The Mountain Man's Secret Twins(3)

By: Alexa Ross & Holly Rayner





“Perfect,” she whispered, clicking on the payment options. Before she knew it, she’d booked a stay for the next week.



Her boss gave her a knowing look as she left the office. She wrapped her coat around herself and trudged to her car. That morning she’d been loved, a woman with a boyfriend—one she’d assumed would propose in the next year. But this afternoon she was single, alone, with nothing but the open road stretched before her.



She stopped only once, at her apartment, to grab a few clothes and her skis. Then she swept off toward that tiny cabin in Vermont with fire in her eyes, listening to music as loudly as she possibly could and driving five miles over the speed limit, a reckless action incredibly unlike her.



Vermont became hilly, mountainous, covered in snow around her as she drove into the evening. As she drove farther toward her destination, she found she could no longer hear the gossiping of her coworkers echoing in her ears. She could no longer hear her mother’s words declaring that her only purpose was to find a suitable mate. All she could hear was the music blaring in her ears. She felt free.





CHAPTER TWO





The Vermont cabin was tucked away on Mount Mansfield, behind several twiggy trees and up a winding driveway. As she crept up, Kenzie passed one or two other rickety cabins. She wondered who her neighbors were. Perhaps married couples, looking to get away? Or other soulless, single women trying to get over the prospect of love? She imagined she’d never know, as she’d be locking herself away, leaving only for food runs and long, solitary days at the ski resort. She hadn’t come to commune with anyone, or to make friends. She’d come to rid her brain of its current turmoil. She’d come to feel like a person again.



She parked outside the cabin she’d reserved, checking her email quickly to ensure it was the proper address. She shrugged to herself, noting that the cabin looked a bit more dilapidated than it had in the photograph. As a real estate agent herself, she knew the little tricks of the trade, the ways to make a place look better than it really was. Remarkably, the online tactics had worked on her as well. She supposed she’d been a bit distracted, however.



She got out of her car and marched through the snow, feeling the chilly precipitation melt upon her nylons and drench her skin. She walked up the creaky steps, lifting the ‘welcome’ mat to find a key beneath. She smiled to herself, feeling like it was 1950, when people trusted one another enough to leave hideaway keys, and even to keep their doors wide open for children to run in and out.



She unlocked the door, feeling a vague fear pass over her. The door stuck, but she forced it open, revealing the run-down interior. Immediately, she realized the cabin hadn’t been warmed in several weeks, as it was even chillier on the inside than it was on the porch. She walked along the floorboards toward the heating system, flinging the switch up. She waited, tipping her weight forward on her toes, and realized that the heater cranked nothing but dust into the air. She breathed hot air into her hands, scrubbing her palms together, realizing she couldn’t survive in that cabin without heat.



“Shoot,” she whispered. She turned toward the kitchen, with its ’60s-era refrigerator and its crooked sink, and turned the handle of the faucet, thinking she could heat up some water. Nothing but a small, brown trickle came from the mouth. She sighed.



“Guess it’s time to use those Girl Scout skills,” she murmured, turning toward the fireplace. Unfortunately, the previous tenant hadn’t stocked any firewood. As she gazed outside, into the woods, she realized that all the firewood she could find that evening, before twilight struck, would be coated in snow, unable to dry out before the following day.



As she pondered what to do, her mind fluttered back toward thoughts of Austin. He was a strong, able-bodied man, but he’d always complained when they’d gone camping together, nearly throwing out his back while chopping firewood. He would have hated this cabin. He would have requested a beach vacation, somewhere where they brought cocktails to you as you dipped your feet beneath the waves. Tori probably preferred something similar. If anything, this was what Kenzie was meant to be doing, despite her current predicament. She had to persevere.



Strapping a smile on her face, Kenzie stomped back to her car, changed into her dark snow boots, and hopped into the driver’s seat, not bothering to lock the cabin. She cranked backward, reversing the car, and chugged down the driveway, stopping at the first cabin. She parked and hopped out, still maintaining her real estate smile.

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