The white powder crunched beneath his skis. Connor Rankin didn’t need to look back to know his best friend Lance was fast on his heels. The only thing holding Lance back from being a better skier would be that he lived in the stifling, humid warmth of Charleston, South Carolina.
Nothing made Connor feel more alive than taking the double diamond slope at neck-breaking speed. Rounding the bend, he slid out, turning to gaze up the hill he had conquered. Lifting his goggles, he smiled. “The snow is perfect.”
“That was exactly what I needed,” Lance admitted. “Another run?”
They had been riding the slopes for the last several hours and, at the moment, they had no reason to stop. They chatted on the rides up the mountain, but the descent was always a one-man joyride. At the top of the slope, they watched three people struggling to make it down the mogul run. Waiting until the run was clear before attacking the mounds head-on, they were just to push off when something caught his eye. Mid-run down the first section, he spotted a bent pole and a red spot in the otherwise-white snow.
“Do you see that?” Connor asked.
With the tip of his pole, he indicated the direction. “The small patch of red over there by the tree line.”
“I do.” Lance bit his gloves off and pulled out his phone. “Damn. No signal. I thought they were going to address that.”
“Wait here. I’ll check and you can alert the lift operator to get help if needed.” Connor pushed off and made his way across the slope. Lance remained up on the hill, waiting. As he got closer, he worked his skis off. Someone had hit the tree. He found skis, a rental pair, one broken in the snow mound. The second pole lay in the trees. He followed the tracks and, a few feet away, he saw the body. The skier must have hit their head and stumbled. “Lance, get the ski patrol,” he yelled.
He made his way through the knee-deep snowdrifts to the skier in light pink. Gently, he turned her over. Her breathing held strong, but her blonde hair was soaked with blood from the still-seeping wound. Removing his coat, he placed it over her body and, after pulling his scarf off, applied pressure on the cut. “Can you hear me?”
Her lips parted on a groan.
“It’s okay. Help is coming.”
She moaned and moved into him.
“What’s your name?”
Her eyes, beautiful hazel with green rimming the edge of the irises, fluttered open. “Where am I?”
“At the moment, in the snow.”
“Oh.” She tried to sit up.
“Please wait, ski patrol is on its way.”
She eased into him and pouted. “Don’t make me ride down on the red sled. I already feel like an idiot.”
“Trust me, you can’t get down on your skis. They are broken.”
“No.” This time she did sit up. “Oh, I think I might throw up.”
“Just lie back and try to relax. You most likely have a concussion.”
“Damn it. I really needed to get my deposit back on those,” she said on a near sob.
He checked the head wound again. “Shhh. Don’t worry about that now. You need to focus on getting down this hill.”
He heard voices in the distance getting closer. Connor offered her a gentle smile, and she reached up and grabbed his arm. “Please don’t leave me?”
“I’ll stay until your family or friends get here. I am sure someone has gotten down the hill by now and are waiting.”
“There is no one on the mountain. I came up on my own today.”
“You were skiing a double diamond on your own?”
“I’m a great skier. Today notwithstanding.”
“I’ll let you prove it to me later on.” He stayed as close by as he could as the ski patrol eased her into the dreaded red sled. He grabbed her skis and poles and followed close behind. Getting down the mountain was slow going, but safety was the key, and as their patient seemed to be stable, there wasn’t a great rush.
Lance waited for him at the end of the run. “How’s the patient?”
“A little bruised, I guess. If it’s okay with you, I think I’m going to follow her to first aid to make sure she has everything she needs. But, first, I’m going to deal with the issue of her rental deposit.”
“That ski is toast,” Lance pointed out.
“We can take the hit.”
Lance shrugged. “I could use a break anyway, With the sun setting, I’m reminded this southern blood is thin. I’ll head back to the hotel and meet you there?”
