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Disclaimer: I do not own Sailor Moon. Never have, never will. Only in everyone's dreams, especially mine. Naoko owns it, and doing a great job, too. I got the idea for this story from a book I read by, I think, Jo Beverly. E-mail comments, ideas, bad or good... however, I don't like rude people, so tell me in a nice way if you don't like it, TO: Usagi_Rachel@Hotmail.Com

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Unexpectedly Snowed In Christmas - Chapter Two

Rated: PG-13

By twelve-thirty, they reached Ludington, a tourist port, thriving in the summer, but quiet and peaceful in the winter. Two hours was terrific timing in adverse weather conditions.

Darien stopped at a service station for gas; Serena used the ladies room.

"How about some lunch before we leave the civilized?" he asked.

The town had two good restaurants, but both were closed for Christmas week. "I don't usually eat lunch," Serena said, relieved that she didn't have to sit across a table from Darien Chiba. All she wanted to do was show him the property and get back to Grand Rapids before the day was over.

There was a fast food place open as they pulled out of town. Darien stopped the truck. "Can I get you a burger? You should eat something."

"No, thanks. I can wait."

He shrugged and ordered himself two hamburgers and a milkshake. He raised an eyebrow, offering her one. When she shook her head, he devoured them both.

The highway they were on turned into an undivided road and Serena recalled that they would have to turn off in a just a few miles.

Darien turned on the radio, but not many stations came in very well. He found one that was playing country music. "You like country music?"

"Actually, I loathe it," the moment she said the words, she knew she would regret them. He made no effort to change the station; in fact, he turned up the volume.

Serena put up with the torture for about five minutes, then reached out decisively to shut it off. She cut off the speaker in midsentence as he said, "I have an updated weather--" Then immediately turned it back on.

"-- Snow, lots of it. Blizzard conditions will continue, probably, to get worse. Travellers are recommended and advised to keep off the roads unless it's an emergency."

"Where is that station?" she asked the air.

"Don't panic. It could be across the lake in Winconsin, or even in Canada."

"I'm not the type to panic," she said coolly.

He gave her a fathomless look. "What type are you, Serena?"

"What type do you think I am, Chiba?"

"You're difficult to read. I can't decided if you're an Ice Queen or just asleep; unawakened."

"You're not difficult to read. You're an arrogant, sexist swine!"

He grinned. "You sure have a short fuse; I was only teasing."

"For your information, I'm engaged to be married."

He looked at her hand and smirked.

"I'm getting my ring for Christmas," she explained, then wondered why she found it neccesary to explain herself to this insufferable devil.

"I take it he's the sensitive type."

"He's an English Professor." Why did that sound so whimpy? "An intellectual," she added, "Creig is the opposite of you. Yes, he's sensitive-- and understanding."

"He's passive and I'm aggressive... he's the sheep and I'm the wolf."

Serena narrowed her eyes. "He doesn't drive a truck with flames on it."

"I bet he doesn't drive a Mercedes, either."

"He isn't threatened by the fact that I make more money than he does."

"Then he should be. Do you intend to wear the pants in the family?"

"No, I intend to be an equal partner. But I admit I'm not domesticated. I don't cook, I don't sew, and I don't cower."

"I bet you even carry your own condoms."

Serena blushed. She had a couple in her shoulder bag. The fact that he could make her blush threw her off balance. "Oh, I think we should have turned off back there."

You think?" He found a place where he could turn around, and showed no impatience. They drove down the snowy road for a couple of miles, but Serena saw nothing that looked familiar. She gave directions, but they were tenative. Finally, she admitted she was hopelessly lost, but only to herself.

"You don't know where this place is, do you?"

"We should be there. You must have passed it."

"Have you actually been to this property?" he asked.

"Of course I have, but it was in the fall. Everything looks different covered with snow. Go back across the river and--"

He held up a commanding hand. "Don't help. I'll find it myself."

By using logic and old-fashioned common sense, he found his way down a couple of unplowed sideroads until he came to the lake. The, he drove slowly along the lakeshore road until Serena finally recognized the private driveway. It was almost two-thirty. They were no longer making good timing.

Serena took the keys from her briefcase and followed Darien Chiba from the truck. The winter winds from Lake Michigan had piled up a huge snowdrift across the front entrance to the house. Darien walked back to his truck, opened the hard box on the back, and pulled out a shovel. "Looks like we'll have to dig our way in," he said without rancor.

"If you had two shovels, I could help."

