Authors: Frankie Love
the day running around, full of anxious energy. Finally, there’s a break in the work at the front desk, and I pick up the landline late in the afternoon, trying to call Everly and Amelia. I’ve been trying them all week, and never once have I gotten through.
I just really want to check in with them, to make sure everything is okay—and also to tell them that yeah, I didn’t take this seriously before but now I do.
Miraculously Amelia picks up the third time I call.
“Hello?” I say. “Oh my God, Amelia. How are you?”
The reception is spotty, I can only hear a muffled voice and every third word. “Okay ... can’t ... he won’t ... leaving....”
“What?” I ask. “I can’t hear you.”
“I can’t ... good ... sex.”
It’s so frustrating, having Amelia on the phone, but not getting a clear conversation.
“I’ll have to call Monique and get a landline to reach you. You aren’t coming through, Amelia,” I tell her, so disappointed.
“You ... married?”
Thinking I may have made out her words, I say, “Me? Not married yet. But tomorrow. Tomorrow I will be.” I’m smiling at the words, and the swell of emotion gives me the confirmation I need. Boone and I are going to be okay. More than okay. I never expected to really fall for someone ... but here I am, not able to imagine a life with anyone else.
Yanking the phone from my ear, I’m startled by the sounds. I swear someone is screaming from her end.
“You okay, Amelia? Is someone upset?”
“Can’t ... believe ... baby ...”
Then her line goes dead, and when I try to call her back, there’s no answer. Dammit. Did she say something about a baby?
No freaking way.
Sally comes into the foyer with a basket of folded bed sheets.
“Everything okay, sweetheart?” she asks. “You look like you just heard bad news.”
“No, not bad. For a second I thought my friend said something about a baby.” Shaking my head, I wish I’d had a clear conversation with Amelia. “Hey, are the guys back from today’s fishing trip yet?”
“Sure are, honey.” Sally smiles as she heads to the staircase. “They’re down at the dock. Oh, and nice work with the yoga class. All the women were raving about it at lunch today.”
I grin, loving the rush of being good at something. Finding my footing. Being grounded in the most unexpected way.
“Thanks for telling me that, Sally.” As I walk away, I know I’m beaming. Starting the yoga class was awesome, and it went so well. It makes me see that I have a place here, a life here. It confirms everything I already know. This is my home.
And I’m unable to wait any longer. I’ve been waiting all day. I need to talk to Boone, need to tell him how I really feel.
I leave the foyer through the front door and take a shortcut, toward the outbuilding where most of the fishing gear is stored at the end of each day. And yes, this building makes my stomach slightly sour, mostly because of the fishy smell, but also because I’m learning that men are really just grown-up boys. They still smell, are still dirty, and still forget to lift the toiletseat.
But damn, there is something else about living with a man that makes me hot as hell. Boone has early morning hard-ons, always ready for me; he has chiseled abs that I can rake my fingers across; he has strong hands that know exactly what they like to grab. Mostly cheeks. My ass or my face. And he loves to kiss too, often. I’d never refuse his bearded jaw rubbing against my bare skin.
And here he is in the outbuilding, wearing a red flannel shirt, setting a fishing rod back in place. I wrap my arms around his waist, inhaling him.
“I missed you,” I tell him breathlessly, pulling him around to face me. With eyes closed, I lean into him, raising my face to him, and he takes my chin and kisses me. A kiss that is really, really greedy. He slips his tongue in my mouth, and widens his mouth to the point it nearly inhales me. I open my eyes, surprised, because Boone is not a bad kisser. He’s not bad at anything. When our bodies collide, it’s all sparks and lights. Not ... not this.
My eyes widen in surprise. He looks like Boone—is the same size and has the same face—but, clearly, he isn’t the man I love.
“What the fuck, Delta? Mason?” Boone’s voice booms behind me. I pull from his—from Mason’s–arms. Oh, my God. No.
“Mason?” I ask, covering my mouth.
“Have you two been fucking around all week?” Boone asks me. “This whole time?”
“Of course not! I didn’t—”
“It makes sense. I mean, you wanted to leave when you got here, and then … what, you fucked Mason and decided you’d stick around?” He shakes his head. “I knew this was way too fucking good to be true.”
“I never. I didn’t. Boone, don’t be insane. Of course—”
“Right.” Boone laughs sharply, and tears well up in my eyes. How could he jump to this, assume the worst? “You just decided you no longer cared about the hundred ways we’re different and just decided to stay? For me? I’m not a fucking joke, Delta, and I can’t believe you’d make me out to be one.”
“I can’t believe you’d think Mason and I—” I sob. “Of course I don’t think you’re a joke. I think I love you.”
Boone just storms around, looking like he’s going to rip off someone’s head.
And, of course, to add fuel to the fire, Mason is smirking. “Woah, bro, calm down. She just wanted a piece of me. You can’t blame her for being curious.”
