[“Winter Rental” is an original contemporary romance story copyrighted by Gratiana Lovelace, 2022; All rights reserved.];
[(1) the “Winter Rental” story cover (left); other image credits are at the end of each chapter(s) post]
[Author’s notes: I cast my characters as I write my stories—to help myself and my readers visualize the main characters. So my main characters for “Winter Rental” are: Richard Armitage as Greg Halliday; Cameron Diaz as his younger sister Connie Halliday; Anne Hathaway as Diana Langley; Liam Hemsworth as Eddie Hughes; Rege-Jean Page as Mike Porter, Octavia Spencer as Octavia Porter, and others as noted.
This is also a gentle romance (with chapters being rated as PG-13 or so, unless otherwise noted), with some heartfelt romantic moments—and some mature romantic discussions put to humorous effect. So if you cannot or will not attend a movie with my maturity ratings, then don’t read that chapter. And though I set my story in the lovely city and area of Galena, IL—which I have enjoyed visiting many times—for the purposes of my storytelling here, I use dramatic license of the facts, individuals, locations, etc. These are my disclaimers. And I will post new story chapters weekly on both my SAL blog, as also on my Wattpad site.]
“Winter Rental”, Ch. 6: Emergency on Pineridge Mountain
After Greg’s meeting with Mike Porter about Greg wanting to buy his family’s old home back from the Pineridge Mountain Ski Resort and Hotel, he meets some obstacles—in that the Ski Resort has created a whole compound of buildings, turning it into a business conference center both marring the beauty of the original property (in Greg’s mind), and making the house and property much more expensive to reacquire, were the Ski Resort even willing to sell it.
As Greg sits at a window side table in the Ski Resort’s restaurant–brooding over the fate of their family vacation home—he is the picture of gloom and dread as he awaits his sister Connie joining him for lunch when she returns from her cross country skiing group tour. Then Diana returns to the Ski Resort Hotel for some lunch as well, after visiting several kitchen appliance and design stores in the area this morning, gathering information on her choices. Diana spots Greg looking forlornly out a window of the Ski Resort’s restaurant dining room. And she is inexplicably drawn to finding out what is the matter with him.
Diana: “Greg, are you alright?” She asks softly so as not to startle him.
Greg: Greg slowly looks up to see Diana standing near his table and shakes his head. “I hardly know. I’m just here waiting for Connie to get back from her cross country skiing group tour this morning. Please sit and join us for lunch, if you don’t have other plans.” Actually, Greg welcomes talking to Diana about the area and what it means to her, even as he tries to understand why it seems to mean so much to him.
Diana: “Thank you. I think I will join you for lunch.” Diana smiles cordially at him, then she sits across the table from him.
And Greg notices the distance from him that Diana is keeping. And he guesses that it is his fault. Oh, not for kissing and embracing her this morning in bed, that was quite lovely. But for him feeling awkward about it later, and then his blasted reserve probably made her think that he doesn’t like her. But he does like her. Yet his first salvo, does not convey that.
Greg: “Why didn’t you tell me?” He asks Diana in exasperation.
Diana: Noting his anger, she wonders where it’s coming from. “Is this about my house?” She huffs at his ire.
Greg: “No! This is about my house. The ski resort turned our family’s former vacation home and property into a business center retreat with extra cabins around it—as if it were a campground recreation area.” He sputters in disgust.
Greg and his family had spent decades returning to their vacation home for Winters and Summers. And it was home for Greg, since he was nine years old when his family built their vacation home in Galena on the lower elevation of Pineridge Mountain–and he had a say in decorating his bedroom with a skiing theme, he also insisted that their family room needed a ping pong table, he reveled in lying in the hammock on lazy Summer afternoons while reading books under the big tree in front, and so much more.
And Greg has always suspected that his ten years younger sister Connie was conceived by his parents there at their vacation home at the end of their family’s first long fun Summer there when he was nine years old—considering Connie was born in the following Spring and she made poopy diapers that stunk up the place. So his Mama made sure that Connie was potty trained—at least day time potty trained–by the time they traveled there again the following Summer, when Connie was a one year old and Greg was eleven.
