Thursday, November 25, 2010

As Jacob Berringer turned the Model-T back toward the Highland Park Plant, another specific destination formed in his mind. It would be the best place to truly test the car and not endanger anyone else. Returning to the busy city streets with its eight-miles-per-hour speed limit wouldn't afford the same guarantee. So, when Jacob reached the next intersection, he pointed the car toward the outlying fields to the northwest.

Once free of the confines of the city, he enjoyed the way the land seemed to spread out before him. A flock of birds took to flight ahead of him, and two horses beyond the fence to his left galloped away from the road. He inhaled the fresh scent of farmland and relished the cool breeze of the evening air. Invigorated, Jacob decided to be bold and raise his foot off the left pedal, setting the car into high gear. Another jolt occurred as the car increased speed.

Jacob's knuckles turned white, and his heart pounded as he prayed for safety. The fields on his left and right zipped by in a blur. A little voice in his head told him to depress the pedal once more or put his other foot on the right pedal and bring the car to a stop. He ignored the voice and instead savored the feeling of freedom.

If only he made enough money to afford one of these cars for his very own. His brother William had just purchased one two months ago for his family, and Father owned one as well. Jacob might only be twenty-six, but seeing his older brother and father driving around the city only fueled his desire to join the league of motor car owners. Perhaps in a few more months, his pay as a supervisor would amount to enough. For now, at least he could pretend.

The crack of a rifle sounded to his left, and Jacob jerked his head toward the echo. It effectively jarred his thoughts from his little pleasure ride and brought his boss' face to mind.

"Mr. Ford! I have to return the car!"

Jacob had no idea how long it had been since dropping off Mrs. Mitchell, but he had no doubt he was expected back long ago. Frantic, he returned his attention to the road. Good. An intersection. He could turn around there and head back to the city. With his attention on the upcoming maneuver, he didn't see the horses and wagon until too late. The team was on a direct collision course with his car.

Jacob tensed and shifted into survival mode. Visions of a crumbled heap of steel and wheels flashed before his eyes. He immediately rammed his foot down on the right pedal and yanked the steering wheel in the same direction.

The driver of the wagon screamed and pulled back on the reins, causing the horses to rear up and paw at the air. If it didn't get into a wreck, the model might end up with hoof prints on the engine instead.

Skidding only a few feet on the dirt-packed road, Jacob released a whoosh of breath when the car came to a complete stop mere inches from the nearest fence. He jumped down from the running board and raced to the front of the car to check the suspension and wheels as well as the engine. Barely giving the wagon driver a passing glance, he groaned.

"Could you not see that I had the right of way?" He folded back the hood. "Why don't you watch where you're guiding that antiquated wagon of yours?"

"I beg your pardon?" came a distinctly incensed feminine voice in reply.

Jacob tilted his head and looked over his shoulder at a woman not too much younger than he standing next to the horses, her fists planted on her hips and reins held loosely in one hand. A bank of gray clouds partially concealed the sun and cast eerie shadows on her face. He couldn't tell if it was the temporary minimal light or his faulty perception that made her look so livid. Then again, considering the circumstances, she might very well be furious.

Before he had a chance to say anything further, she spun away and stepped close to the horses, speaking in low, soothing tones. The horses sidestepped and pranced a bit, snorting and continuing to paw the ground. Under her calming voice, the animals soon ceased their nervous behavior and settled once again.

Jacob observed the young woman in silence. Honeycomb hair fell in a single braid down her back. Her straw hat was tied beneath her chin but now sat askew and partially cupped her right shoulder. A smirk formed on his lips as he allowed his gaze to travel from her head to her feet, taking note of the way the simple material of her dress hugged her trim figure. She certainly didn't appear to be injured in any way. In fact, from her sharp retort and the fire in her eyes, he'd say the exact opposite was the case.

As if divining his thoughts, she whirled to face him again, the fury in her narrowed eyes marring what he considered a rather attractive face.

"Just what do you think you were doing, driving so recklessly? Do you not realize you could have caused any number of accidents or even killed someone with that..."— she gestured wildly toward the Model T— "that...contraption? I think you should be the one who should have been watching where you were going instead of daydreaming or attempting to break some sort of record in speed."

"Me?" Jacob slapped his hand to his chest. "I didn't exactly creep up to the crossroad in silence. In case you haven't noticed, this 'contraption' as you call it makes a rather substantial bit of noise when it's running. If I was the one daydreaming, what exactly were you doing that prevented you from hearing the approaching motor car?"

A flash of guilt appeared on her face before she erased it and tapped into her anger once more. "If you must know, I was minding my own business and making my way toward home when all of a sudden you came out of nowhere and ran me off the road."

Jacob leaned back against the car and folded his arms across his chest, giving her a leisurely perusal as he quirked one eyebrow. "Well, from what I see, you don't appear to be any worse for the wear. Of course, I'm no doctor, so I can't tell if there might be internal injuries. That would require closer inspection."

The young woman dipped her head toward her chest. If more light were available, Jacob was certain there'd be a blush on her cheeks. Maybe she was coming around. A beat later, she raised her head and glared. Then again, maybe not.

"You, sir, are quite bold in your assumptions and your suggestions. I will thank you not to make such audacious statements. We don't even know each other."

Jacob pushed away from the car and stepped toward her. "That can easily be remedied." He stuck out his hand and inclined his head. "Jacob Berringer, at your service."

Tiffany is giving away a copy of her book Michigan Brides. Be sure to stop by The Borrowed Book on Friday for your chance to win!


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