Authors: Violet Vaughn
Left out in the cold…
Skater Lori Langley was USA’s golden girl, headed for the Olympics and destined for a medal. But when her coach’s abuse forces her to give up the opportunity, her world spins out of control. Their perilous love affair is discovered and plastered all over the tabloids.
Three years later, Lori is ready to move on. New to skiing but determined, she reinvents herself as a ski instructor and moves to Breckenridge, Colorado. Driven to rebuild her life Lori isn’t prepared for the likes of sexy Kaleb Wakefield. One look from the sensitive snowboarder unchains her heart and she explores love without fear.
When the past returns to haunt her, Lori’s new found freedom is at risk. What’s lurking in the shadows is worse than she could have imagined. She fears for more than her safety when she realizes Kaleb is in danger too.
Will Lori and Kaleb pay the ultimate price?
A Fire and Ice Novel
Copyright © 2014 by Violet Vaughn
First E-book Edition 2014
Editing services by Kats Eye Editing and Victory Editing
Cover design by Najla Qamber Designs
Book Design/Layout by The Printed Page
This novel is a work of fiction. The town and ski area of Breckenridge, Colorado has been embellished to suit the story, and the references to people, events and locations are used fictitiously. Names, characters and incidents are a product of the author’s imagination.
No part of this publication may be reproduced in any material form including but not limited to printing, scanning, and photocopying without permission from Violet Vaughn. However, brief quotes in reviews are allowed.
Many thanks to Nicole Slaunwhite, Officer Tom McNulty and Tamra Work for their help in the writing process.
We stop at the top of what looks like a sheer cliff. I grip my poles as terror seeps into my veins. Crud! I have to ski this? My bladder threatens to let go.
Heather’s eyes reflect the blue Colorado sky as she scans the eight of us and says, “I’m going to ski down a bit and stop. One at a time, follow and stop just below me.” Uh-huh. It’s cold, but somehow I’m hot. She makes perfect turns and stops at the bottom.
Holy crap. She made it look so easy. I call out, “I’m not going first.” I need to focus. Maybe I can just sit and slide down on my bottom? I sigh. Probably not if I plan to keep this job.
Casey, the other girl in the group, says, “I will.” Her skis scrape snow as she makes her first turn. She’s confident, and damn if she doesn’t make it look easy, too. My pulse beats at a frantic rhythm as if it’s trying to run away. I take a deep breath, and icy air floods my lungs. I can do this. Just one turn at a time.
Two guys have gone, and I decide it’s now or never. “I’m going next.” I say it with way more confidence than I have. My legs shake and my hands are sweaty. But this is a familiar feeling, and it’s not like I’m going to die if I fall. I point my skis down the hill. Applying pressure to my right ski, I make them move to the left in a turn. It worked. Talk about a leap of faith.
I somehow manage to get them sideways again going the other direction. Except I’m going way too fast. Every muscle is tense, and I don’t dare breathe. I’m almost at the other side before I move at a comfortable speed, but I can’t stop now. I gulp in air and plunge into another turn. Yes! I’m doing it. My body relaxes a bit. Thankful for the adrenaline surge, I let it give me strength. After what seems like forever, I’m at the bottom.
Heather’s voice sings with a slight Australian accent. “Lori, I know that was hard for you. But you have what it takes to be a great skier. Stick with us, and you’ll be crushing that in March.”
Wow. I totally sucked, but Heather thinks I have potential. Casey taps my pole with a clink. Sweet. Still trembling, I’m grateful when the attention turns away from me.
I barely notice the next two guys while I ride the high of Heather’s approval. I realize only Bill is left. Before he goes, Jason raises his eyebrows at Casey in amusement. I’m curious and watch closely. Bill flies down the hill, and I hear Casey make a disapproving sound under her breath.
When he gets to us, he looks proud. Heather shakes her head. “Bill, I don’t know what they teach in Virginia, but here we teach turns—not testosterone moments.” I cringe for him.
Today is rookie training for ski instructors, and we’re learning to teach by working on each other’s skiing. I’m fascinated by how something as simple as where your weight’s focused can make such a difference in the ability to make a good turn. I have a tendency to put my weight on the balls of my feet, as if I’m wearing high heels. It makes the end of my turn wash out and gain speed, so Heather has me working on staying over the center of my feet.
At the bottom of the trail, Casey turns back to me. “Hey, Lori, ride with me and Jason.” I slide up and join them in line. “Jason and I came here from Vermont.” She turns her head toward him. “Lori’s from New Hampshire.”
Jason lifts his goggles to talk to me and leans over his ski poles so his head comes down to my height. I notice his mossy-green eyes. “Have you been to Breck before?”
“No. Matt’s a friend of a friend, and he hired me over the phone.” I’m suddenly self-conscious about my skiing. “He knew I wasn’t very good but said he could use me for kids.” Not exactly the truth, but I don’t have any intention of sharing the real story.
“Isn’t it amazing here? Just wait till you ski powder.” Jason stands back up as we move to the loading area. Chairs move on a cable, and once one goes by, we step out and place our feet over a thick line marked in the loading area. Turning to look over our shoulders, we wait as a chair moves toward us. The chair swoops us up, and I reach to pull the bar down. Jason pulls too, which is nice. These things are heavy. He asks, “How long have you been skiing?”
I look over at his chiseled face. “This is my third winter.”
His eyes widen. “Seriously? You ski well for only doing it two years.” He sits back. “I don’t even remember learning.”
“I don’t either.” Casey grins. “I’m not sure I could do it now. It’s kind of crazy if you think about the danger.”
Snow-dusted mountains jut into the blue sky. “It is. I’m not sure why I keep doing it. I have to tell you that steep part was the scariest thing I’ve ever skied.”
Casey tilts her head at me. “You were awesome. I’m so impressed by you. I would have crumpled into a ball and cried.”
Maybe, but I bet if she knew real danger, she wouldn’t say that. “Thanks. What I really wanted to do was slide down it on my butt.” I grin. “Someday I’d like to ski as well as you do. You’re my ski idol.”
“Wait until you see my epic falls. You may change your mind.” She smiles.
I look at her reddish-blond curls hanging below her helmet. I wish I had her grace. She has a way about her that’s confident and easy to be around. Tall and slender, she doesn’t have the typical “sexy” body, but something about her definitely drives guys wild. I can tell by the way Jason looks at her.
Bill seems to think she’s hot, too.
Casey swings her skis. “Lori, you should come take a locker in our row. You only picked one this morning, right?”
“Yeah,” I say, “I will. It would be nice to be near another female.” My nerves are soothed by this girl’s kindness. It’s good to make friends again.
The next two days are full of training. We cover everything from how to ski with a group safely to avalanche danger. It’s the most physical I’ve been in months, and I’m wiped.
My brain is packed with so much new information about skiing, and I look forward to my first real day of teaching. Casey comes down the aisle of blue metal lockers as the nylon of my ski pants swishes over my long underwear.
“Lori, come meet Nick and Megan.” She walks me around the corner. “Hey, guys, this is Lori. She wasn’t at the party, and I wanted her to meet you.” Megan is fair with big eyes framed by straight hair, while Nick has the angular good looks of a Grecian. They both say hi.
And then my world stops. Just past them, a guy stares at me. My pulse quickens. His blue eyes dazzle against his dark skin. Wow. Chaotic hair falls to his chin. He’s drop-dead gorgeous and staring at me? Does he recognize me? My hands get cold, and I can’t breathe. Someone says something, but I don’t know what.