Meant-to-Be Baby(3)

By: Lois Richer

“I’m Victoria Archer. You went off the road. Do you remember?”

“No. Yes.” He shook his head, winced and then whispered frantically, “Mikey! Where’s Mikey?”

“He’s safe. My dogs are guarding him.”

“Mikey hates dogs.” Ben licked his lips. “A year ago, one bit him.”

“That explains it.” At his questioning look, she shook her head. “Never mind. Other than the cut on your forehead, are you okay?”

“Lemme check.” Ben closed his eyes as he completed a series of movements. Then he looked at her, his face grim as he listed his injuries. “Left arm’s bruised but not broken. Ankle’s wrenched. My ribs are probably going to bruise and my head hurts where I hit it. And my door’s stuck.”

“It’s jammed against the tree. You’ll have to get out on this side.” She studied the situation. “Can you move?”

“Barely, but so what?” he asked gruffly. “You’re too small to help me.”

Too small. Fire sprang to life inside Victoria. She’d heard that all her life and she still hated it. As if her brainpower depended on her height.

“I’m strong, I’m smart and I can help you,” she said, ignoring an inner flutter of appreciation for his blue eyes. “If you can get out.”

“I’ve got a good sixty pounds on you,” Ben grumbled, easing off his seat belt. “Even if I do get out, you can’t support me, and I doubt I can walk, especially uphill.”

“First let’s see what we’re dealing with,” she said, reining in her temper. “Then I’ll phone Jake, our hired hand, for help.”

“Why not call a tow truck?” Ben clenched his jaw as he eased his body across the seat.

“Wouldn’t do any good.” Victoria tried to move his injured foot but knew from his sudden indrawn breath that it was less painful for him to do it himself. “In a storm like this, the Alberta Ministry of Transportation concentrates on ensuring the main roads in and out of Jasper and our nearest town, Chokecherry Hollow, are navigable. The Haven is always last on their plow-out list because we’re the only ones who live along this road. Doesn’t matter though because Jake usually has us plowed out long before they arrive. But that won’t be for a while. It’s coming down pretty heavily now.”

“Huh.” Ben was almost free when she suddenly realized there was no place except a snowbank for him to sit.

“Wait. Feeling okay?”

“Peachy,” he shot back in a grumpy tone.

“Good.” She grinned at his dour glance. “Stay here, on this passenger seat. Close the door to keep warm. Rest for a few minutes while I go call Jake and check on Mikey.”

“Good idea.” Ben grunted his assent, his tanned face strained. “Kid’s probably starving. It’s a while since we ate.”

“Not a problem.” She closed the car door. So where did Uncle Ben get a tan like that, at this time of year, in Canada? He sure didn’t get his tan from a bottle like Aunt Tillie did because Uncle Ben’s skin was too evenly darkened, the deep color almost burned in. Maybe he was a skier?

Victoria told herself to forget her building questions about the guy as she climbed vertically, grasping twigs and rocks to help in her ascent. Mikey was where she’d left him, still glaring at the dogs.

“I found Uncle Ben,” she said, puffing a little. “He’s got a sore arm and leg. I need to phone someone to come help us.”

“’Cause Unca Ben’s really big,” Mikey agreed, brown eyes huge.

“He sure is.” She chuckled. “Are you warm enough?”

“Uh-huh. ’Fore we comed here, Unca Ben buyed me this coat and snow pants. They gots feathers in ’em.”

“Like the birds, huh? Only you don’t fly.” Mikey looked confused by her silliness. “Good for Uncle Ben.” She fished a granola bar out of her pocket and held it out. “Want to munch on this?” He nodded eagerly, took it and ripped off the paper. “Don’t give any to the dogs,” she warned and then almost laughed at his dubious expression. As if that was likely. “You stay here. I’m going to climb higher.”

“Why?” Mikey asked, his mouth full.

“Because that’s where my phone works. Don’t move. I’ll be back in a jiffy.” Victoria’s heart pinched when his lips trembled.

“It’s gettin’ dark,” Mikey whispered. “I don’t like dark. Bad things happen in dark.”

What was that about?

“Good thing I brought my flashlight.” Victoria showed the boy how to turn on her tiny pocket light and got his agreement to remain. Then she began her ascent.

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