Book 2: Alaska Heat
“Yeah.” Luke looked away from his friend. He didn’t want to talk about his past. He didn’t feel like opening doors with Cort that had stayed firmly closed during their long friendship. They’d been partners for eight years, but he’d hired Cort on several occasions prior when he’d come to Alaska to do research.
He shifted in his chair as he surveyed the bar. The juke box was blaring. A few pilots were hanging around. Some locals. Place was gloomy as hell.
It had never bothered him before. But right now, the moody atmosphere was grating on him big time.
“I’m going outside.” He shoved his chair back to stand up, and then the front door opened. In walked a woman of the ilk he hadn’t seen in eight years, since he left Boston. Her dark hair cascaded down her back. Even in the dim light of the bar it was glistening.
It looked as soft as the fur on a Husky pup.
It reminded him of the kind of hair women shelled out a thousand bucks a week to maintain. Women in Alaska didn’t bother. Women in Alaska let their true beauty speak for themselves.
This woman was not from Alaska.
She strode up to the bartender and began hammering him with questions. She was gesturing furiously, her hands flying around like she was agitated beyond hell.
The bartender nodded in Luke’s direction, and she turned and looked directly at Luke.
He immediately sat up, his body responding when he felt the heat of her inspection. Her eyes were black as the sky during a stormy night, but they were alive and dangerous. Sensuous and passionate. He knew instantly that this was a woman who ran hot, who didn’t hold back from whatever was in her heart. She sort of reminded him of how he used to be, before he’d realized living that way made too many people die.
Her jaw was out, and she looked fiercely determined. Yet there was a weariness to her posture, and dark circles under her eyes, visible even in the dim light. She rubbed her shoulder and winced, her body jerking with pain.
Her vulnerability made him want to get up and haul ass over there and offer her help.
Her eyes widened at his expression, and a hint of red flushed her cheeks. The she plunked herself wearily down on a barstool and turned away from him.
Just as well. Luke still had issues when it came to woman in need. Big issues. The kind of issues that haunted his dreams and brought him screaming to consciousness, his body drenched in sweat.
His skin began to feel hot, and it wasn’t just from the strip of smooth skin peeking out between the bottom of her sweater and the waistband of her very low-cut jeans… He peered closer and caught a glimpse of a bit of lacy black thong above her jeans.
He’d seen that action on plenty of women and it didn’t do much for him, but on her…shit. All his blood was heading south at full speed. Despite her attire, there was a level of innocent sensuality that was drawing him like a grizzly to a picnic basket.
He inspected her more closely, needing to assimilate as much information about her as possible to explain his reaction to her. Her shoulder blades were strong, and her back narrowed into a trim waist and toned hips. The woman took care of herself. Yoga? Most of those wealthy women seemed to have so much time on their hands, they did nothing but spend hours in the gym to try to attract the powerful, rich men they had their sights set on.
Was that her? It didn’t feel accurate. She was more than that. The fancy clothes were window dressing, meant to obscure a deeper truth she was trying to hide.
He narrowed his eyes, quickly tabulating all the data so he could make an accurate assessment. It was difficult to tell from this distance, but the sweater appeared to be cashmere. High quality, given its lines. He’d guess upwards of a thousand bucks for it. And her jeans…he recognized the designer brand on that fine ass of hers. His gaze dropped to her boots…heels were low and practical, but the leather was clearly soft and supple, and the seams had that extra bit of style he recognized from his own mother’s closet. In fact, she seemed to be wearing exactly the kind of outfit all his dad’s women used to wear, once he got finished dressing them up like the Barbie dolls they were willing to be for a chance at his money and his power.
From the brief glance Luke had at had her face, however, this woman was beautiful in a natural way. She didn’t need all the glam to look good, but she apparently went in for it anyway. She was refined and beautiful, she was as far from Alaska and carnage as a woman got, and she was exactly what he wanted to bury himself in right now to forget the hell he’d been in for the last fifteen hours.
She turned toward him suddenly, as if sensing his continued perusal. When she saw him watching her, she sat up straighter, and he saw in her something he hadn’t expected. Courage. Strength. The woman was a survivor. Not a weak female. She was strong, and that put him over the top.
After what had happened eight years ago, weak, scared, defenseless woman scared the daylights out of him. But a woman who was a survivor? Hot as hell. The cashmere? It was escape from Alaskan hell he’d been crawling in the last two days.
Her gaze dropped to his mouth, but then she quickly averted her gaze, shutting him out.
“Too late, my dear,” he whispered under his breath. “Too damn late.”
He shoved back his chair and stood.
“You heading out?” Then Cort followed Luke’s gaze, and he grinned. “She’s a little too prettied-up for these parts, isn’t she?”
“Damn straight she is.” And then Luke headed right for her.