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Snowbound with the Boss

By:Maureen Child

Snowbound with the Boss - Maureen Child
One

Sean Ryan’s dreams were of hot beaches, ten-foot waves and ice-cold beer.

His reality was just ice-cold.

January in Wyoming was just...wrong, he told himself. A California guy had no business standing knee-deep in snow. And if he’d had a choice, Sean wouldn’t have been there at all.

But it was his turn to change a run-down hotel into a role-playing fantasy based on one of his company’s bestselling video games. “Why I couldn’t have gotten a damn hotel in Tahiti is a good question, though.”

But then, Celtic Knot video games were all based on ancient legends, and as far as Sean knew, there were no legendary Celtic tales set around a beach in Tahiti. Too damn bad.

A tall man, with thick black hair that hung past the collar of the brown leather jacket he wore over sweaters, Sean tucked his hands into the pockets of his jeans and gave a quick look around. The great room of the old hotel was gigantic and echoed with the sound of his footsteps every time his scarred brown boots hit the wooden floor. There were enough windows in the room to make the snow-covered outside feel like the inside. Double-paned glass kept most of the cold out, but even then, so much glass was enough to chill the cavernous room.

The place wasn’t huge, only a hundred and fifty rooms, yet it gave the feeling of more. Probably all the wood and glass, Sean told himself. He could see how the hotel would be once the renovations were complete. And God knew there would be plenty of those. Every room needed to be freshened, brought up-to-date and then stocked with gaming systems and flat-screen televisions. They’d get their artists in to do the murals on the walls, bringing the “Forest Run” video game to life and making this a prime destination for gamers from around the country.

And, he had to admit, the setting was perfect to mimic “Forest Run.” The hotel sat on two hundred acres of land, with forests, meadows and a wide, beautiful lake. But he couldn’t imagine people wanting to come to the middle of nowhere in the dead of winter when everything was covered in snow. Who the hell would pick snow over sand?

Not him, that was for sure. But he had to hope that there were plenty of gamers who actually enjoyed freezing temperatures. As for Sean, he couldn’t wait to get back to Southern California. Shaking his head, Sean reminded himself that this trip was almost over. He’d been in Wyoming a week and now that all of the “consultations” with his contractor were finished, he’d be hopping into his company jet that afternoon and getting back to the real world. To his life.

Turning his back on the view, Sean glanced toward the ceiling at the sound of footsteps overhead. Instantly, a buzz of awareness shot through him. Scowling, he deliberately pushed aside the feeling, buried it deeply enough that he wouldn’t have to acknowledge it.

Nope. When he left, Sean wouldn’t miss the cold. Or the solitude, he assured himself. But the woman...that was a different story.

Kate Wells. Businesswoman, contractor, carpenter and current pain in his ass. He was only in Wyoming in the dead of winter because Kate, his contractor on this hotel job, had insisted they needed to meet on-site so she and her crew could get started on the interior renovations.

And from the minute he first saw her, construction work was the last thing on Sean’s mind. Instead, he was focused on thick black hair, usually pulled into a ponytail, lake-blue eyes and a mouth wide enough to give a man crazy, sex-fueled dreams.

It had been too long since he’d indulged himself in a really fiery affair, he assured himself. That’s the only explanation for why his body was burning for a woman who wore a damn tool belt, of all things.

He looked toward the ceiling again, the scowl on his face deepening as she moved around upstairs with quick, sure steps. He’d never met a woman as sure of herself as Kate Wells. He’d always admired strong women, but she took things to a whole new level. She argued with him on everything and as irritating as that was, Sean also sort of enjoyed it—which only went to prove that all this cold had frozen and killed off too many of his brain cells.

Shaking his head, he turned on his cell phone and gave silent thanks that at least he had reception out here. Hitting the video-chat button, he dialed and then waited.

On the third ring, his brother Mike’s face appeared on the screen.

“I hate Wyoming,” Sean blurted.

Mike laughed and leaned back in his desk chair. Right behind his brother, Sean could see the view of the garden behind the old Victorian in Long Beach, California, that served as Celtic Knot’s offices. “Don’t hold back, tell me how you really feel.”

