Snowbound with a Stranger
Dannie Marino is hiking with colleagues when a sudden blizzard separates her from her group. She’s rescued by Lee, a dangerously sexy stranger who leads her to a remote cabin to weather the storm.
When the night inevitably ends in an intense erotic encounter, Dannie is both shocked and liberated by her response. But being intimate means letting herself be vulnerable, which isn’t her style. Lee tries to reach out to her, but she avoids any emotional entanglement by pushing him away.
Snowed in and unable to hide from each other, Dannie and Lee must both face up to their most closely guarded emotions. When the storm abates, will they be able to stop running from the past and live fully in the future?
Copyright © 2012 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Cover Art used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited ® and TM are trademarks owned by Harlequin Enterprises Limited or its affiliated companies, used under license.
Copyright © 2012 by Harlequin Enterprises Limited
Cover copy text used by arrangement with Harlequin Enterprises Limited.
Praise for Snowbound with a Stranger
“(T)here’s lovely nuance in the erotic writing in the book…Lee and Dannie are well-drawn out characters and their interactions, though compressed in time, resonate with depth. The sex scenes are nicely done and the love Dannie and Lee make is integral to their emotional journey.”
Review of Snowbound with a Stranger, Dear Author
“I couldn’t help but feel impressed that the tale had such depth of emotion and complexity of conflict. It was as sublimely satisfying as a book twice its length…(F)or readers who appreciate their fictional romance fantasy flavored with realism and hope, this short tale is a truly wonderful read.”
Review of Snowbound with a Stranger, One Good Book Deserves Another
“Maher does a nice job packing a lot of story and emotion, not to mention heat, into 24,000 words.”
Review of Snowbound with a Stranger, Read React Review
“This was an unexpectedly emotional read. I really expected an erotic story read and got something so much more.”
Review of Snowbound with a Stranger, Tracy’s Place
“Rebecca Rogers Maher could teach her own novella class without a doubt. Even with only 73 pages to play, she not only crafts a compelling love story between two damaged individuals but paints vivid characters with just a few brush strokes. I appreciated that her protagonists were older (late thirties, early forties) yet still just as sexy as the taut young bodies we enjoy reading about in other romance novels.”
Review of Snowbound with a Stranger, Tori Macallister
“Maher writes the hell out of sex scenes, you can rest assured about THAT. Read it if you want to get your motor running.”
Review of Snowbound with a Stranger, Cupcake’s Book Cupboard
When I feel all jangled up and I can’t figure out what’s wrong, I make a playlist. For whatever reason a certain set of songs will come into my head in a certain order, and when I listen to the playlist afterward it helps me make sense of what’s been troubling me.
I make playlists for my books for a similar reason. They help me understand what my characters are going through and what themes are emerging from the story.
Click below for the playlist that goes with Book Two in the Recovery Trilogy–a contemporary romance novella called Snowbound with a Stranger
Download it today!
1. Hospital Beds, Cold War Kids This is one of those songs that I always sit still and listen to when it comes on. I appreciate the fact that it goes balls-out and doesn’t hold back. There’s a lot of fear and grief here, which makes it a good introduction to Dannie.
2. Sprawl II (Mountains Beyond Mountains), Arcade Fire I used this song as a text with one of my students, and we talked about the idea of being paved over with concrete—both on the outside/over increasing miles of space on the planet, and on the inside. “Can we ever get away from the sprawl?” is an important question.
3. Feel The Pain, Dinosaur Jr Intentionally or not, this is the ultimate caretaker song.
4. Blue Lips, Regina Specktor Regina Specktor is such a moving lyricist. This song kind of takes my breath away. I hear it as a story about not being able to see how beautiful the world is.
5. Sugar on my Tongue, Talking Heads Sexy!
6. Polar Bear, Puscifer This is one of those love-songs-that-isn’t-a-love-song. But I see it as one, because love is about witnessing someone’s pain and not turning away. That kind of support is what gives us the strength to feel deeply.
7. Please Don’t Stop, Carina Round This song is a sex scene in and of itself. Not available on Spotify, but look it up!
8. ‘Til I Whisper You Something, Sinead O’Connor All hail the Mighty Sinead.
9. Cat Heaven, Jets to Brazil This song always makes me cry.
10. Good Weekend, Art Brut Yes, it was.
Snowbound with a Stranger
She noticed him right away. That wasn’t a good sign.
It was his chest, really. How broad and strong he looked. The way the sun caught the gold stubble of his buzz-cut hair as he stepped off the parking lot. The fact that he wore enough layers of wool and polypropylene to insulate a small army. The way he shouldered his thick pack as though it weighed nothing.
She looked away before he saw her.
The sky was overcast and the air punishingly cold. Dannie breathed in gratefully. The world out here was blissfully simple in its total indifference to her. And she was sick to death of complicated things. Here in the mountains there was one goal only: try not to die. She tightened the laces of her boots and joined the group.
Dr. Stevens gathered the hikers in a loose semicircle. As the head of her department, he’d been leading monthly mountain hikes for staff and friends for as long as she could remember. Dannie joined in on the occasional free Saturday.
Not that she was the typical joining type or particularly social. Other hikers rarely attempted to strike up a conversation with her. And if they did, she’d offer only marginally polite monosyllables in response to their chipper small talk. Eventually they gave up and talked to someone else.
She couldn’t abide chitchat on the mountain. There was enough noise in her regular life. Up here she preferred silence.
Parking Lot Guy quietly joined the group. The hair rose on the back of Dannie’s neck. She didn’t recognize him from the hospital, and he’d never been on any of the hikes before. She wondered who he was, and then shoved the thought away, irritated with herself.
