I hate skiing.

I hate everything about it. I hate the long, miserable drive to the mountain listening to my friends suddenly thinking they're ski bums, calling one another 'broseph' and 'dude' whenever the occasion arises. I hate the ridiculous amounts of money each trip takes. I can never locate my goggles, so that's another forty bucks to fork over, and the lodge is always an exorbitant amount of money even with all six of us sharing a room. Don't get me started on the fourteen-dollar hamburgers and five dollar coffees. Coffees which I need to make it through the day.

I hate standing in line for the lifts in the cold. I hate riding the lifts, having the wind freeze the cracks of flesh my bulky winter clothing can't seem to cover, chapping my lips and turning my nose red and snotty.

I hate having to put on four layers of clothes, winding a scarf around my neck and hiding my hair beneath a knit cap only for snow to fall in and slowly melt throughout the day, putting me in that unpleasant state of soggy cold.

I hate the person who invented ski boots and loathe walking around, unable to bend my ankles properly in their bulky, plastic casing. I can never get the damn things to lock in properly, and every time I crash into the packed snow one of my skis goes shooting down the mountain where I'm forced to chase it, only to stand awkwardly off to one side when I finally do catch it, trying to stamp my stupid boot back inside.

I hate being sore. I hate being tired. I hate having aching feet and limbs. I hate willingly putting myself into miserable situations.

But, mostly, I hate my friends for convincing me to come on another ski trip.

So that's why, on this trip, I've decided to be a good sport and not participate.

Sure, I stomached the ride down. The folk music blaring through the speakers. I ignored the constant jabbing of Jerrod and Cody about their upcoming antics on the snow boarding trails, joined Manda and Caroline's excited chatter about 'fresh powder' when it was appropriate, and sat dutifully in the front seat with Marcus playing navigator.

I could smile, too, since I hadn't packed any ski equipment. No, this weekend would be win, win for all of us. I didn't have to be miserable and they didn't have to listen to me bitch.

"Are you sure?" Manda asked for the umpteenth time as the other four gathered their skis and boards from the rack above Marcus' minivan. It was an exceptionally manly car and he had no shame rocking it.

"Yes," I smiled. "I've never been so happy to be here."

Manda didn't look convinced, but sighed. "Okay… But you can always rent if you get bored."

Waving them away with my hand, I grinned. "No, you guys go ahead. I'll check into our room." I took my enjoyably light duffle bag from Jerrod while my other friends stared at me like I was really missing out. It was difficult for them to imagine being at a ski resort and opting out of all 'the fun'.

"See you guys at sunset," I said, as we began walking towards the lodge. They lugged their bulky equipment while I shouldered my bag, it bouncing pleasingly against my hip. All that was inside was my Kindle, a large bag of peanut M&M's, and cozy clothing for the long weekend of bliss.

Snow crunched beneath my purple Muck Boots as we made the short trek, cresting the hill as the lodge came into sight. It was an impressive structure, all mahogany planks and sleek green roof. The recent flurries clung to the slope, making it a picture perfect winter lodge.

I stopped walking and resituated my luggage. "Well, this is my stop."

My friend still watched me warily, looking somewhat guilty, and I shot them another reassuring smile.

"Stay safe," I nodded, turning as they began their farewells and entered the warm security of our hotel. I would have told them to 'have a good time', but it seemed rather impossible.

My perfect weekend of relaxing by a blazing fireplace, reading and sipping hot cocoa faded quickly when I realized I hadn't brought along the charger to my Kindle.

Suddenly my pleasantly empty bag wasn't so pleasant anymore.

My lips pursed, but I zipped my coat and trudged back across the lodge, out into the cold, and towards the skiing area.

There, by the overpriced café and sport shop was a general store where they sold snacks and headphones and Advil and things. Unlikely they'd have Kindle products, but it was certainly my best bet for finding a charger on the top of a mountain.

I'd barely made it halfway to the shop when a guy barreled towards me. I couldn't make out his expression beneath the goggles and cap, but he shook slightly as he closed the distance between us.

"Ski patrol?"

His voice was sharp, and I craned my neck left then right, finding no one else in our vicinity, before glancing down at my own red North Face coat.

"Oh," I managed, shaking my head dumbly. "I'm not ski patrol."