“Funny.” Easy for his older brother to be amused, Sean told himself. He wasn’t in the middle of a forest with a woman who both attracted and infuriated him. Thinking of Kate, Sean glanced over his shoulder, just to make sure she hadn’t sneaked up on him. When he was satisfied, he shifted his gaze back to the phone. Easier to not think of Kate when he was talking about something else entirely.

“It hasn’t stopped snowing since I got here,” he said. “There’s like three feet of snow piling up out there and it’s still coming down. I don’t think it’ll ever stop.”

“Sounds cold.” Mike gave a dramatic shudder.

“Ha!” Sean snorted. “Beyond cold. Beyond freezing. I’m wearing two sweaters under my jacket—inside.”

Chuckling, Mike asked, “What’s it like when you’re not complaining about how cold you are? Have you managed, in all your misery, to check out the land and the hotel?”

Trust Mike to stay on topic. Sean sighed, then grudgingly admitted, “Yeah, I looked it all over. It’s pretty. Lots of trees. Lots of open land. And who knew the sky was so big when you get out of the city?”

“Yeah,” Mike said, “I discovered that for myself when Jenny and I were in Laughlin...”

Narrowing his gaze on his brother’s image, Sean wondered what the hell had happened exactly between Mike and Jenny Marshall, one of the company’s top artists. Mike hadn’t talked about it and before Sean had had a decent chance to really interrogate him over it, he’d had to leave for Wyoming.

“Something tells me there’s more to that story,” Sean mused, promising himself that as soon as he got home again, he’d take Mike out for a few beers and pry the truth out of him.

“If there is,” Mike told him, “you’re not hearing it.”

Not long-distance, anyway. But Sean had never been one to give up easily. And there was definitely something going on between his brother and Jenny. Still, that was for then, and right now Sean was more interested in getting out of Wyoming before he turned into a Popsicle.

“What’s the hotel itself like, Sean?”

“Big. Cold. Empty.” Sean blew out a frustrated breath and pushed one hand through his hair. He gave another quick look around and gave Mike a better answer. “The previous owner left some furniture downstairs, but the bedrooms are a refit from the ground up. No beds, no chairs, tables, nada.”

He shot a glance at the battered leather sofa and two matching chairs that were drawn up in front of a massive fireplace in the great room. Sean didn’t think much of the furniture, but since he and Kate were going to be stuck here for a while, he was grateful there was more than the floor to sit on.

“It’s no big deal,” Mike told him. “We would have redone the bedrooms the way we wanted anyway.”

“True. And the bones of the place are good.” Sean nodded to himself. “A lot of work to do to turn it into a ‘Forest Run’ fantasy, though.”

“And is Kate Wells up to the task?”

“To hear her tell it,” Sean muttered. He’d never met a woman so supremely confident in her own abilities. Just as he’d never come up against anyone so willing to argue with him. He was more accustomed to people who worked for him actually working for him. But this woman seemed to think she was in charge, and that was something he’d have to take care of real damn soon.

“Anyway,” he said, once again forcefully pushing Kate out of his mind, “there’s a hundred and fifty guest rooms, and they all need work.”

Mike frowned. “If we go with your idea to hold our own ‘game con’ on the property, we’ll need more rooms. Are there other hotels close by?”

“No. We’re ten miles from the closest. It’s a small town with two B and Bs and one motel right off the highway.”

Mike’s tight scowl deepened. “Sean, we can’t go with a big conference if there’s nowhere for people to stay.” He took a breath and added, “And don’t say people can pitch tents.”

Sean laughed. “Just because I like camping doesn’t mean I want strangers staying all over the property. Anyway, there’s a bigger city about twenty-five miles from here, with more hotels.” And that was where he was staying. A nice, comfortable, upscale hotel that he would have given anything to be in at that moment. He wanted a shower hot enough to melt the ice chips in his bloodstream. That wasn’t going to happen anytime soon, though. “Kate—the contractor had another idea on that problem, too.”

“What’s she thinking?” Mike picked up his coffee and took a long drink.

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