He waved his best friend away. He would deal with her fees, check on her then head to the bar for a quick beer. He told himself he was only following up on her because his mother would never forgive him if he didn’t. He would pay for the skis because, quite frankly, the cost was less than the bar tab a few nights back, and he had the money, where his damsel in distress appeared to be not so well-off.
He also needed to find out her name.
The small wood shack with a large red cross on it stood just past the main lodge. Taking the steps one at a time as best as one can in a pair of downhill ski boots. Stepping inside, the warmth of the building washed over him.
“Can I help you?”
Taking off his gloves and hat, he offered a smile to the young girl behind the desk. “I’m looking for a woman who would have been just brought in from the Bend. I am the one who found her, and I want to make sure she’s okay.”
“Hold on one second.” She smiled and shimmied her ass a bit more than necessary. Good lord, she was probably half his age. Give or take a year. A second later, she returned from the back. “Third bed on the right.”
“Thanks.” He removed his coat and walked down the hall to find her resting on a gurney, a white bandage on her forehead. “How’s the head?”
She smiled. “Hi. They gave me some Tylenol for the pain. I seem to have a concussion.”
“Sort of called that one.”
She grimaced but didn’t say anything.
“So, when are they springing you from this joint?”
“I’m trying to get ahold of my friend who I came with this morning. I skied, and she went to party. I can’t leave until I have a babysitter to wake me up every couple of hours.” She sighed. “But Kimberley doesn’t seem to be answering her phone.”
“And this Kimberly didn’t want to ski with you?”
“No. She hates the slopes but loved the lodge, the bars, and the hot tubs.”
“So it’s very likely her phone is somewhere with her clothes and out of reach.”
“That’s my fear.” She scooted up the bed and patted the edge. “Sit down. So, do I get to know the identity of my rescuer?”
“Connor Rankin. And you are…?” he asked though he had discovered her identity when he returned the skis.
“Well, Ms. Scott, are you sure your friend will turn up?”
“I have the car keys.”
“That would do it.” He chuckled. “How about I treat you to a meal in the lodge. Well, more like a cup of oatmeal and some toast.”
Her brow furrowed. “Not usually an oatmeal kind of gal.”
“Yes, well, having been on the receiving end of a concussion or two, the one thing I remember is my mother always gave me oatmeal and toast. Easy on the stomach she claimed.” He stood. “What do you say?”
“Oatmeal sounds pretty good right now.”
“Let me go get someone to spring you.” He winked and left the curtained area.
Breanne let her smile fade. Her jaw hurt from pretending to be happy to see Connor Rankin. She reached for her phone and reread the text message from her sister.
Sarah~ Brea, he stood me up. He had me come all the way to Vegas to elope and he didn’t come.
Breanne~ Who? What are you talking about
Sarah~ Connor wanted to keep us a secret. He didn’t want the press to be mean to me, he said. But he didn’t show. I’m stuck in Vegas.
Breanne~ I’m calling
Sarah~ No, I don’t want to talk. Can you just send me a ticket home?
Sarah~ Brea, don’t be mad at me.
Breanne~ I’m not mad at you. Who is this Connor?
Sarah~ Connor Rankin
Breanne~ YOUR BOSS?
Sarah~ Don’t yell at me, please. I love him, and I thought he loved me.
The sound of boot steps coming back had her changing the screen on her phone. She plastered a on a smile and wondered how she’d thought she could pull this off. “Someone from the rental shop is bringing over your shoes so you don’t have to walk around in your ski boots.”
“But it’s so sexy.” She bit her lower lip and let her gaze linger on his fine-shaped ass. And it was fine. She couldn’t fault her sister for falling for this man. Under different circumstances, he would have been just her type. Tall, well built, and with that sexy haven’t-shaved-in-a-few-days scruff. She had never been great at flirting, but right now she pulled out all the stops. She would be damned if this man got away with what he’d done to her sister. She would break his heart and leave it in a million, no, a billion, billionaire pieces.
“Well, I guess I’ll have to keep mine on, then.” He moved aside as a young boy came in with a bag for her.
