Could Charles find love and happiness after killing his wife and unborn child?
High on top of a mountain outside Denver, Charles Randall reclusive head of Randall Construction lives a solitary existence. Charles blames himself for the death of his wife and unborn child. Separating himself from the rest of the world he runs the Dallas based family business via computer. His vow to never become emotionally entangled again is tested when he rescues a young woman from certain death.
Cynthia Petterson, on the morning of her marriage, finds the maid of honor and the groom preparing to shower together. Blinded by rage and humiliation she drives unknowingly into one of the worst blizzards in Colorado history. Injured when her car plunges down a steep ravine, her only hope of survival rests in the hands of Charles Randall.
Marooned in a small cabin, cut off from the world, tensions mount daily as the two wait out the storm. As the flames of sensuous desire consume them, an explosion rocks the house, plummeting them in darkness. During their fight for survival, Charles looses his battle to remain emotionally free.
When his mountain retreat becomes an empty prison, he decides its time to escape. Can he fit back in after his self-exile? Will the smoldering passion be rekindled or was their affair a fast moving front of a Texas storm?
Cynthia Petterson was furious. With tears of frustration threatening to spill down her cheeks, she paced back and forth in her hotel room. She couldn’t believe this was happening. Tomorrow was her wedding day.
Jeff Teyland might not be a knight in shining armor, but this was impossible. She refused to even think about it. If Jeff was as Shannon called him, “A hot shot who thinks he’s “God’s gift to women in bed,” he wouldn’t have agreed to wait on making love to her until after they were married.
Shannon, with her beautiful long blonde hair and big baby blue eyes was just jealous. Cynthia was stuck with standard black hair and black eyes. As far as the rest of her went she was okay, she guessed, but there was nothing spectacular about her physical assets, especially when compared to Shannon.
Although they had grown up together, double dated and had been roommates in college, she was ready to tell Shannon where she could put her subtle hints, innuendos and down right lies. She was really starting to stretch their friendship but it was too late to change the maid-of-honor now. Shannon, I swear, if you say one deceitful or cutting word tomorrow to ruin my wedding, you can just kiss our friendship goodbye.
Cynthia took the protective bag from around her wedding dress. Tomorrow she would wear this beautiful floor-length white satin gown with off-the-shoulder puff sleeves, trimmed with delicate lace. A far cry from the jeans and boots she wore everyday at the family ranch.
She had met Jeff while in college where she was getting an associate degree in veterinary medicine. Jeff swept her off her feet and she fell madly in love with him. They decided to finish school before they got married. Cynthia finished her schooling and went home while Jeff stayed and earned his Bachelors. After their marriage, they had made plans to open a veterinary clinic together.
Jeff insisted on getting married in his home church. Nothing else would do.
She still remembered the fight they had, his words still hurt. “If you really loved me, you wouldn’t put up such a fuss about coming to Colorado to get married. For over a hundred years our family members have been married in that church, and I’m not going to break the tradition with my marriage.”
Jeff’s voice had been quiet but the tone was hard. His eyes, unwavering, warned her not to continue. In the end, she reluctantly agreed. Regardless of their disagreements, Cynthia happily anticipated becoming Mrs. Jeff Teyland. She went to sleep with the hopes and dreams of a bright tomorrow.
Cynthia woke up the next morning excited, eager to begin the day’s activities. While at the same time little butterflies of apprehension fluttered inside her chest, sending little whirlwinds of doubt swirling across her mind.
Carol Petterson stuck her head through the doorway that connected their rooms. “Good morning, dear. Did you sleep well?”
“Yes, thank you…Mom, what time is the florist supposed to bring the corsages?”
“They should have been here by now. I’ll call down and ask the desk to check,” her mother ducked back into her room.
A few minutes later, she came back. “They brought the flowers in about twenty minutes ago. They’re going to find out where they are and let us know.”
The phone rang.
Cynthia finished hooking the clasp on her bra and answered. “Hello.” The next time this comes off, Jeff will be removing it.
“This is the front desk. Your flowers were delivered to room two thirty-five. I’m sorry, for the error.”
“Never mind,” she closed her eyes and took deep breath to relieve the sudden frustration, “I’ll go get them myself.”
“Mom, they delivered the flowers to Shannon’s room,” she grabbed her robe, “I’ll be right back.”
Reaching Shannon’s room, Cynthia found her door slightly ajar. She knocked and the door slowly swung open. Shannon stood there wearing nothing but a look of embarrassment on her face.
“Shannon baby, you going to join me for a shower?” A very familiar voice called from the bathroom.
