Hope Stewart set down the receiver of the phone and sighed. Turning to the laptop on the counter, she opened the weather app, and stared at the screen.
“Excuse me,” a smart looking man wearing khaki pants and a wool sweater said, interrupting her thoughts. “My name is Jasper Cooper. I am in town for the night to interview Mr. Marcus Cole. I’m wondering if he has checked in yet? My cell phone died.”
Hope’s cheeks grew warm as she studied the gorgeous specimen in front of her. His black hair and baby blue eyes seemed like a contradiction of sweet and dangerous. A contradiction she
wouldn’t mind exploring.
“Hello, Mr. Cooper. Welcome to Darby Chalet. Unfortunately, Mr. Cole will not be coming today. I just got off of the phone with our shuttle bus driver, and he informed me that all flights have been cancelled, and the roads are shut down due to the storm. Even if Mr. Cole made it to the airport, we can’t get him here.”
Jasper raked his hand through his hair, pacing down the counter and back again before speaking. Hope wondered how he could look better after mussing up his hair.
“Surely there is something you can do. Do you know who Mr. Cole is? He’s the number one skier in the US, and he is on track to ski at the Olympics. You can’t just leave him at the airport.”
Jasper’s magnanimous tone cooled off Hope’s lustful heat. Taking a deep breath, Hope counted to five before responding. “Again, I’m sorry, but there is nothing I can do. The roads are impassable.”
Jasper’s blue eyes iced over. “Maybe I am not making myself clear. I work for Sporting Elite Magazine, the number one sports magazine in the world, and I am interviewing the number one skier in the US. I need you to figure out how to get him here. Today!”
Hope narrowed her green eyes and lifted her chin, her long blonde hair bouncing in its ponytail. “I understood you just fine,” Hope said through gritted teeth, “I think it is you who is misunderstanding me. All transportation has been halted due to the storm. There is no way that I can get Mr. Cole here today.”
Hope leaned across the counter and picked up a brochure. “I would encourage you to look this over. It is full of activities that I am sure you will enjoy while you wait out the storm.”
Hope gave an Oscar worthy smile while handing Jasper the brochure.
“I want to speak to your manager,” Jasper said.
“I am the manager.”
“Who is above you?”
“My father, and he is not here today.” Hope squared her shoulders, hoping she appeared more confident than she felt.
Jasper put his hands on his hips and glanced down at his shoes for a few seconds before looking back up.
“Fine, would you please let me know if anything changes? My career hinges on this interview.”
Hope’s attitude softened at Jasper’s admission. He looked like his puppy just died.
“Absolutely! I am very sorry. If there was anything I could do, trust me, I would do it.”
Hope pulled out a gift card and swiped it through the card reader. “Listen, here is a gift card for the spa. Please, get a massage on me for the inconvenience.”
Jasper raised his eyebrows. “I ca…”
“Hey, Hope, how’s it going?” A young man in his twenties with chocolate milk skin, and a perfect white smile, rolled his way over to the counter in his wheelchair.
“Hi Reggie, how are you doing?” Hope smiled, grateful for a friendly face.
“Oh, you know, just waiting out the storm like everyone else.”
Hope turned toward Jasper, “Jasper, I would like to introduce you to Reggie, one of Darby Chalet’s ski instructors. Reggie, this is Jasper Cooper, a writer for Sporting Elite Magazine.”
A smile lit Reggie’s face, “Nice to meet you. What brings you to town?”
Jasper looked at Reggie and smiled, quickly averting his eyes away from Reggie’s chair.
“Nice to meet you too. I’m here to do an interview with Marcus Cole.”
“Marcus Cole is coming to Darby Chalet? Why didn’t you tell me, Hope?”
“I didn’t know who he was until Mr. Cooper told me.”
Jasper turned back to Reggie. “You’re an instructor? What sport?”
“Alpine Skiing,” Reggie said.
Jasper considered Reggie, forehead creased, his eyebrows meeting in the middle.
Reggie and Hope shared a look and gave a hearty laugh.
“You’re trying to figure out how a disabled person can teach people to ski, aren’t you?” Reggie said.
Hope chimed in. “Reggie instructs people with disabilities. He also helps instruct the kids.”
“I use a sitting mono-ski. It’s adapted for me to use with my paraplegia,” Reggie said.
Jasper folded his arms across his chest and leaned against the front desk.
Hope noticed his sweater tighten in the arms where his muscles flexed, and had to turn away.
She picked up a pamphlet and fanned her face.
“How long have you been skiing?” Jasper asked.
“Well, that’s kind of a tricky question. I’ve been on skis since I was a toddler, so I guess I’ve been training my entire life. I had my accident when I was fifteen. It took about five years to get
me back out on the slopes after my accident, and I’m twenty-six now. You do the math.”
Jasper stood staring at Reggie for a long moment.
Finally, he spoke, “Reggie, would you be interested in doing an interview? I can’t promise anything, but I think you have a story to tell.”
Reggie considered the offer and shrugged. “Sure, I guess.”
“Great! Let me just run back to my room to get my notepad and recorder.”
