Rocky Mountain Hero

EXTENDED EXCERPT

Her heart fluttered at the sight of him, then it pounded, as she remembered the sight of her. She tried to melt into the shadows, but he’d spotted her. There was no escaping a humiliation worse than getting stuck on a climbing wall.

“I was hoping I’d catch you,” he said, his breath floating up in clouds of white.

She fumbled around in her pocket and tugged a red beanie over her disobedient hair. “How long have you been waiting? It’s pretty cold out here.”

“It’s not even below freezing,” he said with a grin. “I just climbed an ice face today. This is practically balmy.”

He shrugged out of his puffy down coat and draped it over her shoulders, which were covered only by a thin, wool coat she’d bought at the thrift store a couple of years earlier. His distinctive scent hit her nose, and she smiled. She’d never drink eggnog again without thinking of Spike.

“Thanks.”

If he kept being all chivalrous, she was going to have a really hard time not daydreaming about him.

“My pleasure,” he said, taking her bucket from her hand. When their fingers touched, a little zap of static electricity sparked between them. Because…of course it would.

“Amy, I have a little proposition for you.”

She shot him a suspicious look. “Oh, really?”

“Nothing lewd, sad to say,” he laughed. “I was wondering if you’d be interested in working for me.”

Amy stopped mid-step in total shock. “Excuse me?”

“I want to offer you a job.”

It took a minute for her befuddled brain to untangle his words. Then it hit her. He wanted to hire her as a cleaning lady because…of course he would. Why this saddened her beyond all comprehension was a mystery.

“Oh, okay. I have a rate schedule for cleaning in my car. Let me just—“

“Not a once a week cleaning job,” he said, laying a hand on her forearm to stop her. Even through his thick coat and her thinner wool one, the heat from his touch felt like a thousand suns. “I’m offering you a long-term job.”

“Doing what?” Her prowess at outdoor sports had been proven pretty convincingly the day before at the training center. Other than occasional easy hikes and a few bike rides on the outskirts of town, Amy had no time to pursue extreme — and extremely expensive — leisure activities.

Spike pulled his hand away as if he’d felt the heat between them too, and she stumbled back a step or two to put some space between them. He scrubbed at the back of his neck, and took a deep breath before continuing. At least it wasn’t just her brains that were scrambled.

“Um, Zach and I— You remember Zach?”

“Vaguely.”

“Well, we need some help. Rocky Mountain Adventures is growing, and neither one of us is good with the office stuff. Surprise, surprise.”

He winked and tipped her that crooked Roberts grin, which made her feel all warm and mushy inside. Stop already!

“I don’t know anything about your line of work, Spike.”

“You don’t need to. Not much anyway. I mean, you know what snowboarding is, right?”

She laughed and pulled his coat tighter around her body so she could smell him. “I might have heard of it.”

“There you go. You’re qualified. Now, I have to warn you, the place is a disaster, so there will be a little cleaning and organizing at first. Mostly, we need someone to answer the phone, book trips, collect paperwork, and so on. Basically all the boring stuff we hate doing. Part-time, for now, but we're hoping hiring someone will free us up to do more trips so we can grow even more. What do you say?”

Amy had no idea what to say. This was all so unexpected that — coupled with her exhaustion and Spike’s strangely dizzying effect on her — she couldn’t speak for some time. On one hand, she’d do just about anything to not have to wash dishes all afternoon, then then clean offices all night. On the other, she’d be working for Spike. With Spike. Just a few feet away from Spike. She tried to remember all the things she’d decided a few minutes ago, but it all sounded like static in her head.

“B-but I just started at Mo’s this afternoon,” she finally fumbled out. “I can’t just—“

Spike crossed the short distance between them in one stride and took her trembling hands in his. The street light illuminated his features and allowed her to stare deep into his eyes. Or rather, he stared into hers and she couldn’t look away. She was utterly powerless when he touched her.

“Please don’t say no, Amy. We need you.” His gaze drifted down to her mouth. “I need you.”

Her entire body went slack, her insides seeming to be made of nothing but Jello. Her mind quickly followed suit, a single thought running over and over through it, blotting out all other thought.

Whatever you want, all you have to do is ask.

A spark of common sense flared just long enough to butt in, Isn’t that how you got into this whole mess in the first place? But it wasn’t enough to stop her from saying yes.