"Shit," he mumbled, tossing his snowboard off to one side and dropping to the ground. Quickly, he attempted to tug off his ski boot. "Do you know where ski patrol is?"

I pointed to the direction of where the small medical facility was located. I'd scraped my elbow last month and had gone for a Band-Aid. In reality, of course, I'd really just wanted a break from the miserable activity and had used the minor injury as an excuse to take a short breather.

He glanced in the direction I'd pointed, and nodded. "Thanks," he grunted, before finally managing to yank off his right boot. The action was followed by a torrent of blood pooling the parameter around his discarded boot. Getting to his feet, the stranger started walking towards the patrol, a trail of red snow in his wake.

"Oh God."

If there was one thing I hated more than skiing, it was blood and gore. The edges of my vision blurred, and to distract myself from the light-headed feeling of faintness, I gathered the man's discarded boot and snowboard, taking pains to avoid looking at the soiled snow.

My purple Muck Boots allowed me to run quicker than anyone in ski boots, especially if said person was only wearing one and was clearly badly injured.

"Hey," I called, catching up to his side and opened the ski patrol door for him. The room was dimly lit and empty. "Take a seat," my voice sounded strangely business-like as I poked my head back out, to simultaneously take exaggerated breathes of fresh air to search for someone who could actually help.

"I thought you said you weren't ski patrol."

"Uh," I blinked, turning back around to watch as he tossed off his goggles and leaned back against one of the nurse's cots. "I'm not. But I'll go find someone, just… stay… alive."

He chuckled while I raced back out into the snow, all but forgetting about my peaceful afternoon of reading by fire. I finally located two officials, and they hurried back to the first aid station with me, clearly taken aback by my sputtering about 'blood' and 'leg' and 'dying'.

By the time the three of us were inside, the stranger had pulled off his cap revealing a head of messy blond hair. There was a bit of stumble on his jaw and his long, his straight nose ended just above his perfectly sculptured lips. His lips, which were now upturned, sending a smirk in my direction.

My eyes quickly darted towards his outstretched leg. I could see where the dark material was damp, clinging to the skin beneath. Wincing, I continued to watch, transfixed, as one of the medics pulled lightly on the fabric.

"We're going to have to cut them off," he said, and the female medic handed him a pair of scissors.

"Damn," the injured snow boarder groaned, leaning back further on the cot. "I love these pants."

As the material was cut away, his right lower leg was revealed. His entire shin was stained red, but it looked like the cut itself was just below the knee. Dried tendrils clung to his leg and the gruesome sight brought another wave of panic to my chest.

"Hm," the medic observed, his nose inches from the wound, clicking his tongue against the roof of his mouth. "You'll live, but you're going to need stitches."

They continued to talk, the medic asking for his insurance card while questioning what had happened. While the injured man answered that he'd taken a fall and realized he'd cut himself pretty badly, he didn't know the severity of the injury until he'd made it to the bottom of the run and noticed the blood.

My eyes were trained on the puddle on the floor. It quirked with each fresh drop, and I breathed heavily through my nose.

"Are you okay?"

I turned to find the female medic watching me carefully.

Trying my best to smile, I nodded. "I'm fine. Just a bit queasy around blood."

The snow boarder laughed, but I ignored him.

"Actually, I should probably be going."

"No, you look a little pale," the male medic noted, motioning towards the second cot. "Maybe you should lie down."

And so I found myself lying against a foam blue pillow, an oxygen mask covering my nose and mouth while a bleeding man beside me laughed sardonically.

"Next time I won't ask you for help," he grinned. I turned to shoot him a glare, but the intensity of my gaze was lost in the plastic casing around my face.

I pulled it away so I could speak.

"Not everyone who wears a red coat is ski patrol, you know."

He winked. "Cut me a break; I wasn't seeing straight." His eyes darted from my own to the mask resting on the lower half of my face. "Although, you'd make a great medic."

I pursed my lips and stared at the ceiling.

"I'm Elliot, by the way."

Pulling the mask up again, I replied, "Quinn," before snapping it back in place.

The female medic approached Elliot's bedside and smiled kindly.

"The cut's pretty deep. We've stopped the bleeding, but we're going to need to move you to the hospital for stitches." I continued to stare at the white ceiling tiles as she spoke. "Do you have a ride down?"