She got her release papers with suggestions to eat light and follow up if she vomited or if they had a hard time waking her up. He led her through the lodge. “I thought…?”
“There is a waffle joint about a five-minute walk down the mountain. You up for it?”
“Sounds delightful. I’m not keeping you from anyone, am I?”
“Nope. I’m sure Lance is doing just fine on his own.”
“Hooking up with the townies?”
“Nah. He’s a good Southern boy who is pining for his Cinderella.” He looked up at the hotel. “Would you mind if we stop off to get my boots?”
She raised an eyebrow.
His eyes twinkled with mirth. “You can stay in the lobby. I’ll run up to my room.”
“They even have cocoa in the lobby.”
“Well, that’s all you had to say.” Breanne made a beeline for the coffee and cocoa in what she was sure was the continental breakfast nook. Steaming cup in hand, she took a seat out of the way where she could keep an eye on the elevators. Her phone rang. “Hello?”
“Brea, where are you?” Sarah demanded, her voice full of panic.
“Hanging out with Kim for the weekend. Why?”
“Oh.” Her sister calmed, which seemed strange. “Kim hates skiing.”
“Yes, she does,” Breanne said carefully. “Why?”
“I thought you went skiing today. Kim posted online that she was at the Diamond Run Inn. I just… If you’re with Kim, then it’s okay.” She giggled.
Her sister seemed to be teetering on the edge. All because of Connor Rankin. As if by magic, the elevator opened, and he emerged. “Hey, can I call you later?”
“I’m going out with a friend.”
“Good. You need to get out. Enjoy yourself.” She rang off and stood to greet him. “I thought you were just changing your shoes?”
“Jeans are more comfortable. Hope you don’t mind.”
She made a show of looking over the jeans, letting her eyes rest on his perfect ass. “Don’t mind at all.”
“Connor!” A yell rent the quiet of the lobby.
“We’ve been caught.” He groaned and then smiled. “Hey, Lance.”
“Hey.” He paused, his eyes lingering on the bandage on her forehead. She reached up to touch the wound. “You must be…”
“The klutz,” she finished. “Hi. Breanne.”
“We’ve all had a bad fall once or twice. Now you’ll have a great tale to tell.”
“Hadn’t thought of it that way.” She liked Lance and wouldn’t judge him by the company he kept. “We’re heading for waffles. Want to come along?”
“Yes, that sounds—awful. No, I”—he made a big display of yawning—“I think I’ll head to bed. I want to hit the slopes early. I won’t wait for you in the morning.”
“Don’t.” Connor chuckled.
As soon as they were out of earshot, she turned. “I need you to know I won’t sleep with you tonight.”
He faced her. “I never assumed you would. I don’t do one-night stands, and I never sleep with women I just met. Those situations always get men in my position into trouble.”
“But what was just said…”
“Lance is a morning person. I’m not. Also, we’ve no idea how long it will take your friend to call. The waffle house is open twenty-four hours, and who knows how much coffee it will take to stay up. There is no way I’m getting up for the first runs on the mountain tomorrow.”
She blushed and wondered why she felt any shame about him. But she did. His words rang true and his face showed no signs of deceit. She spent her life reading people both with and without lie detectors. She saw nothing in his demeanor that said anything but he spoke the truth. “I’m sorry. That was rude.”
“No, it was honest, and you spoke your truth. If more people were upfront and honest, there would be a lot fewer misunderstandings.”
As they made their way down the hill to the yellowed fluorescent lights of the diner, she second-guessed herself. This man spoke with honor and truth. What if she had it wrong? What if her sister was talking about someone else? There could be more than one Connor Rankin. She hadn’t reached a point of no return. She could have a meal with this man, get to know him better, and decide what to do. If he was the monster who stood her sister up, she would wreck his world. But if he was innocent, she could walk away with nothing worse than a self-imposed and possibly well-deserved concussion.
They took a booth by the window with a beautiful view of the mountain. Now that the sun had set, the trails were aglow with lights. “It’s beautiful.”
