HERE TOMORROW 7 PM PST. STACY GOLD AUTHOR OF: IN DEEP (SEE EXCERPTS)
7 PM PST.
Sophie Tremore is trying to build a career in the male-dominated world of Ski Patrol. Hard to do when her new boss is her smokin’ hot ex-lover. She hasn’t forgotten how he made her body tingle and her heart pound, although he’s making it a lot easier by treating her like she’s incompetent—when he’s not ignoring her existence altogether.
Emerald Mountain Ski Patrol Director Max Demford has been doing his best to avoid working with his feisty former flame, given his judgment is clouded by those eight mind-blowing weeks two years ago. Ski patrol is dangerous enough, and no way could he handle another person he cares about getting hurt on the mountain.
Forced to work together, their simmering attraction becomes difficult to ignore. When Sophie gets caught in a slide, an adrenaline-filled day could turn into a spectacular night they will never forget—one that could risk both their careers.
Novellas in the Emerald Mountain Series are stand-alone, not chronological, and can be read in any order!
I shoved open the door to the employee housing building.
That meeting with Max had not gone how I’d planned. I meant to be thoughtful and professional and well-rehearsed. I figured he’d try to sidestep my demands.
As usual, he’d been calm and professional while I flew off the handle. And he resolved the issue right away. Dammit. I’d been working up that mad for weeks. Being pissed at him gave me something to think about other than how much I still wanted him. Because he was damn sexy when he was all serious and professional. Even more so since I knew how deliciously unprofessional he could be.
Not that we were ever going there again. He was an asshole, and I didn’t want to screw up my whole career.
I clomped into my small, shared, two-bedroom apartment, trailing snow across the worn beige carpet. Not that it mattered. These units hadn’t been renovated in decades—if ever—and I sure as hell wasn’t the first staffer to drag snow in on my ski boots.
I threw my helmet, jacket, and gloves on the grizzled orange armchair, peeled off all but one of my layers and plopped down on the sagging blue plaid couch to undo my boots. Jordan’s door was closed, but the thumping rhythm of old-school hip-hop rumbled through the floorboards as I released my tired feet from their plastic prisons with a sigh of relief.
The only thing I’ve never liked about being on Ski Patrol was having to wear ski boots all damn day. Well that, and being treated like a weak, fragile little girl who couldn’t take care of herself. I had five older brothers I’d kept up with just fine all my life. I did not deserve that shit.
The music got louder and Jordan’s footfalls sounded behind me, barely audible above the bass.
“Hey.” I didn’t turn to look at him. Just sat there, hands on knees, emotions churning in my gut like the big tracks of a snowcat going around and around. I couldn’t tell if I was more pissed, confused, or worried.
Behind me, the fridge opened with a swoosh and closed with a rattle on its uneven feet. One bottle top clattered into the trash, then another. A beer appeared in front of my face. I took it.
“Thanks,” I muttered.
Jordan shoved my gear to the floor, sprawled in the old armchair, and stretched out his legs. He leaned back, the chair squeaking like it was in serious pain, and took a swig of his beer. “How was your day?”
“Weird and frustrating. How was yours?”
“Terrific. Fixed a buttload of fencing. Carted a wailing six-year-old down the mountain while his mom skied next to me, telling me the best way to tow the sled. Sidestepped about a million vertical feet. The usual.” He shrugged and took another sip.
A smile twitched my lips but didn’t take hold. My meeting with Max kept eating at me. I couldn’t make heads or tails of what went down. He’d been avoiding me all season, giving me rookie jobs, acting like I wasn’t capable. Definitely not apologizing for two years ago—or even talking about what happened between us. Now, suddenly, we were going to be being doing avy control together every day?
I should’ve been psyched, but I wasn’t. I couldn’t be.
The last thing I wanted was to spend more time with him. More time staring at his square jaw and broad shoulders. More time watching him calmly and methodically handle the craziest of situations. More time remembering how good it had been between us, with my face buried in his neck and his cock buried in my—
For eight weeks two years ago we’d been inseparable, a team. Max was smart and thoughtful and careful in the field during guide training. The best kind of partner, the kind I could trust with my life. That, I expected from anyone going for International Mountain Guide certification. What I didn’t expect were the nights we spent laughing and talking and having the best sex of my life.
