Mercy Mountain Series
When the road you’re on turns rocky you could end up nestled in the foothills above Ashnee Valley, Colorado near the Mercy Mountain Lodge. Owned by the Mannis family, the dilapidated resort is in need of tender loving care. So are the lives of the women who arrive there. Each woman brings her unique charms and strength influencing the evolution of the lodge over time and a blossoming of romances through the generations of Mercy Mountain.
A little east coast meets western. A little big city meets small town. A whole lot of resilience, new beginnings and lasting love
First comes child, then comes marriage… Wait! What?
It’s humbling surviving a car accident, getting sober, learning you have a four-year-old son, and managing construction at your family’s Mercy Mountain Lodge. That’s the recovery wagon Jett Mannis has found himself on this past year. Formerly Ashnee Valley’s bad boy, when Jett is given a second chance, he doesn’t plan to miss any good fortune coming his way. Beginning with the impulsive and incredibly sexy woman who offers to help him raise his son.
Does anyone really leave the Big Apple after they make it there?
Broadway star Delia Kincaid wants a simpler life, a relationship that lasts longer than one night, and a family—and she’s willing to walk away from New York fame to find it. Her romantic fairytale stirs to life when she visits Colorado and falls head-over-heels for an adorable little boy named RJ. The only problem is his captivating father, who awakens both her buried fears and burning desires.
Ashnee Valley, Colorado
“Let me get this straight. I walk all the way from here to there and when I get back you let me kiss you?” Jett Mannis pointed to the pine tree one hundred yards from where they stood on his family’s property surrounding Mercy Mountain Lodge.
“By yourself,” Delia added.
“By myself, the walking and the kissing,” he said to his sister-in-law, Sofia’s, best friend. “I ain’t sharing you, woman.”
Delia scoffed. “You’re an idiot.”
“Only for you, Honeybee.”
“Well?” She lifted her bouquet of white and purple lilacs and sniffed. “Go on. I’ll be waiting.”
The way she smiled, just her blue eyes lifting to his, nose in the flowers, made him hard. He refrained from asking what he’d get if he walked a hundred yards there and back with a boner.
He set out, his cane leading the way, his left side bearing weight as he dragged his right side, stiff and weak. Hell, ever since his car accident less than a year ago, he’d been on the wagon, a beat up, tired, slow-recovering, and currently celibate wagon.
This kiss better be worth the ache. He grinned, knowing it would be.
He ambled forward, purposely lowering his shoulders to prevent a crick in his neck. A new cramp sparked his back every time he took a step. This was worse than physical therapy. He stopped and looked behind him, watching Delia swing the skirt of her cream-colored dress back and forth before pulling it up in front, gifting him with a flash of her tan, toned legs. Her laughter tickled the back of his neck as he turned again and headed for the tree.
Delia Kincaid. He’d kissed her months ago before she headed back to New York to her life as an actress. Besides his son, RJ, the kiss was a highlight of his early days of sobriety.
Maybe she kissed me?
After three months in the hospital following the crash, he left, unable to walk. He’d recuperated at the family ranch, equipped with a motorized scooter. He chuckled remembering how he’d let four-year-old, RJ, sit on his lap in those early days. At the time, Delia, cornered him to say a warm goodbye. He was in sorry shape back then.
Maybe it was a pity kiss?
His memory of the accident itself remained fuzzy even now. But in a small town like Ashnee Valley, everyone knew the story. It wasn’t beyond his family to retell it to any newcomers who hadn’t heard it fifty times already.
“That night…” his brother-in-law, Leo, would say. “Jett had an argument with Jim and took off from their dad’s ranch like a bat out of hell.”
“He was scared,” his older sister, Kai, might add. “He’d just found out he had a son he’d never known about.”
“I’m the one Jett told first about RJ.” Sofia, his brother’s wife, would brag and smile modestly.
“Add in drunk,” Jim always announced, “his go-to-state of being, and the fact he took the curve on Moonshine Ridge Road at a ridiculous speed.”
Depending on who told the story, this was the point where a reenactment of his truck careening around a corner going anywhere from forty to a hundred miles per hour occurred.
“The perfect storm,” his father, Ben, shook his head, “for driving through a fence and rolling onto the property of my neighbor’s ranch.”
The audience, regardless of who they were, always concluded the story the same way every single time. “You’re lucky you didn’t kill someone else and that you survived.”
His boot crunched on gravel and his foot slipped on a rock. Damn, better pay attention if I want that second kiss. Putting his hand out to catch himself against the tree, he missed, his arm dropping forward. He rested on his cane, his other hand on his knee.
“You have to come all the way back by yourself too,” Delia shouted.
