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Soul of the Storm by Jean M. Grant

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  • Deerbourne Inn

    Charlotte MacGregor lost the thrill of conquering mountains five years ago when her sister disappeared on a hiking adventure without her. Still guilt-ridden, Charlotte heads for a vacation to rustic Vermont with a friend—where she's surrounded by reminders of her devastating loss and plagued with unanswered questions.

    Matiu Christiansen is an outdoors buff. He works multiple jobs to save for his dream of owning an outfitter in New Zealand. He's never quite felt at home in the United States and he yearns for his Maori roots, but his attraction to Charlotte puts a kink in his plans to move home later this year.

    Thrown together by coincidence, Charlotte and Matiu form a kindred bond through their shared love of the outdoors. Can Charlotte surmount her demons to assist Matiu on a rescue when a late-season snowstorm hits? And can Matiu help Charlotte heal from the pain of the past?

    Rating:  Spicy
    Page Count: 175
    Word Count: 41865
    978-1-5092-2513-2 Digital

    Excerpt

    A cheerful spring sun glared in Charlotte MacGregor’s eyes. Instead of a welcome, the brightness aggravated an already pounding head. She pushed her discount sunglasses higher on the bridge of her nose. A quick search, and she located her bottle of aspirin in her backpack. Her eyes burned. Veronica had tried to convince her this trip to the Mad River Valley of the Green Mountains would be a chance to rest during her high school students’ April break, but Charlotte knew otherwise. She leaned her head against the humming glass of the rear window in Veronica’s sporty SUV, letting the vibration of tire against road battle the migraine.

    Five years. Her friend knew. That’s why they were heading to Willow Springs, Vermont, for the week. To help her forget. To make her snap out of it.

    There was no forgetting her sister, though. Did people think she could forget Julie? She heaved a sigh laced with bitterness. With her pointer finger, she traced the infinity tattoo on the inside of her wrist, circling along faded black. She’d had it for nearly fifteen years, since they were both fresh out of high school. Brands were meant to be reminders after all. She had once scheduled an appointment to have it removed but chickened out.

    Lifting her head from the warm glass, she twisted the bottle cap, popped two aspirin, and sipped her now-cold vanilla latte she’d purchased at a rest stop on the Mass Pike.

    “Chin up, Charlie girl. We’re almost there,” Veronica said from the front. “We’ll have a blast. Sunshine. Green.”

    More like mud and brown. Charlotte blinked away the returning tears. She had thought her tear ducts would be dry already. Too many triggers today. Too much time on the drive from Boston with her wandering thoughts and gabbing, overly happy, and touchy-feely Veronica and Josh in the front seats.

    “There it is. A sign for the Deerbourne Inn,” Veronica said a few minutes later, her voice sickly sweet with excitement.

    Josh lifted his gaze from the map. “Terrific. My GPS stopped working, and this map is confusing. Hope we have a wireless connection at the inn. That mountain pass was a dead zone.”

    Veronica pinched Josh. “Ouch! What the hell, Ronnie?”

    You’re holding it the wrong way. Charlotte ignored his mountain comment. He crinkled and folded the map with half-assed effort. “Josh, I’ll take it.” She thrust her hand between the front seats, and he deposited the tattered road map in her palm. Her friend hadn’t married Josh for his neatness or manners. It didn’t hurt that he worked at the state house in Beacon Hill and could afford all Veronica’s expensive cravings and that the two could not take their paws off each other. Charlotte opened the Vermont map, lined up the folds, and refolded it properly. She tucked it into her red backpack.

    “A pity there’s no snow to ski Sugarbush or Mad River Glen,” Veronica said.

    “Yah, unusually warm this year,” Josh responded and added coyly, “What are we to do, Mrs. Meier?”

    Veronica tossed her head back and giggled, her salon-perfect, strawberry-blonde curls bobbing.

    Honeymooners. Charlotte rolled her eyes behind the sunglasses. God, she remembered. The early days of wooing and courting. Then came the fighting, the controlling, the cheating. Enjoy the good days, Ronnie and Josh. While they last. Why had she agreed to come as third wheel on this trip with them? Thirtysomethings were too old for this party-of-three thing.

    She drank the last drop of her coffee. She’d hold onto the cup to recycle at the inn. Vermonters were green folks.

    They turned onto Main Street toward the Deerbourne Inn.

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Soul of the Storm

Soul of the Storm

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