Title: Fireside Love
Author: S.L. Sterling
Genre: Contemporary Romance
I hated my job. I had no social life.
Somehow I had become so predictable after my last relationship ended, that the cashier at the local food mart already had my favorite wine bagged and waiting for me behind the counter when I walked in on Friday afternoon.
I needed to get away, from everything.
So when my best friend, Addie, called up and offered me a FREE weekend getaway, how could I say no.
Promises of a quiet weekend with a good book, warm fires, and flannel pajamas? Yes, please!
It had been eighteen months.
Eighteen months, since I had lost my wife in a car accident and learned that our marriage had been nothing but one big lie.
I’d done nothing but work and mope around my sister’s house, so when she told me to take her cabin for the weekend. Time alone, surrounded by nature and the fresh cold mountain air was exactly what I’d been needing.
However, my plans of being alone in the wilderness quickly vanished when I walked through the doors of the cabin and found my sister’s best friend drunk and half-naked on the floor of the very same cabin.
I’d hidden my crush on her for years. Perhaps, not well enough. After all, Addie must have set this up.
The weekend was about to get a lot more interesting.
From USA Today Bestselling Author S.L. Sterling comes this friends to lovers romance that will warm your heart on a cold winters night.
I sat doodling figure eights on the paper that sat in front of me. Tom’s voice was sounding more like nails on a chalkboard than ever before. I swore this day was never going to end, and the more he droned on, the more I was convinced I was right. Who the hell calls a meeting at three in the afternoon on a Friday, for goodness’ sake. I glanced up at the clock. For a meeting that was only supposed to take a half an hour, my boss sure was winded. He had been going on nonstop for close to an hour and fifteen minutes, and all I could think of was cracking open a bottle of wine and vegging on my couch.
“Everyone, thank you for your time and have a great weekend,” Tom, my boss and ex-boyfriend, called out. I glanced up and caught him watching me, giving me a half smile. I dropped my eyes back to the form in front of me.
Jen smacked me in the arm, grabbing my attention. “Let’s get out of here,” she said, scooping up the papers that sat in front of her.
I glanced around the room. Half of the people were already out the door, and here I was still sitting here doodling, while my ex stood there trying to get my attention. I quickly shoved all the notes into a pile, gave Tom a look, and followed Jen out of the boardroom and back to our offices.
“Honestly, a late-Friday afternoon meeting that really could have been summed up over an email. That was a complete and total waste of time. I could have been halfway home by now,” I mumbled as we stepped out of the elevator.
“I know. I swear that man does this on purpose. Seems it’s every single Friday night,” Jen replied. “Do you have any plans for the weekend?”
“The usual, you know: drown my sorrows in a bottle of wine and shove my face with sweets.” We both laughed as we made our way back to our offices.
“That sounds delightful. I’ll see you Monday?”
“Yep, I will be here.”
I shut the door to my office and jumped behind my computer to send out my final few emails of the day before I packed up my bag. Even though I had zero plans, I was happy it was Friday. I was simply happy to have a couple of days to myself and not have to come into this hellhole I called a job.
My job hadn’t always been bad. At one time, I’d actually liked it here. Then I started seeing Tom, my boss, which hadn’t been the best idea I’d had. We had dated last summer, probably one of the best summers I’d ever had. Then fall came, he had gotten a new assistant, and things started to get rocky. My performance at work slowed, and suddenly, instead of being praised as one of the best employees, I quickly flew to the bottom of his list. Not only did it cause strain here at the job, but it caused strain on our relationship.
One afternoon, I found out why I had been placed on the bottom of his list, and it wasn’t due to my work ethic. I’d gone up to see Tom in his office like usual to finalize our plans for the weekend. His assistant wasn’t at her desk when I arrived. I really didn’t think anything of it. I just knocked and walked into his office, like I normally did at the end of every Friday. What I saw when I walked into his office I wish I could unsee. His assistant sat on his desk, her skirt pulled up around her thighs, and there in between her legs was Tom.
