A Mountain Leads Home

An Unexpected Love Story

Book Cover: A Mountain Leads Home
Part of the Places in the Heart series:

When Australian Taylor Quinn travels to the Canadian Rockies, he least expects his holiday to be challenged by a snowboarding accident. The injury prevents further winter sports, but the hospital stay nurtures an optimistic connection: A nurse, with a finger on his pulse, supports his recovery and takes a chance on what could become a promising friendship.

Working on a trauma unit, Sarah Evans desires more than another critical care patient. When she meets Taylor, there’s something about him that appeals to her relationship goals. Maybe it’s the kindness in his eyes or his jovial warmhearted personality, but an ethical dilemma ensues when her care extends beyond the hospital setting. This heartfelt risk could lead to happiness, to the love she’s been searching for, maybe even a home far away from family, friends, and her native country.

What will a snowboarder and a nurse do when circumstances beyond their control end the holiday, potentially injuring their newfound romance? Will Taylor return to Australia? Will Sarah risk everything for the love she’s found?


Chapter One

The second week of November.

A rider on the Strawberry Express, Taylor Quinn mentally prepared himself to glide across winter white slopes. He aspired to ride, to snowboard, yet as his board dangled in the air, his left foot securely bound in the bindings, he wondered: do I have the ability, the experience, or the skill to sail across these pristine runs?

Soon, his angst-ridden thoughts wouldn’t matter.

The chairlift climbed higher, transporting him toward the ride he’d been planning for months. The drive skyward only assisted his resolve while eyeing the expansive view. A painting could not adequately portray the Rocky Mountains frosted with white, or the skyline above the masterpiece, puffs of powder in a chalk-gray sky. Amazing! Taylor grinned like a child preparing to slide down a hill rather than a man fixing to ride a novice run.


I should be terrified. The slope seemed superior to Australian terrain, extraordinarily so, higher than what he’d imagined. Unlike any mountain range he’d ever seen before.

Mom would appreciate this view. Elizabeth…he remembered her cautionary words: Please be careful, Taylor. He laughed off the advice now as he had then at the Sydney airport. It didn’t matter that her son had reached the age of thirty-five, motherly concern always traveled with him regardless of the destination.

He forced the memory to the corners of his mind while watching riders crisscrossing the slopes, some skiing, some snowboarding, right beneath the chairlift.

Someone jumped—

That’s rad! That’s amazing! Momsporting activities come with danger. Injury had found him before and no doubt would again, but what was life without risk, without living?

Ah…the gum tree…years ago. The view from its pea green branches were amazing until the stumble. The ground had been hard, too.

Taylor squeezed his fingers into a fist, dismissing broken bones as brisk winds shook the chairlift, causing knots to form in his gut. The height above this snow-covered ground made him queasier still, yet the frost in the air gave rise to wanderlust, an impulsive desire to conquer his inhibitions while listening to the wind whirr and the clickety clack of the sheave wheel as it rolled along the cable. The brittle cold nipped at his skin, his breath froze in the air, but now that he was here, bundled in winter gear, he couldn’t wait to experience what he’d come here to do: Snowboard.

When he reached the top, he slid off the chairlift, his left boot bound in the bindings, his right foot free to propel himself and the board across the snow. He slid safely out of the path of other riders and waited for Luke to join him.

Riders left the lift and headed straight for the run. Not Taylor. He removed his goggles as sunshine poked through the clouds, the sunlight lit the slope. Mom…if only you could see this beauty, this unexpected powder blue sky. What a perfect picture. Taylor removed his phone from a zippered pocket in his down-filled jacket and took a few photos.

He put the phone away as a snowboarder swept past, making him question, which path should I take? Climb higher? Go left. Right?

Taylor slid farther to the right. He stretched his arms wide, his gloved fingers reaching toward the sky. Although the frost in the air nipped at his cheeks and filled his nostrils, he breathed deeply, tasting vitality and mountains fragrant with pine. It was true what other travelers said about Sunshine Ski Village. Pristine slopes and cold beauty existed in sharp contrast with each other, but harsh weather could not stop him from appreciating this winter wonderland.

