After Hours with Her Ex

By: Maureen Child

 One

 “You actually can go home again,” Sam Wyatt murmured as he stared at the main lodge of his family’s resort. “The question is, will anyone be happy to see you.”

 But then, why should they be? He’d left Snow Vista, Utah, two years before, when his twin brother had died. And in walking away, he’d left his family to pick up the pieces strewn in the wake of Jack’s death.

 Guilt had forced Sam to leave. Had kept him away. And now, a different kind of guilt had brought him home again. Maybe it was time, he told himself. Time to face the ghosts that haunted this mountain.

 The lodge looked the same. Rough-hewn logs, gray, weathered shingles and a wide front porch studded with Adirondack chairs fitted with jewel-toned cushions. The building itself was three stories; the Wyatt family had added that third level as family quarters just a few years ago. Guest rooms crowded the bottom two floors and there were a few cabins on the property as well, offering privacy along with a view that simply couldn’t be beat.

 Mostly, though, the tourists who came to ski at Snow Vista stayed in hotels a mile or so down the mountain. The Wyatt resort couldn’t hold them all. A few years ago, Sam and his twin, Jack, had laid out plans for expanding the lodge, adding cabins and building the Wyatt holdings into the go-to place in the Utah mountains. Sam’s parents, Bob and Connie, had been eager to expand, but from the looks of it, any idea of expansion had stopped when Sam left the mountain. But then, a lot of things had stopped, hadn’t they?

 His grip tightened on his duffel bag, and briefly Sam wished to hell he could as easily get ahold of the thoughts racing maniacally through his mind. Coming home wouldn’t be easy. But the decision was made. Time to face the past.

 “Sam!”

 The voice calling his name was familiar. His sister, Kristi, headed right for him, walking in long brisk strides. She wore an electric blue parka and ski pants tucked into black boots trimmed with black fur at the tops. Her big blue eyes were flashing—and not in welcome. But hell, he told himself, he hadn’t been expecting a parade, had he?

 “Hi, Kristi.”

 “Hi?” She walked right up to him, tilted her head back and met his gaze with narrowed eyes. “That’s the best you’ve got? ‘Hi, Kristi’? After two years?”

 He met her anger with cool acceptance. Sam had known what he would face when he came home and there was no time like the present to jump in and get some of it over with. “What would you like me to say?”

 She snorted. “It’s a little late to be asking me what I want, isn’t it? If you cared, you would have asked before you left in the first place.”

 Hard to argue that point. And his sister’s expression told him it would be pointless to try even if he could. Remembering the way Kristi had once looked up to him and Jack, Sam realized it wasn’t easy to accept that her hero worship phase was over. Of course, he’d pushed that phase over a cliff himself.

 But this wasn’t why he’d come home. He wasn’t going to rehash old decisions. He’d done what he had to do back then, just as he was doing today.

 “Back then, I would have told you not to go,” Kristi was saying and as she stared up at him, Sam saw a film of tears cover her eyes. She blinked quickly, though, as if determined to keep those tears at bay—for which he was grateful. “You left us. Just walked away. Like none of us mattered to you anymore...”

 He blew out a breath, dropped his duffel bag and shoved both hands through his hair. “Of course you mattered. All of you did. Do.”

 “Easy to say, isn’t it, Sam?”

 Would it do any good to explain that he had thought about calling home all the time?

 No, he told himself. Because he hadn’t called. Hadn’t been in touch at all—except for a couple of postcards letting them know where he happened to be at the time—until his mother had found a way to track him down in Switzerland last week.

 He still wasn’t sure how she’d found him. But Connie Wyatt was a force to be reckoned with when she had a goal in mind. Probably, she had called every hotel in the city until she’d tracked him down.

 “Look, I’m not getting into this with you. Not right now anyway. Not until I’ve seen Dad.” He paused, then asked, “How is he?”

 A flicker of fear darted across her eyes, then was swept away in a fresh surge of anger. “Alive. And the doctor says he’s going to be fine. It’s just sad that all it took to get you to come home was Dad having a heart attack.”

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