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Authors: Molly Harper

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Snow Falling on Bluegrass

Snow Falling on Bluegrass

Molly Harper

Parks & Recreation
meets
The Blue Collar Comedy Tour
in this third ebook in Molly Harper's Bluegrass series of contemporary romances: A love triangle of colleagues heats up the winter lodge where they get snowed in for a week.

Kentucky Tourism Commission employee and executive assistant extraordinaire Kelsey is known around the office for having everything under control. So it's not surprising that she and her boss, Sadie, have everything planned to the second for the office winter retreat. But there are things even Kelsey can't micromanage.

An unprecedented snowstorm smothers half of Kentucky and knocks out the power, closes the roads, and generally shuts down the state. Luckily, the lodge has working fireplaces and enough food to keep the staff from turning on each other like something out of
The Shining
. Kelsey wouldn't mind being stuck inside if it wasn't for the tension with her not-so-secret crush, Charlie, the office's statistician. But handsome Ranger Luke, the lodge's only employee on hand, is there to take Kelsey's mind off her discomfort.

Even though this weekend is supposed to be a planning session for KTC, Kelsey can't help her mind from wandering and finds herself conflicted over Luke and Charlie. Someone's love will keep her warm, but whose will it be?

Molly Harper
is the author of
How to Run with a Naked Werewolf
,
A Witch's Handbook of Kisses and Curses
, and
The Care and Feeding of Stray Vampires
as well as many other paranormal romances. She also writes the Bluegrass series of contemporary ebook romances, most recently
Rhythm and Bluegrass
. A former humor columnist and newspaper reporter, she lives in Kentucky with her husband and children. Visit her on the web at
MollyHarper.com
or at
SingleUndeadFemale.blogspot.com
.

Fiction ∙ Pocket Star eBooks ∙ September 2014

978-1-4767-0598-9 ∙ $3.99 U.S./$4.99 Can. 224 pages

Publicity Contact: Tatiana Ruiz-Cornejo · 212-698-7625

[email protected]

Books by Molly Harper

The Bluegrass Series

My Bluegrass Baby

Rhythm and Bluegrass

Snow Falling on Bluegrass

In the Land of Half-Moon Hollow

Nice Girls Don't Have Fangs

Nice Girls Don't Date Dead Men

Nice Girls Don't Live Forever

Nice Girls Don't Bite Their Neighbors

Driving Mr. Dead

The Care and Fee
ding of Stray Vampires

A Witch's Handbook of Kisses and Curses

The Naked Werewolf Series

How to Flirt with a Naked Werewolf

The Art of Seducing a Naked Werewolf

How to Run with a Naked Werewolf

Also

And One Last Thing . . .

Snow Falling on Bluegrass

MOLLY HARPER

Pocket Star Books

New York London Toronto Sydney New Delhi

Pocket Star Books
A Division of Simon & Schuster, Inc.
1230 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10020
www.SimonandSchuster.com

This book is a work of fiction. Any references to historical events, real people, or real places are used fictitiously. Other names, characters, places, and events are products of the author's imagination, and any resemblance to actual events or places or persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2014 by Molly Harper White

All rights reserved, including the right to reproduce this book or portions thereof in any form whatsoever. For information, address Pocket Books Subsidiary Rights Department, 1230 Avenue of the Americas, New York, NY 10020.

First Pocket Star Books ebook edition September 2014

POCKET STAR BOOKS and colophon are registered trademarks of Simon & Schuster, Inc.

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.

Cover design by [[TK]]Cover art by [[TK]]

ISBN 978-1-4767-0598-9

1

In Which I Restrain Myself from Envelope-Related Homicide

Responsible people do not take crotchless panties with them on business trips.

I stood in my bedroom staring down my lumpy blue duffel bag with two piles of panties in my hands. In one fist I held sensible cotton bikinis with little donuts printed on them; in the other, black lace undies of questionable structural integrity.

I weighed the two piles in my hands like some super-trashy version of Lady Justice and pondered why I was even considering bringing the new lacy panties with their still-attached tags on the annual Kentucky Commission on Tourism staff retreat. I would mostly likely spend the weekend taking notes and helping my boss, KCT marketing director Sadie Hutchins, construct complicated organizational charts out of color-coded index cards. I would not have the time to find a potential lace-panty-remover among the other guests at Lockwood Lodge. And I certainly didn't have the inclination to hook up with one of my coworkers. So why was I even considering packing sexy lingerie on what was basically a three-day work bender?

“This is what happens when you let post-traumatic breakup disorder do your thinking, isn't it? It sucks all the logic right out of your brain,” I muttered aloud to my gaping bag. “Stupid Darrell.”

