On the Edge

by

Dani Collins

When Glory Cormer’s father introduces her to ‘their’ new business partner, she’s appalled. Viking-like Rolf Johansson exudes the same alpha-intimidation that jocks used to torment her through high school. After nursing her mother the last several years, she’s trying to break out of her shell and secretly pursue a writing career, but Rolf insists she go through with the rotten deal her father struck with his brother to renovate an old chalet.

Rolf envisions this mountain as a world-class resort for elite athletes and other jet setters. As a downhill champion and owner of a world-renowned sports equipment empire, he knows what it takes to get what he wants. Nothing will stop him, especially not a hotheaded wallflower who turns the ice in his veins to lava.

Bonus Story! This book contains Glory’s novella Blessed Winter, a no-room-at-the-inn Christmas romance.

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Leave it to her father to be mysterious rather than give a straight answer.

As a child, Glory had thought Marvin Cormer was wonderfully exciting when he planned elaborate outings to surprise her. Riding in the car blindfolded had been a regular occurrence. He had loved to take her somewhere unexpected, like a sleepover at the aquarium. Other times, he veered off course for an impulsive tour of a cheese factory or insisted she try something unconventional off a menu, like sea anemone. Cost and time were never an issue if a unique experience was at hand.

As a grown woman, she understood why her mother had ground her teeth through those escapades. Glory empathized with every long-suffering moment that woman had gone through with him—she really did.

But she also knew it was futile to insist she was working and couldn’t accompany him on his latest adventure.

“You never used to be this way,” he argued.

“Uncomfortable with being kidnapped?”

“Obstinate. Withdrawn.”

“Are you serious?” She’d been so withdrawn as a child, her best friend had been her dad.

“You can’t bring her back by spending all your time on her career. Come. I’m giving you one of your own. Put your shoes on.”

All your time on her career. The remark put cracks in her molars, but also cramped her stomach with a combo of guilt and angst. She threw together a day bag, not bothering to ask where he was taking her, just gathered snack bars, some fruit and her water bottle. Then she made sure she had a toothbrush and moisturizer that doubled as sunscreen, added a scarf and a pair of mittens in case they went outside, then zipped her knee-high boots over her comfortably baggy cargo pants.

She brought her laptop, which she had slept with more times than was healthy, and took cues from the way her father layered up at the door. He was wearing one of his rumpled professor suits of wool pants and tweed blazer over a pale blue shirt and a paisley tie. He stepped into his ‘tramping’ boots and shrugged on a raincoat.

She grabbed her mother’s long raincoat and added the hat her mother had bought her online when it had become clear their dream of visiting Paris would not come to fruition. The hat was a half-size too big and slid down to Glory’s eyebrows, making her look extra frumpy with her kinky red hair sticking out around her shoulders like unraveled yarn.

She had showered this morning, but hadn’t worn makeup since the funeral. She’d rarely worn it since her first adolescent forays into blue eyeliner that had earned her snickers in the girls’ bathroom. The bereaved were allowed to look however hellish they wanted, she had decided. Besides, this field trip was being taken under duress. She refused to dress up for it like it was an occasion.

Her father’s coping strategy this last nine months had been the opposite. He was all about staying busy and finding reasons to leave the house. He had even attended Christmas parties with the faculty and old friends last month and had started taking an interest in the banking and her mother’s book sales, heading off to meetings with his accountant, which made Glory both nervous and defensive. She wanted him to look after his own checkbook, pay the bills and invest for his retirement, but she also liked feeling smart and necessary. Looking after her mother’s income, nurturing and massaging her backlist so it continued to earn, was her baby.

Her father thought she was hanging on to the past. Maybe there was some truth to that, but his nagging for her to ease up on work, to get out and cheer up, put her firmly in the place she’d occupied her entire life—divided loyalty. He didn’t want her feeling sad and missing her mother, but he couldn’t replace her. At the same time, she knew he loved her and she couldn’t break his heart by pulling away further than she already had.

So she relented. She got in the car with him and let him drive her to the airport.

“Please say we’re going somewhere hot.” Had she grabbed her bikini? She could use some sun.

He checked them in for a flight to Montana.

“No one goes to Montana for the day. In January.” This was a kidnapping.

Not to Billings or Helena or Bozeman, either. Glacier International Airport. Far as she could tell, the nearest town of any size was Kalispell. She looked it up on her phone while they waited to get through security.