"No," Elliot sighed. "My friends all went back up. They'll be skiing all day and we don't bring our phones along."

I felt her eyes on me, and turning my head I saw that she was staring expectantly at me.

"Do you have a car?"

I shook my head and adjusted the mask once again. "My friends are also skiing." Marcus hadn't even left me the keys. Not that I'd want to give a stranger a ride to the hospital so he could bleed all over the interior of my friend's minivan.

"We'll call an ambulance then."

Elliot groaned once again. "Shit."

"Don't worry," I smiled, my head still cocked to one side so that I met his gaze. The oxygen mask lay forgotten in my lap. "Your friends won't see you. But I might be kind enough to take a picture while you're being loaded onto the stretcher."

His lips tugged into a slight frown; I laughed.

The medics went back outside and I realized we'd been staring at one another. He was really quite cute, even with his messy blond hair clinging to his sweaty forehead and one of his pant legs cut off, revealing a blood soaked limb. Turning back to face the front, I felt my face flush.

"This sucks."

I grinned at his words. "Does it hurt?"

His features tightened, as though he really had to concentrate on whether or not he was feeling any pain, but after a long moment he shrugged.

"It hurt a bit after I saw it." He smiled lightly. I'd turned back towards him, but he was now staring at the wall opposite him. "But it's not too bad."

"You're just trying to be tough."

"One of us has to be." His eyes met mine. "You're freaking out enough for the both of us."

I glanced down at my hands, threaded in my lap, and sighed. "I guess I am kind of pathetic."

"Kind of?"

"Hey!" I grinned, narrowing my eyes in his direction and feigning offense. "I saved your life back there."

"Ah, yes, pointing towards the first aid station and taking the medics away from my leg to attend to your fear of blood. Thanks."

He had a point. Chewing on my lower lip for a moment, I met his eyes again. They might have been green, but it was difficult to tell at this distance. "I'm sorry about that."

Elliot's features remained stoic. "You aren't sorry."

"No," I grinned. "I guess I'm not. But only because you're fine."

"We'll see once the ambulance gets here."

Sitting up in the cot, I got to my feet, taking pains to avoid the pool of Elliot's blood collecting on the floor. I wasn't feeling queasy any longer, and taking an experimental step towards the door I was pleased to find no dizzy or light-headedness.

"Looks like I'm cured," I announced, walking towards the door. The medics were back outside, and I turned before opening to the door to find Elliot watching me.

I was trying to decide whether 'good luck' or 'get well soon' was more appropriate, when Elliot spoke.

"Come with me."


"Come with me," he repeated.

I blinked at his request. "To the hospital?"



"You're seriously going to refuse a dying man's request?" Despite his words and serious tone, there was a grin on his lips.

"You aren't dying."

He was back to staring at the ceiling and missed my glare.

"You'll never know unless you come with me. Do you really want that on your conscious?"

With a sigh, I took one last look at the door before turning and making my way to Elliot's bedside.

"Fine," I said. And though he was still avoiding looking at me, I could see his features shift at my concession. "But only because I feel sorry for you."

He laughed, and his eyes met mine. They were green, just as I'd first thought. "I'll take what I can get."

I didn't say anything for a long time, simply stealing glances of Elliot between bouts of pretending to study a CPR poster. Only because he was so good looking and we were alone and I felt awkward and strange, and yet somehow comfortable. I turned my attention towards his leg. From where his pants had been cut, a gaping tear stared back at me.

The rush of faintness washed over me, and my attention snapped back to his face. Green eyes stared back at me, and I smiled feebly.

"Pretty bad, isn't it?"

"It's fairly gross, yes."

He laughed. It was another short, burst of laughter that came from somewhere deep inside his chest. I liked the sound, and the lingering smirk that followed.

"So, Quinn," he continued, and I wondered if he were fibbing earlier about it not hurting. He seemed to make pains to keep conversation going, as though looking for a distraction. "Where are you from?"

"The University forty-five minutes from here."

"No shit?" He grinned. "Me too."

"Oh?" I tilted my head to one side, studying the mess of sweaty hair and the smiling green eyes. "I don't recognize you."

"It's a pretty big school."

