Home > Knocked Up in Alaska (Captivity Alaska #3)

Knocked Up in Alaska (Captivity Alaska #3)
Author: Samanthe Beck

 


Chapter One


   Ford Langley knew a few things with absolute certainty.

   Holding on thirteen with the dealer showing anything less than a seven tended to pay off.

   Holding too fast and tight to anyone was a surefire path to heartbreak.

   And last, but certainly not least, he was going to burn in hell for the kind of fast, tight holds he wanted to put on Delilah Iquat.

   With a flick of a tap, he built a pint of Spruce Goose until the frothy head flirted with the rim of the chilled beer mug. Hell might be inevitable for him, but not for her. Lilah glowed with bright promise imbued by all the strong, positive forces in the universe. So, he’d resist temptation again today, just as he’d been resisting for the better part of what seemed like forever.

   Resigned to that, he moved down the bar, placed the pint in front of Jorg Hendrickson, and raised his own half-empty glass by the handle. “To Lilah’s twentieth-first birthday,” he toasted.

   The fishing boat captain with his wild tufts of white hair and the broad chest of a weathered Viking lifted his drink. “Yah. To Lilah,” Jorg said and gave Ford’s glass the kind of hearty clunk that made him thankful he’d sprung for the beveled, extra-thick version when he’d bought the bar two years ago.

   The Tipsy Goose had earned its status as a local landmark in tiny Captivity, Alaska, long before his tenure as proprietor, but he liked to think he’d scaled it up a notch with a few small improvements. Nothing major, because even as the new guy in town he’d realized the inhabitants of Captivity greeted major change with suspicion. As he’d come to learn, their definition of “major” included things like eliminating menu items nobody had ordered since the turn of the century—the nineteenth century—and removing most of the dusty, old taxidermy geese mounted on the dark-paneled walls. Proudly, over the last twenty-four months, he’d accomplished both, along with a handful of other changes, in accordance with a slow, careful plan aimed to make the establishment a local-friendly and tourist-friendly casual drinking and dining option. Aside from The Goose’s healthy balance sheet, he liked to think the success of his slow, methodical approach could be measured in the fact that nobody called him “the new guy” anymore.

   “Where is the birthday girl?” Jorg asked after swallowing half the pint in one gulp.

   Ford checked his watch. The Marathon Navigator was as much a holdover from his military days as the black ink etching the forearm he wore it on. While he barely noticed the badge, knife, crossed arrows, and Latin letters of the Army Special Forces tattoo anymore, he sure as hell noticed the time.

   Noticed, and frowned. “Rose told me to expect them at seven.” A man could set his watch by Rose Iquat, which made it all the odder that the ruthlessly prompt proprietress of the Captivity Inn would be over ten minutes late getting herself and her daughter down to the bar for Lilah’s “surprise” party.

   Jorg nodded as his pale blue eyes roamed the crowded room, taking in the decorations Ford had spent the better part of the afternoon helping Rose put in place. Yellow and white balloons floated overhead, nearly obscuring the original tin ceiling. Yellow streamers trailed down, and a banner across the archway connecting The Goose to the inn’s lobby proclaimed HAPPY BIRTHDAY, LILAH! in gold letters across a pale, yellow background. Yellow was Lilah’s favorite color. It suited her—warm and cheerful—just like the girl…woman? And God, how he struggled with that one thing. How should a man of thirty-one think of a warm, cheerful, not to mention smart, beautiful, wise beyond her years, yet very, very sheltered twenty-one-year-old? Christ, just yesterday she’d been too young to drink in his bar.

   As a friend. That’s how you think of her.

   He let out a slow breath and mustered up a grin for Jorg. “What’s your rush? Hot date tonight?”

   The older man returned the grin with something closer to a leer. “Yah. Maybe. Now that our lovely Lilah is well into womanhood…”

   Oh, hell-fucking-no. “Don’t make me kick your ass, dirty old man.”

   Bushy white brows took a confused slant, then his eyes widened and Jorg’s barks of laughter filled the bar. “Not lucky with Lilah, no.” He wrestled his amusement down to a chuckle. “My days of being that lucky are long past. I meant Rose. Even the most protective mama-bear must eventually accept that her cub is full-grown. She has fulfilled the needs of motherhood and can now look to fulfill”—Jorg winked—“other needs.”

   He didn’t wish to discuss Rose’s “needs.” Especially not with Jorg. First off, according to local accounts, unmarried, teenaged Rose Iquat had arrived in Captivity just over twenty-one years ago, practically penniless, pregnant, and alone. She’d single-handedly raised her daughter, worked her way up from housekeeping at Captivity Inn to proprietor, and taken no prisoners in the interim. Where Lilah was calm, Rose was driven. Lilah dispensed cheer. Rose dispensed razor-sharp observations with occasional pricks of sarcasm. The woman didn’t have needs—she had demands. And Jorg? As a widower for almost a quarter of a century, the old Swede kept no secrets about his pent-up sex drive.

   Ford suppressed a shudder. This whole conversation sketched a picture in his mind that he forbade his imagination to color in. He opened his mouth to respond with something appropriately encouraging before moving on to other customers, but the man jumped in with, “And while I pluck my Rose, you can tend to the beautiful Delilah left in the garden.”

   Jorg’s comment froze Ford with his beer halfway to his lips. “What?”

   “Yah.” Jorg again tapped his glass to Ford’s, with more restraint this time. “Of the men in town, we are the two…” He shook his head. “I don’t know the word in English. Ogift.”

   “No gift?” Ford hazarded.

   Amber glints from the overhead lights tinted Jorg’s white hair auburn as he nodded, momentarily washing away years. “No gift from a lady.” He gestured down the bar. “Trace gets gifts from his lovely Isabelle,” he went on, referring to Trace Shanahan, half-owner of Captivity Air and Freight, and Trace’s new bride, former L.A. lawyer Isabelle “Izzy” Marcano.

   “And Archer.” Jorg raised his chin to indicate Archer Ellison, seated on Izzy’s other side. “Archer arrived only weeks ago, and he gets Bridget’s gifts, which I thought would be yours until I watched closely.”

   Bridget Shanahan and him? Never. The other half of Captivity Air had always flown high and fast to avoid any sort of real commitment, as far as he could tell. Until Archer. Also, because of Archer, as it happened, but Archer had flown back into her life determined to change that and, against very steep odds, had succeeded. But he was getting the gist of the meaning of ogift. No gift, indeed. Celibate.

   Occasionally the old man proved accurate. Brutally accurate.

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