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Authors: Emily Franklin

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BOOK: Slippery Slopes
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Melissa makes a dubious face. “That doesn’t seem so big.”

“No, listen. Imagine being in a fairy tale or something. One of those massive ballrooms. And in the sea of people, making eye contact with someone far on the other side.” Dove does this now, finally locking her gaze to the corner of the room near the tall Christmas tree, and seeing him. Max, in his rumpled white button-down, his hair over his forehead. “If the person is the best match, my grandma meant, he’ll go through anything to get to you.” Max meets Dove’s stare. Dove squeezes Melissa’s hand. “So, yeah, I’ve made my decision.”
I’ll have to cancel my trip to Nevis to see William, and basically break up with him, and all for a possible something with Max…. But it could be worth it, right?
Dove tries to calm her pounding chest by eating a sugar-crusted cookie.

Melissa thinks about Dove’s change of heart, wondering if James would cross a room, climb a mountain, or even deign to speak to her.
Maybe I have no match.
Laughter erupts from where Gabe and James are entertaining the bevy of girls.
I won’t get jealous,
Melissa thinks but feels her gut twisting, anyway.
I don’t care if they get together with someone else. It’s not like I ever got to be a
Then she reaches for a cookie, knowing that being a couple is exactly what she wants, what she wanted all along since she saw James (then known as JMB) on her first day. How his smile totally set her at ease, how the rest of him made her swirl with excitement. She stares at a green pillar candle and bites the inside of her lip, thinking,
Though, if you want to get technical, it’s Gabe I liked first

a lifetime ago, way back in my faint memories of last season.
“Are you going or what?”

“Okay—as soon as I catch my breath,” Dove says while she chews the last of her cookie. “I’m going to tell him.” She looks again through the crowd for Max, expecting to find his eyes on hers, but this time, he’s not there.

Melissa scans the table for something else to eat, wondering what foods she’ll make this week. A wave of relief floods through her when she remembers she’s not so new at her job. Not that she’s an expert, but that at least she knows how to work the ancient stove in the chalet. She watches Dove swig some wine, feeling bad that her friend is still stuck cleaning toilets and making the guest beds. “Did I ever tell you how well you handled the crappy cleaning job?”

Dove shrugs. “No. But I’ll accept the compliment now. Okay. I’m ready.”
I’m going to tell him. Make my choice, and stick with it. Max. Here. With me.
A smile plays on Dove’s mouth as she flashes forward to spilling her feelings to Max and having him sweep her up—literally and figuratively—in his arms. Dove licks her finger free of green frosting, savoring the sweetness, and then—all of a sudden—having any trace of sugar instantly sucked out of her. “Oh no.” She clutches Melissa’s forearm harder than she ever has.

Concerned, Melissa’s eyes grow wide. “What? Dove, what’s wrong?”

All Dove can do is stand there, her hands shaking. “There.” She points subtly with her elbow so Melissa will look.

Standing with her hands on her hips, in front of the tree, is a girl so poised and beautiful, so shockingly stunning, Melissa blurts out, “God—she looks like an angel.”

Dove makes a noise like she’s just been slapped. “No. Not angelic. In fact, far from it.” She lets a small gasp escape her mouth. “I can’t believe this.”

her?” Melissa checks out the dark-haired beauty again, this time noticing that many eyes in the room are doing the same thing. She swallows hard when she sees that Gabe is clearly entranced. “Okay—who the hell is she?”

Dove crosses her arms over her chest. “That piece of work is Claire. Or, for those requiring a bit more information, Lady Claire L’arance Beale Strong. LCBS.”

“BS …” Melissa grins.

“Exactly. She was my friend. My best friend. And I never thought she was mean—or that she’d …” Dove stops, suddenly aware that not only is it odd that Claire is at Les Trois, but that she’s here, in the room. She stands on tiptoe, trying to find Max, searching for his dark hair above the clusters of people.

“And now she’s not, I’m guessing?”

Dove ducks so that Claire won’t see her. “Claire lied to get Max away from me—she ruined everything. I wouldn’t even be in this mess if it weren’t for …” Dove abruptly ends her sentence. “I have to go. I have to find Max before more trouble starts.”

Melissa tries to calm her down. “Maybe Claire’s come to say she’s sorry?”