Diana: “Oh! I thought you knew, Greg. There have been a lot of changes since old Mr. Hughes died four years ago and his son took over. Their business philosophies were and are completely different.”
Greg: “It would seem so. When my parents sold our vacation home to the Ski Resort four years ago, it was with the promise that they would maintain its family home charm. In fact, I know that my Dad put a stipulation in the contract for deed that said they had to keep it as a family home and property, pristine for my and Connie’s life time—so we could rent it out when we came back to visit.”
Diana: “He did, did he? That was very forward thinking of your Dad. So in essence the Ski Resort has, let’s say a 50 year lease, before they can actually assume full ownership of the property?” Greg nods. “Well you’re a lawyer, Greg. I’d suggest that you review that contract for deed and see what your options are.”
Greg: “That’s an excellent idea. I was just so bummed at the almost theme park approach that the Ski Resort has done to our family’s lovely property, that I haven’t been thinking straight—not thinking as a lawyer.” Of course, the upset Greg is exaggerating a bit about the theme park look of the property—but his former vacation home does look like a campground.
Diana: “Greg, I understand what you’re feeling. Our homes have precious memories for us. They embody the touchstones of our lives in the mementos kept there–of kites flown, fishing or skiing competitions won, the kid height markers on the door frames for each child as they grew up, wonderful Summer barbecues with family and friends, and especially memories of those we’ve lost.” Diana now looks sad and teary eyed.
Greg: “That was beautifully said, Diana.” Greg reaches across the table and lightly touches her hand. “I’m sorry about your parents. You must miss them a great deal.”
Diana: “I do. Mom died ten years ago, and then Dad died just last Fall. Yet the pain of losing them never goes away.” Diana pauses to try to compose herself. But she finds that she can’t be stoic any longer. “And I don’t know what I’m doing any more, where I’m going with my life. I feel like I’m not moving forward anymore.” Diana covers her crying eyes as she buries her face in her hands. Her grief has been even more difficult because she has no one to share it with. Her brother Gary didn’t involve himself when her parents became ill—not even to help her out, since Diana was her parents’ main caretaker, both times. And Diana feels adrift and alone in the world.
Greg silently moves to a chair adjacent to Diana’s chair and leans over and embraces her shoulders. Then Diana leans into Greg as he comforts her. It is, perhaps, a blessing that Diana is facing the window—so she is not on display to the other restaurant patrons as she cries, and her privacy is somewhat maintained. And their restaurant server is patiently giving them their space and time, by not approaching them for their lunch orders yet.
Unfortunately, life is rarely uncomplicated. And this moment is one of them, as Diana’s cell phone rings and she answers it–even as Greg sees the Pineridge Mountain Ski Resort manager Mike Porter approaching them, with a serious look on his face.
Gary on phone: “Diana, thank God I reached you! The cross country skiing group tour has not checked in yet, and they were due at the Ski Resort for lunch 30 minutes ago. I have all kinds of frantic relatives trying to find out what’s going on. Can you come into the store to help me field questions here?”
It is so typical of Gary, him needing his sister’s help, but rarely giving his help to her. And with them sitting so closely together, Greg hears every word of Gary’s call. And knowing that Diana is in no state to do what Gary asks—even as he worries about the fate of his own sister Connie—Greg gently takes the cell phone from Diana’s trembling hands.
Greg on phone: “Gary, this is Greg. I’m with Diana at the Ski Resort’s restaurant. And she is unable to assist you at this time. The Resort Manager Mike Porter is walking toward us and we’ll see what he says. I’ll call you back later when we know more.” And Greg cuts the call, not giving Gary any time to make any more demands of Diana.
Mike: Mike heads straight to Greg and Diana’s table and sits down. “I see you’ve heard about the missing cross country skiing group tour from Gary.” He states in a serious tone.
Greg: Greg nods. “Yes, and my sister Connie is with that group. Is there a search and rescue effort begun?”
Mike: “Yes, we have designated and trained mountain search and rescue staff. And myself and several of the other more athletic ski resort staff are going to supplement our usual search and rescue teams via deploying the resort’s snow mobiles.”
