The heart of the story
Kiernan McAllister appears to have it all. One of America's most eligible bachelors, he owns a successful company and has graced many a magazine cover. So why has this devastatingly handsome man retreated to his luxurious hideaway in the mountains?
Enter journalist Stacy Walker! Still smarting from being fired by her ex, she needs a big story to keep her job. Yet after spending time with Kiernan and his adorable nephew, Stacy begins to worry less about getting to the heart of the story and more about healing the heart of this controlled, commanding man .
About the Author
Cara Colter shares ten acres in British Columbia with her real life hero Rob, ten horses, a dog and a cat. She has three grown children and a grandson. Cara is a recipient of the Career Acheivement Award in the Love and Laughter category from Romantic Times BOOKreviews. Cara invites you to visit her on Facebook!
Read an Excerpt
Stacy Murphy Walker's heart was beating way too fast. She wondered, gripping the steering wheel of her compact car tighter, how long a heart could beat this fast before it finally calmed itself out of pure exhaustion.
Or exploded, her mind, with its tendency to be overly imaginative, filled in helpfully.
But, still, she was entirely aware the slipping of her tires on the icy mountain roads was not solely responsible for the too-fast beating of her heart.
No, it was the sheer audacity of what she was doing.
Bearding the lion in his den.
A bronze name plaque, McAllisterin other words, the lionset in a high stone fence, tasteful and easy to miss, told her she had arrived. Now what? She turned into the driveway but stopped before tackling the steep upward incline.
What was she going to say? I need an inter- view with Kiernan McAllister to save my career as a business writer, so let me in?
She'd had two hours to think about this! No, more. It had been three days since a friend, Caroline, from her old job had called and told her, that amidst the rumors that his company was being sold, McAllister had slipped away to his Whistler retreat.
"This story is made for you, Stacy," her friend had whispered. "Landing it will set you up as the most desired business freelancer in all of Vancouver! And you deserve it. What happened to you here was very unfair. This is a story that needs your ability to get to the heart of things." There had been a pause, and then a sigh. "Imagine getting to the heart of that man."
Stacy had taken the address Caroline had provided while contemplating, not the heart of that man, because she was done with men after all, but the humiliating fact that what had happened to her was obviously the going topic in the coffee room.
But Caroline was right. To scoop the news of the sale of the company would be a career coup for a newly set loose freelancer. To lace that scoop with insight into the increasingly enigmatic McAllister would be icing on the cake.
But more, Stacy felt landing such an important article could be the beginning of her return, not just to professional respect, but to personal self-respect!
What had she thought? That she was just going to waltz up to millionaire Kiernan McAllister's Whistler cottage and knock at his door?
McAllister was the founder and CEO of the highly regarded and wildly successful Vancouver-based company McAllister Enterprises.
And what was her expectation? That he would open his door, personally? And why would hewho had once been the darling of the media and graced the cover of every magazine possiblegrant an audience to her?
McAllister had not given a single interview since the death of his best friend and brother-in-law almost exactly a year ago in a skiing accidentin a place accessible only by helicopterthat had made worldwide headlines.
Now, Stacy hoped she could convince him that she was the best person to entrust his story to.
And here was the problem with imagination.
She could imagine the interview going so well, that at the end of it, she would tell him about her charity, and ask him
She shook herself. "One thing at a time!"
It was a shot in the dark, after all. And speaking of dark, if she did not get her act together soon, she would be driving back down this road in the dark. The thought made her shudder. She had some vague awareness that ice got icier at night!
She inched forward. She was nearly there, and yet one obstacle remained. The driveway had not been plowed of snow, and the incline looked treacherous. It was in much worse shape than the public roads had been in, and those had been the worst roads Stacy had ever faced!
At the steepest part of the hill, just before it crested, her car hesitated. She was sure she heard it groan, or maybe that sound came from her own lips. For an alarming moment, with her car practically at a standstill, Stacy thought she was going to start sliding backward down the hill.
In a moment of pure panic, she pressed down, hard, on the gas pedal. The wheels spun, and in slow motion, her car twisted to one side. But then the tires found purchase, and as her car shot forward, she straightened the wheel. The car acted as if it had been launched from a canon and careened over that final crest of the hill.
"Oh, God," she exclaimed. "Too fast!"
She practically catapulted into the courtyard. The most beautiful house she had ever seen loomed in front of her, and she was a breath away from crashing into it!
She hammered on the brakes and yanked on her steering wheel.
She'd been on a ride at the midway once that felt just like this: the car spun like a top across the icy driveway. She bumped violently over a curb, flattened some shrubs and came to a stop so sudden her head bounced forward and smashed into the steering wheel.
Dazed, she looked up. She had come to rest against a concrete fountain. It tipped dangerously. The snow it was filled with fell with a quiet thump on the hood of her car.
She sat there in shock, the silence embracing her like that white cloud of snow on her hood that was obliterating her view. It was tempting to just sit and mull over her bad luck, but no, that was not in keeping with the "new" Stacy Walker.
