I started a super fun NA series called the Wunderland Series.
SNOWED UNDER is technically the second book in the series because Cassidy gets introduced in UNDERTOW which comes out later this year (There’s a sneak peek at the end of SNOWED UNDER). They totally stand alone, so you’re not missing anything, but I knew readers would want to read Cassidy’s love story. (and seriously, did you guys really expect me to do anything the normal way?? :)
It’s out on Amazon already, and should be showing up on Kobo, Nook, and iBooks later today!
We’re having a huge FB party for this one on MAY 3. Lots of guest authors (with goody bags!), prizes, and giveaways!
SNOWED UNDER is a novella and the content may not be suitable for all audiences (The sex is super steamy :)
Hippie + Logger = Enough heat to melt the fiercest Alaskan snow storm.
Cassidy has life all figured out. She’s one semester away from finishing her degree and then she’s off to save Mother Earth. But first, she has to stop the planet-murdering Whetman Logging.
Teague Whetman brought MIT home to the family logging business in Alaska. They’re high-tech artesian. But even his advanced technology can’t handle Cassidy’s handcuffs when she chains herself to the main saw.
When a late-Spring storm hammers the little town of Bear Ridge with eighty inches of snow, Teague and Cassidy must put aside their animosity to battle a power outage, crazed wildlife, and their own attraction.
SNOWED UNDER is a steamy NA contemporary romance novella in the Wunderland Series.
NOT EVEN ON the ground three minutes and I already missed San Diego. The pilot reached across my lap and pushed my door open, letting frigid Alaskan air gust through the tight cockpit before I could brace myself for the chill. Now that the tiny bit of heat I’d managed to gather during the flight had escaped, there was no point in staying in this winged refrigerator. I tightened my loose-weave scarf, covering every possible inch of skin and ducked under the door of the world’s smallest plane.
Crouched beneath the low wing, I clutched my belly. Hopefully my stomach would mellow out soon after the carnival-ride of a flight. I couldn’t imagine having to do that on a frequent basis like the locals. Between the rough ride, the miniature plane, and the obnoxious pilot, I wasn’t sure this trip was entirely worth it. So far, it was way more than I’d bargained for. My stomach lurched. “Why would anyone purposely live here?”
“God’s country.” The pilot sounded miffed that I hadn’t figured that out. Well, excuse me.
Stepping out from under the wing, I was momentarily awestruck by the sharp tips of mountains that touched the bottom of heaven. Snow drifted down the faces to smash against grass and teeny purple flowers that would have made a fabulous necklace. Now that I wasn’t terrified about plummeting to my death or crashing into the face of one of those spiky mountains, it was easier to be impressed at the stark beauty. “Wow.” Okay, so I could see putting up with the plane ride as the only way to get to provincial little Bear Ridge, Alaska, but San Diego had nice scenery… and a beach… and another forty degrees of warmth.
After flipping switches and turning knobs, the pilot got out and met me at the rear of the plane, chuckling again at my outfit as he twisted the handle of the cargo door. I’d seriously been his source of entertainment the entire flight. He’d already grilled me about my nose ring, ear plugs, and colorful half sleeve. Making fun of my clothes had clearly been an oversight, and based on his wide grin, he was ready to start laying it on thick.
“First time?” He twisted the handle of a small cargo door and took my suitcase out.
I pulled my scarf higher, wishing I’d have borrowed clothes from my roommate instead of insisting that my day-to-day selection of boho skirt, layered jacket, and laced-up sandals would be sufficient for the Alaskan clime. Not that her skinny jeans would have fit over one of my calves, but I should have at least given her socks a second thought. Hopefully it wouldn’t matter much, because I wasn’t planning to be here long.
A breeze snuck beneath my skirt and I rubbed my hands together. Jeremy’s crew would have extra stuff if I got cold. I just needed to find him. Hopefully he’d be waiting inside so we could get this protest going and I could be on my way home to warmth.
I reached for my duffle. “I can carry my bag.” And maybe use it for a second layer.
He waved me away. “I’ve got it.”
“Uh, thanks.” I needed to call Jeremy, but my phone was in the bottom of my bag along with the rest of my life. He closed the hatch and shepherded me toward the building. I felt naked and awkward without my bag. I’d stuffed it to the brim, and one of my protein bars was in danger of falling out of the side pocket. He swung it to his other shoulder and looked at me expectantly. What had he asked me again? Oh yeah, If I came here often. I cleared my throat. “First and last trip, hopefully. I’m here to close Whetman Logging Company.”