Jasper left with a promise to be back in a moment.
“You saved my bacon, Reg. He wasn’t happy with me before you showed up,” Hope said.
“So you’re saying you owe me one?” Reggie smiled.
“Yes, I definitely owe you one.” Hope said.
Hope glanced at her watch and noted the time before gazing over the counter at the bustling lobby. Guests congregated in the lodge, trying to pass the time until they could get back out on the slopes.
As hard as she tried not to, Hope’s eyes kept darting to the two men in the corner of the room, laughing like they had known each other forever instead of just a couple of hours. Hope checked at her watch again. How long do interviews usually last? They’ve been talking for two hours already.
Hope heard Jasper laugh. It sounded like a Siren’s enchanting song, luring Hope in. The scene of their argument from earlier that morning flashed through her mind, reminding her of
how dangerous Jasper could be. Reggie peered up and caught Hope’s eyes. He gave a small smile, and winked, before
turning his attention back toward Jasper. Hope quickly lowered her gaze, color rising in her cheeks, and pretended to focus on the papers in front of her. Her cheeks turned warm from embarrassment.
Hope appraised the landscape, outside the wall length window, and sighed. Heavy snow came down, giving the impression of a blank white canvas, ready for a new scene to be painted. She wondered what the painted scene would look like tomorrow.
Reggie interrupted her thoughts, “So, you couldn’t keep your eyes off of him, could you?” He said with a gleam in his eye.
“No, I wasn’t staring at Jasper. I was just taking in my surroundings. There isn’t exactly much to do sitting behind a desk.”
“Seriously, and I told you, we didn’t exactly hit it off this morning, remember?” Hope said.
Reggie considered Hope, “Well, I think he’s a nice guy. We had a great conversation. Maybe you should give him a second chance.”
“I don’t think I will have to worry about it one way or another. The storm should clear up by tomorrow and he will be going home.” Hope said, avoiding Reggie’s gaze.
“Ok, well, I’m headed to my room. Call me if you need me.”
“Bye, Reg,” Hope said watching him wheel away.
The rest of the afternoon dragged on as the snow continued to come down, unyielding. By late afternoon, the guests resigned themselves to spending another day at the chalet. Hope spent
the next hour extending reservations for guests. Jasper appeared at the desk, his hair still wet from a shower, wearing a pair of jeans and a blue sweater. The uptight look he wore earlier this morning was traded for a conciliatory one.
“Hi,” he said.
“Hi,” Hope said.
Jasper reached up to run his hand through his hair, but stopped remembering it was wet. With an impish grin, he lowered his arm.
“I’m sorry about this morning. You were not at fault and I should not have taken my frustration out on you. I apologize.”
Taken aback, Hope stood in shocked in silence for a moment before answering.
“I’m sorry, too. I shouldn’t have gotten so defensive.” Hope held out her hand. “Truce?”
Jasper smiled and took her hand. “Truce.”
Jasper’s hand felt warm and soft against Hope’s. Even after he pulled away, she could feel its heat.
“I was wondering,” Jasper began.
Hope searched his blue eyes, transfixed, waiting for what he would say next.
Jasper licked his lips and tried again, “I was wondering if you would like to have dinner with me tonight.”
“I…I…” Hope didn’t know what to say. He was asking her out on a date?
“I would like to start over. I’m really not the jerk that you met this morning. I was hoping you would give me a do-over.” Jasper continued, his eyes pleading and vulnerable.
“Um, sure?” Was she answering or asking? She wasn’t sure.
“When do you get off work?” He asked.
“About an hour ago,” Hope answered. “I stayed because so many guests needed to change their reservations.”
“How about we meet back here in an hour? Obviously, we can’t leave," he said motioning toward the windows, "hopefully the restaurant here at the Chalet is ok?”
“That’s great. Here, let me call and make us a reservation,” Hope said reaching for the phone.
Jasper stopped her. “No, you go change and I’ll take care of the reservation.”
Hope smiled. She liked a man who took charge of a date.
Hope changed into her black leather pants, white sweater, and black heeled boots. Her long
blonde hair hung loose down her back. She put on some mascara and lip gloss, inspected her
reflection in the mirror, and smiled.
Jasper managed to secure the most private table in the restaurant. A red rose lay waiting in
front of Hope’s seat.
Grinning, Hope asked, “How were you able to get this table last minute?”
“I may have mentioned I was dining with you.”
Hope laughed as she picked up the rose, breathing in its scent.
“Thank you for the rose.” The flicker of the candle reflected in Hope’s eyes, hypnotizing Jasper.
Jasper opened the menu and browsed. Peeking over the top, he asked, “You don’t need to look at the menu?”
Laughing, Hope said, “I have the menu memorized. I grew up at the Chalet and I waitressed here in high school. If you have any questions, I can answer them.”
“Not really your idea of a fun date, is it? Sorry.”
“Actually, it is. It’s all very familiar, so it takes the edge off, you know?”
Jasper just nodded and returned to the menu.
After ordering, Jasper leaned forward, talking quietly so only Hope could hear.
