Stranded on Vail Mountain
Vail Mountain Trilogy Book 1
by Desiree L. Scott
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Stephen Brockheart received the call concerning a missing tourist after working 26 hours straight. A park ranger for the mountain resort, he set out on the routine mission, knowing he was running out of time as the blizzard hit with visibility zero. What he hadn’t counted on was saving a beautiful woman and falling for her, a city girl who knew nothing about the dangers of the mountain. He had been there before and vowed never to return.
As Mother Nature raged, Joan was soon overcome by the feelings a complete stranger evoked in her, causing her to reevaluate her own life. Through the blizzard and stranded at the resort, death was imminent for any who would try to leave. Despite loss and secrets, can two people find love and happiness again?
Can they be given a second chance to make it real and lasting, or will that chance die with them?
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the woman had gone missing. Usually, the allotted time of retrieval on rescues was two hours, but he wasn’t complaining.
She was alive, at least for the moment. It hadn’t been a long drop, but it was the steep incline that had trapped her.
He yelled down at her, but he didn’t think she heard him over the wind.
He saw her eyes widen in her pale face and knew she had at least spotted him. Relief filled her eyes as they met his. He threw down the rope and tied it to a thick tree that stood just a few feet away.
He almost lost his footing on the way back to the edge and fell to his knees, striking his left on a hidden rock. Cursing, he moved his leg cautiously and stood up. With slow steps, he took hold of the rope and swung his legs, propelling himself over the icy side. His spiked boots dug into the ice, keeping him stable as he made his way down to her.
He reached the bottom and let go of the rope to walk over to the woman, kneeling down beside her.
His eyes scanned her slender body, and he didn’t like what he saw. Pale and trembling, her lips were turning blue.
“Are you hurt?”
Please say no, please say no, please say no…
She nodded with a jerky movement and looked down at her right leg.
He followed her gaze but didn’t see a break.
“Y-y-yes.” Her voice was scratchy and low, her words slurred.
He swore, knowing her blue lips and pasty, white skin meant the woman was close to hypothermia.
Come on, damn it. I need a break!
Stephen spotted dried blood on her forehead and flinched imaging her fall.
The incline wasn’t something to laugh at even though it hadn’t been far. Neither was a head injury. They didn’t have time for him to check her over. He did a quick sweep with his hand over her head and neck and found she was bleeding at the back of her head.
“My name is Stephen Brockheart, and I’m a park ranger for the resort. Can you stand?”
She nodded again, and he helped her get to her feet, putting all of her weight on the left leg.
They looked up. Stephen glanced around the cavern, his lips tight, and looked to the woman, meeting her eyes straight on. “We won’t survive the cold if we don’t try to get down the mountain.”
The woman stared at him, her eyes worried and big. But then something happened, stunning him and gaining his respect. He saw determination light up her blue eyes, a level of strength he hadn’t seen before in any woman’s eyes. She pulled away from his hold and straightened her shoulders. “Let’s go,” she said, her voice soft but determined, and somehow he understood.
They were going to make it or die trying.
He stared down at her a few more seconds and then nodded, putting the rope around her slim waist and tying it securely before taking the rope and tying them together. He didn’t want her passing out and falling again.
Giving it a tug, he made sure it was still tied tautly on the tree.
He grabbed the end of the rope and fastened it around himself with a tight knot.
“Piggyback time. Wrap your arms around my neck and your legs around my waist.”
With her ankle, she wouldn’t be able to climb out, not by herself.
She hesitated and then slowly wrapped her arms around his neck and got on his back.
He knew she was tired, probably had a concussion, and no doubt dehydrated with hypothermia setting in, but they didn’t have a choice.
They needed to get back to the resort if they were going to survive, but it was going to be damn close. It was already hard to see as night descended.
With her firmly tied to him and on his back, he jumped up and dug his spikes into the ice. He slowly progressed, inching himself up the side of the cliff, the woman holding on tightly.