"I guess," I nodded slowly. Though Elliot seemed like a person that would stand out. "You owe me a hot cocoa when we get back."

The moment the words were out of my mouth, I felt the weight of them and blushed.

Frowning, my eyes closed, and I continued hastily, "I only mean that I was on my way to get one when you ran into me, and—"

I was cut off by his laugh. "One hot chocolate, on me."

The grin that tugged on my lips broke despite my trying to contain it, and he returned the gesture.

I'd actually been on my way to get a charger that probably wasn't there. But it was the principle of the matter. I'd planned on reading the day away, sipping hot cocoa by the lodge's fireplace. And now I was going to the ER.

"So," I continued, wanting to keep up our conversation. Partly to ward off any pain he wouldn't admit to, and partly because I found myself genuinely curious. "Just a weekend trip?"

"Yeah, a couple buddies and I come up a few times a month."

"I'm sorry."

He arched a brow in question, and I clarified.

"I hate skiing. And the snow and all of this."

"Hm," he frowned. "You'd rather be cooped up in a medical station than hitting the slopes?"

"Yes," I replied quickly. It was the truth, after all. Especially when said medical station contained a good-looking, slightly charming snow boarder.

"So really," he smirked, readjusting his position on the cot, "I'm doing you a favor."

"Ha. Don't try worming your way out of that hot cocoa, Elliot."

He grinned just as the female medic reappeared.

"Sorry, John had to go back up the mountain. They need to snowmobile a gentleman down with a broken arm." She frowned slightly. "A lot of injuries this weekend. However, your ambulance is on its way. Just hold tight." Her eyes darted to me, and she was once again smiling pleasantly. "And how are you holding up?"

"Just fine. Thank you."

"You're free to go at any time then," her smile was still present as she turned to jot something on a clipboard. "Just take it easy for the rest of the day."

"Oh," I started, but Elliot cut in.

"She's coming with me."

The medic's smile widened, though her eyes remained trained on the paperwork at hand. "Oh? And is she a family member?"

I chewed on my lower lip, turning to meet Elliot's gaze. He frowned slightly, before giving me a short shrug.

"Quinn, what's your last name?"

Unsure of how this answered the medic's question regarding our relationship, I replied, "Tinsely."

"Quinn Tinsley, will you marry me?"

I choked at his words. "We haven't even gone out for coffee yet."

Elliot shrugged. "Eh, all in good time. So?" I caught the playful glint in his eyes and rolled my own.

"Of course Elliot. I will be your fiancée."

"Good." He nodded. The medic shot us an amused glance. "Quinn's my fiancée. Does that count?"

Sighing, the medic shook her head and smiled back down at the clipboard. "The ambulance will be here shortly. Quinn, congratulations. I'm sure you'll make a beautiful bride."

The moment the door swung closed behind her, I rolled my eyes. "Are you on crack?"

Elliot grinned. "No. Just good at thinking on my feet."

I certainly hadn't expected to get proposed to this weekend. Not skiing was turning out to be loads more interesting than any of my previous trips to the lodge had been. I thought about Manda and Caroline's reactions when they asked how my day was and I told them a good looking snowboarder proposed to me so I could ride in an ambulance.

"I hate peas."

At Elliot's sudden declaration, I turned and lifted my brow. "What?"

"You hate skiing," he shrugged, glancing down at his leg for a moment before his eyes darted back up to meet mine, "and blood, obviously. So I'm telling you; I hate peas."

"I love peas."

"Well I love snowboarding. You're the worst fake fiancée ever."

"Hey!" I laughed, sitting on the edge of the cot opposite of him. "I am not. I promise to leave peas out of your fake chicken pot pies in the future."

"Good." His eyes slid closed as he rested his head further on the pillow. "I also hate reality shows about dating. And when girls constantly ask me what's wrong."

I smiled. "And what do you like?"

"Pretty brunettes," he replied, cocking open one eye and smirking at me. "Especially squeamish ones who stick around with me for no reason."

"Hm, maybe I'm bored."

His eyes were closed again as he mumbled a soft, "Maybe."

"Alright," the female medic said, opening the door as a pair of paramedics rolled in a stretcher. I tried hard not to laugh as they moved Elliot onto the red surface and strapped him in. He met my eyes and the amusement I felt echoed in them.

