Snow swirled from the sky, a never ending deluge of hard white flakes. Isaac Caine pulled his wide brimmed hat lower on his forehead and hunched his shoulders against the violent wind whipping over Lake Superior. The small town of Munising Michigan sat quiet and shut up against the storm that had already dropped a foot of snow. On this bitter-cold day after Christmas, not one horse-drawn sleigh or lonely traveler braved the blizzard.
No one, that was, except for him.
Isaac stared down his gloved hands and the plate they clenched, the last of the Christmas meals left to deliver. He would have delivered it yesterday, had the storm not come up. And fool that he was, he'd hoped the snow would subside by morning. But morning had arrived, the world was still a blinding mess of pelting flakes, and the Widow Atkins still hadn't received her Christmas meal.
Isaac trudged onward through the snow, nearly as high as his boots by now, and inched his way closer to the log cabin on the outside of town. What had he been thinking, saving this meal for last? He should have delivered it first so that the widow could have had a full, hot meal Christmas day. But he hadn't planned on the storm appearing before he finished his other deliveries, had hoped instead to stay a while and pass the long winter night with the elderly widow, just two people, both far away from family, sharing the holiday with one another.
Now thanks to his plans, the widow had gone without a Christmas meal, and he'd likely find himself snowed in at her cabin for the rest of the day.
The old house appeared before him, a mere shadow of age-darkened wood in the pine forest surrounding the little cabin. He stomped up to the door, then knocked.
The door swung open.
"Hello?" A small brunette stood in the doorway, a shawl draped about her shoulders and her plaited hair trailing down over her chest. "Can I help you?"
"I-I . . ." Words deserted him as he stared at the beautiful little woman. Where had she come from? And who was she?
She raised an eyebrow at him.
"I'm here for the Widow Atkins. I brought a Christmas meal from the church." He thrust the plate out awkwardly, as though it might convince the strange woman to let him in.
A soft smile split her lips, and she reached for the plate. "Of course. Grandmother's just inside. I'm Gracie Burrows here from Chicago, and I'll be staying for a while. Why don't you come in and warm yourself a bit?"
With a smile both on his face and in his heart, Isaac stepped inside from the cold.