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Lannie Bryan panicked and slammed on the brakes as her Mini began to slide down the hill outside the hospital.
Nine years of living in temperate North Carolina combined with the fatigue of the past twenty-four hours had caused her brain to short-circuit and she’d forgotten the first rule of winter driving. Never, ever brake in a skid.
As the car slid sideways down the drive, her lessons from Drivers Ed kicked in and Lannie managed to gain some control. Instead of rear-ending the car in front of her, she sideswiped it, bouncing almost gently off the rear bumper, jumping the curb and coming to rest half-on and half-off the tree lawn
I can’t deal with this now, Lannie thought as she stared at the car she’d hit. It was a Mustang like Joe Santoro’s old one. She shuddered. Home for less than two hours and he was already in her thoughts.
When she’d had left River Valley, Lannie had planned on never returning. Of course, she’d realized later that wouldn’t work. But, her volatile relationship with her father had disintegrated at the announcement that she’d been accepted to the University of North Carolina’s library school. She had refused his offer to pay for her graduate degree in business from an Ohio college and left that August.
But not before managing to humiliate herself with Joe Santoro.
Lannie shook her head as she searched for her driver’s license and insurance papers. She couldn’t think about that now.
As she got out of the car with purse in hand, she shivered. In her rush to leave, she’d forgotten her winter coat and gloves and hadn’t spared the time to stop to buy them. Her thoughts had been focused only on getting home.
While nervously waiting for the other driver’s approach, Lannie noticed the decorations on the light poles and the bouncing inflatable Santa on the children’s wing. Sure, the sick needed holiday cheer too but the decorations felt out of place to her. It couldn’t be Christmas. Not when her father was dying.
“Lady, what the hell were doing? Don’t you know how to drive?”
Oh, no! It couldn’t be. It had to be someone else. There was no way she had just hit Joe Santoro’s car.