The Art of Getting Off by Alexandra Alan
General Release Date: 3rd August 2021
Word Count: 15,425
Book Length: NOVELLA
COMEDY AND HUMOUR
Sign up for skiing lessons, they said. It’ll be fun, they said. Ha!
It’s taken one month for Kalie Bowen to realize she hates bruising both her ass and her ego on top of a frigid mountain. It’s taken her less than a month to develop a colossal crush on her skiing instructor, Dex McCann.
He’s not only handsome, but also patient and supportive, whether she’s face-planting into the snow in front of him or having to be talked off a ski lift. He’s even rearranged his schedule so he can accommodate her request for a lesson on Christmas. Katie can’t help but wonder what he looks like without his goggles…and his clothes.
When a blizzard rolls across the mountains and forces Kalie and Dex to seek shelter in his cabin, the sparks between them fly faster than the ones in his wood stove. Kalie finds that Dex is very happy to teach her the art of getting off—even when there’s no ski lift involved.
“You can do this.”
“Come on, Kalie.”
“You have to.”
“There’s no way. No way.”
“Just relax. Take a deep breath. Let go.”
“I’m right here. I’ll catch you.”
Kalie Bowen tightened her grip on the brightly painted pole on the side of the padded chair. Even through her thick mittens, she could feel the coldness of the metal.
This was how she was going to die. And it would be horrible and embarrassing, because even though she’d never heard about anyone dying after getting stuck on a ski lift when they were dangling in the air barely higher than the outstretched fingertips of their super-attractive ski instructor, this was how it was going to happen anyway.
There was a good view, at least. Snow-capped peaks jutted into a crystal-blue sky, bushy pine trees sagged under the weight of fresh powder, and skiers carved perfect ‘S’ curves into the slope.
Oh, and on top of everything else, today was Christmas.
She was going to die on Christmas Day, falling eight feet from the ski lift meant to take children up the bunny slope.
When she’d signed up for private ski lessons a month ago, she’d filled out the questionnaire with her address and insurance information and signed on the line that said she wouldn’t sue the crap out of the resort if she broke anything. She’d skipped over the section for listing any pertinent information her instructor should know. In hindsight, it would have been a good idea to write ‘not super okay with heights,’ but of course, when she’d been filling out the paperwork, it hadn’t seemed important.
The first few times she’d gotten off the lift had been shaky, but acceptable.
“There’s an art to it,” her instructor, Dex, had said. It was all about relaxing. Easy for him to say.
A gust of wind, which on the ground would have been refreshing, rocked the chair. Kalie’s stomach settled into her ski boots, and her mittened grip tightened on the chair’s pole.
“You can do this,” Dex said again.
It would be much better if Dex weren’t super attractive. Sure. That could make a difference. His body was achingly tall and breathtakingly wide. Golden-blond hair tumbled effortlessly out from underneath his helmet and brushed against his lips, and he looked as if he’d been transplanted from a surfboard onto a snow-covered mountain. His mirrored goggles perched on a strong, wide nose that always seemed a few sunny hours away from getting burned. Then there was his voice.
Dear God, his voice.
Whatever he said in that deep, rumbling baritone made her tingle all over, whether it was ‘Try it again, but slower this time,’ or ‘Stick out your butt a little more,’ or ‘Snow.’
Yeah, so she had an enormous crush on her ski instructor.
It was stupid, honestly, because she’d only known him a month and only been to six lessons, and—the stupidest part of it all—she still hadn’t even seen his eyes. How was it possible to have a crush on someone without knowing that pivotal detail? She managed to, in any case.
And because she had said enormous crush on said super-attractive ski instructor, her mind drifted right as she was supposed to stand up and get off the ski lift, so instead of thinking about getting off the ski lift, she was thinking about getting off with him.
A small crowd formed around the lift tower, murmuring and pointing at her. She’d already been on the receiving end of enough double-takes for being the only adult on the kids’ slope. A bit of irritation joined the panic.
And she wasn’t even high enough to warrant a ladder.
As soon as he noticed she hadn’t disembarked, Dex had shouted something to the attendant and the lift had jerked to a sudden, gut-wrenching halt. He’d talked Kalie through undoing the bindings on her skis, and once those had fallen to the snow, he’d speared them onto the slope a safe distance away, then gone about trying to convince her to fall.
Large, gloved fingers closed around the toe of her boot.
“Just let go,” Dex said now.
The ground lurched below her, and Kalie let out another whimper.
“What’s stopping you?”
If she fell, she might break a leg. She might land on the compacted snow with enough force to snap her femur or crack a tibia or rip her ACL in half, then she would be stuck on a couch with crutches and powerful medication. Trapped inside, only able to stare regretfully out of the window.
“It’s far,” was what she finally managed to say.
Dex twisted his mouth in a suppressed smile. A dimple creased one cheek. Kalie focused on the dimple, because it seemed to lurch less than the ground.
It wasn’t just the fall that scared her. Falling in front of this man scared her, because she couldn’t bear to look like an idiot in front of him.
