Authors: Frankie Love
out on this fishing boat all morning. Just my twin brother and me, like we do most weekends, but today everything about it has been a cluster. We got a late start, the water has been hella rocky, Mason fucked up the lines early on, and we’ve caught shit.
“You got him, bro,” I tell Mason. He and I have been casting lines for hours. He’s drunk off his ass, like he’s been since the night of the car crash, and I’m nursing a lukewarm Bud Light because I’m driving this rig back today. Wouldn’t say I was stone cold sober, but I have my eyes on the motherfucking prize.
And I’m getting her later tonight.
I still plan on hooking the biggest fish of the day, and to do that I gotta keep a clear head.
Yet somehow he’s the bastard with a fish on his line. He’s pulling it up as quickly as he can manage, and a massive trout flies from the deep blue lake.
“What the hell,” Mason shouts, dropping his beer, staggering back as he loses his grip on his rod.
“Mason!” I yell. “That’s my fucking rod. My rod from Dad.”
I try to take it from him, but don’t get hold of it before it flies off the fucking boat.
About the same time, Mason starts heaving across my boat’s deck.
“Fuck me now,” Mason moans, clutching his gut. He’s a lightweight, always has been, and that combined with the rolling waves? He’s fucking screwed.
“You are so drunk,” I say, trying my damnedest to keep my cool. I know it’s just a fishing rod, and I have a hundred of them. But fuckin’ A. That was the rod Dad used when he taught me to fucking fish. It meant something.
And now it’s sunk, along with the largest trout I’ve seen all year. Dropping to the bottom of the goddamn lake.
Mason heaves again, falling to the deck, where he’s literally sitting in his own vomit.
My jaw tenses—and, fuck, I get that we’re family, but since our parents died this past year, all I’ve done is have his back. I had no fucking idea my parents had spent so much of their life saving his broke ass.
“You need to get yourself in bed, Mason.” I kick open the door so he can get below deck. “And dude, change your clothes.”
“Shit, bro, I’m sorry.” Mason wipes his mouth with the back of his hand as he stands, moving toward the door. He’ll be completely useless in terms of helping me get this boat off the lake, hitched to my truck, and back to the lodge. “I didn’t mean to get sick.” With a smirk he adds, “I know it’s your big day.”
Dumping buckets of water across the floor, I shrug knowing he’s jealous, or maybe just a fucking asshole. But I refuse to let him get under my skin. He may have slept with my exes when we were younger, borrowed money that he never paid back, and flunked out of college—but shit, he’s my brother. My only family. It would take more than that for me to kick him to the fucking curb.
“It’s all good,” I tell him. “I’ll clean this shit up, get us packed, and then we can call it quits.”
Mason staggers down the steps below deck to sleep it off, and I focus on loading up our gear. So much for the fucking catch of the day.
Still, I’ll have my prize waiting for me when I get back to the lodge. And it’ll be better than a fucking fish fillet.
* * *
few hours later
, I’ve backed up near the ramp and my fishing boat is locked and loaded.
I hop into the cab to see that Mason’s sobering up by chugging Monster drinks and eating beef jerky. Lethal post-puke combination, but I’m not his parent.
“Guess I was fucking useless today,” Mason grunts.
I keep my eyes on the road, willing myself not to make some backhanded comment about how he’s been useless a hell of a lot longer than that.
I always keep those thoughts back, along with any sharp words or harsh comments. I’m not some fucking asshole; I’m known as the responsible, reasonable guy around these parts—because I put up with Mason’s shit, but also because I put up with a lot of other people’s shit, too.
That’s what happens when you own the premier hunting lodge in a five-hundred-mile radius in the back woods of Alaska. People come out here, lots of folks who have no clue what they’re doing, who need help with everything when we take them on their hunting and fishing trips.
I used to help my mom and dad run the joint, but after the accident this past winter Mason and I are doing it on our own.
Well, I’m doing it on my own.
Mason moved back out here a few months ago, and shit, he’s more work than help.
But that’s all about to change.
