Rachel rubbed her gloved hands as she stepped out of her rented log cabin, then wrapped them around her chest as she took a deep breath, taking in the smell of pines and the fresh, crisp air of the secluded Utah ski resort.
It was as if she was taking a breath for the first time and in a way, it was. She had been officially divorced just two weeks ago, after all, ending a three and a half-year marriage that had started even before she graduated from college.
Rachel had met Drew while doing her hotel internship for her hospitality course. He had been a guest at the prestigious Asian-themed hotel Rachel had been interning at, and during his long stay, had taken a liking to her. She, on the other hand, had been completely taken in by his intelligence and gentlemanly charisma, not to mention his good looks which seemed to belong on the front cover of a fashion magazine, which was why she had agreed to his marriage proposal in the middle of the hotel’s romantically lit Japanese garden just three weeks after their first meeting in spite of all her apprehensions.
At first, everything had gone well, but shortly after Rachel’s graduation, when Rachel had to move to Chicago with her husband, the trouble started. Not only did Rachel not know anyone there, she was also immediately thrust into the role of a business executive’s wife. Still, Rachel had endured – endured all the cocktail parties where all the men talked business and all the other wives had on either hypocritical smiles or scrutinizing glances that would put reality show judges to shame, all the gym and spa appointments she had to keep and the dietary restrictions she had to follow to play her part well, and worst, all the weekends and holidays that she had to spend alone because her husband was so caught up at work in the office or away on a business trip. Rachel had endured them all up until three months ago when learning that her husband was having an affair with a business client. That had served as the last straw and a rude wake up call.
Finally, she was free, free to be herself, to do the things she enjoyed yet never had time for, and to make new discoveries, which was exactly what she had come to the ski resort to do. Feeling the need for a change of scenery and something exciting at the same time, she had booked the finest log cabin at the finest ski resort in Utah and signed up for private skiing lessons. She had gotten herself the best skiing equipment and the most fashionable skiing wardrobe and, too – all paid from her alimony payments, of course.
Right now, she was wearing a thermal long-sleeved shirt and thermal capris to keep her warm under her white nylon ski pants and cream-colored fitted fleece shirt, which, in turn, was concealed under a fuchsia ski jacket with a fur-lined hood. She had on a white beanie hat over a pair of earmuffs, wool-lined gloves and fur-trimmed snow boots, as well. In spite of all that, though, Rachel could not help but still feel a little cold, suddenly wishing that she was staying inside her cabin that morning, sipping hot chocolate in front of the fire instead. She quickly shook off the thought, though. She had come to learn something just for the fun of it for the first time in her life and she would not back down now.
Her spirits back up, she picked up the bag that contained her skiing equipment and started walking down the stone path to the skiing lodge, which she had spotted yesterday. Already, there were plenty of skiers putting on their skis and she could see even more just over the hill, testing the slopes. Seeing some beginners struggling, a tinge of fear crept into her and she suddenly wondered if it was right for her to choose to learn how to ski. She could have chosen something easier or less dangerous, after all, like ballroom dancing or baking.
She was still wondering about that when she felt a tap on her shoulder and she turned around. She almost felt her breath knocked out of her as she found herself face to face with the most beautiful man she had ever seen. He was even more good-looking than Drew, in fact, though she could hardly remember who Drew was or anything else, for that matter, as she stared into his gorgeous blue eyes.
“Are you, by any chance, Rachel Turnstone?” the man asked.
For a moment, Rachel could not answer, too fascinated by how his voice sounded just as handsome as he was, crisp yet warm at the same time, making Rachel wonder if he was a singer or a DJ. When she finally came to her senses, though, she could not find the words to say so she merely nodded while mentally scolding herself for acting like a schoolgirl with a crush on the leader of a band.
Stop drooling and get a grip, Rachel. He’s just a man. You’re 24 and you’re making a fool of yourself.
“So you are Rachel Turnstone?” the man asked again.
This time, Rachel managed more than a nod. “Yes, I’m Rachel Fiel…I mean Rachel Tu…Turnstone,” she said, immediately wanting to slap herself for stammering. “Sorry. I’ve just been divorced so I’m not quite used to using my old last name again yet.”
Good work, Rachel. You just dropped your chances of going out with him by telling him you’re divorced.
The man didn’t seem to mind, though. Instead, he flashed her a smile, which sent her heart pounding by how much more dashing it made him look. “No problem at all. I’m Curtis. Curtis Holden. I’ll be your skiing instructor starting today.”
Fwooot. Rachel could almost hear someone whistling in the back of her mind. She had hit the jackpot this time, alright.
Rachel shook his hand, wishing that it was not concealed under the thick glove he wore but feeling her heart pound even faster, nonetheless. “Nice to meet you, Curtis,” she said, trying to keep her voice even. “I’m Rach…well, you already know what my name is.”
Fuck, Rachel. Get a hold of yourself already.
“Right. Ms. Rachel Turnstone. You still want to learn how to ski, don’t you?”
“Of course,” Rachel answered quickly. How could she not when her private skiing instructor was a Greek god incarnate, only better?
“It’s just that I saw you a while ago, looking at the others. Are you scared?”
The knowledge that Curtis had been watching her nearly made her forget what the question was. “N-no. I mean, maybe a little, since I’ve never tried skiing before, but that’s why I’m here to learn.”
“May I ask why you decided to learn skiing?”
Rachel felt that Curtis could ask her anything and she would give him the answer he wanted. “I just wanted to try something new. I am beginning a new phase in my life, after all.”
And I wouldn’t mind it if I had a new man to start it with, either.
“Of course, you are, and there’s totally nothing wrong with that,” Curtis said. “So, are you ready to put on your skis?”
“Sure, just let me change into my ski boots and put on my…” Rachel stopped as she nearly lost her balance on the bench she was sitting on.
Really, Rachel, how clumsy can you get?
At once, Curtis was at her rescue, his arm around her back. “Are you alright?”
“I’m fine,” Rachel said, trying to sound as convincing as possible. “Just so you know, I’m usually not this clumsy.”
“It’s okay,” Curtis said. “Why don’t I help you get your skis on?”
Rachel only nodded, watching as Curtis took off her snow boots and replaced them with the red and black ski boots she had purchased. She might as well allow herself to be pampered even just a little bit since it had been a long time since a man had paid attention to her. Besides, she had paid a hefty fee for the skiing lessons so she was sure it was no trouble for Curtis.
When Curtis had finished strapping her boots on, he helped Rachel to her feet. “How do they feel? Snug enough?”
“Perfectly fine,” Rachel answered.
“Good. They should be tight enough but not too tight,” Curtis said. “Now, let’s go put on your skis.”
Rachel followed Curtis out into the snow, struggling as she tried to adjust to the feeling of wearing ski boots.
“These boots sure weren’t made for walking,” Rachel remarked, dragging one foot after another.
Curtis chuckled. “Try taking long steps. It should feel better.”
Rachel did as she was told and true enough, she felt slightly better.