Last Christmas, I seduced him. We got caught. He got fired.
Now I’m stranded.
Stuck in a snowbank on the side of a desolate mountain.
How can I turn down help from the man I wronged? The one I still want – but how can I make up for what happened?
He takes me back to his tiny cabin. There’s only one bed.
Amie – Now
White-knuckled, I grip the steering wheel of my borrowed Tesla, hands at ten-o’clock and two-o’clock. I’m still getting used to driving again after being ferried everywhere by bodyguards for more than a year. All it took to send me skidding off the mountain road was a blinding snowstorm and nightfall.
“This might not have been the best idea,” I mutter, deliberately unclenching my hands. I shift into reverse and stomp on the pedal. The wheels spin.
“Damned electric vehicles.” I smack the steering wheel and sob. “Damn Riley.”
My best friend, the Head of ESG at Fairfax Partners where I’m currently serving as chairman of the board. Trying to fill my father’s shoes, and failing miserably.
Riley’s first big initiative was to replace the corporate fleet with electric vehicles. All well and good until you’re fifty miles from the nearest charging station, in the middle of a blizzard.
I punch buttons on the dashboard. Hardly enough battery life to get me to the cabin I’ve rented. What am I going to do?
I get out and trudge to the back of the car. Snowflakes billow in, dusting my plain gray suitcase. Beneath a flap there’s a spare tire, tire jack, a kit of intimidating car-looking things, and no shovel. Nothing I could use to get the stupid car free from the snowbank I’ve skidded into.
I slam the trunk closed, get out my phone and check for a signal. One lonely bar glows and flickers out.
I stomp back to the front and climb behind the wheel. I rev the engine. Spinning tires thrust snow high in the air behind the car.
I drop my forehead onto the heated steering wheel. I can’t even vacation right.
Headlights swim into view behind my stuck car. I sit up, swipe the tears away from my cheeks and try to collect myself. This is good. I won’t have to spend the night freezing on a mountaintop. Someone has come to rescue me.
Uh oh. What if someone followed me, despite my efforts to stay unseen?
Ditching my guards for a much-needed break might not have been the best idea.
In my defense, I’ve been hanging by a thread for months. Between my father’s death, the pressure of trying to lead Fairfax Partners, and my mother’s whirlwind remarriage, this has been the hardest year of my entire life.
The bundled figure approaches. Bare knuckles rap against the window. My grip tightens on the canister of pepper spray I packed, just in case. Only then do I put the window down an inch.
“I’m armed.” Cold air snatches my words away. “If you try to hurt me, I’ll use it.”
Maybe he’ll think I have a gun.
“Amalia Fairfax? Is that you?”
Wait one second. I know that voice. Those bright blue eyes are familiar, too, as is the straight bridge of the man’s nose, visible above the loosely tied scarf.
“Sawyer?” My voice rises in a high squeak.
Oh, how could this situation get any worse? This time last year, I did the worst thing imaginable. Seduced him and got him fired. It wasn’t intentional. Well, the seduction part was. The firing part was a known, but theoretically manageable, risk.
My reputation was irreparably tarnished but the worst part is that I inadvertently destroyed his career in personal security.
Hard to come back from that.
“What are you doing out here?” we blurt in unison.
A shuddery laugh breaks the tension. Relief as cold and bracing as the weather washes through me, cutting through the fear and stress for a single moment. Guilt surges in to fill the empty space.
I let go of the pepper spray and discreetly removed my hand from my purse. Sawyer sees, but doesn’t miss a beat.
“Let’s try that again.” He laughs, the sound like a crackling fire, warming me from within. He tugs his scarf down so I can see the lower part of his face. “What are you doing all the way out in the mountains, with no security detail? On Christmas Eve-eve?”
“I’m supposed to be on vacation.”
I nod. Belatedly, I remember to roll down the window so we can have a proper conversation.
“They let you do that?” he asked.
“I gave an order.”
Sawyer’s half-grin has the effect of mulled wine. Intoxicating and cozy. “And then you drove into a snowbank. You look pretty wedged in there. How about I give you a lift to wherever you’re going, and I’ll come back to get your car out in the morning?”
“You’d do that for me?”
I didn’t intend to sound quite so flirtatious – I’ve lost any right to flirt with this man – but Liam Sawyer has always had that effect upon me.
“I’d do all that and more, doll.”
I roll my eyes, just as I did the first time he called me by that stupid, archaic term of endearment. I’ll never admit how much I like it.
“Okay, Sawyer. Thank you. I appreciate the ride.”
That half-grin comes again. I can just make out the dimple in his cheek, hidden by shadow and stubble like a secret friend.
“Anything for you, princess.”
I scowl. That nickname is a lot less charming.
He opens the door for me the way he used to do when he was still my bodyguard, and I step out into the blizzard with the man I so badly wronged.