Heli-tours seem to be a thing there, along with skiing and other winter sports. He knew better than to make her try ice fishing. A visit to some hot springs wouldn’t be terrible, though. She looked again for her bikini, but no dice. She’d have to buy one.

The weather report claimed it was sunny at the other end, if below freezing. Their flight would be able to land. She looked to the window. The planes were taking off just fine in Seattle’s January drizzle.

“Seems a long way to go for lunch.”

“All in good time, Glory, dear.” He knew she was nudging for clues.

They reached their gate and she sat down to petulantly open her laptop. He could drag her across state lines, but he couldn’t make her like it.

Her father began talking to the nearest person, as was his habit. In this case, it was a woman moving a stroller back and forth, trying to entertain her older son with the view of the planes.

Marvin soon learned she was taking her children to visit their grandparents. Glory smiled obediently when he waved at her in casual introduction, then tuned them out to stare at the blank page before her.

It was a metaphor for her life these days. Emptiness confronted her on so many levels. Her mother was gone. Her mother’s love, her voice, her advice, were all absent. The future was unwritten and it was up to Glory to write the next chapter. Would she write her own story? Or her mother’s?

Her mother had tried to talk to her a few times about what Glory would do after she was gone. Glory hadn’t wanted to think about it, let alone talk about it. She was running the business and that was enough for now.

Wasn’t it?

“—bought a lodge near Haven,” she heard her father say.

Glory’s brain did the skip and scrape of a needle on a vinyl record. She slapped her laptop closed. “What now?”

“Oh.” He turned with a rustle of his raincoat, mouth pursing sheepishly. Not in remorse for whatever insane thing he’d done—he’d bought a lodge?—but because he’d ruined the surprise. “I was saving that, wasn’t I?”

The P.A. announced boarding for passengers traveling with children. The woman took her leave, smiling awkwardly as she sensed clouds brewing. “See you at the other end, Marvin. Glory.”

Glory ignored her and said, “Dad.”

He tugged his earlobe while trying to eat his own smile. The rain had brought out the curl in his hair—the curl she had inherited, which was the bane of her existence. His gray frizz stuck out like silver clown fringe.

“I’m losing my touch, aren’t I?”

“You’re losing your mind. Why on earth are you thinking of buying a lodge? And please—” she held up her hand in a very real entreaty “—do not say you have already bought it.”

“We’re going to sign the papers today, then get a look at it.” His eyes were bright as a kid’s on Christmas morning.

The little whimper of agony her mother used to give emanated from Glory’s throat. “No, Dad. You look at it before you sign. That’s how things like this work.”

“Same, same.” His hands in his pockets lifted so the edges of his raincoat opened like a bird’s wings. It was the ruffle of settling in to hold steady on a precarious branch. “You’re going to love it.”

“I already hate it.” Vehemently. Questions were exploding in her head. “Is this supposed to be, like, a retirement investment? How are you even paying for it? How much is it?”

“Yes! It’s an investment. Exactly.” He pulled his hand from his pocket to point at her. “The accountant said I should invest your mother’s money. I’m going to dump it into this.”

“He meant buy stocks or mutual funds or something. Don’t throw Mom’s money away on a hotel. They’re like restaurants. They fail all the time.” She felt sick. Genuinely nauseous.

“Not if you run them properly.”

“What do you know about running a lodge? From Seattle? Why Montana? Why not find something local you can manage by driving down the street?”

He started to give her the patronizing look that claimed she was sounding like her mother, sweating the details. The P.A. announced the business class boarding.

He brightened. “That’s us. I booked us into the front, since we can write it off.”

“Against what?”

“Our new venture.”

“Your venture,” she corrected. “I’m not having anything to do with this.” Technically her mother’s fortune had been left to her husband. Glory was only a caretaker. A manager. The money belonged to her father and he could spend it any way he liked, which put a lot of pressure on her to make sure the books continued to sell because he loved to spend.

Her mother had worked really hard to build a career as a romance author, though. Glory knew how hard. She’d helped. No way did she want to see her father wipe out what could be a very nice retirement nest egg in one bird-brained swoop.

“This is for us, Glory. Something you and I will do.” Her father’s thick brows furrowed in confused hurt.

Guilt slithered through her. She knew her father hadn’t really understood how his daddy’s girl had grown out of his silly antics into a partnership with her mother. He hadn’t kicked up a fuss while her mother was so sick, but he wanted to reconnect. She knew that. And she loved him—she really did.

It wasn’t the same, though.

“Come along,” he said, jerking his head toward the preferred boarding line.