No! Her heart’s door slammed shut against the silent scream of her mind. Cynthia stepped around Shannon and into the bathroom.
Jeff’s smiling face turned ashen with a look of shock when he saw Cynthia.
“Cynthia. Love, let me explain,” he stammered.
“Explain?” Anger boiled up inside her like a black thundercloud. She picked up a bottle off the sink and threw it against the wall. Glass shattered across the floor as the fragrance of White Diamonds filled the room.
“On our wedding day!” She threw a hairbrush that bounced off his chest. “You bastard!”
She turned to Shannon and slapped her. “You cheap bitch! You want him? Be my guest, he’s all yours.”
Cynthia ran back to her room, tears streaming down her face. She grabbed at clothes without thought, putting them on. Through a veil of tears, she saw her wedding dress. It seemed to be mocking her, tormenting her with all the pure, chaste goodness it represented. Taking the dress, she threw it onto the floor. The engagement ring followed, bounced off the wall and rolled across the floor. Reaching for her keys, she fled.
Sitting in the parking lot with the car running, Cynthia rested her head on the steering wheel. The blinding rage she felt gave way to tears of humiliation and the emptiness of betrayal. Shannon came out of the hotel waving at her frantically to stop.
Fuck you bitch!
She stepped on the gas, the rear tires spun, fighting for traction on the snow-covered parking lot. Cynthia drove, as if hypnotized, not paying attention to where she had been or where she was going. She didn’t care; all her dreams and hopes had been ripped from her heart. All that remained was a black vortex of anguish and despair.
“Great,” she muttered to herself as she turned the windshield wipers on, “just what I needed on top of everything else, more fucking snow.” She had refrained from using the “F” word that she had heard so often from the men on the ranch. Mother had said it wasn’t lady-like.
Well, right then she didn’t feel like a lady. She felt used, lied to and cheated. In need of verbally venting her frustration, she slammed her hand against the steering wheel. “Mother Fucker!“
The heater was on high and still she felt cold. Idiot, next time you do something as irrational as this, at least take your damn coat.
With steep hillside and sheer cliffs to her right and nothing but air to the left, she had to keep going. In apprehension, she spread the map on the seat beside her. She had been on this mountain road for an hour. Wherever this was – she had doubts as to whether she was still in Colorado—the road wasn’t on the map.
The snow, driven by high winds, buffeted the small car. Cynthia sat with her head close to the windshield, trying to see the road. Starting down the other side of the mountain, she groaned in despair. The knuckles of both hands turned white as she gripped the steering wheel in desperation and fear.
The snowstorm had worsened.
A side road came into view and she tried to slow down and stop, but the car slid past the cutoff. As she went around the corner, everything moved in slow motion. The car spun completely around and she crashed through the barrier. As if flung into space by a giant unseen hand, her car hurled over the edge and down the side of a ravine. Cynthia screamed as the trees, that suddenly sprang up to greet her, snapped like toothpicks.
* * * * *
Charles Randall sat drinking his morning coffee while watching the weather report out of Denver on his computer. His five-foot ten-inch frame, hardened by years of construction work and frequent skiing, was stretched out beside the desk. As he watched the screen, a frown formed on his face.
If the weather guessers were right, a major winter snowstorm would arrive by late afternoon. He walked downstairs and looked out the window, the skies were dark-gray and ominous. If he was going to restock his shelves, he would to have to leave immediately.
Snow in the Colorado Mountains during November was welcome, but there was over three feet already on the ground. It was definitely going to be a very white Christmas. Charles was halfway to town when it started snowing. He looked at his watch. “Nine o’clock. Well, so much for an accurate weather report.”
He stopped at Stanford’s Grocery and quickly began his shopping.
“Hello, Charles. I haven’t seen you in ages. You know, it’s not good for a man your age and good looks to stay cooped up on that mountain,” Mrs. Higgins admonished, waving a bony finger at him for emphasis.
Mrs. Higgins, an eighty-two year old widow, loved to give advice. It didn’t matter if you wanted it or not, she gave it. It was rumored her first husband had left her to find some peace and quiet. Charles figured she had talked the other two to death.
“Good morning, Mrs. Higgins. Bit of nasty weather today.” Now there was a safe subject. He really needed to leave and head home.
“All the more reason you ought to have a woman around. Helps take up the emptiness of the long winter nights. Course, no sane woman would want to live up there where you do year round.”
She shook her finger disapprovingly at him. Her gaze, as she continued looking him, had Charles feeling as if he were a side of beef she wanted to buy, but couldn’t afford.
