Read An Excerpt

by Susan Lyons

Genre: Anthology, Erotic Romance

 | Read Book Review

In this excerpt from “Fire and Ice,” the first novella in Sex on the Slopes, wedding planner Andi Radcliffe wakes to the clanging of a fire alarm. Feeling responsible for the bride and groom and the fifty guests in the Alpine Hideaway chalet, she leaps out of bed to ensure that everyone is safely evacuated.
Andi darted out the door to the third floor. Relieved to still see no flames or smoke, she ran along the hall, hurrying stragglers. She banged on closed doors, keeping up a duet with the alarm as she yelled, “Fire! Everyone out!”
As she reached the end of the hall, a siren whooped outside, competing with the jangle of the alarm. Thank God! She sprinted for the stairs.
The stairwell was empty, and so was the second floor when she poked her head out to check. Or, at least, it was empty of people. Tendrils of smoke floated like ghostly dancers, beautiful but terrifying, searing the back of her throat and making her cough.
With the bitter taste in her mouth, she fled down to the first floor. The smoke was thick here, pouring in a black cloud from one open-doored room and—oh, God—flames licked out the doorframe, crackling as they consumed the wood and advanced across the ceiling.
A few minutes longer, and they’d engulf the hall and cut off her escape.
Coughing, raising her hand to her nose to try to block the smoke, she raced past the flames toward the front door and flung it open.
Giddy with relief, she ran into the safety of a snowy winter night strobed by the flashing red and blue lights of a fire engine. Huge firefighters in turnout gear carrying axes and hoses rushed toward the front door.
Sucking in fresh air hungrily, she moved away from the chalet. Coughing again to clear her throat of smoke, she looked around for Gord and Inger Jacobs, the middle-aged owners of the Alpine Hideaway, who lived in a wing off the ground floor. Not seeing them, she rushed over to a group of guests who huddled together. “Did everyone get out?”
In reply, she got stunned glances, a few strange looks, shrugs. Then a muttered, “I think so,” from the dazed-looking father of the bride who had his arm tight around his wife.
Someone had to take a head count. And Andi was best equipped, having studied the guest list more than a hundred times in the past months. Besides, she couldn’t relax until she knew for sure that everyone was safe.
Wrapping her arms around herself, shivering with cold and tension, she made mental note of all the people in this group, then moved to the next group to do the same. There she saw Inger Jacobs, dressed in boots, sweatpants, and a ski jacket over what looked to be a pajama top. Her pretty face was strained and her graying blonde hair tousled.
“Andi, there you are,” the woman said in her lilting Norwegian accent, face brightening. “Thank God. We couldn’t find you. But are you not frozen?”
“I’m fine.” She’d survived fire. What was a little cold? “Did all the guests get out?”
As she asked the question, a car with flashing lights drove up, with an ambulance right behind. Had someone been hurt, or was this just standard procedure? The two women exchanged anxious glances.
“I hope everyone is out,” Inger said, her face again creasing into worry lines. “We didn’t think to get the register, so we have nothing to check against.” Pale blue eyes wide with dismay, she stared at the chalet.
Andi touched her arm and turned to look, too. Normally the Swiss-style Alpine Hideaway was welcoming and charmingly picturesque with its gables, eaves, and balconies with carved wooden railings. Now, firefighters hurried about purposefully, barking terse comments. A hose, taut from water pressure, ran through a first floor window. Psychedelic patterns of blue and red from the engine’s lights flashed over banks of snow, white-boughed evergreens, and the crystalline fringe of icicles decorating the eaves.
“What could have happened?” Inger asked. “We have the wiring inspected regularly.”
“I don’t know.” Andi’s teeth chattered, and snowflakes brushed her face with icy fingers. Regardless, she needed to carry on with her mental head count, so she turned toward another cluster of guests.
Before she’d taken two steps, strong arms hoisted her like a baby.
She gaped upward as a firefighter, his face covered by a helmet and visor, gathered her against his smoky-smelling turnout jacket and stalked off with her like a Neanderthal.
She was so stunned she couldn’t react. Then she began to struggle. “Put me down. I have to make sure everyone’s safe.”
He clutched her tighter. “Lady, there’s guys doing that right now, and the fire’s under control.”
He was a firefighter. She could trust him. It was over, and everything was okay. Relief flooded her as he headed for the fire engine and hoisted her onto a seat.
“What are you doing?” she asked.
“The lieutenant saw you, told me to take care of you.”
“I’m f-fine.” Just too cold to form words properly.
“You’re frozen.” He pulled off his helmet, ran a hand through hair dark as night, and shot her a heated gaze from silver gray eyes.
For a moment she forgot her worry and discomfort. That was one good-looking guy, strong-featured and supremely masculine.
“Are you nuts coming out in the snow and ice dressed like that?” His tone was a mix of frustration, disbelief, and . . . yes, arousal as his gaze took a leisurely tour of her body.
Shivers racking her, Andi glanced down. Oops. Her nightwear was definitely more suited to a tropical night than a snowy one. Her silk slippers were thin and soaked through. The skimpy nightie, which she wore over a pair of tiny panties, barely cleared her butt. Both it and the matching thigh-length robe—a deep violet that brought out blue mauve tones in her gray eyes—were made of semi-sheer, clingy fabric trimmed with lace.
Her body was covered in goose bumps, she was shivering like crazy, her feet were so cold she couldn’t feel them, and her nipples were as hard as miniature steel cones under the arms she’d wrapped around herself. If her blood hadn’t been frozen, she’d have blushed.
But she wasn’t going to apologize for putting the guests’ safety first and not taking time to change into something warmer. She curled her frozen feet under her almost-bare butt, crossed her arms more tightly over her chest, and forced words out between chattering teeth. “Do you have a guest list? How do you know everyone is out?”
The firefighter, who’d been staring at her as if mesmerized, gave a start. “Leave this to us. It’s not the first fire we’ve responded to.” He peeled off his gloves, then his heavy jacket, which he tucked around her like a blanket.
The coat reeked of smoke but held the warmth of his body, and she huddled inside it gratefully. Mmm, this was even better than sinking into a nice hot bath. And the sight of him, strong and muscular in a blue T-shirt, with that midnight hair and gleaming silvery eyes, would warm any girl up.
“Are you okay?” he asked. “Any trouble breathing? Any medical conditions?”
She shook her head. “No. I’m just worried. I’m responsible for all these people. This is my wedding.”
The spark of appreciation that had lit his eyes dimmed. “You’re the bride? Then where the hell’s the groom?” Those handsome, blatantly male features were marred by a scowl. “Why isn’t he looking out for you?”
“I’m not the bride; I’m the wedding planner.”