A prodigal daughter meets a grieving son…
During her move back home, Bianca Kolceski takes a wrong turn in rural Wyoming and buries her car in a snowbank. Snow piles high outside until Devon Dawson knocks on her window. The quiet cowboy whisks her to his ranch to ride out the Christmas blizzard where Bianca discovers life is cold but also beautiful in the “Cowboy” state.
Christmas is the last thing on Devon’s mind, especially when a storm’s in the forecast, and “Joy to the World,” like his dreams, are ancient history. His world is the ranch, his parent’s legacy, and he labors day and night for it. But when he finds a lost Texan stranded on the side of the road, forgotten desires surface.
And Christ is born. It’s time to celebrate.
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"Chester, leave him alone.” Devon James Dawson tugged the old border collie away from his young friend shivering on the seat. “He don’t need you lickin’ those stitches. Doc’ll have your hide—and mine.”
The last few mumbled words were lost as the dilapidated Ford plowed its way through the snowy city streets. He maneuvered a sliding turn into the Kum-n-Go and pulled up to the last pump. After running a hand along the dog’s silky fur, Devon plopped his old cowboy hat on his head. He shoved a shoulder into the rusted door. “Stay.”
The gusty wind drove the icy blend of sleet and snow into Devon’s face when he stepped from the truck. He hunched forward, a futile attempt at shelter from the brutal sting. “Oh, come on…” A quick flick of the wrist, and the green-handled pump slid into the open gas tank.
Steeling himself against the cold, Devon waited while the truck filled with diesel. Even though he’d been raised in Wyoming, nothing prepared him for this type of weather. Yesterday morning, he’d fenced most of the northern pasture. It’d been a clear, forty-degree day with blue skies as far as the eye could see. Dawn revealed a blizzard as it descended from the mountains. Not much had improved throughout the day.
The nozzle clicked and he returned it to the pump. A punch with his gloved finger silenced the incessant beeping. If it wasn’t for the storm, he wouldn’t even stop for gas, but who knew when he’d get back to town. He brushed the snow from the top of the red gallon jugs in the bed of the pickup.
Devon finished filling the cans before plodding through the deepening drifts to the convenience store. The bell above the door chimed and a blast of heat slammed into his frozen cheekbones. He suppressed a groan of relief, blinking away the tears in his eyes.
“Hey, Dawson.” Pimples and pink hair greeted Devon from behind the register as he swept a glove across his face. The teenaged clerk lounged with a tablet in her hands and earbuds plugged into both ears. A periodic bubble exploded from between her painted lips, making communication difficult—not that she seemed interested in talking. Her eyes and fingers were absorbed with her device.
Devon grunted and made a beeline for the refrigerators at the back of the store. By the time he returned to the front counter, his arms were full. The milk crashed to the surface and he shoved it away from the edge. “Oh yeah…I almost forgot. Do you have any bread?”
The gum-popping and distant beat of drums shredded what was left of Devon’s patience, and he all but yanked the tablet from the teenager. When she didn’t move a muscle, he reached over and snapped his fingers under her nose.
Pink bangs flipped to the side and her narrowed gaze locked on his face. She snatched a bud out of one ear, “What is it, dude? Ready to check out?”
“Bread, Claudia, where is it?” Devon reeled in his irritation. He only needed to remember where the young woman lived—an old trailer, a hovel, on the south side of Buffalo—and his frustration evaporated as always. She peeked her head into church every so often but never stayed for long. In fact, she usually disappeared before service was over.
“Yeah, I’ll get it.” She unplugged from the digital world and stepped around the counter. “You better hurry or you’re gonna spend the holiday weekend in town. They’re talkin’ ’bout closin’ the roads.”
She disappeared behind the barren shelves, her spiked hair bobbing as she moved down the aisle. When she returned, two loaves of white bread joined his groceries and junk food. “Anythin’ else?”
“I don’t think so. Thanks.” Devon crossed one boot over the other while she scanned his purchases. A glance toward his truck revealed her blue two-door sedan buried beneath a blanket of white. “Are you going to make it home?”
Her fancy painted fingernails fluttered to a stop in mid-air. Startled hazel eyes lifted and quickly dropped back to the countertop. Claudia cleared her throat with a harsh cough as the small speaker on the machine beeped with his last item. She turned the credit card reader toward him and snapped open a plastic bag. “I’ll be fine.”
Devon paid for his groceries and slid a folded up twenty-dollar bill across the chipped Formica. After wedging it under the edge of the computer, Devon offered the independent young woman a crisp salute. “Stay safe and have a Merry Christmas.”
“You too.” Claudia shot a wink his way and worked the earbuds into her ears. A swipe of her finger on the tablet, and muffled drums resonated from behind the counter once again. “Laters.”
He opened the door, and the stifled reggae disappeared into the howling wind. Driving snow buffeted his body as he maneuvered toward the truck. Why did they put the diesel pumps a mile away? He drove a pickup for goodness sake, not a big rig. Besides, even car engines required it these days.
The door screeched open to reveal a barking dog and whining pup. Devon slapped at the snow on the seat with his hat and growled, “Move over, Chester. You too, Pistol.”
The dogs slouched in the seat but the thumping tails belied their forlorn expressions. A chuckle itched at his throat and his arms longed to hold the eager pups. But the weather wasn’t changing and neither were the roads. He started the pickup and blasted the foggy windshield with the defroster. “Hang on, guys. It’s gonna be a fun ride home.”