Glory could dig in her heels until she broke the earth’s crust, but it wouldn’t matter. He was going to Montana today and she already knew she was going, too. She was the responsible one in the relationship, same as her mother had been. If she let him go alone, for sure he would come back with a deed of title and an empty bank account.

She let herself be carried along like a leaf in a stream, only she was the babbling brook, hoping to dissuade him as they took their seats and he ordered champagne.

“It’s nine in the morning, Dad.”

“We’re celebrating.”

“I’m not. Explain exactly what you think is going to happen.”

“You hear the way she talks to me?” He tried engaging the flight attendant who only smiled patiently and reached to shuffle something in an overhead compartment.

“Start at the beginning. Where did you hear about this…” Glory’s throat flexed as she fought a scream “…opportunity?”

“Let’s see. I stopped for a coffee on the way home a few weeks before Christmas.”

“The shop by the campus or the one that sells weed?”

“Does it matter?”

“Kind of think it might.” Her mother had been using medicinal marijuana while she was in chemo. Marvin had begun using it for stress and was continuing out of boredom, as far as Glory could tell. Glory leaned in with sudden alarm. “You know that federally—You’re not carrying are you?”

He sniffed with offense. “I’m an educated man.”

“Do not think that being a middle-aged white guy will keep you out of jail if you do something stupid.”

“Thank you, sweetheart,” he said to the flight attendant as their champagne was delivered. Then he offered to clink glasses with Glory. “To our new adventure.”

She held her glass back. “First tell me what it is. One of your colleagues wants you to go in on a fishing lodge?”

“No, no. I can’t think of anyone on the faculty with this sort of vision. No, this came through one of my students. Oh. Listen.” He made her sit through the safety talk as the plane taxied to the runway.

“Dad.” She nudged him when the flight attendant put away her props and buckled into her jump seat. “One of your students…?”

“Right. She had a young man with her. Trigg Johansson? Do you know the name? He’s a snowboarder. I’ve looked him up. He seems very talented, doing all the triple corks and what-not-all. I asked him if that means you need three bottles in you before you try one.”

“Hahaha.” Glory hated the trickster already. “And?” She sipped her champagne. She hadn’t intended to have any, but this escapade was starting to sound like something she would need to numb with heavy drinking.

“We talked for quite a long time. Very interesting young man. Travels all over the world. His father started Wikinger Sports.”

“Really?” Huh. She couldn’t tear that down. She wasn’t the type to swan around in over-priced name brand clothing, but she liked their yoga wear. Loved it, in fact. All of their clothing was really well engineered, if insanely expensive. She had tried on a teal running jacket last year from the sale rack, but had cheaped out, mostly because she didn’t intend to start running. Cardio made her barf, but she was still mad at herself for not snapping it up.

The clothing line was an afterthought, though. Wikinger had been founded on sports equipment from skis and skates to tennis rackets and hockey nets. Their balls were all certified for use by the various federations for world cup series and gold-medal matches. Their Viking-horned logo was on everything.

The plane quit bumping along and jerked to a halt, then pivoted.

“What was he doing in Seattle?” she asked.

“They’d been up to Whistler. He was heading back to Europe to see family and train. We got to talking about that. Where he trains, what’s involved.”

She wasn’t surprised in the least. Chatting up strangers, listening to their life history over a cup of coffee, was her father’s bliss point. The only thing better for him was telling her about someone new he had met and what he had learned. She was an animal behaviorist. Did you know bees can recognize human faces? So can crows.

He was in his element this morning, having her captive for his latest educational lecture.

“It’s quite a team effort. Chasing the snow, lugging fifty snowboards to New Zealand with trainers and coaches and the rest. Wikinger sponsors him, of course. He competes on the U.S. team—”

“Oh, so he’s a real athlete, not some guy who boards on the weekends.”

“He’s won medals in all the major games. His brother Rolf is a champion. He mostly trains in Europe, but his mother is American. He said his father had wanted to develop a training facility here in the U.S. with a proper ski school and the other bells and whistles that go along with that sort of thing. He bought a resort fifteen years ago.”

“In Montana,” she surmised and took another big sip as the plane’s engines ramped up.

“Exactly.” He snapped his fingers at her like she was the smartest kid in class. “Then an avalanche leveled the place.” He cut his hand across the air. “Sounds like that might have killed his father. He had a massive heart attack a few years later. I take it Trigg was quite young and things were in disarray for a time, until his older brother retired from skiing and took over the company. Trigg thinks it’s time to resurrect the idea. He said there were some moguls he’d have to get around. Those are the bumps that form in the snow—”

“Yeah, I know, Dad.” She rolled her eyes.

