BUNNY HILLS AND BIKINIS
Amelia stood at the end of a line directly in front of Evergreen Lodge’s check-in counter, trying desperately not to think about how much her feet hurt. It wasn’t working.
Stupid, impractical boots. The boots had heels so high any person in their right mind would pass them over in the store. Anyone but me of course.
She shifted her weight from one foot to the other, hoping to ease the pain and pressure in her throbbing feet. Before any relief had a chance to sink in, it was time to move another few inches forward as one person finally stepped away from the counter with their coveted room key in hand.
It was as if a million mosquitoes were nibbling the soles of her feet as pinpricks of pain pierced her skin. Streaks of heat shot up into her calves. Her toes cramped and ached—they might be permanently curled into the shape of the too-narrow boot by the time she was finally able to take them off.
Then she’d throw them in the flippin’ garbage. Stupid boots obviously made by a man who would never have to walk in them. No woman would ever make boots this torturous.
Come on already. She eyed the two people who had the all-powerful job of giving out room keys.
It had been an exceptionally long day already, starting with a two-hour delay at the airport, then ice on the runway, then baggage people who were too busy with other things to retrieve her bag from the underbelly of the plane. Now all she wanted was to get to her room and collapse on the hopefully comfortable hotel bed for an hour before she was expected at the kick-off dinner for the weekend-long workshop she was attending here at the lodge. Of course, it might take her the entire hour just to get through to the head of the line and check-in.
If they’re going to make us wait, they should at least give us drinks. Little “welcome to our line-up, it sucks!” martinis or something. Or anything garnished with a wedge of pineapple and a cherry piggybacking on a plastic spear—that would be fine too.
Amelia narrowed her eyes as she watched the other line start moving. Why, Universe? Why is it I always pick the slowest line possible? It was a curse, that’s what it was. The universe’s cruel curse on her designed to always make her late and annoyed. And to hurt her feet.
Pulling out her cell phone, she intended to check her email and prayed she’d find one that would confirm her suspicion that this trip was all a big joke. Like she was really supposed to be in Vegas, poolside with a drink in hand and a hot cabana towel guy answering to her every desire until the workshop started, instead of being bundled into her usual woolly sweater and her must-have-been-manufactured-by-Satan-himself uncomfortable boots.
Her cell phone beeped to life as the sound of a man’s voice from somewhere beside her broke through the white noise of the hotel lobby. The voice was so sexy it sent a river of heat straight to her core. She shoved her phone into her pocket, no longer caring if she had new email or not. Fantasies of hunky cabana guys and girly drinks could wait. Some things were more important than email and simple fantasies—like this voice. This very sexy, very intriguing voice.
“I’m looking forward to skiing. I haven’t been on these slopes before.” The deep voice resonated through the lobby from somewhere amongst the crowd of people waiting. Craning her neck to the side, Amelia tried to get a sense of where the voice had come from. It was as though it had called out to her, urging her to find it.
Something about a deep, sexy voice always made her melt into a puddle of goo. And this voice was very sexy—almost too sexy if that was even possible. It was deep and warm with a subtle hint of rasp in it, like the owner had just woken from a long, deep sleep. She could barely let herself imagine how this voice would sound after a night of passion and heavy breathing. It was heaven to her ears and bordered on intoxicating.
“You’re right, I should do that. Thanks.” The man with the voice laughed, a short chuckle that caused a wave of desire to ripple across her skin. Suddenly, it was a hundred degrees in the lobby.
Wow. His voice is like chocolate and sex rolled into one yummy nugget of pure deliciousness.
“Can I help you?” the man behind the counter said, his voice as ordinary as anyone could have.
“Yes you can.” Amelia gingerly stepped forward to take her place at the head of the line. Ouch. My feet hurt.
“I’m Amelia Brooks. I’m checking in for the weekend.” She handed over a credit card she knew he’d ask for next.
“You’re part of the team building workshop, is that correct?”
“Yep. Sounds fun, huh?” She tried to joke, but it fell flat. She didn’t think it sounded fun. She thought it sounded worse than a day at the dentist. The only reason she’d signed up to come was because she was determined to get away from Minneapolis for a little while.
That, and she had been tricked into coming.
Her bosses thought it had been funny to tell them that the weekend workshop would be held in California this year. After the volunteers were secured, they’d corrected themselves and clarified that it was not the sunny beaches part of California but the snowy mountain peaks of Lake Tahoe part of California.