I could barely believe my eyes, and I instantly felt sick as she hung her head back to moan, I let out a gasp as I covered my mouth. They both looked in my direction, her immediately pulling at her skirt to cover herself up, while he begged me to let him explain. I could feel the heat on my face and took off running toward the elevator.
Tom ran after me, begging for my forgiveness, causing a huge scene. I went home that Friday, had a good cry, and contemplated reporting him to Human Resources. Instead, on Sunday, I called him at home and broke up with him. He’s begged me for another chance, but I told him the damage was already done and to keep his distance. Now for the past year and a half I have been subjected to his last-minute meetings, along with looks that no boss should be giving his employee.
I finished packing my bag and was just about to throw it over my shoulder when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw Tom walking slowly down the hall. I rolled my eyes. “Please don’t stop. Please don’t stop,” I mumbled to myself.
The door to my office pushed open and Tom stuck his head in. “Kristy, don’t forget to go over the final images for the magazine layout this weekend. I’d like to have them in my hands by Sunday night.”
I sucked in a breath and pasted a fake smile across my face. “Sure thing.” He had been doing this to me since we had broken up, finding some way to make me work the entire weekend on something. I had been the one who complied, but now I was getting tired of it.
He nodded. “Have a good weekend, Kristy.” He waved and went to continue his way down the hall, then stepped back in my doorway. “Oh, Kristy, I was thinking perhaps you could drop the package off at my place on Sunday night. It would be nice if we could go over your work together.”
That invite struck at my last nerve. There was no way in hell I was going to be caught dead going to his condo just so he could hit on me in private. “I don’t think so. It can wait until Monday, Tom,” I bit out, praying he got the hint.
“Sunday,” he said with a little more force as he stared at me. He tapped his hand on the doorframe, his eyes washing over me, and then continued on, making his way down the hall.
I reached into my bag and pulled out the USB stick that held the images I was planning to use for the layouts and placed it in the top drawer of my desk. “Guess that will just have to wait until Monday now.” I giggled to myself, flipping my bag over my shoulder.
Horns blared as I stepped out onto the sidewalk. The Friday afternoon traffic is heavy already, I thought to myself as I began to walk towards home. I was about halfway down the block when snow started to fall heavily. I stopped at the grocery store just like I did every Friday for my usual bottles of wine and some snack food and wished that I had decided to drive this morning instead of walk.
“Hey, Dena.” I waved at my favorite cashier as I wiped my snow-covered shoes on the mat inside the door.
“Hey, Kristy, I have already bagged your usual bottles of wine. I have them behind the counter here waiting for you. One bottle is cold, two are warm.”
I nodded my thanks and made my way down the aisles to the hot food table. Had I really become that predictable that the cashier at my neighborhood Food Mart knew what wine I normally bought and had it pre-bagged for me before I’d even gotten there? I picked up some food off the hot counter, a couple of bags of chips and some candy, and made my way to the front of the store with my arms full.
Twenty minutes later, I shoved the key in the lock to my apartment and kicked the door open, running to the small table in the corner of the kitchen where I set the bags down just before they slipped out of my hands. I shoved the cold bottle of wine into the fridge, locked my apartment door, and went and had a quick shower.
Dressed in my favorite pair of yoga pants and a T-shirt, I swept my long, dark hair up into a clip and grabbed the phone. I dialed Addie’s number. It was my usual Friday night bitch session where I complained to her about Tom and all the other things that had gone wrong in my life during the week.
The phone only rang once before she picked it up. “Kristy! Happy Friday!”
I laughed out loud at her enthusiasm. “Hey!” I tried but my voice clearly didn’t share her sentiments.
“What’s wrong? You should be thrilled to be out of that place.” She giggled.
“I am just so done. Tom actually had the nerve to invite me over to his place Sunday night.”
“He claims it was to go over my photo choices for the magazine layout. I know he is just using it as an excuse to get me alone. It pissed me off so much I may have accidentally left the USB stick that contained the images in my desk drawer. Whoops.”
