The Mountain Man's Secret Twins(8)

By: Alexa Ross & Holly Rayner

Frustrated, Kenzie wrapped herself in a blanket, beginning to jog in place to keep up her warmth. Darkness had fully fallen outside, reminding her that she hadn’t eaten since early that morning. The pancakes hadn’t stuck to her bones, not the way she’d hoped. She felt exhausted, on the fringe of collapsing. After a final try, after she watched the leaves on the twigs sizzle away, she rushed toward her paper bag, lifting a bottle of wine from the bottom. Moments before she opened it, ready to swig it deep into the night, drinking her sorrows and her chill away, an idea occurred to her.

Immediately, she knew it was her only hope.

She shoved her feet into her boots, donned her coat, and lifted the wine, knowing Bryce wouldn’t necessarily be surprised that she’d allowed the fire to go out. He might not be pleased, sure, but he was her only hope out here in the wilderness, a place that wasn’t so kind to tiny, 25-year-old city girls.

She drove toward the now-familiar cabin, 15 minutes away, looping down the road and blaring music, trying to ignore how nervous she was to see him. As she drove, the snow flurries from the early afternoon continued, tapping gently against her windowpane. It looked like a proper winter wonderland, like a dream.

She drove slower, her hands clenched over the steering wheel with purpose, wishing she’d made time to change her tires to snow tires. Of course, she hadn’t had much time for anything before she’d left town in such a hurry. She’d allowed her life to explode before her very eyes, watching as her relationship shattered, the shards scattering. She was left to make up the story of the rest of her life, without Austin. Certainly without Tori.


Kenzie parked outside the cabin, gazing up at the brightly lit windows. She imagined Bryce within, stretched out on the couch and gazing at the fire. Probably, all thought of her had drifted from his mind the moment he’d left her, while she’d been left to linger over the memory of his firm, muscular torso, that twinkle in his eye, and the shadow of loneliness that crept over his face.

Kenzie lifted the bottle of wine from the passenger seat, telling herself it was now or never. But as she maneuvered out of the car, she realized the snow had begun to pick up, already putting a half-inch of firm precipitation on her windshield. She shivered, hoping she would be able to get out of the driveway. She was imagining her tires squealing violently before her car tipped down into the trees surrounding the cabin.

Removing her mittens, she rapped several times on the door. Inside, she heard raspy rock music coming from a crackly speaker. She remembered it from long before, when her mother and father had danced in the kitchen, their love still strong and their movements matching.

Bryce appeared on the other side of the door, peering at her curiously behind his blond-tinged beard. He frowned, realizing she was coated in newly fallen snow. “Gosh, I just looked outside. This kicked up in no time.”

Kenzie smiled, unsure how to respond. She shrugged slightly and held out the wine bottle, still shivering. “I thought I’d bring this. As a thank you for yesterday. You were a great help.”

Bryce sniffed, unable to keep his laughter in. “You picked a great time to do that, didn’t you?” he said. But his sarcasm was in good spirits. He gestured toward his living area, and the fire. “Please, come in. Let’s open that bottle of wine. I really don’t think you’ll make it back to your place tonight. Not with those tires.”

Kenzie blushed. “I’m sorry. I should have checked the weather.” She entered, swiping snow from her shoulders. She got a better look at the cabin, at the walls made of rustic, wooden slabs, at the crooked table, at the warm blankets and pillows lining the couch. She began to unzip her coat, feeling immediately at home. “I’ve been a little out of my head lately, and this vacation hasn’t done much to help that.”

“It never does, does it?” Bryce said, laughing. “Come on, sit down. I’ll open this wine. It looks wonderful. Normally a beer drinker myself. Maybe just because the picture doesn’t look right: me, wearing flannel, sitting in a cabin, drinking wine.”

“Well, you don’t have to drink—”

“No, no. The difference, now, is you,” Bryce said, his eyes centered on hers. Tension filled the room, reminding Kenzie of their apparent chemistry. She broke eye contact, flashes of her first moments with Austin going through her mind. Had she felt these things with Austin? Had she assumed everything would go all right with him as well? If so, she didn’t want to be foolish again. She didn’t want to march down that treacherous path.

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