Amelia hadn’t thought it was funny. She never would have volunteered if she’d known it was going to be somewhere cold. She already had ample amounts of cold in Minneapolis. What she needed was a weekend of warm sun and sand tickling between her toes—that’s what she volunteered for.
Since she’d been gullible enough to volunteer, now she was stuck in more freezing weather and working all weekend. That was everyone’s idea of fun, right?
The man behind the counter smiled at her but didn’t respond. A few clicks on his computer later and he slid a plastic card across the counter. “You’re in room 214.” He dropped a manila envelope onto the counter beside the key. “This is your workshop information and a map of the lodge. Do you have any questions?”
The only question in her mind was how fast she could limp to her room in her ever-painful boots. “Thanks, I think I’m good.”
“Enjoy your stay here at Evergreen Lodge.” He waved his hand for the next person to step forward as Amelia moved out of the way with her room keycard and envelope in hand.
Grabbing the handle of her suitcase, she started off in the direction of the elevators. Her arm yanked backward when her suitcase refused to roll. She tugged on it again with both hands, thinking maybe it had gotten caught up on the carpet.
Give me a frickin’ break. I just want to get to my room.
She forced herself to suck in a deep breath.
A short distance away, a small queue of people waited for the doors to open and she wanted to be with them to catch the next available elevator. As if on cue, the doors opened with a quiet chime and the group of people waiting surged forward. The doors closed again without her, defeating her and leaving her behind to struggle with her bag.
Squatting down to get a closer look at her suitcase, she flipped it over and realized right away the cause of the problem. One of the wheels was completely broken. A deep crack in the plastic wheel caused a sharp edge to poke out at an odd angle, essentially preventing it from spinning. She’d been able to drag it from the airport okay, but apparently while waiting in line here, it had finally decided to give up its fight and die.
She pushed on the sharp edge carefully, trying to nudge it back into place while not impaling the tender flesh on the heel of her hand. It was no use. She stood up from the floor, frustrated and even more annoyed. Now she’d have to call the airline and report the damaged bag, which was just about the last thing she wanted to do. She wanted to rest and attempt to avoid the headache she knew was bound to hit any second now, not fight with airline employees over a stupid suitcase.
The elevator door chimed again. “Hold the door, please,” she called, trying her best to hurry. A man stepped in to the elevator. “Wait.” She raised her voice hoping it was louder this time, urging the man to hear her over the noise of the busy hotel lobby.
Realizing there was no other option, she quickly heaved the bag into her arms. It was heavier than she remembered and she wobbled under the weight of it. Her high-heeled boots weren’t meant for manual labor either apparently. At this rate, she’d be lucky if she made it all the way to her room without twisting her ankle. She took a few more wobbly steps toward the doors before they started to close without her.
“Wait. Please, wait.” She wondered if he could even hear her over her own panting. She was quickly losing her breath under the weight of her suitcase and yelling was getting harder and harder.
Determined to make it in time before the doors closed, she surged forward. Almost there. She had to make it before the doors shut or be forced to wait for yet another thing again today.
Amelia made it to the elevator doors just as they closed in front of her with a soft thud. Dropping her bag in disbelief, her mouth fell open in outrage. She couldn’t believe that someone could be so rude and uncaring that they wouldn’t even bother to hold the door for her as she obviously struggled with her heavy bag.
Enough already. That’s it. Amelia ground her teeth together trying desperately to hold herself back from reaching her breaking point. Headache fast approaching migraine. Awesome.
“Thanks a lot, jackass,” she yelled at the elevator before she could stop her outburst. “Slimy, inconsiderate son of a bitch.”
She took in a deep breath, ready to let out another string of profanities when the now familiar chime of the elevator sounded again.
What the—? That was too fast.
The doors slid open, and the words waiting on her breath disappeared like a puff of smoke.
Oh great. I just had to yell.
The doors opened and inside stood a man with his arm outstretched and a finger pressing firmly against one of the buttons on the numbered panel. He stood silently while a small grin spread across his face as she picked up her bag and stepped into the elevator.
Oh good, he’s hot too. Excellent.
Her cheeks burned, turning into what had to be a deep scarlet as she realized there was no way he hadn’t heard her yell. She never yelled. She never lost her cool—until now. And of course she had chosen that moment of weakness to be witnessed by an incredibly hot guy.