“Mrs. Higgins,” the store manager hung up the phone, “the driver of the OATS bus just called. He had some problems and is not able to pick you up. I’ll try to find someone else to take you home.”
“I can take her,” Charles looked at his watch and then at the thick blanket of swirling snow outside, “I’m almost finished here.”
The visibility had decreased to a hundred feet. It wouldn’t be long before the roads were closed. Charles debated with himself about trying to make the drive home or trying to find a motel room. It was the start of the Thanksgiving ski season. Finding a motel with an empty room could be as difficult as getting home.
“Now, you just think on what I’ve been saying,” Mrs. Higgins continued as he made his way along the snow-covered streets. “It just ain’t natural. Why, if I was a few years younger, I could show you a few reasons why you shouldn’t live up there the way you do. I may be old and shriveled up now but when I was younger, I sure gave the men a run for their money.”
Unfortunately, Mrs. Higgins lived in the opposite direction delaying him even more. He got her home and safely into the house. Something deep within urged him to head home. The more he tried to reason out that choice, the stronger the little voice from within compelled him up the mountain.
Twenty-five miles of blinding snow and curving road required all his attention. How he managed to see the fresh tracks going off the road or the broken guardrail, he didn’t know. He pulled over and got out.
That’s when he noticed the light, one lone red light glowing dimly like a distant beacon in the night. He grabbed his first aid kit and a shovel from the back of the Blazer.
Charles climbed over the twisted guardrail and downed power pole. “There hasn’t been another damn vehicle on the road in the last fifteen miles. No one else was crazy enough to be out on a day like this except me.”
He followed the path of the car through the snow. Broken branches reached out to trip him sending him head first into deep snow. “Damn!” Barely inches from his face a jagged broken branch pointed to the sky. Brushing the snow from his face, he regained his feet and continued down the steep slope.
Reaching the car, he began the arduous task of digging through three feet of snow and tree limbs. Charles knew he had to hurry.
“Finally.” Using the shovel to break through the back window, he found one person inside…a young woman. Charles turned on the dome light. She was unconscious and dressed more for the tropics than for a winter outing in the mountains. His pulse, already rapid due to the work of digging through the snow, pounded in his temples as he observed the rise and fall of her chest. Her blouse, almost transparent, revealed small but perfectly formed breasts veiled in lace. A quick check revealed a broken arm and a nasty bump on the head.
The first thing he had to do was to stabilize her arm for the hard climb ahead.
Charles climbed out and found a couple of branches that would work as splints until he got home. Using the gauze and ace bandage from his first aid kit, he bound her arm the best he could. He looked for her coat and muttered a curse under his breath when he couldn’t find one. “What are you trying to do girl, catch pneumonia on top of everything else?” He took his off and got it buttoned around her.
Getting her out of the car and up the side of the ravine was going to be difficult. He made it halfway when he had to stop. The deep snow and the dead weight of the woman had him gasping for breath. Although it was fifteen degrees, sweat covered his body. His breathing was deep and labored. The cold air sent knife-like pain through his chest with every breath. Charles rested for a moment and struggled on.
This woman’s life lay in his hands with no possibility of outside help. He fought for every inch of ground he gained. He continued, struggling up the steep bank on hands and knees, carrying the woman on his back or dragging her behind him a few feet at a time.
The road had vanished. They were soaked from crawling through the snow. He was fortunate that the driveway to his place was around the next corner. Gently as possible, he laid the woman in the back seat and covered her with a blanket.
He cleared the windshield of snow and started forward. With the opening in the trees being the only indication of his road, he turned. Keeping the vehicle in the center of the narrow opening, he plowed through the deepening snow.
Stopping his vehicle close to the house, Charles carried her inside. Turning on the lights, they flickered and then brightened. Well I still have the generator. Upstairs in his bedroom, he placed her gently on the bed.
Being mindful of the broken arm and other possible injuries, he stripped her out of her wet clothes.
Her body was exquisite. Her breasts were indeed perfect, firm. As he ran his fingertips gently over her body, feeling for possible broken bones, he felt a stirring in his loins.
Closing his eyes and taking a deep breath, he gave himself a stern lecture. This is not the time or place for such thoughts. Check her for injuries. Keep your mind on that, not on how beautiful she is or how long it has been since you’ve touched a woman. You’re a grown man; quit thinking with your dick like some oversexed teenager. Taking another deep breath he continued.
