Icing AllisonBy: Pamela Burford
a Jane Delaney Mystery
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YOU’RE PROBABLY WONDERING what I was doing trekking through secluded woods on a bitterly cold winter day, following a dangerous man carrying a scary-looking chainsaw. Okay, when you put it like that, it does seem kind of stupid. And for the record, I’m not the one who says he’s dangerous. That would be my ex-husband, Dom, but Dom tends to be overprotective.
Plus I had my own history with this particular bad boy. Martin McAuliffe and I had been in a tight scrape once, of the life-threatening variety, and he’d shown his true colors then.
Right about now you’re thinking that big, brave Martin came to the rescue of frightened little Jane. The fact is, I saved his life. Just to, you know, set the record straight.
If I was in danger from Martin, then so was Sexy Beast, my seven-pound apricot poodle. Sexy Beast—SB for short—was having a grand old time, trotting along with us, sniffing all these wonderful new smells, and watering the trees. He wasn’t too crazy about the little plaid parka I’d put on him. Well, it was cold.
Oh, did I forget to mention? The dangerous man was also carrying two pairs of ice skates. I happen to know what was in his backpack, because he’d teased me with the contents in order to entice me to, well, willingly spend time outdoors in winter. He’d gone to my favorite deli to pick up our lunch: thick roast beef sandwiches and potato salad. Then he’d swung by Patisserie Susanne for pastries, including my all-time favorite, chocolate croissants, and sealed the deal with a thermos filled with hot chocolate. I mean, really, the man does not fight fair.
Sexy Beast wouldn’t go hungry, either. I’d brought along his favorite treat, Vienna sausages. Plus some water and one of those cute collapsible doggie water bowls.
And before you start thinking this was some kind of date, let me assure you it was nothing of the sort. There was zilch going on between me and Martin. He wasn’t my type. I’m not attracted to sexy-as-hell bad boys with mysterious backgrounds. I’m too mature for that.
You can stop snickering.
“Why couldn’t we go to an ice-skating rink?” I asked. Well, it might’ve been more of a whine.
“A skating rink when the temperatures have been in the single digits for days?” he called over his shoulder. “Nature is our skating rink.”
“I never knew you were such a nature lover,” I said. “And why won’t you tell me what the chainsaw is for?” I knew it wasn’t to cut down a Christmas tree. Christmas had come and gone. The new year was one week old, and as Martin had pointed out, it was toe-numbingly cold and had been so for a depressingly long time.
Though I wasn’t about to admit it, it was actually refreshing to be doing something outdoors, and the view didn’t hurt. The sight of the padre’s nice firm posterior encased in snug jeans was as bracing as the weather.
Oh, you thought I was talking about the view of the pristine woods. Yeah, that was nice too, especially with the frozen lake coming into view. It hadn’t snowed for a couple of weeks, but here and there patches of old snow lay on the trail. I tried to ignore that I’d been to these particular woods before, had viewed that particular lake before. Although now that I was getting a clearer, calmer look at it, I saw it was more modest than I remembered, somewhere between a small lake and a very large pond.
That other visit to this particular nature preserve had been several months earlier when I’d arrived bound and gagged in the trunk of my own car. I’d barely managed to avoid being shot and dumped in that picturesque lake. Of course, it had been July then and the woods had been thick and green.
Martin had been shaken by my close brush with death. Well, heck, so had I. I wondered if his choice of these woods for our jolly winter activity was a way of helping me confront and get past that episode, kind of like getting back on the horse again.