fist on the steering wheel and tried to fight back growing frustration, but the events of the past six months were still too raw. What else could possibly go wrong? A sham of a marriage, a job she really liked being phased out by March because of upheavals at the firm, and now this. She couldn’t even drive two counties over without fucking it up.
The job she’d had prior to moving to Chicago and meeting Matt Powers had been perfect, and once again her mind wandered back to those days.
Stop that. There are no time machines. You can’t go back.
Right. And no matter how many times she told herself that, it was difficult not to think of that job. It had been her dream job, and the two men whom she also couldn’t seem to stop thinking about had been her dream co-workers. But they’d been more than that. They’d been the stars of all her fantasies about white picket fences and children.
Until they seduced you and then betrayed you.
Bingo. Score another one for a glaring moment of reality smacking her in the face at exactly the right time. Cameron Easton and Alex Gable were as much a part of the memories from her work at McCormack Brothers as the job itself.
She’d gone out with Alex a few times because he’d asked her before Cameron had. But then he and Cameron had seduced her into a threesome, and the next day she discovered they’d been working behind the scenes to cut her out of a deal with another firm that she’d believed she was part of, along with them. They also sabotaged a project of hers so she’d be fired from McCormack. Their seduction had been nothing more than part of a game. They’d used her and then betrayed her.
She’d quit McCormack that day and moved to Chicago with her sister, where she’d found a crappy job but one that at least paid the bills. When she’d met Matt, she thought she’d found someone who could help her forget Alex, Cameron, and her perfect job. Someone who truly loved her, and who wouldn’t use her. Someone who would give her everything she’d once thought she wanted.
But she’d been wrong. Matt had turned out to be just another asshole who’d lied to her about who he really was. And she’d never forgotten Alex and Cameron. Something still didn’t ring true about what they’d done. How could she have been so wrong about two men with whom she’d worked side-by-side for over a year? If only she’d found them that day and confronted them. She should have demanded an explanation instead of fleeing. Maybe then she’d have been able to forget them. She’d have had closure.
Nina inhaled deeply and willed herself not to cry. She’d shed enough tears lately. Right now she needed to figure out where she was. Unlocking her cell, she waited for bars to show up, and when they didn’t, she tossed it onto the passenger seat. Perfect. Lost in a snowstorm. They could put that on her tombstone after they found her frozen to death in her car.
The compulsion to turn around and go home was strong. Which was worse? Spending New Year’s Eve alone or facing her family? Not much of a choice, really. At least home had a fake fireplace and plenty of rum for the leftover Christmas eggnog. The only thing waiting for her on Jamestown Lane, assuming she could find it, was an evening of endless questions and humiliation.
As Nina watched the snow, another wave of nostalgia washed over her. She was back in the city where she’d grown up, but it no longer felt like home. All it did was remind her that she’d spent two years living a lie in another state.
Why had she come back home after leaving Matt? After finding out he already had a wife? And kids, yet! With her degree and her work experience, she could have found another job, far away from Ohio. Like China, perhaps. Instead she had finally found a job that she liked, and now she was about to lose that one, too.
She glanced out the window again. Watching the snow fall against a darkening sky would be the perfect romantic setting, if she had a man with her right now. Or two, for that matter. As long as they didn’t lie about who and what they were, that is. Nina snorted and shook her head. Like that was going to happen anytime soon in real life, even with one man. Her sex life had died even before her marriage had. No wonder. He’d no doubt been exhausted keeping up with two wives.
But wasn’t the new year supposed to be a time for starting over? Maybe a couple of hot policemen would come along and rescue her.
She reset the GPS again and silently begged it to pick up a signal. Then she tried her cell one more time. No bars. She couldn’t call anyone, and she had no idea how to reach her parents’ house from here. The easy thing to do would be to turn around and go home. So sorry, tried to make it but the snow was too thick. Maybe for the next holiday? Or next year, perhaps?
As her gaze swept the woods lining the road, wondering again if she’d simply passed Jamestown Lane without seeing it, she glimpsed a light through the trees. A house? Maybe they had a landline, or a computer so she could look at a map?
Or maybe they’re backwoods ax murderers and your picture will be in the paper next week?
A gust of wind shook the car, and Nina hugged her elbows. She couldn’t just sit here, and if she went home she’d hate herself for it in the morning. It was cowardly not to face her family. They already knew the story. The entire country did. Maybe, just maybe, they’d be sympathetic for once? She pictured her tiny apartment with the while walls and rented furniture. The thought of being alone in that box on New Year’s Eve was too depressing.
She backed up, looking for a driveway. There it was, barely visible through the tree line. Her tires skidded on ice as she turned onto the driveway and inched forward. The path curved twice before the home loomed out of the woods, nestled among pines and oaks. Smoke curled from the chimney, and soft light spilled from the windows.
Nina pulled up next to an SUV, feeling like an intruder. They were probably in there making dinner, or drunk off their asses by now. She should go back the way she came and look for the road one more time, and if she didn’t find it, return home. If she left now she’d make it back to more familiar streets before dark and be home in plenty of time to watch the ball drop on TV.
She stared at the dark gray SUV, her blood suddenly much colder than the air outside. She knew this car.
“It can’t be,” she whispered.
Nina glanced toward the house. She never had known where Cameron lived. Was this his home, or was he merely visiting someone who lived in it? It didn’t matter. She couldn’t go inside. Not with him in there. And if Cameron was here, was Alex inside that house, too? The two always had been joined at the hip, and she had no reason to assume they weren’t still.
“No fucking way,” she muttered. This was too much of a bizarre coincidence. She had to be mistaken about the SUV. All the damn things looked alike anyway. She glanced at the sky, then toward the SUV again, debating. It would be completely dark in less than an hour, and the snow showed no signs of slowing down. What if she couldn’t make it back home? What if she tried and really did become trapped in her car? Was that a better choice than the embarrassment of facing Cameron and Alex again?
Fuck it all. Turning off the ignition, she grabbed her bag and opened the car door. As she stepped out into the powder she hoped it wouldn’t ruin her sexy new boots. The snow was at least three inches deep already. It stung her face as she made her way up the path to the porch, and she knew she’d made the right choice, no matter who answered that door. Facing them again was still better than freezing to death.
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