Just Perfect

By: Julie Ortolon


This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, business establishments, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

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* * *

To Friends

For filling my days with laughter For three-hour lunches (when we should be writing)

For enabling my Chico’s shopping addiction For unquestioned support, sympathy, whining, and wining

For champagne celebrations (anytime, any reason) And for e-mailing in the face of deadlines!

A special thanks goes out with this book to:

Scott with Utah Search and Rescue for his patience and expertise. I hope I got everything right!

Author, friend, and ski junkie Cindi Myers for answering all my questions and only laughing a tiny bit at my ignorance.

And to Melinda for so many things, I don’t know where to begin. You were research assistant, cheerleader, and my labor and delivery coach on birthing this baby.

Cheers to all of you for making this book possible!

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Chapter 1

Fear is a funny thing; without it, no one is truly brave. —How to Have a Perfect Life

Christine couldn’t believe she’d let her friends talk her into this. Standing in the plaza at the base of Silver Mountain, she felt her heart palpitate as she looked at the chairlift. It carried a steady stream of skiers up the mountain, all of them sitting calmly in the chairs—which were nothing more than narrow benches dangling a mile off the ground—chatting away as if gravity didn’t even exist. As if the thought of slipping off that narrow seat and plummeting to the ground never entered any of their minds.

Growing up, she’d had a hard enough time riding the chairlift during her family’s annual Christmas vacations to Colorado, but after doing her residency in a hospital emergency room, she had an all-too-vivid image in her head of exactly what the result of such a fall would look like.

How had she let Maddy and Amy talk her into this? Of course, sitting in a bookstore coffee shop with her friends last spring, the thought of facing her fear of heights hadn’t seemed like that big a deal. Well, it had. Just not this big a deal.

She couldn’t back down, though. The three of them had made a pact. Maddy had already fulfilled her challenge to face her fear of rejection and get her art in a gallery, but Amy had yet to face her fear of getting lost in order to travel on her own. If Christine backed down, Amy would be off the hook.

She had to do this.

For Amy, if not for herself.

And the best approach was to get it over with as quickly as possible—like ripping off an adhesive strip.

The one problem with that plan was her ski instructor was nowhere in sight. They’d told her at the ski school to look for a tall blond guy wearing a green jacket who’d meet her at the trail map. Granted, she’d arrived a few minutes late, but not that late.

Please, Lord, let him be late too, not already come and gone.

Rubbing her gloved hands against the cold, she turned away from the slopes to scan the crowded plaza. People moved in and out of the festively decorated shops and restaurants. Miles of garlands abounded, along with big red bows and holiday banners hanging from lampposts. Last night’s snowfall dusted the roofs and windowsills of the tall lodge-style buildings.

But nowhere did she see a blond man in a green parka.

Growing desperate, she abandoned her post by the trail map and headed for the lift ticket window, walking awkwardly in her ski boots. Maybe someone there could help her.

“Excuse me,” she said to the college-age girl behind one of the windows. “I’m looking for Alec Hunter. I don’t know if you know him—”

“Crazy Alec?” The girl’s face lit with a smile. “Of course I do.”

Crazy Alec? Christine frowned as the girl craned her neck to search the plaza. What did she mean Crazy Alec? No, no, no, she didn’t want Crazy Alec. She wanted Very Sane Safety Conscious Alec. The man at the ski school had said they were too short-handed to spare one of their regular instructors for five days of private lessons, so he’d arranged for “a friend” to teach her. He hadn’t mentioned anything about his friend being crazy. In fact, he’d made it sound like a great privilege that Alec Hunter had even agreed to work with her.