Lovesick (Coffee Shop #2) - Katie Cross



My knuckles turned white as I gripped the steering wheel of my 1992 Honda, a silent mantra playing on repeat in my head.

I won’t slide off the canyon road. I won’t plunge into the icy river below. I won’t die tonight. I won’t slide off the canyon road . . .

“Don’t be so dramatic, Lizbeth,” I muttered to myself. “This is fine. Everything is fine. I’m not panicked. Nope.” My voice broke as a gust of wind slammed snow flurries into my window. “Not at all!”

No consolation in sight.

Snow pelted my windshield like a vortex of flying white icicles. Only my headlights illuminated the darkness of this mountain canyon. I’d never felt so alone or so tired.

The soft scent of baby powder lingered in the car as a sublime reminder of the reason for my fatigue. My older sister, Bethany, had just been in labor for forty-eight hours before she gave birth to my nephew, Shane. The most adorable, squishy, wrinkled, funny-looking baby that had ever existed. He was exquisite.

Despite the arrival of my first nephew, every muscle in my body remained tense. I shouldn’t have left the hospital. Shouldn’t have brushed off the storm. Shouldn’t have arrogantly claimed that I’d driven the mountain pass from Jackson City to Pineville a dozen times in far worse snow than this.

I crept along toward home in Pineville at twenty miles an hour, but felt like I wasn’t moving. Maverick would kill me when he found out I hadn’t put winter tires on my car yet. But really, who’d expected a late-November blizzard?

Maybe I should have.

The subzero temperature left a delicate swirl of frost along the windows’ edges, despite the heat blasting on maximum. All happy vibes from the hospital vanished when my front tire skidded on a patch of black ice. The car jerked to the right, then back. My heart dropped into my stomach as I let off the gas.

The car whipped right again. By sheer willpower, I managed not to scream as I pumped the brakes and counter-turned.

The Honda headed right for a break in the trees anyway.

The forest was the only barrier between me and a frothing river at the bottom of a rocky canyon a hundred yards below. The snow had frozen over like a field of pearlescent lacquer. In one second, I comprehended that, if kept on this trajectory, I would plunge right into the canyon.

A burst of cold terror shot through my body when my car vaulted past the trees.

“No!” I screamed. “Stop!”

As if possessed, the car lurched downhill between gaps in the forest. I stomped on my brakes, but the tires skidded on the frozen snow.

With a sickening crunch, my front bumper collided with a rock. A pop rang in my ears as the airbag deployed. The car flipped onto its side, and the seat belt strained against my chest. I pitched upside down, seized by a stomach-turning sensation.

Half in a daze, I barely registered the car swinging onto its hood, then rocking back onto the passenger side. It remained there for a moment, then two. A burning scent filled my nostrils as I risked a look down at the snowy ground beneath the passenger door.

“Oh no,” I whimpered.

One move and my body weight would tip us back onto the hood. Would that squish me? Could I wiggle out? What if the seat belt was jammed? I’d freeze here in less than an hour.

Or the car could tip back onto the tires and head right for the river.

How far away was the canyon wall? Couldn’t be far. The general downward slant meant I was near the edge of a slippery shale slope. Thousands of gallons of freezing whitewater rapids streamed onward a couple hundred feet below.

The odds were precarious either way. The seat belt ground into my shoulder as I drew in a deep breath.

“I’m calm,” I whispered. “I’m calm. I’m fine. This is fine. Everything is fine.”

The car engine had stopped. My headlights illuminated the underside of the snow-laden trees. I tried to shove the gear into park, but the shift had jammed. My emergency brake had broken a year ago.

A gust of wind shook the car. I blinked through the haze from the airbag, barely able to make out a murky darkness ahead. Fractured glass marred the windshield in a spiderweb pattern. My thoughts settled onto one point of focus: I could not fall with the car. And if it rocked onto its tires, this car was going to fall.

Snow pelted the cracked windshield.