to give true love a second chance.
Will they find their way together before it's too late?
Inside the bar, people cheered while the mayor stood on a chair in the middle of the room. Drake was inside—I could feel it. Whenever he was near, my body came alive and excitement danced along my skin.
But I wasn’t ready to see him. I’d hoped these feelings would have disappeared over the last two years. But if my current state of awareness was any indication, they hadn’t in the slightest. Which sucked. Drake Foster was the one person I couldn’t be with. Ending things with Drake had been my father’s last request before he died.
Teagan knew this. She knew it.
Drake had probably moved on, but I’d refused to ask. If he’d found someone else, I didn’t know if I could face it. The thought caused my chest to ache. I knew at some point it would be necessary to see him. Face what I had done. But not today. Not today. I needed to get myself grounded and face other demons from my past.
Facing Drake would happen, of course. I’d returned to my small hometown to open a clinic with my friend Hollis. Well, technically, he’s Dr. Hollis Fritz. Skagway didn’t have its own doctor. For major medical crises, the injured had to be airlifted to another town with a doctor. It cost thousands of dollars after insurance; that alone could put severe financial stress on a family here. Waiting for transport delayed treatment for critical cases. And if the weather was bad enough, even airlifting wasn’t possible. That was the reason my father had died two years ago after a logging incident. There was too much ice, and the chopper couldn’t get to my dad in time. With a focus I’d never had before, I’d gone back to college my sophomore year and buried myself in my studies to finish my nursing degree in record time.
My phone vibrated, and I crouched down lower to answer Hollis.
Hollis: Decided to come up a day early. I’ll be there later today.
Me: Want me to pick you up?
Hollis: Nah, my car is being delivered to the airport. I’ll get settled at the hotel. We can meet up tomorrow. You still going to the clinic?
Hollis had always been a bit of a loner. That was why we’d clicked two years ago. He was a trust-fund baby who wanted a break from the leisurely life of the rich and famous. Our little town of Skagway, Alaska, would provide that escape.
I hunkered down a little lower to ensure my head wasn’t visible above the windowsill.
Me: Yeah, that’s the plan. I’m currently standing on a crate outside the Red Onion trying to get Teagan to give me the keys. She’s holding them hostage.
Hollis: Umm… is that normal for Skagwayians?
That made me laugh. Hollis and Alaska were going to be an interesting combination. His mother was livid he even considered wasting his talents up here. He’d graduated first in his class. We’d met during clinical while he was working on his residency. Even though he was four years older, we’d hit it off as friends instantly.
Me: No… not really.
Hollis: Oh… well good luck with that.
Me: I need to go. My calves are starting to hurt.
Hollis: Just talk to him.
I put my phone away, not answering his text. Hollis thought I should tell Drake everything. For two months after I left, Drake had tried to contact me. Finally, I’d changed my number and moved to a different location in New York so I would be unreachable. Otherwise, I knew I’d have gone back to him.
I am such a bitch.
Drake hadn’t deserved that. He was a good guy—the best. Before the logging incident, I’d planned to spend the rest of my life with him. I’d loved him. I still loved him. But Dad had known something. He would never have led me astray.
I rang Teagan again and held the phone up to my ear. “Come on, Teagan. Pick up. I’m not in the mood to play your games today.”
Voice mail again. Damn it. I wasn’t sure why I had a soft spot for her. Her selfishness and games drove Drake nuts. But I knew it was Teagan’s way of protecting herself. Her parents had been as shitty as they came. If I had been in her spot, I hoped someone would try to help me—a true friend.
When I asked if I could stay with her, she’d been hesitant at first but then agreed. Since I arrived, though, I’d only seen her the one time when I arrived. Then she’d taken off with Donnie.
That meeting had been awkward, almost strained. I needed to find another place to stay. Maybe I’d go to the hotel.
Inside the bar, the crowd cheered. I felt like a serious creeper, standing on a shaky wooden crate with my head just above the windowsill, watching. Teagan was in the back with her boyfriend, Donnie, who had rubbed me the wrong way since day one—nearly three years ago—and rang a ten on my creep-o-meter. I’d have to walk through the whole bar just to get to her. She’s doing this on purpose. Or maybe she’s just being Teagan. The thing was, with Teagan, I never knew. With a frustrated sigh, I blew out a breath.
