Ice Lake: Gone Cold\Cold Heat\Stone Cold, page 25
The rumble above them was picking up strength, getting close enough to start throwing up bits of snow.
“Daniel?” Kylie wasn’t too far out of it to realize the danger they were in. “Let me go.” Her teeth chattered against his ear. “I’m slowing you down.”
His legs burned with the effort to keep moving. His chest heaved with every breath. “You don’t get your way this time. I’m not losing you.” He spotted the steel crossbeams of the ski lift tower. “Not to a wannabe serial killer. And not to this mountain.”
The snow blew past them as though the blizzard was starting up again as he set Kylie’s feet on the first rung of the tower. Daniel stepped up right behind her. “Come on, baby. Climb.”
First one foot, then another. Reach. Grab. Hold on tight. When Kylie slipped, he caught her and put her hands back on the steel.
He heard the clack of a seat pass over the tower above them. The mountain was coming at them like a speeding freight train now.
“The Kylie I know doesn’t say can’t.”
They were high enough now that he could see the next chair coming at them. The tower swayed back and forth. He could see the wall of snow racing toward them out of the darkness.
Digging deep, he summoned a final burst of strength to lift her up onto the chair as it passed by. “Hang on!”
Snow from the top of Atlas dusted his feet as Daniel swung himself onto the chair beside her.
Kylie turned her chilled face into the warmth of his neck. He wrapped his arms around her and held on tight.
“Victoria?” she whispered.
“It’s veering away from the cabins. It’s gonna hit the lodge.”
“Kent’s there.” Daniel could feel the protest in her muscles, but she wasn’t strong enough to pull away.
“They’ll be fine. He’ll keep them safe.”
Daniel glanced over his shoulder at the shrinking speck of a man trying to outrun the reach of the snow. “He’ll never make it.”
KYLIE AWOKE FROM HER LONG, deep sleep feeling toasty and warm and deliriously pleased to be alive.
Now if her brother would just stop shouting in the next room…
“Yes, Agent McCade, that’s right. It’ll take us another couple of days to dig out from under all this snow. But it’s probably easier to get to us from where you are than to try to make it into town. I know exactly where the north-face cabin is located. I’ve got a team already on its way to bring you in, so sit tight. Two more souls here isn’t a problem. Food and water are good, and the sheriff’s department dropped in a new supply of fuel that should keep us powered up for a week. What’s that? It’ll take Winston a few months to get everything back in order for the next tourist season. But somehow, I don’t think he minds. He’s just glad we’re all safe. He’ll be relieved to hear you and Agent Gray made it through the storm, too.”
Kylie moaned and squished her face back into the pillow.
“He is kind of loud, isn’t he?”
One eye popped open at the familiar gravelly voice. Kylie rolled over, smiling, and opened both eyes to take in Ice Lake Resort’s infirmary and the golden-haired hero sitting in the chair beside her cot. “Daniel.”
He braced his elbows on his knees and leaned forward. “Your color’s a lot better today. Vitals were good yesterday. Temperature’s normal. You get to keep all your fingers and toes.”
“So I’m okay?”
“Dr. Big Brother said that once you got enough sleep to treat the exhaustion, he’d be willing to release you into my custody.”
Her smile widened. “I thought I was the law around here.”
“Maybe. But it’s my job to protect the law around here.”
“You saved my life,” she said, thanking him. But he looked so tired, and even though it was his civilian style to keep his wheat-colored stubble on the shaggy side, the man needed a trim. Kylie reached out and laced her fingers with his. “Are you all right?”
“I lost a good pickax in the lake, but I came out of the whole thing without a scratch.”
She tightened her grip and sat up. “I meant on the inside. How are you feeling?”
Kent’s strong voice came through the door again. “My men can take you to Stacy Beecham’s body and bring her down the mountain as soon as the snow has fully settled and it’s safe.”
Kylie released Daniel’s hand and combed her fingers through her hair. “Who’s he talking to out there?”
“The FBI agents who took out Burney Novak,” Daniel explained. “Apparently, they were almost to Graniteville when they got word that Novak’s partner was still in the area. When they tried to make it back to the lodge to look for him, they got stranded by the storm and had to take refuge in one of the remote cabins, to ride out the worst of it. We got radio communication back this morning. Agents McCade and Gray called in first thing. I think they were ready to hike in—”
“It’s too deep. And the avalanche will have buried roads and changed landmarks. They could get lost.”
“Exactly. But once they found out we had the situation under control, they agreed to do the safe thing and wait for search and rescue.” Daniel glanced toward the closed door between them and the office. “From the sound of things, though, the FBI is anxious to wrap up their case. Kent also got ahold of Sheriff Quick, so the department knows you’re in one piece and that the remaining guests are out of danger from both the storm and the killers.”