He stopped. “Teague’s place?”
“If you’re talking about Teague Whetman, the notorious CEO, then yes.” My pulse sped at the mention of the planet-murdering, Mother Earth-killing bastard’s name, and heat from my anger coursed through my entire body. Hopefully I could get this done today without seeing him. Not sure I’d be able to keep my fingers from wrapping around the old man’s neck.
My pilot’s face contorted like I’d just told him I’d kidnapped his one and only daughter.
I snorted and tried to think up something nice to say. Self-control was not one of my strengths, but at least I was getting better about not saying those things out loud. That was a serious win for me and I was super proud of myself. I’d learned the hard way not everyone felt the same about destructive practices. They liked their creature comforts and didn’t care what sacrifices nature had to make to supply them. Pretty sure my pilot was a comfort-hound.
He stared at me for another minute then dropped my bag. “You’d sooner win a fight with a moose.” Without another comment, he turned and left me alone on the snowy tarmac.
I glared after him. See? Make one truthful comment and people get all defensive. Right there was someone who didn’t care what it took to build his plane or his house, or fill his freezer. Someday he’d learn, when there weren’t any more forests, or feedlots, or clean air. No matter. I didn’t need fans. In my heart I knew my path was right. I pulled my shoulders back, plucked my bag off the ground, and headed toward the terminal.
Stifling silence jerked me to a stop inside the vacant building. Even if Jeremy wasn’t going to be here to meet me, I’d at least planned on seeing a decent number of strangers if I needed to beg a ride off one. I scanned the building again, peering around corners and half-open doors. Empty hallways, empty rental car counter, empty ticket counter. I walked farther down the hallway toward the front exit, but the café windows were big dark squares, so there wasn’t even a waiter or cook who might want to give a girl a lift.
Beyond the front windows, a herd of deer moved quietly across the shoveled sidewalk and a single red pickup sat in the parking lot. My pilot crossed to it, yanked the driver-side door open, and climbed in.
Where was Jeremy? Panic tightened my throat. I didn’t want to be left at a deserted airport alone. Jeremy was supposed to be here. My pilot might not like why I’d come, but I needed him. I tugged my bag higher on my shoulder, grabbed a handful of skirt, and took off running, my sandals smacking the bottoms of my feet.
Only one of the entrance doors worked, and I finally pushed my way outside again. Cold air bit my cheeks, but I didn’t slow, waving frantically at the pilot. “Wait! Don’t leave me.” The door slammed shut behind me with a locking click. Deer scattered. And my one shot at a ride didn’t even acknowledge me as he sped past.
So much for small-town hospitality.
I have got to start keeping my opinions to myself when I need favors.
From the curb, I surveyed the entire town, tightly compacted against the edge of the airport fence on the far side of the runway. Walking wasn’t the problem. I rode my bike all over San Diego. My big concern was finding Jeremy—I glanced up at the sky—and hopefully before those clouds started dropping snow.
I glanced at my watch. We’d arrived ten minutes late, but surely he hadn’t given up and left. He obviously wasn’t stuck in traffic…Maybe his press meetings had run over. For that, I could forgive him.
A cluster of buildings stood on the far side of the airport, and I could make out the red and white sign for Redwood Farms grocery store. I needed to swing in there anyway and grab some munchies, so I headed that direction, leaning to balance my heavy bag while I dug out my cell phone. Shoving aside a hairbrush, a notebook, six pens, and a three-ring binder of the stuff I still had to go through before my next protest, I found my phone.
Tucking it beneath my chin, I zipped the bag closed and adjusted it again over my shoulder.
Half a dozen dings and the trill of an orange-crowned warbler shot out of the phone’s speaker as it announced all my missed calls and texts. Wow, someone really needed to get a hold of me. I thumbed through the notifications. Two voice mails from Jeremy, one text from the office, and three more texts from Jeremy.
I rolled through the texts first. From Jeremy:
U must be on the plane. Call me the moment you get service
Cassidy, I need to talk to u the second u land
The last one was twenty-seven minutes ago. I slowed and pressed Jeremy’s number.
As I waited for him to pick up, the battery warning beeped.
“Hi. Did you listen to my message?”
“No, just called you right back. My battery’s dying. Where are we meeting?” Another herd of deer crossed the intersection in front of the grocery store, but not a single car.
