Authors: K.J. Emrick
First published in Australia by South Coast Publishing, August 2014.
Copyright K.J. Emrick (2014)
This is a work of fiction. The characters, incidents and locations portrayed in this book and the names herein are fictitious. Any similarity to or identification with the locations, names, characters or history of any person, product or entity is entirely coincidental and unintentional.
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"You're the most beautiful
girl I know, Darcy Sweet."
Darcy looked into Jon Tinker's
clear blue eyes and smiled at the compliment. It was nice to have his undivided attention being lavished on her, even if she suspected he had a hidden motive behind that roguish smile. The smile that tugged up one side of his mouth and transformed him from handsome to dangerously gorgeous…
She could admit that Jon was incredibly attractive. She could even admit that the thought of three days alone with him in this cabin in the mountains made her heart do backflips. That did not mean she'd forgiven him. Yet.
telling me I'm beautiful because you know you're in trouble," she told him, using her fork to cut into the pan-seared fish on her plate. Dinner, a cozy table in a quietly romantic room, candlelight. The night held just the kind of promise they had been hoping for when they decided to take this trip.
"But you are beautiful
." Jon shrugged one shoulder, keeping his expression carefully smooth as he suppressed a smile. "I know I have a lot to make up for."
Darcy caught a strand of her long dark hair and twisted it arou
nd her finger. Jon was sitting very close to her, and the way the candlelight played over his white dress shirt, his muscular arms and broad chest, was definitely a distraction. They had dressed up for dinner even though it was only the two of them. Him in that shirt with its wide neck and a pair of black slacks, her in a slim blue dress that she had bought especially for this trip. It was fun. Like playing dress up. Like they were on a first date.
Locking her gaze to his again
she felt heat spread through her body. A rush of emotion flowed through her like water coursing through an uncontrollable river. She was tempted to forgive everything her on-again, off-again—and now on-again—boyfriend had put her through.
The thing was
, she was enjoying this too much to just give in and forgive him. Jon was working hard to set things right between them and it would be a shame to waste that kind of effort. Like cooking this dinner himself on the little stove in their cabin. Like getting down on one knee, not to propose, but to ask her if he could move back in to their house. He was twisting himself around in knots to make her happy.
So let him work a little harder, she thought with a smile.
"Yes," she said to him, trying to sound angry. It came out more like bemused. "You have a lot to make up for. Let's start with how you left me for a job in another town."
"Oh," he said slowly, raising his eyebrows. "I meant I had to make up for how bad this dinner turned out."
"Jon. You know that's not what I meant."
He held up a forkful of the parmesan crusted salmon.
"Really? Have you seen this fish?" He laughed, unable to keep it in anymore, and she couldn't help laughing with him.
In that one moment, everything became all right with the world again.
For months now something had been missing from Darcy's life. Jon had gone through a crisis, a time in his life when it seemed everything was going wrong, and he had tried to make it better by distancing himself. From her, from the town of Misty Hollow that had become his home, from everything. He'd moved out of their house. He'd taken a job in a town over an hour away from her. For a while, Darcy had even been convinced that things were over between them. A hole had opened in her heart that would not close.
Now he was back, and they were working hard to find
their way back to what they'd had before. Darcy was happier now with Jon than she'd been in a very long time. That was something worth fighting for.
This mini vacation in the mountains
had been all Jon's idea as well. Trips like this had worked wonders for their relationship before, in this picturesque little town far away from Misty Hollow, and they had pinned a lot of expectations on this trip now. Things were going great from where Darcy sat, and it was only Friday night. They still had the whole weekend.
was actually a ski resort town. A few miles below where their cabin was tucked in near the ski runs were the clusters of houses and shops where the year round residents lived. This time of year, as summer was coming to an end, the lines of the ski trails made barren paths through the towering evergreen trees. Summer was the off season and the town was quiet and sleepy amid rolling hills and an incredible views.
Darcy had seen
the most amazing panoramic vista on their way up to the cabin, where the road hugged the low rise of the mountain and one side dropped away to a hollow far below. Blue skies had already been fading to purples and reds by the time they arrived. What was the old saying? Red sky at night, sailors delight.
Darcy was no sailor, but she hoped that the gorgeous sunset
they had watched through the cabin window, nuzzled close together in bed before dinner, meant good things for her and Jon as well.
held his gaze, smiling a wry little smile. "You know there's nothing wrong with this dinner. You're an amazing cook. Are you telling me, Detective Tinker, that you don't have anything to apologize for? Something, maybe, to do with your girlfriend?"
glass globe that held a short, squat candle out of his way, Jon leaned in closer to her. He was so close that she could feel his breath on her cheek, see every thought in those beautiful eyes of his. The pull of gravity held them both.
