Read Risking It All for Love (A Christmas in Snow Valley Romance) Online

Authors: Kimberley Montpetit

Tags: #Contemporary, #Christian Fiction, #Romance, #romance series

Risking It All for Love (A Christmas in Snow Valley Romance)

 

 

 

 

 

 

by

Kimberley Montpetit

 

 

 

 

For the “women” of Snow
Valley, Montana,

whose talent and creativity inspires
me!

 

 

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and
incidents are either 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.

Risking
it all for Love

COPYRIGHT
2014 by Kimberley Montpetit

All
rights reserved. No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner
whatsoever without written permission of the author except in the case of brief
quotations embodied in critical articles or reviews.

Cover
Art by
Christina Dymock

Interior
Design by Sadie Anderson

Spellbound
Books

Published
in the United States of America

Chapter One

I
saw him the
first time at Snow Valley’s cemetery. Striding across the dead, snow-covered
grass. He wore a black wool coat and leather gloves. Not a ski jacket, a man’s
long overcoat. His head was uncovered, hair cut just below his ears, a thatch
of dark brown tossed across his forehead. My breath caught, and my palms grew
clammy despite the fact that I’d forgotten my gloves and the tips of my fingers
were turning to ice.

Was it—no, it couldn’t be. Dread dropped to the pit of my
stomach. Because if it
was
him, I was seeing things. Seeing dead people.
Which would mean that the séance at Madame LeBlanc’s parlor back in New Orleans
was for real.

I gulped and narrowed my eyes, burring my chin into my zipped up
coat so it didn’t look like I was staring at the guy until my eyes bugged out. Now
he was coming toward me. Or was the angle of his body merely an optical
illusion in the whiteness of the snowy scene, the skeletal trees, and the
dreary gray sky?

Even though I doubted who I was seeing, my heart still went into
overdrive.

The possible specter coming toward me looked so much like—oh,
gosh, I swore I was having palpitations, maybe even a heart attack. A sharp
pain thudded against my ribs.

It couldn’t be
him.
That was
crazy. It meant that I was truly losing my mind.
Was
I going crazy? I
know my mother thought so. She’d been nagging at me ever since the plane landed,
wanting confidences about my life, my work with the dance company in New
Orleans, my plans for the future, my
feelings
. T
his whole trip home was
impractical - or maybe it was just being around my mother that brought out all
my angst.

“My feelings are none of your business, Mom,” I’d told her tartly an
hour ago as I shoved my feet into a pair of canvas sneakers I’d dug out of my
closet.

“Jessica, you’ll catch cold wearing
those shoes in this weather.”

“Oh, is it snowing again?” Of course, my mother didn’t catch my
sarcasm. There was two feet of snow piled up on both sides of the driveway and
the yard was a blanket of white.

“And no socks!” she’d continued, her lips puckered disapprovingly.
“Not even laces? They’ll fall off your feet tramping around in this snow. I
swear living in the South has touched your head.”

Of course I should have worn boots,
but I didn’t feel like being practical. Coming home for Christmas was probably
a mistake on
so many levels.
I was used to New Orleans now. The mild
weather, the humidity, the crazy, life-loving people, the Creole culture, the
dripping Spanish moss from the cypress and oak trees, crazy Bourbon Street with
the smell of seafood and wine and vodka that lingered in my nose.

Taking the dance scholarship there had been my wisest decision
yet. New Orleans, with its funky architecture and old Civil War history was a
great place in which to forget. To forget everything I wanted to run away from.
I mean, forget everything I couldn’t stand thinking about any longer before I
truly went mad.

Prickles of cold ran up my neck. Guess Madame LeBlanc was right
about that part. I was showing signs of grief-induced insanity.

So I threw myself into my dance, practicing twelve hours a day,
exploring my new city two thousand miles from home.

Two thousand miles from this—the very thing standing in
front of me—Michael’s grave.

The man in the wool coat—I would have laid a hand on the
Bible in Pastor John’s study at the church to swear it was the ghost of
Michael—was coming toward me.

Sucking in a breath, I crouched behind the tombstone, hoping my
white down jacket would blend in. Of course, my mother was right. My feet were
two blocks of ice now. But pain was good. Penance for that last night of Michael’s
life.

