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And Yet Another Excerpt from "Sovereign Oak"

Kelli enjoyed the picturesque view as she crossed over the high point at Sam’s Gap and began the descent down I-26 towards Asheville. It had been overcast for most of the drive with occasional sprinkles of rain along the way, and Kelli detected what appeared to be a few flakes of snow as they passed through the highest elevation on their route. She wished Andy could see it too, but she decided to let him sleep a little longer since he looked so peaceful. After she passed Weaverville and Woodfin, she saw the French Broad River on the righthand side of the highway flowing north as she drove south. When the Asheville skyline emerged, she decided it was time to wake Andy up.

She tapped his leg. “Andy. Wake up honey. We’re almost there.”

Andy opened his eyes and then he yawned. He sat up in his seat, pushed his shoulders back slowly, and moved his neck from side to side to shake off the stiffness. He flinched a bit when he moved his left arm, a reminder that there were still months of rehab to go before it would get as close to normal as it was ever going to get.

“It’s about time. We’d have been here an hour ago if you had let me drive.”

“That’s funny. I don’t have any recollection of you offering to drive. And with all the medications you’re on, I sure as hell wouldn’t have been able to sleep with you behind the wheel. We’d probably be off in a ravine somewhere waiting for a tow truck to pull us out if you drove.”

A moment later, I-26 merged into I-240 and they headed east along the edge of the city.

They exited off the highway and turned left onto Charlotte Street.

“Hey look! It’s a Fuddruckers. You’re going to feel right at home here,” Kelli said.

“To be honest, I could go for a burger and fries and a thick chocolate shake right now. All this sleeping has made me hungry.”

“Well, you can forget that. We’ve got a dinner reservation tonight at seven at the hotel and I’m not going to let you spoil your appetite. Maybe after we get settled in our room we can go down to the bar and get a drink and a snack to tide you over until dinner.”

Andy moved his left arm slowly and placed his left hand on Kelli’s thigh. “Or we could skip the bar and stay in the room, and I could show you fifteen or twenty of the most exciting seconds you could ever hope to experience this holiday season.”

“Oh really? You got a friend stashed in the trunk you didn’t tell me about?” Kelli mused as she patted Andy’s hand. “Sex with you would be like this drive; I’d have to do all the work and you’d just be along for the ride.”

“Work you say? I don’t know that I’ve ever considered it work, although in my head I do commend myself for doing a good job when I’m able to make your toes curl up tight. When I have to yank the sheet out from the clutches of your cramped toes, I know I’ve put in a good day’s work, and I got the job done to your satisfaction.”

Kelli chuckled. “In your dreams, pal. In your dreams.”

Kelli turned right onto Macon Avenue, drove up the hill, and wound her way along the narrow road to the entrance to the Grove Park Inn.

“Wow! This is quite impressive,” she said as they drove around the circle to the front doors where two valets in matching uniforms came out to open their car doors.

“Welcome to the Grove Park Inn. Are you two checking in to stay with us?” one of the young men asked.

“Thank you,” Andy replied. “Yes, we’re the Halstroms and we’re going to be spending

Christmas with you.”

“Excellent, sir. Reception is through the doors and to the right. If you two would like to head inside and get checked in, we’ll unload your luggage, park your car, and deliver your bags up to your room shortly.”

Andy and Kelli walked into the Great Hall, a massive room measuring one-hundred-andtwenty feet in length, eighty feet in width, and with twenty-four-foot-high ceilings. Fires roared in the two gigantic fireplaces, one at each end of the room, both twelve feet wide and six feet in height, big enough for most adults to stand up in, with andirons that weighed over five hundred pounds. Kelli slowly surveyed the Great Hall. A huge twenty-foot-tall Christmas tree twinkled in the middle of the room. Cedar and juniper garlands, red and green ribbons, and tinsel were out in abundance. Andy and Kelli said they wanted to go to some place Christmassy, and they’d found it at E.W. Grove’s Grove Park Inn.

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