Of all excuses, it wasn’t the most logical. He undoubtedly already thought she was an idiot ever since the second lesson when she’d been unbalanced and nearly out-of-control and he’d shouted, “Pizza! Pizza!” and Kalie had shouted back, “Maybe later!” unaware he’d actually been telling her to angle her skis into a wedge so she could slow herself down.
Dex wiggled her boot gently. “You work on engines, right? That must be a lot harder than this.”
Fuck, and he even remembered what she’d told him about her job, although he’d left out a key detail—Kalie designed engines from behind the organized safety of a computer. There were too many moving parts inside an engine, and too many opportunities for pinched fingers, ripped-off arms, and grease stains that soaked into her skin like tattoos. Maybe she could blame her childhood for this, because when someone’s bitch of a grandmother told them that their dirty hands were the real reason behind their lack of friends, those words tended to set up residence in their brain and never want to leave.
Yet Dex remembered her job, and it gave her pause.
After her third lesson, he hadn’t had anyone scheduled after her, so they’d sat together on a sun-blasted picnic table right outside the lodge and sipped watery hot chocolate. It had been light conversation—jobs, pets, favorite vacations. She’d found out that, at twenty-eight, he was two years her junior. When he didn’t teach ski lessons, he was a trail-running guide, or a mountain-biking instructor, or he volunteered for the local trail-building crews. Kalie had asked him if he ever left the mountains, and he’d answered, “Only when dragged away. Or when I need groceries.”
He just needed a wild beard—which, judging from the stubble she’d seen a few weeks ago, would be a reddish gold—and he’d fit every mountain man stereotype. Kalie would bet he owned an ax. And looked great in plaid.
The ski chair swayed on the cable when a stronger breeze gave it a nudge, and Kalie let out a squeak as her arms cinched tighter around the pole.
“Okay,” Dex said beneath her. “Tell you what. If you jump down, I’ll buy you a drink after the lesson.” When Kalie frowned at him, he continued, “An alcoholic drink. Not that crappy hot cocoa. Come on.” Arms outstretched, he gestured toward himself with his gloved fingers.
“Are you trying to bribe me?”
She hated to admit it, but it was working. She’d been wanting to ask him out for a drink since that third lesson, but nerves had always gotten the better of her. It had been a while since her last relationship, and the very concept of boldness made her shake nearly as much as being stuck in a swaying lift chair.
He’d just given her an opening.
She inched forward on the vinyl seat and moved her hands to the thinner metal that formed the armrest.
Do it. Just fucking DO IT.
Kalie took a deep breath to prepare herself for dropping, but when she did, her body shifted just enough that the smooth fabric of her snow pants slipped off the snowmelt-slicked vinyl. She fell with a shrill yelp. Something twinged in her shoulder and she barely managed to keep a tight hold on the armrest. Strong arms wrapped around her thighs to support her, stilling her thrashing legs.
“Let go, Kalie.” He sounded muffled, and when she looked down, she realized why—his goggle-clad face was buried in her crotch.
Surprise short-circuited her thoughts and for a split second, she forgot she was high off the ground and released the chair. Dex took that moment to stumble backward out of reach of the swinging metal seat and loosened his grip so the front of her body slid down the front of his body. With her long underwear, her fleece, and both of their bulky ski jackets, it was a lot less erotic than it should have been. Her boots thudded on the packed snow.
A few people cheered. Someone whistled. Another person clapped, the sound muted by a pair of fuzzy gloves.
Before she could get too used to the feel of his—unfortunately—professional embrace, Dex gripped her shoulders and held her steady at arm’s length.
Her own reflection shone back at her from the iridescent lenses of his goggles—chapped lips, long nose and a few black curls escaping from her hat. The day wasn’t quite breezy enough to blame the wind for her flushed cheeks.
“You okay?” he said.
Kalie nodded, trying not to get distracted by the woodsy smell of him or how right it had felt to have his face in her—
“Put your skis back on.”
She was sure he was giving her an unamused look underneath those shining goggles.
“If you fall off a horse, you get back on,” Dex said. “If you get stuck on a chair lift, you ski down the slope then get back on the lift so you can practice getting off of it.”
“Um,” Kalie said, “I’m not sure that’s the best—”
He interrupted her with a wry twist of his lips. One of his eyebrows was probably raised. “Yeah? How long have you been teaching people how to ski?”
As they made their way down the children’s slope, Kalie decided the only bad thing about wearing mittens was that when she flipped someone off, no one could tell.
About the Author
Alexandra lives in Colorado with her partner and two very strange cats. Her nerdiest experience was when she had a heated discussion about Star Wars during a game of Dungeons & Dragons. Though she’s always on the lookout for more hobbies, some of her favorites are drawing, knitting, archery, rock climbing, brewing mead, and scrimshaw. The most badass she has ever felt was when she took jousting lessons for a year. She has never met a bad pun she hasn’t adored, and loves to read books that make her heart race.
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