Authors: Shelby Gates
LOVE IN ALASKA
This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places and incidents either are the product of the author's imagination or are used fictitiously, and any resemblance to any persons, living or dead, is entirely coincidental.
LOVE IN ALASKA
All rights reserved.
Cover design by Indie-Spired Design
This book is protected under the copyright laws of the United States of America. Any reproduction or unauthorized use of the material or artwork herein is prohibited without the expressed written consent of the author.
Books by Shelby Gates
The Chance Series
The Me Series
The Love In 50 States Series
LOVE IN ALABAMA
LOVE IN ALASKA
LOVE IN ARIZONA (available 11/3/14)
LOVE IN ARKANSAS (available 11/17/14)
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The speakers on the plane crackled and the pilot's voice filled the cabin, telling me and the other passengers we were looking at the Chugach Mountains.
I didn't care what they were called. All I knew was that I'd never seen a view as spectacular as the one out my tiny porthole of a window.
The seatbelt light above me dinged and a different voice came over the loudspeaker, asking us to stow our computers, put our tray tables up and bring our seats back to their upright positions. I didn't have a laptop out, my tray was already up and I hadn't been able to recline my seat because of the large man stuffed in the seat behind me.
I checked my seatbelt and twisted to the left, then to the right in an attempt to stretch out a little. It had been a long day of flying. I'd gone from Mobile to Dallas, caught a connection in Seattle and, almost twelve hours later, was finally getting to Anchorage. I'd been on one big jetliner and two smaller planes and all of them seemed to have provided me with the same size seat.
I peeked out the window again. The mountains loomed just to the left of us, their jagged peaks capped by snow. It was a little weird to see snow in September but I was coming in to Alaska and I was pretty sure the weather didn't always play by the weather here. I inched forward and craned my neck so I could see more of the landscape below. Through the broken clouds, I could make out a vast expanse of blue and a curving coastline. From my vantage point, Anchorage looked more like an island than an extension of North America.
“Coming home?” the guy sitting next to me asked.
He hadn't spoken the entire flight. We'd listened to the flight attendant's safety speech in Seattle and, two minutes later, he'd slipped an eye mask on his face and promptly fell asleep. I'd tried to follow suit but I had too much on my mind.
“No,” I answered. “Just visiting.”
He nodded, like that's what he expected. He looked to be in his sixties, with gray hair and wire-rimmed glasses. “I hope you have some warmer clothes,” he said, taking in the shorts and t-shirt I was wearing.
I hadn't given much thought to the temperature of my final destination when I'd gotten dressed that morning. I'd opened the sliding glass door to my hotel room and the humidity had slammed into me and I'd grabbed the coolest clothes I could find. I'd dug out a sweatshirt during the layover in Seattle but quickly shed it once I'd boarded the plane. Judging from my seat mate's choice of outfits—a flannel shirt and khaki pants—I was not adequately dressed for September in Alaska.
“I do,” I said. “In my luggage. It'll be chilly, right?”
He shrugged. “Depends on what you call chilly. Should be high fifties during the day, a little cooler at night.” He gave me a sly grin. “Or we could see snow.”
I smiled. “You live here then, I take it?”
“Yep,” he said. He adjusted the glasses sitting on the bridge of his nose. “Going on thirty years now. Wouldn't live anywhere else.”
“No? Why is that?”
“I like the quiet. I like the peace.” He smiled at me and smoothed out the creases in his pants. “And I like the cold.”
“I'd think you'd have to.” Vermont was a cold place to live, too, but it didn't feel as remote as Alaska did to me. Maybe because Boston and New York, teeming with people and skyscrapers and civilization, were only a few hours away. Or maybe it was simply because I didn't know much about Alaska and what it had to offer.
He nodded again. “What brings you here?”
Oh, I'm just here to have sex with another resident of your state,
Because that's what I was doing. After fifty months in a loveless, sexless marriage, my friends had convinced me to go see the country—and fuck a guy in each one. I had the money to do it, to visit each state in alphabetical order and look for a guy in every single one. But I was still working on having the guts to carry out my mission.
“Just a quick trip to do some sightseeing,” I said instead.
Which was true. I hadn't seen much of Alabama other than the airport in Mobile and the beach on the north end of the Gulf. It hadn't been a bad visit, but I hadn't done much else and I was sort of regretting that. After a night with a guy named Adam, I'd felt discombobulated. Casual sex had never been part of my make up and I realized that I needed to get my head right with it. I hadn't necessarily sulked but I'd spent the remainder of my time in Alabama alone. Days on the beach, nights either ordering room service from the hotel restaurant or venturing out for take-out. I caught up on movies and bad television and spent more time thinking about the forty-nine weeks ahead of me than about the plot lines of the shows I was watching. By the time my week in Alabama was drawing to a close, I'd made peace with my mission and I'd made peace with what had happened with Adam. Casual hook-ups were going to be a learned skill, just as my reaction to them would be, too. And I couldn't let those feelings get in the way of the other huge component of my mission: traveling to every state and enjoying my time there.
