Home > Deep in the Alaskan Woods (Alaska Wild #1)

Deep in the Alaskan Woods (Alaska Wild #1)
Author: Karen Harper

1


   Alex met Lyle at the door with open arms, and Lyle hugged her so hard she could barely breathe. Her black Scottish terrier, Spenser, stayed clear of them but did his usual deep-throated guardian growl. Scotties were wary of new people, but Lyle had been in her life for months. The fact that Spenser had likely been abused before she’d rescued him made him a bit nervous around people. At least he didn’t bark as if her fiancé were some sort of intruder.

   “Taking care of that expensive engagement ring while I’ve been gone?” he asked, and kissed her again as he stepped in, pushing her with him. He had a plastic sack in his free hand, but it didn’t stop him from shoving her door closed and clicking the lock. “Stay back, Spenser,” he said to the dog.

   Before she could say a word, he went on. “Can’t believe it’s this hot and muggy in good old, scenic Naperville, Illinois. Wish I was back in Scotland’s late-July weather—except you’re here, of course.”

   He had just returned from attending the British Open at an exotic-sounding town called Carnoustie in Angus, Scotland, where he’d stayed several extra days with three mutual golf fanatics. At least Dr. Lyle Grayson, the veterinarian she worked for and was engaged to, had a passion for her, too, despite how calm and cool he seemed with those aristocratic good looks, chiseled nose and gray eyes.

   “I’m jet-lagged bad, but wanted to see you, bring you these,” he said as they sat close on the couch in her town house living room. Half of the space as well as part of the narrow galley kitchen was taken up with the natural homemade beauty products she sold online and to acquaintances. She’d explained to Lyle that she liked small, cozy spots, then had to assure him she wasn’t criticizing the spacious home they would soon share. He hugged her with one arm as he put the sack on her lap, intentionally brushing the bare thighs beneath denim shorts she wore. Spenser sat erect at her feet, head cocked, watching with his one dark eye.

   She opened the separately wrapped gifts from the sack. A white coffee mug with an image of a red unicorn, Scotland’s national animal. She’d researched where he was going with his buddies. She loved to learn about new places and different cultures. She longed to go to Scotland—it was partly why she’d adopted a Scottie from the animal shelter—but Lyle was planning a honeymoon at a Caribbean island resort he’d seen advertised on TV where they’d have their own little spa pool outside their bedroom with the ocean beyond.

   She unwrapped the next package. “Oh, and a Carnoustie Links golf ball mounted on a little trophy.”

   She didn’t play golf but wished she did so she could see more of her fiancé on their days off from the vet clinic he co-owned with two other veterinarians. She and the three other vet techs there were second rung on the ladder with the vet assistants and receptionist one step lower. But what a catch Lyle was! At thirty-five, he was only six years older than she and one inch taller. She was five foot nine, and though she loved high heels, she never wore them anymore.

   The last gift was a wool scarf, a lovely tartan pattern, though it seemed so alien with the heat and humidity outside. “Oh, the bars of color are striking against the white background. Thank you, Lyle.”

   “It’s called Dress Stewart.”

   “The royal clan. I can see why you picked it out. I’ve been reading up a bit on Scotland, you see, and even watched an old Mary Queen of Scots movie on TV. So tragic she was beheaded.”

   “Forget all that. What I see is my beautiful girl.” He tilted her toward him for another masterful kiss. She hoped her parents, who lived in England where her father worked for an international company, could be here to meet Lyle before the wedding. They hadn’t set a date yet, thinking the holidays would be a great time since the clinic would be less busy and her parents could come over.

   “Can I get you a drink?” she asked when he ended the kiss. He still had a good grip on her arms as if she would spring up and dart out the door. She had always loved how protective he was, but lately she’d begun to think he might actually be a bit possessive.

   “No. I’m beat. I’ll even take a rain check on the kind of welcome I’d like—at my house,” he added, frowning, “where I won’t fall over boxes of face creams and lip balms.”

   She was surprised at the relief she felt that he wasn’t staying tonight.

   He kissed her again, got up with a groan and said, “I’ll call you tomorrow, and you can come over on Sunday. I take it you’ll be here, cooking up your brews and pastes after work,” he added, stifling a yawn.

   “Yes. I need to catch up with online orders and answer questions on my blog. Despite the heat, I’ll be walking Spenser in the morning, of course, and—”

   “What in the hell is this?” he demanded, and snatched the eight-by-ten photo from the end table. He frowned at it. “This is a recent addition, and it seems to have a place of honor.”

   “I decided at the last minute to go to my high school reunion. Rah, rah, Naperville North! Those are members of the graduating class who attended. I’m there,” she said, pointing, “in the back row, see?”

   “Of course I see. Was that guy you used to go steady with there?”

   “Mike? Yes, with his wife.”

   “That’s him next to you, isn’t it? But no wife here. He’s brought his Airedale into the clinic, but I didn’t let on I knew who he was. I hate that he was your first love.”

   “Lyle, his wife was there, but it’s only the graduates in the photo.”

   “You got caught up with him, of course. I hope he has a happy marriage, though he probably knows by now he was an idiot to pass you up for the long haul. Any other guys there you knew well?”

   “Lyle, so what? I was wearing my big, emerald-cut—expensive, as you say—ring and told people I was getting married soon. I wanted to get out. I was tired of looking at just these walls and the caged animals at the clinic while you were on a fun trip to Scotland!”

   “Did he or the other guys call you since?”

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