Sighing, I tossed aside the delicate ball of sinful lace fluff and tucked the sensible cotton underwear in the bottom of my duffel, under my serial-killer-teddy-bear-print flannel pajamas. I zipped the enormous bag closed, chewing my bottom lip. Then I ripped the zipper back and, for reasons I didn't want to examine too closely, stashed my favorite new pair—black roses and lace—under my socks. My eyes darted toward my bedroom door as if I was afraid someone would walk in and catch me. But of course, I lived alone now. I didn't have to worry about anyone catching me doing something naughty . . . or finding me after I fell in the tub and knocked myself unconscious. It was only a matter of time, really. I was clumsy on wet surfaces.

Shaking my head, I dragged my monster duffel off my bed and tried to focus on less gloomy topics. Despite Sadie's insistence on productivity, this was going to be a fun weekend. The KCT staff had participated in the annual retreat for ten years. It was originally an effort to defuse escalating staff feuds over stolen lunches with trust falls and “cooperative exercises.” While we still took advantage of the team-building crap, Sadie had slowly shaped the retreat into a strategic planning session for the upcoming summer season.

We usually took these excursions in the late fall, allowing us to make use of various high-ropes and obstacle courses around the state. But a crop of newly established small-town festivals needed our attention this past autumn, preventing us from taking our usual outdoorsy session. Ever the silver-lining miner, Sadie insisted that a winter retreat was more what she had in mind anyway. Besides, January was not only the cheapest month to book Lockwood Lodge, it was also our absolute last chance to breathe before the insane buildup to the Kentucky Derby in May and the state fair in August, not to mention our regular duties promoting the Bluegrass State as the only vacation destination for people who
really
love their families.

I glanced out the window, grimacing at the matte gray skies and low-hanging clouds. Maybe it would be sunnier at the lake, away from Frankfort. I wasn't sure how proximity to the lake would make a difference, particularly after the disheartening National Weather Service update blinking from my phone, but it seemed Sadie's penchant for optimism might be rubbing off on me. I checked the coffeepot and the water levels on my plants one last time and walked out of my apartment. It felt very strange to be leaving for work after noon (to allow for the travel schedule), much less in jeans and a sweater. It was definitely a step down from my usual work wardrobe of pencil skirts and tailored blouses carefully selected to accentuate the few assets I had. But Casual Friday through Sunday was just another perk of the retreat.

The green-and-gray hallway tiles creaked and groaned under my boots. What the Mayfair building lacked in luxury, it made up for in cozy ambience, giving its occupants the warm feeling of a lived-in dorm. Unfortunately, the warren-like prewar floor plan had never included an elevator, meaning I had to drag my bag down several flights of stairs, whacking my ankles all the way.

Some might say that a forty-two-inch duffel bag was excessive for a three-day trip, but clearly they had never had to pack for the contingencies that arise when traveling with the KCT staff. Nestled beneath my clothes were a deluxe first aid kit, three flashlights, stain remover wipes, a sewing kit, three different types of cell phone chargers, printer cartridges, a twenty-four-pack of double A batteries, backup dry erase markers, and a box of limited-edition Godiva truffles. That last item was for me, as a reward for surviving the weekend without hurting any of my coworkers—whom I loved, dearly, really—most of the time.

Two flights into my descent, my phone blared Britney Spears's “Crazy” (Sadie's ringtone because I knew she hated it). I dropped my canvas burden (on my foot) and grumbled mightily as I dug my phone out of my much smaller but equally stocked shoulder bag.

Sadie didn't bother with greetings, which, in fairness, was no reflection on her as a boss or person, just a reminder of how keyed up she was about the retreat. “You're late.”

Struggling to pull my duffel onto my shoulder while
not
falling down the stairs, I checked the clock on my phone. “We don't leave for another hour.”

“For you, that's late,” Sadie retorted. I could hear the copier running in the background, which meant she was in the office assembling more materials for the weekend. I tried to suppress my snort of irritation. There was no reason for Sadie to go near the copier. I'd spent weeks putting together binders of information about upcoming events, planned marketing campaigns, and an overall vision for this year's promotions.

But since Sadie was our marketing director and a self-flagellating perfectionist, she couldn't resist making last-minute changes. She had agonized over finding the right theme, something that would top the “Kentucky—Not What You Expect” campaign that won her the position. For weeks, she'd spitballed ideas off me with no satisfying results—because there were spitballs involved, and who could walk away from that satisfied?

After Sadie had a small breakdown over a missing Post-it, Josh Vaughn, assistant director of marketing and Sadie's not-so-secret boyfriend, sent me out of Sadie's office with a silent, pointing finger and closed the door. I chose not to think about what he did behind that closed door, but Sadie emerged smiling and spouting plans for a campaign based on the best “secret” spots around the state.

Sadie and Josh had begun dating, ever so discreetly, after the two of them (not so discreetly) battled it out over the director position. Their creative catfight was basically prolonged foreplay. Weirdos. Also, I may or may not have locked them in a closet overnight with vodka so they could work things out.

After Josh abandoned the office rather than allow Sadie to accept anything other than her dream job, he was hired on as the assistant director. This caused a few hiccups, as technically, Sadie wasn't allowed to date an employee she directly supervised. So they pretended they weren't dating. And that supplied no end of entertainment for me.

