Author’s Note: Claudia-Michelle and Aidan are my characters. Josh and Katie are lovely_jessica’s characters, even though I’m elaborating on them.
By the way, I love foreshadowing!
After they left the airport, their rental sat ready for them to drive away to their cabin in Mammoth Lakes.
Underneath the skin of the smiling young wife who chatted with her little sister about life in absence of each other was the shivering teenager from the memory the picture had induced. The abundance of snow everywhere had shaken more memories from deep inside. That first winter was coming back, bit by bit.
Josh checked in at the office and he got the key to the cabin. The concierge in the lobby walked with them with their luggage to the cabin, and sent a bellboy to give a little tour of the luxurious cabin. The bellboy showed them the bedrooms, bathroom, and kitchen. He also pointed out the sumptuous Jacuzzi, which inspired a wiggle of the eyebrows from Ryan that was so obviously suggestive.
“This is a nice cabin,” Jessica remarked. She smirked at her husband. “We should buy a cabin to come here each year, Josh.’’ Jessica walked through the biggest bedroom, fingering the comforter and the polished wood furniture, and Josh shook his head in amusement.
“Well, I might make good money, but I don’t have that much to buy one,” Josh reminded her, and entered the master bedroom behind her. “We just come here once a year. What would be the point of shelling out the cash for one visit?”
Bouncy in her nylon vest and jeans, Ashlee sauntered into the second bedroom. “Well, he does have a point,” Ashlee agreed. The other one was a little smaller, but she thought it was cute. It had a nice window seat and a wonderful view of the ski slopes. “Ryan, we’ll take this room,” Ashlee declared hurriedly. She was so excited she could barely stop herself. “Look how cute it is. It’s got this awesome window seat and everything.’’
Ryan walked towards her and saw for himself. ‘‘Well, this couldn’t be better.’’ He walked over to her and hugged her and that was settled.
Seeing that they were satisfied, the bellboy gave a short nod. “Enjoy your stay,’’ he said politely and showed himself out of the cabin.
Ryan and Ashlee lugged their luggage into their room and had already begun to pack. Seeing that he was now alone with his wife, Josh scooped up Jessica in his arms and was rewarded with a surprised giggle.
“What’s all this?” Jessica inquired.
“I just want to get reacquainted with my wife,” Josh replied, and closed the door with his foot. “Is that a crime?”
“Well, yeah, when my little sister and her boyfriend are across the hall.” Jessica disentangled herself from Josh, her exasperation smothering the desire his sudden embrace brought. He looked at her with a puppy-dog expression, and she threw a sweater at him. “You’ll have to take a cold shower. It’s not bedtime yet.” She turned back to the closet and hung up a knee-length black dress. “Maybe after dinner.”
* * *
Meanwhile, there were two couples settling into the cabin nearby, and they seemed to not to be as lucky.
“So we lose our luggage, get lost on the bloody freeway, and I still don’t have any clean boxers,” grumbled Aidan Bloom as he crossed the threshold out of the snow.
As their two female counterparts entered the living room, Nick Lachey shook his head and placed a hand on his friend’s shoulder. “I really didn’t want to know about your boxers, Bloom. That’s like crossing some invisible line isn’t it?”
Despite his despondence over his lost undergarments, Aidan turned to his friend and said, “Well, my friend, I think dear Katie over here knows all about them.” Then he plastered an expression of mock surprise on his face. “Oh? We didn’t tell you? Sorry, mate.”
Claudia-Michelle Thomas, Aidan’s counterpart (or girlfriend, if you wanted to think of her that way) chuckled and shook the melted snow from her curly black mane. A weaker woman (or a prissier one) would have been mortified at the thought of a trek in the snow in designer boots, but Claudia-Michelle had taken it in stride. “Stop messing around with Nick. And if Katie’s seen your boxers, she probably would be blind for life.”
When Aidan’s face drooped comically, everyone laughed. The fiery-haired Katherine Cross (mostly known as Katie), Nick’s girlfriend, walked over to the duo. “You’re cute, Bloom,” Katie told him. She glanced at Nick sidelong. “But I like muscular guys.”
Nick slapped Aidan on the back. “Sorry, man. You’re puny.”