Now that I was minutes away from Alaskan soil, I was determined to do more than just hunt for some guy. I was going to explore and experience as much as I could.
“Sightseeing, huh?” the man said, cocking his head. “Better get out of Anchorage, then.”
My eyes were half-trained on the window and the ground rushed toward us as we continued our rapid descent. “What?”
“Get out of Anchorage,” he repeated. “If you really want to see Alaska, make sure you see something besides Anchorage.”
“You don't like Anchorage?”
“I love Anchorage,” he answered. “It's my home. But after you get past the mountains and the water, it's not a whole lot different than other cities.” He waved a hand in the air. “You need to get out. Get up to Denali. Get out on the water. Visit the backcountry. There's so much to see here. You can find pilots to take you out and about for fairly cheap.”
I listened. I'd intended to use some of my time in each state to research things to do in the next one. But I'd been too busy in Alabama, assessing and contemplating, to do much more than confirm my flight and book a hotel room for when I arrived in Anchorage.
“Don't use the tourist outfits,” he warned. “They'll charge you three times what you should pay.” He smiled again. “And make sure you bundle up.”
I nodded, mentally filing away his recommendations. I opened my mouth to speak but the plane's wheels bounced on the runway and I instinctively reached for the arm rest, bracing myself as the pilot hit the brakes. I wasn't a seasoned flyer and takeoffs and landings still took me by surprise.
The pilot eased off the brake and the plane lumbered toward the terminal. I loosened my grip on the arm rest. “Thank you,” I said, genuinely grateful for his advice. “For the help.”
He stared at me for a moment, his gaze shrewd behind his glasses. “And take care of yourself.”
“What do you mean?”
“The male to female ratio up here is higher than just about everywhere else,” he replied. He reached into the seat back pocket and pulled out a fishing magazine. “Not ridiculous like they'd have you believe back on the mainland, but there are more men than women. It's a traditional culture, very masculine.”
He saw something in my expression because he quickly added, “Don't get me wrong. Not dangerous.” He paused. “But you might be well-served to stay out of the bars if you're here alone. You're pretty and you're sunburned--don't take this the wrong way, but people will know you're visiting and might try to take advantage of you.”
I looked out the window again. The sky was more pink than blue, the sun moments away from being just a memory. The mountains were just as stunning from the ground as they had been from the sky. I thought about my travel partner's words. Maybe this would be
a sightseeing stop in Alaska.
The man touched my elbow and I turned to look at him.
“My wife, of course, would tell you that I'm full of bull,” he said, smiling. “She's lived here her whole life and would roll her eyes at me for telling you to be careful She'd probably tell you there's no better place to meet a man, if that's something you're interested in.”
I bit back a smile. No better place to meet a man, if that was something I was interested in.
He had no idea.
It sounded like a bee in my ear – a really large and obnoxious bumblebee.
I'd gotten to my hotel after landing in Anchorage and immediately collapsed on the bed, my unpacked suitcase tossed into the closet. The long day of travel had worn me out and my body shut down almost as soon as I sank down on the firm mattress. I'd somehow managed to plug my phone in before passing out and it was now buzzing like an insect.
I pried open an eye. Sunshine was fighting its way through the half-pulled curtains. I reached over and grabbed the phone, then rolled onto my back.
“Do you know what time it is here, Paige?” I mumbled into the phone.
“No, of course not,” she said. “I've never been to Alaska. All I know is it's a state and it's a hell of a lot bigger than Vermont.”
I eyed the digital clock on the nightstand. “It's six in the morning.”
“Well, that's weird. It's ten here.”
“Timezones,” I muttered, closing my eyes. “They're called timezones.”
“Whatever. You were supposed to text when you got in and you didn't, so I'm doing what any decent best friend would do – checking up on you.”
My friends and I had agreed that I would check in with them regularly during the trip – not just to update them, but so they knew I'd made it safely to and from my destinations. I'd had every intention of texting the night before but I'd had to wait for the rental car and then promptly managed to get lost on my way to the hotel. By the time I'd gotten to my room, all I'd wanted to do was sleep. I'd had every intention of calling either Paige or Mimi in the morning.
But, as usual, Paige was impatient.
“Sorry,” I said, struggling to prop myself up in bed. “I was beat. I made it to the hotel.”
“Are you alone?”
“Well, I figured I should ask,” she said. “I didn't know if you'd already found your Alaskan sex partner.”
I rolled my eyes. “I have not. And I don't plan to.”
“You don't plan to?” Her tone was indignant. “Why the hell wouldn't you? You got off to a bang in Alabama.”
I sighed. She'd coaxed a few details of my encounter with Adam from me the day after it happened. Surgically extracted might've been a more fitting description. I'd been reluctant to tell her simply because I wasn't used to doing it. There had been no details from my sex life to share in the past because there had been no sex life. But the second I told her I'd met a guy in Alabama, Paige had latched on like a tick to my leg, peppering me with questions until I caved and gave her a watered down account of our night together. She'd been less interested in the aftermath, telling me to let it go, that I'd done what I'd set out to do – reopen the doors to my sex life.