The storm came in, and though expected, settled in with a fury that surprised even the veteran weather people. The squalls of snow were pushed by howling winds and the conditions were terrible.
Actually, the conditions were exactly the kind that Duncan Wright fancied the most. He whistled for his constant companion, Kelly, his German shepherd, and said:
"Come on, kid; let's go play in the snow!"
Kelly gave an approving bark and, faster than Duncan could manage, was ahead of him on the way to the garage, where Duncan's huge 'toy' was parked. It was a gigantic Ford pickup truck, complete with all the bells land whistles and a rear seat. He'd had it equipped with a snow plow, so that he could clear the parking lot at the office, where he worked, which he also owned.
They were bosom companions those two, Duncan Wright and Kelly. At 41, Duncan had already been through the mills of life, so to speak. He had already suffered the loss of a child right after birth, which took the life force of his wife along with it, and subsequently lost his wife also. It was after that, in his brooding time, when only the business and the building up of the business into the conglomerate that it was today, were his solaces, that and Kelly, the Shepherd that he'd gotten for himself.
Duncan and Kelly contentedly lived together in the very large house that he'd inherited from his Mom and Dad, gone also these many years. They made do with only parts of the house but Duncan made sure that other parts of it were kept up, cleaned and in good condition. But his needs and Kelly's too, were fairly simple.
But playing in the snow with his 'beast', as he called the big all wheel drive Ford, was one of his pleasures.
"Who knows, Kelly pal," he said to the raptly listening dog, "We might meet a snow maiden this time out."
Kelly barked and Duncan laughed and scratched the big dog behind the ears.
Despite the amount of snow that had fallen in such a short period of time, they made their way to the lot at DW Industries, where Duncan worked and was the actual owner.
He began to make runs across the parking lot with his blade down and was making good progress, almost finished plowing the lot, when from a side street a older model Pontiac made its way into the lot.
Duncan drove over to where the Pontiac was and stopped, getting out to go to the Pontiac. He was met, before he got there, by a tall Afro-American woman, who peered at him through the snow.
"Hi!" Duncan said.
"Hi!" she returned, not moving and casting an eye at Kelly, who was kind of jumping around,
"That's Kelly," Duncan said, "He's my pal; he's also the world's gentlest dog!"
"Hi, Kelly!" the woman said.
She was wearing a kind of trench coat and driving gloves.
"I'm Duncan Wright," Duncan said.
"Grayce Williams," she said, extending a hand, yet still very wary.
"Can I help you?" Duncan asked then.
"Well," Grayce explained, "I've come here because of a job that I'm supposed to begin with DW; but never counted on a storm of this magnitude. We've come farther today than I thought and we were planning to get a motel or hotel room tonight but the storm has closed down those possibilities it seems totally."
She looked around worriedly, and Duncan just listened.
"I was hoping that the building might be open so that we could at least stay here," she said then, shaking her head ruefully.
"Wait a minute," she said then, the thought finally striking her, "What did you say your name was?"
He grinned and said: "Duncan Wright," he answered.
She paused for a moment and said: "Not, um, Duncan Wright as in DW?" she asked.
"The very same!" he said with a laugh, "They let me run the place, well, I mean I own the place, but they let me run it, although what I really like doing is getting out in the storm with my faithful companion Kelly and playing with the beast here."
He indicated the big truck with the plow, when he mentioned 'the beast'.
She gave a kind of laugh.
"Pleased to meet you, boss!" she said then.
"But I see that you're not alone," he said.
"No, I have my Suziebell with me!" she said in a happier voice.
Just then, hearing her nickname mentioned, the little girl, 8 years sold, leaned over in the front seat and said: "Momma? Where are we going to stay?"
"Suziebell," Grayce said then, "This is Duncan; he's the man that I'm going to be working for."
"Hi, Duncan!" Suzanne, Suziebell, said.
"Who is that?" Suzanne asked then.
"That's my pal Kelly," Duncan said.
"Is he friendly?" she asked.
"The friendliest!" Duncan said.
Suzanne was out of the car then and struggled through the snow to greet a very pleased Kelly, whose tail was going a mile a minute at the time. She knelt a bit and Kelly raised her chin to be scratched under the chin.