“It was a play on words.” He touched his nose. “He was referring to his brother, who I understand is a tough nut. I said, ‘What, he’s not on board?’” He nudged her, smirking with pride. “He got a kick out of that. Apparently, they have quite a rivalry over skis versus boards.”

Oh dear God. She looked upward for deliverance, but only caught a faceful of blowing air from the overhead vent. She took a deep swig of her champagne.

“I was so inspired by his determination, the way he goes after what he wants and everything he’s accomplished at such a young age.”

“It’s not really rags to riches, though, is it? I mean, I’m sure he puts in the time with training, but it sounds like his father’s company foots his bills. Success comes a little easier when you’re born with a stake in the industry.”

Her father frowned a scold. “This cynicism you’ve developed is the reason we both need a change.”

“I’m fine.” She drained her champagne.

The plane began rolling, picking up speed.

“I told him, ‘If only I were young again, I’d go after some things I had always wanted.’ Trigg said, ‘You’re not that old. What’s stopping you?’ That’s when I realized your mother wasn’t here.”

“Dad!” If he had smashed off the top of his glass and plunged the jagged stem into her neck, he couldn’t have hurt her more.

He made an impatient noise. “You’re taking that the wrong way. I’m only saying I lived my life a certain way because we were married. Now I can make different choices.”

She narrowed her eyes. “How different?”

The plane lifted off with a tiny bounce.

“Teaching was never my dream. Surely being your mother’s secretary was never yours.”

“Business manager,” she muttered, not admitting that the secret of what she really wanted to do was stuck in the middle of her chest, barely voiced inside her head.

She turned her face to watch the view of concrete and bare trees and the gray waters of Puget Sound grow indistinct as the plane ascended into the ceiling of clouds, disappearing behind a field of white.

Blank emptiness surrounded her.

“I told him I had always imagined myself running a bed and breakfast after I retired.”

“Okay. See? You never told me that.” Relief washed through her as she glimpsed a way out of several problems. She had been having mixed feelings about continuing to live with her father. She was overdue to start her own life, but he seemed to need her. This would be a perfect transition. “We could totally rent some rooms at the house. I could find my own place and we could redo my bedroom and Mom’s office. Put some ads online…”

He would have endless people to talk to and quit trying to engage her all the time.

“No one comes to Seattle to stay in the ’burbs. No, I want to go big or go home. Or rather, go to a big, new home. Hmm?”

She winced at the pun, but, Wait. He wasn’t suggesting a move to Montana?

She considered making a scene so the plane would have to turn around and she could be removed and—fingers crossed—incarcerated, rather than continue down this path of paternal madness.

“We’ll have another round, sweetheart.” He handed their empty glasses to the flight attendant as she appeared.

Glory didn’t bother telling him again that he had to quit calling women ‘sweetheart.’

“Okay.” Her patience was stretching thin, but she hung on to it. “Go back to how you were inspired by Trigg—” Seriously, what kind of name was that? “—and his pursuit of his dream to be a world champion or whatever. How does that turn into buying a lodge in Montana? Why there? You know what you should do? Look for someone selling a B & B that’s already established. I’d bet there’s something on Whidbey Island or up in the San Juans. That would be perfect. I could still visit you…”

“We’re doing this together, Glory.”

“No, Dad, we’re not. Whatever you’re planning is for you. I’ll look after myself.”

“You need a proper job. You keep saying the golden goose is not immortal. That you’ve mined your mother’s backlist as far as you can go.”

“Because I don’t want you to think the money will flow indefinitely! Not because I want you to find me a new job.” She pinched the bridge of her nose.

“You like people, same as me.”

“I don’t. I really don’t.”

“You’ve been holed up in your mother’s office so long, you don’t know what you like anymore. But you like to organize and get things done—”

“I do those things because you don’t.”

“I’m getting something done right now. And this is perfect for you, especially now you’re an expert on websites and such. You can take care of that side of things.”

“You mean run a business from a laptop, exactly as I’m already doing? What a career shift. What will you do?”

“Don’t underestimate the value of a good host.” He sat straighter in his seat.

“Don’t overestimate my love of admin tasks.”

The flight attendant turned up with their refills and Glory knocked hers back.

“This is exactly the kind of thing that drove Mom crazy. You know that, right?”

“Your mother. Not you,” he said pithily, as if he had any idea who she was these days.

Whose fault is that?

