Former Alaskan sled-dog musher Ben Grayson is still grieving the tragic loss of his dog team. So much that he put the reins—and his dreams—away.
Now a photographer, Ben's covering the Gold Rush Trail sled-dog race. He's surprised his heart isn't more guarded around lovely journalist Clementine Phillips—until he learns that Clementine plans to handle a sled-dog team herself. Ben can't bear the thought of Clementine in danger.
So he comes up with a compromise—one to keep her close…forever.
Clementine Phillips stared at the dead fish on the wall, only inches from her face, and shuddered. She'd shuddered quite a bit since arriving in Aurora, Alaska, but this time it wasn't a result of the subzero temperatures.
Her gaze shifted from the enormous fish to the brass nameplate hanging directly beneath it. Wild Alaskan Salmon, it read.
Clementine looked back at the salmon, scrunched her brow and tried to reconcile this monstrous creature with the contents of the frozen dinner she'd eaten while sitting in her cubicle at Nature World magazine not more than twelve hours ago. Lean Cuisine. Wild Alaskan salmon in basil sauce. An homage to finally embarking on the research assignment of a lifetime.
She and her officemate, Natalie, had eaten twin low-cal, instant meals and toasted Clementine's newfound freedom with diet sodas. Clementine hated to think about the fact that she'd landed this same assignment a year ago but turned it down to appease her worrywart fiance.
Those days were over, as her ringless finger could attest to.
She forced the unpleasant memory from her mind and focused once again on the fish gaping at her.
Wild Alaskan salmon…just the name brought a smile to her lips. Every time she'd heard of Alaskan salmon, it was always preceded by the word wild. Was there even such a thing as tame Alaskan salmon? Or domesticated Alaskan salmon? It was always either wild Alaskan salmon or plain, generic salmon from nowhere.
Wild or not, she was surprised to discover salmon had such big teeth.
"How many photographs have I seen of grizzly bears snatching salmon out of raging rivers? Countless thousands," she murmured to herself. "And yet I never once knew they had teeth."
"Here you go," a grandfatherly voice boomed from behind her, followed by the thud of her luggage landing on the slippery floor of the hotel entrance.
Clementine searched the pocket of her parka for tip money, but soon realized one of her bags was missing from the pile. The most important bag of all. "Um, I don't see my…"
"Little pink bag?" The white-haired shuttle bus driver rolled his eyes and snorted. "Yeah, you're going to have to come get that one yourself. When I tried to pick it up, it growled at me."
Clementine's cheeks burned. She'd had every intention of dragging her own luggage inside, especially her dog carrier. But once she'd gotten a look at the ice-covered sidewalk, her confidence had wavered. Sidewalks in Texas weren't covered in ice. Not unless someone accidentally spilled a snow cone. Then again, the heat in Houston was often so unbearable that the ice would have melted before it hit the ground.
She pressed a few dollar bills into the driver's hand. "I'll be right out. Thank you."
"Sure thing," he grunted and clomped back to the shuttle bus. How he managed to clomp on three inches of ice, Clementine would never understand.
She shoved her suitcases against the wall, out of the way of the revolving doors she supposed led to the main lobby, and slipped into her parka. She pulled the zipper until it covered her entire mouth and the better part of her nose, heaved open the door and tiptoed onto the ice.
No sooner did her new pink UGGs make contact with the slick sidewalk than she slipped and went airborne. She squealed, closed her eyes and waited for the inevitable crash landing.