Ilsa Pucci practically purred with contentment from her perch on the window seat that jutted out from the bottom of a sizable bay window. She was wrapped snugly in a soft, dark fleece blanket and was dressed comfortably in her softest pajamas, a pair of socks on her feet and a cup of hot cocoa, complete with whipped cream, cradled in her hands. The slow crackle of a warm fire burning in the fireplace added a perfect ambiance to the room. She watched in fascination as a blur of powder blue and black tilted forward, pushed off with a couple of poles and went flying down the sharp slope of compacted snow, sending ice flying. Just beyond the slopes and the crowd of people - skiers, snowboarders and spectators - snow-capped mountains that were about as wide as they were tall disappeared into the hazy white of the thin clouds lingering in the glassy blue sky.
Aspen, Colorado was beautiful this time of year. The cozy little chalet that she had rented for part of December was tucked into the base of Aspen Mountain. It was rustic and simple, making it the perfect retreat from the everyday hustle and bustle of San Francisco. Most of her colleagues had chosen to escape as well. Winston had retired for the holidays early, venturing out of town to visit the little family he had left and ring in the New Year. His return wasn't guaranteed until at least three days after the New Year. Guerrero had scooped up his son and his son's mother and had left the city. She had given Ames a generous Christmas bonus and the use of her limo and it's various ammentities to visit her best friend, Brody. London snowstorms had cancelled her plans to visit the Pucci family for Christmas through New Year's Day and with the only other option being to stick around and let the holidays overwhelm her, she had booked the chalet and offered the second room to her colleague, Christopher Chance.
She wasn't entirely sure it was a good idea at first, sharing a chalet with him. She still wasn't sure it was going to work out but she was willing to give it a shot. It was better than spending Christmas alone, she supposed but spending it with someone like Chance wasn't much different than being alone. Despite the fact that sulking and brooding would probably be the most she'd be getting out of him for the entire time they were there, she was determined to stay and at least enjoy some peace and quiet.
"Skiing is fun."
There went the idea of peace and quiet. With a sigh of slight annoyance at being interrupted, she turned to look at him. He stood in the doorway of the living room in a pair of faded jeans, a gray t-shirt and his favorite black leather jacket. His blonde hair was a mess and his eyes were still red with sleep. She shook her head, trying to work through her now thoroughly muddled thoughts; "What?"
"Skiing," He motioned to the crowd of skiers rushing down the slopes just outside of the window. "It's fun. You should try it."
"You've done it before?"
She wasn't prepared for the bitterness that clouded his eyes. He shoved his hands into the pockets of his jeans and looked down at the honey colored hard-wood floors, thinking for a moment before reluctantly meeting her eyes again. "A few times."
"It's alright. You don't have to tell me." Ilsa shook her head, holding up her coffee mug. "I'm drinking hot chocolate but there's a pot of fresh coffee, if you'd like to join me."
Her simple invitation seemed to draw him out of whatever memory he had let himself get lost in. The memory faded, receding into the dark recesses of his mind as he made his way into the kitchen to retrieve a cup of coffee. It had been an innocent question, intended to flesh out his previous statement of skiing being a fun winter activity. He hadn't counted on the bitter memories of his previous life it would drag up. He shook his head as he shoved the carafe back into place and took a sip of the strong, black coffee.
"You make regular visits to Geneva, right?" Chance sipped his coffee and made his way to Ilsa.
"Once a month." Ilsa told him, looking up from the window seat.
"It's in Switzerland. An hour and a half drive will take through Arve Valley from Geneva to Chamonix." Chance told her, taking another sip of his coffee as he leaned against the wall. "It's a little village that sits at the foot of the Mont-Blanc. It's huge, always covered in snow and great for skiing. I'm surprised Marshall never took you there."
"Marshall was never one for winter sports, Mister Chance." Ilsa shook her head, rolling her eyes. "He was English but much preferred the dusty plains of Africa to anything winter related. Clearly, our meeting wasn't your first trip to Geneva?"
