9. Searching

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If you're alone, you can make this your home, If you want to - Luther Vandross

9:34 p.m. Tuesday, October 5, 2021

The blast of wind as they exit the restaurant staggers Michele, and she turns to see Harry huddling tightly in his coat. The wind is blowing the snow fiercely down the street, and she can't even see the hotel next door.

Yelling back to him over the howling of the wind, she asks, "Are you sure? I can get you to your hotel faster."

"No! Let's just do this. I want to read," he calls back.

Nodding, she reaches her gloved hand for his bare one, keeping him close to her side so they don't get separated in the wind. The last thing she needs is for the town to flip out because she managed to lose their favorite celebrity in a snowstorm. Besides, the kids would be disappointed. She chuckles internally at her thoughts.

She hasn't a clue why he's so determined to read her writing. It's not like it's anything amazing. Otherwise Luggage magazine would have hired her regardless of her travel experience. But whatever. This is what he asked for, and he seems to be the type who typically gets what he wants.

Holding tightly to his hand, she guides him to the corner of Main and Ballard so she can get to a landmark before crossing the street. In this weather, it's unlikely anyone is driving down Main, but she pauses and glances both ways just in case. When she deems it safe, she steps into the road, still leading Harry. Stepping onto the curb outside her townhome, she clears a path to the front door, ignoring where the sidewalk should be. She'll shovel tomorrow. Unfortunately, she has a north-facing sidewalk, so it will get icy and never melt if she doesn't remove the snow immediately following a storm. It's good exercise, and it's been ages since they've had a blizzard quite like this with the drifts mounting. The moisture will soak into the ground, and that's happy, especially for farmers like Liz.

Releasing Harry, she pushes open her door and steps inside, shaking the snow off her coat and stomping her feet. Behind her, Harry rushes inside, slamming the door and breathing hard.

"Damn. It's cold. I'm freezing. Probably will get frostbite," he mutters, rubbing his hands together.

Michele can't help it. She laughs loudly and so hard that her insides start to hurt. "You....can't...." she stutters in between her laughs, "get frostbite....that....quickly."

"Are you laughing at me?" he asks, shivering as he pulls the lapels of his coat more tightly across his chest.

"Uh....duh. Yeah, I'm laughing at you. What kind of wimp are you, Styles?"

"A cold one!" His outrage makes her laugh harder. "Can't you turn up the heat or light a fire or something?" The whine in his voice sets her teeth on edge. For crying out loud, he'd just come to pick up her writing samples. It's not like he's planning to stay the night.

"I'll get my writing and escort you back across the street," she vows. "Stay there."

"Wait. What?" He follows her into the living room. "Nope. Nuh uh. I'm not going back out in that storm. No way. No how."

Placing her hands on her hips, she glares at him, "What are you talking about? It's just a dozen steps across the street."

"In a blizzard!" he rails at her. "It's freaking freezing out there! I use my fingers to play guitar after all, and sometimes piano."

He holds up his hands which are, indeed, red and quaking with the cold.

Shaking her head, Michele gives one more bemused guffaw before she points to the sofa. "Sit." He's like a baby with this cold weather. Must have been in California too long because she's sure that England gets chilly and snowy in the winter. Great. Now she'll have to keep him company until the storm dies down when all she really wants to do is take off her bra and put on sweats. Men.

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