Monica Lakefield has finally met her match and Alex Bennett has met the love of his life.
“Drama and deeply hidden secrets make this novel a must-read.”
— 4 Stars, B. Nakia Garner, Romantic Times Book Reviews
He’s planning to keep her warm all season long!
After “the love of her life” broke her heart, Monica Lakefield vowed never to trust a sexy, sweet-talking man again. Dubbed the Ice Queen, she hides her hurt beneath her cool, corporate facade. Until the workaholic Lakefield heiress arrives at an exclusive Aspen resort…and discovers hunky Alexander Bennett in her room!
As CFO of his own company, Alexander works hard and plays harder. After being tricked into a vacation by his matchmaking relatives, he finds himself snowbound with the reserved yet sinfully sexy Monica. In front of a roaring fire, with the snow falling outside, he’ll show the all-business businesswoman what real passion can be. He’ll take nothing less than her kisses. Her heart. And all the love she has to give…
Read an Excerpt
“Crap!” Monica blurted then looked around to make sure no one heard her. Kneeling quickly, she tried to rescue her BlackBerry that had fallen into a sloppy, wet slope of snow right near the steps.
Droplets of water spotted her white leather gloves as she reached into the snow and scooped up the phone. Her teeth clenched and she so badly wanted to curse again as she tried to shake the water from the phone. The screen was black. She pushed the menu button. Nothing. She pressed the on button. Nothing.
She took the wooden steps without even looking up and continued to study her phone, praying it would turn on. It didn’t and then she was at the door so she slipped it into her pocket and walked inside. Her cheeks tingled as the frigidly cold air of Aspen, Colorado, which had just about frozen them, gave way to the welcome warmth of two huge fireplaces.
It was two days after Christmas, a Monday afternoon she should have been spending in her office going over the sales slips from last week’s showing. Instead, she was walking up to the large marble-and-cherry-wood counter with the gold sign reading Concierge. She wasn’t at the gallery in Manhattan—instead, she was here at this ski resort to meet with two of Lakefield Galleries’ biggest sponsors in the hopes of keeping their support for the Black History showing coming in a few short weeks.
The thought of Karena dropping the ball with the Mendlesons had Monica clenching her teeth again. At this rate she would be paying her orthodontist half her yearly salary. But lately her sisters and their carefree attitude and lifestyle were really starting to get on her nerves. Both her younger sisters were now what they called “happily married.” She’d more aptly call it “blissfully stupid.” Why they thought settling down with a man completed their lives in some way she had no clue. And she much preferred her own stance of “no marriage, no hassles.”
“Reservation for Monica Lakefield,” she said to the clerk whose name tag read Jack.
Jack happily tapped keys on the keyboard then looked up at her and smiled. “Ms. Lakefield, yes. You’re in the western cabin, which is out this door and to your right, last cabin on the left. I’ll have your bags brought down.”
“Thank you. Let me get my credit card,” she said, reaching into her purse to get her wallet.
Jack shook his head. “That won’t be necessary. The bill has already been taken care of.”
“Fine. Thank you,” she said and dropped her wallet back into her bag.
Karena must have used the company card to make her reservation. That made sense, but she really didn’t expect her sister to be using the brain she was blessed with. Especially because when Monica last talked to her at the airport, Karena was still at home with her husband. Neither of her sisters thought working on the weekend or the days after a holiday was a good idea. To the contrary, Monica lived by seven-day workweeks.
As she trudged through the ice-slicked walkway, she thought maybe she should have put on sturdier boots. As it was, her four-inch leather knee-high boots were either going to get her killed or be ruined by the elements; either way, she wasn’t really in the mood to deal with it.
Actually, if she were perfectly honest with herself, Monica wasn’t in the mood for anything. Christmas had been the same as every year—a huge dinner at her parents’ with a tableful of food and conversation she barely paid attention to. This year it had been highlighted by the two new additions to the family, one of which was Maxwell Donovan, who was almost ten years older than her youngest sister, Deena, but had married her anyway. Despite that slightly annoying fact, Max was related to the Donovans of Las Vegas, a family whose reputation for wealth, prestige and philanthropy preceded them.
The other addition was Samuel Desdune, private-investigator extraordinaire, who probably saved the gallery from a blistering scandal surrounding stolen artwork. Sam married Karena, moved her out of Manhattan to his country home in Connecticut and sliced her workweek almost in half. That pissed Monica off royally.
There was no way, not now or anytime in her future, that she would allow a man to dictate when and where she lived or worked. That was a simple fact. Monica took care of Monica; she didn’t need anyone else.
Sam’s family wasn’t hurting for money, either. They’d made their fortune in restaurants. The Creole family seemed interesting enough. Sam’s twin sister, Sabrina, was an ex-marine and now worked alongside Sam as a private investigator. Her husband was Lorenzo Bennett, a very talented sculptor—Monica was working on getting a few select pieces from him to show at the gallery.
All in all her sisters’ choices of men weren’t too bad, if you were looking for a man to settle down with. Which Monica definitely was not. No, settling down to Monica meant working even harder to open another Lakefield Galleries somewhere on the East Coast.
That’s why she was here, with the wind chilling her right through her wool coat and sweater. That’s why she was risking breaking her neck and ruining her boots to get to this cabin, to save Lakefield Galleries. Besides breathing, the gallery was Monica’s first priority; its reputation and ultimate success were her only goals. Nothing and nobody else mattered.
