“What are they doing?” I ask and rub my eyes.
“Plowing,” she mutters, evil and bloodshed coming from her narrowed hazel eyes.
“Are you going to beat Josh up?” I ask hopefully.
“Oh, it’s all three of them,” she replies.
“Put your eyes in and follow me.” I hurry into the bathroom to put my contacts in and join Cara back in the hall. She leads me to the front door, we shove our feet into boots and throw scarves around our necks, and step out into the cold.
The snow stopped falling at some point during the night, but not before dropping at least two feet of fluffy white powder.
And right now, at the butt crack of dawn, Josh and Zack are plowing the driveway with a big green John Deere tractor. They’re bundled up in Carhartt jackets and boots, gloves, and hats. Thor is running about, jumping in the snow, chasing sticks that Seth throws for him while he helps direct his uncle and father.
“Hey!” I call out. They don’t hear me. “How do you deal with this?” I ask Cara.
“They’re not typically this loud in the morning.” Cara props her hands on her hips and glares at her fiancé. “I usually just wake up alone.”
We continue to glare at the boys until I decide that the best way to get their attention is to demand it. With a shot to the head.
I pack snow into a nice, hard ball, and throw it, hitting Josh in the shoulder.
“Good shot!” Cara announces and joins me, scooping balls of snow and throwing them at the guys.
Seth gets into the spirit, throwing snowballs back at us while Thor barks encouragement.
“They’ve declared war, Dad!” Seth exclaims when Zack cuts the engine to the tractor and watches us.
“No, you did!” I yell and throw another snowball, hitting Zack square in the chest. He looks down at the snow on his coat and then narrows his eyes at me. “You woke us up!”
“How is Cara supposed to drive to work if we don’t plow?” Josh asks with a laugh and hops off the tractor.
“You didn’t have to plow this early,” she replies and throws another snowball. We duck and weave, avoiding the snow being hurled at us by Seth.
“This is a big ranch,” Zack says as he also jumps off the tractor and slowly advances toward us, ignoring the snow being flung at him. “We had to start early so we could get the other chores done too.”
“You woke us up,” I reply haughtily, but can’t smother the giggle that comes out when I hit Zack in the right shoulder, sending snow spraying up onto his face. He wipes his eyes on his sleeve and then slowly kneels to scoop up a ball of snow. “Oh shit.”
“We’re dead,” Cara agrees and giggles when Josh runs after her, tackling her before she can run into the house, tickling her and rubbing snow in her hair.
Zack stalks me slowly, his brown eyes pinned to mine, the dimple in his cheek winking at me as he tries to hold the laughter in.
“You don’t scare me,” I lie. I will not show fear. I clench my lips to keep from screaming as he advances. “I’m going inside.”
“Oh no, you’re not.” He catches me and shoves snow down my shirt.
“Oh my God!” I scream and run away from him. I grab snow and throw it haphazardly over my shoulder, missing him by at least six feet, and he laughs loudly.
“Is that all you got?” he taunts me.
“You’re a bully!” I laugh and try to get away, but suddenly Seth and Thor are there too, tossing snow and laughing, and I can’t take it anymore. I fall into the snow, on my back, heaving and laughing and wet. My eyes are closed for a moment, but when I open them, two brown-haired heads are staring down at me as Thor licks my cheek. “Uncle.”
“We won, Dad!” Seth and Zack high-five each other and Zack holds out a hand to help me out of the snow, but I shake my head.
“Aren’t you freezing?” he asks with a frown.
“Yeah, but it’s not bad. I worked up a sweat kicking your ass.”
“I’m not the one on the ground, sugar.”
I giggle again and when he offers me his hand, I take it and pull him down onto the snow beside me.
“You were saying?”
He chuckles and looks over at me, flat on his back. “I never would have pegged you for someone to get dirty in the snow.”
“I’m not dirty,” I reply. “I’m wet.”
I laugh at the implication and see his brown eyes spark with awareness.
“You know what I mean,” I whisper.
“Yuck,” Seth grumbles. “Uncle Josh is kissing Aunt Cara again.”
We glance over to see that Josh has rolled them so he’s under Cara, taking the brunt of the cold, and they’re kissing like high school kids.
“Get a room!” I yell.
They laugh, then come over to help us out of the powder.
“That’ll teach you,” I say and toss my wet hair over my shoulder.
Cara mimics me and follows, stomping to the front door. As we step inside, I can hear the guys laughing. Cara shuts the door and we dissolve into giggles, high-five each other, and strip out of our boots and sopping-wet scarves.
Suddenly the door opens and Zack pokes his head in.
“Jilly, I’m taking you car-shopping today. I’ll come get you at noon, after I wrap some things up.”
“I have to work today.”
“You can work here,” Cara offers with a grin. “You brought your computer.”
I look back and forth between them and then sigh in defeat.
Zack winks and shuts the door as Josh fires the beast back up.
“I’ll get the coffee brewing,” Cara offers. “We won’t be going back to sleep now.”
“You don’t have to go with me,” I insist as Zack and I drive back into town. “You’ve done enough. Josh called the guy to come fix the furnace and will meet him at my place in about an hour. I can take my old car to the dealer and trade it in.”
“I don’t mind,” he replies without glancing at me.
“If you’re worried that I’ll be taken advantage of because I’m a single woman buying a car—”
“That’s only part of it,” he interrupts and parks his truck on the street in front of my house. The snowplow blocked my car in again this morning. “You’re not driving that again.” He points to my little Honda and I bristle.