Paradise Falls, Idaho
The sun flashed through the thick cluster of pine, cedar, and maple trees as Maggie Gregorio finished her last lap around Trinity Lake.
Maggie stopped at the edge of the lake and unclipped Lightning’s leash so the four-year old white Lab could cool his feet and slurp water.
She shaded her eyes against the shimmering light reflecting off the glassy water—calm and serene—the exact opposite of the emotions roiling inside of her.
While Lightning drank, the faint sounds of a loudspeaker drifted across the water.
“The second annual Colin Gregorio triathlon begins in an hour.”
Maggie snapped on Lightning’s leash, paused a moment to absorb the quiet serenity, then walked around the lake to the triathlon and stepped in line for a cup of coffee.
Colin, her childhood friend and brother-in-law was gone, and all that was left of him was a triathlon in his memory.
Lightning pressed closer to her. Maggie stroked his head, taking comfort in his presence. She raised her face to the sun, picturing her adventure-junkie brother-in-law following the sunlight inching over the Canadian Rockies. The vision lightened her mood, and she hoped death had brought Colin peace and absolved him of the guilt he’d taken to the grave.
The line moved forward, and Maggie poured herself a cup of coffee, then stepped aside and fed Lightning a biscuit. He devoured it in a single bite.
A long line of contestants stood on the bank of Lake Trinity, the first leg of the triathlon. A one-mile swim in forty-five-degree water—damn cold even in a wetsuit, but doable.
“It’s hard to believe it’s November with as warm as it’s been?”
Her ex-husband’s voice melted over her like butter drizzled over hot pancakes. “I was thinking the same thing. Last year we had a foot of snow on the ground by now,” she said.
Maggie’s eyes met Daniel’s, and her pulse kicked up as if she’d just run a marathon. It had been six months since their divorce. Why couldn’t she move on? Because she still loved him, but she’d learned love alone couldn’t keep a marriage together if there wasn’t trust and communication. If only she’d told Daniel what had happened with Colin in Afghanistan. Instead he’d found Colin’s journal and read it for himself. Maybe they could have salvaged their marriage instead of divorcing, but she’d promised Colin she’d keep his secret, and she had, but that had come at a price.
To make their break-up even stickier, she and Daniel were partners at Adventure Docs—emergency medical services combined with adventure sports. Colin’s brainchild. He’d convinced Daniel to go into partnership with him and start the business while he finished his final tour in Afghanistan.
She eyed Daniel over the edge of her cup as he squatted down to pet Lightning. Maggie restrained herself from begging for some of that affection, but unlike her canine companion, Daniel no longer showered her with his love and attention.
Daniel straightened and sipped his water. “Even with as warm as it’s been it’s entirely possible we’ll see snow, maybe ice at the higher elevations. MD and I have our ear pieces in if you and Sloan need help.”
Sloan, another member of Adventure Docs, was working the event with her, while Daniel and MD, the fourth member of the team, participated in the triathlon.
Daniel never balked when she took charge. That said a lot considering how close he and Colin had been—brothers, partners, best friends. He trusted her to handle the event and never second-guessed her decisions.
“Thanks. I’m hoping nothing happens so we don’t have to pull you out of the race.” Maggie intended to make sure the event went off without a hitch.
MD joined them as Daniel’s shoulders stiffened. “What the hell is he doing here?”
Maggie glanced at the sign-in table where Dr. Rutherford stood in line,. She’d had numerous altercations with him when she’d worked as a flight nurse for Paradise General. She’d loved the job, but not Rutherford’s arrogance. She’d resigned after Colin left his half of Adventure Docs to her.
MD slugged down some water, then swiped the back of his wrist across his mouth. “I would guess he’s racing.”
A scowl pinched Daniel’s features as he focused on MD, his old military buddy, a burly brute of a man. “Still can’t keep from stating the obvious.”
“Still can’t keep from asking stupid questions.”
Maggie pressed her lips together to restrain a smile and changed the subject. “So, are you ready to jump into that water?”
A gleam of excitement lit MD’s eyes that reminded her of Colin. “Abso-damn-lutely.” He waved a hand at the crystal blue sky. “A beautiful day for a brutal workout.”
The man thrived on competition as did all the Adventure Docs, Maggie included.
MD nodded at her thigh. “How’s the hammy?”
“Are you injured?” Daniel asked.
Maggie waved off his question. “Just a strained hamstring I’ve been babying. I did a ten-mile run on Elk Ridge yesterday and didn’t have any problem.”
MD held up his hand. “Hooah. That’s one nasty trail. Give me five.”
Maggie smacked his palm, pride filling the empty space left after her breakup with Daniel. She’d rather have Daniel, but since she couldn’t have him, she poured herself into workouts so intense she couldn’t think about how much she missed him.
MD nodded toward Dr. Rutherford. “So that’s the prick you worked with.”
Maggie nodded. “In all his glory.”
MD studied him. “Christ, how old is he?”
He whistled. “No offense, Mags, but I give the guy credit for being able to participate at his age.”
Maggie agreed. Her only beef with the man was that he bullied everyone he worked with, but especially women.
Daniel’s voice flowed over her, and her damn, stupid heart pumped double time. “I’m glad you’re not working with him any more.”
Maggie ignored her physical reaction and focused on Daniel’s support. She nodded. “Me, too.”
Christopher Pretty Boy Sloane, slung an arm over her shoulder. “Did I miss out on any hot gossip?”
Sloane might be nicknamed Pretty Boy, but the guy never hesitated to get his hands dirty, whether it was dealing with an emergency or tracking through mud and muck to reach a mountain top.
Maggie grinned. “Nothing worth repeating.”
“Well, damn. I was hoping for something juicy.”
Maggie shrugged. “Sorry.”
Another announcement about the race.
“Come on, Pretty Boy. We’ve got work to do.”
Sloane gave her a mock salute. “Yes, Boss. Lead the way.”
From anyone else she might have taken it as a slur, but not from Sloane or anyone at Adventure Docs. They all treated her with respect as a skilled colleague who was damn good at her job, as well as an accomplished athlete, just like the rest of them.
Maggie hoisted her medical bag onto her shoulder and Lightning rose. “Good luck, boys.”
The intensity of Daniel’s stare burned into her back. She checked the urge to run back and throw herself into his arms. But she couldn’t do that because Daniel didn’t want her anymore.