Authors: Christy Hayes
Guiding the Fall
By Christy Hayes
Text Copyright © Christy Hayes
All Rights Reserved
Cover art © by Stephanie Mooney. All rights reserved.
The characters portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or dead, is coincidental and not intended by the author. No part of this book may be reproduced by any means without prior written consent of the author.
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Guiding the Fall
Sexy multi-millionaire Jack Forrester has never needed anyone, and although he’s suffered a crushing blow to his personal and professional life, he’s not about to start now. When he moves to Hailey, Colorado, to look into a new business venture and work with a biographer documenting his career, he meets the beautiful and irresistible Olivia Golden - a woman creating more gossip in town than he is, and making him rethink his views on being alone.
Olivia Golden has always enjoyed the attention her beauty has garnered. On the brink of finishing her student-teaching job, she’s ready to leave her hometown, start her career, and find love. Her plans go awry when she’s forced to fight charges levied against her at school and the insanely rich new businessman in town makes her a proposition she can’t refuse.
No stranger to loss and public humiliation, Jack offers to help Olivia with the fall-out from the scandal…and soon, she’s offering him something as well. A no-strings-attached relationship. But as the sensual attraction between them grows, Olivia breaks through Jack’s carefully constructed walls to reach the lonely man inside. Will Jack risk his heart to save Olivia’s sinking ship, or will the beautiful teacher guide herself straight into a fall, and take him with her?
If boredom was the devil’s playground, Olivia Golden thought the Golden Rule Raft and Fly Shop was ground zero of hell. August marched toward September in south central Colorado. The rafting season was coming to a close, her best friend and roommate had moved across the country to marry the love of her life, and her brother—who also happened to be her boss—was driving her crazy. At least her upcoming semester of student-teaching middle school would be a new experience.
She’d organized the racks of T-shirts, sorted the baskets of water shoes, and wiped the fingerprints from the sunglasses on the revolving rack by the door. She was looking forward to an afternoon of waitressing at the Golden Tap after a dull morning spent checking in guests and babysitting merchandise.
The phone ringing provided a nice, if brief, relief. She recognized the Denver area code and picked up the receiver while twirling her blond hair. “Golden Rule Raft and Fly Shop. Olivia speaking.”
“Hello, Olivia.” The deep voice on the other end of the line purred her name as if he were standing in the small shop admiring her assets. Olivia was used to men fawning over her looks. She’d flirted with many men of the men who chose the adventure of white water rafting on the Rio Grande River. She felt sure she’d never heard that particular voice before; the throaty resonance reminded her of her dad’s 1969 Chevrolet Camaro ZL1, ripe and ready to attack dangerous curves.
“Hello,” she replied, keeping her voice neutral. Men like him, whose virility was as obvious as a Vegas call girl’s, needed little encouragement. “Can I help you?”
“I’ll just bet you can. My sister and I are heading into town and looking for a little adventure.”
Then go somewhere else, she wanted to say, but she opted for the standard, “The Golden Rule is your one-stop spot for fun in the valley.”
The timbre of his chuckle made goose flesh break out on her skin. “All my fun in one spot, huh? That’s a hefty claim.”
Why did he make everything sound like it was about sex? “Between river rafting and fly fishing, we’ve got you covered.”
“Speaking of covers…”
Okay, Olivia thought. Even for her, the conversation was getting a little too weird. “Would you like to book a trip?”
“I’m just calling for information. We won’t be there for another few weeks, possibly longer.”
“The rafting season typically ends at the end of September; sometimes earlier if the weather takes a turn for the cold as it’s known to do.”
“I guess I’ll have to take my chances.”
“So what information may I provide?”
“Just the basics. I like to look before I leap.”
Something told her that particular stranger would take a nice, long look. The kind that would leave her trapped in his stare. “We can seat six to eight on each raft, as well as a certified guide. We use smaller rafts if there aren’t as many people in a group. Depending on the weather, we’ve got wetsuits available. Will it just be you and your sister?”
“Have either of you rafted before?”
“Now, love, if we’d rafted before, I wouldn’t have called for information, now would I?”
Smart-ass. “No, I guess you wouldn’t.” She picked up a pen and nudged the calendar toward where she leaned against the counter. “Would you like to make a reservation?”
“Are you a guide?”
“Can we request certain guides?”
“Request? Yes. Guarantee? No.”
Olivia rubbed her arm when his chuckle floated over her skin. She’d never been so affected by someone’s voice before. “You’re a firecracker, love. I like it.”
“So about that reservation…” she prodded. She didn’t mind flirting—it sure beat standing around watching the clock like she’d been doing before the phone rang—but the guy could be a serial killer for all she knew. Or have three teeth in his mouth.
“I think I’ll hold off for a bit, but thanks for the information, Olivia.”
“Don’t wait too long. The season can end unexpectedly depending on the water flow and the weather.”
“I’ll put it in fate’s hands. You have a good day, Olivia.”