I did as promised, snapping a picture with my phone as Elliot was lifted into the back of the ambulance. The glare on his face was priceless, and taking my spot in the front I turned slightly.

"How are you doing back there?"

"Hn," he grunted through the oxygen mask and I bit down on the inside of my cheek to keep the grin tugging at my lips in check. The EMT at my right made small talk on the short drive down to the hospital. He asked about Elliot, and I largely made things up about my fake fiancé I knew little about him apart from the fact that he hated peas. I could practically feel Elliot's smile beneath the oxygen mask behind me as I explained the contents of his sister's garden.

As the stretcher was unloaded from the ambulance, I took the bag of Elliot's things - goggles and knit cap and other articles of his clothing, mostly - and followed the trio inside. It was warm, and I discarded my thick coat and added it to the plastic bag, smiling at the nurse who led me inside the emergency room where Elliot was now situated on a bed.

He eyed me, and I realized I was no longer the shapeless coat wearer I'd been before. The sweater was modest, sure, but it clung to me and I suddenly felt self-conscious.

"How are you?" I asked, taking a few steps towards the bed, clinching the plastic bag with both hands. "Feeling better?"

"I will once they give me some pain reliever," he answered, resting his head against the pristine white hospital pillow and frowning up at the ceiling.

I set the bag on the ground and closed the distance between us, just as a nurse walked in.

He smiled at me before rolling a chair to the foot the bed and examining Elliot's injured leg. The pants that had been cut left a jagged, frayed edge. Everything about Elliot screamed confident and cool; it was rather amusing watching him try to stomach being embarrassed and helpless. Endearing, even.

"The EMT says you aren't sure how this happened, is that correct?"

Elliot nodded. "Just knocked it on something. It hurt like hell, but I didn't think it was this bad until I noticed all the blood."

The nurse nodded as he continued to wipe the blood clean from Elliot's leg. I glanced at the clock on the far wall, avoiding the gaping wound taking shape now that the wrap the ski patrol medics had applied had been taken off.

"Did you see it?" The nurse asked, and I realized he was talking to me.

"Oh," I smiled tightly, making eye contact and trying to avoid the queasy feeling at seeing Elliot's leg in my periphery. "No. I was at the bottom of the hill when it happened."

Nodding, the nurse went back to work before two other hospital workers joined us. They were all dressed in scrubs, and though Elliot's leg looked fairly terrible, I knew it was nothing major. However, in a quiet mountain town I couldn't imagine they were busy. Perhaps the ski lodge was the only reason to put such a facility nearby.

After the wound was cleaned, the doctor got out a needle and stitching equipment and I paled.

"Elliot," I gave another small smile, and his eyes lit up with amusement at my expense. The terror could most likely be read clearly on my features, and squeezing his hand gently, my smile faltered. "I'm going to step out."

He laughed as I slipped out the door, and I could hear him making jokes to the hospital staff about how I fainted at the sight of blood from the hallway. With a deep breath, I moved towards the vending machines I'd seen earlier in the lobby and removed a crisp dollar bill from my back pocket.

As I returned to the room housing Elliot, an older woman smiled.

"I understand. It's nice of you to try and stay with him though," patting my shoulder as she walked by, she added, "you seem like a nice fiancée."

I thought I was a rather nice fake fiancé too, and after Elliot was cleaned up and his would stitched back together, the doctor let me inside. I handed over the Gatorade, and Elliot grinned.

"Thanks babe."

My eyes were on the swollen wound, still red and patchy just below his right knee. Frowning, I tentatively reached out and ran my finger over the gash.

"Eighteen stitches," Elliot bragged from over the lip of his drink.

I frowned and stepped back as he screwed the lid back on.

"How'd you know I liked yellow?"

"I'm a genius."

He winked. "I knew I wasn't just marrying you for your looks."

The nurse reentered the room and flashed me another one of his polite grins.

"The stitching went well," he nodded, moving towards Elliot's bedside. "He's a tough one."

I made a noncommittal sound from the back of my throat.

"We'll have to give him three shots and then watch him for a bit, but he should be alright in about half an hour."

"Three shots?" I asked, as Elliot chuckled behind me.

"Yes," the nurse replied. "Tetanus, a pain reliever and an antibiotic."