“All that happened this morning?” The brightness of the sun outside the windows told her it was already midafternoon. “What time is it? I feel like I’ve lost a day out of my life.”
“That’s about how long you slept. The avalanche was night before last.”
“More than twenty-four hours?” She pushed the covers back and swung her stockinged feet over the side. “I have things to do. Responsibilities. I should be the one reporting in to Sheriff Quick and the FBI.”
“Relax.” Daniel’s gaze slipped down to where her nipples pearled up beneath the long-underwear shirt she wore. His shirt, if she remembered correctly. “Kent gave you a good report. And rightly so. You figured out Lou’s identity and kept anyone else from dying.”
Feeling a little warm under Daniel’s unabashed scrutiny, Kylie spotted the jeans and flannel top one of the guests had loaned her, and quickly dressed. “How’s Victoria?”
“Physically, she’s all right. But she had a pretty good scare.” The chair creaked behind her as Daniel stood. “I know a good therapist I can recommend if she’s got some trauma issues to deal with.”
Kylie buttoned the flannel shirt as she turned to face him. “You never answered my question. How are you feeling?”
He pulled a key to one of the lodge’s guest rooms from his pocket and dangled it in front of her. “That’s something I’d like to discuss in private, if you don’t mind.”
Her temperature rose another notch in embarrassment as she looked around Daniel’s shoulder to see Barb Hughes working on a crossword puzzle over on her cot. “Okay.” Whatever Daniel wanted to say to her, wherever and whenever he wanted to say it, she would listen. “Privacy it is.”
“Winston gave me a key to one of the rooms upstairs, and promised to heat it for us. I’m not taking any chances that you’ll relapse into hypothermia.”
Resting his hand lightly at the small of her back, Daniel guided her into Kent’s office.
“That’s right. We found Lou Sullivan’s body in the snow. Broken neck.” It sounded as if her brother was covering all the bases with Agent McCade. “We’ve already put him in the freezer with his partner.”
“I’m checking this patient out,” Daniel informed Kent as they walked by his desk.
“Hold on a sec, Alex,” Kent said, rising to his feet and signaling for Kylie and Daniel to stop. He set down the radio and circled the desk to wrap his sister up in a tight hug that lifted her onto he
She hugged him right back. “I had a lot of help from Daniel and you.”
He kissed her cheek and let her go, to open a drawer in his desk. “Yeah, well, as a wise, determined, yet frequently annoying woman once said to me—you’re the cop and I’m the guy who keeps everyone healthy and safe. Here—” he tossed Kylie her badge “—you’ll need this.”
“And hey, Stone?” Kent grinned as he resumed his seat and picked up the radio. “That healthy and safe thing applies to my role as big brother, too. You break my baby sister’s heart and I’ll break your legs.”
“Kent!” Kylie chided.
But he was already back on the radio, and Daniel was pulling her out into the hallway. “C’mon. He knows he can get away with saying that, because I’d do the same myself if anybody ever tried to hurt you.”
A few minutes later they were within the reasonably warm, and definitely private, walls of room 214. Drawn by the bright sunlight shining outside, Kylie crossed to the north-facing window and looked out onto the monster drift of snow that came up to the second story. “Wow. Is that from the avalanche?”
Daniel tossed the key onto the dresser and joined her at the window. “We ended up with about twelve feet here. No major damage at the lodge, although Winston did lose a couple of sheds.”
Kylie closed her eyes and leaned back against his warm chest. “Who’d believe that I was drowning in a frozen lake two nights ago? Isn’t this heavenly?”
“Yeah.” Daniel’s husky voice danced in her ear. Shifting, she opened her eyes to read the rare uncertainty that narrowed his gaze. “After everything that’s happened over the past seventy-two hours—two dead serial killers, a blizzard, an avalanche, two deaths and a kidnapping—do you still feel hopeful?”
“About us? Of course.” She faced him, lifting her fingers to sweep them across the taut line of his lips. “Unless you tell me to stop, I will always believe that you and I were meant to be together.”
He caught her hand in his and pressed a tender, ticklish kiss into her palm. “Don’t stop.” His ragged plea touched her heart, reminded her of the young Daniel she’d once loved, and made her love the mature man even more. He leaned in and pressed a gentle kiss to her mouth. His face hovered near hers, close enough for his warm breath to fan her cheek, close enough for her to see the trust he had in her—the trust he was beginning to have in them—heating the granite sheen of his eyes. “Don’t ever stop believing. I…I really need you to believe.”
