Rina had been his college girlfriend, his best friend, the woman he thought he would be spending the rest of his life with until she’d been killed in the car accident that had ended his chances at the career that had been mapped out for him since he’d started skiing at five years old.

Ethan placed a hand on his shoulder. “I’m sorry. They’ve been taking advantage of your guilt – survivor’s guilt – and using the fact that you have money to profit off their daughter’s death. But you don’t have to pay it, Parker.”

“Is this why you’re sending me to scout locations? So you can handle this for me? Because I’m an adult. I can make my own decisions just fine.”

“I know that. I really do need you to handle finding the perfect place for the retreat. Who knows mountain resorts better than you?”

Parker allowed himself to relax. Ethan wasn’t trying to undermine him. Just to take care of him in his overprotective way.

“Fine on the retreat, but as far as the payments, it’s my choice to make.”

Ethan’s scowl merely deepened. Parker knew it wasn’t because his brother hadn’t gotten his way but because he didn’t agree with Parker’s choices. Well, tough. Ethan didn’t have to live with the guilt. Parker did.

* * *

The sight of the snow on the Colorado mountains soothed Parker’s soul in a way he hadn’t experienced since his life’s passion had been taken away from him. Even the fact that he’d hated the place he’d gone to scope out for the company’s next corporate event didn’t bother him in the least. The so-called lodge had been more like a ski resort, all chrome and white, too sterile, too much luxury for Parker’s liking. He preferred rustic wood and fireplaces. He’d find something else. Eventually.

Instead of heading home, he decided to take another day or two and drive around, get his fill of the back roads and snowy mountains.

He had a room at the Ritz-Carlton booked for tonight in Denver but had driven three hours to the resort he’d hated, then spent the afternoon touring back roads in the rental car, enjoying the scenery and the peace of mind he found here.

He drove on until his rental car started driving weirdly and he didn’t want to end up stranded on the side of the road. He pulled into the nearest gas station he came upon. The only one in the small town of Montlake, Colorado, according to the sign that greeted him.

A man about his age came out to meet him wearing coveralls. He had grease on his hands and had obviously been working on a car when Parker had pulled in.

“How can I help you?” he asked.

“Car’s acting odd. I’m afraid of getting stuck if I drive any farther.”

The other man wiped his hands on a rag and nodded. “Drive it into the bay and let me take a look.” He gestured to the large garage with room for his car.

While the man checked it over, Parker sat in the small office, going through email on his phone. The amount of busywork that accumulated while he was away was staggering, and he called his assistant, letting her know he expected her to handle things while he was gone. He’d been training her for a while now and she was more than capable of taking the reins. He didn’t want to deal with bullshit while he was away.

He fucking hated the paperwork and dealing with clients that came with his job. He’d never intended to be a behind-the-desk guy. Hell, he’d never thought beyond his skiing career, yet he’d known it would have ended sooner or later, but by then he’d have had a plan. Forced retirement at twenty-two hadn’t been on his agenda. Yeah, he’d managed to finish college while skiing, Ethan would have kicked his ass otherwise, but it wasn’t until he’d retired from the sports scene that he’d gone to school for his MBA and into the family business.

The mechanic returned, coming into the office through a door that led to the garage. “I’m sorry to tell you there’s a problem with the axle. It’s not safe to drive and needs a new part.”

“It’s a rental,” Parker muttered.

“And there’s nothing nearby. You can call the rental company and look into how they want to proceed or I can order the part. Regardless, it’s going to be a few days, I can guarantee you that from experience.”

“Fuck.” Parker ran a hand through his hair, in no mood to deal with the company and their telephone representatives. “Tell you what. Order the part and I’ll handle the rest on my end later on today. In the meantime, can you recommend somewhere for me to stay that’s nearby?”

The man rubbed a hand over his bearded face. “The only place close is the Ruby Rose Inn. It’s a bed-and-breakfast about a mile down the road.”

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