“Yes. Sawyer will collect you come morning.”
“Of course. How could I have forgotten?” she said. “And you’ll be more than ready to see me go.”
To her surprise, he didn’t immediately respond.
When dinner was ready, they sat down across from each other, the roast and assorted vegetables on a platter between them. Finn opened the wine bottle and poured them each a glass.
“What shall we toast?” she asked, pressing the brim of her glass against his.
“To cribbage,” he suggested. “And I demand a rematch after dinner.”
“To cribbage,” she echoed, and smiled.
Their eyes held for an extra-long moment, and her stomach was filled with butterflies as she realized that this heightened awareness of each other hadn’t gone away. If anything, it was stronger, and was growing more so each moment. Although they both tried to ignore what was happening, it was still there, as real and as profound as when he’d caught her and kept her from falling to the floor.
They sipped the wine while their gazes held. Deliberately, Carrie looked away. She needed to remind herself that the sole reason she was in Alaska was for an interview. After spending more than twenty-four hours with Finn, she had what she needed. And as soon as the article was published, Finn Dalton would want nothing more to do with her.
This wasn’t working, Finn realized. When Carrie showed up unexpectedly, he’d been determined to freeze her out. She might have found him, but she wasn’t getting one iota of information out of him for that blasted article she intended to write. He would say as little as possible, speak in monosyllables, and be rid of her the instant the weather cleared.
And yet within the span of twenty-four hours she knew more about him than he ever intended. Only a few of his friends knew about his involvement with Pamela. If divulging personal information wasn’t bad enough, he’d been keenly tempted to take her in his arms and kiss her. The urge had been so strong that he’d had to leave the cabin. Then, upon his return, he’d found her standing on a chair and she’d fallen directly into his arms. He’d like to think she planned this, but her reactions said otherwise. He’d caught her, and she’d looked up at him with those baby blues of hers, practically begging him to do the very thing he wanted to most. It felt as if he was about to go down for the third time before he gathered the strength to pull away. Not that it was easy. Finn liked to think of himself as disciplined and in control of his emotions. With Carrie, every bit of self-preservation flew out the proverbial window. He didn’t like it one bit.
What he needed, Finn decided, was a distraction. He figured if they could play cards, that would keep him sane until he was well rid of her. Then he’d come up with the bright idea of opening a bottle of wine. What was he thinking? If he found her beautiful before dinner, she was all the more so during. Stunning, breathtakingly beautiful, and for the life of him he couldn’t keep his eyes off her.
He wanted to blame the wine, but she’d intoxicated him with little more than a smile. This was bad, and every minute he spent with her made it worse. Before he knew how it happened, he’d lowered his guard.
“Are you surprised?” she’d asked him. “You know, by how successful the book has been?”
He nodded. It baffled him even now. His editor routinely updated him on sales and his position on the New York Times bestseller list. “I’ve been told it’s a publishing sensation.”
“It is. Finn, thousands and thousands of people are reading and loving your stories about Alaska. What ever made you think to write it?”
He smiled and leaned back, far more comfortable with her than he should have been. Before he knew it, he was telling her the story. “It was just one of those things. I read an article about the problems with kids having sedentary lives, obsessed with video games and television, and was astonished. While I was growing up, every day was an adventure. I thought if I wrote about some of my own experiences it might inspire kids and adults to step outside their front door and look at nature in an entirely different way.”
Carrie’s eyes brightened and Finn couldn’t have looked away from her if someone had offered him gold ingots.
“Did you know,” Carrie said, her smile warm and alive, “there are whole groups that are springing up across the country for organized hikes and other outdoor activities that your book inspired? This would never have happened if it hadn’t been for your book. I hope you realize what a strong influence Alone has been.”
He had heard about such groups, and it pleased him immensely.
The bottom line, Finn realized, was that he needed to keep his trap shut.
The problem was how comfortable he felt with Carrie. Hardly trying, she got him talking. He wasn’t sure what it was about her; maybe it was the pain that radiated from her when she spoke of her college sweetheart. At first he assumed she’d made up the story in order to gain his trust. But the hurt he saw in her couldn’t be fabricated. No one was that good an actress.
All Finn could hope was that Sawyer didn’t get delayed come morning. There was still a chance that Finn might come out of this fiasco unscathed.
Carrie and Finn worked together washing and drying the dinner dishes. Although she pretended not to notice, he kept a careful watch on her. At one point she almost said she had no intention of stealing his silverware.
Dinner had been pleasant enough. The roast had been cooked to perfection, tender and succulent, and the vegetables were a wonderful complement. They’d chatted amicably during the meal, and Carrie was surprised how easy it was to talk to Finn. Without her prompting, he’d started to talk about the book, which shocked her. When he abruptly stopped, she realized he’d said far more than he’d ever intended.
“I like you, Finn,” she said as they claimed the chairs by the fire.
“Excuse me?” He arched one thick brow as though questioning her.
“With few exceptions, I’ve enjoyed spending this time with you.”