Calla Fletcher wasn’t even two when her mother took her and fled the Alaskan wild, unable to handle the isolation of the extreme, rural lifestyle, leaving behind Calla"s father, Wren Fletcher, in the process. Calla never looked back, and at twenty-six, a busy life in Toronto is all she knows. But when Calla learns that Wren"s days may be numbered, she knows that it"s time to make the long trip back to the remote frontier town where she was born.
She braves the roaming wildlife, the odd daylight hours, the exorbitant prices, and even the occasional"dear God"outhouse, all for the chance to connect with her father: a man who, despite his many faults, she can"t help but care for. While she struggles to adjust to this rugged environment, Jonah"the unkempt, obnoxious, and proud Alaskan pilot who helps keep her father"s charter plane company operational"can"t imagine calling anywhere else home. And he"s clearly waiting with one hand on the throttle to fly this city girl back to where she belongs, convinced that she"s too pampered to handle the wild.
Jonah is probably right, but Calla is determined to prove him wrong. Soon, she finds herself forming an unexpected bond with the burly pilot. As his undercurrent of disapproval dwindles, it"s replaced by friendship"or perhaps something deeper" But Calla is not in Alaska to stay and Jonah will never leave. It would be foolish of her to kindle a romance, to take the same path her parents tried"and failed at"years ago. It"s a simple truth that turns out to be not so simple after all.Books by Author:K.A. Tucker Books
November 15, 1993
Wren sets the two navy suitcases next to the stroller and then reaches for the cigarette precariously perched between his lips, taking a long, slow drag. He releases smoke into the frigid air. "Just these""
"And the diaper bag." I inhale the musky odor. I"ve always hated the smell of tobacco. I still do, except on Wren.
"Right. I"ll go and get that," he says, dropping the cigarette to the snowy ground and crushing it with his boot. He clasps his callused hands together and blows into them as he rushes back out to the tarmac, shoulders curled inward, to where the Cessna that delivered us here awaits its hour-long flight home.
I quietly watch, huddled in my plush, down-filled coat against the icy wind, fiercely holding onto the resentment I"ve been carrying for months. If I don"t, I"ll quickly be overwhelmed by the pain of disappointment and impending loss, and I won"t be able to go through with this.
Wren returns and settles the hefty red bag on the asphalt, just as a grounds worker swings by to collect my belongings. They exchange pleasantries, as if this is just any other passenger delivery, before the man shuttles my things away.
Leaving us in tense silence.
"So, what time do you get in"" Wren finally asks, giving the perpetual brown scruff on his chin a scratch.
"Noon, tomorrow. Toronto time." I pray Calla can handle ten hours of traveling without a meltdown. Though, that might distract me from having my own meltdown. At least the next plane is substantial, unlike the tiny things Wren insists on flying. God, how on earth did I ever think marrying a born-and-bred bush pilot was a good idea"
Wren nods to himself, and then pulls our sleepy daughter out of the stroller and into his arms. "And you" Are you ready for your first big plane ride"" His wide grin for his daughter makes my heart twist.
For the hundredth time, I wonder if I"m being the selfish one. If I should grit my teeth and bear the misery, the isolation of Alaska. After all, I made the bed I"m running from now. My father was quick to remind me of that when I admitted to my parents that life with Wren isn"t as romantic as I"d convinced myself it would be. When I admitted that I"ve cried at least once a day for the past year, especially during the painfully long, cold, dark winter, when daylight is sparse. That I hate living in the last great American frontier; that I crave being close to my family and friends, and the urban bustle of my childhood. In my own country.
A deep frown line forms in Wren"s forehead as he plants a kiss on our happy, oblivious seventeen-month-old"s nose and sets her onto the ground. She struggles to toddle around, her stocky body bundled in a thick bubblegum-pink snowsuit to keep the icy wind at bay. "You know you don"t have to leave, Susan."
As quickly as I"d been softening, I harden again. "And what" Stay here, and be miserable" Sit at home with Calla under a happy lamp while you"re out, risking your life for a bunch of strangers" I can"t do it anymore, Wren. Every day is harder than the last." At first I thought it was postpartum depression, but after months of flying back and forth to Anchorage just to talk to a therapist and refill a prescription for antidepressants that did little more than make me sluggish, I"ve accepted that it has nothing to do with hormones. And here I was, na"ve enough to think Alaskan winters would be manageable, having grown up in Toronto. That being married to the love of my life would outweigh the challenges of living here, of having a husband whose chances of dying at work on any given day are alarmingly high. That my adoration for this man"and the attraction between us"would be enough to overcome anything Alaska threw at me.
Wren slides his hands into the pockets of his navy checkered down vest, focusing his attention on the giant green pom-pom atop Calla"s knit hat.
"Have you at least looked into flights over Christmas"" I dare ask, my last-ditch attempt.
"I can"t take that much time off; you know that."
"Wren, you own the company!" I throw an arm toward the plane he brought us to Anchorage in, to the ALASKA WILD logo across the body. There are plenty more with the same emblem that make up the Fletcher family business, a charter company left to him after his dad passed away five years ago. "You can do whatever the hell you want!"
"People are counting on me to be here."
"I"m your wife! I"m counting on you! We are counting on you!" My voice cracks with emotion.
He heaves a sigh and rubs the wrinkles from his brow. "We can"t keep going "round in circles like this. You knew when you married me that Alaska is my home. You can"t just change your mind now and expect me to up and abandon my entire life."