"There's lots to be grateful for," she told herself sternly. "I'm warm, for one! And relatively unhurt."
Relatively, because her head ached where she had hit it.
Putting that aside, she shoved her car into Reverse, hoping no one had seen what had just transpired. She put her foot downgently, this timeon the gas, and pressed, but aside from the wheels making an awful whining noise, nothing happened. When she applied more gas, the whining sound increased to a shriek, but the car did not move.
With an edge of franticness, she tried one more time, but her car was stuck fast and refused to budge.
With a sigh of defeat, she turned the car off, rested her aching head against the steering wheel and gave in to the temptation to mull over her bad luck.
Those two events linked in a way that had become fodder for the office gossip mill. And possibly beyond. Maybe she was the laughingstock of the entire business community.
At least she still had her charity work. But the sad fact was, though the charity was so worthwhile, it limped along, desperately needing someone prominentexactly like Kiernan McAllisterto thrust it to the next level.
So engrossed was she in her mulling that she shrieked with alarm when her car door was yanked open, spilling cold air into it, stealing the one thing she had been grateful forwarmthinstantly. She reared back from the steering wheel.
"Are you all right?"
The voice was deep and masculine and might have been reassuring. Except for the man it was attached to.
No. No. NO.
This was not how she had intended to meet Kiernan McAllister!
"I seem to be stuck," Stacy said with all the dignity she could muster. After the initial glance, she grasped the steering wheel and looked straight ahead, as if she was planning on going somewhere.
She felt her attempt at dignity might have failed, because he said, his voice the calm, steady voice of someone who had found another standing at the precipice, "That's all right. Let's get you out of there, and see what the damage is."
"Mostly to your garden, I'm afraid."
"I'm not worried about my garden." Again, that calm, talking-her-down-from-the-ledge tone of voice.
"Here. Take my hand."
She needed to reclaim her dignity by insisting she was fine. But when she opened her mouth, not a single sound came out.
"Take my hand."
This time, it was a command more than a request. Weakly, it felt like something of a relief to have choice taken away from her!
As if in a dream, Stacy put her hand in his. She felt it close around hers, warm and strong, and found herself pulled, with seemingly effortless might out of the car and straight into a wall of man.
She should have felt the cold instantly. Instead, she felt like Charlie Chaplin doing a "slipping on a banana peel" routine. Her legs seemed to be shooting out in different directions.
She yanked free of his hands and threw herself against his chest, hugging tight.
And felt the warmth of it. And the shock. Bare skin? It was snowing out. How was it possible he was bare chested?
Who cares? a little voice whispered in accompaniment to the tingle moving up her spine. Given how humiliating her circumstances, she should not be so aware of the steely firmness of silky flesh and the sensation of being intimately close to pure power. She really should not be proclaiming the experience delicious.
"Whoa." He unglued her from him and put her slightly away, his hands settled on her shoulders. "Neither you nor your car appear properly shod for this weather."
He was right. Her feet were stylishly clad in a ballet slipper style shoe by a famous designer. She had bought the red slippersa la Dorothy in the Wizard of Ozwhen she had been more able to afford such whims.
The shoes had no grip on the sole. Stacy was no better prepared for snow than her car had been, and she was inordinately grateful for his steadying hands on her shoulders.
"What have you got on?" he asked, his tone incredulous.
The question really should have been what did he have onsince she was peripherally aware it was not muchbut she glanced down at herself, anyway.
The shoes added a light Bohemian touch to an otherwise ultraconservative, just-above-the-knee gray skirt that she had paired with dark tights and a white blouse. At the last moment she had donned a darker gray sweater, which she was glad for now, as the snow fell around her. Nothing about her outfitnot even the shoescommanded that incredulous tone.
Then, she dared glance fully at her rescuer and realized his question about what she had on was not in the context of her very stylish outfit at all. He was referring to her tires!
"Not even all seasons," he said, squinting past her at the front tire that rested on top of what had been, no doubt, a very expensive shrub. His tone was disapproving. "Summer tires. What were you thinking?"
It was terribly difficult to drag her attention away this unexpectedly delicious encounter with the Kiernan McAllister and focus on the question. She felt as if her voice was coming from under water when she answered.
"I've never put winter tires on my car," she confessed. "And if I were going to, it would not occur to me to do it in October. It is the season of falling leaves and pumpkins, not this."
"You could have asked for me to send a car," he said sternly.
Stacy contemplated that. She could have asked the Kiernan McAllister to send a car? In what universe? Obviouslyand sadlyhe was expecting someone else.
Or, was there the possibility Caroline had done more than give her an address? Did she have some kind of in with him? Had she set something up for Stacy?
That was her imagination again, because it was not likely he would be so intent on giving an interview he would send a car!
"Were you not prepared at all for mountain driving?"
"Not at all," she admitted. "I was born and raised in Vancouver. You know how often we get snow there."