“You should have reported him when you had the chance. I can’t believe that he’s still bothering you.”
“I know I should have. I just seriously need a new life. If that wasn’t bad enough, he called an emergency meeting at three o’clock this afternoon to go over everything that seriously could have been summed up in an email about a paragraph long.”
“What a dick.”
“Then, as if everything wasn’t ending on a high enough note, I stopped at Food Mart on my way home and Dena already had my three bottles of wine bagged and behind the counter. Can you believe it?”
Addie let out a loud laugh. “Oh, Kristy, that’s hilarious.”
“Yah it’s really funny. It’s pitiful. Seriously, I am twenty-five. When did I become predictable? I am supposed to be carefree, partying it up every weekend, sleeping with random dudes. Instead, the cashier at the grocery store knows that every Friday, at exactly five fifteen, I walk in and buy three bottles of Cupcake Vineyards Moscato, one cold, and two warm, to drown my sorrows over the weekend.”
“It sounds like you need a vacation.”
“I so do. I need away from everything,” I bit out, opening the bag of gummy bears I had bought and shoving four of them in my mouth.
“Why don’t you head up to the cottage? Phil and I were supposed to go this weekend, but he’s on call, so we had to change our plans.”
“I don’t know. It’s already almost six. It would take me a bit to get there.”
“Nonsense. You need this. It’s supposed to be a beautiful weekend. Serenity Lake is already covered in snow, and you will have the entire cabin to yourself. You, nature, the mountains. Book a massage, go horseback riding, spend the day in nature. It’s exactly what you need.”
I glanced around at my empty apartment. I could either stay here and wallow in self pity, looking at the four white walls, or I could get in my car, drive up to the mountains, and spend the weekend in that beautiful rustic cabin that Addie’s family had owned for years, surrounded by wildlife and beautiful scenery.
“Are you sure? I feel kind of bad going when I know you guys were planning this weekend for so long.”
“I wouldn’t have offered it if I wasn’t sure, Kristy. Phil can’t go far. His rotation was changed, and he is on call all weekend. So go, have a good time. I’ll even call ahead and book you in for a massage at the hotel down the road with Shawn. I’ll book it for when you arrive tonight.”
“Oh you will love him. He has the best hands in the world, not to mention he is a total hottie.”
I let out a laugh. I could practically see the expression on Addie’s face right now as she said those words. The idea of being pampered did sound great. At least it was better than staying here and wallowing the entire weekend. “All right, fine, no need to twist my arm. I will go.
“Yay!” I could hear her clapping on the other end of the phone and imagined her jumping up and down with excitement because I’d agreed to take her up on her offer.
“Okay I am going to go and book your massage. My treat, okay! Did you want me to email you directions?”
“No, Addie, the cottage is enough. I will pay for my massage. I think I remember how to get there, but just in case I don’t, please email them.”
“You got it, babe! Have a great time!”
“Oh, and don’t do anything I wouldn’t do.” Addie laughed into the phone, and suddenly, I wished that she was joining me on this weekend away. I desperately needed girl time or something to take my mind off of everything I had going on.
We said our good-byes, and I took off down the hall towards my bedroom and packed my bag. I was going to spend the entire weekend in the mountains alone, which may be exactly what I needed to unwind.
About the author:
USA Today Bestselling Author S.L. Sterling was born and raised in southern Ontario. She now lives in Northern Ontario Canada with her two dogs, and is married to her best friend and soul mate.
An avid reader all her life, S.L. Sterling dreamed of becoming an author. She decided to give writing a try after one of her favorite authors launched a course on how to write your novel. This course gave her the push she needed to put pen to paper and her debut novel “It Was Always You” was born.
When S.L. Sterling isn’t writing or plotting her next novel she can be found curled up with a cup of coffee, blanket and the newest romance novel from one of her favorite authors.
In her spare time, she enjoys camping, hiking, sunny destinations, spending quality time with family and friends and of course reading.