"I have to get them in my butt," Elliot's voice cut in. I turned briefly to shoot him a look, but his head was back, Adam's apple bobbing as he took large swallows of the yellow sports drink.

"I'll see if Marcus can pick us up," I replied, ignoring Elliot's comment and moving towards the bag, fishing my phone from my jacket pocket. He'd mentioned when he was in the ski patrol hut that neither of his friends could be contacted.

I stepped into the hallway and dialed Marcus' number. Not only was Marcus the owner of the van we'd driven in, but he was also the most likely to answer his phone. Manda and Caroline always seemed to be texting or browsing Facebook when I was around, but they were impossible to contact when it actually counted. Once when Marcus was in a test I stood with Jerrod on the side of the road for two house while we both called the other two females in our group for a ride home. We ended up having to wait until Marcus' test was over before anyone answered their phone.

It rang three times before Macus picked up.

"Quinn!" he said on the other end of the line.


"We just got back to the lodge to change and stuff. Caroline went to look for you by the fireplace, but you weren't there," I could hear Manda talking in the background asking questions, but he continued. "Where are you?"

"At the hospital."


Laughing, I quickly replied, "Everything's fine. I ran into a guy who needed some help," I winced, hoping none of the hospital staff had overheard me. Elliot wasn't just 'some guy', after all. "He came up with two of his friends, but neither of them have their phones on them. I was wondering, well, if you could come pick us up?" There was a hopeful tone in my voice, but Marcus was a good friend, not one to hold out on favors.

"Of course. I'll be right there."

Once back in the safety of the room, I had to laugh at the expression on Elliot's face.

"Everything alright?"

"No," he grumbled. I noticed the empty Gatorade sitting on the side table and the way his brows knitted together, lips folding into a frown. "Those shots hurt worse than cutting my leg open."

I laughed. "And just moments before the nurse was bragging about how tough you are."

"Like you're one to talk."

Rolling my eyes, I sighed and rested my hip on the side of the bed. "My friend is on his way to pick us up."

His eyes met mine. "Did you tell him you were engaged?"

"No," I could feel the grin tugging on the corners of my mouth. "I wanted him to meet you first."

"Ah. I'd ask if he was your boyfriend, but I'm sure he's not."

"Ouch Elliot," I laughed. "I could have a boyfriend."

"No. If you had a boyfriend he would have never left your side on this trip."

I felt my face flush at his words, and allowed a small smile to break across my features. "I'd ask if you had a girlfriend then, but I'm assuming not."


"You did propose to me, after all."

"Ah, yes." His head was once again resting against the pillow while he stretched his newly stitched leg. "That would make me a pretty shitty boyfriend."

"So, if no girlfriend, who did you come with?"

I found myself genuinely curious about Elliot. And really looking forward to having coffee when we got back to school – if his offer still stood.

"My buddies Saul and Matt." He frowned at their names. "Bastards probably thought I got separated. Wonder how long before they decide to worry about me."

"Do you have your phone?"

"No. I don't board with it."

"A problem, but okay," I grinned. And even though he didn't ask, I found myself answering, "I came with my friends from school. They all love to ski and despite me despising it, they somehow manage to drag me along a couple times a month."

Elliot grinned. "You should stop being such a pushover."

"Maybe." I feigned seriousness. "It is how I ended up fake-engaged to you after all."

"Quinn!" I heard a female shout from outside the hallway just before the door to Elliot's room burst open, revealing a crazed looking Manda. I got to my feet as she barreled towards me, just as Marcus came into view in the open doorframe behind her.

Manda tossed her hands around my neck and squeezed me tightly while Marcus ran a hand through his dark hair.

"I was so worried," she said into my shoulder. "Marcus said you were at the hospital and I … You're an idiot for not skiing, you know?"

"I'm not hurt," I smiled weakly as she pulled away. "Elliot was."

"And who the fuck is Elliot?"

"Nice to meet you, too," Elliot said, and Manda turned her glare onto him. "Elliot, by the way."

A breathy snort from Manda was followed by her eyes narrowing in Elliot's direction. "I'm Manda," she said simply. And waving her hands unceremoniously towards the door, "And that's Marcus."

The man in question grinned sheepishly and buried his hands into his jacket pockets. "Hi Elliot. Sorry about the leg."