“Mason, stop that,” I cry, hysterical, so confused as to why Boone would think I would hurt him on purpose. “Boone, I thought he was you.”
“Dude, calm down,” Mason says, not taking this seriously at all, not seeing how that insignificant kiss may have just ruined everything good I thought I had.
“You think I’m a girl that would be with Mason?” I ask, wiping the tears that streak my face. “You really think that of me? Because, Boone, that slays me—to think you see me that way.”
“Honey, I’m right here,” Mason says coolly, as if this is the time to play nice. “We both know I’m not
“Oh, fuck off, Mason,” I tell him. “Fuck off, both of you.”
I run away from the outbuilding into the woods, tears streaming from my eyes, my heart free falling, with no one there to catch me.
And that’s when I fall in the hole.
ooking at Mason
, I want to fucking kill him. All I can think is that he ruins every good thing. Every single decent thing.
“Girls in college who meant nothing to either of us is one thing,” I say, “but fucking around with Delta? That is something else entirely.”
“You won’t even stop long enough to hear the goddamn truth.”
“You need to fucking leave, Mason. I can’t do this with you here anymore.”
“Do what?” Mason asks. His shoulders are broad and his face firm. He looks like a mirror image of me, down to the red flannel shirt we’re both wearing. “Be the boss-man who has his shit together? Fine. Sorry to break it to you, but you can’t fix me.”
“I don’t want to fix you,” I shout. “I never wanted to fucking fix you.”
“Fine. Then I’ll go.” Mason throws up his hands in defeat, which is such a dick move. He’s the one making out with Delta. He’s the one who hasn’t stepped up in the past six months. Now he’s the one who walks away. He turns to leave, shaking his head. “I don’t know why I stayed around so long anyway. You never wanted me here.”
“That’s bullshit. I’ve fought for you. I could’ve left you to drown in your sorrows so many times, but I stood by your side whenever you fucked up.”
“You did that to feel better about yourself, Boone—to be the big man who makes everything right.”
“That’s not true. You’re my only family left,” I tell him, my jaw tense, knowing he has it all fucking wrong. “You’re my brother.”
“Yeah, but I’ve screwed you over so many times, and it’s like you won’t quit trying to save me. You won’t be happy until I’m just like you.”
“That’s not it at all. I don’t want you to be me. You’ve got me all wrong. I don’t need people to be the exact same as me to be happy.”
“Keep telling yourself that, Boone. But why did Delta just run off? Because you didn’t even listen to her. You didn’t give her a chance. Because all you hear is your goddamn self.”
I don’t want to admit it, but those words hit hard. Do I want Delta to be just like me, or at least the version of a wife—of a woman—I have imagined in my head? Have I pushed her away because I was scared she was something that might possibly force me to reach outside of myself?
Sure, things with Delta have been easy since the lodge opened, but that’s because she caved on all the things that might have caused me trouble. She’s easy-going, and solid fucking gold. She never pushed back on the yoga; she just made a plan that would accommodate everyone. She never once made a fuss about all the meat Trey kept serving. Sure, I could have made it easier on her and just agreed to have Trey make some more Delta-friendly meals, but I didn’t even budge.
I could have removed the taxidermy animals from our room, but when Sally suggested it, I dismissed her like a fucking caveman. I expect Delta to bend in all the ways that convenience me, but what about her? I’ve never once considered the ways I might make things easier for my bride.
Even before she arrived, when Mason asked what I’d done to get ready for my wife, I said she was coming here to serve me, and that was that.
That isn’t a fucking marriage.
Maybe that’s the way I treat everyone.
Fit in my box, or I don’t have space for you.
I look at my brother, a guy who’s clearly down on his fucking luck. A guy who’s carrying a shit-ton of guilt over my parent’s death … and what have I done to help him with that? Nothing. I just get pissed when he isn’t ready to step up and work, be the sort of man I am.
It’s pretty insulting.
“This whole time, I’ve pushed you when you weren’t ready for it,” I tell Mason.
“You think I’m weak,” he says, “and maybe I am. But damn it, I want to be strong. I want to get my shit together—but, Boone, everyone deals with their stuff differently. It’s taking me longer than it’s taking you.”
“I hear you—I do—but I’m still pissed about what happened here with Delta. I was planning on laying my heart on the line for that girl tonight, but you got to her first.”
“It wasn’t like that. You didn’t give her a chance to explain.”
“Would her talking change things?”
“Boone, you may be a fucking mountain man, but you’re a goddamned fool.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?”
“Boone.” Mason shakes his head. “Talking changes everything.”
sure my ankle is twisted. I mean, I don’t think it’s broken, but a half hour after the fall my ankle is swollen and ugly and hurts like hell.
But I don’t know what hurts more: my foot, or my feelings.