Greg: “I’m coming, too. I’ll just need to borrow a warmer overcoat, since mine is back at Diana’s house and we don’t want to lose time going for it.”
Mike: “Sure, we’ll raid the pro shop. Diana, will you be alright by yourself?” He asks in concern, noticing that she has been crying.
Greg: Not wanting to breech her personal grief, Greg suggests. “Diana? Maybe you should rest up in your suite. I’ll call you on my cell phone when we know something.
Diana: “No! I’m coming with you.”
Mike: “But your infirmity?” Mike reminds her. And surprise is evident on Greg’s face—him not knowing that Diana has a physical ailment. .
Diana: “I’m fine. We’ll be on snow mobiles. I have driven them all my life. And we’ll need all the snow mobiles out there so we can bring back the tired and cold cross country skiers with us–if they’re off the main roads that are inaccessible by vans.” And what she thinks but does not say, is that if they find anyone injured, they will likely need to call for an air lift out via the nearest open clearing. And it turns out that her Ski Resort Manager friend Mike Porter has already called in the local hospital’s helicopter on standby.
Greg: “Are you sure, Diana? You must think of yourself.” Because Greg is now also worried about Diana, him not knowing the scope of her physical challenges. And Greg worries if Diana’s condition is merely an injury that is life challenging, or worse, possibly a heart condition which could be life threatening
Diana: “I would rather be doing something, helping, rather than sitting alone in my suite.”
Mike: “Alright,.” He agrees reluctantly. “But at the first sign of you not feeling well, I’ll bring you back to the resort, myself.”
Diana: “Fair enough.” She states resolutely. She will not be a burden. But Diana will also not sit idly by if she can help. And helping others is what she does.
Greg: “Mike, You’re needed to coordinate the search efforts out there. So put Diana and I together in one of the groups, and I can bring her back to the ski resort if she needs it.” Greg hugs Diana’s shoulders while smiling down at her as she looks up at him. Despite Greg’s worries about his sister Connie’s safety in the missing cross country skiing group, Diana also has meaning for him.
Mike looks to Diana for her agreement to be put in the same rescue team as Greg, and she nods.
So everyone helping as extras in the search and rescue mission are outfitted with the proper winter weather gear if they didn’t have it with them–with the Resort’s Pro Shop merchandise looking quite decimated. And there are a few helpers who have never driven a snowmobile before, so they will ride behind an experienced driver. They are also leaving two snow mobiles at the Pineridge Mountain Ski Resort–in case they get a call from the missing cross country skiing group themselves—the search and rescue teams head out to search in groups of three snow mobiles with helpers attached to an emergency responder on a snow mobile.
Time is of the essence, since it doesn’t take long for frostbite to settle in from the exposure to the freezing weather—30 minutes, and the initial calls for the search and rescue effort came nearly forty five minutes ago. Blessedly, the group tours are required to give a map of their route before each tour. So the rescue teams have that to help guide them. But the tour is a five mile circular route. So the groups are dispatched to different points of the route and then will continue on it in a clockwise manner. It is their emergency plan.
The snow is light and fluffy, making their snowmobile paths more difficult—since they’re not working with solid snowpack. Greg and Diana are on the same search and rescue team of four snow mobiles—by design, because Greg wants to insure that Diana is safe, even as he worries about his sister Connie.
And another reason why the resort and its employees are going all out for this rescue, is that the leader of the cross country ski group tour, the ski pro, is thirty year old Eddie Hughes—grandson of the ski resort’s late founder, and the son of the current owner. The sixty year old ski resort owner and Eddie’s father, Brent Hughes, is at the ski resort coordinating the rescue efforts and maintaining contact via walkie talkies with the search teams.
And knowing that her husband Mike Porter is uncharacteristically out with the search and rescue efforts—due to his longstanding friendship with Eddie Hughes—Mike’s wife Octavia anxiously sits in Mike’s Ski Resort office with their two elementary school kids Krystal and Devon who are using their crayons to color pictures for their Daddy when he gets back. And Eddie’s Mom sits with them, finding calm with Octavia and her kids. Since the children are unaware that their father helping with the rescue is not without its own dangers.
