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Rock Climbing Therapy (Book Three)

Rock Climbing Therapy (Book Three)

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An age-gap, friends-to-lovers sweet romantic comedy set at the Jane Austen Vacation Club. Rock Climbing Therapy is a "sweet" friend-to-lovers romantic comedy with swoony-worthy kisses, but no spicy content. There's a prequel in the series, but this book can be enjoyed as a stand-alone, as long as you're up for some hardcore yearning and maybe a few tears along with the laughs. Pick up a e-book for your reader or an exclusive signed paperback for your collection today!

Main Tropes

  • Age gap romance—she's older
  • Friends to lovers—but she fights it
  • Outdoor adventures

Book Info

  • Jane Austen Vacation Club Series
  • Book 3 of 3
  • 384 pages


I've been free-falling ever since my husband handed me divorce papers for Christmas. It’s been ten months since then, and I'm still scrambling to find a new landing spot. My ex didn’t just shatter my heart; he stole the gear shop I started.

So, now I'm untethered and climbing solo.

My new rock-climbing instructor seems eager to be my anchor every time I crash in front of him. And I might be willing to give him a chance except for one thing—he’s five years younger than me.

And that's an age difference I'm not willing to traverse.

So, even though I’m ignoring him, Cliff seems determined to overcome any mountain of obstacles.

And me? I'm standing on the edge of a precipice, afraid of what might happen if I cut him any slack.

Intro to Chapter One

I said I’d try anything once.

            My mistake.

            My friend, Natalie, wheels her luggage beside me. “We’re going to have an amazing week.” She smiles hopefully.

            I smile back, and she doesn’t notice how fake it is. “I wouldn’t spend Fall Break with anyone but you.”

            The doors to the hotel open, and we roll our suitcases over the small lip. “Not just me. Cliff.” Natalie waggles her eyebrows.

            I look desperately around the grand lobby. This place is nicer than I expected. “Keep it down. You have the loudest voice of anyone I know.”

            She scowls. “Some of us are married, so we have to live vicariously through you when it comes to dating.”

            “I know. I was married once, too, remember? And dating isn’t all that fun.”

            Natalie winces. “I’m sorry, Kat. My bad.”

            I smile at the desk attendant while Natalie fumbles in her purse for her I.D. We check in and grab our key cards, then flop in the lobby’s oversized armchairs.

            Natalie puts out her hand. “It’s not your fault that your ex was a loser.”

            “I picked him, so what does that make me?”

            Natalie rolls her eyes. “A marriage Grinch. I thought you promised to stop being cynical.”

            “Sorry.” I say that a lot. “I don’t mean to sound so cynical. You and Bryce are adorable. Scott never treated me like that. He certainly never sacrificed anything for me, the way Bryce does for you.”

           Natalie’s husband wheels the rest of their luggage in the front entrance, and Natalie practically jumps out of her chair. “Hey, let’s check out our rooms and have some fun. We’re here to forget about Scott.”

            Everything we’ve done for the last year has been to forget my ex, ever since he presented me with divorce papers during the Thanksgiving vacation last year, then pressured me to sign them quickly by Christmas. Turns out he wanted to be single before New Year’s Eve—tax reasons, he said—but really, so he could party with someone else—specifically, Trina.

            Which it turns out he’d been doing for a while anyway, single or not.

            Worst holiday season ever.

            I take a deep breath. Right. Forget him. Try everything. That’s how I ended up taking rock climbing classes with my friends and met Cliff.

           Now their husbands are all best buds with him, and they want to spend Fall Break here, at this luxury resort. If Cliff recommends it, they all jump at his suggestion. He knows all the best places to hike and climb and vacation and eat out and everything.

I’ll grant him that.

            So my friends have adopted him, like a puppy, and I tag along because otherwise I’d never see them, but I get stuck with him every time we get seated.

            An extremely attractive puppy. Cliff is as buff as a German Shepherd and as eager as a poodle, but as smart as a beagle and as loyal as a Golden Retriever.

           And he has impeccable taste. The view of the Rocky Mountains from the hotel lobby is breathtaking, and I can’t wait to hit the rockface outside.

            Cliff appears out of nowhere. “Hey! Kat!” He grins and tugs me into his arms, like he does every time he sees me. He’s one of those people who gives the best hugs, just the right amount of pressure to feel good, but it never gets weird. I let
myself enjoy it for a few seconds before I step away.

           His fingers brush my shoulders as they slowly fall away. “Did you get your room?”

            “Yes, thanks.” I glance down, and he’s holding a book. I don’t even ask, but Cliff answers my question.

