Defying Gravity

By: Kendra C. Highley

Chapter One


Parker

“Where is she?”

Parker paced back and forth, his boots leaving tracks in the snow. He probably looked like a caged cougar, but he couldn’t help it. “Doesn’t Miller know there are trails to be shredded? In this lifetime?”

His brother, Luke, chuckled. “Zoey always makes us wait, bro. How about we make her wait this time?”

“No.” Parker stopped to scan the entrance again. Still no sign. He knew she was in Aspen. Her plane had landed ninety minutes ago.

Great, now he was a caged cougar and a stalker.

Luke’s sigh held an “aren’t these kids cute?” note. “Oh, I forgot—Peanut Butter can’t go without Jelly.”

Parker shot him a look. “Can’t you think of a more original nickname for me and Zoey?”

Luke shrugged. “Shoe fits…but if you’re going to suggest something like Bert and Ernie or Leonard and Penny, I’m going to take points off.”

“For what?” Parker asked.

“Because life isn’t a sitcom, young apprentice. I’d be forced to charge you with a ten second penalty on our first run with Zoey.” Luke shook his head, amused. “Not that I need the head start.”

Parker’s shoulders bunched up around his ears. Young apprentice? Seriously? “Are you really that eager to have your ass handed to you up on East Wall? Because if that’s your deal, I don’t need to wait for an audience.”

“Ass handed to me? On a double black?” Luke laughed, and the crowd of girls lingering nearby giggled. He made a show of winking at them. “Since when? Last I checked, jibs were your thing, kid, not flying down a hill.”

Parker went back to pacing, not bothering to answer. Luke had taught him how to board, but Parker had become the better shredder, both in speed and style. The student surpassing the master, or some Yoda shit like that. Not that his brother saw it. After winning tons of amateur downhill races, Luke still thought he was king of Snowmass. His horde of groupies thought the same thing, which made it hard for Luke to believe there might be someone a little better living in his own house.

“Seriously, we could hit a blue and be back before she shows.” Luke nudged him off track. “Outrun me, and I’ll let you borrow the Jeep whenever you want it.”

Tempting offer—Luke’s two-year-old Jeep was a much sweeter ride than Parker’s ten-year-old Land Rover, a hand-me-down from their parents until he graduated—but not worth abandoning his post. “No deal.”

“Aw, come on.”

Parker shook his head firmly. “Nope. Go if you want, but I’m waiting.”

“Fine, have it your way.” Luke tromped off toward the lifts, the group of girls trailing in his wake, hurrying to keep up.

Parker sighed. He loved that jackass—most of the time—but everything was a competition between them. It had only gotten worse since Luke left for college last fall. Part of him wished his brother had stayed back in Arizona for the holidays.

He kicked at a pile of snow. For Parker, Zoey’s arrival on the mountain went down as one of the top five things he loved. The other four had a lot to do with her, too: her smile, the way she egged him on, how they always thought the same thing at the same time, and the way she fit into his life like she was there all the time. So he’d wait, and be happy about it. Like Christmas morning, some things were better because of the anticipation.

Parker checked his phone. No texts. No anything. So he went right on pacing.

He’d been this way for years, watching the door for any sign when he was younger, and later, prowling around Snowmass resort, hoping she’d hurry up. Sure, he had his own friends in Aspen, both at school and at Snowmass, but Zoey was the only person who’d known him before he could walk. Their parents had become best friends in college in Texas and even though his parents had moved to Colorado, the Millers kept in touch, going so far as buying the house next door as a vacation home. As far back as he could remember, Christmas and the month of July meant Zoey. She made the holidays what they were, every single year.

Would this be the year he told her how he felt? He’d vowed to do it over the summer, but never managed to get her alone. Luke had lurked around like his purpose in life was to chaperon the “kids.” His brother couldn’t resist being center of attention, and what better way than showing up his “little” brother for Zoey’s amusement?

Parker grumbled to himself. This year he’d find a way to ditch Luke long enough to tell her. Zoey going from best friend to crush two years ago had been a strange and wonderful thing…and falling in love with her last Christmas break had been even more overwhelming. He knew it was a risk to their friendship. A big one.

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