Mail-Order Millionaire

By: Carol Grace

She looked at the boxes behind her in the cab. Cartons of groceries, and a shoe box full of mail. No packages from Green Mountain. Where were all those boots? Was it true he was running out of supplies? Was he irritable because he was hungry? Miranda pressed her hand against her stomach and heard it growl in sympathy.

She turned the key in the ignition and the engine roared to life. Her pulse quickened. It might be her only chance to ever drive a Sno-Cat. She’d deliver the goods and come right back down, and she’d still be home this evening. Fred would understand. He might have even suggested it if he hadn’t left so suddenly. And Maxwell Carter would be grateful to her for life. She’d not only save him from wet feet, but she’d also save him from starvation.

She smiled to herself and eased the big tractor onto the steep road. The wide cleats gripped firmly and she took the first turn with ease. She laughed aloud. This was fun. She took the next turn and the next, hardly noticing the small wisps of fog that swirled by the windows.

With one final roar, she reached the summit and saw a small concrete building built on a platform above her. She cut the engine and jumped out, so flushed with exhilaration she scarcely realized that the fog was thicker now, cold and damp and blowing in her face.

The dark form of a man came toward her, shouting Fred’s name.

“I’m not Fred,” she shouted back.

He loomed over her, a shock of dark blond hair blown across his forehead, and gripped her tightly by the arms. “Get inside. We’ll get the boxes later.’’

She shook her head and her teeth chattered. “I can’t stay. I’m going back.”

He pulled her toward the building, now barely visible in the icy fog. “No, you’re not. Whoever you are, you’re not leaving.”

Miranda was never sure how she got up the stairs to the one-room observation tower, but she knew she’d never been happier to be inside anywhere in her life. It was warm, it was bright and it was dry. She pulled her hat off and her hair tumbled to her shoulders. She stood in the middle of the room, panting from the climb up the ladder, and stared at the man across the room who was staring at her.

“You certainly aren’t Fred,” he said.

“Miranda Morrison, from Green Mountain.”

His eyes traveled the length of her black stretch pants to her lined boots and back up to her face. “I didn’t recognize you with your clothes on.”

She felt the heat rise to her face. “I brought the boots. They’re in the tractor.”

“Where’s Fred?”

“He couldn’t make it. His wife’s having a baby.”

“So he told you to drive up here by yourself?” Max was still staring at her as if she’d materialized out of the mist, although he was quite sure she was flesh and blood.

“It was my idea,” she confessed. “You said you needed the boots. He said you needed food.”

She looked as if she needed food herself, this woman who’d just driven a two-ton tractor up a mountain in the fog. She looked as if she were going to keel over if he didn’t do something fast.

“Sit down.” He pointed to the daybed in the corner and he was glad he’d taken the time to drape it with the brown plaid cover it came with. She sat down gingerly, as if she were afraid it would collapse under her, and he saw her gaze sweep over his desk in the corner, scattered with papers, books and, in the middle, the Green Mountain catalog. She turned her head toward the window that faced east and regarded what would have been an awesome view of the White Mountains if it hadn’t been for the fog.

He crossed the room and went to the built-in shelves above his desk, casually shoving the catalog under a stack of papers. “What can I get you, a brandy, some sherry? I usually have a drink before dinner. It’s a little early, but under the circumstances...”

“Nothing, thanks,” she said, straightening her spine. “I’ve got a long drive ahead of me.”

With a glass in one hand and a bottle in the other, he paused. “No, you don’t. I thought I mentioned that you couldn’t leave. Not tonight. There’s fog out there so thick you could cut it with a knife.”

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