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She nodded, eyeing the throngs of people, searching for Kylie as she was in need of a break from her mother. "I'm going to mingle," she said before hurrying away. As much as she loved her family, they could be suffocating at times. Emily slipped out of the party and went upstairs to the private suite of offices her family used. Seeing her dad's office door open, she peered inside to make sure he wasn't there before closing the door behind her. Plopping on the leather sofa opposite the large oak desk he'd had custom- made years ago, she looked out the window. Her mother's decorators had strung white fairy lights throughout the pine trees that led to the top of Ruby's Ride, another one of the bunny hills. Closing her eyes, Emily could imagine the first snow, the soft flakes flittering from above into deep mounds throughout the trails. The first run of the season—the fresh smell of winter pine, her skis edging downhill, the icy air rejuvenating her, her cheeks red from the cold. At the first powder, she never missed getting up at dawn before the slopes were packed with the locals and tourists, and she felt she was queen of the mountain. That was what she lived for. Those few moments alone on the mountain with nature were priceless. Just thinking about it now made her wish for an early snowfall.

She stood up and walked over to the window, gazing outside. She saw a few people gathered around one of the many firepits in front of the lodge's main entrance. It was cool tonight, but not so much so that one needed to stand in front of a fire. She supposed it was all a part of the ski experience for the first-timers, though she also still enjoyed sitting in front of the fire after a long day on the slopes, unwilling to go inside, where the tasks of removing her ski boots and clothing signified the end of the day. Outside in the cold air, with friends and maybe a hot toddy, the day was still hers to do as she pleased.

These thoughts brought her back to the present. She loved being a ski instructor to the intermediates. Two of her students had actually made it to the Olympics, and though they never medaled, she was still extremely proud of them. For a while now she'd longed for something more. A bigger challenge, a change of scene. She wanted to tell all this to her father but couldn't tonight, on his and her mother's big night. Emily would give it a week or so, however long it took for the managers to take over, and then she would tell her parents and grandparents she needed to move on. They were good folks; she knew they would support her as they always did. With them retiring and their plans to travel the world, this would be the perfect time for her to make a change in her life as well. At least she hoped so. Unsure if Mimi and Papaw were going to stay on full time, as their home was built close to the resort, she suspected they'd also travel a bit. But knowing them and how much they loved Snowdrift Summit, they would most likely stay. Either way, she was ready for a change of scenery.

With one last glance out the window, she left her dad's office with thoughts of her future and a tiny trickle of excitement fluttering throughout her. Life was good and about to get even better.


CHAPTER THREE

The sound of laughter, glasses clinking against one another and the voices of all the guests and servers filled the giant room. Emily glanced around before rejoining the party. For a moment she felt sad that this would be her parents' last official duty at the resort, and possibly her grandparents' as well. A part of her already felt the loss of familiarity, what she'd known her entire life, though in her heart she knew it was time for a change. Hadn't she just decided she needed a new challenge?

Cold reality smacked her in the face. Maybe her ordinary, day-to-day life wasn't really all that bad. No, it wasn't bad; it was just the sameness of it all. Yes, she needed and wanted a change; but in all honesty, she would miss this place and the daily contact with her family.

She took a quick glance in the mirror located at the foot of the grand staircase. At five foot ten and with the four-inch heels she wore, she stood over six foot. Tall like her father, yet slim like her mother, Emily had inherited the best of both her parents—or so she was told. With her long, blond hair, her father's hazel eyes, high cheekbones and a full mouth, she knew some thought her a beauty, but she never focused too much on her appearance. Though in
honor of tonight, she'd gone to great lengths to make sure she looked her best. She wore her hair piled high in a perfect bun, courtesy of Kylie, whose skill with hair was as good as her skill at skiing. Her silk dress, a deep, emerald-green sheath, clung to her in all the places it should. She wore a gold necklace with a pear-shaped emerald with a round diamond at the top of the emerald, a gift from her parents for her twenty-first birthday, which she only wore on special occasions.

"There you are," said Kylie. "Your parents are about to make the announcement, but they're waiting for you." Her best friend looked at her. "Is everything okay?"

Emily nodded. "Of course. I was just upstairs, a bit of 'me time' before the party gets too wild. You know my parents," she said. "This shindig could last all night." She took Kylie's hand. "Come on, you're in this, too."

Kylie laughed. "Hey, I just work here."

Emily let go of her hand, rolling her eyes. "Sure you do."

"Wait," Kylie said before approaching the group of folks who'd gathered around Emily's mom and dad. "Do you have something up your sleeve? You're not yourself." Friends for most of their life, Emily knew Kylie would be the one who'd sense she truly wasn't in the mood for tonight's big announcement. Even though she knew she and her family needed a change, there was something else she was unable to put a finger on. "Kylie, have my parents told you anything about, well, anything?"

Kylie's brown eyes doubled in size. "You mean another Harold incident?" She grinned. "Exactly how much champagne have you had? Girl, you're sounding strange already!"


This excerpt ends on page 17 of the hardcover edition.

Monday we begin the book How the Wallflower Was Won by Eva Leigh.
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