Except family, she thought, lifting her hand to the knob on the wooden door with the sign hanging from a gold link chain that read Western. This snowbound-in-the-wilderness theme wasn’t doing anything for her, but despite the fact that one of Monica’s sisters was responsible for her being here, she loved her family dearly.
As she opened the door and took a step inside, Monica frowned. In addition to her job, her BlackBerry, her laptop and her family, Monica loved her high-rise condo in New York, where she lived comfortably alone.
Unfortunately, comfortably alone didn’t look like something she’d achieve here. After stepping into the cabin, which was wall-to-wall wood paneling, Monica felt immediate warmth and slight trepidation. The warmth would be courtesy of the fire burning brightly in the fireplace taking up a good portion of the left wall. From another room she could hear the roar of a crowd, perhaps at a football game or something. A television was on and there was a black leather duffel bag on the peanut-butter-toned couch—hence the trepidation.
She flipped the receipt she still held in her hand and checked her cabin name once more. Western. It said it on the receipt and it said it on the outside of the cabin, plus the clerk had said “western cabin.” Now, what were the odds that all three were wrong?
She let her purse slide from her shoulders, placing it on a long wood-and-brass sofa table. Thick, plush carpet muffled the sound of her heels as she walked through the area that looked like a living room, into a smaller room with a large-screen TV that displayed, as she’d thought, a football game.
“Hello?” she said, trying to elevate her voice over the sound of the television.
She didn’t receive an answer.
Moving farther into what felt like a circular floor plan, she found a kitchen that was larger than the one in her condo with stainless-steel appliances, black marble countertops and dark wood cabinets. Very modern and almost spotless. Almost, she thought as her gaze settled on a glass half-filled with what looked like red wine.
Another doorway led her to a small hallway that broke off into two directions. She could see going one way would circle her right back to the living-room area and a view of the front door. In the other direction were two closed doors. She suspected a bedroom and bathroom.
By this point she was just about positive that either she was in the wrong cabin or someone had invaded hers. Feeling momentarily like Goldilocks in the home of the Three Bears, she took a tentative step toward the closed doors, yelling once more, “Hello?”
A few seconds later she heard the clicking of a door and stopped. Her mouth opened, about to announce her presence once more, then snapped shut when he walked out of the bathroom wearing only a towel around his waist.
Three days in the ski-resort capital of the world,—he could handle that. Despite what his brothers and his in-laws thought, Alex wasn’t as focused on business as they complained. Okay, maybe he was, but that didn’t mean he didn’t know how to relax every once in a while. Besides, he ran a multimillion-dollar company, in the very competitive communications industry. He had to stay on top of his game at all times; that was the only way the Bennett name would stay top in its class. A goal he took very seriously, especially since it meant his father, Marvin, could finally retire with Alex’s lovely mother, Beatriz.
Alexander Bennett came from a loyal and loving family with Brazilian roots that made them all the more passionate about any and everything they did. The oldest of three boys and two girls, Alex took on his role as a leader early in life. He worked alongside his father from his later years in high school all through college. Now, fifteen years later, he was the chief operating officer at Bennett Industries, second in line after his father, CEO Marvin Bennett.
Alex wasn’t the only professional out of the Bennett children and he was very proud of his siblings’ achievements. Although it had taken him a while to come around to understanding how serious his brother Renny was about being a sculptor, Rico’s natural ascent into Bennett Industries’ chief financial officer position was no surprise. His sisters, Adriana and Gabriella, both had their own goals, as well—what they were Alex wasn’t entirely sure, but he loved them just the same.
But these next three days weren’t about his family or his job—they were about having some fun. Renny’s phone call had strongly advocated how much the men needed to get away, have some bonding time, especially since all the men closest to him had recently fallen into the marriage arena. Renny had been first, then through his in-laws, the Desdunes, Alex had sort of adopted Sam and Cole as his brothers, as well. Alex, Rico and Cole still remained single, but the poker nights they were used to sharing were quickly being cut to a minimum.
This trip was about them getting together and having a great time before the holidays ended and they all went back to their respective lives and businesses. And Alex was game for that.
Two days before Christmas he’d closed one of the company’s biggest deals for a new line of cell phones with digital connections that would take them into the next century as a communications leader. The first of the year a number of articles would advertise their success as well as open the door for new stresses and headaches. What was the saying, “More money, more problems”? Alex firmly believed that was true. And while his ambition wasn’t fueled by a lust for money, or power, for that matter, he wasn’t naive about the facts of life. He was a rich man; his family was very successful and envied. And as they’d already experienced when they’d all been targeted by a jealous lunatic a few years ago, success could bring just as much bad news as good.
Still, he’d been raised to keep his eye on the prize and so he did. Today, the prize was looking better than he’d ever expected.
He’d just been turning off the shower when he heard a female voice. To say he was surprised was an understatement. Per Renny’s instructions, the guys all had separate flights but would meet at the cabin tonight to get their getaway rolling. He’d arrived first, a little overeager, he surmised. Feeling the fatigue of the last few weeks’ meetings, he’d come in and headed straight for a hot shower. To his knowledge this trip was only for the men.
Wrapping a towel around his waist he’d opened the door expecting maybe a housekeeper or some other resort employee to be in the cabin with questions or something. He’d never considered it would be her. Never in all his wildest imaginings thought he’d see her here.
But, he admitted eagerly, he wasn’t regretting it at all.