Dodging determined Christmas shoppers, Crystal plunged across the icy sidewalk toward Martino's Department Store. Head down against the wind, high heels sliding perilously, she had only a few yards to go when -- crash! The solid bulk of a hard body met hers. Her feet slid out from under her. Her arms flew out, flipping her purse into the air. Her backside hit the sidewalk.
Strong arms hauled her to her feet and held her. "I'm really sorry. Are you okay?"
Deep blue eyes probed hers from beneath thick blond hair. Was she okay? He kept his arm wrapped around her. She felt warm and protected there. "My purse," she gasped.
He held up a small black bag.
"You caught it? And me?"
Nodding, he grinned broadly. He was incredibly handsome, his features strong, his gaze soft. Blushing, she broke away, straightened her light coat and shivered. She'd been an idiot to give away her winter clothes when she and Matt moved to Florida. She didn't have any suitable clothes now that she'd moved back.
"Are you okay?" the blond stranger repeated. "You seem..." He tipped her chin and looked into her eyes, sending shivers through her. "Dazed. That was quite a jolt you got." Handing back her purse, he frowned. "I think you should sit down for a few minutes."
"Here?" Smiling, Crystal pulled away and brushed the snow off her coat. "I tried that and it wasn't a smart move."
The move to Daytona hadn't been a good one either. An interlude between Matt's affairs, their faltering marriage ended there. Now she was back in Indiana with their daughter, nine-year-old Heather, trying to get both feet on the ground. And keep them there. She chuckled softly and saw the worry lines on her rescuer's face deepen. "Don't worry. I'm fine. I should have watched where I was going."
"If you're fine, perhaps it was a good move," he said, cocking a brow. His eyes danced with fun and Crystal had to try hard not to smile. He was a stranger, she reminded herself.
"We could go inside and have a cup of coffee." He gestured toward the department store. "I'm Paul Stewart." He took her hand in his. "Coffee will give you time to recover and me to make amends."
Crystal shook her head. She was tempted, but he didn't owe her anything. "Thanks, but it was my fault." A woman with an armload of packages bumped into her and she staggered.
Paul steadied her, then studied her from black leather pumps to auburn pageboy, back to the pumps again. "Don't you have boots?"
At her answering glare, he raised both hands in surrender and smiled. "Okay, it's none of my business, and you refuse to have coffee with me, but at least let me help you into the store." He offered his arm.
"I am not an old lady in need of a Boy Scout!"