Dove’s pixie face looks hard and sure. “Not a chance. She told me herself—what Claire wants, she gets.” The fun kind of heart pounding Dove had switches to panic, and she bites the inside of her cheek, ducking behind people to get to Max so she can tell him about her decision. So she can get to him before Claire does.

After an unsuccessful attempt at infiltrating the group of girls waiting to talk to Gabe and James, Melissa decides she’s had enough of the meet-and-greet cocktails and heads for the door.
she thinks,
I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow. Shopping, cooking, preparing the menu for the week. Maybe I should try to make duck. Dove said it’s not as complicated as it seems and it would be a

“Ah, just the person I was looking for.”

Melissa lets her thoughts of cooking go as she stands face-to-face with Matron, the head of all the Chalet Girls, who looks like a stereotypical librarian with her long skirt and practical brown cardigan, her hair in a bun. “Melissa Forsythe.” Matron looks at the clipboard in her hand and crosses something off. “How have you enjoyed your time at Les Trois thus far?”

For a second, Melissa wonders if she’s about to get canned.
Have I done anything wrong? Um, maybe fraternized with the guests, but I haven’t committed major faux pas,
right? “Yes. Yes, I have.” Melissa plasters a bigger-than-normal smile on her face to show just how enthusiastic she is. “Really. I love it here!” Just as she says this, she notices James and a couple of ski girls heading toward the mistletoe in an arched doorway.
Did he just look at me?

“I’m glad to hear it.” Matron looks at Melissa, waiting for something.

Shifting her feet, nervous, and also distracted by the mistletoe, Melissa adds, “In fact, I was just going over this week’s menu in my head.”

Matron’s mouth twists into a frown. “Well, that won’t be necessary….”


being fired. Now what? Back to Australia? Back to reality?
She glances at James, who for certain is not glancing back, and wonders if being sent away would be for the best. Then she could leave her heartache behind once and for all.

maybe running away isn’t the solution. Maybe going after what

or who

you want is.
“Please … I need to—”

Matron raises her eyebrows and checks her list again. “Melissa Forsythe. Your job as cook has been terminated.”

Melissa’s hand flies to her mouth in protest. “But I—”

s, please. Instead, you will be the host for this week.” Matron tucks her pencil into the metal clip on her board and continues. “With Harley, ah, away so suddenly, I needed to fill the spot. As a result, I’ve moved you up.” She gives Melissa a firm look. “You’ll need to pull far more weight than she did. Entertain your guests. Show them the sights. Ski with them. Regale them with stories.”

Regale them? Ski with them? Melissa’s head swims with too much info at one time. Not to mention the fact that the ski boys are officially under the mistletoe, the other Chalet Girls and leggy, long-haired lustfuls moving in on James and Gabe like flies to syrup. “I’m the … host?” Melissa says the job title disbelievingly. “I’m taking Harley’s place?”

“Yes.” Matron clears her throat. “Why the sad face? I thought you’d be happy with the promotion.”

Melissa nods.
Then who will cover my old job? At least I’m not fired. And I could make more money. But now

so long to the job I just figured out, and hello to new stresses and socializing.
“So I have to plan the events?”

“You’ll have to help plan, of course.” Matron smiles, ever the tour guide. “Let’s see—the Luxury Scavenger Hunt, Ice Painting, and of course, the most important, the Winter Wonderland Ball. I’m sure you’ll pass with flying colors. Just remember—holiday week is our most precious time at Les Trois.”

Melissa nods, the full realization of everything hitting her hard.
People come here for a glamorous end to the year, dumping piles of money into their holidays. And what do we do? Serve them. Humor them. Tend to them. Some holiday for us.
She reaches for the door, knowing she wants to clear her head in the cool air, enjoy one last night alone before a week of nonstop parties and conversations.
Harley might not have been the most attentive host, but she was fun and smooth. I wonder if she’s just as laid-back on Nevis. What if I’m terrible? What if I …
Then she scratches her head, tugging at her dark curls out of habit. “Matron? If I’m host, who’ll cook?”

Matron consults her trusty list. “Lily de Rothschild.”