I drink still-hot coffee from my thermos as we roll down the Alaskan highway toward the lodge. It’s nearly five in the evening, and the sun is high in the sky, the same place it will hang until after midnight. That’s one thing my new wife is gonna need to get used to.
“You ready to meet her, Boone?” Mason asks, reclining his seat, eyes closed.
“Fuck, bro, could you sound a little more enthusiastic? Hell, you’re gonna get laid tonight. You should be fucking stoked. I know I, for one, am pumped to have some new hottie around. You better be careful, or I’ll mark her as mine.”
I narrow my eyes, but keep them on the road. “That’s fucking bullshit, Mason. You won’t lay a hand, or even an eye, on her.” I shake my head, annoyed at him. “I’m getting this wife so someone can run the lodge, no other reason.”
“I know we’ve been over this, but you could’ve put out a want ad.”
“You know as well as I do that the reason this lodge has the same customers coming back every year is because it had a woman’s touch. People loved the way Mom made it a place for families.”
I don’t mention that that’s what I loved about it, too. The place felt like home, but with Mom and Dad gone it just feels like a building.
“There are no guarantees this bride is gonna have a woman’s touch, Boone, let alone be able to run this lodge. She could be butt ugly and bad in bed—not to mention cook like shit. In which case, you won’t have to worry about me running off with her.”
“I’m not worried about her being ugly—or her sleeping with you. When Monique and I agreed to the arrangement, it was under the condition that my mail order bride would meet
requirements. Being competent enough to run the lodge was at the top of the list, along with being friendly enough to make the bitchiest customers happy.”
Mason laughs, then turns up the music he’s blasting through his iPhone. “Hope you’re right, bro. I’d hate to show up at the lodge and find out your new wife isn’t what you’re hoping for. This whole thing is a bad idea if you ask me.”
“You’re such a fucking prick, you know that? And no one is asking you.”
“Ahhh, you’re already getting defensive of your girl.” Mason slaps his knee, thinking he is so funny. “Honestly though, dude, did you do
to get ready for your wife showing up today?”
I shrug. There’s only one thing I plan on doing with my woman tonight, and it doesn’t take too much planning.
“Whatever, bro,” Mason says, shaking his head. “But dude, it’s been a while since you’ve had a woman. You sure you’re gonna know where to put it?”
“I know where I plan to put you—out on the goddamn street if you don’t shut the fuck up.”
That gets him quiet, and I step on the gas.
I told Monique I need a woman who’s responsible and reliable. A woman who isn’t flighty or flakey. I need a woman to run this lodge, who’ll need to be steady and even-keeled.
A woman who knows how to make a house a fucking home.
Also, a woman who is ready to fuck. Because I don’t want some random hook-up. Never been my style, never will be. I want a wife, and I want her to commit to being mine.
And Monique promised that the woman she’s sending is all those things.
Which is good, because tomorrow a pastor is flying into town, and I’m gonna make this woman my wife.
Now I just need to meet her.
etting off the plane
, I can’t help but wonder if this entire mail order bride plan is just one more thing to add to my growing list of poor life decisions.
Because moving in with a stranger, being his lawfully wedded wife? I have never been more over my head.
Well, except for when I nearly dropped out of high school because someone leaked that I’d slept with the student teacher. Or the time I went to Burning Man with my ex, and somehow ended up in the middle of an orgy with approximately seventeen strangers. Or when I went to Peru and was talked into drinking ayahuasca, and found myself stark naked and doing handstands in the middle of the street.
At two in the afternoon.
I haven’t exactly been the queen of excellent choices. But I knew Everly and Amelia wanted to do this mail order bride thing, for reasons of their own. And as shallow as it may sound, the idea of being some mountain man’s conquest turns me on. Honestly, to be some rough, rich man’s woman makes me feel more than hot and bothered. It all feels like some sort of forbidden fantasy ... and nothing is forever.
Marriage doesn’t equal a lifetime, a ball and chain. Besides, I’m my own woman. No man is ever going to change that.
And so I went along.
along. As in, I literally just got off the tiny plane in middle-of-nowhere, Alaska. Alone. I said goodbye to Everly and Amelia at the Anchorage airport and continued flying solo.