After what seemed like forever, they made it to the top, and he collapsed on his side, his breathing ragged and harsh. He was careful not to crush her. The wind was strong, the bite of the chill stinging the flesh. Stephen drew off his face mask and handed it to her. She took it gratefully and put it on, covering all but her eyes and mouth. He grabbed an extra one from his pack and slid it on.
He stood up, grabbed her around her waist, and they headed down the mountain, fighting the wind that seemed to be pushing them back. The struggle lay in putting one foot in front of the other. They battled not only the wind but the snow that was rapidly building up. It was almost knee deep with more falling steadily.
He could see pain written all over her pinched, pale face. Cursing, he wrapped his arms around her lifting her up. He thought he heard her gasp but ignored it as he continued, the wind and snow beating at his back.
Trapped on Vail Mountain
Vail Mountain Trilogy Book 2
With the help of a friend, Nina leaves the city in a cloud of terror and heads for Vail Mountain and the safety she prays she will find.
Rob Garland has seen his share of the treacherous conditions on the mountains. But even spring floods, summer fires, and hikers lost in winter storms have not prepared him to face the fear in Nina's eyes.
There is no beating the odds on this one. The men who are after them won’t give up. It’s only a matter of time before the truth is revealed and the stakes turn deadly.
Can Nina and Rob hold it together when nature and man turn against them?
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They had managed to find a small hole in the rocks to get out of the wind, and after making sure that nothing would surprise them or that they wouldn’t surprise an unsuspecting inhabitant, they had crawled inside.
They lay huddled in each other's arms on the rocky ground, the cold seeping into their sweaters. Nina had looked at her phone and had seen that the text she had shot to her friend had gone through, and she knew Joan would do everything she could to get them help. Joan’s fiancé and his boss were excellent trackers. She just prayed they got to her before anything happened to her daughter. With nothing but the darkness closing in, Nina wasn't able to think of anything except her father and his death, the pain in his eyes as he left her.
Why, Daddy? Why you?
She thought of her father's mentality in the weeks prior, and now that she thought about, she realized how he had been acting, always looking over his shoulders and calling and checking on her, thinking of excuses to come by her apartment. If he had been receiving threats, then it all made sense.
Why didn't you say something, Daddy? Go to the police?
They were questions she could no longer ask her father, and tears filled her eyes, spilling down her cheeks as she lay on the ground, her daughter tight against her chest.
She started to feel warm, almost cozy, and sighed in relief, loving the warmth that coursed through her as her eyes started to drift close.
Suddenly, her daughter moved and twitched.
"Yes, baby?" she responded drowsily, struggling to keep her eyes open. She let them drift close again, just wanting to rest.
The little girl jerked and sat up, and Nina saw the fear in her eyes as she looked up at her.
"What is it, baby?" she mumbled.
"Mommy, you're freezing!" Emily's small voice pitched high with panic.
Nina felt her shoulders shake and Emily lean over her. "Mom, please wake up!"
Nina shook her head, trying to dispel the drowsiness from her mind, but it didn't help. She was so warm. She didn't want to move.
“Mommy, please. You have to wake up. I’m scared, Mom.”
The trembling voice of her daughter finally brought consciousness back, and it was all she could do not to sink further into the warmth, but that would mean leaving her daughter to fend for herself, and she refused to allow that to happen. Nina tried to remember everything she could about hypothermia because she knew deep down that she had it.
And it was getting worse.
Before she could move, her daughter straightened further and then lay on top of her.
“What…?” she started, her daughter’s small body penetrating the warmth. It
felt like needles were piercing her whole body within seconds.
“Body heat, Mom. Even I know that. That’s why you didn’t want me to get wet. So I wouldn’t get hypothermia. Instead, you got it.”
Her brave and intelligent daughter nailed it. And Nina couldn’t have been prouder of her.
