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I woke with a start as the Boeing 747 thudded down on the runway. In my sleepy state I was confused and frightened. Jacques smiled and my patted my hand reassuringly.
“Hey, we’re just landing, relax.”
Jacques meant the world to me, we’d been dating for almost two years and I could see a future with him. London was our home for now, but I knew he dreamed of returning to Canada and this trip was an introduction for me. The cold temperatures did nothing to entice me and the thoughts of month after month in ice and snow was just not appealing. Nor was the thought of having to get my rusty French up to scratch. His family could say absolutely anything about me and I wouldn’t have a clue. Of course that made me nervous. Tension must have been showing on my face as we exited the customs area as Jacques winked and told me to relax that they would love me, just as he did.
There, in the middle of a crowded airport, that’s the moment drops the “L” bomb? For months I was waiting for it, and he drops it off his lips as if it was an everyday occurrence in arrivals when my arms were engaged in carrying bags? I didn’t know whether I wanted to hug or thump him.
A handsome, solemn looking silver haired man and a glamorous, vivacious lady came running towards us as we made our way out. I recognised them immediately from Jacques photos.
“Maman, Papa,” Jacques burst into his mother tongue, forgetting his promise to steer them into English. I was lost as I watched his mother shower him with love and kisses, babbling away in foreign tongues. His father held back, but with an amused glint in his eye, obviously waiting for the spectacle to be over. I heard my name being mentioned and was pulled forward into a warm embrace by Jacques’ mother.
“You must be Fiona. I’m so pleased to meet you at last,” Jacques mother greeted me, thankfully in English, with a kiss.
“Mme. Côté, it’s lovely to meet you, thank you so much for agreeing to have me for the holidays.” I replied, ashamed that I couldn’t even translate that much into French.
“I’m Isabelle. How was your flight? Duane, do meet Fiona,” Isabelle enthused not giving me a chance to reply. I offered my hand in greeting. He may have been amused by his wife’s excessive effusiveness but he certainly didn’t come across as cold as he took my hand in a firm grip.
We made our way through the heavy snow to their Montreal home. Jacques’ family were all there and we were welcomed into a brightly lit house awash with Christmas cheer and the tantalising aroma of home cooking. Jacques’ two sisters and sister in law pounced at once, making me feel like I was part of their lives forever. Their warmth wrapped me up instantly, enveloping me against the harsh weather conditions outside. Dinner was a noisy affair but for the main part everyone spoke in English, unless they got too excited and fell back into French, which happened frequently, such was the excitement at having their beloved Jacques back in the bosom of the family.
Jacques’ Christmas gift to his family was a three day chalet rental in a ski resort, he figured it could be years before they were all together again and he wanted to make it memorable. It was when we went there that things started going pear-shaped for me, right from the moment we arrived.
Have you ever been the only novice skier among people who grew up with it? For starters I could hardly get the ski boots on. They were more like plaster of paris on boards than boots. Once locked in, I had no control of my legs; they were rigid. Then I had to get from the ski hut to the nursery slopes. Easy peasy, you’d think: not so with all the mini slopes between the nursery slope and the club house. It was one pace forward, five paces backwards. And for some reason I always seemed to gain momentum as I went backwards. Several times I tried to get over and all I got for my trouble was to fall on my butt, my skis lodged in the snow, perpendicular to the ground and me totally stuck, unable to roll over onto my front. Jacques and his family had all gone ahead onto the black runs, or so I thought. I was just about ready to burst into tears, rocking forward and backwards trying to loosen my skis when I heard Duane call my name. He laughed when he saw me and pulled me out of my snow trap.
“I thought I had better stay behind to see how you were managing. I see you’re not!”