"Been there a couple times. That wasn't my first trip to Switzerland, Ilsa." Chance grinned slyly, michief gleaming wickedly in his eyes. "And there are a lot of things that can be done to warm up after a long day in the cold snow."
Almost immediately images of settling into a jacuzzi of steaming water that rolled with each powerful spray of the jets - eight of them, she imagined - with him settled into her mind and melded into images of being wrapped up in a blanket, drinking hot chocolate or coffee and other activities that might induce a sufficient rise in body temperature. She could only dream of what might happen should they decide to experiment with different methods of raising ones body temperature.
"Shall we try skiing then?" Ilsa asked him, the vivid images of them warming each other up still lingering in her mind.
"Sure." Chance nodded, hiding his smirk behind a gulp of coffee.
For her own sake, she was willingly admitting that this may have been a tad much.
Not to be mistaken for someone who backs down from a challenge - her biggest challenge being her employee - Ilsa Pucci also knew her limits. She was, normally, the kind of woman who much preferred to grab life by the balls and squeeze, rather than sit around and let life carry on down the road without her. That being said, grabbing life by the balls was much easier said than done, especially when put before a steep slope of ice and expected to slide down on flat pieces of plastic that seemed far to thin and flexible to transport her safely down the hill. The speed at which she would be travelling was something she tried not to think to hard about - the more she thought about it, the more definite the possibility of face planting in the snow, became. Of course, you might know, of all the times for him to not let her back out, now would be that time.
Which brought up the fair question of just how the hell he had talked her into learning how to ski? Especially from him. It didn't exactly scream safe idea to her but to him, it was an opportunity he had been all to eager to take - a little to eager, if she was being honest.
"Mister Chance, I really don't think that skiing is for me." Ilsa shook her head vehemently, stubbornly glaring at the man kneeling before her, double checking the laces on her ski boots. "Really I mean -"
"Ilsa," Chance interrupted, tugging one last time on the bright blue laces of her ski boots before standing up to her eye level. "What's the absolute worst thing that could happen? You'll fall? You're wearing ski gear. You won't feel a thing and anyway, snow provides a surprising amount of buoyancy."
His teasing grin did nothing to reassure her, only serving to intensify her stubborn glare. She was all bark and no bite and he knew it. He quite often used that to his advantage - unless she was holding some kind of weaponry in her hand, especially a gun, in which case he ran. It was easy to rile her up and anger her to a certain point but she never went beyond a stubborn glare or possibly yelling and that was something he had grown used to over time.
"You are not helping matters." Ilsa's icy stare seemed almost comical from behind the clear plastic goggles protecting her eyes from the wind and the spray of snow that would assault her on her descent down the hill.
"You'll be fine." He tapped her goggles playfully and reached for her arms. "If I thought there was any chance of you getting hurt, do you really think I'd let you do this?"
Well, he had a point there. As a general rule, if he thought anything was harmful to her overall well being, he kept her well protected from it. He never encouraged her to carry a gun, proving himself more than capable of being her weapon should she find herself in need of one. He had never forced her to do anything she hadn't volunteered for - if anything, he discouraged her from doing certain things because of his own fear that she could get hurt in some way.
"Well no." Ilsa shook her head. "You have a point."
"There you go." Chance's tone was reassuring and almost tender but there was also an encouraging firmness about his voice. "You won't get hurt. You'll go first and I'll meet you at the bottom, alright?"
"Alright." Ilsa nodded reluctantly.
"C'mon." Chance helped her into position at the top of the icy hill. Some strategically applied pressure from a firm hand helped her into the proper position for her descent. Just before he sent her on her way, he made sure she was thoroughly reassured of her well-ensured safety. "Don't worry about the speed. You won't gain enough momentum to go that fast. You'll be fine."
He moved out of her way and gave her one last reassuring grin before giving her the all-clear to go. He watched her push off with her poles and slide down the hill. She used the poles to gain the speed she needed to keep her going down the hill without stopping until she reached the flat plain of compacted snow that awaited her at the bottom. He waited until she had come to a complete stop and moved to the sidelines before beginning his own, decidedly faster, descent down the icy mound.