They wrapped their arms around each other, and Nina started shivering, the cold seeping back in, but her thoughts began to clear.
“Have I told you lately that I love you?” she murmured.
“All the time, Mom. I love you too.”
Sighing, Nina started to say something but then went still, closing her mouth as she strained to hear past the wailing of the wind. Emily must have heard it too because she lifted her head from Nina’s chest and cocked it to the side.
“Mommy, did you hear--?”
“Yes, baby. Quiet.”
Struggling to get up, Emily slid to the side, and Nina stood, her legs threatening to collapse beneath her. Holding on to her daughter’s thin shoulders, Nina stumbled to the entrance of the hole and looked out, still straining to hear.
She could have sworn…
There! There it was again, a voice.
She started to open her mouth to yell but froze as thoughts of the killers filled her mind. What if they had found them? Her yelling could get them killed. Suddenly, she heard her name and then Emily's, and her heart felt as though it were going to explode inside of her chest. She shared a fearful look with her daughter and then looked around wildly for anything she could use as a weapon. She had to protect her daughter, but before she could find anything, the deep voice got closer, and they held their breath as the heavy steps approached.
"Nina, it’s Rob from the resort! Joan sent me!"
Her shoulders slumped, and they stumbled back from the small hole. If it hadn't been for her daughter, she would have collapsed from sheer exhaustion, cold, and the magnitude of relief that made the world spin. In fact, the world kept spinning, and she couldn't get it to stop.
Emily took one look at her, and panic widened her eyes. She knew Joan's name from when Nina talked about her.
"In here!" Emily yelled, her small weight struggling to hold up her mom.
"Please help! Mommy is sick!"
Within seconds, a tall shadow hunched down and crawled inside, but Nina could barely make him out. Blackness threatened to consume her, and she dimly heard cursing as she felt hard hands take hold of her arms. The cold ground met her back, but it didn't really bother her. She just wanted to sleep, but she faintly heard the orders above her.
"Sweetie, your mom has hypothermia. Get my bag and get the silver blanket. It'll keep the warmth trapped so she warms up slowly. Hurry."
Nina heard scampering and then the static of a radio.
"Danny, I have Nina and Emily. I'm north of the river, about a mile. Nina has hypothermia. It's too dangerous to travel with her right now. I'm going to start a fire and get her warmed up first. We'll head out at first light and meet you back at the resort."
Seconds later..."Roger that."
"Em," Nina murmured, trying to make sure her daughter was okay.
"She's right beside me, sweetheart. We'll have you warm in no time," the deep voice said.
Suddenly, her wet clothes began to fall off, and she jerked, struggling weakly against the gentle hands that continued to remove her clothing.
"It's okay. I just have to get the wet clothes off you, or the hypothermia will get worse. I have a blanket. Don't worry."
She didn't have the strength to fight, so she lay there, her eyes struggling to open.
Suddenly, she felt a natural warmth begin to spread through her as the rustling of a blanket met her ears.
"Why does that blanket look like that?" she heard her daughter whisper. "It doesn't look warm."
"It's made out of a fiber that traps body heat so your mom will warm up, but if she warms up too fast, it will send her body into shock," he responded.
Her daughter loved to learn, always asking questions, never taking that answer at face value, and she wasn't surprised when the line of questions continued. What did surprise her was the patience she heard in the man's voice as he answered each one.
Before long, the shivering started, and her whole body started to shake, causing her daughter to gasp and come closer.
The man seemed to anticipate the next question. "She's fine, honey. Her body is warming up, and when that happens, it's natural for the shakes to start. Your mom will be just fine."
Just then, the hole lit up with a small blaze of fire, bringing light to the darkness. Her eyes opened as the shaking and cold subsided, and she saw the man's face for the first time as his brown eyes met hers.
"And there she is!"
She saw her daughter peek around him, smiling big at her mom. "You're going to be okay!" she exclaimed.
