Sunday, June 28, 2009
Life is a constant fight between good and evil. At the
end of the day if the good guys win, it’s been a good day.
Tom was at his post in front of the double glass
doors as Van Buren and two of the other branch
managers stepped off the ski bus.
“Good afternoon Mr. Van Buren. Did you have a
good day skiing?”
“Yes, son, it was a mighty fine day with just a
few problems, but I think I worked them out,” he
said, glancing sideways to laugh with the others.
“Weren’t there four in your party this morning?”
Tom knew he was taking a risk in questioning the
man about Jack, but something was wrong. His
partner was out there somewhere alone.
“Yeah,” he chuckled, taking the ski carrier that
the bus driver handed him. “Newlyweds wanted to
give the upper slopes a try together,” he said,
handing the ski carrier to one of the other men.
“Take this for me, would you Ellis? I need to find
Allison and be sure she isn’t spending every penny I
have on clothes.” He slapped the other man on the
“Sure thing. See you at dinner.” As Ellis headed
up the steps toward the front door that Tom held
open for him, Van Buren’s arm shot out to hold the
other man back.
“I need you with me,” he barked before turning
toward Tom. “Have my Rover brought around.”
“Yes sir.” Tom turned to pick up a phone tucked
into an alcove near the front door. After ordering the
vehicle to be brought around, Tom watched as Van
Buren was apparently giving instructions while the
other man nodded.
When the Rover arrived, Van Buren flipped
money to the young car jockey before sliding behind
the wheel, his cell phone already at his ear. As soon
as the passenger door shut, the tires spun and the
vehicle lurched forward, turning right at the
crossroad to head toward the Athletic Center and ski
Tom barely had time to register confusion before
his cell phone rang.
“Tom, it’s Jack. Listen. I’ve broken my wrist,
but Van Buren knows something is up and he’s
headed for Rachel. She’s on the beginner slope with
Allison. Get to her.”
Tom flipped the phone shut even as he bolted
from his post, down the steps and around the corner
at a sprint. He only hoped that cutting across lawns
and between buildings would enable him to get to
the ski lifts before Van Buren could cover the same
distance on the streets.
As he neared the parking lot for the ski lift to
the lower slopes, he quickly scanned the area for the
hunter green snowsuit Rachel had worn. His eyes
passed over the group, jerking back as he saw
Rachel being escorted between Van Buren and the
other man toward the Rover. Allison was trailing
behind, her mouth moving, although Tom couldn’t
hear her obviously angry words.
He knew there would be no way to reach them
before the car pulled away, so Tom darted to the
right toward the kiosk where the resort rented out
“Charlie, I need one,” he called toward the
manager of the rentals as he jumped on the motor
and turned the key. The engine roared to life
seconds before Tom engaged the gear, and fishtailed
slightly as he twisted the handle. The snowmobile
shot out of the parking lot across the field of snow.
He knew the road took a sharp hairpin turn
about a half-mile down the road, so he cut through
the trees, ducking to avoid several limbs designed to
sweep him from his ride. When he successfully
dodged the last tree, he shot out onto a steep slope,
hoping against hope to keep the machine from
flipping end over end as he raced against time to
reach an intersecting point on the highway below,
before the Rover had covered the distance.
As he neared the two-lane highway, he glanced
off to the right, relieved to see that Van Buren was
still coming, but the distance was closing fast. If
Lady Luck were on his side, he’d get to the road in
time, if not…he refused to think of what would
happen to Rachel if he didn’t get down to the road in
time to deter Van Buren.
He twisted the throttle a little more, risking his
life in the downhill plunge. If he missed his mark, if
he hit an exposed rock, if he miscalculated in any
way during this hell-bent race to the finish, he could
easily be killed, but that was a risk he was willing to
take. Rachel would be helpless against a man like
Van Buren and he wasn’t prepared to give up on
getting his man…or being her hero.
As Tom converged on the road, he knew he
would arrive first by mere seconds. What lay down
the slope once he crossed the highway was an
unknown that he refused to consider. Priorities.
As Tom braced his body for an impact, he shot
down the last few feet of slope, pulling up on the
nose of the heavy machine to cross the snow-filled
ditch, and landed with a bone-jarring thud on the
salted asphalt. The heavy machine careened toward
the trees on the far side of the highway even as Tom
jerked on the handlebars, turning the snowmobile
into a sideways skid.
Tom heard the squeal of brakes, but only his
peripheral vision caught the large black vehicle as it
went into a spin and skidded toward the side of the
road and the snow-covered trees that stood at
attention along the highway.
Tom released his death-grip on the handlebars
as the snowmobile skidded sideways toward the
same grove of trees. Pulling his legs and arms
inward, he landed on the asphalt and executed a
tuck and roll that brought him to an abrupt stop
against the icy snow piled on the side of the road.
