What’s Inside? Approximately 115 pages featuring an enemies-to-lovers workplace romance in a remote mountain ski hut, backcountry skiing, deep powder, and smokin’ hot sex.
*The novellas in the Emerald Mountain series are stand-alone, and the series is not in chronological order.
My phone vibrated against my thigh. I balanced my stack of boxes on the seat of my snowmobile, pulled off my glove with my teeth, and fished it out.
“Hey Sam, what’s up?” I crossed my fingers and stared up at the sky, just going lighter blue to the east. My breath puffed out in white clouds in the light from ski area lodge, where the early shift was prepping breakfast. Same thing I needed to be doing, but Sam’s news came first. For sure.
“I got in. Full scholarship.”
I punched my fist into the air. “Wahoo!” This was about to be the best, last day of the season ev-ER. “I knew you could do it.”
“I couldn’t have done it without you.”
“Awww, come on. You’re the one with the engineering brain and the good grades. All I did was listen to you read your essay.”
“Don’t sell yourself short. Your suggestions were spot on. And you’re the one who made sure I always made it to class. And had a hot breakfast.” Her grin came through in her voice. “Critical building blocks of success.”
“Whatever.” I fidgeted with flap of the box on the top of the stack. “I’m just really proud of you, Sam I Am.”
“Thanks, Daniel. You’ll come visit me at Dartmouth, right?”
“You know it. And we’ll celebrate together tomorrow night.”
“I can’t wait!”
A thump and muted voices came through the line.
“Hold on, Mom wants to talk to you. See you tomorrow!”
Switching my phone to my gloved hand, I stuffed my bare fingers under my armpit before they froze solid.
“Daniel, when should we expect you?”
“I ought to be home by five. Want help with dinner? I can pick up groceries, and make that pineapple upside down cake Samantha loves.”
“Yes, please. I’ll email you a shopping list.” She paused. “I’m glad you’re coming home. It’s been too long. The girls and I miss you.”
“I miss you, too. It’ll be weird when Sam leaves for college.”
“It will.” Her voice went low and soft. “The house is going to be so quiet with all three of you gone.”
“Awwwww, Mom. It’s not good for you to be alone. Maybe you should try dating again?” Not that she could ever replace Dad, but still. He’d been gone eighteen years. It was past time, and Mom deserved to do something for herself.
Her laughter came in a short, sharp burst. “I’m too old to start dating.”
I pictured her in our sunny yellow kitchen, lips pursed, hand on her hip. Her light brown eyes tight at the corners. The way she’d always looked when I pleaded permission for something she didn’t want me to do.
“No way. If I was twenty years older, and not your son, I’d be begging you for a date.”
This time when she laughed, the loneliness I’d heard before was gone. I grinned.
“I’ll make you a deal…” she said. “I’ll start dating when you do.”
“Ha. Good one, Mom.” Not like that was gonna happen anytime soon.
Lights came on in the lift shack at the base of the gondola. “Listen, I’ve got to run or I’ll be late. And hungry backcountry skiers can get violent.”
She laughed again. “Well, we can’t have that. The hut is a long way from first aid.”
I smiled. “Give Sam a hug for me, and I’ll see you all tomorrow night.”
“Okay. I love you. Be safe.”
“Love you, too.”
I shoved the phone in my pocket and did a little dance. Hella good start to my last day. If everything went according to plan, I’d be doing another kind of dancing tonight. With Morgan.
The roar of Dan’s snowmobile engine grew louder, and the ache in my jaw informed me I’d already started grinding my teeth.
I ducked down and reached deep into the back of the cupboard with my damp sponge. The ear-splitting rumbling ceased, remnants of it echoing through the valley. Cleaning the hut and locking it down for the season would take all day without interruptions. I wasn’t going to have an uninterrupted day.
Boots thudded on the stairs.
Nope. My solitude was going to end in three…two…one…
The door crashed open. “Good morning, beautiful! How’s my girl doing?”
Dammit. I ignored the booming voice and kept wiping. Ignored the ache spreading from my jaw to my temple.
The rustle and thump of boxes landing on the counter filled the space. I’d liked the quiet just the way it was.
“Get ready. Big group coming in this morning and I’m whipping up my world-famous Eggs Daniel.”
I swear he never stopped talking. Maybe if I ignored him, he’d be quiet until the guests arrived.
“I hope you’re hungry, because I put my whole heart into this recipe, and I’m dying to get a little piece of me, inside of you.”
Okay, there was obnoxious, and then there was plain gross. I threw the sponge on the shelf and backed out of the cupboard, glaring at the man doing his best to ruin my last day out here. And doing it in the first three minutes.
“Seriously? That’s your line?” I raised an eyebrow. “And I am not your girl.”
“Easy there.” He held out his hands, whether in supplication or defense it was hard to tell. “I’d guess maybe you didn’t get your beauty sleep, but you look gorgeous as ever. How ‘bout I make you coffee before I finish unloading the sled. Nothing like a good cup o’ joe to make the morning better.” Strong, even white teeth slashed his tanned face, practically glowing in the dim light of the cabin. “Well, maybe one thing.”
I winced. Jesus H. Christ. Who winks anymore?
It was all I could do not to roll my eyes. Instead, I went back to cleaning.
Dan Griffin had a nice smile in an even nicer face. I’d give him that. But that didn’t mean he wasn’t a raging ass. Or that coffee was going to improve my mood. The only thing that might would be finding out I could stay on as hut caretaker all summer. Not possible, given the resort didn’t run trips out here in the summertime.
