Dustin Merriweather stumbled to a halt as a short, voluptuous brunette threw herself into his arms.
She was all lush curves and smooth, soft skin, her head a tangle of riotous curls that tickled his chin. Her petite frame fit perfectly against his tall, lanky one, and wretch that he was, he was in no hurry to push her away.
When he bothered to date, he chose actresses and models. He had the money and renown to surround himself with some of the world's most beautiful women. But they were the types who starved themselves to the point of emaciation, so her shapely body was a nice change.
He could feel it through the puffy goose down of her unflattering parka. It looked like a garment her younger brother probably wore in the sixth grade.
"Don't just stand there," she said. "Kiss me or hug me or something ."
"I don't think I know you well enough to kiss you."
"Then be a brick wall and hide me."
He chuckled at her vehemence, as she moved closer and burrowed inside his leather jacket. Her cheek was pressed directly over his heart, her slender hands sliding around his waist to clasp the small of his back. She angled them so that his shoulders faced the street, and she was cradled against the wall of the building next to them.
"What are we doing?" he asked.
"Ssh," she warned. "Not so loud."
"What are we doing?" he repeated, whispering.
"There is a woman on the sidewalk behind you, and she'll pass by in a minute. You can't let her see me."
He stood in the quiet, enjoying the feminine feel of her as he breathed deep of the cold autumn air. The stark scenery washed over him. It was a crisp October afternoon, the jagged peaks of the Rocky Mountains towering to the sky. Up on the steep slopes, a few patches of color were still visible as the last leaves on the aspen trees clung tenaciously to the branches.
Soon they'd all be gone, and the frigid gray of winter would set in.
Earlier in the morning, he'd driven up from Denver. Business had dragged him to the isolated town of Gold Creek. Though his family had made the bulk of their fortune in the prior century, emptying the abandoned mines that dotted the narrow canyon, he'd never previously visited.
With the elevation above eight-thousand feet, it wasn't the most hospitable place. Only the hardiest souls could manage to thrive in such an unwelcoming environment. His shrewd, industrious great, great grandfather-a pioneer and prospector-had been one of them, but Dustin had no interest in following in the man's footsteps.
He preferred the warmth of Los Angeles and the sandy beaches of the Caribbean, and at age twenty-eight, his constant goal was to work as little as possible and play as much as he was able.
The town's main street, with its old shops and dilapidated houses, looked as if everybody was barely holding on. The area hadn't generated any of the modern economic prosperity achieved by other mountain communities.
It was too far out of the way to attract tourists, and there were no gentle slopes that might have allowed for a ski resort or summer hiking. The mines had been boarded for decades so employment was sporadic and intermittent.
Who would live in such a godforsaken spot? Who could bear it?
He tamped down a shudder, imagining a windy, January day. It wasn't unusual to have four-hundred inches of snow in the winter, and his contemplation of that pile of white stuff ignited a wave of claustrophobia.
On the trip up from Denver, he'd considered staying over, maybe checking out grainy photos at the historical society's museum, but he wouldn't.
He had no abiding