Christmas is over, but winter is just getting started, which makes my thoughts turn to fun in the snow. Set in a small Midwest town, in COUNTERFEIT LOVE the heroine Maggie gets a taste of that fun in this scene. "Maggie, wake up!" Like an icicle through a snowdrift Alex's excited voice pierced Maggie's head. She blinked. White winter sunshine streamed into Alex's bedroom. Maggie groaned and tried to pull the comforter over her head. "Get up." Alex dragged the covers away. "We're going sledding. Hurry." Cool air seeped beneath the sweats Maggie wore. She shivered and curled into a ball. "Maggie," Alex repeated. "Go get ready Alex. I'll get Maggie up." Jared's husky voice roused Maggie quicker than a bucket of ice water. Eyes open, she bolted up to face him. Arms crossed over his broad chest he leaned against the doorjamb and stared at her. The look in his eyes, part anger, part amusement, part something she couldn't name, left her unsettled. "I can't go sledding with you." "Why not?" "Because of everything that's happened. It wouldn't feel right." He straightened, his arms fell to his sides and his eyes darkened. "Alex has her heart set on your going sledding with us. I won't let you disappoint her." Guilt made it difficult for her to hold his gaze. "I don't have anything to wear." "Look in my sister's closet. Since she moved to Florida she keeps her winter stuff here. There should be a snowmobile suit and some boots you can wear. Be downstairs in fifteen minutes or I'm coming up to get you." Stubborn pride kept her motionless for a few minutes. She never responded well to ultimatums. Then a surge of hope had her scrambling to get ready. The more time she spent with Jared the more opportunity she'd have to earn his forgiveness. She paused as she tugged on one tight boot. Did she want Jared's forgiveness? And if she got it what would she do then? Jared's life was here in Council Falls, teaching. She had her life planned out in L.A., owning her own security firm. Maybe it was better if he continued to hate her. The sound of Jared's footsteps on the stairs made her shelve her thoughts. Holding one boot she limped out into the hall as he came to the top of the stairs. "Good. You're ready. Let's go." His cool tone made her question her decision to go along. Then she glanced at his eyes and wondered if she had a choice. As she got into his SUV, she noted the plowed drive and her car, a snow-covered stain of red, now parked in front of the house. "Looks like your morning's been put to good use." "Aside from a few scrapes and dents, it doesn't seem like there's any damage to your car. But you should have it checked out by your mechanic." "Thanks. Jared?" She touched his arm. Pain stabbed her when he jerked away. "What?" "Truce? For today? For Alex? In spite of everything I want you to know I care about her. No matter what, I'd never deliberately hurt her." She held his hard, searching gaze, hiding nothing of the confused feelings inside her until he gave a brief nod. "Truce." Aside from Alex's excited chatter the rest of the trip passed in a comfortable silence. Colorful dots against pristine white, people crowded the sled hill on the outskirts of town. Maggie breathed in the aromas of hot chocolate, coffee and hot dogs filling the crisp, clean air. The cold stung her nose and cheeks, and not even the snow mobile suit and fur lined boots kept her from shivering . Over her initial protests, the three of them climbed aboard the Blake's toboggan. Once sandwiched between Jared and Alex Maggie forgot to be cold. Of course, she told herself, being properly dressed for the weather accounted for the warmth flooding her body, not the heat radiating from where his strong chest braced her back, or where his arms wrapped around her waist resting just below her breasts, or the burning were his spread thighs cradled her buttocks. Then he used his feet to propel them down the hill and she forgot everything in the sudden thrill of flying. The world rushed by in a blur of white. Her cries of delight joined with Alex's screams and Jared's shouts. Again and again they flew down the steep hill until they were all breathless from laughter and trudging back up. In the fun, she forgot the tension between them. Afterwards she washed down sweet, sticky donuts with the hot coffee Jared presented to her in a large thermos, while he shared another thermos of hot chocolate with Alex. His remembering her preference for a strong brew warmed the chill in Maggie's heart. Throughout the day, despite her doubts and fears, Jared treated her as he always had, with consideration and respect. If his attitude was a bit more reserved, who was she to complain? The day passed in a blur of snow and laughter, ending too soon. Despite the cold still biting at her nose and toes and the ache in her muscles, Maggie knew she'd miss this, the warm contentment of a day spent with the people you loved. The thought startled and depressed her. What good did it do her to love Jared and Alex? In one way or another everyone she'd ever loved had abandoned her. Halfway home it started to snow again. Alex slept in the backseat as Jared pulled his SUV in front of Maggie's house. "Thank you for a wonderful day. I never knew freezing my butt off could be so much fun." Aside from a few simple comments they hadn't spoken to each other all day. "I did it for Alex. I don't want her to know what's going on. When this is over, as far as she's concerned you and your family just moved away. "She won't understand if I just disappear. She'll expect to hear from me." "I'm sure you'll think of a good excuse. You're a master at telling lies." Maggie couldn't control the cold shaft of pain his words caused or the hot anger that bubbled to the surface. "There's lying and then there's lying to yourself," she shot back.