She wasn’t here to meet a man. She was here to get the hell out of the city. To see some damn nature and relax. To hike until she was too exhausted to think.
“It’s a pretty straightforward hike to the cabin.” Dr. Stevens stared at each of them in turn, the corners of his eyes crinkling. “I hope you appreciate the fact that I’m allowing you cretins to enter my little getaway. Don’t tell the others or they’ll all be banging down the door. Lee, you got the map?”
Behind Dannie a deep voice answered, “Yep. Got it.”
She turned as he looked up and caught the full force of his green eyes.
Briefly he nodded in her direction. He held her gaze a little too long, and when he smiled, she looked quickly away.
“Good. Lee here’s a fine man to have around on the mountain.” Dr. Stevens checked his watch. “Should take two, maybe three hours to get up there. We stop, have lunch and then head on back before the storm moves in. Stick together. No cell reception up here and the trail’s not marked. If you get separated from the group, you’re in trouble. Lee, bring up the rear, all right? I’ll lead.”
Dannie hastened to the front of the line.
There were six of them this time, including the doctor. At their Brooklyn hospital they called him Dr. Waldo. His uncanny resemblance to a certain perpetually missing cartoon character was a source of unending amusement to all the staff. The name lent a certain extra charm to the nature hikes he led. The cloud of red frizz on top of his head shined out like a beacon, even when clamped under a hat. Dannie kept her eyes on that frizz and set out on the trail.
In the mountains it usually took a full hour for her head to clear. Two hours before she could even begin to appreciate the scenery around her. A full day, sometimes, before the constant echo of hospital beeping would flush itself out of her system. For these first few minutes all she could do was walk and breathe. And let the cacophonous thoughts in her head swirl out one by one.
She’d had a patient last week—a woman she’d come to know well over the past several months—who was sick with complications from lupus. Two young kids at home. An immune system like a fucking sieve. Sick all the time with every virus that passed through her children’s school. Yet she never complained. Not once. Every last awful treatment, she took it. Flirted with the doctors. Put makeup on every morning, no matter how bad she felt.
For some reason it got to Dannie. Worse than the sicker patients, the more demonstrably suffering ones. That woman’s iron will agitated her. She found herself avoiding the lady’s room, looking for excuses to let someone else check in on her. What kind of nurse did that make Dannie? What kind of person?
Without meaning to she’d fallen to the back of the line of hikers. Parking Lot Guy was there, chatting with one of the college-student volunteers from the hospital.
Actually he wasn’t doing much talking. Zoe was young—a skinny, outgoing blonde with big doe eyes—and she was regaling poor P.L.G. with stories of her high school field hockey team.
Dannie almost felt sorry for him. Except that he probably wasn’t listening. He probably was too busy thinking about peeling off her parka, like most men would be. And the girl was clearly interested in letting him.
Dannie’s thoughts wandered. Behind her a low voice murmured the occasional “Really?” and “Oh, yeah?” while the volunteer chirped on. Eventually their talk turned to the hospital, to Zoe’s early impressions of medical life.
“I don’t know.” Zoe grew quiet. “I have to admit it’s harder than I expected. Not the hours. I can handle that. Just the—I don’t know—the endlessness of it. Like an assembly line. They just keep coming, you know what I mean? It never stops.” She paused. “That sounds stupid.”
“No. Not at all. It’s overwhelming. Especially at first.”
“Right? I mean I knew it would be. But I guess you can’t really prepare yourself.”
“No. You can’t.”
“At this point, I don’t know how people do it, seriously, for like, ten, twenty years. Do you have to, like, shut down or something, just to keep going?”
Parking Lot Guy—Lee—was silent for a while. Without thinking Dannie turned. For some reason she wanted to see his face.
He met her gaze immediately. His eyes were dark, intent.
“Some do. Yeah. And some find a way not to.”
Quickly Dannie turned and faced forward.
Their footsteps sounded on the quiet dirt path. Around them snow was beginning to fall: huge, thick flakes that appeared out of nowhere and suddenly filled the air and sky. She kept walking.
Dannie loved her job. She always had. She was made to be a nurse. From her preschool days of wrapping stuffed animals in toilet-paper bandages, through high school and nursing school, she had known what her path would be. She had followed it unerringly. One foot in front of the other. She loved her job and she was good at it. Patients told her so. Doctors told her so. Family after family thanked her, often in tears, for the work that she did, for her compassion and her expertise and her unwavering calm.
But what if lately she was only going through the motions? What if, like Zoe said, she had simply shut down?
Well, so what? It was natural. You couldn’t be connected to every act all the time. After years of performing the same duties over and over, sometimes the feelings got lost. Sometimes you just had to fake your way through it and hope that those feelings came back.
She gave a short laugh.
And how’s that working out for you, Dannie?
Thirty-eight years old. Childless. Divorced.
Despite the undoubtedly flawless ostrich approach, the feelings she had lost for her husband had not come back. Nor his for her. And yet on they’d gone, for years, before either of them found the courage to get out.
Actually she never had found the courage. He was the one to leave.
Her pack was feeling heavier now as they approached the incline, but Dannie soldiered onward. She’d hiked another part of this mountain once before, months ago, when the weather was warm, so she knew the terrain moderately well.
No one could call her an experienced woodsman, but she’d certainly done her homework online before hauling herself out here. She knew how to dress for the weather. She knew what to carry and what to leave home. Thanks to a merciless twice-a-week spin class, she was in reasonably good shape.
So although she was tired and snow was beginning to fall, no warning signals flashed in her brain. Not then, at least.
Not until two hours later. When she found herself stranded in a whiteout on the side of the mountain.
Copyright © 2012 by Rebecca Rogers Maher
Permission to reproduce text granted by Harlequin Books S.A.