A wildling, Ma always called me, born of nature, feral as a fox.
I made a promise to her on her deathbed to look after my heartless Pa, but eight years later, he brings another woman to our homestead in the wilds of Alaska, testing my determination to honor Ma’s memory.
Saige is timid. Beautiful. Unthreatening and desperate for affection, consuming my mind and drawing me in.
I should flee—for both our safety.
But I have nothing to my name, and leaving as winter approaches means certain death, no matter my survival skills.
Pa crosses a line, and the wildling inside me rises like a bear on its hind legs, instinctively needing to show dominance.
This time, I won’t fail to protect the one I love, no matter the cost—even if it means breaking my promise and shedding blood.
The cabin and its outbuildings didn’t look like much from the air as Jessie took the plane overhead, but it would be mine. Mine and Callan’s.
I glanced up to find my new husband’s profile still bland, hardly interested in turning around to see or ask me what I thought of my home in the wilderness. Not so much as a glance my way as Jessie landed, the floats dragging in the river’s water enough I grasped her seat in front of me, my heart flying near out of my chest.
“Bit bumpy,” she said in the earphones. “Sorry about that.”
I gulped and nodded, not having expected such a jar for landing in water. Not that I had any landing to compare it to. The flight to the homestead had been my first time in a plane.
The freedom of the skies had been liberating beyond anything I’d experienced, and even though Callan hadn’t said two words to me, acting as though I didn’t exist on the back seat, I took comfort in what awaited.
No bitter parents to support.
Planting my first garden.
Settling the chickens into their new home—and naming each and every one.
Settling myself into the cabin and making my first pot of coffee for my new husband in the morning.
And maybe someday, a swollen belly with a tiny heartbeat snuggled inside.
No butterflies lit with wings in my stomach, but definite excitement tipped my lips upward.
Jessie pulled in to dock, and I struggled to unlatch my seatbelt as she and Callan climbed out.
“Hey, Flynn! Hey, Dog! Want a Scooby snack?”
I jerked my head up at Jessie’s raised voice to find her waving at someone.
Leaning forward, I caught sight of a man moving down a worn path through waving grass toward the river, an old dog trotting ahead of him, tongue hanging out in a cute way.
Reddish brown hair pulled back into a ponytail at the man’s nape, his short beard a lighter auburn. Wide shoulders filled out a green flannel that appeared much too small for his tall frame. Old work pants, worn boots…
Another wilderness man. Neighbor, I assumed, tearing my focus off his steady gait as he drew closer, revealing him to be closer to my age than Callan’s.
A handsome neighbor, too, I couldn’t help but note.
My smile faded as a weird feeling moved through my chest, settling like a rock in my stomach. Brow furrowed, I hopped out of the plane onto the dock and busied myself gathering a few personal items from the floor of the plane, my back to the others.
Murmurs reached my ears as Jessie and the neighbor exchanged pleasantries. Callan didn’t speak a word, and every hair raised on my nape beneath the long braid swinging down my back.
Sucking oxygen into my lungs didn’t lessen the weighty feeling in my stomach, but I forced myself to turn, two bags in my hands, and move off the deck onto the shore. Focus on where I walked as usual, I stopped once Callan’s feet appeared in my periphery.
“Flynn,” he said with laughter in his voice, something I’d never heard.
I jerked my focus to his face.
Callan smirked at the man, but no jollity lit his eyes. If anything, he appeared angry, a contradiction to his smile. “I brought you a gift for your birthday,” he said and grasped my elbow, yanking me close.
A squeak flew past my lips. My brow furrowed over his words, and I stared at his profile, baffled.
“Callan…” Jessie’s voice filled with warning from his other side. She glared at my husband, lips pursed while straightening from feeding the dog a snack.
I dared a peek at Flynn. Eyes, green as dew-kissed moss, peered at me without a hint of emotion, bland as Callan’s had been throughout our flight.
My husband let out a dry chuckle. “Brought you a woman, son.”
“What?” I gasped out, the single word ripped from my throat.
Flynn didn’t twitch a muscle at the announcement, nor did he take his focus off his…father’s face.
Callan tossed back his head and laughed like a mad man, squeezing me tight against his hard body. “Fuck, Flynn!” He barked another laugh. “You should see your face right now.”
Flynn still looked as unmoved as he had two seconds earlier. No emotion showed on his face—he definitely inherited that ability from Callan. His father. My husband had a son and hadn’t felt the need to tell me.
“Saige here is my wife,” Callan continued.
Jessie cursed under her breath and stalked off toward the plane.
“My wife,” Callan repeated, his voice dropping as Jessie’s boots stomped on the wooden dock. Coldness gleamed in his eyes as he peered at his son, his tight hold on my arm starting to hurt. “Maybe I’ll share.”
My heart stalled out, and I clamped my eyes shut, my mind buzzing, yet unable to form a single thought.