A weekend away in the mountains. A snowstorm and only one hotel room left. The beginning of an epic love story, right? Well, Ben is no fool…
Ben Winter’s skiing trip turns into something magical when he shares two nights with Mac, but he’d be a fool to hope for more. Mac’s real name is Valentine McMonroe. He has a posh accent and a trust fund, and he is way out of Ben’s league. Ben knows hot-as-hell rich guys from New York City aren’t for keeps and if you have any pride, you turn the cold shoulder. But Mac is a ray of sunshine while Ben’s life is falling apart. So, they stay in contact while Ben fights to keep his coffee shop / LGBTQ+ youth center open for one more month.
A disastrous trip to surprise Mac for his birthday reminds Ben once again that their worlds don’t mix, and when they collide, Ben is the one getting hurt. Falling in love would be a mistake, but Mac is stubborn and doesn’t give up easily. Mac is all in. Can he change Ben’s mind? And is love enough for a happily ever after?
Snow, Love, and Valentine is an opposites attract, contemporary m/m romance with lots of heartwarming fluff. It’s the third steamy short story in the “He is the One” series. There’s a soulmate for everyone, but sometimes love must overcome prejudices.
“I’m just making sure you’re not backing out.” Evie’s voice chirped through the speaker of my phone. “A little snow is no excuse, Ben.”
“A little snow,” I mimicked, while squinting through the shrinking hole that my windshield wipers tried to defend against an onslaught of ice and snow. Not that it mattered, because I could barely see the road anyway. A swirl of thick, white flakes was all around my car and made driving any faster than thirty impossible. Gusts of wind kept shaking the old truck. My poorly functioning heater had long given up the battle to fight the freezing cold. “It’s freaking Armageddon out here.”
“No, no excuses. This vacation is way overdue. You deserve it.”
I eyed the dirty ice lumps on my wipers suspiciously and wondered if I’d have to stop again to scrape them off. I couldn’t suppress a sigh. “Right now, it feels more like being punished.” I instantly wished I hadn’t said that. “Evie, sorry, I didn’t mean the weekend. You guys put so much effort into planning this weekend vacation, but the drive is a bitch.”
Evie snorted. “You wouldn’t be you if there wasn’t moaning and bitching when you’re away from the café for only a day.”
For good reason. Our coffee shop, Beans, was in trouble. The kind of trouble I couldn’t escape even if I drove a lot further than the hundred-fifty miles from Boston to Killington in Vermont. It was constantly on my mind. “Three days. I’m gonna be gone for three days.”
“Good,” Evie answered. “We’ll try to somehow survive three days without you.”
I wasn’t so sure I’d survive. I hated to be away for that long. “Did the coffee grinder give out again?” Evie’s hesitation told me all I needed to know. “Damn, I checked, and it’s just out of warranty.”
“Don’t worry about it. We’ll manage,” Evie said. “You are on vacation.”
“Yes, but I shouldn’t—”
“You should. Ben, you haven’t taken a day off all year. You covered for my honeymoon and even before that, for all the wedding prep.”
“Of course, I did and anyway, your wedding was awesome—”
“Exactly, my wedding. You’ve been stuck at Beans with a bunch of teenagers for way too long. You deserve a weekend off. So go and enjoy yourself. We got it all under control here. Chantelle messed with the grinder and whatever they did, it worked.” Chantelle was one of the teenage kids that regularly hung out at the coffee shop after school as their mom worked two jobs. They were magic with a screwdriver. There wasn’t a machine in the world that they couldn’t fix.
“They’ve saved our ass a lot lately,” I said.
Evie hummed in agreement. “Yes, they’re a godsend.”
“We gotta figure something out, because—”
“Stop. You’re on vacation. Stop worrying and go have some fun. The shop is locked up, and we finished cleaning. Carla is here with me. We’re about to call it a night. So, you got nothing to worry about. We got this. Just enjoy some well-deserved time off.”
The car swerved on the icy road when I hit the brakes at a red traffic light with nobody else around. I had driven up to Killington Mountain a few times, but right now, I had no idea where I was. It was like driving in a snow globe. Waiting for the light to turn, I said, “I will. Once I’m out of this mess. I’m looking forward to skiing and hanging out in front of the fire reading a book—”
“No, no, no, you’re thirty-five, not eighty-five. We didn’t splurge for a room with a fireplace so that you can hang out in there alone. You’re supposed to pick up a cute ski bunny and debauch him in front of the fireplace. I want to hear all the dirty deets when you’re back on Sunday night.”
“Ski bunny? Does anybody say that anymore?”
“Who cares? It’s been months since you brought anybody home. You need to get laid.” Sadly, my best friend since college wasn’t wrong. It’d been a long time since I’d been involved with any debauchery.
“Who made you the boss of me?” I grumbled. “Go manage your wife’s life.”
“I heard that, Ben.” Carla’s voice came through the speaker. And then there was a suspicious silence on the line.