"I told you it wouldn't be that bad," He skidded to a stop in front of her, his grin wide and his cheeks wind-bitten. "It's not that scary now, is it?"
She looked up at the mound of snow she had just slid down; it seemed far less scary staring up at it than from the angle she had when she was looking down. It had been an exhiliarating experience, just as he had told her it would be and it made the tall snow hills with their sharp icy slopes seem a lot less intimidating. She just nodded her head and swatted at him with her poles when his grin dissolved into a cocky smirk.
The adrenaline rush from skiing left her drained and completely exhausted by the time the day was over. He had taught her how to ski down a multitude of slopes and a variety of ways to avoid falling when thrown off balance. By the time they had returned their rented skis and ski gear, her legs were a bit wobbly and her equilibrium was not at all what it should be. He, on the other hand, didn't seem to be affected in any way by the winter sport and had offered to carry her. She was tempted to take him up on his offer after the realization of just how long their trek back to their cabin would be, hit her. Trekking through the snow didn't seem at all conducive to regaining stability and balance.
"Ilsa, it's cold." Chance sighed for the thirtieth time since they had begun their walk back to their chalet. "You've been skiing all day. You're tired and your legs are probably like jell-O by now. Let me carry you."
She was stubborn, he'd give her that but he knew that exhaustion was wearing her down. It didn't matter how hard-headed she was being, once the adrenaline rush wore off completely, she'd be down for the count. Without bothering to ask her again, he quite literally swept her off of her feet and ignoring her petulant insistence that she was fine, carried her back to their chalet. She needed warmth and rest and he'd rather it be sooner than later, considering how tired she was - they both were.
She was considerably quieter when he opened the front door and carried her into their home for the week. In the time it had taken him to reach the place, her head had fallen onto his shoulder and her eyes were steadily closing. He carefully set her down and turned to close and lock the door behind them.
"Go change. I'll make us some coffee." He gave her a gentle nudge toward the hallway that led to her room.
All too enthusiastic to listen to his command and get her well deserved reward of a hot cup of coffee, she made her way down the hall and into her room to change. It had been a long, tiring day and slipping on the warmth of red and black flannel pajamas was comforting. Her tense, knotted muscles made themselves known with every movement but it had been well worth it to try something new - especially with Christopher Chance there to teach her.
That had been a reward in and of itself.
It had been quite some time since they had really gotten along as well as they had today. Between the whole debacle with South American assassin Hector Lopez and the follow-up incident with her sister-in-law at La Traviata, they had both been on edge and the tension had been thick enough you could have cut it with a knife. They hadn't fought but her instincts had told her that if they didn't get away from the point of contention and work on their relationship, business and personal, things would come to fruition and she'd be on a flight back to London before he could stop her.
"Ilsa, the coffee's ready!"
His voice brought an unexpected smile to her face and all thoughts of the last couple weeks were immediately banished to the far, dark corners of her memory. She opened the bedroom door and made her way into the kitchen where Chance was pouring the hot coffee into two coffee mugs. He looked up at the sight of her walking into the kitchen and smiled; "There you are."
"I find I'm sore in places I didn't know had muscle." Ilsa laughed softly, "I'm afraid I'm a bit slower now."
Chance just smiled and handed her a coffee mug. He pretended not to notice the spark when her hands brushed his or the coolness that was left when she pulled them away, her hands wrapped the coffee mug. He grabbed his own coffee mug and took a sip of the steaming liquid, hoping to distract himself from the fact that he missed Ilsa's touch. He actually missed that brief touch when her hands came around the coffee mug. Her hand had been a brush of warm silky skin against his knuckles and God help him, it had been something he enjoyed. If Guerrero or Winston found about this, he'd never live it down and would have it hanging over his head for the rest of his damn life.
He set his mug down on the coffee table and grabbed the box of matches from on top of the mantle. A little extra wood, some kindling and a sheet of old newspaper was all it took to get the fireplace roaring and the heat spreading through the living room. With that done, he collapsed on the couch next to Ilsa. Her naturally dark skin shimmered in the sensual golden light of the fire and the soft light illuminated her face, bringing to his apt attention just how exhausted she was.
