Today at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood, I’m blogging about where my story ideas come from. The inspiration for my first published short story came from a decidedly unromantic incident back in college, in which I accidentally got into a strange guy’s car, thinking he was my ex-boyfriend (What? You’ve never done that?). You can read the real-life version at the Ruby Slippered Sisterhood. And then check out the romance story it inspired below.
Audrey Taylor’s Chevy Malibu ran out of gas in the middle of the season’s worst rainstorm. She was ten miles from her house, five miles from the nearest gas station, and, despite the weather, the pint of double chocolate ice cream she’d just bought was starting to melt. She glared at the gas gauge, which claimed the car still had half a tank. So that’s what the guy at the garage had meant when he’d warned her the gauge on the loaner was “a little off”.
She dialed her brother’s number on her cell phone and tried not to hyperventilate. She got his voicemail—of course—and left a message. “Michael! My car ran out of gas and I’m stuck at the end of Old Highway. Call me.”
She huffed out a breath. Now what?
As the rain pounded against her windshield, she made her way through all the contacts on her cell phone without finding a ride.
And then a miracle. Michael’s faded blue jeep appeared through the curtain of rain, heading right toward her.
She opened her door, ignoring the stinging rain, and waved. The jeep slowed as it approached her car, but instead of pulling over it continued to the intersection. She heaved out a sigh. Michael had a lock on the title of Most Annoying Brother in Lone Pine, even if he had come to rescue her.
Lugging her groceries, Audrey ran through the rain to the jeep. “Hey!” she yelled, as the jeep began to inch forward. “Not funny!”
The jeep stopped. Audrey juggled both her bags into one hand, opened the passenger’s door, and hopped into the seat.
She slammed the door shut before she could get any wetter. “Thanks for coming, Michael, but—”
The second she turned, she realized her mistake. Instead of her brother’s cropped blond hair, the driver’s hair was brown, with the faintest hint of a curl.
She gulped in a breath. Please tell me I haven’t just hopped into a complete stranger’s jeep.
Eyes the color of fresh-brewed coffee regarded her curiously. “Hi Audrey.”
Familiar coffee-colored eyes.
Her heart stalled for a second, then resumed beating, much faster than before. It was her new next-door neighbor Jason. The guy who drove a jeep just like her brother’s, worked as a firefighter, and spent his free time volunteering at the soup kitchen. Not that she’d been checking him out or anything. Okay, maybe she’d been checking him out a little.
“Jason.” Her voice was high and reedy. “I, uh….”
“Needed a ride?”
He was smiling. And not in an I’m-just-humoring-the-crazy-person way.
“I thought you were my brother. I don’t normally barge into strangers’ cars.”
“We’re neighbors, not strangers.”
“I don’t normally barge into neighbors’ cars.”
“No?” He turned his smile up a few extra watts. “And here I thought it was a Lone Pine custom I wasn’t familiar with.”
“I’m afraid not. But I would appreciate a ride. My car ran out of gas.”
“Sure thing.” Jason put the jeep into gear.
Rain pattered against the windshield and the tires hissed against the wet pavement, but inside the Jeep, Audrey was cozy and warm.
“Only thing is,” Jason’s deep voice easily carried over the rumble of the engine, “I’m going to need some sort of payment.”
His lips curved up in a hint of a grin, telling Audrey he was teasing her, but she still proceeded with caution. “Payment?”
“I see you’ve got double chocolate ice cream. That’s my favorite flavor.”
Audrey fought the smile threatening to surface. “You want me to give you my ice cream? The ice cream I drove all the way to Pinecrest to buy?”
“Not give,” Jason said. “Share.”
That seemed like the least she could do, so an hour later, dressed in dry clothes, Audrey ushered Jason into her house for the first time. Over two bowls of ice cream, Jason told her about his work while she shared stories about growing up in Lone Pine.
“I should get home,” he said, when the ice cream was long gone and the sun was sinking below the horizon. “But I owe you a bowl of ice cream. How do you feel about fudge brownie?”
“I love fudge brownie.”
He smiled. “I think this might be the beginning of a long and happy relationship.”
So you tell me. What’s better? The real-life version or the fantasy?