Mr. Red Riding Hoode

Poconos Pack - 2


Dana Marie Bell


To Mom, who developed knee problems and keeps stealing Dad’s mobility scooter (or so he says). I have an idea on how to fix that…

To Dad, who needs to check out that mobility scooter that looks like a motorcycle. Hell, I need to check that out. It looks badass. Can you see me at a romance convention, revving my engine? Heh.

And to Dusty, who still can’t believe he married into this crazy family. Be afraid. Our children carry their genes.

Chapter One

Steve stumbled through the doors of the Red Wolf Ski Lodge and Resort. He damn near whimpered in relief as the heat from the huge fireplace seeped through his red parka.

His balls were going to freeze off.

A ski resort in December? “What the hell was I thinking?”

He fought the urge to cup himself and rub the warmth back in. Shit. Little Steve might never come out to play again.

Still, if he had to come to the mountains in the winter, he couldn’t have picked a better place. It was beautiful. A huge wood and stone building, the Red Wolf Lodge was built like a mountain cabin on steroids. It was long and three stories high, with a vaulted roof you could barely see under the snow and a huge deck that ran all around the second story. And thanks to the changes Rick Lowell had instituted, it now boasted a full gym, a day spa, babysitting services, and even a small golf course. All of it sat on about three thousand acres, a third of which remained forested.

It was gorgeous, and if it were warmer out Steve would have enjoyed it a lot more.

Ben, the asshole, was laughing his ass off at him as he stood and shivered. It was cold in New York, sure, but these were the Pocono Mountains. There was shit like snow and ice, and not one female in a bikini anywhere in sight. “You could have gone to Bermuda.”

“Shit,” Steve snarled. He loved the dickhead like a brother, but some days he seriously thought about fratricide. “Someone took my timeshare in Florida.” And he’d had plans for Christmas in Disney. Plans involving a sweet blonde he’d been trying to get in bed for months.

Ben was lucky Steve loved him or he’d never have agreed to give that up.

Ben grimaced. “Someone had some serious ass to kiss, which is why someone gave you an entire month’s stay free at the lodge. At Christmas, I might add.”

“Bullshit,” he coughed into his fist. He was there as Ben’s best man, no matter what bribery Ben had promised Steve in exchange for the timeshare.

Steve couldn’t wait to watch his best friend finally marry the man of his dreams, even if it wasn’t legal yet in the grand state of Pennsylvania. Ben had gotten his special someone, and for that alone, Steve was willing to freeze his body parts off.

Hell, Ben Malone had loved Dave Maldonado for years. If it hadn’t been for the way Ben’s father had fucked with his head, he was certain Ben would have made his move the minute the kid turned eighteen. But a brutal, alcoholic father had made him wary, and he’d made some assumptions that cost him years with Dave. Now that Ben’s head was out of his ass, he and Dave were disgustingly happy together. Steve hadn’t ever seen his friend as content as he had been the last six months, and he’d grown up not far from the lodge. They’d gone to the same schools, but Dave had been a few years behind them. Steve had only known about Dave because of Dave’s obvious crush on Ben, and Ben’s reluctance to accept him.

Most of the kids from the Red Wolf Lodge had pretty much stuck to themselves back then, socializing in their own little groups. He barely remembered most of them, and then only to glance at. Ben had made an exception where Steve was concerned, causing all sorts of problems in his great love affair with Dave, who’d thought Ben had a thing for Steve.

Speaking of which… “Where’s Dave?” He thought about taking off the parka, but the door behind him opened once more, the cold breeze making him shiver. It might be warmer in the lodge, but until he was thoroughly melted he wasn’t giving up his favorite coat.

He glanced over at his friend and grinned. Yup. There it was. That huge, sappy smile that made Steve want to smile too. Ben deserved this, deserved to have the happiness he’d denied himself for far too long. “He’s working with Rick today. Something about a huge wedding disaster.”

Dave was the event coordinator for Red Wolf Lodge, while Ben was the money man. Rick Lowell was the owner, taking over for his grandfather when the old man retired. Rick had taken a place that had been slipping into obscurity and had turned it into a thriving business. He might never be as big as some of the other, more commercial places, but Red Wolf Lodge was becoming known for its good food, relaxed attitude and friendly, homey atmosphere.

Steve had loved the place the first time he set foot in it, back when it had been run by Rick Lowell’s grandfather. Ben had brought him up the mountain after school one day, and the lodge had wowed him from the very first.

His welcome had been less warm, and after that time Ben warned him that no one at the lodge could see them together. At first he’d thought it was because Ben was ashamed of him. Instead, he’d soon come to realize that Ben was ashamed of them. The only two people who knew about his friendship with Benny were Rick Lowell and David Maldonado, neither of whom spoke a word about his presence to any adult. In fact, Dave had probably saved his life when the adults came after Ben. Dave had held his tongue, sending the adults a different way, keeping Steve and Ben’s relationship a secret from the ones who would have hurt Ben for simply having a friend who wasn’t a part of the lodge.

As odd as it had been, he’d never really questioned it. It was just the way things were. The lodge people weren’t the friendliest, and everyone who grew up in the area was aware they didn’t care for outsiders. How old man Lowell had managed to hold on to the place for so long, no one knew. But now, with Rick in charge, it had become a thriving, friendly place Steve was happy to visit.

Ben deserved every happiness Steve could give him, if only for they way Ben had defied them all just to remain Steve’s best friend. Steve still felt bad that Dave had misunderstood his relationship with Ben all those years ago, though Dave had nothing to worry about. Steve definitely had a thing for the fairer sex, frequently and with gusto whenever he had a willing partner.

“I think they’re just hiding from Belle and Chela. The two of them have some idea about Christmas that they’re trying to avoid like the plague.”

He’d heard plenty about both women over the last six months. He grinned, checking around the lobby for the women Ben had described as Psycho Barbie and her sidekick, Senorita Lobito. He knew enough Spanish to know Ben called Graciela “Chela” Mendoza a little wolf. Both women had nicknames that made him almost terrified of meeting them. At the same time, it was clear Ben considered the women family from the fond way he spoke of them. “What kind of idea?”

“I’m not sure. I ran when I heard the word thong.”

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