The Mountain Man's Secret Twins(4)

By: Alexa Ross & Holly Rayner

“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.

But neither this cabin nor the one down the hill was occupied. Growing chillier with each passing moment, Kenzie forced herself to drive farther into the mountains, deeper into the woods, hunting for a neighbor. If she couldn’t find one, she’d turn back, head to the closest town, rent a motel room, and weep herself to sleep in a grungy, bedbug-swarmed bed.

After driving for nearly 15 minutes, lost in the heat of her car’s blasting air and the cyclical nature of her own thoughts, Kenzie found herself staring at a small, remote cabin with a slight porch in front and a large truck parked in the center of the driveway. The cabin was far from the main road, leaving Kenzie to believe that whoever had built out here wasn’t hunting for visitors. But as she gazed at the cabin, watching as the light from the interior fireplace licked at the porch poles, she realized this was her only hope.

And now that she’d been shamed so supremely by a man she’d loved and a woman she’d worked alongside for years, she couldn’t imagine any kind of embarrassment at the hand of the stranger in the cabin. If he murdered her, perhaps that was all the better. At least Austin would feel guilty.

Giggling to herself, realizing her thoughts were crazed and her stomach was gurgling with hunger, she ducked from the driver’s seat and began her ascent toward the cabin, shivering full force. The stairs creaked beneath her. With mere inches between her nose and the door, she could almost feel the warmth of the fire inside.

Unable to wait in the chill a moment longer, Kenzie rapped on the door. She waited, listening to the shifting weight of someone inside coming to his feet and marching toward the door. His footfalls were heavy, sending fear coursing up and down Kenzie’s spine. Perhaps she wasn’t prepared to be murdered after all.

After what seemed like a small eternity, the door burst open, revealing a tall, blond, blue-eyed man with a muscular frame beneath his blue and black flannel. The blue in his shirt made his eyes gleam. The moment Kenzie caught sight of him, her breath stopped. She took a slight step back, overwhelmed by his masculinity and frank expression. She stuttered, wanting to find the right words.

“Hello,” he said, his voice gruff. “Can I help you with something?”

Kenzie strapped her familiar real estate smile on her face once more, knowing it had an effect on men—but not betting it would alter this man’s opinion of her one bit. He seemed too firm in his beliefs, not interested in the opinions of others.

“I’m sorry to bother you,” she said, stumbling over her words. “I’ve just rented a cabin about 15 minutes from here, and it doesn’t seem to be as advertised…” She trailed off, shrugging. “By that I mean—nothing inside the cabin works. And I don’t have any firewood to make a fire.”

The man considered her for a moment, taking in her words. Finally, after what seemed like years, he beckoned her inside. “Just let me get my boots on. I’ll bring some firewood and help you get it started.”

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