Nina smiled and opened her mouth to reassure her daughter, but just then, a noise erupted outside, and they all froze.
The man started to crawl out, but Nina quickly grabbed his arm, stopping him. She shook her head wildly and made the world spin again but forced the words out past her trembling lips.
"N-o… K-killers… Guns…
The man's brown eyes narrowed, and he patted her hand reassuringly.
"It's okay. I'll be careful." He looked over at Em. "Stay here with your mom."
With that, he disappeared out of the hole and back into the night, his heavy footsteps silent.
Drawn to Vail Mountain
Vail Mountain Trilogy Book 3
Desperate to escape, Connie returns to Vail Mountain, the one place she had truly felt alive. However, her troubles soon follow her, and she gets more than she bargained for as she fights not only her past but the intense feelings that one newly elected sheriff arouses in her.
Jacob Tanner is weary of the city life and the never-ending stream of criminals that plague New York City. He resigns from the police force after a drug bust goes wrong, landing himself in the hospital to face his mortality alone. Uncertain about the direction of his life, he learns of the new sheriff position on Vail Mountain and takes a gigantic leap of faith—faith that he isn’t making a big mistake. Armed with nothing but a few possessions, Jacob relocates, only to find himself falling hard for a woman whose blue eyes speak of pain and loneliness.
As he battles his worst nightmare, can Jacob show her there is more to life than what they have been dealt and convince her that with him, nothing is impossible?
What the hell am I doing? he wondered, his hands tightening on the wheel.
Everything he owned was in the back of his Jeep, and for some surprising reason, it had been easy to pack up his city life with no intention of coming back. This decision was unlike him. He wasn’t a spontaneous kind of guy. He never made decisions without first analyzing each possible outcome. Yet within a small amount of time, he had packed and settled his affairs with the city and his bills. It had taken him a bit to cancel commitments, handle his lease, and sell what
he wasn’t going to need or want, and he now found himself on the mountain headed to the edge of civilization, for all intents and purposes, homeless.
A few hours later, his back ached from the holes in the roads, and his arm pulsed in pain from any small amount of movement. The brace had come off the week before, the stitches before then, but it was still tender and sore. The lack of shocks on his Jeep hadn’t helped either. He had been meaning to get those replaced, but with everything else that had happened, he had forgotten.
I should have just sold the damn thing and bought me a truck.
Sighing, he pulled up in front of the resort and cut his engine, looking around. Nothing had changed, but he hadn't really expected it to. The tall mountains with the snow-covered tips graced the landscape in the background, and everything was turning the different shades of autumn. Before long, winter would again fall on the mountain, and the resort would be booked. He had called ahead, and Nina had said that it was their slow season with only a few bookings,
so that suited him just fine. He really didn’t feel like socializing now.
He was surprised he didn't see anyone in the yard, but Nina had mentioned that most people didn't start showing up until late November and early December, and it was early October.
He stepped out of his green Jeep, rocks crunching beneath his boots, and sucked in the cool mountain air as he took in the large trees surrounding the resort, and the smell almost seemed to rejuvenate him. It was colder up in the higher elevation of the mountain, and he pulled his jacket closed, hastily zipping it.
I must be crazy, he thought, taking another glance around. He didn't know
what he was going to do or if the city council would even hire him, but hell, no one could accuse him of not trying or stepping outside of his comfort zone. This was so far out of his comfort zone it wasn’t even funny anymore.
That’s it. I’ve lost my fucking mind.
Just then, the door opened, and Nina walked out on the porch, a large grin on her pretty face.
A few months, hell, years, he had spent thinking he was in love with her.
And then she had gone and fallen for Rob, the resort owner. Now he knew it had just been infatuation of a sort. All he felt now was a gentle love for a sister, and he was grateful for that.
"Jacob! You made it!" Nina exclaimed.
The glow on her face was so vastly different from a year ago when the run for her life and kidnapping had taken place. Now the glow of happiness was the result of peace and joy with her new life. Marriage and love agreed with her.