“I love skiing at night.”
“Is that why you come here instead of one of the larger resorts?”
“That and there’s less partying here. More family based.” He leaned back in the booth. “That strikes you as odd?”
“A little. I mean you’re young, attractive, and, I assume, unattached.”
He held up his left hand. “Very unattached.”
She watched and listened for any signs he might be untruthful. “So, no girlfriend?”
“Not even casual.”
This didn’t add up with her sister’s tale. All his mannerisms made her want to believe him. “You said a man of your position?”
“I’m well-off. It puts a target on my back for money-hungry women.”
“I have no interest in your money.” She couldn’t blame his show of disbelief as his eyes narrowed and eyebrows lowered. “Scout’s honor.”
He leaned forward. “Then tell me what your interest is?”
“First, your amazing eyesight. Second, your heroism. You are, after all, my knight in tight ski pants. And let’s not forget, you look good in a pair of jeans.”
“So this is about my ass.”
“It certainly doesn’t hurt.”
He eased back, and his shoulders relaxed. “Better than my money.”
“Money? Oh no. I didn’t return my skis. Well, what’s left of them.” She got up. She couldn’t afford another day’s rental on top of the damages.
“It’s taken care of.” He took her wrist with a gentle touch. “Please sit.”
“No. I didn’t buy the extra insurance.” She’d worried that would make her accident look preplanned, which it was, but she had hoped to do no real damage to the skis. So far, this was going down as her worst idea ever.
“The mountain is taking it as a loss.”
“Why would they do that?”
“Because I own a part in the mountain,” he murmured.
She sat because she knew he had money, but not this kind of money. “How big a part?”
“I’m the controlling owner.”
“And what about Lance?”
“He has the smaller share. We bought it shortly after we each came into our trust funds. We always liked this part of New Hampshire and wanted a place where our future families could go. Something to be proud of. My sisters are here for the long weekend with their children and husbands.”
“Why aren’t you having dinner with them?”
“Because I will guarantee the children are asleep, and if the adults aren’t, then they are making more babies.”
“Oh.” Heat infused her cheeks. She was saved for the moment as he placed an order for both of them.
“I get to spend the morning with them. I’ll run the bunnies with the two older kids.” He grinned.
“You like children?”
“I like some children. But I love my nieces and nephews. My family is very close.”
“Must be nice.”
“You’re not close to your family?”
“There is only me and my sister.”
“Two against the world?”
“More often than not, it’s one against the world and holding the leash.”
“You must be the eldest.”
“I am. You, too?”
“Oh no, the middle child. I have chain marks from having my leash yanked more than once.” He moved his collar to show the imaginary marks. But all she could think about was putting her lips on the hollow area of his clavicle. “They might have had good reason to hold me back.”
“Somehow, that doesn’t surprise me.” She laughed imagining him in his younger years. “So, what made you change your ways?”
“Oh, I didn’t change. There were two more baby sisters for Becca to focus on, saving me and my neck from her controlling reach.” He thanked the waitress who brought them their coffees. “What about you? Do you still hold the leash, or has she broken free?”
“She tends to run me in circles.”
“We do that well.”
“She won’t see me or speak to me, usually. She’ll text me up a storm, though.”
“Why is that?” he asked.
“Probably because I’m like a human lie detector.”
She swallowed hard. This was where people either scoffed or ran for cover for fear she would discover their deep dark secrets. “My job is not only to read lie detector tests, but people.”
“That is a bit intimidating.”
She choked on her water. “You believe me?”
“Why wouldn’t I?”
“Because most people think it’s a pseudoscience.”
“I know a lot about running successful businesses. So I know there is something to reading body language. Telling when someone is bluffing or desperate. If I can read it, why can’t there be someone better at it than me?”
“Hmm.” A novel way to think of it. “Well, my sister hates it. “
He reached out and cupped her hands as she fidgeted with the straw wrapper.. “You worry about her.”
