Spring’s in the air. While the sun shines in Timber Springs, snow falls on the Snowy Range, and trouble’s brewing in the meadows. The area’s new game warden, Steve Mitchell launches his first wildlife investigation of the season but the trouble follows him—straight to town.
Rachel Fitzgerald’s on Spring Break. Or at least she’s trying. Between paperwork, and harassing phone calls, she may as well have stayed in her classroom. So much for relaxation. A ‘chance’ meeting with her brother’s old roommate offers her weary soul a shred of hope, but she discovers love, like life, isn’t easy.
He talks with the wisdom of the Lord but rejects the future. She wants to soar with the eagles but walks alone. And trusting God proves to be more of a challenge than ever before…
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The strong baritone snapped her attention to his face. Another lurch caught in the deep recesses of her heart. She struggled for composure, finally piecing together a sentence. “What are you doing here?”
His smile grew, and a soft chuckle caressed her ears. Tiny shivers coursed through her, and Rachel rubbed the arms of her coat, the sound scratching at the air.
“Checking things out. You doing okay?” His gaze scanned her gear before latching onto her face.
“Yeah, I’m fine. Getting ready to leave, actually.” A sudden gust blew through the valley, and Rachel breathed in relief when it buffeted her hot cheeks. The quicker, the better. She reached for the ignition switch. Pausing, she followed his hand as he slid his cap back and forth. “Can I help you with anything?”
Rachel admired the man through her lashes as the sun flashed off his dark complexion. With his Italian heritage, Steve appeared the ultimate beach boy. And the way his wide forehead and high cheekbones tapered down into a square jaw, he took her breath away. He always had.
The winter coat accented his broad shoulders and stocky chest. Rachel forced her eyes back up, realizing his gaze had never left her. The beginnings of another blush crept up her cheeks. She diverted her attention, only to catch the hair curling at his neck and squeezed her hand into a fist. She had to leave—fast—before she did something she’d regret.
“Well, I do have one question for you.” He squinted at the sky. “If you don’t mind my asking, how long have you been here?”
She followed his gaze. “About an hour, maybe not even that long. I’m getting ready to head back to town now.”
Rachel studied the changing conditions for the first time since spotting the moose. The blue sky now had a gray hue, and a cold wind whipped through the valley. Clouds hung low, below the peaks, the rocky crags shrouded in a veil of white.
“All I need is to get caught in an early spring dump up here. Dad will have my hide.” Rachel mumbled the last under her breath, kicking the snowmobile in disgust.
“What’s that?” Steve’s brow lifted high.
Her face on fire, she nodded at the clouds. “Oh, nothing. The weather isn’t cooperating, that’s all.”
“Well, you may want to head back while you can.” He shrugged. “I don’t have to tell you how fast things change this time of year, especially at this elevation. Not to mention the avalanche danger right now.”
Rachel stiffened. Yes, she knew it could be unpredictable up here. She knew all about avalanches as well. She narrowed her gaze at Steve. Great, another person ordering me around. What is it with everyone? Why can’t people leave me alone?
“By chance, have you seen his mama around?” Steve interrupted her thoughts, gesturing to the calf digging in the deep snow.
Rachel stared at the moose. His bleats drifted along the gusty wind while he pawed at the ice. Her heart broke at the pathetic little creature.
“No, I did wonder about her though. I know they’re temperamental when they have a calf around, and I didn’t want to be between them. One time, I saw this car. You should’ve seen it, Steve. It was ripped apart.” She stopped abruptly, glancing at him. Her left eye twitched, and she rubbed her lid. Calm down, Rachel.
Steve nodded, his expression neutral. He didn’t say a word but continued to study the animal at the lake’s edge.
Rachel sucked in a breath and focused on the clouds. When her trembling eased, she forced a smile to her face. “Well, I need to head back. Nice to see you again. Make sure you stop by before you go home to Cody.”
Rachel flipped the switch, and the machine started with a rumble. After securing her goggles over her eyes, she lifted her hand in salute. Making a wide circle, she avoided the boulders peeking through the snow.
A sharp stab pierced her chest when she thought of him leaving. Rachel knew she would miss him. She always did and had for a long time.
“Who are you trying to fool, Rachel?