Eighteen months ago
“Have you seen your new guard yet?” Riley hissed, her blue hair streaming down her back. She’s not cosplaying Sonic the Hedgehog; she just really likes having blue hair. Or pink. Or red. Or whatever color takes her fancy at any given time. It changes often.
“No,” I replied absently, absorbed in paperwork. “I doubt I’d have noticed him anyway. He’s just a guard.”
“Oh, no, honey. He is not just a guard. He’s like Kris from Frozen except oozing sex appeal and confidence instead of goofiness.”
“I am not in the habit of lusting after cartoon characters,” I shot back as if I didn’t have a Pinterest folder of Final Fantasy fanart saved on my phone. Riley got me started on it when we were roommates at school in Vermont. Some of the drawings are very romantic.
“Lucky you, this guy is entirely live-action.” Riley tucked one buttcheek onto the corner of my pristine desk and gestured, not very subtly, to where Hector Lobo, CEO, was leading a tall, broad-shouldered man in a plain navy suit toward my office.
“Look at hiiiiiim,” she hissed. “I want to climb that man like a tree.”
But my friend’s gaze slipped away from the new guard, who indeed, bore a resemblance to Kristoff from Frozen with his light brown hair and blue eyes, toward the darker, sterner man she worked for. Hector Lobo, the CEO of Fairfax Partners’ newly-created subsidiary. A legal gambit to protect us from liability.
For a personal security guard, there’s an intriguing glint of good humor and mischief in the new guy’s eye. Usually they’re buff and grouchy and speak in clipped tones. This man’s jaw is sharp enough to draw blood if you were to touch him there, and his hair is neatly clipped, not shaggy. The navy suit brought out the color of his eyes, with a checkered gray and red tie for contrast.
He was, in a word, devastating.
“It’s too bad he’s necessary,” I sighed.
“Your dad pissed off a lot of people, but the furor will die down. Eventually. Fairfax won’t be infamous forever.”
I wasn’t sure about that. While Connecticut was full of publicly loathed financiers, resentment toward my father had boiled for years, and it was only the fact that he’d been incapacitated by a stroke that people felt emboldened to speak up. He wasn’t making good decisions, which meant I’d been called in to try and manage the situation on his behalf. Part of my efforts to save Fairfax Partners from its own rapacious greed was to hire Riley to assess and improve their environmental and social reputation—a move the new CEO, Hector, hated.
Riley and I weren’t exactly popular, but my dad’s company needed us to salvage its reputation and stave off litigation. Recently, Fairfax Partners bought out a mining company, shut it down, sold the equipment and leased the rights to a foreign company that promptly poisoned the rural county’s water supply. The town’s plight made international headlines, and with me as the new face of Fairfax Private Equity, I started getting death threats.
That was fine. I could deal with the overzealous internet haters—or so I thought, until the day I came home to find a dead goat’s head in my bed.
Hence, my new 24-7 security detail.
Usually, I paid the burly men in sunglasses and suits little attention. The two main guys were Philip and Bruce, along with a contingent of tall, extremely buff men in dark suits that I could rarely tell apart. I didn’t have the bandwidth to keep track of her guards, no matter how hot they were. Standing in for my father as Chairman of the Board, trying to get all the shareholders to agree to the company’s direction, had been a challenging, exhausting, full-time job. One I felt ill-equipped to handle.
Besides, I didn’t date. I slept with men occasionally, but boyfriends were few and far between. I was too wary of the opposite sex for anything more.
“Miss Fairfax, may I introduce Liam Sawyer, your new evening guard,” Hector said, in his buttoned-up, habitually stiff manner.
“Welcome, Mr. Sawyer. I see you drew the short stick.”
Riley made a choked sound.
“In what way?” the guard asked, cocking his gorgeous head.
“You’re on the second shift. Stuck ferrying me to social events. No one wants that responsibility.”
Wining and dining with shareholders, executives, investors, and assorted political stakeholders was a large part of my new job, and it often extended well into the evening.
“Sounds like a plum assignment, Miss Fairfax.”
“Ms.” I correct him automatically.
For the first time, I met his gaze full-on. Riley wasn’t wrong. Sawyer is Ken-doll handsome, if Ken were dressed like the guy from Burn Notice. He regarded me with unfeigned interest.
“Few would describe driving me to corporate events as a plum assignment,” I replied crisply. Whatever his game was, I refused to play it. He gave off strong boyfriend-material vibes, and even if I were in a place to have one, which I’m not, I wouldn’t jump at him like Riley’s suggesting just because he’s easy on the eyes. “I’ll leave it to Hector to help you get settled in.”
Sawyer clicked his heels and saluted, which was both weirdly formal and charming. Maybe he had a military background. He and Hector strode away.
Riley exhaled loudly. “Did you see that ass?” she demanded.
I watched Sawyer’s butt, what little was visible beneath the flap of his suit jacket, until he disappeared down the hall. Briefly imagined biting it, before picturing it naked in all of its muscular glory.
“Hardly noticed,” I mumbled, lying.
Get Snowbound Secrets wherever eBooks are sold.