Josh's exterior was just as magazine-perfect as Sadie's, with his impossibly high cheekbones and coordinated-to-the-point-of-pain suits and ties. They were completely, disgustingly happy together, and I had it on good authority that Josh planned to propose at some point during this weekend. I had, after all, helped him select Sadie's ring just a few weeks before.

I was very pleased for my friend. I knew Josh would make Sadie happy. Still, I couldn't help but feel a little bit left behind. I was no closer to settling down into true adulthood than I had been when I graduated from college. There were times I just felt so
stuck
,
afraid of losing the comfortable situation I knew but terrified of doing anything new or unexpected. So I would hide those insecurities by continuing to call Josh “Mr. Perfect Pants.” He was a lovely guy, but he kept an emergency color-neutral tie in his car. That was a comedic gold mine.

“So what's going on? Is Darrell giving you a hard time again?” Sadie demanded. “Remind him that this is a mandated, non-optional work function and he can't expect you to stay home and take care of him all weekend because he happens to have gamer's thumb and can't open his own Red Bulls.”

Yep, that was what I needed at this very moment: a punch to the emotional kidneys dealt by my unwitting best friend.

“Darrell is not keeping me from leaving,” I huffed. “But the weather report is calling for sleet, so you may want to consider delaying our departure time until the road crews have a chance to spray down the roads with salt.”

“Oh, these are the same meteorologists who predicted two feet of snow over the holidays,” Sadie said, her tone dismissive. “And our so-called white Christmas was sixty degrees and sunny.”

I snickered. Kentuckians were notoriously hypersensitive to snow predictions, immediately rushing out to buy bread, milk, and eggs at the first flake. Because everybody knows the first thing you want to do when you're snowed in is make French toast. Winter storms invariably sent TV reporters to the bakery aisle to report the devastation to the Bunny Bread stock.

“What would you do if I took a sudden turn on the interstate and ended up in Cancún instead?” I asked, finally reaching the bottom landing and struggling out the front door. I needed a damn Sherpa.

“I would methodically hunt you down like something out of
Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome
. Or at the very least, that creepy bounty hunter from
Raising Arizona.
Also, since it's the new year, nobody in the office has vacation time saved up, so you can't get out of this with conveniently timed trips to Cancún.”

“There's always bereavement leave,” I muttered.

“You're just looking for an excuse to bump off your mom.”

I didn't disagree with her there.

“I will be there soon. Take deep breaths. Or I will medicate you against your will.” I grunted, shoving my bag into the trunk of my molting blue 2000 Hyundai Elantra. “And you know I can and will use a tranquilizer gun without remorse.”

“You can be distracted with pretty shoes,” she singsonged. “And I happen to know of a consignment store that just got a shipment of last-season Jimmy Choos.”

“Damn your eyes, you know my weakness. I'll be there in the next few minutes,” I told her. “But
only
because Jimmy knows the value of showcasing a slender ankle.”

“That's my girl.”

It took a grand total of eight minutes for me to drive to the office. Sadie was nowhere to be found, but my coworkers were scattered around the KCT van like a bunch of grumpy kids trying to delay going to church camp.

The Kentucky Commission on Tourism was a branch of the state government devoted to letting the world at large know there were awesome things you could find only in Kentucky (beyond the sights regularly spotted on PeopleofWalmart.com). As the marketing director, Sadie liked to stick with the quirky and unusual, from fiberglass-driven roadside attractions like Dinosaur World to the Vent Haven Museum, the world's only facility dedicated solely to the preservation of ventriloquism. But Josh's addition to the staff meant we'd widened our focus to include the more genteel elements of Bluegrass State culture, like Thoroughbred horse racing and our famous bourbon. We designed advertising campaigns, published marketing materials in-house, worked with local governments to organize large events, and collected survey data to help us determine what those who vacationed in our fair state liked best about their experience.

I parked my car and turned off the ignition, closing my eyes and praying for the patience and strength to get through this weekend with a little dignity. And short of that, I would settle for not collapsing into a snotty pile of loser in front of people I liked and respected.

I took a deep breath and climbed out of my car. And of course, the first person I spotted was Dr. Charlie Bennett, resident statistician/math genius and devastator of my lady bits. And he was wearing jeans—dark, well-cut denim that clung in just the right places on those long legs.

I heard what sounded like a tiny flare gun and the Morse code for SOS being tapped out in the hornier, less dignified section of my brain—the section responsible for buying and packing the slutty underwear.

Since his first day at the office three years before, I'd been fascinated by Charlie's lean swimmer's body, his aristocratic features, his dark hair that fell messily over his high forehead. His dark green, slightly almond-shaped eyes. And right now, those eyes were directed at the back of the office van as he rubbed an elegant, long-fingered hand over his chin. I suspected that he was calculating the exact Tetris-like configuration of bags that would allow maximum luggage capacity.

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