“Hey, Lex. Who are you spying on?”
The deep voice took me by surprise, and I jumped with a scream and fell off my perch. Pain shot through my ankle. “Ouch!”
Why me? Why?
The circumstances looked much worse than they were—an innocent situation gone terribly wrong. All I’d wanted was to avoid the man who still affected me in more ways than he should. And now that man was standing less than two feet away. My skin danced with the familiar electric current that left my head buzzing.
The crate had given me a nasty scrape on my calf. Damn it. It was superficial but bleeding nevertheless. I knew I shouldn’t have worn shorts that day, but the weather was unseasonably warm. I looked around to make sure no one else had heard my shriek, buying some time to pull myself together. Judging by the racket inside, I had most likely escaped additional embarrassment.
I gave another quick scan around us to make sure no one else was there. Skagway had a local gossip newsletter that went out on a weekly basis via email. The Twiner sisters ran it like world-class paparazzi. Sometimes, for red hot news, there were even special editions. They had a knack for being in the “worst” place at the “best” time.
Every. Single. Townsperson. Was. On. The. Subscription. List.
The people of Skagway enjoyed the gossip. Hell, even I read it. When my email pinged with the newsletter each week, it called like a beacon.
Jean-clad legs I was all too familiar with stepped closer. “Need a hand?”
The deep timbre of his voice still made me weak in the knees. It was deep and husky and took manly to a whole new level. Already my resolve was weakening. I would have to read my father’s letter again to reinforce my walls. I carried the note around with me in case I ever felt the need to call Drake, which was often.
The men in New York City were nothing like Drake. They were too refined, lacking the edge—the wildness—Alaska infused in the men who lived here. Drake was savagely protective, romantic, strong, and loving all wrapped up in one ridiculously hot package.
I glanced up, meeting those warm chestnut eyes I remembered all too well. His dark hair was still short like I remembered. I swallowed and said, “Drake.” My voice cracked.
Yeah, I sound nervous. Stay calm. Drake knows you. He knows you better than anyone.
I cleared my throat. “I wasn’t creeping. I was waiting for Teagan.”
“Why not come in? She’s inside with Donnie.”
That was the million-dollar question. “Umm… I… You know…” I gave up and stood. Immediately, I felt the blood trickle down my leg.
Ugh. I need to get this cleaned up.
Drake leaned against the post and crossed his right leg over his left. He was all muscle. “Let’s get you fixed up. I’ve got a first aid kit upstairs at my place. We can take the back stairs.”
I took a step back. “I’ll be fine. I can walk.”
Drake looked at my leg. “Ol’ Man Rooster is talking with the Twiner sisters out front. If you go that way, you’ll pass right by them.” He shook his head. “I’m sure that’ll give them something to talk about for a while. You’ll be the star of the weekly Twiner Tellings newsletter.”
His smirk caused me to take a deep breath. He knew I hated being in the newsletter. Hated it. And in the two years I’d been gone, Drake had only been in it once—for something inconsequential. I’d secretly scoured it for any news about him. Was he seeing someone? Don’t think about that. It doesn’t matter.
Lurking outside the Red Onion was not how I wanted the Twiner sisters to find out I was back in town. The rumors would be rampant. And if truth be told, now that I had him near, I wasn’t ready to be without him again.
Just a few minutes. I want to be near him for just a few more minutes. Then I’ll leave. I’ll go read the letter and remind myself why I stayed away for so long.
“Lead the way.”
Drake handed me a towel from his back pocket. When working at the bar, he always had one tucked there. “It’s clean. Hold it to your cut, and I’ll carry you. We don’t want you leaving a trail of blood up the stairs.”
Without an argument, I took the towel. Drake’s strong arms wrapped around me, and he easily picked me up.
I yelped. “It’s—”
“I don’t remember you being this jumpy.”
I clamped my mouth shut. I was a nervous wreck around him. What do I say? Any kind of explanation would only make the situation look worse than it was. “I promise I wasn’t lurking.”
“Then why not come inside to see Teagan? You nervous to see me?”
Of course, Drake was straightforward. He always had been. We’d known each other since we were babies. When I was a senior in high school, he’d stopped to help me change a flat tire on the side of the road. From there, we started hanging out. With my father’s blessing, Drake took me out on our first date. He was two years older and had wanted my father’s approval since I was still in school.