“I do, Daniel. I d—”
He silenced her with his lips. And when she stretched up on tiptoe and wound her arms around his neck, he thrust his tongue between her teeth and deepened the kiss. He backed her against the wall and kept coming until his hard chest flattened her soft breasts, and one sturdy thigh was wedged between hers.
There were no more words for a long time, only kissing and touching. Stroking and needing. Gasps and hums and guttural affirmations.
A firestorm licked through Kylie’s veins, heating her up from the inside out. Pressure built in the weepy juncture of her thighs, which squeezed with helpless need around Daniel’s leg. The tips of her breasts ached and tingled and grew heavy at the friction sparking between their bodies.
Daniel’s sure hands made short work of her buttons, and with a feverish groan, he slipped his fingers beneath the hems and skimmed both shirts up and over her head. The air was cool against her skin, the wall at her back even cooler. But he dipped his head to capture the rigid peak of her breast in his mouth, and she was on fire. He laved, he teased. He gently touched his teeth around the distended tip and she spasmed in his arms. Kylie squirmed as he turned his attention to the other breast, suckling it with his tongue, brushing his beard over the sensitized nub and making her cry out as sparks shot a flaming arrow straight to her core.
When he finally gave her respite from the sensual overload, she turned the tables and explored his body with the same focused enthusiasm. She pushed up the sweater that was in her way and he shed the offending garment himself, giving her permission to reacquaint herself with his body.
He ran his hands up and down her back, from the flare of her hips to the nape of her neck, while she tasted the salty tang of his skin at his neck and shoulder. Her fingers worked their way down the hills and hollows of his chest, tracing the narrow trail of wheat-gold hair that ran down his stomach and disappeared beneath the snap above the bulge in his jeans.
When she swirled her tongue around a taut male nipple and pulled the snap apart, Daniel growled low in his throat. “No more.”
He recaptured her willing mouth with his, and lifted her into his arms. He laid her across the bed and followed her down. In an ungainly, yet timeless ballet of hands and legs and stolen kisses, Kylie helped Daniel remove the rest of their clothes, slid a condom over his straining shaft and guided him inside her.
It had been so long that it was painful at first, but only for a moment. Daniel held himself still until her body stretched to welcome him, then clasp him tight. And it was she who looked up into his beautiful eyes, she who wrapped her legs around his hips and bound them even closer together as he moved inside her, she who tipped back her head and cried out as the fire exploded inside her.
Daniel’s release came moments after. She hugged him with her arms, with her legs, with her whole heart as he whispered her name against her neck and flew apart.
Afterward, they snuggled skin to skin under the covers, dozing and talking. Daniel told her about the little boy who’d been killed by a sniper’s bullet, and Kylie wept against his chest at the heartbreak she heard in his voice. He talked about the men in his unit dying in the same attack. He’d lost men before—he’d been in the Marines too long not to—but something about the deaths that day had changed him, damaged him inside.
But he was healing. Slowly. He couldn’t always keep the nightmares and insecurities at bay, but the episodes where he flashed back were coming less often now, and when they did, he could usually control them.
Kylie’s energy was spent, her body weary. But she felt closer to Daniel in these quiet moments on a snowbound afternoon than she had even before his fateful deployment. He dried her tears, then pulled her to lie on top of him, letting their legs and hearts tangle together.
“You’re a miracle to me, Kylie. You had faith in me when I didn’t have faith in myself. I can see the sunshine at the end of the tunnel through your eyes.” He played with a curl at her temple. “I want you. I want to be with you. I want to be with you for the rest of my life. If you can put up with me.”
“Seriously?” She brushed her palms against the short spikes of his hair. “Do you think there’s any other woman out there who will?”
Kylie bounced up and down on his chest as Daniel’s face creased with a smile and he truly laughed. It was a sound she hadn’t heard for far too long, and it did as much to reassure her that this was right—that they were right—as any word or promise could.
Daniel leisurely kissed his way across her mouth before stopping to frame her face in his hands. “I love you, Kylie Webber. You chase the shadows from my soul and make me feel good things again. I don’t deserve you, but I’m not going to let you go.”
“You’re going to keep seeing your therapist?”
“You’re going to let me do my job without interfering?”
“You’re going to love me forever?”
He wound his fingertip into the curl and gently tucked it behind her ear. “Absolutely.”
“All right. Then I’ll take you on.” Her future—their future—was finally turning out the way she’d always known it would. She rested her hand over his heart and smiled. “I love you, Daniel Stone. And there’s not a blizzard or mountain or bad guy—or you—who’ll ever change that.”
* * * * *
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Copyright © 2012 by Barbara Heinlein
Copyright © 2012 by Delores Fossen
Copyright © 2012 by Julie Miller
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