She sighed, not even sure she knew herself anymore.

“Look, if you want to do something together, fine. Let’s plan a vacation. Because I know for a fact that I don’t want to run a lodge in Montana.”

“What do you want? Hmm? You said you’re not going back to school. Are you anxious to pick up your career steaming milk at an espresso bar?”

Point to him. That’s where she had discovered her hatred of people.

“I can expand my V.A. work,” she mumbled. She already offered the kind of work she had done for her mother to other authors, but more as a favor to a select few. She didn’t love it.

“This way you won’t be a virtual assistant, you’ll be a real one. I’m not letting you waste the rest of your life hiding behind a screen.”

“I’m twenty-six, not six. How I live my life is not up to you.”

“That’s the point, isn’t it? You’re not living your life.”

She eyed him. Did he know how fearful she was that she was living in her mother’s shadow, stepping in Kathleen Cormer’s footprints instead of walking her own path?

Glory smoothed a fingertip along her eyebrow. She was desperate for someone to talk to, but she had no one. Her peers, the few friends she’d made in high school and college, had dropped away while she’d been ‘holed up’ with her mother. Those women had married and started families, moving on with their careers and lives, while Glory had stalled at ‘introverted adolescent.’ She hadn’t even achieved spinster librarian, having dropped out of university before starting her masters.

Her social circle was as virtual as her job, built online from fans and author friends of her mother’s. They were lovely people, but none were the sort of deep friendships she would feel comfortable leaning on.

Her father was no help. Her mother’s career had been a threat, something he tolerated, rather than supported. He came from a tree of academic snobs who hadn’t approved of his wife’s career as a romance author. When is she going to write a ‘real’ book, was their favorite refrain. Her mother’s family hadn’t approved of the marriage, which put Glory on her back foot defending her father every time she spoke with them.

The flight attendant offered another full glass of champagne.

“Thanks. Wait. Which one of us is driving?” Glory asked her father belatedly. “Are we renting a car or something?”

“They’re taking us in by helicopter.”

“Who?”

“The Johanssons. The avalanche that took out the lodge and the lifts also washed out the road during the melt that following spring. Insurance took forever to assess the damage. When they did, Wikinger took the payout and left things as they were. No fatalities. The hill was closed when it happened. I asked. Bit of a pity. A haunted lodge would add some appeal, don’t you think?”

“Oh, for God’s sake, Dad.” She slugged back another mouthful of bubbles. “Wait. Are you saying—Is this lodge not even on a main highway? It’s on a ski hill that no longer exists? Wow, when you said ‘dump’ Mom’s money, you meant like take it to a landfill, didn’t you? For an educated man, you’re falling for quite the snow job. Get it?”

“Maybe slow down.” He frowned at her half-empty glass. “The Johanssons are bringing the ski hill back online. The facility will be the draw with its elite trainers and such. Top-shelf athletes and their entourages will want to come to this resort. They’ll host world events. We’ll be the next Tahoe.”

Glory thought she might throw up a little bit. Even more than the purchase of a jalopy that he didn’t have the skill to rebuild, or the time-share it had taken her mother years to unload, this scheme had the potential to bankrupt him.

“Do you remember how long the bathroom reno took? Months. Do you think this ski hill is going to be up and running anytime soon? No. It will take years.”

“Exactly. And where will the workers stay as they come and go? There’s not much in Haven, which is the nearest town, and it’s fifty miles away. I’ve worked it out with Trigg. His brother doesn’t want to renovate and run the lodge—”

“Gee, I wonder why?”

“But he needs accommodation for his workmen. They won’t mind rough quarters and sawdust while we remodel. He’ll let rooms for the workers he brings in which will give us the cash flow for the renovations. We’ll have the place up to scratch for when the ski hill is operational and that’s a win-win.”

She shook her head. “I can’t even—No. When we get back to Seattle, we’re going straight to your doctor. I think your blood pressure meds are making you loopy.”

“When we get back to Seattle, I’m listing the house. I’ve already talked to Francis.”

Her mouth dropped open. Francis had been in treatment with her mom. She was a real estate agent.

“I wanted to let you have a last Christmas in the house, Glory, but you have to admit it was depressing as hell. It’s time we moved on.”

She couldn’t bear that look in his eyes. Her own filled. She felt six, without a voice as her parents made her leave her old school because her father had got something called ‘tenure’ and they had to move. She had never fit in at the new one and—

She gasped as something else hit her.

“Did you quit your job? Is that why you haven’t gone back since December? I knew you were supposed to have classes this week!”