"Much." Ilsa nodded, curling further into herself.
Without thinking he reached out and grabbed her wrist, tugging her closer to him. It was a pleasant surprise to find her so willing to move closer to him. Her arms slid around his neck with ease as she pulled herself closer to him. He nearly groaned when her body pressed against his, soft and warm and so damn good. He threaded one hand into her hair and let the other linger on her back, moving up and down her spine on its own accord.
"Are you sure about this?" Chance's question was almost inaudible.
She had never been so sure about anything in her entire life. Few times in her life had Ilsa ever found herself in a position such as this one. It was a quite a lovely position to be in, really. Here was this gorgeous man with his strong muscular frame and lust-darkened blue eyes, holding her in his arms. As much as she would like the night to move along so that she could fully enjoy everything - and she did mean, everything - he had to offer, she had to admit, she'd be perfectly content to stay like this.
"If I wasn't, do you really think I'd be here?" Ilsa laughed softly. "Mister Chance, I find myself in the perfect position to do whatever I please with you and if you keep questioning me, you won't be finding out what exactly that entails."
That was enough to shut him up. One would think that when in a position such as his current one, he'd have shut his mouth already but in true Christopher Chance fashion, he was had to question and second-guess. Here he was in one of the most beautiful places he'd ever seen, sharing a cabin with his gorgeous benefactor with snow falling outside and a fire crackling away in the fireplace. To top all of that, the beautiful woman he called his benefactor was currently straddling him and ready to show him exactly what doing whatever she pleased with him entailed. Without another word, he leaned up and captured her lips, rendering her incapable of doing anything.
Lord help him, it was incredible.
She was incredible. Her mouth was hot and her lips soft, moving against his, teeth nipping at his bottom lip. Her hands found his hair, fingers sinking into the soft blonde strands and tugging lightly. He wrapped his arms around her and held her against him, reveling in the feel of her body against him. His hands slid up under her shirt and skimmed over the silky skin of her stomach, palms ghosting over her ribs and hip bones.
"I think we should move this elsewhere." Ilsa mumbled leaning down to kiss his neck.
"I don't know, Ilsa. I'm pretty comfortable," He made quick work of swinging them both around and gently dropping her onto the couch. "Perhaps we should just stay on the couch."
Ilsa could say nothing more as he leaned down to pick up where they off, his nimble fingers working at the buttons of her pajama top. She wrapped her arms around his neck and lightly grazed her nails over his back, grinning into his mouth when he tensed and almost arched his back. She didn't have to do much guessing to know what drove him crazy because contrary to what he would like her to think, he was not complicated. Hell, he was possibly the simplest man she'd ever been with - heaven knows Marshall took some learning.
Well, that was certainly different. She really should have known he'd find that one little spot just behind her ear, just inside her hairline that drove her crazy. She turned her head, allowing him better access to that spot.
On second thought, she mused, perhaps they should stay on the couch. His heavenly ministrations had left her fairly uncertain as to whether or not she was in full possession of all of her faculties and she really wasn't in any position to test it. In fact, she wasn't in any position to move at all and she didn't think she'd be moving for quite some time. Christopher Chance was on top of her and if that wolfish grin on his face was any indication, he had no plans of changing that.
She was perfectly okay with that.
Not gonna lie, had some major Maroon 5 action going on with this one. They have very sexual songs - well, some of 'em are - and it set the right mood for the story. Originally this was going to be a Christmas story but damn, Christmas snuck up on me and I was just...ugh, exhausted. On the upside, I got a ton of movies, some new music and some new inspiration because of that. This is for my dear, Niagaraweasel, who if I'm to understand correctly, has a dislike for snow and I hope to change that. I do hope you love this, girl, because it was very a slow write. Right then, leave me some love, dolls.
P.S. I'm in an Australian phase right now. I've been saying 'right then' and other random things. I went through this phase when I was younger and addicted to The Crocodile Hunter. That's one phase I haven't outgrown. I still watch The Crocodile Hunter online. I'm a dork, yes I know. But, my Dad says that some things don't need to change and that phase is one of them.