Raising a family on his own doesn't leave widower Seamus Lee much time for cultivating new relationships. Which is just how he wants it. But Rory Gorenzi, the unconventional wilderness instructor at his children's mountain school, has other ideas....
Ever since their arrival in the snowy Colorado town, Rory finds the Lee clan impossible to resist. But it's obvious that Seamus is hiding something. Can Rory break through his defenses to learn his secret--and to help him become the father his children need? Because he's the man she wants to get to know... a whole lot better.
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August 07, 2007
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Excerpt from Good with Children by Margot Early
Rory Gorenzi was on time for the 10:00 a.m. meeting with her father. She was usually punctual and she'd never lost a job because of absenteeism or tardiness. She'd lost none of her previous jobs because of incompetence, either. Instead, she had lost them for speaking before thinking--or, rather, for speaking her mind as her thoughts occurred.
It was imperative that she keep her mouth shut now. She wouldn't say anything unless her father required her to speak.
But she would focus on the conversation at hand, rather than dwelling on her recent loss or on the other minor problem in her personal life. The problem wasn't really her problem: a disagreement among her fire-dancing/belly-dancing troupe regarding a living creature in the household they shared. A living creature that had long since ceased to be useful to their troupe, a living creature that no zoo or reptile rescue facility had so far agreed to adopt.
It was a bad situation, but Rory couldn't think about it now.
Nor could she think about her beloved pet, Gandalf, now, or she would break down in tears. The vet had put down the old dog after a long illness only the day before. Now, he was out of pain, at last, and she mustn't cry about that.
In his office at the Sultan Mountain School, Kurt Gorenzi sat behind a scarred walnut desk, a remnant of Sultan's earlier mining days. His hair was thick, gray-flecked, wavy, a little long. Rory's curls, sunlightened brown and reaching to her waist, had come from him, from her father. As had her nose--straight, lightly dusted with freckles. And her brown eyes.
It was unlikely that her personality had been influenced by him, however, since she'd had little contact with him over the years, despite having grown up in the town of three hundred where he lived.
Kurt Gorenzi wore a plaid flannel shirt, Carhartts and Sorels. The driving force behind Sultan's recently reborn economy looked like the unapproachable mountain man he was. He stood when she entered, considered her formally, did not invite her to sit--and did the talking. "You'll be forming the program for Seamus Lee's family," he said. "I've given them the Empire Street house, and they're bringing a dog."
Gandalf had been fourteen, old for a German shepherd.
She blinked away the thought of Seamus Lee's dog. Rory was unlikely to have another of her own--not now, in any case. She lived with the two other members of Caldera, one of whom was allergic to both dogs and cats and had put up with Gandalf only because Rory had refused to live there without him.
"Seamus Lee is a cartoonist and animator," Kurt continued. "He employs five people full-time in Telluride and is considering moving his business and family to Sultan. He has four children."
Rory understood the importance of all this. Four children was four children's worth of funding for the public school. Five full-time employees meant population and economic growth.
"He and I have known each other for--well--a while. We were skiing buddies years back, during a winter I spent in Telluride. He wants to get his kids out of there because he thinks they're being corrupted by the..." He chose his words carefully. "Atmosphere of affluence."
She pressed her lips tightly together, finishing his sentence in her mind. The atmosphere of affluence that you hope to bring to Sultan. Her self-restraint made her proud.
"But none of that is relevant. In fact, the family's enrollment at the school wasn't his idea. He received an anonymous gift package and he's agreed to take it.
"They're signed up for a three-month program, and I need you to plan activities that will give the kids each three months' worth of school credit. Except for the youngest, who's just four."
"Four?" echoed Rory. The Sultan Mountain School provided an outdoor education, as well as academics, for children as young as kindergarten age and up to grade 12, and, in certain cases, even offered university credit. The academic work was tailored to complement outdoor programs and provide school credit for the periods enrolled children would be absent from their regular schools. The longest SMS program lasted three months.
"In this packet--" Kurt handed her a thick ten-bythirteen envelope "--you'll find background to fill you in on the Lees' skills and interests."
"Is the dad supposed to get school credit, too?" That didn't sound the way she had intended it to sound.
"I just mean," she said, "what is he looking for?"
"Exactly what the Sultan Mountain School offers. Backcountry experience, tutorials in free-heel skiing and ice-climbing, natural history, mountain science..."
And more. The Sultan Mountain School was dedicated to "increasing appreciation for the mountain environment through education and experience."