Holly Clark stared at the gauze-covered figure, unable to recognize one familiar feature. Ugly tubes protruded from the nose, mouth, arm, and groin; contraptions pulled the extremities into contorted positions. The body lay motionless except for an occasional rising of his chest. Was there some mistake? Could this possibly be her husband? She brushed a strand of golden hair back. Her lips were parched, her throat ached, and sweaty hands trembled. Fluid oozing from his head caught her eye. Aaugh! An offensive smell gripped her nostrils as waves of nausea overcame her senses. IV’s, blood—it didn’t matter. She clasped her hand firmly over her mouth, pivoted, and rushed from the room. Just in time.
Reaching a chair in the waiting room, her knees buckled. Was this the end of their lifeless relationship? She struggled to maintain control but memories flooded her mind. Adam had been a tower of strength so energetic no one could beat him physically. After the ski accident, he even hiked with his leg in a cast before the week ended. Oh, for one more laugh together.
Her loneliness escalated as the clock ticked. Suddenly the starkness of the situation gripped her. She was the one without hope! Nothing she attempted had meaning—it was all in vain. “God, I need somebody to help me! I want to be understood, appreciated, and valued. Where have I gone wrong?” Eighteen years earlier, circumstances were entirely different. A handsome hunk who catered to her whims entered Holly Elizabeth Armstrong’s world. Was it a dream? Where should they begin? What would bring the most happiness? The deep blue sky, with fluffy clouds that looked like little white sheep, kept drawing her attention upward.
Adam Clark blinked on arrival in Steamboat Springs, Colorado with college friends for
his Christmas vacation. “Hey! That sun is bright,” he said, putting on sunglasses. He stretched his lanky legs. The airport was smaller than he expected.
“This might be my ticket to the big league,” Roger said, puffing his chest. “Hurry guys, I can’t wait to race down the slopes and smell fresh mountain air.”
“I’m ready to ski with the pros,” Danny said, attempting to hide his fear of skiing among world-class athletes who frequented this particular location.
Travelers jockeyed for position as they exited. Someone bumped Danny. “Excuse me,” a man with an obvious ego said.
Adam glanced around for a shuttle to the ski lodge. “We need luggage first. Can’t go anywhere without ski pants and gloves,” Joe Wallace said, motioning to a loaded conveyor belt in the baggage claim area. The four friends huddled together retrieving their bags. With gear in hand, they headed toward the information booth, passing a beautiful blonde leaning against the wall deep in thought. A glint of sunshine on her hair caught Adam’s eye and he gazed intently. She had the loveliest tresses he had ever seen. Their eyes met briefly, before an announcement for an incoming flight caused her to rush away.
To his surprise, the same magnificent hair appeared the next morning whizzing down a mountain. Just as Adam maneuvered a turn at the juncture of two runs, the streak of shimmering gold raced past—obviously experienced at skiing these slopes. What luck! If only he could catch her.
Astonished, then exhilarated, Adam lost his balance and sprawled on the fresh snow. Danny and Roger struggled to maintain control but tumbled over him. Skis and poles littered the landscape. Adam winced. Not knowing the extent of his injuries, he managed to stand up. With adrenalin surging—bolstered by pride—he ignored the increasing discomfort and continued to ski to the bottom, hobbling to the first aid station where ski patrol determined medical care was necessary. “Sorry, guys. I’ll be back soon,” he said as medics prepared to take him to the hospital.
Leaving the ski slope was difficult. Physical pain gripped his body as motional aspirations turned to anguish. The beautiful butterfly got away!
Adam had scheduled this vacation to escape his stress-filled academic life. Skiing would exercise his body and invigorate his spirit, as well as put him in the company of fascinating females. One year had passed since his breakup with Karen. It appeared he wouldn’t enjoy any part of this holiday.
Dr. Ted Armstrong, a local physician, set his fractured leg before expressing concern about Adam being unable to ski for the remainder of his vacation. “What a bummer—you with a cast and your friends having fun. Have you talked to family yet? You’re from California, right?” To make the unfortunate situation tolerable, he invited Adam to recuperate at the Armstrong home. “You’ll need special assistance until you can move about, even with crutches. Why don’t you stay at our house until you mend a bit? My wife, Susan, won’t mind. She’s cared for other patients after ski accidents.”
Considering his options, this seemed an acceptable arrangement. “I guess,” he said—though spending his vacation with a doctor was the last thing he envisioned doing. He pictured his friends racing down the slopes and remembered the girl he had seen on the snow. I wonder who the gorgeous blonde was. Now I won’t get a chance to find out…
Adam was in complete shock when she entered the guest room. His jaw dropped. He stared. He blinked. Was he dreaming? Maybe he was hallucinating from pain meds. Before his eyes appeared the reason for a bizarre twist in events and he gawked in disbelief. “Enjoying the mountain air?” the pretty girl said. “I understand you took a spill and ended up meeting my dad.”
“Uh, uh. . .” Adam fumbled for words but could think of nothing to say. He became oblivious to the pain in his leg for a moment.
“Don’t be discouraged,”she said. “Looking at the peaks from this window can be almost as pleasurable as skiing down. There is always next year. Some people come back every winter.” Her voice captivated him, further. He racked his brain for something to say but she was gone before he could think of an intelligent response.
As he convalesced, Adam became acquainted with this delightful creature named Holly. He liked spending time together and the enjoyable discussions they shared were almost as invigorating as skiing. Adam could hardly sleep at night, kept awake by the suspense of what morning would bring. “No Christmas break has ever been this exciting!” he said to Joe on the phone.
With pent up energy, Adam jumped at Holly’s suggestion to hobble down a riverbank path that twisted around the base of the mountains. While there, he became aware how sensuous her lithe body looked jumping over rocks. She stood barely to his shoulders but her powerful charisma commanded his attention. With sparkling brown eyes, she relished sharing tales from her past. “This stream goes all the way down to the Colorado River, merging into a massive waterfall before taking a final plunge,” she said.
“I’d love to see it.”
They enjoyed precious time together for one magnificent day.