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SERIES: Peakview Series, Book 9
GENRE: Cowboy/Western, Small Town
ENDING: HEA (They’re a couple and live Happily Ever After)
WORD COUNT: 45,000 to 59,999 (small book)
HERO’S AGE: 40-49
HEROINE’S AGE: 30-39
HEAT LEVEL: Steamy (Talk Dirty To Me)
GRAPHIC LANGUAGE: None (as in zero, or no more than 1)
COME HOME TO PEAKVIEW, COLORADO, WHERE EVERYONE HAS A CHANCE AT LOVE.
SUZY QUINLAN’S heart dies the day she buries her five-year-old son, Mason. Leaving the cold cemetery, she flees to the Colorado Mountains searching for peace. Unexpectedly caught in a blinding snowstorm, she seeks shelter in the tiny town of Peakview.
JERRY DECKER is known as the town’s hermit. Since returning from his service in Iraq eight years earlier, he lives a solitary life hiding from his demons, with only his dog, Bear, for company.
Two hearts damaged by grief are drawn together as kindred souls. To move forward, they’ll have to face their pasts and lay their ghosts to rest. Can broken hearts dare to hope again?
READ AN EXCERPT
Suzy Quinlan kicked the dark gray slush in front of her tire with the pointed toe of her high-heeled black boot. The clump fell off her car with a thud, as she grabbed the door handle with her free hand to avoid the same fate. In her other hand, she clung to the large, black umbrella. The cold, icy drizzle continued to fall from the sky. She glanced back in the direction she’d come, in time to see the coffin being lowered into the cold ground. She quickly turned away. The graveside service was bad enough—she didn’t want to think about what happened next.
She carefully walked to the driver’s side of her car. A solid layer of ice had formed on her windshields. Could this day get any worse? She slid her way to the trunk and grabbed out her ice scraper. This was a two-hand job. She collapsed the umbrella and threw it in the trunk. Her long, red hair, which she had so carefully straightened this morning, was sure to turn into a frizz ball in about ten seconds flat in this weather. It didn’t matter. Nothing really mattered anymore. She made her way back to the front of the car and started chipping away. Reaching across the snowy hood, she cursed as her ankle twisted in a pothole. Icy, cold water entered her boot which was made for fashion, not function.
She gave up and climbed behind the wheel and cranked the defrost button to high. She’d wait while the car did the rest of the work. She sighed and laid her head on the steering wheel. She wasn’t going to cry, not now.
Tap. Tap. Tap. Suzy looked up to see her mom knocking on her window. She pushed the button, and slush flew as the pane descended.
“You’re coming to the house, right?” Mom’s pretty face was creased with worry.
“Do you want to ride with us?” Mom pointed over at Dad sitting behind the wheel of the next car.
“It would be silly to leave my car here at the cemetery. Besides, my feet are soaked. I want to stop at the apartment and change. You go ahead.”
“Alright, but don’t take too long. Aunt Julie says people from the church have been bringing food by all day. I know everyone wants to see you. Don’t forget that Grams and Alice have to catch a plane tonight.”
“I’ll be there.” She rolled the window back up and watched her mom climb into their vehicle, and her dad drive away.
Her windshield had semi-cleared. She turned on the wipers, pulled away from the curb, and drove down the slushy street. Not toward her apartment—not toward her childhood home—just ahead. She knew everyone wanted to give her their condolences, but she’d lose it if she heard one more person say, “I’m sorry for your loss” or “It’s going to be alright.” It wasn’t going to be alright—ever. No amount of casseroles could change that.
Up ahead was a sign signaling the entrance to Interstate 70. She pressed down on the accelerator and merged onto the westbound highway. A semi passed her in the next lane, spraying a massive amount of water and ice onto her windshield temporarily blinding her, but she sped up and kept going. She had no idea where she was headed. She just knew she needed a few moments. Maybe she’d drive a ways up into the mountains. The Rockies were her peaceful place, and right now she could use some peace.
Mindlessly, she drove until the lights of Denver shone in her rearview mirror, and the road began to wind up into the hills. The drizzle turned to thick, white flakes. She flipped on her headlights. Although it wasn’t yet 4:00 p.m., with the thick cloud cover, it was already getting dark. Why was there so much traffic? What day was it anyway? The last two weeks had gone by in a blur. She’d lost all track of days or times. That’s right, it was Friday and not just Friday, but the Friday of New Year’s weekend. No wonder. People from all along the eastern slope of Colorado were heading to the ski resorts for the long weekend. This route may have been a mistake. She’d find the next exit and turn around and head back to town. As she struggled to see the road in the blinding snow, she rounded a curve and slammed on her brakes. Her car slid sideways and came to a stop just short of the bumper of the car in front of her. All she could see was a stream of red brake lights, stretching down the long slope and back up the mountain in front of her. No one was moving.