“Oh. I really wish you would’ve listened. I—ah—I can’t make it. Some things came up at work.”
Jeremy’s words yanked me to a halt. My bag toppled from my shoulder. “You’re kidding, right?” I scanned the buildings, searching for a guy on a phone pulling a not-funny prank. “What am I going to do?”
“Shouldn’t affect anything. You can still stage the protest.”
“By myself? Sure, that should cause a big stir. I can see the headlines now: Fatso Blocks Driveway: Logs Saved!” I groaned. “Are the news cameras coming at least?” He was not doing this to me. I stamped my foot. This plane ticket had cost me every bit of my savings—money I was supposed to use for books next semester. I’d relied on him to pick the location and to do all the intel while I studied for finals, and then he was supposed to catch me up on all the pertinent details when I got here. This was an epic disaster. I’d put up with his flakiness until now because it was all going to be worth it when our videos went viral and Jeremy’s face was plastered all over the Internet talking about deforestation.
“Ah—” Embarrassment flooded his voice. I closed my eyes. “My agent said if the press continues to run with the story that I’m at the middle of this, it will really piss off the producers. I let him make a statement.”
“Already?” I clenched my teeth. Good to see nothing had changed since high school. Jeremy was still his unreliable self, even with an entourage and star status. Unfortunately, he was also the only celebrity I knew personally—and one of the few who gave enough of a crap about the planet to come protest instead of just making a few sound bites. I’d needed him here. I’d trusted him enough to fly up here with barely any info about Whetman’s actual operation. I jammed my fist into my hip. “Great. Thanks for nothing.”
“No. Don’t. I’ll call you later.”
“Be safe. Okay?”
“Bye.” I squeezed the off button, wishing it was his eyeball. This was my own fault for depending on him, but he’d promised—promised not to flake out like he did every… single… time.
I groaned. Now to figure out how to drum up enough media attention by my non-celebrity self, so that this entire trip wasn’t a great big flop. “Damn you, Jeremy.”
My stomach rumbled and I stormed into the grocery store, grabbed three boxes of granola bars and tried to come up with a plan. By the time I got outside I was no better off, but I had to go through with this. While I stood there figuring out where to start, a blue Prius came up the road and pulled over. The driver leaned across the passenger seat like he was trying to get my attention. “You’re not from around here.”
I bent over and peered into the car, expecting some old guy. Not even close. The driver was adorably fit with a side of geek in a perfect mash-up. Rectangular black-rimmed glasses framed bright blue eyes, but everything about him was undeniably stare-worthy. His dark hair grazed the roof of the car in a spiky fauxhawk and perfectly complimented his olive skin. While I was busy staring, his pillow lips pulled back in an open grin. Oh, he even had perfect teeth. Warm tingles expanded behind my belly button and I couldn’t help but smile back. A breeze whipped my dark hair into the car. I grabbed a handful in a pony at my neck and waited for his reaction as my hair slipped away from my ears, exposing my jewelry. Not even a flinch.
My God, his grin turned my knees into my favorite chocolate pudding.
“Need a lift?”
I sucked on my lower lip. Apparently cutie-pie here was not only hot, but used to my kind of peeps. “Thanks. A lift would be great.”
He pushed the door open and I couldn’t help but notice the lean muscles on his forearm. “Hop in.”
Sliding into the passenger seat, I wedged my bag beside my legs and sighed as warmth curled around my toes. I’d been in such a hurry to make the plane after my last class that I hadn’t changed into anything warmer… and now that Jeremy and my cold-weather supplies weren’t coming… Well, I was no quitter! Besides, karma had given me this shmexy escort, so I must be on the right track. While he pulled back onto the road, I took a single paper from a side pocket and smoothed it across my thigh. “I need to go here.” My finger touched the middle of the printed map. “Whetman Logging.”
His eyebrows shot up and his warm gaze slid over my outfit in appreciation. Then his tongue snuck out and touched the corner of his mouth, spiking my blood pressure. I wasn’t sure if he did it to tease me or if he even knew that he was doing it. For a heartbeat, I wished I’d worn my sweater with the thick belt that better accentuated my curves. Thank goodness I’d curled my hair this morning and had slapped some lip gloss on my chapped lips during the plane ride. A rush of awareness lifted the hair at my nape as his eyes drew level with mine and he graced me with that knee-wobbling grin again. “Headed there myself.”
