Read an Excerpt
Chalet Girls, Book Two
By Emily Franklin
OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIACopyright © 2007 Emily Franklin
All rights reserved.
"What are you going to do?" Melissa asks Dove as they walk toward the meet-and-greet party in the main house. Melissa keeps her voice low but can't hide the intense curiosity. She waits for Dove's response and surveys the scene around her.
The resort of Les Trois Alpes shimmers with the glow of the holidays that will unfold this week. Private jets land on the strip, each one filled with people expecting the very best from their mountain retreats. The famous and their hangers-on arrive by helicopter and chauffeured car, while the staff at Les Trois Alpes tries to anticipate the guests' every wish, stocking the suites with Egyptian high-thread-count sheets, fresh flowers, luxury chocolates, and vintage wines.
While their own dramas are about to unfold, Dove and Melissa know that the holiday week ahead is crucial in terms of tips and connections, the pressure turned on full blast for the Chalet Girls and their seemingly endless work. Holiday festivity is the theme all around them: Christmas lights twinkle from the large pine trees, illuminating the cold night air. Wreaths adorn the doors of each chalet they pass, and gentle music streams from the Main House. It would be magical, Melissa thinks, if only I had someone to share it with. If that someone hadn't bolted at the first sign of conflict.
"I don't know." Dove's voice is filled with doubt. "What am I supposed to do about this whole mess? It's crazy—I feel like my world could change in a matter of minutes." She thinks about her longtime boyfriend, William, far from the Alps all the way in the West Indies on the small island of Nevis. "Will's so great. Such a charmer. I really miss him. He's light and sunny and ..." She stops herself from gushing. Why do I feel as though I have to sell everyone on how amazing Will is? First I tried with my parents and they didn't get it. And with friends, I have to relay all the info about him. I guess that's the way it is with long-distance things. You don't have the luxury of showing off love in person. Or enjoying it yourself on a daily basis.
"But then there's Max," Melissa reminds Dove, staring at her friend's cool reserve. At home in Melbourne, Australia, Melissa would never have been friends with someone like Dove—someone so poised and posh. Even though Dove spent all of last week scrubbing toilets and mopping mud-caked floors, she still managed to be alluring. Meanwhile I managed to burn toast, fry meat when it should have been braised, and generally need guidance in all things cooking related. But at least I learned a few kitchen tricks.... Not to mention one or two non-food-related ... Melissa wonders if this week will be as demanding as the last. On the one hand, she isn't quite as green and knows how to stock the pantry. But on the other hand, Holiday Week comes with rumors of major expectations and big requirements—like the woman last year who wanted a champagne bath poured for her each night, and the guy who insisted on never eating the same food twice.
"Never mind the boys—how are we even going to deal with the rest of life here?" Melissa sticks out her tongue.
"Boys are the rest of life," Dove jokes, her smile bright in the dark. "We can always figure out how to shine on the job or at least fake it.... But you can't fake love."
"So, then, who's it gonna be? Surfer William or Moody Max?"
Dove swallows, her stomach churning at hearing both names aloud in the same sentence. "Right. Max." Max who first stole her heart back at school in London. Max who still made her stomach flip, with his intense stare and amazing mouth, the way they could talk about everything from literature to Luscious Lava, his band. "If I don't give him an answer by the end of the night, he's leaving."
Who's it gonna be? I should have asked myself that question. Melissa bites her top lip as she and Dove approach the Main House. Dove has a difficult decision to make—but Melissa feels like she herself has no decision left at all. Through the window she can see them: both of them. Both guys, Gabe Schroeder and James Marks-Benton—aka JMB. After a big mix-up with them last week, neither one is speaking to her now. "I feel so stupid," Melissa says. "How come there are a million cookbooks to teach even the worst chef, and not one good volume on love?" That's what I need, Melissa confirms in her mind, an instructional guide for love and lust. One that could rewind time so I wouldn't be left with the mess from Turnaround Day.
"I thought you were through with the ski-bum boys," Dove says. Earlier in the day, Melissa had washed her hands clean of crushes, love, sex, and anything remotely related to Gabe and James. Even though, as Olympic hopefuls, they hardly qualify as ski bums. "You said—and I quote—'I am swearing off all creatures male until I learn how to deal with them.'"
"Maybe I need to learn to deal with myself." After all, I'm the one who liked two guys and got neither of them as a result. If only it were simple and the answer were as clear as James or Gabe, simple five-and four-letter names. Tugging on her dark curls, Melissa smooths out her black pants and looks at her outfit, hoping she's not underdressed for the pre-holiday week welcome. She sighs, half-full of nerves and half-filled with jitters. "I can't believe we're about to start this infamous week."
