Authors: Barbara Dunlop
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance
“That’s ridiculous. I’m not burning out. I’m happy, settled, perfectly emotionally balanced. They can test me if they’d like.”
“You logged more hours last month than any of our other techs.”
“I had a lot of work to get done. Are you punishing me for something?”
“It’s Colorado, not Siberia.”
Jade was becoming truly baffled. “
am I going to do in Colorado?”
“I hear they have trout.”
She peered at him for a long moment. “Do you have any idea how many open files I have on my desk right now?”
“They can wait. There’ll always be more open files.”
“Aidleman Grocery’s customer database is vulnerable.” Aidleman’s was a national client with thousands of employees and hundreds of thousands of customers.
“Yeah, well, they were vulnerable last month. They can wait a couple of weeks.”
“A couple of
,” she squeaked, rising from her chair. “What the hell, Virgil? What did I do wrong?”
“Nothing. You worked hard, is all.”
“I’m being punished for working hard?”
.” He pursed his lips. “I didn’t call you in here to debate with you. I called you in here to inform you. This is an order. Your flight leaves from JFK in the morning.”
“That is ridiculous. Am I being punked?” She glanced around the room, hoping to spot a hidden camera.
Virgil pushed a manila envelope across the desk. “You’re staying at the Twin Peaks Resort.”
“No, I’m not.”
“You might be able to order me out of the office. But you can’t order me out of the city.”
He leaned back in his chair, expression relaxing a little bit. “Do you like your job, Jade?”
“Of course I like my job. I love my job.”
“Then go to Colorado. This new program is coming directly from the top. You’re the guinea pig, and they’ll need a report on how the experience impacts your psychological well-being. Play some tennis. Climb a rock. Row a boat. I don’t care. Just
have some fun
and document it before you come back all relaxed and refreshed.” He picked up the envelope and held it out to her.
“This is ridiculous,” she repeated.
“Take it and go. You’ve wasted enough of my time.”
wasted your time? This isn’t my fault.”
“I know it’s not. Honestly, if it was anybody but you, I’d think they were sleeping with the vice president and getting favors from the brass.”
“I’m not sleeping with anybody.” Which was, sadly, the whole truth. She hadn’t even had any offers lately.
“Too much information, Jade.”
“Yeah,” she agreed, reluctantly taking the envelope.
For an irrational second it occurred to her that sex would likely be a lot more fun than fishing. Too bad she wasn’t into lumberjacks in plaid, flannel shirts. If that was her preference, a vacation in Mirror Falls might actually be the answer to her ailing sex life.
Logan Edwards landed
his Beaver float plane on the choppy waters of Mirror Lake. The Swiss tourist in the back seat groaned in pain as the plane thumped over the choppy water. Logan had put a rudimentary splint on the man’s broken ankle before loading him into the aircraft.
“I’ll have you to the dock soon,” Logan told the man’s wife over the headset. “The medics will meet us there.”
“Thank you,” she replied with a heavy accent.
The couple’s English was weak, so the extent of the man’s injuries hadn’t been clear in the satellite distress call. If Logan had known, he would have brought along a medic.
He pointed the plane toward the shore and spoke to the tower. “Nine one seven alpha, taxiing to Treeline Aviation dock. Please close my flight plan.”
“Your flight plan is closed. Have a good day.”
“Nine one seven alpha.”
He maneuvered the plane alongside the dock, swiftly exiting through the pilot’s door, balancing on the floats, tying off to the dock.
There, he met the waiting paramedics. One of them was his sister, Amy, the other Phillip Yves.
“Broken ankle, near as I can tell,” said Logan. “There’s a language barrier, but it sounds like he took a fall from the rock face above Fern Camp.”
Phillip positioned the stretcher, while Amy swung open the wide back door and climbed up the foot rails to the patient.
At the same time, Logan’s second cousin Elroy made his way across the dock from his helicopter compound. A helicopter pilot, Elroy had grown up in Mirror Falls with Logan and Amy. As teenagers, both boys had been avid climbers and passionate about flying. They’d gone to flight school together as soon as they graduated high school.
“Need any help?” asked Elroy, taking in the scene.
“It’s under control,” Logan answered as they watched Phillip and Amy carefully move the man out of the Beaver and help him onto the stretcher.
“Vitals are stable,” Amy told Phillip. Then she keyed the microphone attached at her shoulder. “ETA eight minutes. Possible fractured left fibula. We’ll need an X-ray.”
She smiled as she passed Logan. “See you tonight, bro.”
“You bet.” He nodded in return.
“Don’t be late.”
He shook his head at the unnecessary warning.
Today was their mother’s fiftieth birthday. The surprise party at his Aunt Bonnie and Uncle Mike’s hotel, the Twin Peaks Resort, had been planned for months. Most of the town’s long-term residents would be there, and Logan didn’t think his mother, Diane, had a clue.
“You done for the day?” asked Elroy as the medical team departed.
“I’ve got a pickup at the Lone Tree pullout in an hour. A couple of kayakers have been shooting the river since Tuesday. You?”
“On call tonight, but nothing scheduled.”
Elroy and Logan were both part of the emergency rescue network for Mirror Falls. The Beaver secured, the two men made their way to the Dog Trails, a little café at the foot of Main Street, nestled between the float-plane base and the town’s airstrip.
A Dash 8 turboprop appeared at the head of the valley, silhouetted against the colorful maples and aspen on its final approach into the strip. It was Friday afternoon, so Logan knew it was the scheduled flight from Denver. September brought the last of the climbers and campers to Mirror Falls. October would be quiet, and then the ski season would get underway, with hotels booked up for months in advance.
“She might come back,” Elroy offered, his thoughts obviously going to the passengers on the plane.