I settled back in the seat as the car glided down the road in silence. “Never thought I’d find a Prius up here.” Or a super-cute geek driving it.
“Wish I could drive it to and from work all year.”
“You work at the logging company?”
Awesome, a freelancer. He really seemed like Mr. Perfect. Hot, nerdy, and environmentally friendly. Too bad about the Alaskan address.
“How about you? Are you applying for one of our openings?”
“Yes—” I cleared my throat, then lied with a surprisingly strong voice. “Yes, for the HR assistant. I have an interview today.”
He ran his fingers back and forth across the top of the steering wheel. I’ll bet those fingers could fly over a keyboard for hours designing some perfect code. My tummy quivered. There were a lot of things I bet those fingers could do.
“Well, good luck.”
“Thanks.” I felt bad about lying to him. It wasn’t like we were ever going to see each other again, or that I’d be lucky enough to have him ask me to dinner while I was here, but karma had strict rules about lying—especially to cute geeks. That lie was going to cost me at least four horrid dates with asses to make up for it. Maybe she’d cut me a break once I got the logging practices halted. There were necessary lies, whether karma believed in them or not.
We turned left at the end of the main street into the driveway of Whetman Logging’s entrance. Beyond the small guard shack and chain-link fence, trucks and people moved around a busy yard. I tensed and my stomach twisted into a giant daisy chain of nerves. This was where my lie could unravel with blistering speed. I jammed my fingers beneath my thighs and fought the urge to rock back and forth like a grounded toddler. My breath quickened. Maybe sexy-geek had a parking sticker and they wouldn’t have to ask us any questions. Three big work trucks inched forward through the gate, but only after a thorough interrogation by the guard and lots of jotting on a clipboard.
Again, thanks to Jeremy’s betrayal—it honestly felt like that right now—I didn’t have any particulars about the position I was supposedly interviewing for, only the name of the HR manager and the current opening. And thank goodness he’d let that out during one of our short conversations last week. If they asked me anything beyond that—or even for a copy of my resume, which would have been a brilliant thing to bring, now that I thought about it—I’d be out on my ass before I even got the protest started.
My blood heated up at how badly Jeremy had screwed me on this one. I lifted my chin and took a breath. I’d done protests solo before. I had to stop thinking about the size and potential impact of this one and treat it like last week’s sit-in at the park. One person could make a difference—I’d just never been Person One.
Wonder what I did last week to piss karma off this bad?
The massive semi in front of us inched forward. I stared at the empty trailer bed, aching for every bit of sawdust. It was probably headed straight for the mill to be loaded with more tree carcasses. Tears burned my eyes. So much innocent slaughter.
Sexy-geek slowly drove forward as the guard waved us into the next spot. My fingers eased toward the door handle. The guard’s eyes roamed over me through the window, then over my driver. A smile spread across his face and he straightened, then lifted the gate and motioned us through.
My eyebrows shot up and I let out the breath I’d been holding. Security at Whetman Logging was top-notch… Thank you, karma!
“It’s a little crazy in here sometimes, so be careful until someone can show you around.”
“Okay.” I flashed him a smile and ignored the twinge in my gut. Luckily, Jeremy had at least e-mailed me a detailed map of the logging yard, and I’d memorized each and every building, knew exactly how many logs they ran through the saws on a given day, and counted how many people staffed the operation. Jeremy had picked Whetman out for us, and I’d been anticipating a whole lot of information about why when I’d landed. For now, I was going to have to trust that he’d had a reason because I sure didn’t have time to stop moving and research.
Beyond the gate, chaos reigned as huge equipment moved logs around and people filled the gaps like quick little worker ants. The semi that had been in front of us lumbered toward the mill and I narrowed my eyes. Somehow, I had to get over there. Without looking insanely obvious, I craned my neck the other direction and flinched. A massive yellow piece of equipment speared a log and loaded it on a conveyer belt. Saws screamed and whirred loud enough to shatter the Prius’s noise-cancelling windows. My resolve solidified. I might be one person, but I was going to be the most obnoxious, impactful, newsworthy person Whetman Logging had ever encountered.
He maneuvered the Prius into a front parking spot where a cluster of office buildings made up this end of the yard. “There you go.”
Leaning forward, he pointed through the windshield. “Third building on the left is where you can pick up a visitor’s badge for your interview.”