Why did Dad change his mind?
Drake shifted his hold on me as he climbed the stairs, which brought my thoughts back to the oh-so-familiar feeling of being in his arms. Goose bumps formed along my skin where he touched me. Two years apart from him had done nothing but amp up my desire for him.
He paused at the door. “Why are you nervous, Lex?”
Lex. He was the only one who ever called me Lex, and it still did things to me—made me feel like I was still his.
Outside his door, we stared into each other’s eyes. “You know why I’m nervous. It’s been two years since we saw each other, spoke to each other.”
“Don’t be. I’m still just me. The same man I was two years ago.”
Not according to Dad.
Regret surged through me, and I blinked a few times. “Yes, of course. I figured facing a large crowd would be awkward after what I did. I deserve it if you hate me.”
It was too much; I had to break eye contact. If he hated me, I wouldn’t be able to stand it. Why does it feel so right to be near him? In just mere minutes, my world felt fuller than it had for the last two years. This was why I had to cut off all communication. Drake Foster consumed me.
Shifting his hold on me, he was able to open the door without putting me down. I’d forgotten how strong he was. “I could never hate you.” The softness in his voice brought me up short, and I blinked several times to clear my thoughts. Gently, he set me down. “Let me get the first aid kit. It’s in my room.”
My body instantly missed his touch. If only I could be back in his arms. He deserved to know what happened two years ago. But the knowledge that my dad hadn’t approved of him might hurt him more. Drake had loved my dad. They’d been close. Which was why my father’s last letter telling me to end things with Drake had gutted me. How could I even consider spending the rest of my life with a man my father didn’t approve of? When I’d first read the letter, I hadn’t been myself. I’d felt like a stranger in my own skin. And now that I was in Drake’s presence again, I felt doubt at my father’s words for the first time.
Did I make the wrong choice?
I shook my head and tried to get my thoughts straight. Drake’s place was just as I remembered—masculine. The furniture was solid wood—handmade by Drake’s father, Ike. Things were tidy-ish, as usual. The shirt he wore yesterday was on the back of the couch where he probably removed it to watch TV. A lone beer bottle sat on the table. I had so many memories of us here together—cuddled on the couch as we watched a scary movie, making love by the fireplace, celebrating when I’d been accepted into college with a nearly full scholarship.
It had taken me three years to save up enough money to go to college to study nursing at twenty-one. The scholarship supplemented my savings so I hadn’t needed a loan. It had been a blessing. Being a nurse had been my dream since I was a little girl.
Drake reappeared in the doorway and paused while our eyes met. Time had been good to him, and he looked fit as ever. His T-shirt hugged his muscles and showed off how broad he was.
With a quick shake of his head, he snapped out of it and brought the first aid kit to me. Quickly, I set to work cleaning the cut and putting a Band-Aid over it. “Good as new. Thanks, Drake.”
A few moments passed as we stared at each other. I knew I should leave, but I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I wanted more time.
Finally, Drake said, “Mom told me about the clinic.”
The mention of his parents caused pain to shoot through me. I missed them so much. Weakly, I smiled. “Yes, Skagway is going to finally have a doctor. Hollis is amazing.”
Something shifted within Drake, and he expelled a breath, taking a few steps back while raking his fingers through his hair. “It’s a good thing you’re doing.”
My throat grew thick. “Thanks. Maybe Dad… well, you know.”
He grabbed my hand, and the fierce protectiveness I always associated with Drake came rushing back. “I know. He’d be proud.”
I had made a terrible mistake leaving Drake Foster.
He'd been mine—until I made the biggest mistake of my life.
I thought if I put enough time and distance between us, my heart could forget him.
I thought wrong.
Drake Foster owns my heart, my entire being. He always will.
As the pieces of what happened to us begin to fall into place, I realize our relationship had been sabotaged.
We'd been pawns in a game neither of us knew we were playing, and our relationship was the price we paid.
Now, we must find our way together before it's too late.
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At the beginning of 2013, she decided to sit down and write it all down, but she kept it to herself. One sentence developed into two, and before she knew it, she had the makings of a novel.
Kristin tries to live life to the fullest during every moment. She loves to travel, meet new people, and mark items off of her bucket list.
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