A BATTERED woman. A fatherless child. A man with features mutilated years earlier by the jaws of a grizzly bear.
It’s an unconventional combination, yet these disparate characters find themselves forced to wait out a blizzard together after cattle rancher Mike Sullivan finds a vehicle broken down on the roadside near Whitefish in north-western Montana. Inside the rusty old pickup truck Mike discovers Joanne Henderson and her daughter Daisy, a sweet-natured, kitten-loving four-year-old.
In the rural high country, with snowdrifts rising ominously Mike’s only option is to open his home to the pair as shelter until the storm has passed and it is safe for them to continue their journey.
But welcoming two strangers into his cabin is an uncomfortable experience for the unmarried former navy SEAL whose near-fatal mauling has left him with the type of hideous scarring that startles children and makes adults flinch. Mike has had little social interaction since suffering his run-in with the bear and is pitifully awkward in the presence of his unintended house guests.
Joanne is exquisitely attractive: small, delicate, dainty and blonde. Pragmatist Mike knows himself to be hulking, shaggy, deformed. Any attraction he might feel towards this bruised and broken young mother is futile.
Yet, as brief as their time under the same roof is destined to be, it is nevertheless a cosy taste of domestic bliss that Mike can’t help but relish. If only his face and his confidence weren’t so terribly disfigured perhaps this could be his reality.
Winter Magic is the fifth release in the ‘King’s Brats’ series of Bitter Creek stories, adding to the Grayhawk family saga explored in Sinful, Shameless, Surrender and Sullivan’s Promise.
For Southern Hemisphere readers celebrating Christmas in July it is a perfectly themed shot of escapism into a world of generosity, acceptance and unlikely love.