I ran my fingertips along the words etched into the granite:

Michael
Lucas Grant

beloved son,
grandson, and friend to all who knew him.

Born June 30

Died
December 20

 

Michael would stay eighteen forever.

Forever locked with my memories of senior
year, and all the memories of the previous decade stored away in my mind and my
heart and my soul.

I heard myself whimper. My stomach
began to hurt. How would I ever get away from the hold he had on me? We’d been
best friends since we were eight years old in Mrs. Ross’s third grade class.
Our desk was a long table where we sat two at the table to share.

Michael had bumped my arm and I
bumped him back. He made fun of me when I pirouetted in the bark on the
playground, when I jumped from my swing. (I was learning how to twirl that year
in ballet class.) Michael and I tied for first place in every single recess
race.

We began to share homework and lunches
by 5
th
grade, quizzing each other, taking swimming lessons, and
gathering the neighborhood kids for teams of Kick the Can—which melted into
hot, lazy summer days when we were sixteen and took a picnic to the river. Skipping
stones, eating peanut butter sandwiches, talking about the silly church play,
when our parents made us mad, sibling rivalry, who was going out with who among
our high school class, and then, finally, finally, sharing our first kiss. I’d
been secretly wanting it for months. Maybe years.

“You can’t be Sweet Sixteen and not
get kissed,” he’d said hoarsely, nervously, one finger fiddling at the hole in
his faded jeans.

“It’s already too late, my birthday
started this morning,” I’d teased him

“What time were you born?” he’d
asked, knowing full well it wasn’t until seven o’clock in the evening.

“No fair,” I’d said, punching him lightly on the arm.

He’d grinned at me. “We have a couple hours left before you’re
official.”

I remembered that my stomach rose with anticipation. I’d been
hoping he would, at last, attempt to kiss me. I’d been thinking about it for
ages, wondering what it would be like to finally kiss a boy, to kiss Michael,
who was good and safe. Someone I didn’t have to worry about taking advantage of
me, like Ann Davis who left school for her older sister’s house in California
to have a baby.

The press of Michael’s lips against mine had been soft and sweet.
He’d tasted like cotton candy or Sprite. I’d loved him since I was eight. Loved
and hated as we grew up and fought and made up. We’d even played Romeo and
Juliet in a summer school production.

That particular memory brought a voice from the past echoing in my
ears. Someone from the audience during dress rehearsal. Probably some chick
who’d wanted the lead role and the chance to kiss Michael Grant. “You know,
Mrs. Snow, just because Michael and Jessica have been dating their whole lives
doesn’t mean they should get the lead roles. They have
no
chemistry
together. It’s like watching a brother and sister in love.”

The auditorium had gone stone silent. The words stung, and I’d
tried to brush them off, but during every performance of
Rome and Juliet
from then on I heard those words repeating in my brain. And I realized that every
kiss was stale, exactly the same as all the others. No fizzy Sprite bubbling up
to my head, or cotton candy taste anymore.

Was I just shy about kissing Michael in public, for the entire
town to watch? Or was it true—that Michael and I were truly only friends,
best friends, sharing everything, loving each other—but not
in love
?

We started making plans to attend Montana State University in
Bozeman. After graduation, we’d get married. I was marrying my best friend!
Wasn’t that the best plan? The one most assured to have happiness and comfort?

But over the next year I realized that even though my heart lit up
whenever Michael came into the room, and we still talked for hours every day,
we didn’t spend time kissing or making out. It was like we’d already been
married fifty years. A peck on the lips, a hug, but nothing in between the
daily “hello” and “see you tomorrow.”

What did it mean? Was this normal? I had no idea. I’d never dated
anyone but Michael. I’d never kissed anyone but Michael.

So we decided to do something really daring and really stupid to
see what all the fuss was about with sex. Maybe we’d been putting it off for so
long, we’d suppressed our hormones—or something like that. Yeah, our
thought processes were pretty inane.

But we were barely eighteen. And yes, we were stupid.

We got drunk one night when Michael’s parents were away. Sat on
the couch drinking beer, and then put down a couple shots of tequila for good
measure.

