Then he faced her with his feet apart and his hands braced against his hips. “Who the hell are you, and what are you doing here?”
Carrie did her best to answer, but her teeth chattered so hard that speaking coherently was a lost cause. In the cozy warmth of the cabin her frozen hair started to thaw, dripping cold water against her shoulders as tight ringlets formed about her head. Thankfully, the huge wood-burning stove warmed the cabin. The log cabin was a marvel, and she did her best to take in as much of it as she could. From the outside Finn’s rustic home didn’t look like much, and she was pleasantly surprised by the interior, with plenty of bookshelves, braided rugs, and large furniture.
“What are you doing here?” he demanded a second time.
“A … well, my name is …”
“I don’t care what your name is.”
As though he couldn’t bear to look at her a moment longer, he filled a pot with water and then placed it atop the old-fashioned cast-iron cookstove. She continued to shiver, bracing her glove-covered hands across her body. In some ways, Carrie felt as if she were actually holding herself together.
Finn studied her as if he’d never seen anyone more pathetic in his life. “Get out of those wet clothes,” he told her gruffly.
He didn’t need to remind her that her outfit wasn’t suited to the frigid weather. Everything had happened so quickly. Just the day before, she’d met his mother, and then there were the last-minute flight arrangements to Fairbanks. She’d arrived mid-morning, and then there was the roller-coaster ride in the bush plane. Although it was still afternoon, the sun had already gone down.
Still shaking with cold and shock, Carrie removed her wool coat and unwound the newly purchased scarf from her neck. Next she attempted to unzip her boots, but her frozen fingers refused to cooperate. Finn walked over to where she sat, got down on one knee, and undid them for her. Pulling off her boots, he set them by the stove to thaw and then disappeared behind a fabric door, only to return a couple of moments later with a pair of thick wool socks. Still shivering, Carrie managed to pull them on.
Without asking permission, Finn opened her suitcase and sifted through its contents, shook his head, and slammed it shut. She had a couple of thick sweaters, but little else suitable for the harsh Alaskan elements. Once again he disappeared into the other room and returned with a wool shirt, which she slipped on even though it was far too large for her.
Not a word was exchanged between them. She watched him move, wanting to remember everything she could about him for her article. Right away she noticed that while he was a large man, he moved with a grace and ease that defied his size. His hair was as dark as her own, and shoulder length. Unfortunately, his full beard hid his face. Even without seeing him clean shaven, she doubted that he would be considered traditionally handsome. His nose was a bit too large and his mouth a tad too thin. While he didn’t appear to be hunk-calendar material, she found the raw vitality surrounding him strongly appealing.
Although they hadn’t spoken, she sensed his irritation and his curiosity. He had probably already guessed she was a reporter, which was why he hadn’t pursued his questions. One look told her he was determined not to give her any information she could publish.
When the water was thoroughly heated, Finn brewed coffee and without a word set a mug on the table in front of her. Carrie took it and held on to it with both hands. The first sip scalded her lips, but it was so deliciously hot that she barely minded. Finn remained on the far side of the room, close to the hot stove, as if to keep as much distance between them as possible.
Taking careful note of what she saw, Carrie realized that most everything inside the cabin had been made by hand. The space was compact but utilized beautifully. The kitchen area, complete with sink and countertop, a few open-faced cupboards, the cast-iron stove, and a table with four chairs, flowed naturally into a cozy sitting area. Hennessey lay on an oval-shaped braided rug close to the warmth of the stove. Two rocking chairs rested on either side, with dry wood stacked close by, and a sofa rested against another wall. The windows, of which there were two—one in the kitchen and another in the living area—had coverings that were pulled tightly closed. The cabin had lights, which she assumed were powered by a generator. What she found encouraging were the bookcases built against the walls, which were jam-packed. From what she could see, Finn Dalton was a reader. When possible, she’d check out the titles, which were sure to give her insight into this man.
“My name is Carrie,” she offered, hoping that by being open and friendly he’d be willing to chat. “Carrie Slayton.”
Finn ignored her and sat down with his back facing her.
Fully capable of moving now, Carrie stood and, taking the coffee with her, claimed the second chair. The heat from the stove felt glorious. “I apologize for arriving unannounced.”
“Who brought you?” The question was clipped, angry.
“Sawyer. He tried to reach you, but you didn’t pick up and—”
“How much did you pay him?” he asked, cutting her off.
“Well, nothing yet. I told him I’d square up with him in the morning when he returns to pick me up.”
Carrie wasn’t sure what that meant. “We discussed terms, and I found his price reasonable.”
“What did he charge? Thirty pieces of silver?”
“No, no, it was nothing like that.”
For the first time she noticed a small nook on the other side of the room. He had another table set up there, with a lone chair. On the table was a computer and what she assumed was a radio. If she’d had his email address, she might have been able to convince him to give her the interview. Then again, probably not.
“Your cabin is amazing … all the conveniences. You actually have a computer, but then I shouldn’t be surprised, right? I know that you worked with your publisher via email.”
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