“I know that, damn it.”
“What’d you say, darlin’?”
She used that faux Southern Belle voice as if they were actors in one of her Broadway plays. “We’re in the West, not the deep South. You sound silly,” he said.
“I’m practicing for when you sweep me off my feet and smack a big wet one on me.”
Jett let the cane lean on the side of his leg, took out the handkerchief from his back pocket, and wiped the sweat from his brow.
“Prepare to swoon.” The words came out gruff and he cleared his throat.
Today, at the public tour of Mercy Mountain Lodge his family hosted, he got a kick out Delia being back for another visit to Colorado. She kept appearing in the last year at key moments. Like a guardian angel.
A cheeky, slightly impulsive, and jaw-dropping sexy angel.
“Do you need an incentive?” Her voice met him smooth and silky as he straightened again and headed back along the dirt path.
He didn’t look up, instead keeping a careful eye on his shuffling feet, his dress boots gathering dirt. “You know what I want,” he growled.
I want to kiss you and I want this torture to end.
He glanced her direction as she slid the V-neck of her dress to one side and flashed him one of her breasts.
Is that a nipple?
He picked up his pace. Sweaty and sore, he finally arrived in front of her smiling face. She stood on her tiptoes to kiss him on the cheek.
“That is not the kiss that counts,” he said. “I’m not collecting a proper kiss for my efforts out in the open.”
“I never think of you as shy. So where are we going, partner?”
She had switched to more of an Annie Oakley voice and he shook his head. It amazed him how she made a career on stage out of all that corny stuff.
He gave her his arm and she bore some of his weight. Her breast rubbed against his bicep as they walked back toward the big canvas tents. He lifted his chin toward his pick-up parked separate from the rest of the visitors’ cars in the grassy field.
“Let’s go to my truck.” Under a tree. Private. Out of the July sun.
“Your truck?” She dropped his arm and stepped away. “You think I’m some hick that wants to make out in a truck?”
He smiled wide, knowing that would get her New York sensibilities in a twist.
“Why not? You’ve been talking like one for the last twenty minutes and flashing your legs and breasts at me.”
“I’m trying to encourage your recovery.”
“Well, honey, you did.” He ambled toward the truck and threw his cane in the back bed with a loud clatter before opening the door and gesturing for her to climb in.
“I’m going to kiss you, Delia, but I’m not doing it on display for half of Ashnee Valley.”
He waited, watching her mind appear to tick through options, then hid a satisfied grin when she climbed up. Holding onto the side of the bed, he made his way carefully around the late model truck before getting in on the driver side. It was surprisingly cool inside, so he slid the bench seat back and left the tinted windows up.
“Give me a minute.” He put his head back on the headrest and closed his eyes, peeking out sideways to see if she bought it.
“Your eyes are open, so you’re either dead or faking this tuckered out thing.” She faced forward, her hands resting on her lap.
“Come on then.” He chuckled, sliding his hand behind her, and scooting her body next to his. Ouch. “Let’s get this over with.”
“Let’s get this over with. Really? I can refuse. It’s not like we shook on it or signed a contract.”
He pushed her honey-blonde hair off her shoulder and leaned in, running the tip of his nose along the rim of her ear.
“I like when you leave only a sliver of hope for me to work with. You do want me to kiss you, don’t you?”
He understood she was only in the truck out of curiosity just like he was. To see if the same bolt of lightning struck a second time around. He ran his fingers along her collar bone, picking up the small diamond necklace she wore and letting it drop back on her chest. He loved the way the material of her dress, whatever it was – satin - locked her breasts together and pushed them high.
It took all his effort not to let his hand slide into that V, taking one of those magnificent globes into his possession, bringing his mouth down to suckle.
She told him he could kiss her, and it wasn’t like they’d agreed on the details. He sat back.
“What?” Her gaze followed his, down then up. “Oh, no, that is not part of this agreement. You are not kissing me…my…wherever. I know your reputation. I know how your mind works, thinking there’s a penalty flag or a quarterback sneak you can throw.”
“You got those game plays down good.” He nodded while somehow managing not to scoff at her messed-up football lingo. “Sounds like you have me all figured out too, huh?”
“I’m from New York.”
Jett took one of her hands and raised it to his lips, kissing her knuckles. “Damn, woman, your hands are cold. What’s up with that? It’s eighty degrees outside.”
Is she nervous?
“Hey.” He put his finger under her chin. “We don’t have to do this. You got me walking a good distance. That was your real motive. It was tough, but I did it. I wasn’t sure I could.” He tipped his head to the side. “So, thank you. Come on, we’ll go back to the party. No harm done.”