To which Elliot laughed.

"Caroline's skyping with Drew, and Cody and Jerrod are at the lodge's bar hoping to pick up women," Manda said with a quick roll of her brown eyes. "But it's good to know who your real friends are."

Drew was Caroline's boyfriend from high school. Three years into college and they were still together, making their long distance relationship beat the odds. He went to a small east coast school, and while they couldn't afford to make frequent visits, they were constantly talking on the phone or webcam. Cody and Jerrod weren't to blame. They were just horny sleazes that always talked up how they were going to bring back random women to our room but never actually did.

As I helped Elliot towards Marcus' van, despite how loudly he insisted he was fine to walk on it, he complained about the pain in his butt from the shots while I tried not to laugh.

"Seriously," he grumbled as he slid into the back seat. I tossed the plastic sack of our things onto the floorboard. "You have no idea."

"No," I smiled, joining him in the back as Manda and Marcus took the front seats.

"Not exactly the coolest vehicle," Marcus said, his eyes flashing into the rearview mirror. "But it gets the job done."

The remainder of the car ride was silent, but not uneventful. Sometime during the drive back, Elliot's hand found mine and rested on my lap, our fingers intertwined and his thumb stroking my knuckles ever so often.

With each stroke I felt my heart flutter in my chest, and I found myself biting down on the inside of my cheek the way I always did when I was trying not to smile.

Manda and Macus were the first out of the vehicle, and as Elliot let go of my hand I felt suddenly cold. Until his green eyes met mine and small grin graced his features. It was so different from the animated smirks he'd been shooting me all day.

"Well," Manda said, shifting her weight slightly as her eyes moved from Elliot to me. "We'll be up in the room. Probably just going to order room service; I'm beat."

Ah, the bliss of not suffering from the soreness that always followed a day on the slopes.

Nodding, I glanced towards Elliot but remained rooted in the parking lot as my friends made the short trek up the hill to the lodge.

"You should find your friends," I said, just as Elliot blurted, "They're into each other."

With a small smile, I decided to address his statement first.

"She's been in love with him for three years, but she's afraid that if anything happens it will ruin our group dynamic." I frowned at the thought. "It's worse though; watching him go on dates tears her up inside."

"And he's oblivious to how she feels?"

I sighed. "Hasn't a clue."

Elliot shook his head and took a step closer, closing the distance between us. I could feel the warm flannel of his shirt, see the puffs of white that followed his words. "I hate it when a guy likes a girl but is too dumb to do anything about it."

Before I could reply, he tilted my chin upwards and captured my lips with his own.

It was feather-light, just a peck before his tongue traced my lower lip. Too stunned to do anything at first, I felt my heart jolt in my chest before my hands reached out of their own accord and grabbed fistfuls of his shirt. And then my lips were parted and I was kissing him back.

When he pulled away, I couldn't help but smile. As his forehead rested against mine, I realized I was still clutching his shirt. Flattening my hands so that my palms rested on the hard surface of his abdomen, I felt the pleasant flip-flop of something in my stomach.

"Screw waiting until we get back," he said, his eyes on me. "Let's do something tomorrow."

I frowned. "I'm not going skiing."

"I don't know if you remember this," he laughed slightly, and stepping away motioned to his leg. I realized he must have been freezing, what with his entire right calf exposed to the cold, but Elliot simply grinned. "But I can't go boarding tomorrow."

"Well then," I grinned, leaning forward and pressing my lips against his own. It was shorter than our first kiss, but I was satisfied to see that his eyes were still closed when I pulled away. "I guess we'll have to keep one another company."

One of his hands brushed a lock of my hair out of my eyes. I shivered and wondered if it had been his touch or the wind.



"Can we go inside? I'm freezing my balls off."

So Elliot wasn't the most eloquent of guys. But he was sweet and he was charming and he was funny. And, okay, he was also incredibly good looking.

Taking his hand, I led us back towards the lodge.

"Okay." I grinned. "And Elliot?"


"I still want that coffee."

His lips pressed against my temple, and I realized maybe, perhaps I didn't hate everything about ski vacations after all.



…. I got this story idea sitting in the hospital waiting room outside the ski resort while my husband was getting stitches in his leg.

I hope you enjoyed laughing at our expense. :D