Authors: Stacy Gail
Welcome to Mia’s travel nightmare
Distraught that her long-distance engagement might be on the rocks, Mia Flowers needs a polar vortex diverting her flight to Montana like she needs a hole in the head. She’s determined to get face-to-face with her philandering fiancée, but her too-sexy host, Quinn Kingfisher, soon has her rethinking not just her final destination, but everything else in her life. All it takes is one stripping-her-naked glance from him, and suddenly her world goes
Quinn’s got a hell of a lot on his plate. He’s opening Whiteout Mountain Ski Resort and Spa in a couple of weeks, and if it’s not a success he’ll be wiped out. Added to that, his family and girlfriend abandoned him when he left the dynastic Kingfisher casino life to build his dream. He’s learned the hard way that he can’t rely on anyone but himself, so he’s not exactly in the mood to play host to a stranded traveler.
But the tall redhead that fell out of the sky and into his lap has Quinn re-evaluating his priorities. Suddenly his biggest problem is how he’s going to keep Mia from flying away from Whiteout Mountain forever.
***This is a standalone light contemporary romance with an HEA. No cliffhangers, cheating or love triangles. Not intended for readers under the age of eighteen due to adult language/swearing, and several explicit sex scenes***
Discover Other Titles by Stacy Gail:
Bitterthorn, Texas Series (Carina Press):
Ugly Ducklings Finish First
Starting From Scratch (novella)
One Hot Second
Where There’s A Will
Earth Angels Series (Carina Press):
Nobody’s Angel (novella)
House Of Payne Series:
House of Payne: Payne
House of Payne: Scout
House of Payne: Twist
House of Payne: Rude
Crime Wave In A Corset (Part of the steampunk holiday anthology, A Clockwork Christmas)
How The Glitch Saved Christmas (Part of the sci-fi holiday anthology, A Galactic Holiday)
Zero Factor (Part of the cyberpunk anthology, Cybershock)
Best Man, Worst Man
Connect with Stacy Gail:
All rights reserved. In accordance with the U.S. Copyright Act of 1976, the scanning, uploading, and electronic sharing of any part of this book without the permission of the publisher is unlawful piracy and theft of the author’s intellectual property. Thank you for your support of the author’s rights.
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious or are used fictitiously. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental and not intended by the author. Characters and names of real persons who appear in the book are used fictitiously.
Copyright ©2015 by Stacy Gail
Cover image ©2015 Iryna Prokofieva. Shutterstock Image ID: 163251800
I’d like to thank my mom, Sue, for never letting me forget the time I mistook a deer for a lost Great Dane (it was foggy, damn it). She never tires of saying that moment is worthy of being in a book. I figured it would fit just right in this romantic comedy.
Also, thanks to Quinn the cat. You’ve got a great name, kitteh.
“Ladies and gentlemen, we thank you for your patience. I’ve just received the latest from the National Weather Service. I’m sorry to say, it doesn’t look good for us getting out of here any time soon.”
A collective groan from the passengers of Flight 444 went up, reverberating around the high school gym to which they’d been transported via charter bus nine hours earlier. In that time, Mia Flowers had read every banner hanging from the rafters and viewed all the trophy cases and team photographs that went back to the 1940’s. Apparently this nowheresville dot on the Montana map—Honey Pot, for the love of God—had been a basketball powerhouse about a decade or so back, with four consecutive State Championships. During her high school days, her Chicago-area school had only managed to make it to the district finals once, so that four-year run must have had the tiny town of Honey Pot in an uproar.
Then Mia shook her head, her heavy hair threatening to fall out of the haphazard knot she’d tied it in. She had to be going stir-crazy, thinking about meaningless high school stats, when her entire freaking life was frozen in place—literally—until she could get her ass to Seattle.
Damn it, she
to get to Seattle.
“I’m sorry about that, but there’s nothing any of us can do about Mother Nature.” Captain Martin, the man who’d been slated to fly Mia and two-hundred or so of her fellow passengers from Chicago’s O’Hare to Seattle’s SeaTac airport, had been an oasis of calm in what had turned out to be a trip from the ninth level of Hell. With Thanksgiving behind her and Christmas still a couple weeks away, Mia had hoped to avoid the insanity of holiday travel. And she had.
She hadn’t however, avoided a wicked polar vortex blowing in from Canada.
The plane ride had gotten so rough that at one point the oxygen masks had popped out from overhead. Screams and alarms had gone off, and the smell of some poor soul who’d lost control of their bodily functions had permeated the plane’s recycled air. They’d been diverted to an airport outside of Whitefish, Montana, then sat on the tarmac in the dark for hours before they’d been herded onto charter buses. That icy ride had almost made Mia crap her pants, before they’d wound up in Honey Pot High’s gymnasium, a makeshift shelter thrown together by kind residents.
