That Deep River Feeling (Alaska Homecoming #3) - Jackie Ashenden

Chapter 1

Zeke Montgomery knew Morgan West was going to be trouble the minute he laid eyes on her.

She stood at the foot of the steps to her own front door—the front door he’d been waiting outside of for the past couple of hours, not that he’d been counting or anything—with her arms folded, looking sternly at him like he was a little kid who’d just drawn on her walls with a crayon.

She was very small and wore a not particularly flattering uniform of dark brown pants and khaki shirt, with a dark brown parka that nearly swallowed her thrown over the top. And her strawberry-blond hair, the color of which reminded him of apricots, was in a very severe ponytail down her back.

She wore no makeup, her face freckled and wholesome, with those bright blue eyes, the ones he remembered from Cal’s funeral that had been red from weeping then but were much brighter now. They were also very, very direct.

And she was still the prettiest thing he’d seen for months, if not years.

All of which spelled trouble with a capital T.

She said crossly, “Where on earth have you been, Zeke Montgomery? Don’t you know everyone’s been looking for you?”

He had to admit, he was surprised. He didn’t think she’d remembered him from Cal’s funeral, but she obviously had. Which was good.

It was going to make this whole situation a hell of a lot easier.

“I could ask you the same thing,” he said, choosing to ignore the question for the moment. He’d tell her why he was here eventually, but in his own time. He didn’t like to rush important things.

Anyway, he hadn’t minded the two hours he’d spent sitting on her front porch waiting for her to come home. He could have gone searching for her, but he hadn’t wanted anyone else to know he was here—at least not yet.

He was a man used to waiting, though, and he’d liked the peaceful quiet as the afternoon had lengthened into a long summer twilight. The house was surrounded by spruce and a few firs, and he’d spent a good bit of time observing a couple of squirrels arguing in the branches, their loud complaining broken only by the rush of the river nearby.

Still, he’d hoped she’d have come back earlier from wherever it was she’d been because he had a feeling she wasn’t going to like what he was here to say and generally people handled unpleasant things better in the middle of the day rather than at the tail end of it.

Couldn’t be helped, though, and he wasn’t going to go away and come back later to have this discussion.

Already he’d waited too long.

Morgan frowned, apparently unbothered by the unexpected appearance of a man she’d only met once and in very trying circumstances.

“What do you mean you could ask me the same thing?” she said. “I’ve been at work. What do you think I’ve been doing?”

Not a woman who was easily ruffled, obviously.

But then Cal had mentioned to him on more than one occasion that she was competent, professional, and tough. Not to mention that she was also a Village Safety Protection Officer, the rural equivalent of an Alaskan State Trooper, so she wasn’t likely to be a pushover.

All of which could prove problematic considering the reason he was here.

Zeke eyed her. “You remembered my name,” he said.

“Kind of hard to forget when some big, bearded mountain man approaches you out of the blue at your brother’s funeral and tells you to call him if you need anything.” Morgan’s bright blue gaze did not even so much as flicker. “And then forgets to leave you his number.”

She’d leaned the bike she’d ridden down the driveway against the porch, and the late-afternoon sunlight crept across the green lawn that surrounded the Wests’ sturdy, two-story house. It was mostly in good repair, but he hadn’t only been watching squirrels. He’d also used part of the waiting time to have a look around the place, and there were a number of things that needed doing.

Take care of Morgan, the letter he’d received after the reading of Cal’s will had said. Once I’m gone, she’ll have no one.

It wasn’t exactly what Zeke had wanted to hear, but since he felt partly responsible for Cal’s death, he owed the guy big-time.

Stupid of him to forget giving her his number at the funeral, but he hadn’t been thinking straight. He wasn’t the best at dealing with people on a good day, let alone a bad one.