Claudia-Michelle choked back her giggle as Aidan sighed heavily and walked into the living room. The tall, dark, and handsome British lad was anything but puny, but an observer would agree that there just weren’t as many muscles on his lanky frame as Nick’s. Nick and Katie came inside, and Nick closed and locked the door behind them. They followed Claudia-Michelle and Aidan into the living room. There, Claudia-Michelle discovered that her request for a piano had been granted. After grazing the grand piano with her fingertips, she sat down at the bench and turned to Nick.
“This’ll be perfect,” Claudia-Michelle commented. “You and I can do some work while we’re on vacation here.”
“Work?” Katie sighed heavily at the mere utterance of the word. She turned to Nick. “I thought we were here to get away from all of that.”
Looking uncomfortable, Nick opened his mouth to speak when Claudia-Michelle rescued him from that perilous task.
“It’s not work, really,” Claudia-Michelle amended. “I just want to be ready if we both come up with anything while we’re here.” She tilted her head and grinned. “Besides, it’s not actually work. It’s more of a labor of love.”
“ ‘Labor of Love,’” Aidan quipped. “Sounds like the next single to me.”
Nick groaned. “Oh, so now you’re trying to be a record exec on top of everything else?”
Aidan just stared at him from the couch and said nothing. Katie exhaled again and Claudia-Michelle rose from the piano bench. “Why don’t you two settle in? I want to play with the piano for a while. Maybe I’ll come up with something.”
“And what about me?” Aidan asked.
“Play with yourself. You do that well.”
As Aidan tried to think of an equally stinging comeback, Nick led Katie out of the living room and into the master bedroom. It had been decided at the beginning of the trip that they would get the master bedroom, and there had been no arguments. A string of piano notes followed them down the hallway and into the bigger bedroom.
Katie slumped down on the foot of the bed as Nick closed the bedroom door. Her mane of glossy red hair bounced on her shoulders, and her milky white nose, scattered with freckles underneath the makeup, was still a little red from the coldness outside. He lowered himself calmly beside her, sensing her bruised feelings though the thick veil of silence.
“I thought we were going to relax,” Katie said, breaking the silence.
“And we are. Claudia was telling the truth when she said she wanted to be ready just in case. You never know what could happen here.”
“It’s not like you’re going to be gone forever. We’ll be back in three weeks.”
Nick fought another sigh. “Relaxing might shake something good loose. You never know.”
“Even still. I still don’t feel relaxed.” She turned to him. “I wanted to be alone with you. I wanted to have dinner with you alone tonight. I hardly know Aidan and Claudia-Michelle. They’re your friends, not mine.”
“Dinner will go fine, baby,” he murmured against Katie’s silky tresses. “I know you don’t like the thought of having Claudia-Michelle along with us—”
He felt her stiffen. “Claudia-Michelle looks like she was conceived by Greek gods and plays like she was raised by Mozart or something. How can I be calm with someone like her around?” Nick sighed. “Don’t you see how she looks at you?”
“She’s doesn’t look at me,” Nick insisted. That got a bland stare from Katie. “Well, she looks at me, but she doesn’t look at me like the way you’re implying. She has great respect for me, and she sees my talent. She’s investing a lot in me even though many in the business have turned their back on me.” Katie turned away from him and climbed to her feet, going to the empty closet to hang up her coat. “I need someone to believe in me, Kat. Can’t you see that?”
With mutinous eyes, Katie said quietly, “I thought it was enough for me to believe in you.”
Nick stood and strode to her. He placed a hand on her cheek, watching her smoky gray eyes. She looked up into his eyes, and he saw that she was hurt. With his other hand to the small of her back, he brought her closer.
“I do need you, Kat,” he murmured. “More than you will ever know.”
Before she could say a word, Nick lowered his lips to hers and felt her soften, muscle by muscle. A knot of lust tightened and grew in his gut, aided by the flowing music from Claudia-Michelle’s fingertips. The hand that had been at Katie’s cheek was now drifting downward, fingertips grazing neck, shoulder, breast. Katie inhaled sharply and broke away from Nick, a smirk on her face.
“Maybe we should save that for later,” Nick suggested. From the living room, Aidan shouted something intelligible. “We ought to go save Aidan and Claudia-Michelle from each other.”
The duo chuckled and left the bedroom. Nick walked down the hall with his girlfriend, feeling that things were calm for the moment. But something told him, as he watched Claudia-Michelle at the piano, that something monumental was going to happen here.