Sometimes the person you are rescuing...becomes your rescuer.
Dangerous Montana snowstorms are no surprise. So when police dispatcher, Harper Madison, heads to the mountains to bring supplies to a survivalist/scientist who is renting her invalid grandmother's remote cabin high in the mountains for the summer, she doesn't take chances. But when an elk runs in front of her car and it tumbles down an embankment, nearly killing her, and leaving her stranded on the mountain until she can be rescued.
The only thing Nash Webber wants is to be left alone. Working in the Montana mountains will give him much needed perspective. But as soon as he arrives, his quiet retreat is quickly compromised when a sudden blizzard leaves a stranded woman perched precariously on the cliff of the mountain road leading to his cabin.
The cabin is certainly big enough for two. But can they be forced in close proximity for days on end without losing their minds and their hearts?
The man was late.
Harper Madison glanced over at the ugly wagon wheel clock on the wall across the room of the dispatch office and frowned when she saw the time. She'd purposely skipped her lunch because Nash Webber was supposed to meet her at the police station at noon.
Needless to say, that hadn't happened. One o'clock came and went along with two o'clock, and three o'clock. It was now three-thirty and her shift was ending at four, just in time for what was shaping up to be an epic spring blizzard in Sweet Montana.
Nash Webber. The name conjured up images of a Hollywood movie star in an action flick. The small town of Sweet and the surrounding Montana territory certainly got their share of Hollywood types. But the guy was some sort of scientist and survivalist, her grandmother had told her when she’d packed up the linens and the key to the cabin and left the house this morning.
No matter. He was coming to town for the summer and renting her family’s mountain cabin to do research. He picked a lousy day to show up though because the dispatch phone had been ringing off the hook all day.
Harper shifted papers around her desk to organize herself before the next call came in. She didn’t get far. The phone rang while she was still sorting through paperwork that needed to be filed.
With her headset on, she answered the phone with the press of a button to the switchboard using her canned response. “Sweet Police Department dispatch. You’re on a recorded line. What is your emergency?”
“It's me, Harper,” the woman on the other end of the line said. So many people in town knew Harper worked as a dispatcher at the police station that it was easy for them to expect she’d recognize their voice immediately. Harper knew it was Tara Mitchell, who owned a novelty shop and bakery in town. She catered to the tourists who were abundant in Sweet during the rodeo season.
She smiled after recognizing Tara’s voice. “Please state your name and emergency for the record,” Harper said.
“Tara Mitchell. I don’t exactly know if it’s an emergency or not. But the argument out front is getting pretty loud,” Tara said. Her voice was muffled for a moment. When she came back on the line, she added, “Apparently a car with Alabama license plates took a liking to Jeff Stanley's front fence, which is now toast. Jeff’s not too happy about it.”
“The Stanley place is the one that's next to your store?”
“A few doors down.” Tara recited her address for the record and Harper recorded it into the computer.
Harper knew where it was and didn’t need the details from Tara. But she’d been trained to have the caller give her the information and then record it exactly as spoken.
“It doesn't look like anyone's hurt except for maybe a bruised ego.”
Harper smiled. “We seem to get a lot of those in the spring, especially during a late storm. I’ll send an officer. Do they need a tow truck?”
“Jamison was already across the street at the diner with his tow truck and saw the accident. If the car needs towing, he's already here.”
“Okay, I’ll have Officer Samuel head out there.”
Harper hung up the call and logged the rest of the details in the computer system. Then she pressed the button to radio all the officers in the area, giving the details of the accident. As she’d suspected, Caleb was the closest officer and immediately radioed in that he was on his way.
Harper hung up the call and leaned back in her chair. Then she nearly jumped out of it in fear.
“Are you Ms. Madison?” The man with a deep voice standing close to her desk asked.
Harper glanced at the door to the dispatch room that was always locked. “How did you get in here?”
“Someone said that you'd been waiting for me.” The man turned around and pointed to the police chief’s door. “He let me in. Sorry, I’m late.”
Harper glanced over at the chief’s closed office door.
“Oh, he did, did he? You nearly give you a heart attack.”
The man glanced around as if questioning whether she was actually talking to him.
“I was supposed to meet Harper Madison here to get the key to a cabin I’m renting,” he said. “Right?”
“Yes. I thought you were coming in around noon.” She reached down and opened her bottom drawer where she kept her purse. After rifling through it for a few seconds, she found the key to the cabin that she kept in an envelope with instructions from her grandmother on the various things renters needed to know while staying at the cabin.
Her grandmother had owned the cabin for as long as Harper could remember. There were memories, good and bad. Harper and her sister no longer visited the cabin, and neither did her grandmother now that her grandfather passed away, but her grandmother couldn’t let go.
“I hope I didn't cause you any trouble,” he said apologetically as she handed him the envelope with the keys.
“No trouble. I was here all day.” She hadn't eaten a decent lunch, unless you considered a banana while she sat at her desk waiting for him to be decent. But she wasn't going to let him know that. There was no reason to make him feel bad. She forced a smile that was oddly easy.
She looked up at him. Scientist, huh? Nash Webber didn't fit the image of the nerdy scientist she'd had in her mind all day either. He wasn’t Hollywood. Wasn’t scientist. He was just strikingly buff in all the right places that made her take notice.
