One Winter's Night Online - Brenda Jackson

One

A blistering cold day in early November

It had snowed overnight and a thick white blanket seemed to cover the land as far as the eye could see. The Denver weather report said the temperature would drop to ten below by midday and would stay that way through most of the night. It was the kind of cold you could feel deep in your bones, the kind where your breath practically froze upon exhale.

He loved it.

Riley Westmoreland opened the door to his truck and, before getting inside, paused to take in the land he owned. Riley’s Station was the name he’d given his one-hundred-acre spread seven years ago, on his twenty-fifth birthday. He had designed the ranch house himself and had helped in the building of it, proudly hammering the first nail into the lumber. He was mighty pleased with the massive two-story structure that sat smack in the center of his snow-covered land.

He was probably the only one in his family who welcomed the snowstorms each year. He thought the snow was what made Denver the perfect place to be in the winter and why his home had fireplaces in all five of the bedrooms, as well as in the living room and family room. There was nothing like curling up before a roaring fire or looking out the window to see the snowflakes fall from the sky, something he’d been fascinated with even as a child. He could recall being out in the thick snow with his brothers and cousins building snowmen. These days he enjoyed moving around the mountains on his snowmobile or going skiing in Aspen.

Riley got into the truck and after settling his body on the leather seat he snapped the seat belt in place. There really was no need for him to go into the office since he could work from home. But he had wanted to get out, breathe in the cold, fresh air and feel the chill in his bones. Besides, he did have an important appointment at noon.

Since his oldest brother, Dillon, had slowed down now that his wife, Pam, was close to her delivery date, a lot of the projects on Dillon’s plate at their family-owned business, Blue Ridge Land Management, fell on Riley’s shoulders since he was the next man in charge of the Fortune 500 company. The next thing on the agenda was the planning of the employees’ holiday party next month.

The event planner that had handled their social functions for the past ten years had retired and before Riley had taken over the project, Dillon had hired Imagine, a local event planning company that opened in town less than a year ago. The owner of Imagine, a woman by the name of Alpha Blake, had put together a charity event that Dillon’s wife, Pam, had attended over the summer. Pam had been so impressed with all the detailed work Imagine had done that she passed the woman’s name to Dillon. As far as Riley was concerned, you couldn’t come any more highly recommended than that. Dillon trusted his wife’s judgment in all things.

Riley was about to start the ignition when his cell phone buzzed. He pulled the phone off his side belt. “Yes?”

“Mr. Westmoreland?”

He lifted a brow, not recognizing the ultrarich, feminine voice but definitely liking how it sounded. He figured this had to be a business call since none of the women he dated would refer to him as “Mr. Westmoreland.”

“Yes, this is Riley Westmoreland. How can I help you?”

“This is Alpha Blake. We have a noon appointment at your office, but I have a flat tire and had to pull off to the side of the road. Unfortunately, I’m going to be late.”

He nodded. “Have you called for road service?”

“Yes, and they said they should be here in less than thirty minutes.”

Don’t count on it, he thought, knowing how slow road service could be this time of the year. “Where’s your location, Ms. Blake?”

“I’m on Winterberry Road, about a mile from the Edgewater intersection. There’s a market not far away, but it didn’t appear to be open when I drove past earlier.”

“And chances are it won’t be open today. Fred Martin owns that market and never opens the day after a bad snowstorm,” he said.

He knew her exact location now. “Look, you’re not far from where I am. I’ll call my personal road service company to change your tire. In the meantime, I’ll pick you up and we can do a lunch meeting at McKay’s instead of