When a cold-hearted singer and a hard-headed journalist are trapped together in a blizzard, there will be sparks—and pancakes.
When Beth Cho is tasked with interviewing elusive musician Tristan Harty, it’s hate at first sight. Despite his sapphire-blue eyes and lithe frame, he’s got to be the most infuriating man on the planet.
Tristan Harty is already sick of reporters and this one is proving no different. Sure, she might be adorable with her ebony hair and big brown eyes, but her incessant need to dig into his past is dragging on his last nerve.
The bickering duo vow never to meet again, but Mother Nature has other plans for them, trapping them in a Vermont cabin via a blizzard. The more Beth learns about the aristocratic Tristan, the harder it is for her to keep her professional distance, just as Tristan discovers that a loving heart beats inside the beautiful reporter.
But what happens when the snowstorm’s over, and the melted Tristan and enamored Beth are free to leave? Can their reluctant attraction bloom into a deeper love now their cold-as-ice judgment has thawed?
Reader advisory: Pride and Pancakes is a sweet yet steamy contemporary story inspired by the immortal Pride & Prejudice. There are references to sexual abuse, death from drug overdose and death in car crash.
General Release Date: 17th December 2019
Why isn’t the car spinning out in the snow? Nothing dramatic that’d require an ambulance or the jaws of life, just a minor hiccup in her travel plans. Anything to delay her from this coming storm. But, no, Beth couldn’t be that lucky.
Wringing her hands over the rented Civic’s steering wheel, she glared out at the stark white landscape. It’d started muddy and drab, dawn hours away when she’d left New York City. Six hours later, deep in Vermont’s snow-capped mountains, the azure skies did nothing to evaporate the dread in her heart.
The road was little more than dirt and snow packed down by wide wheels, increasing the throbbing headache Beth knew wouldn’t vanish once she reached her destination. At the sign for the Honeymoon Cabin—charming—she turned right to follow an even thinner trail. The tiny car barely made it into the ruts dug out by a monstrous SUV, Beth listening to every chunk-chunk of snow splatting out of the wheel wells.
As a twist of smoke pierced the snow-peaked horizon, her editor’s parting words rang through her skull. ‘Land this damn interview, Cho. If you don’t…’
He didn’t need to finish his threat—everyone in journalism was well aware of the always-looming cutbacks. It didn’t matter how much money their website pulled in, it was never enough for investors. And the easiest way to line their pockets was by sending yet another reporter to the breadlines.
While the six-hour-plus drive in inclement leaning to suicidal weather didn’t endear her, it was the subject of the interview that had Beth chewing glass. If it had been a fickle actor known for being handsy, she’d have brought her friend Bruno as an assistant. If it had been a mealy-mouthed politician—not that her employer cared about politics beyond if one was caught without pants—she’d have kept a slew of previous soundbites at the ready.
But this? This was…
Her thought snapped away when the ever-rising ground finally leveled out and she emerged before a picturesque cabin. It looked like a Victorian Christmas card had come to life. The cabin of massive red logs boasted a single chimney puffing perfect clouds of smoke into the air over snow-capped shingles. Quaint green shutters hung off the three windows she could make out. There was clearly a picture window for the living room, but it was frosted over from the encroaching cold. Pine trees lined the driveway, each one dusted in white snow as if a designer had painted them.
It’d be a lovely place to vacation or hide away in for a week while trying to hammer a book out. But that wasn’t what awaited her inside.
Pulling a cleansing breath into her lungs, Beth snatched up her purse and laptop and struck out into the cold. Her leg sunk a foot into the snow, the freezing air punching into her chest and a gasp escaping her mouth. Cruel, frozen water tumbled into her shoes.
Damn it! Damn it! Damn it!
With each step she took to the cabin, more plummeting snow filled her ankle-high boots. They were cute for the city in winter but pointless this deep into the wilderness. It was doubtful anything short of a whole bearskin would keep someone warm up here. Thanks to her having turned up the heat in the car, the snow quickly melted to slush, seeping up her socks and leaving her crankier.
Despite dreading what awaited her inside, Beth dashed for the cabin. At least it’d be warm and snow-free. She grabbed onto the wooden railings with their woodland animal carvings and leaped up the three front steps. The door was a firehouse red with a wreath of cedar and holly hanging from it. Breathing in the smell of hamster bedding, she pushed on the handle and let herself in.
A flash of lightbulbs from by the fireplace interrupted Beth’s entrances. Orange flames danced inside the stones there, three stockings without names dangling off plastic greenery above the fire. And standing beside it, an arm lazily draped over the mantel, was what had had her grinding her teeth for six hours.
“Tristan?” the photographer called the stone man glaring through space. “Can you turn and raise your chin?”
If he raised it any higher, all her shots would be directly up his nose.
Tristan Harty. Once a teenage heartthrob sporting floppy hair that dusted over those striking blue eyes, he’d climbed the charts with a handful of songs plucked out on his guitar. The trajectory of his career followed the majority of those who began in the same way. He’d grown older, teenage girls had moved on, his star had faded. Now, he was trying a comeback thanks to the rise in ’90s nostalgia and his PR team had finagled an exclusive interview with her magazine.
Instead of the leather jacket overtop an expertly distressed T-shirt, they’d dressed him like Father Christmas. A black suit coat, tailored tight to his thin frame, lay unbuttoned over a crimson vest. A pocket watch, of all things, dangled off the vest. Does he intend to recite some Dickens to the photographer as well? Time had thinned the soulful mane of his younger years. Locks shorn to an inch revealed more of his forehead than any had seen in a decade.
