Priceless

By: Winter Renshaw

For my husband. Ours is the most priceless adventure of all.



xoxo

Winter





Description





It was New Year’s Eve, and I should’ve been ringing in the night with cheap champagne and bad decisions at home in New York. Instead I found myself holed up in some hotel room in southern California.



But I wasn’t alone.



I was in the company of a fellow stranded traveler by the name of Cristiano. We spent one night together – forced into the same hotel room by the snowstorm that cancelled our flights and changed our lives.



His dimpled smile, panty-melting kisses, and charming wit were a temporary distraction from the chaos of the day . . . or the past year. But as soon as morning broke, I set my sights on getting home. I rented a car, mapped out my 2,749 mile journey, and packed my bags.



Only Cristiano insisted on joining me. He needed to get home, too. His best friend was getting married on Saturday. And he refused to let me go it alone. It wasn’t safe, he said.



Trekking across country with an alluring stranger was certainly one of the more adventurous moments of my life. Falling for him was certainly one of the most daring. But uncovering his secrets? That was the most challenging. And the truth I learned . . . would shatter us both.





Chapter 1





Daphne



I’m pretty sure wine is the only thing that is going to save me today.

Or one of those tiny bottles of vodka they give you on the plane.

And at this point, I’m willing to save a little time and drink it straight: no mixer, no chaser.

Checking my watch, I mentally calculate that I’ll be on my flight in less than an hour, biting my nails until we take off and the in-flight beverage service comes by.

Shoulder to shoulder with grouchy holiday travelers on New Year’s Eve in a small, southern California airport isn’t ideal, but my twin sister, Delilah, called me this morning, frantic and telling me the doctor thinks she’s going to go into labor any day now despite the fact that she’s not due for two more weeks. She was spouting off a bunch of things about centimeters and contractions, all the while sounding like a crazy person. I tuned out the part where she discussed the current state of her cervix in great detail and tuned back in just in time to hear the panic in her voice when she realized there was a good chance I might not make it home in time.

“I’ll be there,” I promised her at the time. “No matter what. I’ll move heaven and earth. I won’t miss it. Don’t worry. Just keep your legs squeezed together really, really tight.”

She laughed at the time, but I still heard the worry in her voice. Our oldest sister, Demi, will be there, and obviously Delilah’s husband, Zane, but being twins, we’ve always done everything together. We’re impossibly close. And it would break my heart not to be there.

Glancing around the crowded airport, I scan the length of the line before me. At least eight people wait ahead, and the woman currently congesting this process seems to have her shit strewn out on the tile floor, rearranging items and shoving her giant hair dryer and moving several hardcover Stephen King books from her checked bag to her carry-on.

Sighing in commiseration with my fellow travelers, I watch as she zips her bag and hoists it back onto the scale. The face of the Jet Stream airways attendant says it all, and the woman begrudgingly yanks her bag away and attempts to reconfigure her baggage situation once more.

It’s safe to say we’re going to be here a while.

Out of pure boredom, I take another gander at the folks in line behind me. It appears I’m in the company of predominantly baby boomers and parents with young children who aren’t having any part of this travel stuff. I’m guessing all the people my age are wisely out living it up, ringing in the new year with cheap champagne and bad decisions.

God, I was hoping I’d get a chance to make a bad decision tonight.

Guess there’s always next year . . .

Two years ago, I rang in the new year in Paris with my Parisian lover who turned out to be a royal scumbag.

Last year, I rang in the new year at home with my family, quietly nursing a recent breakup with a professional football player named Weston. He was still madly in love with his ex but kept his feet planted in denial until I finally showed him the writing on the wall. And that was the end of something that could’ve been pretty freaking amazing.