If I wanted to back out ... I should have walked away back in the city.
Now? Now I am disembarking the plane and stepping out to a near-empty landing strip where a pickup truck is the lone car in the lot. I toss my carton of coconut water and my empty bag of organic trail mix into the trash. With my travel yoga bag slung over my shoulder, I take a deep breath, attempting to inhale the fresh Alaskan air instead of the overwhelming aroma of anxiety.
Why am I here again? I mean, besides the lure of hot mountain man sex, which has been a growing fascination. What will this man be like? What will he look like? What if he’s the ideal man? I have to find out, have to take a chance. I have nothing to lose.
I never told my friends that when my Grandpa died he actually left me enough money to pay off my student loans, nor that I actually had a friend offer to let me live at his place until I got a job.
I could have stayed in Portland. But I didn’t want them to have this adventure without me.
I wasn’t ready to say good-bye to my best friends forever, and this seemed like the best—the only—way to keep us together.
Which might have worked a bit better if we’d asked Monique where exactly we’d all be living in Alaska, before we signed on the dotted line.
Turns out Alaska is freaking huge. And Everly and Amelia are really far from me.
And I’m here, starting this adventure all alone.
For the first time in my life I don’t have a boyfriend or a boy-toy or a BFF to take the edge off.
Now I’m flying solo.
And my husband-to-be is here to pick me up and take me home. I just hope, whoever this man is, that he’ll be taller than me, that he’ll have a massive cock—because yes, I like to fuck often and well—and that he likes what he sees.
The last thing I need is a man who has no physical attraction to me. Or worse, a man who isn’t ready to have fun. I may be signing up to be someone’s wife, but I sure hope that it involves sleeping together. Like, tonight. Or even this afternoon.
I’ve been in a dry spell, and am beyond ready to remedy that.
A man in camo overalls and work boots steps out of the truck.
I swallow. Oh, my God. Is
“You’re the girl I’m looking for,” he says, taking two long strides toward me. He’s shorter than me, has a potbelly and a trucker cap. “I’m Dirk. And I’m here for you—a girl in a blue scarf, coming in on this plane.”
“Dirk?” I sputter as he sticks out his hand for me to shake. It’s clammy.
“Yes, ma’am. And I’m here to take you home.”
“Oh. Right. Um.” I blink back tears. How freaking superficial am I? A lot, apparently. Monique mentioned sexy and rugged and strong ... and this man could be my father.
Which, ew. Why am I talking about Dirk as my father when he’s meant to be my ...
I can’t speak straight, or even walk straight. Maybe because I wore freaking heels to the backwoods of Alaska. Looking down at myself in my wedges, skinny jeans, and flowing lace blouse, I realize I’m more appropriately dressed for Coachella than the front seat of Dirk’s pick-up truck.
I let him guide me to the vehicle, and I get in, barely registering that he threw my luggage in the truck’s bed, until we are barreling down the freeway.
I am mostly focused on how the hell do I get out of this situation. Which might be difficult if he’s an axe murderer, considering he could kill me and literally no one would ever know.
“The flight go okay?” Dirk asks, turning on a loud, staticky radio.
“It was fine.” I roll down the window, trying to breathe. Gusts of warm mountain air spring my eyes open—even wider than they were when I first saw Dirk. I gulp the oxygen greedily, basically trying breathe. And think of anything besides the fact that my feet are crinkling against empty packages of GMO-riddled Doritos and empty cans of high fructose soda.
This cannot be my life.
What was I thinking? Some hottie mountain man was going to whisk me away in a make-believe life with a happily ever after? I don’t even
a happily ever after. I want an adventure. A story to tell.
A story I
“Never been in the lower forty-eight myself.”
I eke out an “Oh,” but can’t manage any more. I’m not a crier ... but right now? This is too much.
I stifle a sob, before rooting in my hemp purse for a cloth napkin. I wipe my eyes, keeping my face turned toward the window, and try to compose myself.