No, I'd have to hit you over the head with the shovel to do that, she thought.

By the time they got inside the house, it was three o'clock. Serena stamped the snow off her boots, but didn't take off her coat because it was freezing inside the log cabin. She walked straight to the telephone to call her boss to tell him they were running late.

"Damn, the phone's been put on holiday service; no calls can go in or out." She gave him a scathing look. "I have a car phone in my Mercedes."

"That isn't going to help you one bit."

"Exactly!" She threw up her hands.

"Can't you survive without a telephone?"

Serena didn't have to call the office. She lived alone; no one was expecting her. Creig was in Kalamazoo. "If you don't need to call anyone, I certainly don't."

"If you mean, am I married, the answer is no. Both my brothers are divorced, so I'm wary of women."

"I meant no such thing! I'm not the least bit interested in your personal life."

"Curiousity is written all over your face. You're wondering if I can afford this place."

Damn you, Darien Chiba, you're too smart for your own good.

"You turn on the water and I'll turn on the electric panel. It'll be dark before you know it."

Serena went downstairs to the basement in search of the water valve. She couldn't find it. She found laundry tubs, a washer and dryer, a water heater that was turned to off. She went into the basement washroom. It had a shower, a sink, and a toilet; it even had a shut-off valve, but only for the the toilet it was connected to. Without lights, the basement was very dim. She looked under the stairs and finally admitted defeat.

"I couldn't find it," she said, exasperated.

"If you'd turned on the electricity, I probably could have seen down there!"

"The electricity has been cut off," he stated shortly. "You start a fire; I'll find the water valve."

Serena started at the small stack of logs beside the massive stone fireplace. There were no matches. She opened her purse and pulled out her lighter, and looked about for some old newspaper. Nothing! Paper, where could she get paper? She opened her briefcase and crumpled up some "Offer to Purchase" forms. Kindling, now she needed kindling. Serena spied a basket of pinecones used for decoration and felt quite smug as she carried them to the fireplace. She piled the pine cones on top of the paper and set her lighter to it. It blazed up merrily, but gradually smoke billowed out at her and she began to cough.

A large hand pulled her out of the way, reached up the chimney and pushed an iron lever. "You have to open the damper," he explained.

"Did you locate the water valve?" she challenged.

"Of course."

He had the ability to make her feel useless. He soon had the logs in the fireplave blazing and crackling. "As soon as you get warm, you can show me around and give me a tour."

The log house was truly beautiful. It was a full two storeis. Four bedrooms and two baths opened onto a balcony that looked down on the spacious open-concept living room and kitchen. The bedrooms also opened into an outside balcony that ran around the entire perimeter of the house.

The views over the lake and forest were breath-stopping. Darien lifted his head and breathed deeply, drawing in the smell of the lake and woods. She watched, fascinated, as his eyelashes caught the snowflakes.

"Last night was a full moon. It had a ring around it; that always predicts the change in the weather."

"Been reading the Farmer's Almanac, have we?"

"I suppose yuppies find folklore exceedingly quaint, but I've learned not to scoff at it."

They went back inside to explore the rooms downstairs. A marble blue hot tub had been built into a glass-enclosed room along with a sauna.

How romantic, Serena thought.

"Decadence," Darien said, grinning.

Serena quickly switched her thoughts to the business at hand. "As you know, the asking price is a quarter of a million, but that's furnished. A lot of this furniture is hand-crafted. Isn't it lovely?"

"It is. I make furniture like this. In fact, that sleigh bed upstairs is one of my peices. Sorry, I disgress."

Why was she surprised? The man was an entity unto himself. She began to believe Darien Chiba could very well afford the property.

"I want to look over the acreage before the light goes."

Serena groaned inwardly; it was a blizzard out there.

"Do you have a survey of the property in that briefcase of yours, or is it just for show?"

Serena snapped open the case and rifled through the papers. She pulled out the survey abd thrust it at him. "I didn't think you'd be able to read anything so technical," she said sweetly.

Darien ignored the barb. "We'd better hurry. If much more of this comes down, we might not be able to get out of here tonight. I can look around myself, if the elements are too fierce for you to handle," he goaded.

"Is that more Darien claptrap? You don't have to keep proving what a physical man you are."

"If I intended to prove how physical I can be, I'd have have you down to your teddy by now."

Why did her mouth go dry at his provocative words?

