Make Me Stay
Men of Gold Mountain #1
by Rebecca Brooks
Publication Date: October 3, 2016
Genres: Adult, Entangled: Brazen, Romance
Samantha Kane is about to solidify her father’s legacy by developing sleepy Gold Mountain into the most profitable ski resort in the country. There’s one man standing in her way though. One very sexy, rugged man. When she shows up to convince Austin Reede to sell, she has no intention of hiding her identity. But with a body like his, she’ll take a few risks to get closer.
Austin was the fastest skier on the U.S. Olympic team, until he shattered his knee. Gold Mountain became his refuge—and now Kane Enterprises is threatening that home. When he meets Sam, he has no idea she’s the one to blame, he just knows the attraction between them is one he hasn’t felt in years. A scorching hot one-night stand is just what he needs. Little does he guess that it will change everything…
Sam zipped her jacket tight around her neck and lifted her goggles. The world shocked to brightness, blue sky, and the bone white of snow. She’d expected to change her mind at the last minute and head to the office instead. But here she was, cold on her cheeks like a kiss and a slap all at once.
She’d almost been afraid her car would drive to the skyscraper no matter what, as though the wheels couldn’t turn anywhere else. But somewhere between her second and third caffeine injection of the day, she’d put the mug down, met her reflection in the wall of windows looking out at Puget Sound, and said—literally, out loud, like her mother, who’d started muttering to herself now that she was alone—“Get it together, Kane.”
She’d been in her pajamas and holding a throw pillow, so not exactly in what her colleagues called “wolf mode” when they thought she couldn’t hear. But the words came out low, edged with a growl, the signature tone she used when it was time to stop shilly-shallying—her father’s phrase—and get shit done. That was her preferred way of saying it, even if she could still hear him admonishing her not to curse.
It was three years to the day since they’d buried her father, and although Sam continued to hear his voice in her head, she was tired. Tired of all the hours in the office, tired of working nonstop to take over his role, tired of the weight of her grief.
But all she had left was one task. Once she convinced the last owner to sell, the land purchase would finally be ready to go. Bill Kane’s legacy was going to happen. Gold Mountain was going to be the destination for Seattleites year-round.
Gold Mountain was going to prove that Samantha Kane could do it—and then some.
As long as she could get that holdout, a man named Austin Reede, to stop ruining her plans.
Sam wasn’t even asking for all his land. It was only half his acreage. He wouldn’t have to move, and they’d keep a line of trees in place so he’d barely see the new condos from his yard. He should have been thrilled to keep all that and get a handsome check in the process.
But according to her assistant, Mr. Reede had stopped taking their calls. When Sam tried him herself, she reached only voicemail. Adjusting the expansion to work around his property wasn’t an option. Sam couldn’t appear weak to her board.
Which was why she’d decided not to go to her office today. It was time to stop sending letters and lawyers and start handling Mr. Reede herself. She’d offer more money, a ski run named after him, a condo for himself…whatever he wanted, as long as he signed.
She’d stopped by his house, but there was no car out front. He was probably at work. She knew from his file that he was on ski patrol and a racing coach—neither of which could pay very well. Another reason he should be jumping on this deal.
Fortunately, Sam was prepared to wait. In fact, she’d been counting on it.
She didn’t bother wasting time checking into the hotel. She parked at the mountain and locked her laptop, blueprints, and files in the trunk. Soon she was riding the chairlift, breathing the clean mountain air. Knowing she couldn’t access everything immediately even if she wanted to gave her a lightness she didn’t know she possessed, despite the skis, boots, and heavy jacket weighing her down.
Not that she was entirely free. A vibration buzzed in her pocket—no doubt someone from the office who didn’t know what “unavailable” meant. She used her teeth to yank off her mitten and pulled out the phone.
The name on the caller ID made her groan. She knew she shouldn’t answer even as she did.
“I can’t talk,” she said with her mouth full of mitten.
“Samantha? Is that you?” She could picture Jim eyeing the phone to check that it was really her name lit up on the screen, his nose wrinkling in that face he made whenever something didn’t go according to plan.
Which of course happened all the time. He walked around the boardroom as though the chairs permanently smelled.
Sam pulled the mitten out of her mouth and gripped it tightly. “I can’t talk,” she repeated.
“What the hell is going on?”
“Is this about work?”
“No, Samantha. This is about the voicemail you left me at six o’clock this morning.”
“If it’s not about work then I can’t talk.” She paused. “And even if it is about work, I still can’t talk.”
“What are you doing? What’s that noise? Samantha, where are you?”
She wedged the phone up under her helmet so it was secure against her ear and tugged the mitten back on her hand before it froze.
“I have to go,” she said.
He switched tracks, his voice dripping into that “I am not an asshole” register he used with clients right after he’d just been an asshole. “Samantha,” he soothed, “I know we’ve had our ups and downs, but we have to talk about this. You can’t leave me a message like that and then vanish.”