“I do.” She decided to tell him more and see what his reaction might be. “Sarah keeps telling me she is in love with this guy, but I’ve never met him.”
“How long have they been involved?”
“Does it matter?”
“Yes,” he said, tapping his coffee cup. “I mean, my baby sister dated her husband for two years and told no one about it. She didn’t want us getting involved.”
“Me. She was afraid I would get all, ‘What are your intentions for my sister?’ on him.”
“I don’t know how long. She’s talked about him for over a year. But only last month did she let on it was more than a professional relationship.”
He paused at that. “Bad move to date someone you work with. Never seems to end well.”
“You speak from personal experience?”
He shook his head. “No, not me. But I have certainly witnessed enough office romances to see the outcomes. What does she say about this boyfriend?”
“She tells me about how he looks, how he smells, about his personality.”
“What about what they do?”
“She doesn’t talk about that.” And she had worried about it.
Good lord, the man would have made a good interrogator. “How about what he likes about her?”
“I’ve asked. but she changes topics.” She closed her eyes. God, she had been blind. Too close to her sister to read clear misdirection.
“He doesn’t exist.”
A part of her wanted to call his bluff now and scream, “You very much exist.” But she took a calming breath. “Why would you say that?”
“When someone is bluffing or lying, and they are good at it, they stick to facts, yes? She might be telling you facts about a man, but I would bet they aren’t an item.”
“That’s a big assumption.” And looking more and more like the right one. It pissed her off that a man she’d known for a short period of time could read a situation better than she.
“You’re right. I’m sorry. I don’t know all the facts.”
Shit. She didn’t know why his pulling away bothered her. Was it that it backtracked on her plans to break his heart the way he broke her sister’s? Not that she really believed that story, anymore. Or maybe something inside her liked that they were connecting. Which was demented, as there was no way they could be anything to each other. Damn. She wished she had met him…
No. She wasn’t going there.
Connor eased into the corner, his body language making it clear he had pulled away. He circled the rim of his coffee cup with his index finger. The awkward silence stretched. She checked her phone to see if she had any messages. Still nothing. This is what happens when your plans went to shit. Plans? She had not planned this well at all. She had let her emotions lead her, and this was the very reason she didn’t deal with emotions.
Their meals came. His, a big plate of pancakes, bacon, and eggs. Hers, some oatmeal with honey and two slices of wheat toast. God, she hated oatmeal. She eyed his hotcakes, and her stomach groaned. She was surprised to find a forkful of pancakes waved under her nose.
“Go ahead. I won’t tell.”
“But I thought I was only to have oatmeal.” She emphasized her disgust by spooning a lump and letting it drop again. “Besides, didn’t your mother say something about oatmeal and toast?”
He waved the fork under her nose again. “I neglected to tell you my father snuck me in pancakes. It’s why I thought we should come here.”
She closed her lips around the bite and groaned. “That’s good.”
“I know.” He took a bite himself then offered her another. “Go on. We can order more.”
“Do you own this place, too?”
He shook his head. “Sadly, no, but they have promised me first refusal should they choose to sell.”
“Are you kidding me?” How much money did this guy have?
“If I can buy a ski resort, I think I can afford a diner.”
“When I asked the ski patrol who rescued me, they didn’t seem to know.”
“Most of the seasonal employees don’t know me. They just think I’m a regular with a season pass. I prefer it that way. I get to ski like everyone else and can still see to the day-to-day running of the company from my offices in Boston. I have great managers who I trust and who know better than I what it takes to make this place a success.”
“So, you sit back and make more money.”
He frowned. “Perhaps it is you this time who doesn’t have all the information.”
“Tell me, then?”
“I don’t know you well enough to share my business secrets. But I’ll share my pancakes.” He pushed the plate toward her.
“These are preferable,” she said, taking a mouthful.
“I rarely share my food with anyone. But I do love a woman who eats.”
“Really?” Her sister was stick thin and never ate anything more than a dry salad.