I’d settle for not having to spend my last full day up here dealing with Dan. Putting up with his loud music, and his never-ending innuendos and bad pick-up lines. But that was almost as unlikely.
The snowcat would be here in an hour hauling hungry skiers expecting a big breakfast before a half-day of epic, untracked powder skiing. By the time breakfast was cleaned up, it’d be time to prep lunch. And Danny-boy was the chef all day.
I scrubbed at a splotch of sticky funk stuck on the cabinet door, and crossed mental fingers that I’d be able sneak away after lunch and make a few turns alone. Otherwise, I’d be a surly, moody mess by the time dinner guests arrived.
“Coffee’s on, beautiful. I’ll be back in a flash with the rest of the groceries.”
Shaking my head, I ducked into the cabinet again and wiped with renewed force. Ignored the stomp of his feet each time he crossed the plywood floor.
If he could just stop talking, I could deal with him intruding in my space. Because, despite the ponytail, with his chiseled cheekbones and lean muscles, he certainly improved the scenery. He just could never shut up.
Pretty sure all he ever talked about was sex, skiing, and cooking. Oh, and himself. Not necessarily in that order.
I’d put up with his bullshit all season. Surely, I could get through one more day without strangling him. “Murderer” wouldn’t add much to my journalism resume. And with eight feet of snow outside, no way could I dig a grave to hide the body.
“Something funny? What did I miss?”
My head slammed into the shelf above it. Sonofabitch.
I rocked back on my heels, rubbing the tender bump already forming.
“Oops. Sorry.” A sheepish grin anchored itself on his sculpted face. Not nearly apologetic enough—not that I expected him to care about anyone other than himself.
“Maybe this will help.” He waved a big, blue mug in front of my eyes.
“Thanks.” A caffeine infusion might be enough to keep me from killing him before he had a chance to fix breakfast for the incoming guests. I took the mug, avoiding his touch and his too-bright gaze. I didn’t want to provide any possible openings for more of his lines.
A white froth heart on the top caught my attention. “You made me a latte? How?” I brought the mug to my lips, savoring the nutty scent, and trying to figure out where he stashed the espresso machine. And the electricity.
“A beautiful woman deserves a fantastic cup of coffee.” He took a sip from his chipped, white enamel cup, hazel eyes flashing over the rim. “And a man is much sexier with a few secrets.”
I snorted, narrowly missing shooting coffee out my nose. Gah. Where did he get these cheesy lines?
“Whatever,” I mumbled, setting my mug down on the floor, and reached into the plywood cabinet again to finish cleaning the bottom shelf. Only twelve more hours, and I would never have to deal with Dan Griffin again.
I watched Morgan’s ass sway from side to side while she cleaned the cupboards. Helluva nice ass. Attached to a helluv-an amazing woman. Not that I had time to gawk like a teenage boy. Not if I was going to be ready with a cold breakfast buffet, plus made-to-order Eggs Daniel with my signature fresh avocado Hollandaise, in forty-five minutes.
Grabbing the cardboard box closest to me, I pulled out my sweet new iPod and speakers, and dialed up some classic G&R. Welcome to the jungle baby.
I sang along and emptied each box, spreading everything across the counter. Then I got busy doing what I do best. Well, maybe not what I do best, but cooking comes in a close second. My Axl Rose impression a close third.
I placed a few serving plates and a cutting board on the butcher block counter. Man, Morgan was something else. I’d been watching her, getting to know her, all season, and I was damn impressed. Not many women could stay in a hut like this, with no running water or even a bed. And she seemed happiest up here, by herself, splitting wood and shoveling snow. Plus, she was smart. Smarter than me by a long shot.
Still, I had talents. Lots of ‘em. I’d love to show Morgan all my greatest talents. Instead I got to chopping and prepping. Because women like her were dangerous. Get in too far, and they’d crush your heart.
Thirty minutes later, the low thrum of the snowcat engine seeped through the split log walls of the ski hut. Perfect timing! I stepped back and surveyed my handiwork.
Sweet breakfast spread on the counter? Check. Water on the stove churning at a slow boil? Check.
I slapped a couple split English Muffins face down on the cast iron griddle and grabbed the sauce pot off the other burner. I whisked my Hollandaise, getting into the rhythmic scrape of metal on metal, loving the way the pale green creaminess folded in on itself with every stroke. Brought a smile to my face every time.
Morgan came in from sweeping the front stairs. “Ready?”
The cat engine died outside.
“Yup. All set to show off my madd skillz.”
She shook her head, and looked like she wanted to say something. Probably something about my amazing cooking.
Boots thumped on the stairs, and a rush of cold air and conversation flooded the one room log cabin.
“Welcome to the Emerald Mountain Ski Hut.” Morgan’s chiming voice cut through it all. “You can hang your coats and gear on the hooks along the wall. I’m Morgan, hut caretaker, and this is your chef, Dan. Breakfast is ready. Just step up to the counter and he’ll take care of you.”
Eight sets of eyes, attached to eight curvaceous bodies in the process of being unwrapped, turned my way.
I let my smile slide across my face until it hit peak wattage. “Welcome. Step right up ladies, and allow me to serve you.”
Want to keep reading? Preorder your copy of Never You from one of these fine retailers, for delivery March 5th, 2018.