Tuesday, June 9, 2015
Two years ago, Logan Ward got the surprise of his life when he discovered he was the father of a two-year-old boy. Professionally and romantically adrift, he devoted all his time and energy to caring for his son. But now he’s searching for something more, and he and Justin head north to Alaska to try out the life his best friend Quinn has been raving about.
Kyle Shaw has been living off the land his whole life, comfortable with nature and the challenges of surviving in the Alaskan wilderness. He enjoys his seasonal work at the O’Connor Adventure Retreat and is looking forward to this year’s stint. He’s not in the market for anything more than hard work, good friends, and reasonably priced milk.
The work brought Logan to Alaska, but a late-night encounter with Kyle opens his mind to the possibilities of a future richer than any paycheck.
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"Okay, buckle up, boys." Mitch began bringing the plane down. "We got a bit of a crosswind, so it'll be a rocky landing. Be glad Quinn ain't here."
Kyle brought out his binoculars to check the horizon. It was clear at the moment, but there was definitely a storm brewing. It might even hit earlier.
"Who's that down there?" Logan asked from behind him.
Kyle directed his binoculars and looked down at the runway they were approaching, and he recognized Quinn's blue parka. There was a small figure, too. Justin. He looked like a garden gnome in his green snowsuit and pointy winter hat with flaps to cover his ears.
"Quinn and your kid," he muttered. He saw Quinn pointing toward the plane, and the child jumped and clapped his hands. Kyle's mouth tugged up a bit, and then he refocused on the perimeters.
He hoped Justin would grow up to be less of a douchebag than his dad.
"How good is Quinn with his gun?" Kyle zoomed in to see better. The Retreat's little forest was surrounded by a shrubby, snow-blanketed landscape, and Kyle could see nine or ten creatures edging closer to the forest. It wasn’t caribou, and foxes didn’t move in packs. Had to be wolves.
"Decent," Logan replied. "Why?"
"Decent's not gonna cut it." Kyle stowed away his binoculars and reached for the case that held his old M39 rifle. "Mitch, I need you to bring her down for me."
Mitch knew the area and its dangers, and when someone told him to land, he fucking landed. There was a valid reason, and he didn’t question it.
Logan wasn’t created from the same stock. "Dude, what's wrong?"
"Pack of wolves moving closer." Kyle attached the mag and then got out his short-range .22. Just in case. As the plane touched ground, he swiped up his binoculars again and hoped the pack was only lingering in the background. Unlike what Hollywood made the world believe, wolf attacks on humans were extremely rare. But these shitskept advancing, and they were doing it fast.
"Stop the fucking plane!" Logan snapped at Mitch. "That’s my son out there!"
The plane bounced and skidded along the strip, and then Kyle saw both Kiery and Wolf running out of the forest, and it wasn’t long before Declan appeared, too. He must've sensed something was up because of how their dogs reacted, and now he was trying to get Quinn's attention.
"Come on, come on." Kyle spoke under his breath. Quinn looked back; he must've heard Declan, and only a second later, Quinn brought out his pistol and aimed it toward the approaching wolves.
"They're running in fast," Mitch said grimly.
They were both thinking the same thing, Kyle was sure.
At fucking last, the plane lost enough speed for Kyle to jump out.
"Back off, Quinn!" Declan yelled, ready with his own rifle. "Kiery, halt!"
Kyle let out a sharp whistle as he ran closer, and Wolf positioned himself in front of Quinn and Justin, baring his teeth and growling furiously.
The wolves were some twenty yards away when Kyle threw himself onto the ground to be able to hold his rifle steady. He peered through the scope and took down the male leading the pack, quickly followed by the second. Declan shot another one as the remaining wolves scattered.
"Fuck," Kyle swore. He got off the ground and stalked toward the three dying wolves, and Declan did the same. Behind him, he could hear Logan cursing Alaska and fussing over Justin, which only made Kyle wanna punch him. Alaska wasn’t like any other state. Humans and wildlife lived together—end of fucking story.
"This one's probably infected," Declan sighed. A kill shot to the neck silenced the wolf permanently.
"Yeah." Kyle eyed the animal. Foaming at the mouth was actually uncommon, but this one had it. Slackened jaw, too. Then he walked over to another wolf, and that one looked the same. "Not this one, though." The third didn’t have any outward signs of rabies, though it meant little. Either he'd simply followed his alpha, or he'd been infected later.
"I'll have Pat bag them and tag them and send them off to Fairbanks." Declan pulled out his com device to radio his brother. "Were any shot in the head?"
Kyle shook his head no. If a rabid animal was shot in the head, their brains couldn’t be examined at the lab in Fairbanks. Not that Kyle gave a shit. His mind was going in another direction.
"We have the rest of the pack to worry about now," he told Declan. "I'll head out in an hour. Tell the others to stay indoors."
"The blizzard, Kyle," Declan reminded him.
Kyle just shrugged and started trekking back to the plane where his stuff was. "I've been through worse!" He threw a smirk over his shoulder.
Quinn looked a little shocked, but Kyle had to admit he was adjusting to life in Alaska well.
Logan, on the other hand… He was furious.
"You sure you're okay, baby?" He studied Justin frantically.
"I'm fine," Justin mumbled, scrunching his nose. "Why do you look mad, Daddy?"
Good question, Kyle thought. This was life up here.
Everyone should respect the power of the nature here and know the dangers that lurked, but blaming an accident on animals that had been here far longer than humans was goddamn ignorant.
"Motherfucker," Kyle muttered to himself.
He refused to admit his hostility toward Logan was caused by what happened this morning.
About the Author:
There aren’t many things better than picking up my Kindle and getting completely sucked into a whole new world—where words morph into images and characters’ moods suddenly reflect my own. Aside from good plot and writing, for me, it boils down to relatable characters.
As a writer, I’m not finished until the men and women in my books come to life, until I can see them as real people, until I can connect with them. Which means I write what I want to read: everyday heroes and heroines who have the same struggles we all do. They evolve, have flaws, make mistakes and amends, learn, and find the endings they fight for.
Those are the characters who take the readers on a journey away from work, laundry, grocery shopping, and to-do lists.
When I’m not writing, researching, or brainstorming, I’m either planning my next trip (never-ending bucket list!), reading, watching hockey, or spending time with family and friends.