Jacob wanted that same glow, hence the drastic move himself. He was sick of waking up by himself with no plans for the future and with no one to share it with. He walked up the steps of the porch and gave her a side hug, smiling at the man who appeared behind her. He was glad the aching jealousy was gone. All he felt now was happiness for his friends.
"Hey, Rob. Thanks for putting me up for a bit until I find a place," he said, shaking the other man's firm grip.
"No problem, man. I'm glad I could help."
Just then, they all heard a squeal, and Jacob braced himself for the little body that launched herself at him.
He grabbed her but was careful with his wounded arm, hugging her from the side as tightly as he dared. Even the gentle hug caused him to flinch at the pull of his shoulder. Getting shot was never a pleasant experience, but the healing process was just as painful as the actual bullet.
"How’s my princess doing?" he asked as he drew back to look down, the same glow of her mother gleaming on the little girl's face as she grinned up at him. Mountain life agreed with them all, and if he was honest with himself, he was a tad jealous, but he didn't let that stop him from being thrilled that his two girls were finally happy. That meant the world to him.
"Great! I love it here!"
Before he could respond, the four of them moved inside, and the aroma of the kitchen made his stomach growl. Loudly.
Nina laughed, Rob chuckled, and Emily grinned.
"Steak and potatoes sound good?" Nina asked with a smile and a raised eyebrow.
They moved to the table, and Jacob again looked around, slightly puzzled at the lack of activity at the resort.
"No guests?" he asked as he sat down at the dining room table. Nina had mentioned it was slow, but he could have sworn she said they had a few bookings.
Rob shook his head, thanking the cook who began putting the food on the table. "Not yet. Around six this evening, we have a few bookings, and the winter months are almost booked as usual, so it's going to be busy, but we have a bit before they get here."
Jacob nodded and started to dig in, the food almost melting on his tongue.
God, it had been months since he had a good home-cooked meal. He was used to living on fast food, and he wouldn’t miss that.
They made small talk, catching up on the past few months and the fall and winter plans of the resort.
Before long, dinner was done, and he sat back with a sigh, finally relaxed for the first time in months.
“So, when do you meet with the city council?” Rob asked, taking a drink of his soda as he shot the question everyone wanted to know.
Jacob shrugged, not having much to tell them at the moment. “Haven't called them yet. Figured I would just go into town and scope everything out. I haven't decided if I'm taking the job yet.”
Nina rolled her eyes. “You'll take it,” she quipped, sounding confident, the brat. But she was right. He was going to apply, but that was beside the point. She already had a big head and a knowing grin on her face. He wasn't giving her more to gloat over.
He opened his mouth but froze when he heard the voice coming from the front of the building, asking if anyone was home.
Nina and Rob both jumped up, Nina’s grin widening, and they rushed from the room. He remained still. Emily had recognized the female voice too and ran out of the room in excitement.
With a slow movement almost resembling an old man, he stood up and walked over to the door of the dining room, the view of the front desk in his line of vision.
He saw her standing in front of Nina, and his heart started to pound. He had often found himself thinking of her, which had been surprising considering he really didn't know her.
She turned to look down at Emily, and just then, their eyes met. Hers widened, and for a brief second, a flash of interest gleamed in them before it disappeared, and she nodded toward him, acknowledging his presence before turning back to the little girl. He couldn't take his eyes off her. She was dressed in blue jeans and a red sweater, and her strawberry blond hair was longer, ending just below her shoulders. She had minimal makeup on, and yet she was beautiful. The same aura of sadness was still there, hidden in the blue depths of her eyes, but unlike last time, he was taking a vast interest in getting to know her better.
Now he just had to convince her to talk to him past the pleasantries of conversation.
Without the cloud of Nina hanging over him, or his illusions, he saw her, really saw her, and he liked what he saw.
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