Without wasting a moment, he was on his feet
even as it registered in his brain that he could hear
sirens blaring as the cavalry raced up the mountain.
With his gun drawn from his hidden shoulder
holster, Tom aimed at the car as he ran, shouting
that he was FBI and for everyone to step out of the
car with their hands up.
As two other squad cars arrived, sirens died
slowly but flashing lights still swirled as the five
men converged on the Rover that was now sunk
axle-deep in the snow and leaning at an odd angle.
“Get your hands up and get out of the vehicle,”
Tom ordered. Later he would be thankful that
neither of the men in the car had been armed, and
that the Rover had not slammed into the trees.
While the police pulled Van Buren, Allison and
the other man from the Rover and put them in
handcuffs, Tom slid the couple of feet down the
embankment and pulled hard on the door to get to
Unsure what he would see, relief flooded his
system when he leaned over and saw her wide-eyed
stare suddenly focus in recognition. A tiny smile
touched her bloodless lips, slowly reaching her eyes
as she lunged toward the man reaching out to her.
“Are you all right?” His arms folded around her,
pulling her in close as he closed his eyes, sending up
a prayer of thanks that she wasn’t hurt and that he
had gotten to her in time. She was trembling, but as
he ran his hands up and down her back, her fears
gradually subsided, leaving her cuddled in his arms.
“Yes, yes, I’m fine. I was so…thank you for
coming after me,” she said, pulling back enough for
him to look into her smoldering eyes.
In the distance they could hear Allison
screaming that she hadn’t done anything wrong and
demanding that they release her even as she was
tucked into a waiting car and the door slammed
behind her, effectively silencing her protests.
Tom’s eyes never left Rachel’s face, but his body
craved so much more than holding her. Even as she
put pressure against him to pull away, he leaned
into her to place his lips against hers, capturing her
with a hand at the back of her head to deepen the
“Hey,” called out one of the policemen. “Give the
poor girl a break, man. She was just in a car wreck
and you’re putting the moves on her.” He chuckled
as he turned toward his patrol car.
The words slowly penetrated, making Tom feel
guilty for taking what he needed without considering
Rachel. As he pulled back, he gazed down into her
face, shifting his focus to her eyes as they slowly
“Come on, let’s get you back to the lodge and get
you a good stiff drink,” he muttered, tamping down
the heat this tiny woman had ignited.
“Well, Jack, do we get to sign your cast?” Rachel
and Tom sat in front of the roaring fire in the
Presidential Suite where Jack was now sipping
brandy and grousing over not having been involved
in the takedown of Van Buren.
“Stuff it. You guys had all the fun and I got
stuck with this thing,” he said, holding up his arm,
“for the next six weeks.”
“Hey, cheer up. At least you didn’t get dead.”
Rachel punctuated her snide comment with a quick
jab of her elbow into Tom’s side.
For a moment Jack felt guilty. Here his partner
and a woman he had come to care for very much had
been in danger and all he could think about was
missing out on the kill. “Sorry guys. I didn’t mean to
be selfish. It’s just that I’ve been on this case for two
years and I was so hoping to see Van Buren’s face
and read him his rights. I really am glad you’re both
Rachel stood, leaning over to place a light kiss
on his cheek. “We’re glad you just broke your wrist.
It could have been your neck.” She smiled sweetly.
It took just a moment to sink in before both men
“So, Rachel,” Tom called after her as she walked
to the refrigerator, leaning in to pull a Coke from the
shelf. “Speaking of signing something, have you
decided if you’re going to sign the application to join
She turned slowly, stopping to pop the tab on
the can as she pondered the question. “Well,
assuming I’d have to work with men like the two of
She allowed a pregnant pause to hang like a
mist over the conversation. “I’d have to say that it
didn’t take me much time to decide that my life is
too staid and dull. I think a new career is just what
the doctor ordered.” She smiled as she lifted the can
toward the two men in a salute. “To a new life.”
Ah, so where does this take us now?
Are you ready for the last question? Have you answered
all the others to be eligible for a great prize?
What was Jack's injury?
A) Broken leg
B) Broken arm
C) Broken wrist
D) Broken Heart
Aspen Exposé, Part Deux
Will Rachel accept Tom’s offer to join the FBI? Or will she want more from the man with the dark smoldering eyes? If she does join the FBI, will the agency ever be the same? What about Jack? Will he be the spy who’s left out in the cold? If two’s company, is three a crowd? Will Rachel turn to Tom now that Jack is incapacitated or will she try to reform her former boss? Will he pay her the $5,000 he promised her? If you need more Hot Summer Sizzle stay tuned to Petit Fours and Hot Tamales for the sequel to Aspen Exposé, coming soon.
We hope you enjoyed reading Aspen Exposé. Check back Sunday, July 5 to find out the winner of our “Group Novel” Contest.