“Really. I want someone who isn’t going to pass out on me. I enjoy food, all kinds, and I want a woman who will enjoy it with me. And before you say something about high-end cuisine, let me assure you, I love a good greasy burger from the joint on the corner.”
She took another bite. “I wouldn’t dream of it.”
“Perhaps you are a human lie detector, but you suck at lying.” He signaled for another cup of coffee. “How about we call it even? I insulted you unintentionally. You insulted me—unintentionally?”
“So, how about safe topics?”
“Funny how what you do and family isn’t a safe topic for us. Perhaps we should go with religion and politics?”
“Brilliant idea. Have dinner with me tomorrow?”
“I can’t. We’re leaving tonight.”
“You have to work Monday?”
“No, it’s a holiday. But—”
“As it happens, my parents were unable to come up this weekend. We have a room at the hotel sitting empty.”
“I can’t, really.” Her phone rang. A picture of Kimberley with Octoberfest glasses came on her screen. “I’d better take this.” She answered, “Kimberley.”
“Oh my god, Brea, are you okay?”
“I have a concussion.”
“Damn, girl. I am so sorry. My phone died, and I finally found a charger. Where are you?”
“You know the Waffle Diner down the hill from the resort?”
“You went for waffles?”
“Pancakes, actually.” She glanced over at Connor who was lifting another forkful. He cast her a guilty smile before shoving the bite into his mouth. “Really good pancakes.”
“I’m on my way.” The phone disconnected.
“She wasn’t impressed with you going for waffles?”
“You heard that, huh?”
“I think the whole diner did.” He smiled. He pulled a card from his wallet, turned, and grabbed the pen off the table behind him, and wrote a number followed by RM 400. “Think about my offer. I’m not asking for anything more than dinner and a chance to get to know each other better.”
She studied his facial features. “Hmmm.”
“You’re telling the truth.”
“Well, I wouldn’t be adverse to a kiss tomorrow night, but I don’t expect it.”
She stood up in the booth, leaned over the table, and brushed her lips against his. She closed her eyes then opened her lips as he took the kiss a little deeper. She didn’t know if it was the hit to the head or the power of her damned attraction to him. She stumbled back into her seat. This wasn’t happening. She wasn’t sexually attracted to the man her sister was accusing of leaving her at the altar.
“You look a little green around the edges.” Connor stood up and came to her side of the table. “Drink some water.”
“No. I’m fine,” she lied.
“This is a first. I’ve never had a woman turn that lovely shade from a kiss.”
“Oh no, your kiss was…” She smiled.
“I love your smile.” He cupped her check and ran his thumb over her bottom lip. “Please have dinner with me tomorrow night?”
“I told you this was only a day trip.”
“And I told you there is a room for both you and your friend. No ties.”
The bell over the front door rang. “Brea?”
“Over here.” She waved but didn’t stand.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Kimberley asked, fingering the bandages. She addressed Connor. “You are?”
“This is Connor. He found me,” Breanne answered. “This is Kimberley.”
“Pleasure.” He reached a hand out in greeting. “Now that your friend is here, I will leave you to it.” He handed a sheaf of papers across the table. “Kimberly, this is the concussion information. I wish she would see a doctor, but she refuses.” He glanced at his expensive watch. “She’s due for another ice pack.”
“Thanks,” Kimberley said.
He turned back to Breanne. “The offer is still there should you want it. Use it or not, it’s up to you. Nice to meet you, Kimberley.” He kissed Breanne’s cheek and left without a backward glance.
“What was that about?” Kimberley sat across the table from her. “And who is Connor?”
Kimberley leaned forward and lowered her voice. “You mean your sister’s boss and the man who left her waiting at some cheap tacky drive-thru chapel in Vegas?”
She blew out a breath. “That’s what I thought.”
“I’m not so sure now.” She rubbed above her eyebrow.
“Did you plan this meet up?”
