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Moonlight On Snow:
A Love Story

Chapter 1
Chapter 2
Chapter 3
Chapter 4
Chapter 5
Chapter 6
Chapter 7
Chapter 8
Chapter 9
Chapter 10
Chapter 11
Chapter 12

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            Jeff Talent rested his forehead on the steering wheel, too exhausted to even cut the engine. Somehow he’d managed to get the slipping and sliding car up the side of the mountain without major mishap. That is, if you didn’t count a flat tire on a thirty-degree slope in the middle of a snowstorm a major mishap!

            He’d promised God everything from his firstborn child to his current salary as Vice President of Research for EnviroMed if He’d just get Jeff to this research station in one piece. His prayers had been answered. He’d arrived all in one piece. If you didn’t count the skinned knuckles of his right hand. Skinned was better than frostbitten though.

            Jeff flexed his cold hands in the thin leather gloves. He’d been so anxious to get here and confront Gant that he hadn’t taken the time to prepare for this climate. Figuring that anything good enough for New York’s bitter winters would suffice for Montana’s had been his first mistake.

            Jeff was more than a little disgruntled. He should be lying on a Mexican beach with a frozen margarita in his hand and beautiful blond Melissa by his side. But the European cartel seemed to have discovered Gant’s research. And beautiful blond Melissa had dumped him for a guy who wanted to be married to her instead of to his job. He didn’t really blame her. In fact, the incident had made him stop and think about his workaholic lifestyle.

            He’d built a reputation early and had risen fast in the corporate world through a combination of hard work and leaping up the ladder of success by changing companies each time he was offered a deal too good to turn down. Now, at thirty-two, he was the wonder boy of the pharmaceutical industry. As he’d flown west today, he’d wondered if maybe it was time he slowed down enough to at least catch a whiff of the roses.

            Jeff exhaled loudly and turned the ignition key off. Silence rushed in to fill the void. He hadn’t realized how much noise the windshield wipers and the heater, not to mention the straining engine had made. He breathed deep, noting how cold the air inside the car had become in the space of a few moments.

            Tropical heat seemed doubly tempting. Too bad he hadn’t gone on to Cancun by himself. Relaxing on the beach might have cured him of the nagging sense of being out of balance with his life. But work had come first. As usual. It had been too long since he’d had a break. As soon as he returned to civilization, he vowed, he’d take that Mexican vacation.

            Moonlight glistened on the snow and illuminated the small cabin in the clearing. Light shone through the front windows so Jeff figured Haley Gant was still up. A deep porch protected the front door from the weather. Snow packed the steeply pitched roof and covered most of the ground around the cabin. He caught a whiff of wood smoke and imagined if it were daylight, he’d see smoke curling from the chimney. All in all, it must look like a picture postcard.

            "Ready or not, Dr. Gant. Here I come." Somehow, he didn’t think EnviroMed’s resident genius, not a sociable woman according to her file, would be pleased to have her new boss drop in at this time of night, especially a week ahead of schedule. But that was her problem. He was too tired to care whether she liked it or not. His problem was having to deal with the woman before he could form an educated opinion about her research.

            Of course, she hadn’t filed a progress report in the last six months. That was clearly against procedure, and he’d been tempted to act on the recommendation he’d received from the president of the company to just cut her loose. After all, her work was sheer speculation at best.

            Then he’d learned that the Frenchman was checking out Gant. Never one to believe in coincidence, Jeff had decided, given the lack of reports from her, that he’d take a firsthand look at her research. He just hadn’t known it would require such effort to get from the Big Apple to the Big Sky state.

            The light from inside seemed warm and welcoming as it twinkled like a beacon, promising refuge and comfort. Two items he could certainly use tonight. All he wanted were a friendly smile and a warm bed. As he watched, the front door of the cabin opened. A shaft of light split the darkness of the porch and fell weakly onto the fallen snow. Jeff smiled grimly and opened the car door, glad to get the confrontation over with. At least he wouldn't have to pound on her door.

            Feeling as if he were scores of years older than his actual age, Jeff grabbed his bag and slammed the car door. Almost as if that were a signal, snow began falling. Surprised, he glanced skyward. A cloud was drifting across the glowing moon. He shrugged. Just his luck.

            "Happy New Year, Doctor Gant," he called, aiming for a friendly start to what would probably be a difficult week.

            "Hold it right there, mister!"

            Surprised, Jeff froze in mid-step.

            Haley Gant stepped onto the porch, blocking the light. Her posture was an easily-read portrait of outrage, and her voice menaced as convincingly as any guard dog he’d ever encountered. "You can take your G-string and get back in that car!"

            Jeff’s mouth dropped open. His what? "I beg your pardon?" He felt snow landing on his lashes and wondered inanely if his face would freeze in the expression of shock that it probably bore at the moment. He took a cautious step toward the porch.

            She jumped to the top step as if to bar his way. "You heard me! Just point that car down the mountain and go back to wherever my sister found you."

            He’d traveled to this frozen wilderness only to be met by a mad woman! He fought the urge to throw up his hands in despair. The woman was crazy! She must have cracked under the loneliness of this frozen wilderness. He’d heard that solitude did that to some people.

            "I think," he said, trying to speak calmly to the demented woman who barred his way, "that you are confused."

            "I'm not confused. You’re not wanted here. And if you try to so much as unzip your pants I’ll get my shotgun."

            "What?" Jeff stared at her in shock. He didn’t know how to respond to a statement like that. Was Haley Gant afraid that he’d try something with her? Something sexual, judging by the tenor of her commands. He didn’t know whether to be outraged or amused.

            Finally, the last thing she’d said penetrated. Did the unbalanced woman really have a shotgun?

            "Dr. Gant, I certainly didn’t come here expecting anything like, uh. like that!" Jeff was at a loss as to how to reassure the woman. Nothing like this situation had ever arisen in his career. Dr. Gant must have an inflated opinion of her sex appeal. Or he was right the first time. She was completely demented. He’d bet on that explanation, he decided.

            Too tired to stand out in the cold discussing her old maid paranoia any longer, he squared his shoulders and took another step toward her. She took a step backward which somewhat reassured him. Unless she was going for her shotgun.

            Jeff continued advancing. To his considerable relief, she retreated.

            The light from the cabin slashed across his face as he continued up the steps. "I assure you I’m only here for one thing. Maybe I’m a little early, but I know a message was sent to you alerting you to my visit. Right?"

            She nodded in agreement but didn’t say a word. When she continued gaping silently at him, Jeff continued, "It’s awfully cold out here, Dr. Gant. In fact, I think I’ve lost the feeling in my feet." He grinned. "That’s more truth than a joke, by the way." He stamped his feet to emphasize his words.

            Her eyes glanced down at his feet. Her lips curled in derision, but she didn’t say anything.

            "I know what you’re thinking," Jeff said with a self-deprecating smile. "And you’re right. Only a city boy would wear street shoes to the frozen wilderness." He caught the glimmer of a smile before she suppressed it. "The shoes are my second mistake today. Anyway, doctor, I’ve traveled a very long way to see you. Do you think we could step inside and discuss this?"

            "I guess that would be okay," she said grudgingly.

            Jeff gave a sigh of relief and hurried forward. He had one foot on the porch when she added, "But don’t get any ideas about stripping."

            Jeff stumbled over his own feet. He grabbed the porch railing to save himself. “I promise you, Dr. Gant, taking my clothes off is the last thing on my mind.”

            Why hadn't someone told him the company's resident genius was a sex-obsessed nut case?


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