Sam’s eyes widened as the top of the mountain surged closer. She was running out of time.
“No, seriously, Jim, I have to get off the phone. I’m about to—”
The guy next to her nudged her shoulder. “Look, lady, are you planning to ride this thing back down or what?”
Sam swung her feet off the bar and lifted it overhead. Too soon the ground zoomed up and the chair banked down and then she was standing, the back of the chair hitting her calves and nudging her forward. Just like riding a bike, she reminded herself as she glided down the embankment, the phone still lodged by her ear.
Jim’s baritone droned on. “Samantha, what are you doing? Are you going to be at the office later? I’ll take you to lunch and we can talk this through like adults.”
“I’m not at the office. And no, you can’t take me to lunch, today or any other day.”
“What the hell has gotten into you?”
Not you, anymore, she thought wryly as she skated away from the top of the lift. But that definitely wasn’t on the script she’d practiced for herself in the car. “Listen, Jim. I know this may come as a surprise, but I trust we can both handle this as professionals. We have a long history of working together, and I value your contributions.”
It came out less gracefully than it had in her head. Condescending. The word you’re looking for is “condescending.” But she plowed on. “I mean it this time. We really are done.”
“‘I value your contributions’?” Jim snorted over the phone. “Come to the office, Samantha. Let’s at least do lunch.”
But Sam wasn’t going to let him wear her down this time. “There’s nothing more to talk about. I’m hanging up now.”
“Stop!” he demanded. “You can’t just—”
“I’m your boss, Jim,” she interrupted.
She heard the air hissing out from between his teeth. “I see how it is. You tell me that won’t be a problem, until you conveniently decide to pull rank.”
Sam stood up straighter. “Let’s not make this personal. I’d like you to get Marie and Cody to run the numbers again before the two o’clock. Loop me in on the minutes, we have to be ready with our strategy the second the purchase goes through. And Jim?” She didn’t wait for him to answer. “I’ll arrange for someone to drop your clothes back at your place. Don’t worry about a thing.”
She hung up before he could get another word in.
The wolf. That was what they called her, and she knew that was what he was thinking right now. Cold-ass bitch. They loved it when she brought in the clients and made the money flow. They hated her for it, too.
Except for Jim Rutherford. Because he always had the best. The best suits, the best wine, the best women. It made hot tears smart behind her eyes to think of how she’d let him parade her around, the head Kane of Kane Enterprises on his arm. Her past four attempts to break up with him hadn’t worked. He’d kept calling, sending flowers, showing up to take her out as though they hadn’t had the conversation at all.
But not this time. Sam called her assistant, Steven, about Jim’s clothes, knowing he’d be discreet, and reminded him to stay alert to anything he heard from the board about her performance. She hadn’t exactly cleared this little stunt she was pulling. If she showed up at the office tomorrow with Mr. Reede’s signature, they’d laud her. If they thought she’d run off for a vacation in the middle of their busiest time, the response wouldn’t quite be the same.
Well, what they didn’t know couldn’t hurt them. She turned her phone to silent and tucked it away. Other people got to take breaks. Even her father had put everything on hold so he could take his daughter skiing as soon as the first snow fell. He was well established by then, but still. Why couldn’t she have a few hours, too?
Samantha Kane, CEO of Kane Enterprises, recently dubbed one of Fortune’s Most Powerful Women and a perennial favorite in their 40 Under 40 lists. The leading real estate developer in the rapidly growing Pacific Northwest. Samantha Kane, the wolf, the bitch.
In such desperate need of a break.
Sam looked out at the view—snow-peaked mountains dipping into valleys thick with trees. There was a cluster of buildings around the base of the mountain and then a whole lot of nothing as far as the eye could see.
Soon, she thought with a thrill, that’s all going to change.
Austin always laid first tracks in the morning. He got up with the dawn, fed Chloe, and then took her for a run. When they came back from the trails in the woods behind his house, both of them panting as they chased each other through the snow, he threw on his gear. It didn’t matter the weather, or how busy the day, or whether or not his knee ached. He didn’t let anything stop him.
Especially not his memories. They came in flashes, worst in the floating hours as he drifted out of sleep. His father, red-faced, screaming not to leave. How his mother’s suitcase dropped with a thud. He saw, always, in the back of his mind, the glint of metal under the wan yellow of the garage light. A hammer coming down. And then a cry—his own? His mother’s?—and nothing but pain.
Austin got up every day to ski because that was how he got up at all. It was the only way to push back against the attack that had effectively ended his family, his career, and almost ended him.
But it hadn’t.
So, in the mornings, he shot down the steep face of Diamond Bowl, or turned in the deep powder in the trees if they’d been blasted with snow the night before. His lift ticket was a perk of his job as a ski coach at Gold Mountain Academy, and it let him on the mountain before anyone else lined up for the day. Some days he took the lift as high as it would go and climbed the rest of the way to the peak until the only sound was his panting and the brush of his poles in new snow. He’d pause at the top, listening to the wind sweeping clear above the tree line. Then he’d tip over the edge and shoot down.
