American nurse Tory Bird, visiting Amsterdam with her sister Jane, meets Dr. Maximilan van den Nie whilst giving first aid to an injured English tourist. After a lovely weekend, Tory returns home to the United States, daydreaming of the handsome Dutchman. To her surprise, Max arrives in Tory's New Hampshire village a few weeks later!
Installment One - Installment Two - Installment Three - Installment Four - Installment Five - Installment Six - Installment Seven - Installment Eight - Installment Nine - Installment Ten - Installment Eleven - Installment Twelve - Installment Thirteen - Installment Fourteen - Installment Fifteen
THE HUGE ROSES (working title)
copyright 2014 by Betty van den Betsy; not for reprint or publication without permission
Two days later, Tory drove up to Hanover to join the twins and a few of their friends for a weekend of snow sports. After parking the dogs at the twins’ apartment, they headed for a nearby mountain. Tory wasn’t an aggressive skiier, like her siblings, but she enjoyed several runs on the moderate slopes that afternoon. The group of them – seven in all – went out for pizza at a popular local dive, laughing and washing their slices down with inexpensive beer. One of the group, a law student named Trevor, made sure to sit next to Tory. He quizzed her a bit, about her work and her home, and seemed taken aback that she lived in her family home. “You live with your parents?” he asked, twice, and later made a joke about it that Emma heard.
“Tory’s guardian of our family estate,” Emma said in the snooty tone she could assume when she wanted. “She’s invaluable at keeping the land and buildings properly maintained.” Tory, catching Neil’s eye, had to contort her mouth in several different directions to keep from giggling.
After making plans for the morning, the gang split up on the sidewalk. The Bird siblings walked back to Emma and Neil’s apartment, arms linked, sleepy and content. Once Tory had washed and brushed and tucked herself up on the couch, the twins settled into two deep armchairs and resumed The Great Brussels Sprout Debate. Tory let herself slump into the cushions and drift into dreams, their squabbles wafting over her.
In the morning, she joined Trevor and two others from the previous day’s sports, Kai and Lulua, for cross-country skiing. The twins, with their friend Jerzy, headed for black-diamond snowboarding. Tory really enjoyed talking with Lulua while they skiied. The other woman was originally from Bangladesh, and her reflections on life there and in the U.S. were fascinating. She was happy to chat with Trevor, too, although she found him a bit silly, but Kai was the best match for her skiing. Trevor and Lulua were both relative beginners – although only Lulua was willing to admit that – but Kai was clearly a pro, and willing to push himself. That suited Tory, too. She didn’t mind that the pace made conversation difficult. She found out only that his ancestry was Norwegian, and that he’d grown up in Vermont.
They had the chance to talk more over lunch at the twins’ place – a bean-and-tortilla casserole Neil had made earlier, that heated up in 30 minutes while Emma took the dogs out and the rest of them set the table and described their circuits and runs. Kai was an operations manager for a major financial company, and sang tenor in a community choir. She was impressed with his professional success, and when he sang a bit of Andrew Lloyd Weber, she was impressed with his voice. It was an odd song choice, from ‘Jesus Christ Superstar,’ but well performed. She caught Emma and Neil eye-rolling, though – as if she hadn’t already noticed that Kai was a bit full of himself, and earnest in a way that emphasized how young he was. He was two or three years older than Tory, actually, but his concern with his own prestige made him seem younger. Still, he was a fine cross-country skiier.
In the afternoon, she hit the slopes again, this time with just Emma and Neil for company, and agreed to two runs on the expert trails. As they headed up the chairlift for the second time, she told them about her discovery of Titus. Of course, she had to describe Max’s part in the rescue, but by focusing on the oddities of Josh Brown’s house, she thought she distracted them pretty well. “So, what’s up with Max van den Nie and you?” Neil demanded, shattering that illusion.
“Nothing at all,” Tory insisted. “I mean, what would be? He was nice to help with the kitten, that’s all. You’re weird.”
That red herring proved ineffective, too. “He kept looking at her at dinner that night,” Emma mused. “Did you notice that? Tory, he’s hot, and he’s smart, and he seems nice. Why wouldn’t there be something up with you?”
“Because he’s Dutch, and he’s rich, and he never blushes or stammers or wears a pajama top to the supermarket because he’s comfy and in a rush, and I bet his dogs never knock him over when he’s walking downhill. Also, he’s intimidating. So, no. No Max in my future, and he doesn’t even have a future here; he lives in Amsterdam. So unless you’re suggesting a one-night stand or a four-week stand or whatever – what is taking Josh so long to recover? – then really there is nothing up with Max and me.”
“Okay,” Emma replied easily.
“Except that there totally is,” Neil sing-songed quietly. Too bad they’d reached the top, and Tory’s ski skills didn’t allow her to chase down and pound on her nimbler brother. She settled for throwing a few snowballs.
At the end of the run, she was breathless and flushed. The twins were replaying each turn and mogul, giving each other pointers on how to get faster next time. “Wow,” Tory remarked, “I love you guys, and that was exhilarating, but I am set until, let’s say, February, or maybe March. There were two or three trees that just came a lot too close that time, and I just don’t process adrenaline as efficiently as you do.”
“Well, come up in two weeks and bring your rich Dutch doctor, and we’ll let you back on the bunny slope while we put him through his paces – see whether he’s man enough for you,” Neil teased, or threatened. Tory swung a punch at his shoulder.
“Seriously, sweetie,” Emma asked, “do you like him? Because I don’t see why rich or Dutch or a little older than you would matter if you do.”
“Oh, no,” Tory insisted. “He’s a great guy, and he’s been a good friend, but I can’t imagine him as a boyfriend. He’s more like a favorite teacher, or a mentor or something. He’s too stolid for me. I need someone who’s a little more goofball.”
“I can give you Trevor’s number,” Neil offered.
“A little more,” Tory emphasized. “Less than 85% goofball is my standard.”
An hour later, ensconced in her Subaru and homeward bound, Tory said aloud to Hal and Jennet, “Actually, I like that he’s not a goofball, you know? I really like being a grown-up, and I don’t think the pajama-top thing disqualifies me.” Then she turned up the radio and concentrated on her driving.