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.