He skied in the snow, in the rain, in clouds so thick it was only because he knew the mountain like he knew his own skin that he had any idea where to turn. But he lived for mornings like this, when the sky was so clear and the sun so bright he knew why they called it Gold Mountain, because from up top the whole thing shone.
It was worth a fortune, this land. Hell, the number of zeros on the check Kane Enterprises wanted to write him made his head spin. But every inch of it meant more than money to him. It was where he’d found himself, where he’d come back from the edge of injury and despair, where he’d been reminded of his body and what it could do. It was his home, and he wasn’t giving it up—no matter how hard Samantha Kane tried.
Wind pierced through him as he bombed down the slope. They’d called him the cleanest skier the Olympic team had ever seen, so precise he could repeat the exact same line down a course over and over again. Looking up at his tracks, he wondered, not for the first time, what he was going to do when everything he loved about this place was taken away.
Austin wasn’t naive. He knew the Henderson family, which owned the ski resort, was eager to get out of debt. And the owners of the additional land Kane Enterprises was purchasing were happy enough with their offers. He didn’t blame anyone for wanting to sell.
But that didn’t mean he wanted a company in Seattle that made its fortune in logging a generation ago to take over. Some people said after Bill Kane died that the deal wouldn’t go through, but then there came word that his daughter, Samantha, was determined to make the development even greater than originally planned. Like the more trees she ordered chopped, the more her father’s legacy would grow.
They’d upped their offer by 25 percent, then 50, then more, like they didn’t understand that when Austin said no, he meant it. He wasn’t selling half his property to those bastards so they could turn the woods behind his home into soulless condominiums for the rich weekend crowd. Where would Chloe run? Where would he look out and know he’d finally found a place to call home?
No one is taking anything, he reminded himself as he made the last turns down to the base of the mountain. They couldn’t force him to sell.
But when he came home, he had a voicemail. Steven Park, the message said, and his stomach tightened. He’d never spoken with Samantha Kane directly, but he knew her assistant better than he wanted to. You don’t forget someone you’ve hung up on more than once.
“Ms. Kane will be coming to Gold Mountain to meet with you in person,” the message said. “I’m sure I don’t need to remind you that she is very busy and is taking time out of her schedule to personally address your concerns. Please let us know when we can—”
Austin pressed delete. He must have really ticked off the boss lady if she was deigning to make the trip all the way up here herself.
Good. Let them try to intimidate him. It would be even more satisfying to tell her off to her face than it was to rip up her company’s letters and shove them in the recycling bin.
Three days a week Austin worked on the ski patrol team before practice, but today was an off day, so he hit the gym in his basement and planned his lessons for the week. He did plyometric jumps and balance holds until his muscles were shaking and he’d purged all thoughts of Kane Enterprises from his mind. Then he showered and ate as he went over the videos from last week’s race.
Amelia, his top skier, had won by a huge margin. Anyone scanning the times would be thrilled. Amelia Derringer was the best Gold Mountain had ever seen. For the first time in the school’s history, there was an opportunity for a kid from Gold Mountain Academy to race in Park City, Utah, and try for the U.S. Ski Team.
But to the trained eye, Amelia’s recent victory was a careless win, the seconds between her and silver fewer than they should have been. He’d been going easy on her. That was going to have to change.
Chloe came up to rest her head in his lap, and he rubbed the soft tips of her ears between his finger and thumb. He felt bad when it was time to rouse her to load up the truck.
“I’ll be back soon, baby doll,” he promised. “You can come, but it’s cold out there.”
She poked her nose out the door, but he’d tired her out on their run and she retreated back into the house.
“That’s what I figured. If that Kane lady comes poking around, don’t forget to growl. Amelia can do it,” he added as he grabbed his keys. “She’s done that same run two seconds faster, and that was on a practice day.”
Chloe cocked her head, confused as to why Austin was still standing in the doorway. I’m really losing it. So alone he was talking strategy with his dog, trying to figure out the magic words to say to Amelia to remind her she knew how to win.
No one had ever told him that in his own life. But it didn’t matter that he’d missed his chances. He wasn’t the kind of person who backed down anymore. He wouldn’t let the kids on his team accept defeat.
And he wouldn’t show a hint of weakness to that damned Samantha Kane.
About Rebecca Brooks
She received a PhD in English but decided it was more fun to write books than write about them. She has backpacked alone through India and Brazil, traveled by cargo boat down the Amazon River, climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro, explored ice caves in Peru, trekked to the source of the Ganges, and sunbathed in Burma, but she always likes coming home to a cold beer and her hot husband in the Bronx.
Her books are about independent women who leave their old lives behind to try something new—and find the passion, excitement and purpose they didn’t know they’d been missing.