"Is everything all right, honey?"
Morgan Sinclair stirred from her dark thoughts as Tom turned off the highway onto a snowy narrow road. She suddenly felt anxious as she looked at the glistening, cold white mountains ahead.
"I didn't realize this resort was so remote," she said, voicing her sudden misgivings. "When you said it was less than fifty miles from home, I didn't realize how much of that was on a narrow gravel road way back into the mountains."
Tom slowed the SUV, looking disappointed. "If you've changed your mind about my plans for our honeymoon
"No, it's not that." It was that stupid text message. A hard knot formed in Morgan's stomach at the thought. How she wished she'd never seen it on Tom's phone. Worse, ever since then she'd been questioning whether she'd jumped into this marriage too quickly. Did she really know the man she'd married?
Her friends had certainly been shocked when she'd announced she and Tom were getting married after dating for only a couple months.
"It does seem a little
fast," her friend Luke had said with the quirk of an eyebrow. "What's the hurry?" Leave it to Luke, her best friend, to come out and ask.
"No hurry." She knew what everyone was avoiding saying. Isn't it too soon after your mother's death? But her mother had been fighting cancer for over two years.
Also, her friends didn't know Tom the way she did. Once they got to know him, they'd realize what a great guy he was, and it would put all their fears to rest.
It wasn't as if she'd gone into this blindly. Because of the large inheritance her mother had left her, she'd asked Tom to sign a prenuptial agreement, and he'd readily agreed.
She reached over and touched his hand, wishing she could put her own fears to rest. His skin felt warm and she reminded herself how he'd swept her off her feet. He was the most romantic man she'd ever met, and he loved her. He didn't care about the moneyhe didn't even know how much she'd inherited.
If he had, he would have known that they could afford to go to Hawaii or Fiji or anywhere they wanted for their honeymoon. Instead he'd insisted on something more affordable closer to home, and just for a weekend. Tom had said he couldn't get any more time away from work, but she suspected he couldn't afford more right now. He'd only recently moved here and started his new job.
"Ice Lake is said to be Montana's best-kept secret," Tom had said when he'd proposed the idea. "Imagine a warm fire, a nice bottle of that wine you like, a cozy cabin in the woods, all nestled in the Rocky Mountains. Doesn't that sound perfect?"
It did. Just like Tom, she had thought at the time.
"Honey, I'm going to make this honeymoon something you will never forget," he'd said. "You do trust me, don't you, Morgan? Now that you're my wife, all I want to do is take care of you."
"Morgan? What's bothering you?" Tom asked now, bringing her back to the present, his voice edged with irritation, and something else that only increased her anxiety. When he was nervous or upset, he spoke with a slight Southern accent.
The first time she'd heard it, she'd kidded him about it. Tom had acted almost insulted, saying he couldn't imagine why she would say such a thing. He'd never lived in the South. She hadn't brought the subject up again.
"It's not that text message again, is it?" he asked now, then let out an annoyed sigh. "It was just a wrong number. It obviously wasn't for me."
"No, it isn't that," she said. It wasn't entirely that. "It's those clouds over the mountains ahead. Winter storms always make me nervous."
That seemed to appease him. He smiled over at her and squeezed her hand, before letting go to concentrate on his driving. "You have nothing to worry about. I'm going to take good care of you."
He'd taken care of her after her mother had died. Morgan had desperately needed someone during that time, and he'd been there for her. But since then she felt as if he was hovering over her. She hated that she felt that way. He was so sweet and caring. What was wrong with her?
She stared at the clouds hunkered over the tops of the mountains. They felt as ominous as the odd sense of foreboding she'd awakened with this morning.
The weather didn't help. Dark shadows filled the snowy canyon as Tom drove into it. Tall snow-covered pines towered over the narrow road. Only a slit of silver-gray sky showed high above the trees.
Why hadn't she just told him about her inheritance and tried to talk him into a real honeymoon someplace warm? But even as she thought it, she knew Tom would still have insisted on something he could afford. That was the kind of man he was.
So why was she having doubts about him? Because of some stupid text message that was, just as he'd said, an obvious wrong number?
"We need this, honey," he said, his voice thick with emotion as he took his attention off the road for a second to look over at her with a smile. "And we can afford this weekend away. I promise we'll have a real honeymoon one day, when I can afford to take us."
She heard the pride in his voice and quickly said, with more enthusiasm than she felt, "Ice Lake Resort is a wonderful idea. I'm just nervous about the weather."
She tried to relax, but couldn't stop thinking about the text message she'd seen on his phone.
Eric, I know you're screening my calls but we have to talk about this. Unless you want me to tell your wife everything, call me. A
"It's obviously not for me," Tom had said when she'd held up his phone and said, "What's this?"
But she'd caught something in his expression, just for an instant, something that set her heart pounding and filled her with the sick feeling that her friends had been right. She really didn't know this man she'd married.