“She won’t come back,” said Logan.
And he didn’t want Sasha Burke to come back. It had been nearly two months since she left, and he was over her. He might have once been infatuated, but he was determined to relegate her to his list of flings.
Along about the time he’d turned sixteen, he’d discovered the concept of holiday romance. He’d met dozens of female tourists over the years. Sometimes, they merely flirted, kissing and speculating about what might have happened between them in a different time and place. Sometimes, they did more, savoring their short interlude, the impending goodbye making everything sweeter.
But he’d never wanted any of them to stay, never thought about taking it further, not until Sasha.
The Dash 8 touched down on the runway, engines roaring in the distance as it slowed to turn at the south end and taxied to the small terminal building.
“Wonder who’s single on that flight,” said Logan, making reference to a joke that had run between the two men for years now.
“Now you’re talking,” said Elroy. “I’ll take the redheads this time.”
“Blondes,” Logan joked in return. “I think I’m in the mood for a blonde.”
As he said the words, he desperately wanted them to be true. But if Sasha walked off that plane right now, auburn hair flowing in the breeze, smile on her red lips, and a glow in those blue eyes, he wasn’t sure what he’d do.
Elroy pushed open the door to the Dog Trails Café. The room was toasty warm, flames from the big stone fireplace reflecting off the log walls. The fire was overkill for September, but it was always welcome in January when temperatures dropped to the low teens.
Through the window, the aircraft came to a halt next to the terminal building. The ground crew descended with luggage trailers, a fueling truck, catering, and a staircase to allow the passengers to disembark.
“You guys still on duty?” Mavis called from behind the counter. She was in her early forties, with a bright smile, plump rosy cheeks, and long dark hair piled up on her head.
“We’re on duty,” Logan answered, taking a booth next to the window.
Mavis gave a wave of acknowledgment and began to dispense two colas from the fountain.
“Generator came in,” said Elroy as he settled back on the bench seat.
“Parts all there? Everything? The wiring?”
“Believe it or not, everything arrived together.”
“So, we’re good to go?”
“As soon as the Beaver’s available for transport.”
Logan couldn’t help but grin. He and Elroy had spent years building a cottage beside a remote, unnamed lake up on Castle Mountain. Every summer, the cottage got a little bit bigger or a little bit better. This year, they’d wired it and installed a fridge and stove in the kitchen in anticipation of their new generator.
For years now, they’d relied on a hand pump to feed their gravity water system, drawing from the lake. An electric water pump would free up hours of their time, time they could use for hiking, fishing and lounging on the deck telling lies.
“I’ll check the schedule,” said Logan. “But I don’t think we’re too busy next week.”
As Mavis set their colas in front of them, Logan’s attention was snagged by a passenger disembarking the Dash 8. As the woman stepped off the stairs, her thick, auburn hair lifted in the breeze. She was in profile as she followed the white lines toward the terminal door, and for a second there…
“Logan?” Elroy prompted.
It wasn’t Sasha, Logan told himself, positive that he was right. But he watched a moment longer just to be sure. She was slightly taller, slightly thinner, and her hair was longer and darker in tone. Plus, Sasha would never wear jeans that tight, heels that high, or a cropped, steel-blue leather jacket with zippers at the sides and studs across the shoulders.
She turned to say something to a security official and confirmed his assessment. But then she smiled, and he felt a punch to the center of his gut.
“Earth to Logan.”
Not Sasha, he reminded himself. She was a different sexy, auburn-haired beauty, one he’d probably never even meet. There wasn’t a reason in the world for him to react to her on any level whatsoever.
here was a
party at the end of the hallway. And from what Jade could hear, it was a big one. She was curled up in a corner furniture grouping in the Twin Peaks Resort lounge, sipping her way through a martini and writing lies on the Seaboard Development report about how relaxed she was feeling.
She’d already tried logging into their system to check her projects, but her account had been temporarily suspended. She supposed she should have seen that one coming.
She thought about hacking into one of her colleagues’ accounts, or even Virgil’s. But she didn’t want to get anyone in trouble. And she really didn’t want to get fired. She’d called Cathy Margolis at the office, but everyone was under orders not to speak to her about work while she was away relaxing.
Relaxing. Huh! How could a woman relax when she was constantly worried about her clients? And boredom was not the same thing as relaxation. Boredom was frustrating. Frustration led to exasperation. And exasperation was
She pulled up her personal e-mail and typed in Virgil’s address, intending to lay out her latest argument for returning to New York. She probably should have made it before she’d left the city. It was a good one. This ridiculous vacation was going to have the opposite of the intended effect.
“Would you care to order dinner?” the waitress interrupted her typing.
Jade looked up at the woman dressed neatly in a black skirt and white blouse. She supposed eating would be a good idea, particularly since she intended to have a second martini while she told off her boss.
She scanned the open menu. “Something light…oh, the avocado bruschetta?”
“It’s very popular. We serve it traditionally on heirloom sourdough or as a multigrain wrap with cranberries and goat cheese.”
“The wrap, please. And can I get another vodka martini?”
“Lemon and olive?”
“Make it two.” A woman plunked herself down on the sofa at the next furniture grouping. She smiled at Jade. “You just ordered my favorite drink.”
“She’s also ordered the bruschetta wrap.”
“A woman after my own heart.” The woman shifted over, leaning to hold out her hand. “I’m Amy Edwards.”
Jade set down her tablet and shook the woman’s hand, thinking that the people of Mirror Falls were almost comically open and friendly. “Jade Korrigan.”
“You’re here on vacation?” Amy was dressed in a sparkling silver cocktail dress, sleeveless with a cowl neckline. The fabric had subtle black lightning bolts running throughout. It was gorgeous, and so was she.