"Oh, I love her!" Suzanne said.
"Well, you seemed to have made a fast friend pretty quickly," Duncan said.
"It's a pleasure to meet you, Mr Wright..." Grayce began but he slipped in: "It's Duncan, please!"
"Duncan," Grayce said then, "Can you direct us to a good place to stay? We're travel weary I'm afraid, especially since I've been fighting this storm for the past hour or more."
"Well, everything is closed or sown up around here, I'm afraid but I'd be pleased to put you up at my place. Kelly and I are batching as usual and we'd love to have the company, and the compound is large enough that you two will have all the privacy that you could possibly need," he said.
"I know," he said, "If I were in your shoes, I'd hesitate too but this might just be the only possibility for you tonight, I'm afraid," Duncan went on.
"It seems like such an imposition," Grayce said.
"Not to us!" Duncan said.
"Well, fine," Grayce said then and turned to Suzanne and said: "Suziebell, we've been invited to spend the night with Mr Wright and his companion Kelly."
"Oh, goodie!" Suzanne said, still not leaving the dog's side.
"Well, let's get your things," Duncan said. "We'll go in the beast. The streets are fairly closed right now."
"Yes," she said, "Fine, we'll go in the beast!" She grinned at him, when she said it.
He had a large cap on the back of the truck's bed and they put all of Grayce and Suzanne's luggage in the back. Then Duncan helped Suzanne get up into the back seat of the truck, with Kelly clattering up beside her. He also gave Grayce a hand getting into the front of the truck.
He watched, giving her a hand, as she got into the truck and noticed a silky thigh, where Grayce's skirt hiked up, as she got into the cab of the truck.
"Sorry," he said, "I do have a normal car at home, when I don't need the beast."
"I'll just have to call and tell my Momma back home that I've met the beast!" she said, giggling by the time she got to the end of the sentence. He joined her in a laugh.
"Please don't scare her!" he said.
When they were all loaded, he got into the driver's seat and said: "All ready?"
"Yes," Grayce said, followed by a 'yes' from Suzanne and a bark from Kelly.
"Homeward then!" He said, driving out of the lot to take them all home.
He drove extra slowly, so as not to frighten Suzanne but they made good progress through the streets, despite the piles of snow all around.
Eventually, on a secluded street, he pulled into the circular driveway of a rather large house. He took the circular drive and a straight drive off of it to get to the garage.
"My, my, what a house!" Grayce said.
"The business was my father's pride and joy," he explained, "The house was my Mom's."
"They are?" she asked.
"Both gone, unfortunately," he said. "She first and he had little will to live after that it seemed. It was a difficult year or so to get through."
As he said that, as though recognizing what he was talking about, Kelly put her head on his shoulder.
"Yes, pal," he said, "You helped get me through those times!"
"But, yes," he said, addressing Grayce again, "It's gigantic. Kelly and I certainly don't need all of it anymore but I have no intention of letting it go. It fits so well and all."
"Well, it's lovely!" Grayce said.
(Suzanne was still astounded by the size of the house and how it looked.)
"Well," Duncan said. "I'm going to put the beast into the garage. I might get out later to plow out some of my neighbor's driveways but we want to get you settled in now."
"Yes, thank you," Grayce said.
"I'll see about some supper," he said, "Any requests?"
"Not really," Grayce said.
"Italian?" he asked.
"Oh, goodie!" Suzanne said, "I like Italian."
"So do I!" Duncan said, "That makes it almost unanimous! And it's dog food for her majesty!"
The garage was a huge one into which 'the beast' fit very comfortably. There was also a sheltered walk that enabled them to get from the garage into the house. They entered via the hallway outside of the kitchen.
Grayce and Suzanne stopped, once they were inside the house.
"This is lovely!" Grayce said.
"Oh, it is, Momma," Suzanne agreed.
"My Mom's major work!" Duncan said. "It was her pride and joy; I've been pleased to keep it up. But, hey, I'm sure that you want to get your things settled and then we can have the grand tour, if you like."
.... There is more of this story ...