She knew better than to ogle over the man, especially here at work. But the man was incredibly handsome in a rugged sort of way. She'd seen many men come and go through the police station doors for various reasons. Most of them she paid little attention to. It was almost embarrassing how taken she was with the nerdy scientist who wasn’t nerdy at all.
“So you're going to rent the cabin for the whole summer?” Harper asked, already knowing the answer. Her grandmother told her. He wasn't just a scientist, he was a survivalist of some sort, too, her grandmother had said, and the cabin would serve as a base camp for the work he was doing deep into the mountain range. It explained why the man looked like a Greek god in form. If he planned on doing a lot of hiking and climbing, he’d need to be fit.
“The plan right now is to stay the summer. Maybe a little beyond that if the project changes.”
Harper continued to stare at him until she had to shake her head.
“Is everything okay?” he asked.
“Fine. Whatever arrangements you made with my grandmother is fine. I don't use the cabin myself. Not anymore. But we do occasionally get renters. Later in the season, you might find hikers wandering up there. When that happens, the police department or rangers will use the road leading up to the cabin to search if someone goes missing. It happens about once or twice a season.”
“Good to know. I'll be working. But if there is a problem, let me know.”
“Sure.” And then she felt like an idiot. Small talk wasn't exactly something that made her tongue-tied. She had no problem talking to people. But this man…
“There's no cell-service up there. I’m sure my grandmother told you that, right? You’ll have to come down the mountain a ways to place any calls.”
“That won't be a problem. I have a radio in my truck.”
She made a face that made him smile. Oh, yeah, what a smile!
“That can be a little spotty up on the mountain as well. The positioning of the cabin makes it difficult. But again, coming down the mountain a bit will give you a signal. As long as you have one in the truck, there shouldn't be a problem in case you have an emergency. I've already told the chief you’ll be up there, so they’ll check on you occasionally,” she said.
“You told them? Why? I’ll be fine up there,” he asked with a frown.
“Because…” She shrugged with his question. “That's what I do.”
A slow smile played on his lips. “Right. Good to know.”
He turned to walk away and then stopped and turned back. “It was good to meet you, Harper Madison.”
She watched him walk out the door. The whole way. She couldn’t remember the last time she did something stupid like that. She was not going to make a habit of it now even if the man was insanely handsome.
* * *
Harper was stuck on a dispatch call with someone when her shift ended. Someone had witnessed another accident off one of the winding roads in town. Lookout Ridge was never a good spot for tourists who didn't know how dangerous slippery roads could be. Just like the accident earlier, this accident involved someone from out of state who lived down South.
It was second nature for most everyone who lived in snow country to drive on snow and icy roads, not that Sweet didn't have its share of accidents from the locals. But it seemed to be an epidemic today with people from out of town since a massive spring snowstorm, something that normally happened at the higher elevations in the spring, was forecasted today and was proving to pick up strength as the hours went by.
Two officers filed in to the police station wearing their winter gear. Both pulled off their hats and shook them leaving a spray of snow on the rug which had turned to a sopping wet mess as the afternoon wore on. Harper smiled but only because it unearthed a memory of how her mother hated it when she, her sister, and their father would do this at home when she was younger.
“You better get on the road soon,” Zeb Lincoln, one of the officers who’d just come in, said to Harper. “The roads are already getting slick. This storm is worse than we expected.”
“I have to wait for Scarlett to come in before I leave.” Harper glanced at the ugly wagon wheel clock on the wall again. “She's already fifteen minutes late.”
The chief came out of his office and headed over to Harper's desk. “Scarlett just called in. Her car won't start for some reason.” Chief Lucas sounded a little disgusted, most likely because it put them in a pickle with coverage for dispatch on what would surely be a busy night. “I’d ask you to stay but I know you want to get home to your grandmother.”
“The twins are sick with the flu,” Zeb said.
The chief shrugged. “She told me. That still leaves the dispatch desk empty until Don comes in. He wasn’t on the schedule, but there’s nothing keeping him home.”
Harper didn’t know Scarlett that well since their shifts crossed each other. But she knew that Scarlett was a single mother with two small children to take care of. Harper was single and didn’t need to worry about such things as babysitters or sickness. She had to worry about her grandmother who got around using a walker and was getting on in years. But that wasn’t the same as being responsible for two small children.
“I can stay if you need me to,” Harper offered.
The chief shook his head. “I fear if you stay any longer, you'll be stuck here through the night,” he said. “Don’s coming in and he’ll bunk in my office on the sofa if the storm continues into tomorrow. We’ll be fine.”
“The storm is going to be that bad?”
“That’s what the weather service says. Supposed to be the worst spring storm Sweet has had in over twenty years. Why don’t you clean up your desk so you can get out of here? I'll cover until Don comes in.”
Harper quickly gathered her things and said goodbye to everyone. She was holding her scarf in her hand as she walked out the door and quickly took it and wrapped it around her head and her neck. Snowflakes were coming down fast and hard now and there was already a few inches of snow in the parking lot, even though she knew Jamison’s crew had already plowed earlier. She rummaged through her purse for her keys while she walked to the car and then unlocked and opened it so she could retrieve her snow brush. As soon as she opened the trunk and saw the bag of linens, she groaned. “I can't believe I forgot to give him the linens!”
Check out the rest of the SWEET MONTANA series which includes Sweet Montana Sky, Sweet Home Montana, Sweet Montana Rescue, Sweet Montana Outlaw, Sweet Montana Secrets and soon to be released Sweet Montana Bride.