Mia still couldn’t believe she’d been dragged across Montana to freeze in some small town high school gym. While she’d still been on the plane breathing that befouled air, she’d plucked out her phone, found the nearest hotel with a vacancy, and had reserved a room. That was how she rolled; there was no problem she couldn’t fix or obstacle she couldn’t find a way around as long as she had her trusty phone.
She’d then called her best friend, Daria Stewart, updated her on the latest, and tried to stay positive. And she’d done a decent job of it, until she’d run into the flight attendants from hell.
When they’d finally been allowed to leave the plane, Mia had headed off through the airport to find a rental car. Without warning, the plane’s four helpful flight attendants had turned into snarling Gulag guards. Their leader had flat-out refused to let her make her way to the hotel she’d found—the official airport hotel that was no more than five-hundred yards away. Apparently the world would come to a horrific end if the passengers of Flight 444 didn’t stay herded together like frigging cattle.
Assurances that she’d be fine had fallen on deaf ears. Increasingly defiant announcements that she could go where she wanted to were also ignored. When she began to make noises about calling the police in order to get out of their clutches, the lead flight attendant had yelled at her to do so. According to Gulag Flight Attendant Number One—the one who’d caught her arm in the first place to drag her back—Mia was now a Problem Passenger.
She was informed that Homeland Security loved hearing about Problem Passengers. When Mia had pointed out that she was no longer a passenger on the plane, Gulag Flight Attendant Number One told her it would be her word against all the other Gulag Flight Attendants.
That was when Mia realized they were all losing their freaking minds.
Eventually she’d come to the conclusion that being the squeaky wheel only made the situation suck harder. Since she’d always been a strong advocate of things sucking less, she hadn’t complained when she and the other passengers were shuffled into buses and brought to an old, creaky high school gym that smelled vaguely of old sweat and astringent cleaner. Nor did she complain when they were told that a delivery of cots had gotten caught in a snowdrift, and wouldn’t be available to them. There were no chairs or even bleachers pulled out so that people could sit; the only thing they had were the clothes on their backs and whatever they’d carried off the plane.
Eventually a delivery of blankets from the Red Cross came through, but the square of gray fleece was a small comfort. She shared her charger cord with other passengers when she’d been spotted using one of the few electrical outlets she could find that worked. She’d even given her blanket and travel pillow to a very pregnant girl who looked no more than high school-aged herself, so she could have a little extra padding on the hard floor.
If they were going to get through this epic travel hell, they were going to have to get through it together.
“This polar vortex has pretty much stalled out over us, with sustained winds over eighty miles per hour. Gusts are reaching well over a hundred, and the wind chill is holding steady at sixty below.” As Captain Martin spoke, several people filed in behind him from a set of double doors. As the passengers hadn’t been allowed to go anywhere but to the bathrooms in the locker rooms, Mia zeroed in on the newcomers, trying to figure out who they were. Most of them wore big puffy parkas, thick lace-up waterproof snow boots and heavy-duty ear-flap caps, and all but one of them were men. “A high pressure system in the plains is keeping this system from moving, so until further notice Glacier Park International Airport has been closed by the NTSB. That means we’re here in Montana until it’s safe to leave.”
A more alarmed grumble went through the crowd, with one smartass saying loudly, “That’s a bullshit airport, shuttin’ down just ‘cause of some fuckin’ snow. Come to Chicago, we’ll show you what real snow’s all about, man.”
Mia didn’t bother to hold back a facepalm. Chicago had legendary winters, yes. But even she knew they were nothing compared to what the Montana mountains were capable of producing.
She thought she heard a faint laugh from one of the newcomers even as Captain Martin continued. “We’ve heard from Corporate, and the plan in place now is to find you temporary accommodations, since the cot shipment in no longer coming. There are several hotels, B and Bs and resorts in Whitefish and in Honey Pot, so we’re hoping to get you all set up.”
The thought of finally reaching a quiet, private hotel room with thick comforters, clean sheets, soft pillows, steaming hot showers and oodles of yummy, overpriced room service almost made Mia cry.
Captain Martin’s next words actually made the tears sting her eyes.
“Unfortunately, we were grounded in this area along with three other commercial airlines. That means we’re hitting the hospitality services in this neck of the woods—with many of their smaller resorts and B and Bs closed for the winter season—at a bad time. There might not be enough accommodations for everyone, which means some of you would have to stay here for however long the storm lasts.”
The pregnant girl, Mia thought she’d said her name was Jenny, burst into tears.
Automatically Mia moved to put a supporting arm around her shoulders, fighting the need to cry herself. Nearby, sitting on a rickety folding chair that Mia had begged from one of the volunteers, an elderly African American woman clucked her tongue and leaned heavily on her driftwood cane as she pushed to her feet.