He went through the rudiments of the snow plow manouver and finally with a mixture of coaching, coaxing and dragging, he got me to the nursery slopes. He showed me how to hold on to the hand lift and point my skis straight forward ‘til I got to the top, then use the plow to stop when I let go. I trembled with fright as three and four year-olds whizzed by coming so close as to rub against my jacket. One even knocked me to the ground, making Duane laugh all the more. His endless patience was amazing. In no time he had me whizzing up and down the nursery slopes and by the time the family had a rendezvous for lunch I was confident enough to try the blue slopes. Jacques was feeling guilty for neglecting me and elected to come with us. As we were leaving lunch, a woman approached Jacques, and spoke quickly in French.
“Fi, this is Louise, an old friend, I met her on the slopes earlier,” he introduced before replying to her in French. I caught enough to know that he had said no, he might see her tomorrow. There was something in her shrug and pout that got my dander up. I felt threatened and was determined that wherever Jacques went tomorrow, I too would go, if it killed me.
Holy cow! The blue runs had a chair lift not one of those stand up ones. O.K. I could do this. Jacques sat one side, I sat the other and he promised he would tell me when to jump, and then I was to ski off. Sounded simple.
“Jump,” yelled Jacques above the metallic screechings of the lift. I did, and very proudly managed to land on my two feet. But I didn’t realise I had more to do! I didn’t see the wooden fence in front or that I was supposed to veer off to the left. Nope. No veering. I was back on my butt, this time with my skis stuck in wooden fencing, Jacques and Duane holding onto their knees, supporting themselves in half collapse as their laughter wheezed through the cold air and the ski masks. Buggers were laughing so hard they couldn’t even help me out. A woman’s hand grabbed mine and pulled me into a sitting position, before extricating my skis from the fencing. Only when I was free did I realise it was her, the woman I had seen earlier, simpering at my boyfriend. And she was laughing at me. Through gritted teeth I thanked her. Sheer determination got me down that slope flawlessly, and I came up and down it three times more. Tomorrow I would try something harder, but I was damned if I was going to have witnesses to laugh.
The après ski was fun, mulled wine in the ski hut and a run through of the day’s activities. I tried to grin and bear it as the fence story was related for the third time, this time by Louise who had managed to infiltrate the family group. As Jacques started to notice me grow quiet though, he suggested my muscles wouldn’t be used to skiing and we headed the hot tub attached to our chalet. It was an amazing sensation being up to your neck in bath warm water while breathing in ice cold air. All I could manage after that was to collapse into bed.
When I woke, every muscle in my body ached. But no way was I going to let that stop me. Louise was not going to win. I suited and booted and sent them all off to the black slopes, including Jacques and Duane, promising I would be perfectly content on the blue slopes. OK, I lied! I hit the red slopes, came down fine and was elated. I was ready. Off to the black for me.
First run went fine, I was cautious and any time I picked up speed I used the plow technique Duane had shown me. As I slowed I was able to spot and avoid any impacted ice spots. So I decided to do it again. When we met for lunch, I kept my triumph to myself, even as I listened to Louise blow her trumpet of her mastery of the slopes.
“I was thinking I might come with you guys this afternoon,” I said as we prepared for the afternoon ski.
“No, I’ll come with you, the black runs are dangerous for a beginner,” Duane quickly shot in, even ahead of an outraged Jacques.
“Dad is right, you’re nuts Fi, it takes years to master them.”
“I’ve already been down them twice today,” I said trying to hide my smugness.
“Fi, that was crazy, I’ll come with you but please don’t do that again,” Jacques pleaded.
“Fiona, I forbid you doing that again,” Duane ordered. Now, I don’t take orders easily, but I’m also non-confrontational, as Jacques well knew, so I decided the best option was to shrug them both off and do my own thing.
“Sure, but you guys go and do your normal slopes. I’m happy on my own. It’s not exactly a sociable sport anyway, is it? We all come down at our own speed and it’s impossible to talk as we ski.”
That seemed to satisfy them, and they grouped together ready for the excitement of their last day.
“Coming on the piste?” Louise asked snidely, having heard Jacques’ and Duane’s ultimatum.