At his grunt of what she interpreted as disapproval, she felt compelled to rush on. "Though I've always dreamed of a winter holiday. Skating on a frozen pond, learning to ski. That kind of thing. Now, I'm not so sure about that. Winter seems quite a bit more pleasant in movies and pictures and snow globes. Maybe I should just fast-forward to the hot chocolate in front of the fire."
Was she chattering? Oh, God, she was chattering nervously, and it wasn't just her teeth! Shut up, she ordered herself, but she had to add, "Humph. Reality and imagination collide, again."
Story of her life: imagining walking down the aisle, her gorgeous white dress flowing out behind her, toward a man who looked at her with such love and such longing
She did not want to be having those kinds of treacherous thoughts around this man.
"I always liked this reality," McAllister said, and he actually reached out his free hand and caught a snowflake with it. Then he yanked his hand back abruptly, and the line around his mouth tightened and Stacy saw something mercurial in his storm-gray eyes.
She realized he had recalled, after the words came out of his mouth, that it was this realityin the form of an avalanchethat had caused the death of his brother-in-law.
Sympathy clawed at her throat, as did a sense of knowing he was holding something inside that was eating him like acid.
It was a lot to understand from a glimpse of something in his eyes, from the way his mouth had changed, but this was exactly what Caroline had meant about Stacy's ability to get to the heart of a story.
For some reasonprobably from the loss of her family when she was a childshe had a superhoned sense of intuition that had left her with an ability to see people with extraordinary clarity and tell their stories deeply and profoundly.
Not that McAllister looked as if he would be willing to have his story told at all, his secrets revealed, his feelings probed.
Stacy had a sudden sense if she did get to the heart of this man, as Caroline had wistfully suggested, she would find it broken.
McAllister's face was closed now, as if he sensed he had let his guard down just for that instant and that it might have revealed too much to her.
"What did you do when you lost control?" he asked her.
Of her life? How on earth could he tell? Was he has intuitive as she herself was?
But, to her relief, his attention was focused, disapprovingly, on her tires. He was still keeping her upright on the slippery ground, his hand now firmly clamped on her elbow, but if he was feeling the same sensation of being singed that she was, it in no way showed in his face. He had the look of a man who was always composed and in control.
"What did I do? I closed my eyes, and held on for dear life, of course!"
"Imagining a good outcome?" he said drily.
She nodded sadly. The collision with reality was more than evident.
He sighed, with seeming long-suffering, though their acquaintance had been extremely brief!
"You might want to keep in mind, for next time, if you lose control on ice, to try and steer into the spin, rather than away from it."
"That doesn't seem right."
"I know, it goes against everyone's first instinct. But really, that's what you do. You go with it, instead of fighting it."
The sense of being singed increased when Stacy became suddenly and intensely aware that, despite the snow falling in large and chilly flakes all around them, despite the fact the driveway was pure ice, the question really should not have been what she had on for tiresor for clothes! That should not have been the question at all, given what he had on.
Which was next to nothing!
Maybe she had hit her head harder than she thought, and this whole thing was a dream. The scene was surreal after all.
How could it be possible McAllister was out here in his driveway, one hand gripping her firmly, glaring at her tires, when he was dressed in nothing more than a pair of shove-on sandals, a towel cinched around his waist?
The shock of it made her release the arm she clutched, and the wisps of her remaining sympathy were blown away as if before a strong wind. All that remained was awareness of him in a very different way.
She would have staggered backand probably slipped againbut when she had let go, he had continued to hold on.
His warmth and his strength were like electricity, but not the benign kind that powered the toaster.
No, the furious, unpredictable kind. The lightning-bolt-that-could-tear-open-the-sky kind. The kind that could split apart trees and turn the world to fire.
Stacy realized the hammering of her heart during the slippery trip into the mountains, and after she had bounced over the curb into the fountain, had been but a pale prelude to the speeds her heart could attain!
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
4 STARS I thought interview with a Tycoon a fun book. The setting for the wedding was different, but surprising I had read a book with another wedding at a different hot springs. I would love a fire place in any room but a bathroom would be a special treat. II love Kiernan's home. Kiernan McAllister has been having a hard year after the death of his best friend and brother-in-law. He built his own company up but he has not paid much attention to it. Stacy Walker is cheerful positive person who has gone through a lot of tough things. She is single, unemployed and wanting to make a difference with a charity she started. I like her a lot. Max is a cute baby who is driving his Uncle crazy. When Stacy crashes into Kiernan McAllister's fountain a mix up happens. Kiernan thinks she is the nanny his sister sent him to help take care of her son. Stacy decides to hide who she is till she can leave when the weather clears up. She likes Max. The setting is up in Whistler Canada away from anywhere to close. A early snow storm has fallen and they are snowed in. I like the fun Kiernan and Stacy have playing in the snow. Makes you want to go out and build a snowman. Then the truth is found out. This deals a lot with grieving and survivors guilt. It is a clean read too. I have only read a couple of Cara Colter's books but want to read more of her work in the future. I was given this ebook by Net Galley and Harlequin. I agreed to give honest review of it in return.