           “Ryder Hawk’s latest. It just dropped today, and it looks awesome. Can’t wait to read it when we have some downtime. I read the first couple of chapters already, and I’m hooked.”

            Of course he has downtime. He has no responsibilities. He’s a college kid. I plaster on my smile for Natalie and her husband and try to make small talk with Cliff. “Oh yeah, what does he write?”

            “He writes historical Westerns.” Cliff waits for me to laugh, so I do. “I hear he’s going to write a contemporary cowboy romance. I can’t wait. I’m a sucker for a
good romance.”

            “Are you?” I say without thinking. I’m so used to being polite that I can’t stop being socially appropriate, but I’ve got to stop because…

           “I am.” Cliff smolders at me. He isn’t embarrassed to admit that he reads romance novels. In fact, he’s proud of it, like he’s all tender masculinity or romantic or something.

            I stand to go to my room. “I’ll let you get back to reading.”

            Cliff puts a hand on my arm. “The book can wait. I have all week, and you might like it. It starts out in Northern California. The author bio says that he lives in Sacramento. I’m from San Diego, so I feel connected, you know?”

            “Sure.” I don’t really get it, since Northern and Southern California are nothing like each other. I shrug off his hand as I turn to look for my other friends. “You know what? I should drop my bag off in my room.”

           Natalie and her husband are standing near the elevator now. Panic floods me. They’re going to leave me alone with Cliff. I try to catch Natalie’s eye.

           Cliff is not a puppy. He’s a bloodhound, on my scent, and he’s got me cornered between the soda machine and the tea cart.

            Cliff puts his hand next to mine on the carry-on handle. Right next to mine. “I’ve already dropped off my suitcase. I can take yours up, and we’ll see where your room is. Maybe it’s by mine.”

            Wow, his eyes are intense. Blue like the ocean on a sunny day.

            He steps toward me. One tiny step. We’re already so close, but now we’re close enough that I get a whiff of his aftershave.

           And he smells good. I hate it when he showers. Is that cedar or citrus? Both?

           He steps closer again, like he smells my attraction to him. Stupid bloodhound. Cliff’s thumb runs the length of mine along the carry-on handle, and my breath catches.

           I tug ever so subtly at the handle. “I’m good. I got it.”

            I’m too subtle. Nothing happens except that Cliff and I stare at each other for a long second with our fingers touching.

           “Okay.” He lets go of my carry-on and settles into a chair. “If you want to read the book, it’s on Kindle. We can read it together on my phone when you come back downstairs. I’ll start over. I’m not very far yet and—”

            “I’m good. Thanks. Romance isn’t really my thing right now.”

            Cliff grins. “This one is a Western.”

            “Uh. Enjoy.” I turn my back on Cliff and head toward the elevators, then press the Up button over and over again. I draw a deep breath to replace the smell of him with generic hotel odors.

           This is going to be the worst Fall Break ever. My thumb still sizzles with electricity where he brushed it, and my stomach is folding in on itself.

            “Do you have to shut him down so completely?” Natalie asks. “He’s perfect for you. What’s your problem?”

            “Nothing. He’s a great guy, but he’s in his senior year of college,” I whisper. “I’m twenty-nine, which is practically thirty, and he’s what? Twenty? I don’t know. It would be like a teacher dating a student.”

            I look over my shoulder. Cliff watches me unabashedly. He’s not reading anything on his phone.

            “Yeah, but he’s not your typical student. I mean, his cousin owns a freakin’ resort, and he knows every climbing route between here and Denver. Besides, I think he took a couple of years off, so he’s older or something, more like twenty-four or twenty-five, and you just turned twenty-nine last week, so you’re only four or five years apart.”

            I bite my lip and look over at the cozy arrangement of upholstered chairs clustered around a fireplace. I didn’t know about the gap years he took away from college, so I’m not sure how old he actually is.

           Cliff grins at me.

           Natalie continues. “So, he’s into you. That shows that he’s got good taste. Besides, he’s our climbing instructor, and you’re the student, so it’s the other way around.” She grins and nudges me. “Go, cougar.”

            “Stop it.” I speak without thinking. “I’m not dating a baby.”

            I glance guiltily behind me. That might have come out a little too loud—loud enough to carry across the grand entrance, all the way to the fireplace and the tea cart and the cluster of comfy chairs.

           A smile slowly spreads across Cliff’s face as he stretches casually. Even from here, I can see his biceps bulge inside his t-shirt as he props his arms behind his head. It’s like he’s moving in slow motion on purpose, and I can’t tear my eyes away.

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