“It’s a bit early for me, I generally don’t touch alcohol until after dark, but you go ahead,” I replied, injecting a sweet innocence I certainly didn’t feel into my word play. I let them all set off and added a half hour for queues at the ski lift before joining the line. I hit the top, skied off the chair lift and started my descent, but as I did so I spied Jacques and her slightly up ahead and they were playing chase. Jealousy took root and I decided to catch up. I knew my ass was toast as I ran into a ridge of ice. I fell and even through my rigid boot I felt the pain as my boot twisted one way, my ankle another. I tried to get up but my body refused to obey. A skier approached that I recognized as Duane. By the look on his face he was pretty damn mad.
“Are you ok?” he asked, helping me test my weight on my ankle. Once up, I was fine, just a little sore.
“We’ll discuss this later, with Jacques,” he stated as we set off.
He guided me down the slope, and said to wait for Jacques in the chalet. Jacques was of course hot on my heels courtesy of his father’s interference. I admitted my jealousy of Louise had contributed to my foolishness. We had just about settled ourselves back into enough romance to ensconce ourselves into the hot tub when Duane arrived.
“What the hell?” he stated. “Is this your idea of dealing with things?” He looked at Jacques with contempt. “Fee-ona, please come here.”
I hesitated, after all I was clad only in my bathing costume and this was my puritan potential father-in-law. “Now,” he ordered in a voice I didn’t dare disobey. I reluctantly climbed out of the deliciously warm water, wrapping in a towel before following him to the living area.
“Today, Jacques and I told you not to go on the black runs, is this not so?” he asked. I couldn’t argue, they had both said it.
“Yes, you did,” I agreed.
“Yet you defied us. It seems my son has forgotten what it is to be a Côté but we protect our ladies from harm, even if it is no longer fashionable.”
For a brief second I saw Jacques look at him with his mouth agape, before he shouted angrily; “Non,” and something unintelligible. I had no idea what the heck had just passed between them but I was about to find out. Duane tugged hard on my hand and I landed face down across his lap, towel misplaced in the melee. I lost all sense of reality as I felt a hard smack strike down across my nearly naked ass. I squealed and swore with pain and indignation. Even so, he pulled my bathing costume between the cheeks of my bottom, rendering it insignificant in terms of protection. He spanked me left, right, up, down until every inch of me was aflame, all the while telling me of the importance of the safety of his family. Shocked and angry I tried to make my escape by kicking and thumping. But Duane pinned my hands behind my back and locked my legs between his. As I fought, I heard Duane say to Jacques.
“This is how you protect your family. I’ve told you this a thousand times. You must be the leader. Now show her how it will be, before you wed. Why has it taken so long?”
I inhaled deeply, full sure this was my escape. “Jacques, please,” I implored in my most vulnerable voice, and for the briefest moment I thought it had mattered. I was wrong. Jacques sat on the sofa beside his father and with a swift and decided movement shifted my near naked body across his. Holy hell, I thought his father had a firm hand! Jacques brought me to tears as he struck every tiny centimetre, and told me he expected obedience and respect from his wife.
As a proposal it stank, but damn, I was his forever more. To this day I have never felt more treasured. I would not wish a better husband or father in law, but I do still try to stay on the right side of Duane. As for my husband, well let’s just say, sometimes I like to get on his wrong side.
I’m offering one e-book of either Mastering Maeve or My Naughty Little Secret along with one $5 gift card to reader’s choice of either Blushing Books or Amazon. To qualify for entry, I want an original or personal comment relevant to some part of the story. Don’t forget to leave an email so I can contact you in the event of you’re being a prizewinner. Both prizes will be selected from all relevant entries using Random.Org.
I love to reply to commenters but by request, I will hold off on all individual replies until after the blog hop is over and entries have been counted so don’t forget to check back on January sixth if you want to see your reply. Thanks for joining in and taking the time to read. Happy new year one and all. Make sure you visit all the links below to get the best in free stories from your favourite authors and increase your chances of winning. Eek, I just realised I'm number 13, how on earth did that happen?
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