Gliding down the mountain at full speed brings a smile to my face. I bask in the icy air on my cheeks and the satisfying whoosh as I pass my parents on our way down the slope. My dad calls after me, but I don’t stop.
I live for this feeling… and only one thing compares. Or really, beats this.
Me, alone in my bed, thinking about Cole. Or rather, imagining the two of us together. Like together together.
He was my first crush and my feelings for him have never faded. Even if he just thinks of me as his best friend’s little sister, I’ve always held out hope for more.
A whole lot more.
So sure, acing this black diamond is fulfilling… but it’s not the same as how it feels when I get off all by myself while I picture the man of my dreams making love to me.
“Aspyn,” Mom says as she joins me at the base of the mountain, her skis coming to a stop next to mine. The ski lodge is decorated for Christmas, which is only two days away. Ornaments and lights cover large pine trees, and holiday music floats around us. It is the best time of year, made even better by the fact that I’m here with my family. I’ve missed them.
Mom lifts her goggles and I do the same. The bright sun nearly blinds me and I lift a hand over my brows. “You killed it,” she says. “Your dedication is paying off. Honey, you could really make the team.”
I shrug, not wanting to get my hopes up, but happy she notices and is proud of me. “Thanks, Mom. Only time will tell.”
At nineteen, I know my chances of making the US Alpine Ski Team are slim. But god, I want it. I’ve been spending more and more hours with my coach than ever before. I live in Bend, Oregon, so I can practice full-time, but flew home to Montana to spend the holidays with my family. They live in Missoula, but since we all love skiing, we decided to come to this chalet in Mistletoe. It’s the perfect place for Christmas. Mom’s boss owns it and is letting us borrow it, which is so generous.
“Want to grab lunch at the cafe?” she asks.
“I’m starving, but should we wait for Douggie?” My brother is set to arrive today from Missoula, where he attends college at the same place my dad teaches.
“He texted Dad. He and Cole are running late and won’t be here until dinner.”
Heat rushes to my core at the mere mention of him. “Wait, what? Cole is coming?”
“Didn’t I tell you? His parents are still in Spain, so he’s joining us. Won’t that be nice? It’s been forever since you’ve seen him.”
I swallow, my throat gone dry. “It’s been three years,” I say. With my competitive ski schedule, I’ve missed out on a lot of family events, and whenever Cole has seen my parents, I haven’t been there. Mom sends me photos of their time together, of course, and I stalk him on social media. But it’s been a long time since I’ve seen the guy I’ve been in love with since I was a kid.
Since he has seen me. Three years to be exact. But who’s counting?
Nerves wash over me at a terrifying speed. “I think I’m gonna go back to my room,” I say. “I’m actually pretty tired.”
Mom frowns. “I thought we were going to do a few runs after lunch?”
I bite my bottom lip. “You go find Dad for lunch and have a fun afternoon together. When do you two get to relax like this?”
Mom squeezes my hand. She works as an ER nurse and dad is a professor. They both spend their lives helping other people, and I know for a fact they’ve devoted all their extra resources to my career. They deserve an afternoon together.
“Okay, you sure you don’t want company?”
I nod. “I promise. It’s been a long month. I haven’t had a day off in who knows how long.”
“If you’re sure.”
“I am,” I say with a laugh, but appreciating how considerate she is being.
She’s giddy as she pulls out her phone, calling my dad. “Hey honey, wanna be my date this afternoon?”
I smile as I ski away, toward the chalet that is on the base of the mountain. My parents have taught me the meaning of true love, and it makes me want what they have. And I know who I want that with.
When I get to our place, I unclip myself from the skis and head inside, unzipping my jacket and walking straight toward the bathroom in my room on the lower floor. There are three rooms down here, which means Douggie and Cole can stay down here too, letting my parents have the master suite upstairs.
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