“Are you okay?” Hudson inquired, leaning over her motionless body while Clover claimed the spot on her other side.
The cool wintry wind howled over Savoy as she lied flatly against the blanket of snow. Flakes had stopped half an hour ago, which was how long it took him to lead her to the best hill in town. It seemed more like a mountain, her calf muscles agreed but he insisted that it was just a hill at the edge of his property. A property that included a pond that was frozen but not solid enough for ice skating. A skill she had, one she could show off, unlike her present situation.
“I don’t know. Am I supposed to see birds?” Savoy squinted up at the specks in the black skin. “Are those birds?”
Hudson twisted his concerned gaze away from her to look up. “Those aren’t birds. They’re stars.” He held his long fingers in front of her face. “How many?’
“Uh,” She sounded as she counted. “Four.”
She squinted each eye separately. “It looks like four to me. Or it could be eight. Wait, are you holding up two hands?”
He studied her intently as if he had the superpower of x-ray vision and he could see if the wipeout had done any damage to her brain. He missed the crink in her lips but not the light, jovialness of her laugh.
“You’re faking?” The nervousness drained from his face and left relief in its wake. He sat back on his haunches with a smirk. “You had me. Next time, when I say hold on…hold on to me and not my coat.”
“Advice taken.” Savoy groaned out as she sat up, her hearty exhale plumed out in front of her.
She thought holding onto his coat would be the best option. It made better sense than wrapping her arms around his waist and resting her body against his back. His spicy, sweet redolence was already making her heady and his down to earth personality had bypassed the wall she usually had up around the opposite sex or any other gender that tried to mack her. Hudson Snow had dismantled her and he didn’t even have the code. She wasn’t going to hold him. It seemed like a sound choice that was until the fallen branch appeared out of nowhere and sent her flying off the toboggan.
“She really likes you.” He said, peering at Clover resting her head in Savoy’s lap.
“I’m not normally a dog person but Clove and I share secrets.” She patted the dog’s furry head welcoming the warmth of the animal’s body.
“Secrets.” Hudson glanced from his pooch to the woman. “What secrets?”
“That’s between us, Bud.” She gestured between her and Clover. “
He sighed with humor painting his features. “Keep your secrets. Ready to go?”
“Actually,” She started canvassing the snow-topped trees standing tall and the star-speckled night sky as a calm washed over her. “This cold is easing the throb of my calves and this view is doing wonders with my stress level.” She rolled her shoulders back feeling some of the tightness that was there when she boarded the plane waning.
“Is your job taxing?”
She let out a humorless laugh. “Very. Fashion is difficult and the print industry is dying. People aren’t buying magazines like they used to and another round of layoffs are coming in the new year.”
“I’m sorry to hear that.” His genuine tone didn’t make her feel strange for being so cavalier and open. “But I’m pretty sure your job will be safe. You’re a hard worker. You were enthralled at the bakery for several hours.”
She smirked, getting clarification that it was an accident those handfuls of time their eyes synced. “I wasn’t working.” She stroked Clover’s hand leisurely. “I was doodling…illustrating.”
“Oh…you draw. That’s cool.”
“I dabble at it.” She shrugged. “Thought about going to Art school way back when.”
“Why didn’t you?” He leaned closer to her as if every word she spoke was going to be on a quiz in the morning.
“I needed steady pay and being an artist doesn’t get you that.”
“I don’t know.” He made an ‘s’ in the snow with his gloved finger. “I think doing what you love is worth the risk.”
Those sounded like words she’d find scripted on a little sheet of paper inside a fortune cookie at the Chinese restaurant she and her friend in the photography department loved to get takeout from after work. Avoiding risky decisions is how she lived her life. Playing it safe was the main reason she was one of two executives in advertising.
Granted, the guy that had the position in the social media department didn’t have to worry about losing his job. He was safe. It was her that was on pins and needles not yet sure if the magazine would continue printing past the January issue they had already released. She already had ads lined up for the February issue that her boss had finalized so maybe that was a good sign. Or maybe she was just going to lose her job in March and not the beginning of the year.
“Being able to pay rent is more important than following your passion.” She countered.
“You can have both.” He made an ‘a’ and then a ‘v’. “Baking is my passion and I can provide for myself.”
“But you’re a great baker.”
“And you’re a great artist.”
Her eyebrows knitted. “How do you know?”
“I might have caught a glimpse of your screen when I brought over that second helping of snickerdoodles.” He smirked coyly. “This isn’t the sixties. There’s social media and you have connections. I bet you even know how to create your own website.”
She nodded. He made a few points but not enough points for her to quit her job and follow her passion.
“I love my job.” She lied. Sort of. She loved the things it brought her and the perks it afforded her. “I want to keep it.”
“Then I hope you the best in the New Year.” He made a ‘y’ completing her name in the snow. “I wish you all the joys of your heart, Savoy.”
“Me too.” She grinned and held out her hands. “Now, let’s go because my ass is frozen.”
He laughed standing to his feet before helping her up. They hiked back to his house swapping funny stories about their first jobs which happened to be at rival fast-food joints; Jack in the Box for him and McDonald’s for her. It was the yawn that sounded out her mouth that let her know her body needed sleep but she wasn’t ready to give in to slumber when she was already living a dream.