Boone didn’t even give me space to explain.
He dismissed me, didn’t even consider me, wouldn’t hear me out.
He let me go, and didn’t come after me.
And now I’m stuck in a hole about eight feet deep, in the woods. Why is this even here?
Also, I could ask myself, why was I running through the woods in the first place? Obviously I’d have had to return at some point to get my stuff—my luggage and wallet and phone. It was like the idiot decisions girls make in scary movies.
I’m the idiot girl.
In, like, a thousand ways.
And that’s why I start crying.
I never meant to kiss Mason. Obviously. And seriously, Boone is his identical-freaking-twin-brother. Give me a break.
He didn’t smell like Boone, or taste like Boone, and he sure as hell didn’t kiss like Boone—but I didn’t know that until my mouth was already firmly planted on his.
A little late.
And then before I could explain that I don’t have some twin-brother fetish, Boone just pushed me away.
I’m trying to hold it together, but it’s getting late … though not dark. It never gets dark in Alaska this time of year. But, really, it feels dark down here in a freaking hole in the woods.
And all I want is to yell at Boone. I should have punched him in the gut before I ran. He deserves that. He deserves more. I was going to give him my entire heart, for reals. Forever. And then one look at a stupid mistaken lip-lock and he tosses me aside.
Such bullshit. I may have wanted a mountain man, but I do not want an asshole.
Though I’m starting to think there might not be much of a difference.
I scream out in frustration.
As if he was just waiting for my cry for help, I see Boone. My Boone, looking down at me.
“Shit. Delta?” Boone asks, concerned.
“Hey. So.” I shrug, pointing toward my propped ankle. It’s propped on a pile of dirt. I’m classy like that.
“Is it broke?”
“I think it’s just sprained.
“Shit. What the hell were you thinking?”
“That my fiancé just broke things off with me. In the middle of nowhere. Without cell service. I was thinking that my life was a pretty massive cluster-fuck and that I was basically screwed.”
“Right.” Boone runs his hand through his hair and I want him to say he is sorry and beg for my forgiveness. I don’t know when I became such a sappy, desperate woman, but I’m guessing it was somewhere in the space of this week, when I realized being his was the only thing I wanted. “Hang on; I’ll get help.”
He doesn’t apologize, just steps from the edge of the hole.
It sounds like he’s jogging off, and I know I didn’t get terribly far from the house. I mean, I may be stupid but I’m not such an idiot that I’d run into a bear-infested mountain without protection. I just figured I’d take a leisurely run to the edge of the property and clear my head.
It didn’t work. Not even sort of.
“Delta,” Boone calls, now back from his mission to get help. “Can you hold onto this rope?”
I nod, because I can, and I want out. And soon enough I see the crew of fishing and hunting guides crowd around the hole, around me, and a few jump into the hole, helping lift me into a makeshift sling that the guys tie around my waist. And then Boone holds the rope, pulling me up with his bare hands and brute strength, and I want to both kiss him and smack him for coming out here and finding me. I want to run and hide, and I want to be found.
Which makes me feel like a real throwback in terms of feminism and women’s lib, because this is the guy who was just a complete ass to me ... and then the moment he becomes my knight in shining armor, all I want is to jump his bones.
Still, I’m not jumping anything because my ankle hurts like hell. Instead of slapping him, I let him pull me into his arms and carry me out of the woods, into the lodge, up the stairs and onto our—I mean, his—bed.
“It really hurts,” I tell him, but he’s not listening. He’s already sending Sally downstairs for bandages and ice packs. He’s already rooting around for ibuprofen and a glass of water. He’s already sitting on the edge of the bed, telling me to open up as he sets the pill on my tongue.
I hate this—letting him save me, when the truth is he pushed me away.
But also ... maybe it’s exactly what I want. Him to stay. Me to stay. No one to go, ever.
I love him.
I want him, maybe more than ever.
“Delta,” he begins, once my foot is wrapped tightly and an ice pack is set on top. Pillow under my foot, and my back propped up with a mountain of pillows.
“Yes?” I don’t want to fight. I thought when I first met him that we were bad for one another. But someone invented the phrase
so bad it’s good
for a reason.
We aren’t bad for one another, we’re perfect.
Boone’s tension is back; his face is covered in hard lines and unforgiving eyes. It isn’t fair. I want to explain, but I hate that I have to.
“I have something to tell you,” he says.
I draw in a sharp breath. Pastor Vince is coming tomorrow. We should be getting married. That was what I wanted to tell him—announce—this afternoon when I found him in the outbuilding. I wanted to tell him I was his, undoubtedly, forever.
“What is it, Boone?”
“I know you can’t move, so I’m going to get Sally to pack your things. It’s time to go.”
My eyes fill with tears, and whatever confidence I carried is gone. Boone doesn’t want to hear me out.
He doesn’t want me at all.