Luke slid in beside him, his board caught an edge. He almost fell. “What are you waiting for, Taylor, praying for courage? Look at us.” He pointed at himself. “I can’t believe we’re starting on a beginner run.”

The comment amused Taylor as Luke was inclined to tease. Taylor removed his gloves and bent down, then placed his free boot in the binding. “Luke, you don’t understand me. There’s no harm in looking at the scenery. I’m ready for adventure, but life need not be rushed.” He cranked the strap tightly, hoping he’d chosen a decent boot. “Snowboarding isn’t the only factor thrilling me.”

“Oh yeah, what else? The snow bunnies?” Luke asked, placing his free boot in the bindings, too. He rose upward and gently punched Taylor’s arm. “We’re here to have fun. Yes? If you’re suggesting you’re not in it for the adventure, you’re lying.”

Taylor grinned while putting his gloves on. “We’re nothing like each other. I like to have fun as much as the next person, but unlike you, I’m not into showing off. I’m not an amateur either. I’ve snowboarded before. If I can balance on a surfboard, I can…”

“So, you’ve stood on a surfboard,” Luke interjected, gesturing toward the slope. “Do these mountains look like the ocean? There’s no surfing here. The ground’s frozen. And…by the way, we’re not flying down the runs at Thredbo either.” Luke cleared his throat in an arrogant way. “These runs are next level. You haven’t snowboarded in years.”

Taylor shrugged. “Don’t give me that tone. Mate, you sound like my mother.”

“That’s not fair.”

“Look, it’s rude to throw ‘beginner’ in my face,” Taylor said, sighing. “You’re bummed because you’re ready for more challenging runs. No one’s stopping you.”

“Ah Taylor, I meant no offense. When we’re more familiar with the slopes, tomorrow or the next day, let’s try the runs on Goat’s Eye Mountain. I’ve heard we’ll experience the best runs on that slope.”

“If you say so. What a strange name.” Taylor shrugged, changing the subject while wondering why he’d traveled to Canada with Luke. They’d known each other since grade school and their relationship had always been one-sided.

Luke pushed forward, sliding a bit. “Yeah, well, I’m not coming all this way without testing my abilities. I’m taking this ride if only to prove I still can.”

Taylor nodded, envisioning flying across the slopes, too.

“It’s good your mother’s not here,” Luke said, smirking, giving him the eye. “She’d remind you…”

“…of what, that I’m prone to accidents? It doesn’t matter,” Taylor said, laughing, swiping his hand back and forth as if to erase the comment. “If we waste time thinking about what could happen, we won’t get in a few more runs.”

“We should have been on the mountain earlier; too much partying last night. I work later,” Luke said, sliding forward. “If you’re finished staring at the trees and taking photos, can we ride already?”

“Sure. See you at the bottom.” Taylor rose upward and stabilized his stance, equalizing his balance on the board. He placed the goggles over his eyes.

Like hell he’d see Luke at the base. His friend lived to chase thrills. Like a newly hatched turtle running across the sand on its trek toward the ocean, fear did not hinder Luke. He wouldn’t wait, and Taylor didn’t want to rush, deciding to take his time and ride at a leisurely pace, though he had to work tonight as well.

He nudged the board with his heel edge and moved cautiously while adjusting to the motion. He bent backward, squaring his shoulders and squatting slightly. He pushed his heel edge forward and came to a stop, mostly to ensure he could.

“Don’t fall!” Luke called sarcastically, sliding past.

“Mate, try and keep up with me,” Taylor replied, laughing, not taking his friend’s warning or ill humor seriously, then he pushed off and began the run, trailing slightly behind Luke. The board moved smoothly beneath him, gliding across the snow. The force drove him onward like an airborne magic carpet hovering in the air.

Man, this sweeping motion filled Taylor with awe. In this moment, his desires personified the natural manner of a leisure activity as excitement surged through his veins, his heartbeat in his throat, riding the board across the snow amid the slopes of winter. Numerous thoughts pounded through his mind, biting cold, snow-spray against his cheeks, but none so great as this dash to pursue his sense of self.