“Thanks.” I could hardly sit still. What an awesome start. First I met this super cutie who got me on-site, and now I was being given free rein inside the operation. Maybe not having Jeremy wouldn’t handicap me after all. Even with his star status, I doubt we’d have made it this far, this fast.
We climbed out and paused at the hood to say our goodbyes. “Thanks for the ride.”
“My pleasure. Hope to see you around.” He flashed that sexy grin and my insides quivered. San Diego had its share of hot guys, but his geeky slenderness was a refreshing change from the body-building sun gods.
I jerked around and faced the source of the sound. A burly man who looked like the Musclebound Pinup for Loggers Weekly stood in the open door of the building farthest away from where I could get the badge. I cringed. Hopefully I hadn’t lost my edge and this wasn’t the point where I got fragged. Surely karma wouldn’t yank my forward progress so early.
Sexy-nerd’s appreciative gaze wandered over me once more. “Morning, Carl,” he said without looking.
The lumberjack scrutinized me then looked back at Sexy, obviously wishing he’d quit flirting with me and turn around. “Got good news. Ya comin’?”
Sexy smiled that lopsided grin that made my insides churn. For a minute I thought he was going to ask me something. “Right now.” He lifted a hand in an easy wave and moved toward the office. I was half-relieved I wouldn’t have to lie again. Much better to think he was about to ask me out.
At the bottom step, he paused and turned. “I’m Teague, by the way.”
My eyes widened and I took a step closer. What he said didn’t compute at all. I’d expected Senior Teague here running the place. Not a single source had mentioned a thing about Junior Teague being back from MIT. Maybe he was another Teague, maybe it was a really common name around here and it was a coincidence. Maybe he wasn’t related to the horrible Whetman Logging in any way. “T–Teague Whetman?”
He pointed to the big metal sign over the door. “Yep, this is me.”
My stomach twisted. Figured.
I forced my face to stay passive so he wouldn’t have any idea I was the one about to toss his life upside down. Turning up the flirt, I cocked one hip and scrambled to keep it together, even though I was totally dying inside. “Cassidy. I’m Cassidy.”
“Hope to see you around again, Cassidy.”
I forced a smile. He should be careful what he wished for… I could almost guarantee we were going to see each other again… and he would not be happy about it. What craptastic luck. Karma giveth, and karma taketh away…
Teague jogged up the steps and I caught snatches of the conversation as the door swung closed. “Jeremy isn’t coming? Fantastic—”
I turned and inched toward the administration office that Sexy—ugh, Teague Whetman, Junior—had pointed out. For an owner’s kid, he’d been pretty blasé about letting me on-site. Was that more of the small-town mentality, or did they figure since Jeremy wasn’t coming the threat had been neutralized? I couldn’t believe Jeremy’s flaketasticness was going to work in my favor—for once.
A sharp breeze yanked the end of my scarf and whipped it against my face. I shivered and tucked it back in. Pretending to adjust my scarf and fix my makeup before my interview, I bought myself a few minutes to stand on the sidewalk and think. Not that thinking was even possible in this giant freezer. All the thawing my toes had done in Teague’s car was quickly reversing. If I stood here for much longer, they were going to start falling off as they froze one by one. Digging through my bag, I took out my compact and used the mirror to survey the buildings behind me. Being inside the yard helped, but there were still a kajillion obstacles.
Three more lumberjacks strode past me toward the office Teague had entered. I ducked my face and smoothed my hair. I eyed each building, measuring my possible impact. Short of setting the entire place on fire, figuring out how to stop the saws would be the biggest attention grabber. As a one-person protest, I needed to hit fast and hit big.
Walking as slowly as possible, which wasn’t hard now that my pinkie toes were frostbit, I surveyed the yard. More huge semis loaded with dead trees came in on the right edge of the yard, made a big loop around a couple of sorting buildings, and went out on the far left through another guarded gate. Tractors and loaders moved logs in all stages to and from buildings. Shrieking saws competed with the roar of machinery, adding to the undertone of death. Anger surged up in me and threatened to cloud my judgment. I needed to stay coolheaded until I figured out my plan of attack for the day.
I rounded a corner and found the circular mill—the first saw most logs met up with. If Junior couldn’t get logs through there, the entire operation would come to a screeching halt and I’d have my impact.
Squaring my shoulders, I dodged a forklift and dug in my bag for an activist’s number one staple.
~ ~ ~ ~ ~
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