After an hour of searching and not finding anyone, the situation is dire—because the missing cross country skiers were due back nearly two hours ago. And they will not be able to survive out in this weather much longer. The search teams themselves will also have to turn back so no other lives are lost. It is a heartbreaking decision for those like Greg, with missing loved ones.
After the search and rescue teams receive the call on their satellite walkie talkies to return to the ski resort base to get warm and regroup, Greg and Diana’s rescue team discuss their options.
Team leader Tom: “I think it’s prudent for you three to go back to the ski resort. I’m used to this weather, so I’m going to stick it out a bit longer.”
Greg: Then Greg notices where they are. “Look at the tour route map, Tom. We’re maybe only 200 yards from my old vacation home property—now the ski resort’s Halliday House Business Center. We should check to see if they went there to seek shelter. Connie would have been able to direct them there. We spent out childhoods playing within these woods—as well as hiking and cross country skiing through them as adults. And we could find our way through them blindfolded.” Diana nods in agreement about Greg’s plan. As does Eric, their fourth rescue team member.
Team Leader Tom: “Then why didn’t they call in to tell people they were safe?”
Diana: “Maybe their walkie talkies or cell phones aren’t working.:
Greg: “And Mike said that the main house and cabins are under routine maintenance. So they might not be able to contact anyone to let them know they’re alright—or if anyone is injured.”
Team Leader Tom: “Okay, we’ll head to the Halliday House compound—and at least we’ll have shelter, even if they’re not there. I’ll notify base and the other teams what we’re doing—and that we’ll contact them again whether or not we find anything.”
So, Greg helps guide their rescue team’s four snow mobiles to his former vacation home through the woodsy area that he knows so well from growing up there. When they reach a small clearing that is used for Summer outdoor team building games, their prayers are answered as they see smoke billowing from the main house and several close cabins’ wood burning fireplaces—as well as what looks to be flickering candle lights in the main house and cabins—since the electricity is still out. They head straight for the main house and park their snow mobiles.
Then their relief turns to dread as they notice blood trails on the front porch stair steps to Halliday House. And hearing the snow mobiles loudly whirring hum approaching the house, Connie Halliday rushes outside to urge the rescuers inside. And she and her brother Greg hug each other tightly once they’re inside. Greg is so grateful that his sister doesn’t look harmed.
Looking at the first responder Search Team Leader Tom in orange, a calm and focused Connie Halliday tells him who is injured as she walks them inside the house.
Connie: “Please come back to the main floor master bedroom. We had two injuries in our group—one person has a broken leg, and our Ski Pro tour guide Eddie fought off a medium sized wolf as Eddie was trying to help the person with the broken leg, Pete Teller. Eddie defended Pete by warding off the wolf as best he could with his legs and hands. So Eddie has several claw and bite marks on his arms, legs, and hands. I’ve cleaned and bandaged his wounds the best that I could. But he’s lost a lot of blood. And he needs to go to the hospital. Now!” And now that the need for Connie to be strong in the crisis has past, her bravado diminishes and her face begins to pale with her thinking of the enormity of their emergency.
As Connie walks into the master bedroom again—that had belonged to her parents, though the furniture and decorations have been redone by the ski resort—with the original Halliday furniture, decorative objects, and linens, etc., in storage—the first responder Search team leader immediately assesses both injured individuals, who are in a lot of pain. But he is most concerned with the loss of blood that the ski pro tour guide Eddie Hughes has suffered. So he calls for backup and a helicopter airlift on his satellite phone—similar to the type that the cross country skiing group Tour Guide Eddie Hughes had, and lost in his battle with the wolf.
Search Team Leader Tom: “He’s just lucky that he didn’t encounter a cougar, or especially a young bear—with its mama bear nearby–or he would have been a goner.” Gently touching Eddie Hughes face, he commands. “Eddie, look at me, focus. How did you get the wolf to stop attacking you?” He asks both to assess Eddie’s level of consciousness, and to find out what happened. Eddie is too overcome with pain to speak, but he points to Connie Halliday. They all turn to look at her in surprise.
