"You here for an extended stay?" Will asked as he lifted a suitcase into the back of the van.
"Because I have so much luggage?" Caitlin smiled ruefully and explained, "I'm here for a wedding."
"Ahh. In that case, you travel light."
With the luggage loaded, she climbed into the shuttle and, as the only passenger, had her pick of seats. She buckled her seat belt, then settled back for what should be a short drive to her hotel.
As the driver turned onto Last Dollar Road and headed down the big hill he asked, "Where are you from?"
"Here. Well, not Telluride. I grew up in Denver. But I went to college in Tennessee and moved to New York City after graduation."
"Should I offer my congratulations or condolences?"
Caitlin laughed. "I'm glad I had the experience. I'm ready to come home, though."
"Back to Denver?"
"No." Her gaze focused on the small town nestled into the valley below. "I've developed a fondness for mountain towns."
Will Gustophsen glanced into the rearview mirror and wagged his brows flirtatiously. "Please tell me you're moving to Telluride."
His obvious interest soothed the spot on her heart still achy from a breakup last Christmas. Doug Wilkerson hadn't broken her heart when he dumped her, but he had bruised it. "I doubt it. This place is a little too pricy for me. Besides, I have family in Eternity Springs."
"That's a nice little town, but then so is this. It's possible to live here without breaking the bank. You just need to be smart about it." He launched into a Telluride pitch that sounded as if it had been written by the Chamber of Commerce.
Caitlin couldn't argue with him. The scenery was spectacular and the activities he rattled off sounded inviting. As they approached her hotel in Mountain Village, the pedestrian-friendly, European-style planned resort community built above Telluride and connected to the historic mining town by a gondola lift system, she was anxious to get out and explore. She'd been a kid the last time she'd visited this part of Colorado, and she was sure the place had changed. She had a few hours to kill before meeting Stephanie for a drink, so this was her time to play tourist.
"I get off work at six," Gustophsen said. "I'd love to show you around. Buy you dinner."
"Thank you," she responded, meaning it. Having a cute guy hit on her was nice. "But I'm afraid I already have plans this evening. The bride arrives this afternoon and the weekend is jam-packed from there."
He gave an exaggerated sigh. "Always my luck."
The friendly chatter continued until they arrived at the hotel. After he wrestled her luggage from the van and gave her his number in case her plans changed, she gave him a large tip and thanked him for the hospitable welcome.
Caitlin checked into her room and spent some time answering a few of the unending stream of work-related e-mails. She would miss a few things about her job. The mountain of e-mails that required her constant attention wouldn't be one of them.
With her professional fires put out, she shut her laptop with a satisfied thump, grabbed a hat and sunscreen, and left the hotel. She walked around Mountain Village a bit and was suitably impressed with the style and elegance of the resort town. However, she didn't feel quite at home until she took the gondola down into Telluride and wandered up and down the streets, reading historical markers and inspecting the shops, comparing them to those in another small, historic mining town near and dear to her heart.
Eternity Springs might not have a gondola and ski runs, but the bakery, handmade soap shop, and Christmas store could definitely hold their own against these. People came from all over the country to shop at Vista's art gallery and Whimsies glass studio, and her mother's Yellow Kitchen was the best five-star restaurant in Colorado.
She couldn't wait to be there.