“Excuse me, Captain? I’ve got something to say.”
Captain Martin barely glanced her way—a clear dismissal. “We’ll—”
“I’ve got something to say, and I’m going to say it.” The elderly woman shouted with so much gusto Mia suspected it had been bottled up and ready to pop for a while. “You can’t have this poor little girl lying on a cold, hard basketball floor after all she’s been through today. You people are lucky she didn’t give birth when you dropped us out of the sky so hard the oxygen masks came down and someone shit their pants. And you’re extra-special lucky we all didn’t throw up when we had to suck that foul smell in for
while you and your Nazi storm troopers kept us prisoner sitting on the tarmac. You might have been comfy up there in your cockpit, but I guarantee you that each and every one of us was gagging hard on every damn dirty breath.”
“And you sure as hell can’t have me down on this floor, either. I’ll never get back up, you understand what I’m saying, young man? You’ll be burying me here, wherever the hell
is, so you need to find it in your heart to give a damn about all of that.”
In that moment, Mia loved that woman more than anyone else in the world.
“You’re in Honey Pot, Montana, ma’am.” A shortish, round man with a sheepskin ear-flap cap, white beard and puffy red parka stepped forward. All Mia’s tired brain registered was that this had to be the mountain man’s version of Santa Claus. “I’m the mayor, Percival McBride, and I’m truly sorry to hear of the terrible time you all have had. It’s been terrible everywhere, so if we can keep in mind that we’re all
this together, we’ll all be able to get
Mia had to bite back a hysterical bubble of laughter. Politicians. Whether in a big city or a teeny little mountain burg, they were the same everywhere.
“While we’re standing here, we’re allowing the snow to get deeper and potential vacancies to fill up.” Well aware that she was already The Problem Passenger, Mia tried to turn that boat around by offering her best everyone-play-nice smile, and was pleased to see Mayor McBride respond to it. “You’ve informed us of the situation, and we’re all thankful for that. We now understand that accommodations have been made but nothing is perfect. We’re all okay with that, even if we have to double or triple up, I’m sure. So, how can we help get things going? What’s the plan?”
Gulag Flight Attendant Number One cast a thin-lipped glance her way. “
are running this show,
you don’t mind.
it, wench. Run it, instead of standing there throwing shade at the one woman who’s been in here giving up her blanket and pillow to this little pregnant girl, finding me a chair to sit on when I was about to fall over, and letting other people charge up their do-dads and whatnots on her line, while all y’all were nowhere to be found,” the elderly woman shot back, making both Mia’s and the flight attendant’s eyes widen. “What’s. The damn.
Gulag Flight Attendant Number Two, Three and Four closed in on their compatriot, looking ready to rumble. Without a word and still wide-eyed, Mia reached out her free arm and looped it around the older woman.
When in doubt, a united front was the only way to go.
Behind the Santa Claus mayor, a man she couldn’t quite see in a black hoodie and a heavy black parka snorted again with obvious amusement.
Great. They were putting on a show to entertain the local yokels.
Just when she thought things couldn’t get worse.
“We’ve got a list of places that can take our numbers in, if we all double and triple up, as this young lady suggested,” Captain Martin quickly forged ahead before the fur could really fly. “We will, however, have to scatter you all, which explains why we have several very kind-hearted Honey Pot volunteers here to drive passengers to their destinations, rather than using the charter buses to hit one place at a time.”
Mia breathed a silent sigh of relief. Thank God. That bus ride, even more than their harrowing drop-out-of-the-sky flight, had scared her to death.
“We have a list of places Corporate Headquarters was able to book for our passengers, including thirty rooms at Del Dwayne’s Motor Court and RV Park…”
Holy crap. Norman Bates was probably conceived there.
“Ten rooms at Huckleberry Waters Bed and Breakfast.”
The one woman in the line of parka-wrapped men gave a cheery wave. It was so cute Mia couldn’t help but smile and wave back.
“Ten rooms are also available at another B and B called Whispering Lodge—”
“We got a mention in
travel magazine as one of the ten best inns in Montana,” a tall, thin man in scholarly glasses, a sheepskin coat and mukluks at the end of the line announced.
Mia gave him another smile. Beside her, Jenny popped him a thumbs-up.
“On the edge of town up near the foothills, there’s a Super Eight that was closed for the season, but the mayor has assured us that they’re getting thirty rooms ready for us as we speak. Further down the road near Whitefish, we have the Snooze E-Z with twenty rooms. And lastly, ten rooms are available at the Hilton Airport hotel.”
From far off, Mia heard her sharp gasp, but the sudden roar of blood in her ears almost drowned it out. Damn it, she thought, her eyes going hot along with everything inside of her, and she looked to Gulag Flight Attendant Number One, who had the grace to shuffle her feet and not look her way.