"What do you know about Tom for certain?" her friend Luke had demanded, and she'd instantly regretted going to him after seeing the text. Luke was an investigative reporter and her best friend at the local newspaper where they both worked. The head photographer, she loved her job, loved the excitement of working in the media.
"I know I love him," she'd said, sounding defensive.
"If the guy is on the up-and-up, what would it hurt if I did a little checking into his past?" Luke had said when she'd tried to backpedal and put an end to him investigating her husband. She'd argued that she trusted Tom.
"Then there's nothing to worry about," Luke had said. "I know you, Morgan. Let me relieve your mind, okay? I'll just check him out and then you can relax and enjoy your honeymoon. So tell me everything you know about Tom Cooper."
Reluctantly, she'd given him the information, knowing he would be discreet, and wanting very badly to be reassured. It had scared her though, when she'd realized how little she did know about Tom.
They'd met just before Christmas. She'd been shopping, had dropped one of her packages, and Tom had picked it up for her. They'd talked for a few minutes, he'd made her laugh and they'd ended up having coffee at a little bistro.
What had followed was a whirlwind courtship and a small, intimate wedding in a church. Tom liked to say it had been love at first sight.
"Isn't this beautiful?" he said now, dragging her back to the present. She looked out the window at the pines heavily mantled with snow and the creek beside the road crusted in cold blue ice.
"Oh, stop," she cried, as a breathtaking section of the creek came into view.
"Honey, there really isn't a place to pull over. This road is pretty much single lane."
But she had already grabbed her camera bag and was opening her door.
With a mixture of impatience and awe, Tom watched his beautiful wife doing what she loved most. When
Morgan had a camera in her hands, she was like a different person. There was a strength in her when she held one, a confidence that he hadn't seen when he'd first met her. She knew she was good at what she did, and she didn't need anyone to tell her.
"You have such an intensity about you when you're shooting photos," he'd told her after the first time he'd seen her like this. "You change before my eyes. Your work completes you, Morgan."
She'd been touched. He'd felt guilty, but would never have admitted to her that he was often jealous of the relationship she had with her art. When she was shooting photos, nothing else mattered to her. He had known even then he would always play second fiddle to her work.
Now, though, he was hit with a rush of pride to think this woman was his wife. He'd seen the way other men looked at her. Just as he had the first time he'd seen her. It really had been love at first sight. He often marveled at how lucky he was that she'd dropped that package the day before Christmas and he'd stopped to pick it up. He'd thought he couldn't get any luckier. But he'd been wrong about that.
He glanced in his rearview mirror, wishing she'd hurry up, though. "Morgan, it's freezing." She'd left the door open and he was impatient to get to the cabin and be completely alone with her. Since they'd gotten married, it seemed something was always coming up with her work, or her mother's estate, something or someone always calling her away. That's why he'd chosen Ice Lake. Here he could have her completely to himself.
She turned to smile at him, then took a couple more shots. He looked at the scene and knew he wasn't seeing what she was through her camera lens. He watched her study the way the winter light played on the snow, the angle of the dark shadows beneath the pines, the way the wind had sculpted the drifts. He often wondered what she saw when she looked at him. Her cell phone rang.
He stifled a curse and guarded his words. "I thought we agreed to leave the phones at home?" he said, still unable to keep irritation out of his voice.
When they'd left her apartment, which had become their home for the time being, he'd asked her not to bring her phone.
"Cell phone coverage at the resort is sketchy at best," he'd said. "Anyway, I want this to be just the two of us, curled up in front of the fireplace, snow falling outside, a thermos of hot buttered rum, with no interruptions." No damn calls from the newspaper. Or her friendsworse, her best friend from work, Luke.
Morgan had agreed, but at the last moment must have tucked the phone into her camera bag.
"It's my grandmother's fault," she called over her shoulder as she snapped another photo of the creek. "She told me she never went on a date without having a dime to call home. I've always taken her advice to heart." Morgan sent him a grin over her shoulder.
It was hard to be irritated with her. The woman was so adorable. "This isn't a date. It's our honeymoon!"
"I know." Her phone rang again.
"Don't answer it," Tom said as Morgan pulled out the device. He watched her check to see who was calling and felt his stomach roil as he saw her expression. It was that damned Luke; he'd bet money on it.
Luke was one of the reasons Tom had asked her to leave her cell phone at home. There always seemed to be something going on at the newspaper that the handsome investigative reporter just had to talk to her about.
Tom started to demand that she give him the phone so this didn't happen again, but stopped himself. He had no reason to worry about Luke anymore. Morgan had married him. It didn't matter how Luke felt about her.
Tom needed to keep his cool. He couldn't let anything ruin this weekend. It had to be perfect. With any luck, her cell phone wouldn't work once they got where he was taking her.