“Can you press two please?” She tried to sound distinguished and put-together as she stepped inside the small compartment. As she turned back to face the doors, his finger left the door open button to press the button for the second floor. Her embarrassment rose with the elevator as she realized that not only had he heard her yell, he’d tried to hold the door for her, and all she’d done in return was call him a string of nasty names.
The elevator doors closed and they stood in awkward silence except for the instrumental version of a song that should never have an instrumental version played softly in the background. The warmth of humiliation filled her. She needed to apologize, needed to explain that she’d just been having a terrible day and that she didn’t really mean to call him those awful names. But as she opened her mouth to speak, she had no words to say.
The elevator began rising with painful slowness. There was no way she could endure the entire ride up to her floor without addressing what she’d done.
She steadied her nerves with a deep breath and turned to face the good-looking man, intent on apologizing properly while she had the chance. And then her breath caught in her throat as she swallowed the words that had been on the tip of her tongue just moments before.
He wasn’t just good-looking, that was a complete understatement. He was gorgeous—seriously gorgeous. He could be a model with that strong jaw and messy-yet-styled hair. His shoulders were broad and he must have stood six feet tall. She peered into his deep brown eyes, having lost her focus along with any idea of what she’d wanted to say to him.
His lips twitched into a smile as she stood there staring at him stupidly. Find words, idiot. Suddenly, she snapped out of her funk and tried to speak. Saying anything was better than saying nothing, right?
“I—I guess you heard that, huh? The um, yelling and all that—I mean it’s too much to ask of the universe that maybe there’s a chance you didn’t hear what I just said, right?” She stumbled over her words, not giving him a chance to answer.
Maybe saying nothing would have been better.
He nodded his head slightly, which only helped to fan the flame of humiliation she already had glowing inside of her. Of course, the hottest guy she’d laid eyes on in as long as she could remember had heard her curse at him. That was the way the universe worked for Amelia.
She and the universe had a love/hate thing going on and this was just its newest attempt to prevent her from finding happiness. The universe was also inadvertently preventing her from enjoying the hunky body that towered over her in the elevator. She could actually see the little ripples of abdominal muscles contracting under his thin shirt. It reminded her of the surface of a lake after you’ve dropped a pebble into it.
I wonder if I could bounce a quarter off those.
As he opened his mouth and drew in a breath to speak, she quickly snapped back from her thoughts which had strayed into dangerous—and very interesting—territory and began rambling on again, not wanting to hear what he had to say about her outburst. At least until after she’d had the chance to finish apologizing, then she would let him talk.
“I’m sorry. I really didn’t mean to call you those names. I’ve had an awful day. I swear I never would have yelled at you if I’d known how hot you were…I, oh crap. I mean—” Her voice trailed off while her cheeks burned hot with embarrassment.
She mentally kicked herself for letting that little tidbit slip out. Her head spun and she worried she might actually faint. She didn’t know how it was possible, but somehow she’d managed to make a bad situation even worse.
“Oh, god,” she continued. “I shouldn’t have said that. I didn’t mean that. No wait. I didn’t mean that you’re not hot. You are. Oh boy, are you ever hot.”
She grabbed onto the side of the elevator, feeling the world spin on its axis faster than it should. Panic washed over her at the idea of speaking again. Every time she opened her mouth, it was as if someone took control of it and made her spew words incoherently. It was awful. She wanted to die.
Okay, Universe, you’ve had your fun. Now kill me.
She almost did a little happy dance right there in front of Mr. Hunky when the elevator finally chimed, signaling they’d reached the second floor. She held her breath as she waited for the elevator to bump to a stop and the door to release her from the chamber of hell that she’d created for herself.
One Mississippi, two Mississippi. Come on. Open.
The moment the doors parted, a huge sigh whistled out from between her lips and she bolted through the opening with her suitcase cradled in her arms like protective armor. “Sorry,” she called again not waiting for an answer.
“It’s okay,” a deep, raspy voice said. A slight chuckle wafted out of the elevator as the doors closed behind her.
That wasn’t just any voice. That was the voice she’d heard while waiting in line downstairs. The same voice that sent a spark of heat straight to her stomach each time she’d heard it. And, it was probably the only voice that could simultaneously arouse her and mortify her at this very moment.
Well, that’s just frickin’ wonderful.