Finally, he had the grace to look uncomfortable.

Her brain spun. Oh, she was mad, then. And scared. All she could see was her mother’s gaunt face, her bald head wrapped in her purple scarf. “I would leave everything to you, Glory. You know I would. You’ve more than earned it. But I don’t know how he’ll manage. You’d only wind up looking after him. This way, he has something to fall back on. It’s not all on you.”

But it was all on her. She already knew it was.

“What about your pension?” she asked her dad.

“It wasn’t much. Not worth another nine years of my life.”

“I’m not even speaking to you anymore.” She looked out the window, where the sun shone brilliantly over a blanket of fluffy clouds.

“To paraphrase someone who shall remain nameless, I am fifty-six, not six. I can do what I want.”

“Yes. You can. So why drag me into it?”

“Because you’re lost, Glory.” His voice was gentle and the hand that covered hers was firm and warm.

She wanted to snatch her hand away, but could only sit there, arm aching under his touch. She worked to hold her mouth tight, trying to keep her lips from trembling. Her throat was so constricted it radiated a relentless throb into her chest.

It wasn’t just grief. It was an absence of goals. Direction. She was lost.

“I’m fine,” she insisted, blindly keeping her gaze out the window. The white of the clouds was so bright, it made her eyes water.

“I want you to come with me.”

He wanted her to do the work for him. He needed her to. Marvin Cormer was an academic who could barely cook an egg. Glory had tried to show him how to pay the bills online. He was hopeless, forever asking her to input his grades and reprogram the PVR, somehow blowing up the printer on a regular basis.

Him, run a lodge? Not likely. He would run through her mother’s money and, as her mother had predicted, it would be on Glory to look after him.

She had to talk him out of this.

And somehow get him his job back, but she wouldn’t think about that right now.

Maybe she could reason with this Trigg dude. Explain he was taking advantage of a middle-aged man who might appear to possess all his faculties, but was actually going into a mid-life crisis brought on by the recent death of his wife.

We have reservations about this, she could say.

She smirked, tempted to tell her father that one.

She might have, if this was funny, but it wasn’t. What a nightmare.

The pilot came over the P.A. to announce they would begin their descent. The flight attendant took their glasses and Glory continued staring out the window, biting her nail. It was a childish habit she’d returned to when the treatments had stopped working and they’d all had to face facts.

Her ears popped. Beyond the window, the clouds began to dissipate like torn cotton. The earth below was coated in snow, sparkly and blinding with a few dark dots and lines. No city, just a sparsely populated town, a handful of low buildings and long, empty roads.

And there were the Rockies.

She cocked her head, telling herself she wasn’t that impressed. The Cascades were just as beautiful and they were right there, in Seattle’s back yard. Plus, Seattle had the ocean, not that she spent much time at the beach. There were an awful lot of critters on saltwater beaches. Stanky kelp and sand fleas. She never swam there, not quite trusting the waves, especially if they washed foam all over the shoreline. She was a freshwater gal.

Seattle stayed green pretty much year-round, though. This monochromatic scape of hills and valleys looked like a crumpled piece of newspaper.

The plane was landing in earnest, nose-diving her into this world she didn’t want to enter even for an afternoon.

The next Tahoe. Her father truly was a first-class dreamer.

The real Tahoe would be a good setting for a book, though. She bet there were all sorts of adorable cottages there with snow-covered gables. Inns that were overbooked for the holidays… Great place for a romance take on that classic Christmas story about no room at the inn. That would mean a pregnant heroine, which was always tricky, especially if there was a Christmas theme. She’d learned that from editing her mother’s books. Would the hero be the father? How could he not be?

What if he thought he was, but wasn’t? She could already hear the hero when he found out who the father was. “I never saw myself playing Joseph to some rock god’s baby…”

The plane bumped down, shaking her back to reality.

She touched her throat, trying to steady a pulse that was suddenly pounding. Her spine felt prickly and her nostrils tingled as though scenting something sharp.

“What’s wrong?” her father asked.

“Nothing,” she murmured. Just that the voices—one voice—had come back. That hadn’t happened in ages. At least a year.

She sat very still as the plane taxied to the gate. She resisted the urge to explore her own mind like prodding a broken tooth with her tongue. Muses were shy—that much she knew. If hers was finally showing herself again, she didn’t want to scare her away.

Shhh.

But there was one other thing she knew. If she was able to write, there was no way she was moving to Montana to run a lodge with her father.

End of Excerpt