“Today was a life changing day for me.” Jasper said, seemingly unable to hold it in any longer.
“That’s one of the reasons I asked you out tonight. I wanted to share with you something that happened today.” Jasper’s eagerness warmed Hope.
“This morning, as you know, I was very frustrated that I could not interview Marcus Cole. I have been trying to get an interview with him for months. He is the Tiger Woods of the skiing world, so to speak.”
Hope nodded, her eyes staying focused on his.
“When Reggie came over, I’ll be honest, I was grasping at straws. I needed an article, like yesterday, and I couldn’t wait.”
Jasper took a sip of his wine, as he collected his thoughts.
“Once I sat down and started talking with Reggie, I was sick to my stomach in shame.”
Jasper focused his gaze on Hope. “I have been looking at things so wrong. Here I am, trying to get the interview of the year with Marcus Cole, a man who is the best skier in the US and possibly the world. He is an athletic hero to so many people. But after speaking with Reggie, I realized, my definition of being a hero is skewed. Reggie is a true hero, a man who has overcome incredible obstacles to get himself back out on the slopes after a devastating accident. Having natural talent like Marcus Cole is noteworthy, don’t get me wrong, but having the mental strength to, not only heal and accept a new life of limitations, but also get back up and come back better than before, that’s a hero.”
A tear slid down Hope’s cheek.
Jasper leaned forward and reached across the table, grabbing Hope’s hand. It felt so natural, Hope wasn’t even sure if Jasper realized he had done it.
“Today I realized I have an opportunity to tell the stories of these true heroes. After I spoke to Reggie, I called my editor. I told him about Reggie and our interview. I have a meeting scheduled
for next week, and we are going to discuss putting the article in the next issue of Sporting Elite. I also pitched the idea of having a column every month highlighting true athletic heroes, the ones
who have overcome unbelievable odds to get where they are. He has agreed to discuss that at our meeting as well.”
Jasper’s passion was palpable. Hope pulled a tissue out of her purse and wiped her eyes.
“This morning I was so upset about not getting the interview with Marcus Cole. But now I realize God had something greater planned. God has shown me my purpose. I have a responsibility to tell these stories, and give people hope. Give people an example to strive for.”
“Wow,” Hope said. “That’s amazing.”
Hope lifted her wine glass, “I would like to make a toast.”
Jasper lifted his glass.
“To snow storms, missed interviews and true heroes.”
Jasper clinked Hope’s glass, “Here, here.”
Hope grabbed her cell phone off the counter and answered. “Hello”
“Hope, it’s Jasper, how are you?”
“I’d be doing better if you were here. I miss you.” Hope laid back against the stacked pillows on her bed.
“I miss you, too. I can’t wait to see you this weekend.”
Hope smiled, “What are you doing right now?”
“I’m driving home. I just had the meeting with my editor. He approved the athlete hero articles for the next six months. At that point, we will reassess.”
“Congratulations! I’m so excited for you. I wish you were here so we could celebrate.”
Jasper groaned, “You have no idea how much I want to be there with you.”
“We can celebrate this weekend,” Hope said.
“Oh, yea? What do you have in mind?”
“I’m sure we can think of a few things.” Hope purred.
“I will be there Friday around…”
Hope sat up straight. The noise was so loud, she had to pull the phone from her ear.
“Jasper? Jasper! Can you hear me? What’s going on?”
“Jasper, please answer me.” Hope’s voice quivered with fear.
Sounds of voices in the background came through the phone.
“Jasper? Are you there?”
“Hello,” a man said
“Hello, who is this?” Hope asked.
“Your friend has been in an accident.”
Hope swallowed the lump forming in her throat. “Is he ok?”
“He’s unconscious but breathing. An ambulance has been called. The closest hospital is Mercy General.”
Jasper opened his eyes. Hope sat next to his bed, head bowed, remnants of her tears staining her cheeks.
“Where am I?”
Hope’s head jerked up, relief flooding her face. She reached for his hand. “You’re awake! I’ve been so worried.” Hope leaned over and hugged him, not wanting to let go.
“What happened?” Jasper croaked.
“You are in the hospital. You were in a car accident.” Hope said, speaking into Jasper’s gown.
Hope pried herself off of Jasper’s chest to look in his eyes. “Jasper, I was so worried.”
Jasper squeezed Hope’s hand. “How long have I been here?”
“Three days,” Hope choked out.
“I don’t remember anything.” Jasper said, touching his head, trying to ease the pain. “Was anyone else hurt?”
“No, you were T-boned by a drunk driver. The other guy walked away.”
Jasper patted the bed next to him, “I want to feel you next to me, come here.”
Jasper’s brow furrowed as he tried to scoot over. He pulled the blanket off of his legs, and stared. He grimaced and the muscles in his face grew taut as he concentrated on moving his foot.
He stared at his legs in shocked betrayal.
Anguish enveloped Jasper as the realization hit him. His pooled eyes begged Hope to tell him he was wrong. Voice quivering, he said, “I can’t feel my legs.”