He initiated a turn, cutting to the right, then arching to the left and sliding in the same direction. He dodged back and forth—swish swish, swooshing from side to side—snowboarding from the left to the right. He managed graceful ‘S’ turns, snaking through the snow. Not halfway through the run he slid onto his toe edge and stopped near a cluster of evergreens.

This mountain, this snowy amazing place. This is the best day of my life!

Someone yelled from behind: “Watch out!” Taylor muttered an apology as the rider rode past.

Maybe it wasn’t wise to admire the mountain while on the run. He could appreciate the view from a safer vantage point, maybe later, while having lunch and a cold one at the chalet. He shifted the snowboard into motion again and followed behind the rider who had cursed him, seeing Luke ahead. Who’s praying now? He’d stopped as well.

Taylor swooped right, then left, spraying snow into the air, his snowboard smearing through the snowfall like a knife spreading peanut butter. He managed his speed and dodged a boulder protruding from the snow. Excitement flowed through his veins.

It’s okay to take risks. I don’t want to play it safe. I want to run. I want to ride faster!

He picked up speed, neglecting to turn, racing down the slope. Though the run seemed a bit icy, more crystals than snow, nerve pushed him to the edge. Brazen courage rang in his ears, hearkening vitality and flashes of the younger self he’d been missing, encouraging him to ride faster.

He zigged. Zagged—and when Luke zoomed toward an opening in the evergreens, Taylor pursued, hurtling through the narrow gap.

What the heck? Taylor dug deeper. Life’s short, too short not to take chances. When his board lifted off the snow and he flew— “right on!” —his daring overcame the thrust into the air like a bird leaping into flight. An epic joyride…until he struck the ground. Hard. He wobbled on the slope, losing his edge, but somehow managed to remain upright.

“Man, what a sic move!” Taylor shouted to Luke, thinking he probably hadn’t heard him.

But now while maneuvering on a pathway between the trees, his equilibrium seemed compromised. The left boot had some slack. Had the strap come loose?

Should he stop?

Can I stop?

Taylor rode the snowboard at breakneck speed, trying not to concern himself with the board or his boot, but images of what could be flashed through his mind. Was he traveling too fast? His heartrate escalated while racing through a narrow snow-lined pathway, a tunnel where evergreens pressed in on all sides. He couldn’t suppress the rising angst, the fear flowing through his veins, delivering weakness to his limbs. He struggled to breathe, wanting nothing more than to finish this run.

What if he collided with one of these trees, slipped in a tree well, or worse, smashed into a boulder? I’ll break my arm. Taylor wobbled, finding insufficient space to maneuver.

Nah… He’d worry about the foot gear when he reached the bottom. It couldn’t be much farther. He followed Luke as he’d done before, racing through the trees and down the slope. Luke leaped to the left. Seconds later, Taylor jumped to the right, grinning, spraying a wall of snow.

I’ve got this. But could he handle this board, these slopes? He was no more than a young soul stuck inside a thirty-five-year-old’s body, seeking adventure, seeking thrills.

He leaned in the direction he wanted to ride, arching his heel edge too high, cutting too sharply. He whipped around a frozen tree trunk and fell forward, planting his face in the snow.


His breath burst from his lungs.

The ground throttled his adventure, too rigid, too hard, the reverberation rang in his ears. He couldn’t see, could not breathe. What happened? What hurt more, his face, his abdomen, or his pride? Taylor rolled onto his back, gasping, staring at the powder blue sky.

Luke trudged through the snow, marching toward him, carrying his snowboard. “What happened? I saw you lying on the ground.”

“Don’t know,” Taylor said, panting, fighting an ache in his side. “Isn’t it obvious?”

“I wanted to make sure you were okay. Are you all right, Tay?”

Taylor tried to breathe, but each inhalation hurt. Maybe the air knocked from his chest stimulated this sudden pain. He fixated on the stinging sensation in his lower extremities while lying on the frozen ground. The ache penetrated his lower limbs and nipped at his cheeks, his lips. He removed his gloves, his goggles, and wiped the snow off his face.

