Sweethearts on the high school ski team, Riley and Jean-Claude always expected to marry and stay together forever. But as they become world-class skiers, they drift apart, and Jean abandons Riley.
Years later, Jean appears unannounced to train at the resort where Riley works. He’s still charmingly irresistible and physically powerful, and is the US’s hope for a second Olympic downhill gold. Once Riley herself expected to win gold, but a skiing accident dashed those hopes. Jean never sent any condolences, and he shattered her heart when he married — and quickly divorced — a skier she dislikes.
Anger and pain flare between them, and Riley ignores Jean’s attempts at friendship to insulate herself from further hurt. Yet the old longings and the love they once shared resurface. What will it take for her to come to terms with the past? Or can she?
Note: may contain sexually explicit scenes of a homoerotic nature.
Jean-Claude ran a finger down her jaw line. And she thought her legs would melt at the gentle touch. His voice softened. “Ski with me, Riley.”
Lord knew she wanted to satisfy the sudden, overwhelming need to do that very thing, to be a teen again and experience the joy of flying down the mountain beside him, with winter’s icy breath stamping color in their faces and exhilaration triggering laughter as they slowed and swished in a half-circle, snow flying from their skis in an arc, as they came to a stop.
Temptation almost ripped her in half before she shook her head. She no longer skied at his level and their relationship was broken. It would never be the same. “I have to work.”
“I’ll help you.”
“You are not an employee.” She kept her voice firm.
He grinned as he leaned down, sending a spark of electric desire through her as he kissed her cheek very near her mouth. “Ah, but I’m a special guest. Sam has given me carte blanche .”
Sam, is it?
Jean’s natural charm was still there.
She sighed and stepped back. Charm was manipulative, and what it accomplished didn’t last. “Sorry. Can’t let you. And please don’t kiss me.”
Or touch me.
Before she could stop him, he’d relieved her of her box of donuts, confiscated the key in her hand, and opened the door to the offices. Inside, his slender, strong hands nimbly added grounds to the coffeepot filter, filled the water reservoir, and started it all while her nerves caused her fingers to fumble turning up the room heat.
She opened the cupboard for the mugs.
“I’ll get them.”
Her brain swirled as he put one hand on the counter beside her and reached around her with the other for the cups. Enclosed in his arms, feeling the curves of his body where his groin in his ski suit melded with her tush, she almost wept from longing.
He kissed the top of her head and whispered against her hair. “I’ve missed you.”
That killed her mood.
Missed me? Like hell you did!
She ducked under his arm and slapped a stack of cheap white napkins beside the donuts. “The big trail is good to go, so you can do the double black again. Paul came before I did and groomed it. He’s in an information meeting with the other leaders of various programs. Maybe he’ll find out why no one told us you’d be here.”
“Because I asked them not to tell. I wanted it to be a surprise. I didn’t want the media here shooting photos and interviewing me when I showed up. Besides, I wanted to surprise you.”
“Oh.” She felt stupid. “The media thing makes sense.”
She couldn’t stop him from hopping on the lift and sitting beside her with his firm thigh touching hers — warm against her even through his ski suit — but she didn’t have to carry on a conversation with him, so she didn’t. As they exited the ride, she turned her back on him and pushed off on the single black. She checked the others while he skied the double repeatedly.
By the time she’d finished her check of the runs, the rest of the crew had arrived, and she left to teach her first class of the day on the bunny slope.
By noon she was starving and tired. Her emotions after going down Satan’s Domain and the conflict over Jean being here had drained her of energy. She desperately needed food. Ellie and Le Roy were sitting at an open table in the dining hall, but she carried her lunch tray to a separate small table for two because she wanted to be alone, wasn’t up to talking to people. Riley set her tray down just as Jean slapped down his across from hers. Before she could protest, he pulled her chair out and seated her.
She couldn’t hold back a long sigh, regret that she couldn’t just let go and respond to him mingling with irritation. “Can’t get rid of you, can I, Jean?”
From the corner of her eye she noticed Ellie watching, but was forced to turn her attention to Jean when he asked, “You seeing someone, O’Ryan? Paul, maybe?”
Surprised, she asked, “Paul? What makes you think that?”
“Oh, I guess it’s the way he looks after you.”
“He’s patrol leader, and that’s his job. If you’d been here longer you’d have seen he does that with each of us. Fact is, he’s married. Happily.” She placed the emphasis on that last word.
“Then why am I getting the cold shoulder from you? We’ve been friends a long time.”
“Were friends. ”