“You okay, darling?” Dirk asks. “Don’t you fret. Everything is going to be okay. Must say, I’m a little surprised. You’re so pretty. Can’t say I was expecting you.”
I turn my head slowly, hoping against some bizarre hope that I blinked too quickly when I first saw Dirk, and that maybe ... maybe I hadn’t given him a chance.
Nope. He has a long gray hair poking out from his right nostril.
My shoulders fold inward. I’m wigging out as he drives me farther into the woods, off the main road. This is the end of my life. I am going into the deep, dark forest and never coming back out.
And no, Dirk doesn’t look like a serial killer—but he also cannot be the man I marry.
I need to get hold of Monique and get the hell out of this.
I look at my phone. No bars. No 4G. No nothing.
“Sorry, sweetie, no service here. Back at the landing strip you flew in, now, they have some service. And back in town, at the roadhouse cafe, the gas station, and the outdoor store, they have service.”
“Can we go back there?” I ask. “I need to make a call. It’s urgent.”
“No, ma’am. I gotta get you home.”
My hand reaches for my door handle. Maybe I can open it, roll out and survive, and run the ten miles we’ve driven back into town. Get to safety.
I squeeze my eyes shut, trying to get up the nerve to roll out. When I open my eyes, I see a photograph taped to Dirk’s dashboard. Two little girls and a boy, in snow suits, with a snowman between them.
“Who are they?” I ask.
“Those are my grandkids.” Dirk looks over at me, beaming. “They are just about the sweetest little things you ever did see. Though they are a handful.”
“Oh.” I bite my lip. Dirk isn’t going to kill me. He’s a grandpa.
“You’ll meet them. They always come out in the summer for a few weeks.”
Withering inside at this implausible place I’ve landed, all on my own, I manage to speak. “You don’t say?”
The truck winds down a road, and soon enough a massive two-story lodge emerges from the forest, its picturesque porch framed by a bright red metal roof.
“Now, listen: when we get to the lodge, no reason to be nervous.” Dirk parks the truck in front of the lodge, looking over at me before getting out. “The Grayson boys always seem more intimidating than they really are. Mason’s a playboy, but Boone? Now he’s a man. There’s no man better in Alaska, if you’re asking me.”
I shake my head, confused.
Dirk continues, “Boone comes off as stand-offish to lots of folks. He’s ... well, a little hard to read. But you don’t need to worry none. I’m sure he’ll be a perfect gentleman to you. A woman’s touch changes everything.”
“Why are you telling me this?”
“Sorry, darling. Don’t mean to be overstepping. Just thought you’d like a little warning about your husband.”
Dirk gets out of the truck and walks to my side, opening it for me and helping me out.
“My what?” I ask.
“Oh, hot damn, did I get the wrong girl for Boone?” Dirk removes his trucker cap, revealing wild white hair. He runs his hand through it. “You’re in the blue scarf, and the only woman flying in today. Thought for sure I got the right girl.”
“I thought....” I tilt my head to the side. “You’re not my husband?”
Dirk gives a deep belly laugh, wheezing as he slaps my back. “Darling, I’d love nothing better, but no. I’m just the groundskeeper here at the Graysons’ Lodge.”
Still needing clarification, I ask, “So I’m
your mail order bride?”
“Not by a long shot, honey.” He smiles broadly. “That man right there is the one you’re looking for.”
I follow his gaze to the wide front porch, where two identical men stand as if waiting for my arrival. They are hot as all get-out: six foot five, dark hair, broad shoulders, piercing green eyes, and scruffy beards. But the one leaning on the porch railing smirks, watching the other guy, who looks right at me. One look and I know who my husband-to-be is. The man who has his eyes locked on me is everything I expected, with his rolled-up flannel sleeves and his serious expression.
He has a bulge in his pants that makes my panties wet upon arrival—and, oh fuck me now, he has a sleeve of evergreen tree tattoos on his arm. He’s the ultimate mountain man.
Oh, hell yeah, yes please. Take. Me. Now.
“I’m Boone,” the man says, as he makes his way down the steps. “And I’m the one who ordered you.”