Falling for Jillian / Page 1

Page 1


CHAPTER One

JILLIAN

What is it with master bathrooms that makes people hem and haw? I glance down at my watch and offer the couple from Ontario a wide smile as they browse through the multimillion-dollar home near the Whitetail Mountain ski resort. In real estate, it’s always the master bathroom that people get hung up on. You’d think it would be the kitchen, and sometimes it is, but invariably, they want to take a second or even third look at the master suite.

“This home is beautiful,” Mrs. Langton says with a smile. “I love it. What do you think, sweetheart?”

Her husband smiles and nuzzles his wife’s ear, making my stomach turn. “You know I’ll buy you any house you want, my love.”

She laughs and takes another look around the great room as we descend the staircase, our footfalls echoing through the empty space.

“Out of all of the homes we’ve seen, this is my favorite. The view is fantastic. And we’re just down the road from the resort.”

I glance out the wide picture windows that overlook Whitetail Lake, and wince. The snow is coming down harder than it was this morning, so getting off this mountain in my little Honda sedan isn’t going to be easy.

“Does that mean you’ve finally decided?” Mr. Langton asks his wife.

“I think so.” She claps her hands and bounces on the balls of her feet. “We’d like to make an offer on this house, Jillian.”

“Fantastic,” I reply and shake their hands. “I’ll get the paperwork ready this evening and we can meet at my office tomorrow.”

“The weather sure has decided to get nasty,” Mrs. Langton comments as we make our way outside and I lock the door to the mansion behind us.

“They’re calling for a storm,” I reply. “We had a mild fall, but it looks like winter is going to be a doozy.” I glance longingly at the sturdy 4×4 the Langtons are about to climb into.

I really need to replace my car.

“I’ll be in touch tomorrow.” I wave them off as they pull out of the circular driveway and up the mountain toward the cabin they’ve been renting at the resort while they house-hunt.

And now I get to make my way down this mountain in my two-wheel-drive Honda with no studded snow tires.

Fantastic.

I wasn’t exaggerating when I told the Langtons that we’d had a mild fall. Until about two weeks ago, we hadn’t had any snow that stuck around for more than a day or two—unusual for early December.

I’ll bet it’s seventy and sunny in LA right now.

I sigh and resign myself to struggling down the narrow road to the bottom of the mountain.

I adore my hometown, Cunningham Falls. I grew up here, along with my parents and their parents before them. It’s a town that welcomes the hordes of tourists that flock in during both the ski and summer seasons to explore the wilds of Montana. But, despite the many newcomers each season, the “locals” pretty much all know each other, whether we like it or not.

And there have been many times over the years that I’d rather they not.

I bite my lip and turn left out of the driveway, taking it slow, mindful to pump my brakes rather than ride them. The snow is coming down so hard, it’s like a thick blanket draped all around my car, making it hard to see the road before me, or the steep drop-off to my right.

If not for the dark trees, I’d be screwed.

I inch my way carefully down the hill, around two switchbacks, and breathe a huge sigh of relief when I safely come out at the bottom and see the stoplight through the large snowflakes, marking the main road.

As I come to a stop at the light, I hear screeching tires and the unmistakable sound of rubber sliding on ice just before a Mercedes SUV comes to a stop against my rear fender.

Perfect.

I open my door and step out, as does the driver of the Mercedes, and we survey the damage.

“Well, it could be a lot worse,” I mutter.

“I’m sorry,” the tall stranger says, kneeling by the wreckage. “I guess I took that corner too fast.”

“I guess so,” I agree with a nod. “You barely touched me, though.”

“Looks like you have a bit of a dent there,” he replies and stands, then grins down at me. “Jillian Sullivan. You haven’t changed a bit in all these years.”

I feel my eyes widen and I cover my mouth with mittened hands, then laugh and throw my arms around the tall, broad man who just slammed into my car.

“Max Hull!”

He hugs me tight and then pulls away, offering me a wide grin. His blond hair is short and styled conservatively. His green eyes are happy, if somewhat guarded, and he seems to be distracted.

God, the Hull brothers are hot.

“Are you visiting Brad and Jenna?” Brad Hull is a cop here in Cunningham Falls, and their sister, Jenna, runs a beautiful bed-and-breakfast called the Hideaway on Whitetail Mountain. I grew up with all three of the Hull siblings.

“I am.” He nods, frowns, and then adds, “Thinking about moving home.”

“Really? Is this good news?” I ask and then laugh, looking up into the snow that continues to fall around us. “Now that I think about it, maybe we should catch up when we aren’t standing in a blizzard.”

“Good plan.” He grins and kisses my cold cheek chastely, and I pray with all my heart that I feel a tingle of awareness, but there is nothing.

Damn.

“Let’s exchange numbers so I can at least have your car fixed.” Max pulls his phone out of his jeans and begins typing away on the screen. I rattle off my number, then grin when I see a text come through from him and save his number to my contacts.

“My brother can probably just knock the dent out with a hammer, Max, but thanks. I’m more worried about your expensive Mercedes.”

“Doesn’t look like I got a scratch. We got lucky.” He winks and backs toward his car. “How is Ty?”

“Good. He’s engaged to Lauren Cunningham, you know.”

“I had no idea. Speaking of brothers and dating, I heard you and Brad went out a couple months ago.”

“Yeah, once. We decided we’re better at being friends.” Because I’m a dating failure and I have too much damn baggage.

“Sounds like there’s lots of news to catch up on.”

“Be careful, they haven’t sanded that road yet. I’ll see you later!” We wave and I climb back into my car, soaked through from the quarter-size snowflakes. I shake my head and send snow spraying through my car, put it in drive, and make my way home.


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