“Are you making out while I’m fighting for my life in a blizzard?”
“Stop being so dramatic, Benny boy,” Evie said. “How much longer do you got?”
I looked at the GPS on my phone. “Twelve miles.”
“So fifteen, twenty minutes. That’s not so bad,” said my best friend who wasn’t driving in a snowstorm, but only had to walk a few steps upstairs. Evie and I co-owned the building on Main Street in Hudson. Our coffee shop was downstairs, and we both had apartments upstairs. Carla wasn’t too crazy about it as she felt we were all way too close to work, but with a Nor’easter battering the East Coast, she probably wasn’t complaining tonight. “Okay, drive careful,” Evie continued. “Get a good night's sleep and enjoy the slopes tomorrow. The storm will stop around midnight. You’ll have perfect conditions tomorrow.”
“Love you, Evie and, again, thank you for all of this.”
“It’s from all of us.” Evie’s voice softened. “And you deserve it. Go have fun. You’re your brains out and for once don’t worry so much.” She disconnected the call.
I still was touched that they’d gone out of their way to organize this weekend for me. Under Evie’s lead, the whole crew at Beans had schemed and planned for weeks. They’d dug out my old skis and gotten them waxed for me. Evie had bought me new ski gloves and extra thick socks and the kids, who worked for us, had gifted me an extra-long knitted rainbow scarf. I’d look like a dork wearing it, and they all thought that was hilarious. Before I left today, they had handed me a giant picnic basket for my hotel room, knowing full well, I wouldn’t spend money that I didn’t have on eating out.
I couldn’t even remember the last time I had gone on a vacation. The previous year had been brutal. Evie and I had opened Beans six years ago. It had been going well. We had a good location in an up-and-coming small town, but the last twelve months had been difficult. There was just never enough money at the end of the day. We let go of most of our experienced staff and now Evie and I were running the place with a bunch of part-time teenagers. I was still not sure we would make it until the summer.
Another vicious gust shook the truck and my hands tightened around the steering wheel. My windshield wiper and the heat had lost the battle with snow, and I could barely see the road. At least I had left the highway a few miles ago. It seemed like I was the only person crazy enough to still be driving; everybody else had already taken shelter.
I straightened my shoulders. Fighting lost battles was my thing. And the truck had all-wheel drive. A lot of people had made this weekend away happen for me, so I was gonna enjoy the hell out of it. A stupid snowstorm wouldn’t stop me.
Twenty minutes turned into forty-five because I had to stop twice to scrape my windshield, but finally I pulled into the hotel parking lot. It took me a minute to find a slot. Evie had warned me that it would be busy as there was a snowboarding competition going on that weekend, but my room had been booked well in advance, so I wasn’t worried. I wrapped my new scarf around my neck and got my luggage from the truck. Even though I left my skis in the truck, I took my boots, because icy-cold ski boots in the morning—fuck no. I felt a little silly stomping through the snow with a giant picnic basket, but Carla made a mean bean salad and Evie had promised me all my favorites were packed in there.
Fighting swirling snow and biting wind, I crossed the lot. The lobby ahead of me was brightly lit and looked welcoming. I almost made it to the door when suddenly my feet disappeared from under me and I fell on my ass, dropping everything.
“Oh shit, man, are you okay?” a voice called out from behind the wall of snowflakes. Two hands grabbed me and pulled me back up from the ground. Wet seeped through my jeans. “Wow, that was quite a fall. I think your feet were about hip high for a second there. Are you okay?”
I pulled my scarf back in place to look at the guy who helped me up while making fun of me at the same time. The accent alone got my hackles up. Posh New York. I’d recognize his kind anywhere. He was bundled up just as much as I was, so I couldn’t see much of him, but a large dark parka and a few strands of blond hair peeked out under a black beanie. He was a few inches shorter than my six feet, but he definitely had better balance, because dropping none of his own stuff, he started to pick up my bags from the ground.
“Thanks,” I managed. I brushed the snow off my jeans and reached out to take my picnic basket back from him. There was enough light from the entrance hall to see his eyes linger on the basket—granted, it was more suited for a summer outing, but no need to sneer at it.
The guy waved towards the lobby and said, “Let’s get inside before we turn into snowmen. Do you need a hand?”
I shook my head but couldn’t help an envious look at the two sleek bags he had slung over his shoulder versus my collection of ski boots, bag, and basket. I took one step and almost slipped again. Damn. A strong hand grabbed my arm and steadied me. The strength of his hold and a mumbled “I got you,” sent sparks of awareness through me. Double damn.
“I’m Mac, by the way,” he said as we shuffled our way through the snow to the front door.
“Ben,” I responded.
Warmth engulfed us as we walked into the hotel lobby. Mac held the door open for me, and I managed to step through without dropping anything. The receptionist looked up and gave us a welcoming smile. Mac waved me on and let me go first. Carefully, I put my stuff down with a deep sigh. I made it. This was the start of my vacation. My weekend away.