Dove. Well, at least she won’t be stuck with a mop and bleach. And she’s already accomplished in the kitchen.
Melissa looks over her shoulder to see if she can find Dove and tell her the big news. Instead of finding her, she sees Gabe directly under the mistletoe. He looks up at the sprig, then right at Melissa and winks.
He winked at me? Am I supposed to rush over there? Kiss him? Scream?
But Melissa doesn’t have time to decide on any action before Gabe is in lip-lock with one of the nameless leggy girls. James looks like he’s next in line.
So much for meet-and-greet. How about sex-and-next?
“I have to go.” Melissa’s voice is shaky. “I’ll be sure to welcome all the guests first thing tomorrow morning.” Fighting tears, Melissa nods at Matron, and bolts out the door.

Dear Mel and Dove—

By the time you read this I will be way tan and way relaxed—at least, that’s the hope!

So far, life away from the chalet leaves me little to complain about: private plane here (thanks to my brilliant host family), free drinks (and a hostess who turns a blind eye), and my only responsibilities are taking care of the teen queens.

We’ll see what happens next!

Tropical love and kisses (from what I’ve seen, I want some of those!)—



from Dove’s neck down her back all the way to her toes when she’s finally close enough to Max to tell him.
How do I say it?
Stay with me.
Or no, that sounds like a command. How about
I made my decision.
You’re right, Max, there is something between us.

“Max.” Dove says his name and breathes deeply. He leans one hand on the wall, towering over small Dove, and staring at her intently.

“Lily.” He corrects himself right away. “Dove.”

Tension fills the few feet of space that separate them. Dove wonders if she should leave words behind and just reach for him, but then figures he needs to know. “I made my decision.”

Max takes a step closer to her. Close enough that she thinks she can smell wine on his breath. Close enough that she can see the spot on his face that he missed shaving. Close enough that if he wanted to, he could kiss her without much effort. “And?” His tongue traces the outline of his mouth and Dove wishes she weren’t so nervous saying all this.

If only I didn’t feel as though asking him to stay meant losing William forever. But that’s what a choice is, I suppose, letting one thing go so you can reach for the next.
She decides to just say it, simply and easily. “Max, I feel that you and I had …” She starts to say that they had something back in London but that what they could have now is even better. But before she can get it out, before Dove can reconnect with Max, someone beats her to the punch.

“You did
something—past tense being the crucial part of that statement.” Claire smirks as she says this. Shaking her long, dark hair so that it swishes onto her back, she walks past Dove and stands right next to Max. “See? I told you, Max. She’s just using you. Just like before.”

“Claire—what right do you have to even …” Dove gets out only a few words before Claire tramples her.

“I’m a paying guest. Not like you these days.” She raises one dark eyebrow at Dove, her lips perfectly gleaming with gloss, her cheeks pink. “Same as Max.”

Max sticks his hands in his pockets and looks first at Claire, then at Dove. “Look, Dove, just so you know …”

Dove looks at Claire’s hand, how close it is to Max’s, and wonders just how long Claire’s been at Les Trois. How long she’s planning on staying. If Max had invited her all along. “You don’t have to explain. I understand completely.” She points to Max, feeling her plans crushed. “I don’t care what you two do—just leave me out of it.” Tears sting her eyes, but Dove refuses to show the emotion. Instead, her voice is steady, reasonable, the same voice she used to tell her parents she didn’t want their money, didn’t need their support. “Stay, go, do whatever you want, Max.” She starts to walk away.

“Don’t you have anything to say to me?” Claire asks after Dove. “After all this time?”

“Claire, don’t.” Max’s voice houses concern.

All three of them immediately flash back to Max’s eighteenth birthday, the black-tie party, the night everything changed. Dove whips around. “No, Claire, I have nothing to say to you. In my mind, you don’t exist.”
Except she does,
Dove thinks.
She does and yet again she’s ruined everything.

The morning light brings a refreshed sense of power to Melissa.

“Just because I’m not supersuave doesn’t mean I can’t handle being a host, right?” She pulls her hair into a ponytail, slides into her black pants and red shirt, and does a last look in the mirror before heading upstairs to wait for the guests.

From her top bunk, Charlie groans. “It’s too early for all this. I want a vacation. When Matron said I’d be replacing someone in The Tops, I thought for sure I’d be the host. Not your old maid position.”

BOOK: Slippery Slopes
2.46Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub

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