Read an Excerpt
Over the river. Check. Through the woods. Check. To grandmother's house. Double check. And though corny enough to put a smile on Brenna Keating's face, the similarities between the song on the radio and her visit to Gran ended there.
Instead of relying on a horse to know the way through the oak-pine forests of the Blue Ridge Mountains, she had thirty-three years of memories. She also had a dash-mounted GPS unit, one she'd installed in the economy import her parents had surprised her with ten years ago to celebrate her degree. Kinda took the romance out of the wintry trip, but then she didn't know squat about sleighs.
Transportation was one thing she wouldn't have to worry about when she hit Malawi after the first of the year. Preparing to spend the next twelve months in the impoverished African nation, she'd invested instead in good shoes, cases of antibiotics and a copy of the Oxford Handbook of Tropical Medicine. And even then she knew the in-country experience would be just as valuable as the text and her master's in nursing.
Still, the car had served her well in getting around Raleighto the hospital where she worked, to Starbucks where the baristas knew her name and her drink, to the diner where once a week she had dinner with the girls.
And getting her to Gran's wasn't usually a problem. The car was more than capable of making the long scenic drive. Today, however, most of the scenery was hidden behind a whole lot of drifting white snow.
Four hours ago when she'd left home, the approaching storm had been predicted to hit Gran's mountain close to midnight. Because Brenna didn't have chains, she'd planned her drive accordingly.
She glanced at the clock on her dash. The digital numbers clearly read 2:45 p.m., and big fat flakes were coming down faster than her wipers set to High could clear. This was the last time she paid attention to the local weathermen.
At least her heater was having no trouble keeping the cold at bay. In fact, with her boots and thick socks, and her wool coat draped over her thighs like a blanket, and her gloves, the car's interior was a tad stuffy.
She slowed for the road's next switchback, careful as she braked, then again as she accelerated. Her headlights cut twin beams through the tall trees standing sentry on either side of the roadthe road that hadn't seemed so narrow in the past.
She hated that this trip, more than any other she'd made up her grandmother's mountain, would be driven with white knuckles and near zero visibility. She wanted everything about this visit to be perfectfor herself and for Gran, too.
The next few days might be their last to spend together, and that realization had Brenna wishing for a cell signal so she could call the charity who'd been thrilled to have her on-board and tell them she'd changed her mind. She was staying here. Right here. In the only home she'd ever known. In the place that made her happy.
But doing that would disappoint Gran more than would transatlantic phone calls in lieu of spur-of-the-moment visits. Even more than the possible end of the Christmas holidays the two of them cherished. Gran was Brenna's biggest supporter, and her cheer at hearing the news of her only grandchild following in her footsteps had echoed off the mountain for days.
Leaving Gran was going to be so hard. Even harder was accepting the difficulty of getting back, what with the cost and logistics of international travel in and out of the third-world countries where she'd be putting her skills to good use.