Those two months in Chile, we couldn’t get enough of each other. Then we left, and he never returned my calls. Asshole.
Now I worked for him, and he’d been avoiding me and giving me scut work since day one.
Employees working together and screwing each other was against company policy, but we could’ve been friends. Except he barely even acknowledged that we knew each other. Yep. He was a grade A asshole. An asshole that happened to be a sex god, but an asshole nonetheless.
“Why was your day so weird?” Jordan asked.
I startled. “What? Oh…” I took a long pull from the bottle cooling my hand, trying to decide what, exactly, to say. Thumping bass filled the space between us. Not that the silence was awkward. We’d been friends for years. He knew I couldn’t keep anything in for long. All he had to do was wait and I’d spill.
The song ended, another one began, and I was no closer to figuring things out.
Ignoring his question, I jumped to the root of my issues instead. “What the fuck is Max’s problem?”
Jordan stared at me over the lip of his beer for a second. “What do you mean?”
“Why has he been treating me like an incompetent newbie?”
He an ankle over his knee. “Everyone starts out doing the easy stuff. Even experienced ’trollers. I was sweeping green runs and working first aid for the first month when I started. You just gotta be patient.”
“Yeah, I’ve been patient, but it’s been three fucking months. And I’ve got years more patrolling experience than you did when you started, plus my Avy 3, MTR and IFMGA certs.”
“So, I guess all my extra training doesn’t count for anything.” I took another swig of my beer. “I bet it would be different if I was a guy.”
Jordan’s brows lifted. “Maybe at some ski areas, but I never got the impression Max has anything but respect for the women he’s worked with. Including you.”
“Yeah, right. He has tons of respect for women. He just doesn’t believe I can do my job. Not the hard parts, anyway.”
“I don’t know.” He shrugged. “Brit did every job on the hill. But that was before Max came on board. If it’s bugging you that much, go talk to him.”
I grit my teeth, making my already tense jaw ache. “I just did.”
“Well, what did he say?”
“He’s going to mentor me personally, starting with avy control at the butt-crack of dawn tomorrow.”
The chair squealed as he leaned forward with a curious expression. “So, what’s the problem?”
I didn’t know, but I definitely still had one. Maybe I just hadn’t gotten laid in too damn long, so my body was fixating on Max. Despite the fact that he was an asshole. Despite the fact that I was so not going there. Not after the way he’d been treating me—like I didn’t matter and wasn’t good enough.
“I guess there isn’t one anymore.” I stood and sucked down the rest of my beer, setting it in the sink empty. “I’m gonna grab a shower. You want to split a pizza?”
“Sure. The usual?”
“Done.” Jordan reached for his phone to order one from the bar.
I closed my bedroom door and the music dimmed to a low thump. Stripping off my long johns I headed into my tiny en-suite bathroom, still trying to decide what was bugging me most.
Jordan was right. I’d gotten what I said I wanted. But I definitely wasn’t satisfied.
Emerald Mountain Ski Hut Caretaker Morgan Monroe doesn’t do casual relationships. Not anymore. Certainly not with the obnoxious, flirty, too-hot-for-his-own-good chef she’s wanted to strangle all season. He’s the kind of man she wouldn’t date in a million years, even if he were the dating type.
Chef Dan Griffin doesn’t believe in relationships. But a one-night stand to celebrate the end of ski season? Hell yes! Especially with the gorgeous caretaker. She’s sexy but melt-in-your-mouth sweet, the kind of woman who could convince a man to get serious…if he were the relationship type. She kept her distance all winter, but he’s hoping he can convince her to get closer for one night of passion.
When things heat up on a cold winter’s night, will they play it safe or follow their hearts?
Novellas in the Emerald Mountain Series are stand-alone, not chronological, and can be read in any 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 the 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 on 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 to 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.”
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