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March 07 , 2010

Ditched Again


Summer Clark: Yes, I’m excited for my ten year class reunion—I flew all the way from Florida to Wisconsin so I could rub my success in Josh Nelson’s face. I know it sounds vindictive, but the jerk ditched me at the Snowball dance, left me to find my own ride home, and never apologized. He’s got it coming…if I can get a tow truck to come out in this freak May snowstorm and pull my rental car out of the ditch.

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Josh Nelson: No, I’m not looking forward to the reunion. Just hearing the name Summer Clark brings back memories of a night I buried long ago and never talked about again. Seeing her means skirting the truth while trying to deliver a way-too-late apology. No, with this storm, I think I’ll head home…as soon as I help this car sunk in the ditch.

Clearly, there are two sides to every story.


A thick wedge of slush pulled my rental car into the center of the road, jolting me back into the here and now. I struggled with the wheel and tried to discern the gravel shoulder on the right side through the heavy curtain of wet, blowing snow. Headlights cut through the gloom. The sight of a huge black pickup heading straight toward me catapulted my heart up into my throat.

I wrenched the wheel to the right. Slop from the truck’s tires slapped onto my windshield. The wipers swished it away, but I barely had time to be thankful I’d made it past the large vehicle before my right tires were sucked in by the mucky shoulder. Cranking the wheel back to the left only dug me deeper as my rental lurched down the embankment and then slid to an abrupt stop. Muddy slush splattered in all directions.

I took a deep breath, assured myself I was unharmed, and leaned my head back against my seat with a low groan. Gotta love Wisconsin. Truthfully, I was envisioning the warm, sandy beach only minutes from my apartment.

A knock on my driver’s side window made me jump. Through the fogged glass a tall figure motioned for me to roll down my window and I thumbed the power button.

“Are you okay?” the man asked.

“Um…I think so,” I replied. Then I lifted my gaze and sucked in a stunned breath.

Josh Nelsen.

He hadn’t changed at all. I blinked and stared. Yes he had. He’d matured. Gotten better looking. It wasn’t fair.

He didn’t look at me as he checked out the situation with my car. “I don’t think you’re getting out of here without a tow truck.”

“Great,” I muttered and reached across the seat into my purse for my cell phone.

“Don’t bother.”

I glanced up to see a phone already to his ear. While he waited for someone to answer on the other end, he shot an absent smile in my direction and explained, “My buddy Dave owns the local towing service.”

Must be Dave Bensen, they’d been best friends in high school. After a brief conversation without consulting me at all, Josh made arrangements to have my car towed into Silver Falls and then stuffed the phone back in his pocket.

“His guys are booked up on calls until at least eight. I can give you a ride to town, if you’d like to wait at the diner, or until you can call someone to come get you?”

Transferring my gaze from the dashboard clock that read five fifty-six, I peered through the windshield at the whirling snow. What choice did I have? I sighed and faced Josh again, only to realize his stained, ripped jeans and ratty looking flannel jacket didn’t quite fit the dress code for the coming evening.

“Aren’t you going to the reunion?” I asked.

“Yeah, how did you—” He broke off as he leaned down and actually looked at me for the first time. His brown eyes widened. “Summer?

I gave a weak smile, and instantly chastised myself. Successful business woman. My next words came out a tad more pointed than I intended. “You remembered.”

Guilt flashed in his eyes and I was sure it wasn’t just my wishful imagination. “Of course, how could I not?” His gaze shifted toward the road as a maroon car crept past. He lifted a hand to the driver and said to me, “What’s it been, like…?”

“Ten years,” I supplied with just the slightest hint of sarcasm.

“Yeah. Wow.” His gaze returned, somber and intense. “You look great.”

“Thanks.” I failed to suppress a shiver over the déjà vu moment but blamed the heavy, wet snowflakes whirling through my window on currents of cold air. I did look great, thank you very much. Because I’d also matured, and though I didn’t expect to win Miss America, I knew I could turn heads on a good day.

I’d made sure today was a good day.

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