Breanne chose not to answer. “Do you know that I’ve never met one of my sister’s boyfriends?”
“That can’t be right.”
“It is. Connor made a comment. It pissed me off at first, made me emotional.”
“Which you hate to be.”
Her friend knew her too well. “Once my emotional fog cleared, I thought about what Connor said. First, he said her boyfriend didn’t exist.”
“Of course he exists. You were looking at him.”
“Then he said, if he does, they aren’t together.” She picked up the unused butter knife and tapped it in her hand. “When I asked Connor if he had a girlfriend, he said no…”
“And the human lie detector knew he was telling the truth.”
“Yep, but that means my sister isn’t.”
“And you started thinking that perhaps none of her tales are true.”
“Perhaps. I can’t believe my sister would lie to me. And if she did, then I need to get her to see a doctor. Don’t I?”
“Your sister is a grown woman. You can’t baby her forever.” Kimberley stood. “Okay, girl, you ready to head back? It’s a long ride, and it looks like I’m doing all the driving.”
“I forgot to ask about the guy you met,” she said, also standing up.
“He is staying through Monday, but we have a date set for next weekend.” She turned and squealed.
Her friend was in the early stages of a crush. And Breanne was not really up to a three-hour drive back home. “What are you doing tomorrow and Monday?”
“Oh, you know, laundry and perhaps some binge TV watching in my jammies.”
“What if we could stay here through Monday?”
“Right? With what money?”
“Connor has a room in the Diamond Run Inn for us.”
Her eyebrows rose in surprise as her mouth opened. “You’re joking?”
“No, but we don’t have a change of clothes. Or even an overnight bag.”
“We can deal with that tomorrow. Tonight, we are sleeping in five-star comfort.”
Anxious, Breanne made her way up the hill and back into the lobby, accompanied by her excited friend. She half expected him to have lied, been the kind of liar who could fake it. That would make her sister’s story more plausible, wouldn’t it? She approached the front desk. “I believe you have a room for Breanne Scott.”
The receptionist typed in the names. “Yes, Ms. Scott. We have a room for two. Number 312. Mr. Rankin would like for our hotel doctor to see you. Would it be okay for me to call him and ask him to come up to your room?”
“Ah sure, I guess.”
“He also asked if you would like us to call you every two hours to check on you, or if your friend will wake you?”
“I think my friend can handle it.” At least she hoped so.
“Wonderful. Do you have any baggage we can take to your room?”
“No. we’re good.”
They were given directions to their room and handed two water bottles each and a key. Neither spoke until they opened the room. “Holy cow.”
The sage-green and hardwood decor took her breath away. Through the long hall which included the closet and bathroom, the room opened up to two queen-sized beds. On each bed lay a single large boxes, one with her name on it and one with Kimberley’s. Kimberley opened hers first and gasped. Inside lay all the things one could need for a weekend away. A note on top read…
With the compliments of the hotel. Should you need a different size, please contact the front desk who will accommodate your needs. A laundry bag is in the closet. Please let us know when you are ready for a pickup. Delivery will be made by six a.m.
She opened hers to find the exact same items in a larger size.
One pair of super-soft pajamas, one pair of jeans. Two pairs of silk underwear, functional but sexy. Two pairs of socks. One white tee shirt with the inn’s logo on it and a large gray sweatshirt with the same embellishment. She moved to the closet and found four pairs of sneakers in a variety of sizes and four of hiking boots on one side. On the other side of the closet, there was one of each. He knew her size from the rental shop.
Kimberley came out of the bathroom. “This man thinks of everything.”
She could not quite talk over the lump in her throat as she peeked through the door. In the bathroom were two pink bags with toiletries and a reservation card for them both to the spa in the morning. “I don’t know. Perhaps we should head home and have a jammie day tomorrow instead.”
“Girl, you are a lousy liar.”
The doctor came by and assessed her head and determined she looked far better than he’d anticipated. Didn’t think she actually had a concussion but promised to check on her in the morning. After her shower, she tried to call the cell number he gave her, but he didn’t answer so she picked up the hotel phone. “Can you connect me to room 400?”