The wail of a siren interrupted her thoughts as she watched a police car and ambulance speed by on the edge of the highway. Great. Must be an accident ahead. She could be stopped for hours. She put the car in park and banged her hands against the steering wheel. Pent-up tears began flowing freely down her cheeks. Why had he died? She would have given her life to save him. It wasn’t fair. She tasted the salty tears and searched the glove box for a tissue. It didn’t matter that she was stuck on this highway. She was stuck in a life without the only person she ever truly loved with all her heart. She didn’t know how long she sat there, but by the time the vehicles began to move in the distance, her tears stopped. Her windshield was caked with new, wet snow. She opened her door and held on tight as she attempted to push the clumps of snow off her field of vision before trying to drive.
As the traffic slowly started to move, she squinted her eyes and watched for an exit where she could get off and turn back toward the city. She was in no mood to end up in a ski resort with happy, celebrating people. The speed was stop and go and only averaged about 10 mph. It seemed like forever until she saw an exit sign. She turned on her blinker and waited in a long line of cars. Apparently, she wasn’t the only one who’d decided to head back down. As she sat on the exit ramp, she realized that hundreds of cars now headed toward the eastbound side of the Interstate, and it didn’t look much better than the westbound lanes. Suddenly her situation overwhelmed her. She couldn’t deal with the traffic. She’d been dealing all day, and she was done. When she finally got to the crossroad, she made a split-second decision and turned in the direction away from the line of cars. Immediately, the traffic lessened considerably. She had no idea where this Peakview Highway led, but it had recently been plowed and didn’t seem to be too icy. She’d take her chances away from the crowds.
She drove a few miles farther and could feel her blood pressure slowly return to normal. Very few cars passed her on the winding road. The thick pines tree on both sides were so beautiful with their branches laden with snow. This road must lead to somewhere. Maybe some picturesque, quiet mountain town. She’d find a decent motel and spend the night—call Mom and let her know she was safe. A pang of guilt swept through her. She was sure her mom was worried sick by now. She glanced at her cell phone. NO SERVICE. She’d have to wait until she found a town. She wound up a mountain pass and down the other side. Her eyes burned. Was she tired, or was it snowing even harder now? Ahead she spotted a small cluster of lights. A sign of civilization.
Reaching a valley, she passed a city limits sign that read Aspen Ridge. She slowed to the posted 30 mph speed limit and frowned at the tiny town that looked almost deserted and shut down for the night. Finally, at the other end of the few blocks of businesses, a red neon sign flashed EverOpen Motel. She slowed even more. It looked very basic. In fact, she doubted they even had WiFi, and she didn’t see a restaurant. She took a deep breath and kept going. Surely the next town would be larger. As she left the street lights behind, she passed a sign that read Peakview-19 miles. She could make it that far.
Less than ten minutes later, she already regretted her decision. She hadn’t seen another car since she left the town, and the path from the snowplow had virtually disappeared. The heavy snow blinded her as it blew straight at her windshield. She wasn’t sure where the edge of the road was, so she slowed to a snail’s pace. The last thing she needed was to end up in a ditch out in the middle of nowhere. She could freeze to death before anyone found her car. And her fashion boots—well, she couldn’t walk very far in the snow in them. Nope, she’d stay on the road until she got to Peakview. The nineteen miles took almost an hour to drive. She started crying when she finally saw lights ahead. This time they were tears of joy. Her joy was short-lived when she passed the city limits sign and realized this town was even smaller than the last. The street was deserted and the stores along the side were closed up for the night. She spotted a lone pickup truck parked on the left side ahead in front of a wooden building with a sign that read, Violet’s café. A red OPEN was lit in the window of the door. She pulled up next to the truck. At least, the sidewalk in front of the café had been shoveled. She’d ask someone inside to direct her to a motel or a bed and breakfast. At this point, she didn’t care where she stayed as long as it was warm and out of the snow.
Meet Jill Haymaker
Jill Haymaker loves writing seasoned romance. Her books feature characters from their thirties into their seventies. She believes you are never too old for love, and that older characters bring depth to her stories. She was one of the original members of the seasoned romance Facebook group. She was born and raised in Indiana and Ohio. After high school, she attended Bowling Green State University before moving to Fort Collins, Colorado. Ms. Haymaker made her home in Fort Collins until her recent move to East Texas. She practiced family law in Fort Collins for the past 20 years. She has three grown children, a son and two daughters. She also has three granddaughters.
Jill has always had a passion for writing. Colorado Sunset was her first full-length romance novel in her Peakview, Colorado series. Her latest book, Mountain Hearts is the ninth book in the series. If you love small town romance, you will love the characters in this series. She also has had several short stories published by Chicken Soup for the Soul, the most recent in the book Random Acts of Kindness.