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“Miller, honey, you’ll find someone who won’t love you in spite of the things you perceive as flaws, but because of them,” she used to promise me. And I wondered if maybe she was right.

Her endless optimism had made her incredibly resilient, despite how hard she’d had to work to make ends meet as a single mom. It had also made me fiercely protective of her.

I sighed and flopped onto my back after the crying slowed to a trickle. This wasn’t fair. It wasn’t supposed to be like this. How could I allow myself to be happy right now when the one person I’d always been able to rely on in my life was gone?

My phone buzzed in my pocket. Since I’d finally exchanged numbers with Darius, I secretly hoped he was the one messaging me.

It wasn’t Darius. It was my boss.

Kurt: Went to a cocktail party last night where Bill Hirsch told me about something called Instagram. He said we need to get our advertisements on there. Make a note to look into it when you get back.

I gritted my teeth and counted to ten. I’d pitched a social media campaign to management—including Kurt—several times in the past year. Every time I had, the team had waved it off as a temporary fad despite the data I had showing otherwise. I’d finally snuck some Facebook and Instagram ads into the budget last quarter and had been running them successfully for several months now.

The results had been on my most recent summary report, very clearly labeled as Facebook and Instagram advertisements.

It didn’t surprise me that he finally listened when the head of the local dentistry association said something about it, but it would have been nice for him to trust his own ad executive about it.

Me: Will do.

I tossed my phone down on the bedside table and stood up. There was no use in spending time feeling sorry for myself when there was a ginger pound cake out there in Mikey’s kitchen waiting to be taste-tested.

After washing my face and straightening my clothes, I went out to embrace the day.

I embraced it for about two hours before things went off the rails again.

“Tiller wants us to test out the ski lift,” Jamie Marian explained over a fresh cup of coffee in the sunroom. “They have snow tubes for us, and they’ve groomed a long easy run for them. I guess they’re just getting the ski slopes up and running and need some sacrificial lambs.”

Teddy stole Jamie’s coffee mug and took a big gulp before adding, “And in true Marian fashion, my beloved husband committed all of us before asking. So off to the slopes we go.”

The first run was actually fun. The sun was shining, and the snow was perfect for tubing. I’d never done anything like it before, so I had a few experiences of bumping myself off into the powder before getting the hang of it. It was the second run that did me in.

“Incoming!” Derek’s warning wasn’t enough to prevent me from getting bulldozed by a giant, muscled bodyguard who seemed to be all elbows and boots. I went tumbling over to the side of the run and into a bumpy patch of woods before skidding to a stop on top of some saplings that had never stood a chance against a human torpedo.

“Oh! Oh sh-shoot,” Jude said, trying to stop himself in time to help me. Since he had little Wolfe with him, I shot him a half-smile and waved him on. As soon as they disappeared down the slope, I dropped the smile and winced. No big injuries, only lots of little bumps and bruises along with maligned pride.

Finally Maverick and Beau, who’d somehow been meandering at a pace slow enough to keep their hands clasped tightly together, managed to stop and help.

“He’s a veterinarian,” Beau said proudly but with a hint of teasing in his eyes. “He loves rescuing injured woodland creatures.”

“Quiet, you,” Mav mumbled before moving off his tube and approaching me. “Anything broken?”

I shook my head. “Just my spirit,” I said lamely. “I was feeling pretty cocky there for a while. Thought I had this thing figured out.”

“Ah,” Beau said. “Pride really does cometh before the fall. Who knew?”

“Goeth,” his husband corrected. Maverick helped me stand up and make sure there was nothing seriously wrong with me. Once I’d taken a deep breath and calmed down, I felt well enough to continue down the slope.

“Maybe I should retire after this run and take a restorative nap,” I joked.

“Wouldn’t be a bad idea,” Maverick said. “Especially since you probably didn’t get much sleep last night due to all the… baking.”

I blinked at him at the same time his husband jabbed him in the gut with an elbow. “Manners,” Beau warned.

Mav waved his hand in the air. “Dude, he’s family. He can take it.”