Connie: She blushes. “Uhh. Well, you see, the wolf was relentlessly attacking Eddie who was defending Pete who has the broken arm. And I had to do something. So I just beat the wolf relentlessly with a tree branch that I found lying on the ground nearby, until the wolf decided not to mess around with us anymore. Then several of the bigger guys in our tour group helped with carrying our injured group members here.” Connie’s brother Greg looks at her in awe and wonder, giving her another big hug. And Connie is now shaking from their ordeal, but she brushes it off with her characteristic aplomb saying. “If you think that wolf was vicious, you should see Bloomingdale’s on 50 percent off day—brutal.”
The rescue team laughs at that, which breaks the tension of the moment. Everyone hugs each other—especially Greg and Connie again, then Diana and Connie, and finally Diana and Greg.
Then not ten minutes later, they hear the helicopter landing in the clearing in front of Halliday House. So they bring its emergency responders in to Halliday House to also assess, stabilize, and then load the two injured group tour members onto the copter to head to the hospital. Greg and Diana’s first responder Search Team Leader Tom also goes with them—since he knows that he and Eddie are the same blood type, in case he needs it.
Connie had wanted to go in the helicopter, too, since she has been the one tending to Eddie and Pete with the broken arm. But there isn’t enough room. So the rest of them decide to wait for the ski resort bus and a large flatbed truck to come pick up them and the snow mobiles, respectively, at the Halliday House compound—everyone being sure to douse their fireplace fires and candles in each unit before they leave. And their trip down the mountain is a relatively uneventful 15 minutes by van.
And after Connie takes a quick shower at their rented home Lakeside Cottage, she dashes over to the local hospital to see how Eddie the tour guide is doing. She remembers that she had forgotten to tell the first responders the wolf’s ear tag number, in case they need to locate it—for them to check for rabies and such. Connie looks at tags all day in the fashion merchandise business—and she has a nearly photographic memory. Then a bit later, she calls her brother Greg to relay the update that it looks like both of the injured members of their tour will pull through and eventually recover from their injuries, while she remains by Eddie’s side—as Eddie awaits to hear if the wolf who attacked him has been tracked and brought into the state’s Natural Resources Animal lab for rabies and other testing, and temperament assessment regarding its possible reintroduction to nature, but elsewhere.
However, Greg elects to stay at the ski resort hotel for the rest of the afternoon with Diana—since her earlier bravado in helping with the rescue efforts has left her subdued and very quiet, with him buying a change of clothes at the ski resort gift shop on his way up to her small suite with her. He lets Diana shower first, then he showers. Then as their clothes wash in her suite’s small over under washer and dryer combo unit, they eat a much delayed lunch in their comfy sweat suits in her suite, via room service. Neither of them wants to face the grateful crowds of other families of rescued loved ones at the ski resort just now. They have already given their statements about the rescue to the authorities, and they also don’t want to relive it for any well meaning (or not) thrill seekers. They want to be quiet and comfortable, just sitting together on her suite’s love seat couch.
And then the inevitable happens after a crisis that thankfully turns out as positively as it could–despite having two individuals severely injured, but who are now in stable condition at the hospital. Diana and Greg fall asleep leaning into each other on her small suite’s loveseat couch in exhaustion.
To be continued with Chapter 7
References for Ch. 6 of “Winter Rental” February 06, 2022 by Gratiana Lovelace, (Post#1445)
1) The story cover for my original contemporary romance “Winter Rental” is a composite of three images:
a) a Wintery image of ski chalets previously shared by Sueli; Grati edit for color and size; with AR Berkley text;
b) Greg Halliday–2022—is represented by Richard Armitage-in cream-sweater-pensive-photographed byKaitlynMikayla_Jan04-2022viaNobleman-Mag_;
c) Diana Langley—is represented by Anne-Hathaway-2021—in butterscotch-sweater-flyaway-hair-no-makeup_Jan09-2022viaVariety—Grati-crop-szd; image found at https://variety.com/2021/tv/news/anne-hathaway-jared-leto-wework-series-apple-1234895727
Gratiana Lovelace Wattpad site link for Ch. 6 “Winter Rental” (Post #1445):
Previous Something About Love blog Post #1443 link for Ch. 5 of “Winter Rental”: