Persuaded By the Hero by Elle E. Kay

1

respect, he’d have to earn it. That much was clear. The employees knew him as the spoiled grandson of the owner they’d held in high esteem. None of them knew the man he'd grown into, nor would they give him a chance to prove himself unless he took the time to get to know each and every one of them as individuals. The way his grandfather had. It was the only way.

He stared at the list of names. He’d made it through the first half, but he had appointments to meet with the remainder of the lodge's employees.

Next on his list was Sabrina. She still brought a smile to his lips whenever she crossed his mind. If his father hadn’t interfered, they would be approaching their eight-year anniversary in December.

He remembered how the red highlights in her chestnut-brown hair had shone in the sun the day he’d asked her to run away with him. He’d been so wasted when they walked into the wedding chapel in Vegas he barely remembered being there. The memory brought shame, so he pushed it away. It didn't do any good to dwell on the past.

It was time to concentrate on the future and focus on his meeting with Sabrina, not their brief ill-fated marriage.

A soft knock on the door broke through his thoughts. "Come in."

Sabrina’s amber eyes sparked with anger behind her fashionable red-framed glasses. He'd thought he was prepared to see her, but the moment he saw her standing in his doorway, something caught in his throat, and he couldn't speak. She was more beautiful than he’d remembered. And from the looks of it, she wasn’t thrilled to see him.

glasses at Bryce. He looked good. Too good. Her animosity for him hadn’t dimmed in the years he’d been gone.

“I hear you’re among the most qualified administrative assistants at Freedom Ridge.” He set down the papers he’d been shuffling through and folded his hands on top of his massive desk. “Are you?”

When Mr. Harrington offered her a job at the lodge, she'd jumped at the chance even though she'd known Bryce would someday inherit the resort. She hadn't expected it to happen so soon. “Yes. I’ve been with the resort for about six years and working for Daniel Winchester at the Liberty Grille most recently. I do my best to keep things organized and keep Dan on schedule.”

Bryce cleared his throat. “I’m looking to promote from within rather than hire someone off the street. Do you have any interest in becoming an executive assistant?”

She frowned. “You mean working directly for you?”

Bryce’s sorrowful eyes reminiscent of a reprimanded puppy reminded her of why she'd fallen so hard. She’d been naive when she’d believed his lies. Youth had its disadvantages.

“Yes. Working for me. The position would come with a significant increase in pay.”

Filling her lungs with air, she considered his proposal. Paying for rent, utilities, and food ate up most of what she earned, so a salary increase would be an enormous help. If it was working for anyone else, she’d jump at the chance, but she’d been fooled by Bryce Harrington once, and she wouldn’t let it happen again.

She'd heard Bryce was trouble, but she’d ignored all the warnings. Her heart trusted when her head told her to run the other way. If she'd listened to her head instead of her heart, she wouldn't have agreed to elope and given him her innocence. But if she hadn’t, she wouldn’t have her son. She would do everything in her power to protect her boy. Even if it was from his own father.

“Well?”

“I’m not sure I’m comfortable working for you,” she said at last.

“Think about it. Okay?”

Nodding, she stood. “Are we through?”

“For now.”

She made her way to the office door, only hesitating long enough to look back at the man who could melt an iceberg with his smile. Tears stung her eyes, but she refused to let them fall. If she didn’t leave now, she might say something she’d regret. She turned away and pulled the door shut behind her.

desk, and Sabrina smiled. “How was your meeting?”

“Enlightening.”

“Care to elaborate.”

“Nope.” She slid a lock of hair behind her ear. “What’s on the agenda this afternoon?”

“Approving the holiday menus.”

“Have you seen them yet?” she asked.

He chuckled. “Are you kidding? Ashley’s been guarding them jealously like she’s afraid I’ll steal her plans and share them with Tori at Evelyn’s.”

She laughed. “The girl’s got your number.”

He shook his head. “Send her in when she makes her escape from the kitchen.”

“Will do.”

Sabrina turned back to her computer and looked over the offer letter human resources emailed. It would be crazy to consider the job. Insane. Yet, part of her didn’t want to turn it down. And it wasn’t just the money. Against her better judgment, she wanted the chance to be close to Bryce. After the last time, she knew her heart was too fragile to handle another Bryce Harrington heartbreak, but she couldn’t keep herself from imagining what it would be like to be loved by him again. If he’d ever loved her the first time. He’d said the words, but if he’d meant them, he wouldn’t have left. And he had left.

Ashley appeared while she was chewing on her lip and staring at her screen. “You look like you’re about to make a life-or-death decision.”

“Something like that.” She forced a smile. “You can go ahead in. He’s waiting for you.”

Dan’s wife moved fast for a woman in her eighth month of pregnancy.

at Stories and Scones and glanced around at the others. Dan, the manager at the Liberty Grille, had invited him to the gathering. He’d claimed it helped to get together with other veterans. Bryce wasn’t so sure, but he was willing to give it a try.

Jan, the store manager, was always pleasant, and the coffee and snacks were as good as what they served at the resort’s Mountain Mug. It made sitting through the friendly banter with the other veterans worth his while.

Tuning out the conversation, he took a swig of his coffee and considered his proposal to Sabrina. It probably wasn’t fair of him to dangle a promotion in front of her in hopes she’d take the job as his assistant. If she turned it down, he’d make sure she still got a promotion. If Kevin was willing to swap assistants, it would solve his problem. Though he’d much prefer to work with Sabrina.

“Are you with us?” Van made eye contact.

Bryce shook off his thoughts. “Sorry. I have a lot on my mind.”

Van sat forward, ready to listen. “Want to talk about it?”

“Maybe later.”

Dan cleared his throat. “I received a request from Derek Held. After the avalanche disaster in Estes Park, the mayor contacted C-RAD about training six volunteers who can join with our existing search and rescue team and form a rapid response team.”

“What is C-RAD?” Gage raised an eyebrow.

“Colorado Rapid Avalanche Deployment. They provide the training and validation. We provide the labor. The fire department agreed to let us use one of their bays and a spare room for the time being. Since we have some top-notch guys in the veteran’s group, Derek and I were hoping most of you would step up.”

Gage cleared his throat. “I’ll join the team.”

“I know many of you are over-extended, but if you can help out, it’d be appreciated.”

Bryce considered the idea. It might be a way to ingratiate himself with the community while also providing an opportunity to accomplish something worthwhile. “I’m in.”

Daniel’s eyes widened. “Great. I need to get to the restaurant and make sure Ashley didn’t overhaul the menu during the hour I’ve been gone.” His gaze turned to Bryce. “But if you can follow me out of here, we can stop at the department first, and I’ll introduce you to Derek on the way.”

Van chuckled. “Wouldn’t surprise me in the slightest if Ashley changed the menus. That wife of yours is something else.”

Bryce stood. “I’ve got a slew of meetings this afternoon, but I can make time to stop by the firehouse.”

Together they walked out to the parking lot, and when they reached Bryce’s burnt orange Porsche, Daniel stopped. “If you want to get anything out of the veterans’ meetings, you have to make an effort to get to know the guys.”

“I’m joining this avalanche team. It’ll give me a chance to do just that. Maybe I’ll see if Clay wants to join, too. He was a medic in the Army and he’s a ski instructor at the resort, so he’s a natural fit.”

“Yeah, I know Clay.” Dan patted him on the shoulder. “Good idea.”

Bryce raked his fingers through his hair and sighed. “Look, I’ll try harder in the meetings, but my mind was elsewhere today. I met with someone on Monday morning, and she’s got me turned inside out.”

“Who would that be?”

“Wouldn’t you like to know?” He smiled. “It’s someone from my past, and let’s just say we left too many things unsaid when we parted ways.”

“Ah. Girl trouble. Sabrina to be precise.”

“How do you know that?”

Daniel chuckled but didn’t respond as he yanked open his truck door. “I’ll meet you at the firehouse?”

“On my way.”

parking lot behind Dan and followed him into the firehouse. The first person they ran into was Aiden, so no introductions were necessary.

Dan grinned. “I’ll leave you in Aiden’s capable hands. He can introduce you to Derek and anyone else hanging around.”

“Sure thing,” Aiden said.

“Stop in for dinner when you’re through with your meetings, Bryce. I’ll get Ashley to save you some of tonight’s special.”

“What about me?” Aiden asked.

“You’ll be here working?” Dan asked.

“You know it.”

“We’ll send over a meal for the crew.”

“Aren’t you supposed to run things like that by me first?” Bryce asked with a laugh.

“Nope. My boss doesn’t micromanage the Liberty Grille.”

“Good to know.” Bryce nodded. “I think it’s a great idea. We should do it weekly.”

“There you go micromanaging. Guess I was wrong about you, after all.”

“Thank Ashley for me,” Aiden said.

“I will.”

An hour later, after some pleasant chitchat with the firemen and a prolonged conversation with Derek Held about the avalanche response team he was putting together, Bryce was finally on his way back to the resort. He wasn’t sure what he’d gotten himself into, but he’d committed himself to a cause and it felt gratifying.