“Seriously, Taylor, you’re paler than the snow. Are you okay?”

The clouds swirled, moving swiftly above him. He listened to raspy breathing while watching the sky. The wind whistled. A searing pain radiated in his abdomen, his left side. Had he hurt himself?

Luke knelt beside him, his hand on his shoulder. Where had he come from? “Taylor, talk to me.” He sounded anxious. “Where does it hurt?”

“Did I fall?”

“Mate, you’re lying on frozen ground. You were supposed to take it easy. The jump was sic, but you hit the ground like a rock.”

“Incredible, flying through the air like that...” Taylor groaned, grasping his side, smiling slightly. “The pain will pass. Help me stand.”

“Seriously man, you sure? You don’t look well.”

“Yeah, I fell, but time’s wasting. We work tonight. There’s still time to ride. Though I’m ready for a meal, a cold one.” He reached for Luke’s outstretched hand. “Give me a moment to catch my breath.”

“Okay, but only if you’re sure.” Luke grasped his hand.

Taylor nodded, but when he tried to rise to his feet, groaning, he collapsed on the frozen ground, doubling over in pain. He winced, his entire body sweating heat. “I need a minute for the pain to end.”

Another snowboarder stopped. “Are you hurt? Do you need help?”

“I’m okay.” But was he? The flat expression on Luke’s face worried Taylor. He’d never seen his friend so serious.

Luke released his hand and knelt beside him in the snow. “My friend fell. He might be hurt. As a precautionary measure, the ski patrol should be notified.”

“I have a cell phone. I’ll make the call.”

“No, seriously, guys, I’m fine,” Taylor said, wincing. But he wasn’t sure of anything. Although the bitter cold stifled his breath, heat blossomed on his face. When he tried to rise a second time, the pain stabbed him like a knife wedged in his gut. “Jeez! I can’t believe this.” Taylor grasped his side. “Why is this happening, today of all days?” he said with a grimace, expressing anger and frustration.

“It’s probably nothing,” Luke said, his tone shaky, “but it’s best to get it checked out.”

Taylor wondered if Luke sported a brave face for his sake because his eyes were dark with worry.

Once the snowboarder made the call, Taylor lay on the snow, looking around in confusion, in shock, ignoring the skiers and snowboarders who gawked at him as they slid past. When the ski patrol arrived, two members placed a neck brace around his neck and carefully maneuvered him onto a backboard on the toboggan. At least that’s what they called the rescue sled that would carry him down the mountain.

“It’s not far to the base,” one ski patrol member said. “Don’t worry. We’ll take good care of you. We’ll assess your medical needs and have you back on the hill in no time.”

Taylor hoped their words were true, but their pinched expressions had him uneasy. They’d seen many injuries. Maybe they assessed the situation without knowing the extent of his injury, but once they had him on an examination table at the resort’s emergency room, their assertions only became clearer. The poking and prodding yielded suspicious results. When someone laid a hand on his abdomen near his ribs, Taylor groaned, nearly screaming for the pain. It was decided he should be examined at the hospital in Banff. As an ambulance pulled away from the resort with him inside, Taylor knew he’d suffered a significant injury. His head buzzed, his limbs ached, and suddenly dizzy, he worried he might vomit or faint.

His mother’s plea played in his mind like a broken record: Please be careful...

Why hadn’t he listened? Why hadn’t he avoided the jump, the gap in the trees? This was only his first day on the mountain, the first run of the season and potentially…his last.

Damn it!

Taylor swore silently while sharing a new ride with paramedics. The ambulance left the resort with him inside, sad and despondent, lying inside its steel sheath. He tried to ignore the soreness in his gut, his focus shifting to loss. Was his snowboarding adventure over? What should he do now? Taylor closed his eyes, placing his hand on his forehead, not ready to accept this fate.


Published by shelleykassian

Shelley Kassian is a multi-published author and storyteller, who romances readers with her contemporary, historical, and fantasy novels.

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