Outside, he opened his truck, pulled out a down-filled jacket, and shrugged into it. Then he took a big steel tape fromhis toolbox. As they set off through the trees, she thought, Surely he's not going to take the measurements in the snow? Please don't let him expect me to hold the other end of the tape. From now on, I'll stick to my own turf: good old city property.

As if he could read her thoughts, he said, "This is the reason why I'd have prefered that Roy to come with me. This isn't a woman's work."

Serena ground her teeth. "There's no such thing as men's jobs and women's jobs."

"Bull! The world has gone nuts. They're even telling us women can be fire fighters!"

"You sound like my father: air force women shouldn't fly combat jets."

"Your father is right. Women are perfectly capable of flying jets, but they shouldn't allow them in combat zones."

Serena had walked out on her father and brother on this subject and she was close to walking out on him. That would be gutless, she decided, I'll make this sale if it kills me!

The barn loomed before them. Darien used his booted feet to kick the snow from the entrance, then they went inside to look around. The first thing Serena noticed was the smell. The scent of hay and straw mangled with the smell of lingering maisma of horses, who had occupied the stalls once upon a time. How was it barns and hay always conjured up fantasies of lovemaking, Serena wondered. She certainly never had a romantic encounter in a barn... yet.

"This place has amazing possibilities."

Serena turned away quickly so he wouldn't see her blush. She knew perfectly well that his thoughts did not mirror her own; it was simply because of his overt mascilinity and their close proximity in the romantic setting.

All too soon, Darien was ready for the great outdoors. After they tramped through what seemed like miles of snow, he selected a spot by a wire fence and began to dig with his hands.

He had big, strong, capable hands that were well-calloused. Serena reluctantly admitted that she found them strangely attractive.

Darien found what he was looking for-- a one-inch square iron surveyor's bar. He didn't ask her to old one end of the tape, as she expected; instead he began to follow the fence-line, counting his strides.

Serena pulled up her collar and jammed her hands into her pockets. She was freezing. Darien, hatless, didn't even seem to notice the cold.

"An abundance of wildlife here... raccoon, weasel, fox, deer, even elk."

Serena hadn't noticed the animal tracks until her pointed them out. He didn't miss much. I bet women fall all over him. Where the hell had that thought come from? It certainly didn't matter to her what effect he had on women! He had a decidely abrasive effect on her, yet she didn't think the abrasiveness would affect the sale. He seemed to enjoy the sparring with her.

Suddenly, as they came upon a bushy undergrowth, a covey of pheasants flew up into the trees. One bird huddled on the ground.

"It's caught in a snare," Darien said. "It's leg is broken." He immediately wrung the pheasants neck, then ripped the snare apart in anger and flung it away.

Serena stared at him in anger. "You cruel bastard! Why the hell did you do that?"

"I'm not cruel, nature is. The bird's leg was broken. As soon as it's full dark, a fox would have eaten it." he explained.

"We could have taken it with us and nursed it back to heath."

"The cold's getting to your brain."

"And you're suffering from necrosis of the cranium! Too bad you didn't have your gun-- you could have shot the other's, too. She turned away furiouusly and hurried in the direction of the house.

"Serena, get back here." It was an order.

Serena kept on going.

"Don't you dare go off on your own." This time, it was more than an order, it was a command. She took great satisfaction in defying it.

Darkness was coming rapidly, but because of the white snow, he could see her figure disappearing through the trees. Her black coat soon blended in with the surroundings, however, so that he could no longer see her.

"Damn women! Can't live with them, can't shoot 'em." He tucked the bird inside his jacket and set off after her.

Serena had a soft spot for animals, especially hurt ones. Her and her mother had nursed her cat Luna back to health after she had been poisened. They had stayed up night after night, soothing her, trying one food after another until they found something her stomache would not reject. The only thing that worked was honey, a dab at a time on her paw. Luna had licked it off, again and again, and was able to stay alive.

Looking after hurt animals took a lot of patience and time. Patience she had in abundance-- much more for animals than humans-- and time, these days, was always in short supply.

Serena was totally preoccupied with her thoughts and as a consequence, wasn't paying attention to where she was walking. She was going in the general direction of the house and when she saw a clearing where the trees thinned out, she crossed it. Suddenly, a crack like a rifle-shot rent the air and Serena felt the ground give way under her.

She cried out in alarm, not knowing or understanding what was happening. Then ice cold water closed over her head. She had walked onto the pond and had gone through the ice!

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Chapter Three

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Please send all comments to the author at Usagi_Rachel@Hotmail.Com

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