While most men his age would have wrinkles piling up across that vast brow, the cold demeanor of Tristan Harty kept his face nearly as preserved as if he were a botoxed socialite. Somehow, his record company had convinced an entire generation of fifteen-year-olds that he was the deepest, most soulful man in existence. Beth wanted to laugh at the thought when the man in question focused away from his photographer to where she stood dripping at the front door.
Eyes bluer than a sapphire burned into her soul. She tried to swallow, but her throat constricted. Even turning her head was proving impossible as ten thousand watts bore down upon her.
“You!” a voice shouted, evaporating the confounding spell. Beth blinked, glancing back at the once bewitching man. With the glare broken, he transformed back into a snooty aristocrat hoisting up a guitar.
From the mess of photography equipment that claimed the cabin’s entire living room bustled a wide man. He wasn’t fat, at least not in that lovable oaf way, but his rectangular build easily fit into a doorway. He was the comedic opposite of the thin man pretending to play a song for the camera.
“Who are you?” he shouted at Beth.
She flexed her lips in a not smile. “The interviewer.”
What had to be the manager scoffed. “You’re late. What took you so damn long?”
“I’m afraid transporters haven’t been invented yet, so I had to rely upon the old-fashioned horseless carriage,” Beth snapped, in no mood to be shouted down by the reason she was in this mess. There were a dozen more interesting concerts and art house movies she could be reviewing at home instead of wasting an entire weekend in Vermont.
The manager pinged his beady eyes skyward. “What? You never heard of airplanes?”
She chewed on her tongue, keeping the caustic comment at bay. There was no chance of her company splurging on an airline ticket, seeing as how they couldn’t ship their reporters as freight.
“Barry…?” A voice of reason stepped into the fray as the very subject of the interview spoke up. “Let it be,” Tristan whispered. His speaking voice was soft and drifted in the tenor range, a surprise for anyone who knew his songs.
Barry the manager was in no mood to do such a thing. He was clearly incensed there was no underpaid intern to boss around and had to take all that anger out on someone. “Listen here…” Whatever derogatory term floated in his brain remained there, though he stared twice as hard at her eyes. “We ain’t got time to waste here. So get this little Q&A session done fast. Got it?”
“Mr. Barry.” Beth unlatched her purse, picking up her phone. “This little ‘Q&A session’ is part of the deal. I have full access to your…talent, and we host a release for his album.” She should have been surprised at having to remind him of the back-scratching contract, but it was a wonder sometimes that most managers had the wherewithal to work a bed.
His annoyance at her tripled in strength. Beth internally smiled at her barbs when Barry pointed toward an open room. “Fine! Set up in there. I’ll send Tristan in once he’s finished.”
“Thank you ever so much.” She hefted her bag closer to her side. Just before she turned her back on the primping and posturing, another cobalt glare burned across her sights. For a foolish breath, her cheeks burned.
So I’m to work in the bedroom? While grateful she wasn’t being forced to conduct her interview in the bathroom, she’d done worse. Once, she’d had to question a football player while crammed inside a food truck while an untended open fire singed an inch off her hair. Though, as she gazed around the room, a new unease settled in her gut.
While the living room and small adjacent kitchen were rustic and woodland themed, this was where the honeymoon adjective came from. The bed was gigantic, with four posters painted like birch trees, and a damn canopy, of all things. Red and pink silks hung off the posts and a shimmery duvet covered the bed itself. Perched between the ordinary pillows was one in the shape of a heart. There were no bottles of wine in a bucket on the nightstand, but a remote sat there instead. Beth was both curious and terrified to see what it was for.
She glanced at the oval-shaped mirror set in the vanity, finding in the glass an exhausted woman who’d been awake since three a.m., driven up a mountain and still had to crack this damn introvert. At least she’d thought to check in at the hotel first, knowing she’d be exhausted by the time this was over. A warm bath and a night of typing in her terrycloth pajamas was as good a reward as she could count on.
Unbuttoning her blazer, Beth set to work. There wasn’t much in the way of seating in the bedroom, so she picked up the vanity’s chair and placed it in the center. Hopefully, Tristan would feel just comfortable enough to be uncomfortable. Laying out her tools of the trade the way a warrior would before battle, Beth inspected the batteries’ lives. Her phone was holding strong—she’d learned to keep her apps to a minimum lest she miss a vital picture or be unable to record a pivotal quote. The laptop was at seventy percent. Not great, but she’d only crack into it once she was back at the hotel.
The room felt too bright and cheerful. For some subjects, that’d be perfect. The candy-coated-sprinkle types loved nothing more than to bake cupcakes and divulge all their secrets while frosting. But not Tristan Harty. He’d been in the spotlight for over fifteen years, then out for eight. In all that time, the most people’d gotten out of him was his name, date of birth and current hit song. He was a black hole of personal information, and in order to keep her job, Beth had to get this vacuum to sing.
Cracking her knuckles, she took one last look at her reflection. Instead of the fretting thirty-year-old reporter, she saw a little girl. With her neon-pink unicorn notebook in hand, that girl in pigtails had been prepared to ask dictators and humanitarians alike the hard questions, and wouldn’t stop until she got them. This Beth could handle some has-been musician.