"Holiday Week." Dove shakes her head. "Capital H. Capital W. I remember coming here as a guest, back when ..." She pauses. She doesn't add back when I had money, but that's what she thinks. Back when I charged whatever I liked in the overpriced boutiques; back when my parents owned me; back when I hadn't left school, thrown away the opportunity to go to Oxford University, and gone out on my own. She shakes off those memories and says to Melissa, "It was madness.... I'd do whatever I liked. Never thought twice about stealing bottles of champagne, sneaking onto the ski lifts at night...." Dove gets a far-off look and then returns to the present. Those days of her trust fund and well-to-do parents harping over her every move are long gone. After her parents cut her off, Dove's job at Les Trois is mandatory. "Now I'm the one who'll have to clean up from the party."
Melissa looks back at the party and licks her lips, feeling the sting of cold air on her mouth. "What do you think Harley's doing right this second?" Melissa pictures their former fellow Chalet Girl, who left suddenly for the tropical island of Nevis, supposedly acting as a host there.
Dove narrows her eyes. "Probably on a plane, if I had to guess."
Melissa checks her watch. "She could be there already. Just think—she'll be in a bikini with a tropical drink in her hand while we're in wool sweaters, pining for guys we can't have." Make that guys I can't have, Melissa thinks. How would I describe Gabe if I had to? Golden Boy on skis. And James? Coffee-colored hair, broad shoulders, and a laugh so contagious nothing could stop it. With my luck, neither of them will talk to me for the rest of my time here. And why? All because guys are stupid and competitive. Or maybe because I liked them both, never did anything about it, and now neither of them like me.
Dove shivers, both from the cold and from knowing that Harley—beautiful, slightly dangerous Harley—will be on the same island with William. She doesn't want to give into paranoia, but it's hard not to let her mind wander. "What if they meet? I mean, how bizarre would that be?" Dove tries to fight an image of Harley in a string bikini, sidling up to William in one of the indoor-outdoor bars in the tropics. "You don't think she'd ..."
Melissa grabs Dove's shoulder. "No. Harley's wild, but she's not mean. She'd never cross that line." Melissa delivers this opinion to Dove without any doubts, but once she's said it, she wonders. Harley left slightly pissed off about not getting any of the big tip money she and Dove got and annoyed that Dove had a choice of two guys, but mainly slammed by the fact that James—Harley's main reason for coming to Les Trois Alpes—hadn't been swept off his feet by her. Instead of going for Harley's long-legged outdoorsy glamour, James had been drawn to Melissa's easygoing nature, her sweet smile, her self-deprecating wit. "If anything, Harley's got a bone to pick with me, not you. Then again, she did win big by scoring a free trip to Nevis and a cushy lifestyle there."
Dove rifles her fingers through her new pixie cut, still shocked by how light her head feels after chopping off the foot of silvery blond she'd had forever. Her old best friend, Claire, from school in London, had the opposite hair—darkest black and shiny. Together, they'd looked like fairy-tale girls. Dove looks at Melissa, glad to have a friend like her rather than one like Claire, who lied to try and get Max, abruptly ending any friendship back home.
"If I don't say it enough—or at all—thanks for being here," Dove says. Melissa gives her a grin. "We should go in. It's time." She points to the Main House, where staff and guests mingle, where decisions have to be made. "Oh, man." She tries to suck in a full breath. "Do I tell Max to stay?" She bites her lip. "Asking him to be here is like breaking up with William." She looks torn.
"Look," Melissa says, balling her hands into fists as she spies Gabe and James with a cluster of ski-bunny girls around them. "Let's just take a deep breath and dive in—we sure as hell can't do anything from out here."CHAPTER 2
"So, now what?" Melissa turns to Dove once they're inside the Main House. Carols and holiday music fill the air, mixing with international chatter and clinking glasses. Boughs of spruce line the enormous fireplace mantel, giving a deep scent to the air that mixes with other seasonal smells from the food.
From a buffet table Melissa takes a cup of mulled wine and sips at it so she looks busy. I won't stare at Gabe and James, she thinks, determined not to give in to her crushes, the mix-up of emotions. I won't let myself be one of those people who can't let things go. Just because I had something with gorgeous Gabe and still have feelings for James, I can't let them know. What was it Harley used to say? If you let guys know too much, it gives them all the power. Melissa sneaks one look, hoping James will be checking her out, but he's not. Instead, he and Gabe are still in a swarm of other Chalet Girls. Melissa looks away.
Dove searches the room, scarcely noticing the over-the-top holiday décor, due to distraction on the romance front. "Where is he? I mean, if I have all of five minutes to give Max my decision, he better show up." She scans the table for something to eat. After choosing a frosted tree-shaped cookie and eating it, she says, "Mel, when you're cooking this week, make something like these. But not in the shape of trees."
"Exactly." Dove can feel her heart slamming faster as she checks the crowded room for Max. He'd stand out in the crowd—so tall, he's always able to find me anywhere. He was the one who'd walked across the grand ballroom at his parent's estate to dance with me, the one who found me at Les Trois. And yet she'd given up so much for William—gone against her parents' wishes, lost her trust fund, seriously swerved her future away from Oxford University to stay here with him. And yet he's not here. Dove shakes her head. Which way to go? What else will I have to give up?
"Have you made your decision, then?" Melissa asks.