Her arms and legs were tanned along with her face and upper chest area. The tan line stopped just above her breasts. Her hands intrigued him. Instead of being soft, they were hard. Layers of calluses lined her fingers and palms. An eyebrow rose as he contemplated this new discovery.
“Whoever you are,” he mused, “you’re no hot-house beauty who works out in a gym to stay in shape.” He held her hand, rubbing his fingers over the rough skin. Drawn to the young woman by concern and compassion, Charles lowered his head and tenderly placed a soft kiss in her palm.
There weren’t any noticeable signs of injury other than what he already knew, the nasty bump on the head and the broken arm. He wasn’t a doctor, but he had received some first aid training for the construction sites. Charles knew the arm needed to be set or the pain would be severe when she woke up.
In the storeroom he found the Plaster-of-Paris left over from a repair job he had done that summer. He took it and a roll of gauze back to the bedroom.
Charles prayed as he pulled slowly on her forearm and felt the bone slip back into place. Wrapping her arm with an ace bandage and then with the paste covered gauze, he formed a cast. After applying a chemical cold pack from the first aid kit to the bump on her head, Charles began the hardest part of all—waiting for her to wake up.
Changing out of his wet clothes, he went down to the kitchen. The lights from the living room reflected off the falling snow. It draped the windows like a thick lace curtain. He was surprised to find it dark outside. The afternoon had disappeared without his awareness.
Armed with a fresh pot of coffee, he began a silent vigil at the woman’s bedside.
As he looked at the woman’s face, he had the strange notion that he knew this woman. He tried to place the long black hair, the almond eyes. He searched his memory for long eyelashes that covered eyes like a sensuous veil. He had been out of college for ten years and there was enough age difference between them that he couldn’t have met her there. Charles finally gave up trying to place her. It was just a feeling.
Midnight found him staring into the face of the storm. Thunder rumbled over the mountain and echoed through the valley. He was worried. She still hadn’t woken up. He couldn’t afford the luxury of going to sleep for fear that she would wake up and he wouldn’t hear her.
Charles heard a noise from the bedroom and rushed in. She thrashed about on the bed and moaned in her sleep. Her skin glistened with beads of sweat and her face was flushed. He felt her forehead.
“Damn girl, you’re burning up.” With a muffled curse, he grabbed several bath towels and soaked them in cold water.
He began cooling her off with the towels but she was fighting him. There were times when he had to forcefully hold her down. Her mumblings became harsh spoken words.
“Don’t touch me Jeff, leave me alone…No…Don’t touch me…I loved you. Why…Shannon… Bitch… Don’t touch me.”
After three hours of delirious ramblings and forgotten number of trips to the bathroom to keep the towels cool, her fever broke. He changed the sheets and checked her forehead with the back of his hand. Her temperature felt normal.
As he headed for the kitchen portion of his A-frame, he noticed the time, three in the morning. She had been here twelve hours and he still had no clue who slept in his bed.
If old lady Higgins hadn’t delayed me at the grocery, she would still be at the bottom of the ravine.
For once in his life, Charles was thankful for an old widow woman who could talk the ears off a deaf dog.
Charles couldn’t remember ever being as exhausted, as he was right then. He stood looking out at the wind driven snow. With a fresh cup of strong black coffee to ward off the cobwebs of sleep, he propped his foot on the wide windowsill, and thought of her.
She had to be around five and a half feet tall. Her shoulder length black hair had a glow all of its own and hers was a figure most women would envy. When he had checked for a possible concussion, it was like looking into a bottomless well. How easy it would be to fall in and never want to come to the surface.
His body tightened and his mouth went dry as the last few hours played over in his mind; the constant feel of her skin as he had bathed her, her firm breasts and flat smooth plane of her belly, dimpled by the sexiest navel he had ever seen. A thick triangle of tightly curled hair covered the secret folds of her inner flesh.
Taking his coffee with him, Charles went back to check on his sleeping beauty. She wasn’t actually his sleeping beauty, she was unconscious, she was in his bed, but she was most definitely a beauty. He considered giving himself another lecture on right and wrong and decided against it. His body probably wouldn’t listen anyway.
As Charles walked into the room, he realized he should have come right back instead of daydreaming of long hair and sultry black eyes. Her temperature had dropped and she was shivering uncontrollably. He added more wood to the stove and placed extra blankets over her, but nothing seemed to help.
Charles stripped down to his shorts and climbed under the covers to add his body heat. Several minutes later, the shivering gradually grew less and then stopped. With the exhaustion of the last several hours weighing heavily upon his body, Charles drifted off to sleep.