"Darcy," he whispered, "I can never make up for what happened. For leaving you like I did. I will try, every day and every night, for the rest of my life. When I think I've tried hard enough, I'll work harder."
She sighed between parted lips. "That's a good start."
The tension between them seemed to stretch for an eternity until his lips were finally brushing against hers and it was like falling into him for the very first time. A rush of time and space swept her up into his arms. She didn't remember standing up, or his arms
wrapping around her, or when the fireworks had started in her mind, but suddenly she was breaking the kiss to pull in a needed breath and rest her head into the hollow of his shoulder.
"Yes," she said when she could speak again. "That's a very good start."
"You know I love you, right?" he asked her.
"I know you love me, and I know I love you.
Just don't ever doubt it again, okay? I might have to hunt you down and fill your shoes with cement."
paint my tires pink?" he asked.
And cut holes in the ends of all your socks." She realized he was swaying them both side to side, small steps leading them in a lazy circle. "Jon, what are you doing?"
She laughed at him. "There's no music."
"I know, sweet baby
. I still want to dance with you."
weet baby. That had been his pet nickname for her, once upon a time before stress had overwhelmed him and made him lose himself. Her heart skipped to hear it again. Her hands felt up his back, up to the nape of his neck where her fingernails could play with his skin. He was nearly a foot taller than her in her stocking feet, moving in time to the rhythm of their hearts.
When he started humming, she didn't recognize the tune. She didn't care. They were back together again.
His hand slid to the small of her back, to that spot that he knew so well, and her hands were suddenly twining into his dark hair and pulling his head down to hers and their kiss reignited, promising to burn as hot as any kiss in history.
A knock on the cabin door caught them both off guard. They stumbled and Darcy nearly fell
Jon caught her around her waist. She giggled and got her feet under her again. "Guess I'm just clumsy in anything but blue jeans."
Whoever was outside knocked again, and Jon sighed. "Privacy. The brochure promised privacy."
Darcy pushed herself up on her tiptoes
to kiss his cheek. "We have time. We can be as private as we want. Later."
The look of disappointment in his eyes was impossible to miss.
She laughed at him and playfully ran her fingers down his arm. This weekend was going to be perfect.
With a shrug,
Jon unwrapped himself from her and went to the door. The cabins of the Lonely Cub resort were all pretty much the same. A single room held a good sized double bed with a four poster canopy. The stout wooden frame was carved with cartoonish bear faces across the headboard and bears climbing up the posts. A pinewood dresser held a flatscreen television that Darcy didn't expect would get a lot of use this weekend. A white gas stove sat in the corner, a microwave next to it. A separate bathroom held a spa tub and stand up shower and a small sink. The cabin was small, and cozy, and isolated. The single window set into the wall faced a view of the mountain. The curtain was drawn now. Privacy, like Jon had said.
They were a long way from Misty Hollow. N
o one should even know they were here. Darcy had no idea who would be knocking on their door.
While Jon went to the door s
he decided to sit back at the table and eat a little more. He really was a good cook and the salmon was perfect. He could joke all he wanted, she was just glad that he was the one who did the cooking. Some days she couldn't boil water.
From where she sat, chewing a bite of pasta in white sauce, Darcy faced the door. Jon put an eye to the little security peephole first, ever the good police officer, and then stepped back to
open for the person standing there.
She was tall, and slim
, with the rugged grace that athletic women often possessed. Those were the first things Darcy noticed. In her green hoodie and blue jeans with the rips at the knees she stood nearly as tall as Jon did. She had a very expressive face under tight blonde curls. Her hands were fisted into the pockets of her sweater as she smiled and nodded.
"Can we help you?" Jon asked.
"I really, really hope so," the woman said. "I need pizza."
Darcy wasn't sure if she'd
heard that right. Her food went down hard as she swallowed it back, trying to ask the question that Jon got out first. "Did you expect to find a pizza party in our cabin?"
"Oh," the woman said, shifting her balance and looking embarrassed. "No. Sorry, I have a bad habit of starting at the end of a story and working backward…
Uh. Let me start over. Hi, I'm JoEllen Meyers. I'm renting the cabin just next door."
She took her hands out to point as if it was very important to show Jon and Darcy wh
ere she meant. Jon didn't say anything. Darcy didn't, either. The moment hung and JoEllen's hands drifted back to her pockets. "I guess that doesn't really explain it, either. See, my phone is out and I wanted to order some dinner but I can't without a phone. Can I borrow yours?"
when she finally got to the point and explained what she needed. It must be exhausting, Darcy thought, to live inside a brain like that, if this was the way she always talked to people.