Olivia whipped her head around when the doorbells jangled, signaling a customer, just as she hung up. She watched her brother rush inside with a large box in one hand and a takeout cup of coffee in the other. “What is that?” she asked.
Tommy lifted the box to the counter and smoothed out the front of his Colorado Rockies shirt. His muscular display reminded her how attractive her brother was. Sometimes she forgot his sex appeal because he flew from one corner of town to the other, manning his businesses like an army general and busting her chops with whatever leftover time he found. Besides her flighty mom, Tommy was the only person she could call family. They didn’t resemble one another at all, not with his olive skin and dark hair, compliments of his Mediterranean mother. The mother he rarely spoke of.
“Fliers for the town hall meeting,” he explained after eyeing her suspiciously. “What’s wrong with you? Why do you look all flushed?”
Olivia stiffened her spine and threw her hair behind her shoulders. “I think I just had phone sex.”
Tommy’s handsomely rugged face scrunched up as if he’d taken a large bite of a lemon. “Olivia, please don’t have personal conversations at work.”
“It wasn’t a personal conversation.”
“Phone sex isn’t personal? Since when?” he mumbled under his breath. Tommy hated talking about or even thinking about his little sister having sex.
“Since I answered a work call. Some guy wanted information about rafting. I can’t put my finger on it exactly, but whatever he said—everything he said—sounded sexual.”
“That’s just your overactive hormones at work again. Did he book a reservation?”
“No.” Olivia leaned on the counter closer to Tommy. “So when have you had phone sex?”
He picked up the box, said, “None of your business,” and disappeared into his office.
Jack Forrester tapped his fingers on the receiver he’d just placed back in the cradle. A smile touched his lips as he imagined the woman with the sexy voice on the other end of the phone.
She sounded blond. At times breathy, at times her voice was as cool and collected as the snow he knew still clung to the mountaintops she could see in the distance. He’d done his research. The raft shop was in Lower Fork, an armpit of a town on the way to the ski slopes, or in the opposite direction, into Del Noches, Hailey, and Westmoreland, otherwise known as civilization.
Olivia was bored answering phones in the middle of nowhere. He imagined she, like most raft guides, was counting the days until the ski lift opened and she could find a whole different kind of rush.
Jack had dated a ski instructor once. He’d almost killed himself trying to keep up with her on the slopes when his competitive nature got the best of him. She was as lithe and bold and daring as the slopes she’d taken him down. Moon, Sky, or whatever the hell her name was had joined his long list of former lovers. He’d thought recently about trying to ski again. There were programs for people like him, but he thought he’d try rafting first.
Hearing Olivia speak of the season ending when the afternoon sun shone so warm on his skin he’d had to lower the blinds in his office had been strange. As per his morning routine, he’d switched from hot tea to the gallon jug of water he habitually drank from a few hours ago. He’d just recapped the jug when Erica returned from the store. For such a moody woman, she moved quietly around their shared living space. So many things about his sister surprised Jack, even after all the time they’d been together.
“Why do you look so smug?” she asked as she passed with her hands full of bags. She paused on her way to the kitchen and leaned over his shoulder. The lavender scent of her shampoo made his mind drift to summer afternoons. When she stood up, he knew she’d seen the Golden Rule Raft and Fly Shop website on his computer screen. “Rafting or fishing?” Her voice held a note of wariness.
“Rafting. Thought it would be fun.”
She let out a harsh grunt and resumed her path to the kitchen. “You’re not sticking me on some rubber raft in the middle of a raging river.”
He followed her to the counter separating the kitchen and the living room/office. “Oh, come on, Erica. Where’s your sense of adventure?”
“Keeping up with you is adventure enough.”
“That may have been true at one time, but now? Seriously?”
She slammed a cabinet. “Don’t start with me, Jack.”
“You’ll have to come out of your shell eventually.”
“I’m not in a shell, or if I am, I’m there happily. There’s nothing wrong with a nice, quiet life.”
“For some,” Jack said. “But for people like us, nice and quiet aren’t in the cards.”
“People like you,” she corrected. “I’m fine with nice and quiet. I
nice and quiet.”
“Well, if that’s the case, you ought to be thrilled with the valley. Besides some outdoor fun, which you have no interest in joining, there doesn’t seem to be much to do.”
“Then why are we going?” The hesitation in Erica’s voice told him what he’d suspected: She was worried about the change in venue. The question remained if she was worried for him or worried for her. “Can’t you do this interview over the phone or online?”
“No, I can’t. This isn’t just an interview. The man is writing a book about me.”
“How good a writer can he be if he lives in some valley where they raise cows and grow potatoes? Shouldn’t he live and work in some big city like New York or Chicago?”
“Writers are notorious recluses, at least most of the good ones are.”
“I’ve never even heard of Lyle Woodward. What do you know about him?”
“I know he came highly recommended. He’s lived in the valley most of his life. He’s young and eager to prove himself. I’m quite partial to those who have yet to taste success and are willing to work hard to achieve it.”