What Happens in the Alps... by T. A. Williams
Also by this author: Dreaming of Italy
Published by Carina on 21st March 2016
Genres: Chicklit, Christmas, Contemporary, Humour, Love & Romance
UP IN THE MAGICAL, SNOW-KISSED MOUNTAINS…
Two years ago, Annie Brewer’s life was turned upside down when her adrenaline-junkie husband died in a tragic climbing accident. So she’s hoping that moving to the beautiful village of Santorso in the Italian Alps will finally put her life back on track!
…ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN!
She might be going into business with her oldest friend – notorious lady-charmer Matt Brown – but men are definitely out of the question for Annie! That is, until she bumps into tall, dark and delicious Alessandro Lago on the ski slopes…and spontaneously says ‘Yes’ to a date!
It must be the crisp, mountain air but suddenly, anything seems possible. The only trouble is, chivalrous Matt is looking more gorgeous than ever…
Although all she could see of him was his head and shoulders, along with occasional glimpses of a hairy chest, the knowledge that he was less than a metre away from her and nearly naked was very stimulating. She shook her head, partly to rid herself of the drops of water, but mainly to try to establish some order in there. Once again, Alex had her mind in a spin. If he noticed her confusion, he didn’t show it.
‘Coming out in the open?’ Alex didn’t give her time to reply before turning and guiding her to the far corner of the pool where a narrow channel led towards the windows. A series of rubber flaps formed a thermal barrier between them and the outside. Annie pushed through them and came out into a totally different world. The warm water billowed clouds of steam into the sky as it came into contact with the near freezing air and it was almost like being in the middle of a Turkish bath, except that the skin of her face tingled in the cold air. Floodlights, both underwater and outside, illuminated the scene. It was amazing. This, more than anything else, served to settle her spinning thoughts. She followed Alex across to the far side of the pool where underwater steps formed a perfect bench seat where they could wallow, with just their heads out of the water. She settled down beside him, leaning her head back against the pool surround, and relaxed.
‘It’s pretty special, isn’t it?’ She looked up at the sound of his voice and followed his eyes. All around them, the ground was covered by a thick layer of virgin snow. A rustic stone wall, topped with a foot of snow, encircled the pool area and, beyond that, Annie knew that the piste began. Alex turned towards her. ‘You know who would love to be here with us now?’
Annie shook her head. Just the two of them felt fine to her. Alex grinned. ‘Leo. He’s absolutely crazy about water. He’d love it. But the problem with Labs is hair. Apart from any health and safety considerations, we’ve been told in no uncertain terms that dog hair can block the very expensive filtration plant in no time at all. So, poor old Leo’s left at home.’
‘And home is?’
‘Home for me is here. I’ve got rooms in the hotel. I’ve got the easiest commute of anybody. Leo lives with my dad in a chalet on the other side of the hotel. You’ll see it when we finish here. He’s expecting a visit from us.’ He pulled himself up onto the next step up and Annie found herself looking straight at his muscular and hairy chest. It was a fascinating, if disconcerting, view. She hastily pulled herself up onto the same level, feeling the cold air on her own chest as she did so. At least now she was level with his shoulders once more.
‘If you can come swimming here every day, you’ll be very fit.’ She managed to bring herself to meet his eye. ‘Although you look very fit as it is.’ Luckily the combination of the warm water, the steam, and the freezing air meant that her cheeks were already burning, so any embarrassment wouldn’t show. Or so she hoped.
‘I was just thinking the same about you, Annie.’
He stretched out his arm and encircled her, pulling her gently towards him, his eyes firmly fixed on hers, his lips reaching for hers. She came very close to kissing him but, at the last minute, something stopped her. She pulled back and gave the slightest shake of the head. Immediately, he released her.
‘I’m sorry, Annie.’
‘No, I’m sorry, Alex, It’s not that I don’t like you; I like you a lot. It’s just that the last couple of years haven’t been easy.’
‘Had a hard time?’ His voice was kind. ‘Want to talk about it?’
To her surprise, Annie found that she did. She settled back in the water, her shoulder just touching his from time to time, and told him about Steve’s accident and the bitter sense of loss she had been feeling ever since. She told him about the decision she had made that summer to get away from her old job, her old life, her old flat. She managed to tell him all this without even once stumbling over her words or breaking down and, by the end, she felt better for having told him. As she finished, she felt him move. His arm reached out and encircled her shoulder again, pulling her towards him in a hug. She didn’t resist.
‘That’s tough, Annie, very tough. For what it’s worth, I’m sure you’re doing the right thing in making a complete change. If there’s anything I can do to help, just say the word.’
Annie was still formulating a reply when an explosion shocked them both. Annie stifled a scream as a plume of water shot into the air and a wave of spray swamped them. She looked up, close to panic, and then relaxed as she saw the cause of the disturbance and heard Alex’s voice.
‘Leo, you little bugger. Who let you in?’ The Labrador emerged from underwater and came swimming up to them, nose low in the water and tail trailing behind, for all the world like a hairy submarine or a bedraggled black crocodile. Annie found herself giggling like a schoolgirl. As the dog reached the steps, he leapt up and out of the water. As he reached dry land, he stopped and Alex just had time to shout, ‘Look out,’ before the dog shook himself violently. Any last hopes Annie might have had of keeping her hair dry disappeared under a torrent of Labrador-scented water. Even so, she couldn’t stop laughing.