“I’m sorry, ma’am. That room isn’t accepting outside calls.”
“Oh, thank you.” She bit her cheek and paced the floor. “Should I go up and thank him personally?”
“He gave you his cell number. Call him.”
“I tried that first but it goes straight to voice mail.”
“Ah. Then, why not?”
She threw on the new jeans and the sweatshirt and headed barefoot to the elevator. A minute later she reentered the room, deflated. The fourth floor button would not work for her in either elevator. She walked over to the phone. “Can I help you?”
“Yes, can you leave a message for another guest?”
“Connor in room 400. Thank you for everything. Yes to dinner, when and where?”
“Is this all?”
“Yes, and thank you.”’
Kimberley lay on her bed. “Wasn’t in his room?”
“I can’t access the fourth floor without a keycard.”
“Oh. Sooooo, would you mind if I went down to the bar? I called Rick, and he wants to meet up tonight. I promise to come up in a few hours and check on you.”
“I don’t need to be chaperoned. Besides, you’re not my keeper. If ‘Rick’ is here in the building, by all means, you need to go.”
“Thanks, hon. Seriously, I’ll just be downstairs. Call if you need me.”
Alone, she changed into the sleepwear and climbed into bed. Her whole body relaxed into the soft bedding. She wasn’t sure how long she had been asleep when the very annoying ring of the phone next to her started. She fumbled with the headset before finally managing to bring it to her ear.
“What day is today?” the male voice on the other end asked.
“What day is today?” he said more forcefully.
“Come on. You have to answer the question.”
“Saturday, I think but I don’t know what time it is.”
“Good enough.” He chuckled. “Sorry about the call block.”
She yawned and curled into the pillows. She loved the sound of his voice, gruff with a light huskiness. “Does tend to make a relationship one-sided.”
“Keeps me in charge.”
“You like to be in charge.”
“I only think I’m in charge. I learned a long time ago the women in my life are in charge. From my mother all the way down to my executive assistant. They sometimes let me think I have the last say.”
“Smarter than you know. And they would like you.”
She bit her lip. The idea of meeting his mom both scared and elated her. She had just met him, and yet here she was having schoolgirl fantasies of a man she came here to hate. There was no way to make this work. Either he was lying, which she doubted, or her sister was, which broke her heart. Someone was bound to lose, and she suspected it might be her.
“Did I scare you off?” he asked.
“How about I call you in the morning?” he asked gently.
“Can’t we just talk a bit?” she asked, panicked at the idea of cutting off the call.
“Sort of like a first date over the phone.” He chuckled.
“Yeah. It’s nice this way. I can feel normal without reading every muscle in your face to tell if you are lying or not.”
“That must suck.”
“I knew my father was leaving before I think he did. I knew my mother was cheating on my stepfather a year before he found out. And my sister won’t see me or talk to me because I don’t allow her her secrets.”
“I have few secrets to hide. I don’t cheat ever, and I don’t plan to leave.”
“We just met,” she said on a hitch.
“When you opened those beautiful green eyes, you sucker punched me. Who knows where it might lead, but at least give us a shot?”
She closed her eyes. How she wanted that fantasy. She could almost taste it. “Thank you for the clothes and shoes.”
“I would love to take credit, but that’s something the gift shop puts together for guests who have lost their luggage. But, either way, I was happy to do it.”
The inflection in his voice indicated that he was uncomfortable about her thanking him for something that was so little to him. Even if the jeans might have cost her a week’s salary. “So, what do you talk about on a first date?”
At three a.m., when Kimberley returned, they were still talking, and she felt like a teenager caught on the phone long past lights out. After a quick got-to-go and sneaking the phone receiver back into its cradle, she feigned sleep. When sleep did come to her, she dreamt of a man with a strong jaw, sexy voice, and a kiss to melt her knees.