Dove does a deliberately slow nod, considering each time her chin goes down. "My grandmother always used to say—in her very upper-crust Queen's English—that you've met the right person when they cross a room for you."
Melissa makes a dubious face. "That doesn't seem so big."
"No, listen. Imagine being in a fairy tale or something. One of those massive ballrooms. And in the sea of people, making eye contact with someone far on the other side." Dove does this now, finally locking her gaze to the corner of the room near the tall Christmas tree, and seeing him. Max, in his rumpled white button-down, his hair over his forehead. "If the person is the best match, my grandma meant, he'll go through anything to get to you." Max meets Dove's stare. Dove squeezes Melissa's hand. "So, yeah, I've made my decision." I'll have to cancel my trip to Nevis to see William, and basically break up with him, and all for a possible something with Max.... But it could be worth it, right? Dove tries to calm her pounding chest by eating a sugar-crusted cookie.
Melissa thinks about Dove's change of heart, wondering if James would cross a room, climb a mountain, or even deign to speak to her. Maybe I have no match. Laughter erupts from where Gabe and James are entertaining the bevy of girls. I won't get jealous, Melissa thinks but feels her gut twisting, anyway. I don't care if they get together with someone else. It's not like I ever got to be a couple. Then she reaches for a cookie, knowing that being a couple is exactly what she wants, what she wanted all along since she saw James (then known as JMB) on her first day. How his smile totally set her at ease, how the rest of him made her swirl with excitement. She stares at a green pillar candle and bites the inside of her lip, thinking, Though, if you want to get technical, it's Gabe I liked first—a lifetime ago, way back in my faint memories of last season. "Are you going or what?"
"Okay—as soon as I catch my breath," Dove says while she chews the last of her cookie. "I'm going to tell him." She looks again through the crowd for Max, expecting to find his eyes on hers, but this time, he's not there.
Melissa scans the table for something else to eat, wondering what foods she'll make this week. A wave of relief floods through her when she remembers she's not so new at her job. Not that she's an expert, but that at least she knows how to work the ancient stove in the chalet. She watches Dove swig some wine, feeling bad that her friend is still stuck cleaning toilets and making the guest beds. "Did I ever tell you how well you handled the crappy cleaning job?"
Dove shrugs. "No. But I'll accept the compliment now. Okay. I'm ready." I'm going to tell him. Make my choice, and stick with it. Max. Here. With me. A smile plays on Dove's mouth as she flashes forward to spilling her feelings to Max and having him sweep her up—literally and figuratively—in his arms. Dove licks her finger free of green frosting, savoring the sweetness, and then—all of a sudden—having any trace of sugar instantly sucked out of her. "Oh no." She clutches Melissa's forearm harder than she ever has.
Concerned, Melissa's eyes grow wide. "What? Dove, what's wrong?"
All Dove can do is stand there, her hands shaking. "There." She points subtly with her elbow so Melissa will look.
Standing with her hands on her hips, in front of the tree, is a girl so poised and beautiful, so shockingly stunning, Melissa blurts out, "God—she looks like an angel."
Dove makes a noise like she's just been slapped. "No. Not angelic. In fact, far from it." She lets a small gasp escape her mouth. "I can't believe this."
"You know her?" Melissa checks out the dark-haired beauty again, this time noticing that many eyes in the room are doing the same thing. She swallows hard when she sees that Gabe is clearly entranced. "Okay—who the hell is she?"
Dove crosses her arms over her chest. "That piece of work is Claire. Or, for those requiring a bit more information, Lady Claire L'arance Beale Strong. LCBS."
"BS ..." Melissa grins.
"Exactly. She was my friend. My best friend. And I never thought she was mean—or that she'd ..." Dove stops, suddenly aware that not only is it odd that Claire is at Les Trois, but that she's here, in the room. She stands on tiptoe, trying to find Max, searching for his dark hair above the clusters of people.
"And now she's not, I'm guessing?"
Dove ducks so that Claire won't see her. "Claire lied to get Max away from me—she ruined everything. I wouldn't even be in this mess if it weren't for ..." Dove abruptly ends her sentence. "I have to go. I have to find Max before more trouble starts."
Melissa tries to calm her down. "Maybe Claire's come to say she's sorry?"
Dove's pixie face looks hard and sure. "Not a chance. She told me herself—what Claire wants, she gets." The fun kind of heart pounding Dove had switches to panic, and she bites the inside of her cheek, ducking behind people to get to Max so she can tell him about her decision. So she can get to him before Claire does.
After an unsuccessful attempt at infiltrating the group of girls waiting to talk to Gabe and James, Melissa decides she's had enough of the meet-and-greet cocktails and heads for the door. Besides, she thinks, I have a long day ahead of me tomorrow. Shopping, cooking, preparing the menu for the week. Maybe I should try to make duck. Dove said it's not as complicated as it seems and it would be a ...
"Ah, just the person I was looking for."
Excerpted from Slippery Slopes by Emily Franklin. Copyright © 2007 Emily Franklin. Excerpted by permission of OPEN ROAD INTEGRATED MEDIA.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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