We tried to do
the deed
, but never got past some heavy
kissing
.
And by then I was running to the bathroom to throw up from the
alcohol.

“Aw, hell,” Michael had said. “Let’s get out of here.”

I still felt queasy, I just wanted to go home, but I went with
him. To keep him safe, I told myself.

Michael was solemn and quiet on the ride, his mood growing darker,
as we both wondered what our relationship truly was, and what had gone wrong. How
could someone get married and never have sexual relations? We wanted a family.
I wanted to be with my best friend for the rest of my life.

“I’m eighteen!” he’d raged. “I
shouldn’t need sex counseling!”

I’d laughed, trying to lighten the
mood, reaching for his hand, reaching for assurance because I was so incredibly
confused, too.

I could still see his fists slamming against the steering wheel. I
didn’t think he was that drunk. I thought after a person threw up, the alcohol
was out of their system. Stupid, stupid, stupid.

The accident itself was innocuous.
He underestimated the yellow light, slammed on the gas pedal, and went for it. Something
we’d done before, something everyone does occasionally.

But neither of us saw the other car
turning left. The impact spun our car into a light pole. I’d never forget the
sounds of metal slamming, crunching, the screaming, and then the silence.
Michael slumped over.

I was sure he’d just been knocked
out, but the head injury was worse than it looked.

The night became a blur of sirens and ambulances and weeping
parents.

The moment my dad told me Michael was gone was imprinted forever
on my heart and soul.

Not dead, but “gone.”

I spent the summer healing from a lame broken wrist. My mother
repeating over and over again, “At least you’ll still be able to dance.”

Finally, I’d actually yelled at my own mother to shut up. “I guess
it’s all okay, because I can still dance? Michael’s
dead
. He never gets
to live again, or go to college or finish growing up or get married, or
anything.
He’s my best friend, don’t you get it!”

I’d slammed out of the house and trudged to the church cemetery
where I went to go talk to my best friend. I didn’t know what else to do. Every
time I’d had the slightest problem about anything I’d talked to Michael.

All my dreams of our life together, our happy family, disappeared
that night. The night we were so brainless I wanted to stick a knife in my
chest. The only time we’d ever done anything that stupid.

Now I stared down at Michael’s grave covered in snow and told him,
“It’s not fair. So many other people get away with stupid stuff all the time.
Why us? Why did God take you away from me?”

I plugged my ears, hearing my mother’s platitudes in my head,
“Sometimes the good die young,” or “We don’t know God’s plan.”

She was right about that. I had no idea what to do with my life.
So I did the only thing I could think of. I ran away from my home town. Staying
in Snow Valley was claustrophobic and cloying. My heart ached with a hundred
pound weight every time I drove past any place in town; the gas station, the
library, Mr. C’s burger joint, the creek, the high school, movie theatre, Michael’s
parents’ house where his banged up car sat dark and solitary in the side yard. His
father couldn’t bear to part with any of his son’s possessions.

I couldn’t stand to be here any longer. Because Michael was tied
to
everything
in my life. How could I ever move on?

So I went crazy again. According to my parents.

I cancelled my scholarship to Montana University, applied to a
dance company in New Orleans, and moved two thousand miles away to a place that
was so different it would help erase Michael’s face haunting my dreams.

After just a few months, New Orleans’s dark under-life of
spiritualism called to me and I found myself wanting to call up Michael’s
spirit. I needed to know that he didn’t blame me for that night. For getting
him drunk. For not taking care of him in so many ways. For being so very
stupid.

I hadn’t had a meaningful date in three years. And there had only
been two of those.

I kept myself aloof, danced every day, ate barely enough to
sustain life—until my muscles were hard and my body almost broke. But I
was being rewarded. I moved up the ranks in the ballet company
corps de
ballet
to
demi-soloist
.

Other books

Dastardly Deeds by Evans, Ilsa
El sueño del celta by Mario Vargas LLosa
Whole Latte Life by DeMaio, Joanne
Escape From Paris by Carolyn G. Hart
The Doorbell Rang by Stout, Rex
Rise of the Fey by Alessa Ellefson