Deep River Promise (Alaska Homecoming #2) - Jackie Ashenden

Chapter 1

Damon Fitzgerald woke with an excruciating headache and the sense that he was being stabbed slowly but relentlessly through one eye. The headache was familiar—usually a sign he’d imbibed a little too heavily the night before—but the stabbing sensation not so much.

Cautiously, he raised one hand to touch the eye currently being stabbed only to encounter his own eyelid. So. Not being stabbed then. That was a relief.

He was still a little disoriented though, and his mouth felt like the bottom of a birdcage, so it took him some time to realize that the stabbing sensation was coming from the sunlight shining through a gap in the curtains and straight into one eye.

Sun. He hadn’t seen the sun for at least three days, due to the weather being crap, which was strange for LA…

Which was when he remembered that he wasn’t in LA. He wasn’t even in Juneau, where he’d been for the last couple for weeks.

No, it was worse than that. Way worse.

He was in a room over the Happy Moose bar in a tiny, privately owned town called Deep River, smack bang in the middle of nowhere, Alaska. And he’d been stuck here for three days because the weather had been so bad he hadn’t been able to fly out.

Damon lay there for a moment as the realization settled through him, trying to reorient himself, because he’d definitely over imbibed the night before and this hangover had teeth. Then with a sudden start, he remembered that sun was a good thing.

Sun meant the weather was better, which in turn meant he could get the hell out of here and back to LA.

Rolling off the bed, he dragged himself over to the french doors that led onto the room’s tiny balcony, shoved them open, and stumbled out onto the balcony itself, just to check that the sun was real.

Sure enough, though it must have been early in the morning, the sun was actually shining, the sky a bright, almost painful blue, making the white caps of the mountains looming on all sides look extra white and extra sharp.

Ahead of him was the deep, rushing green of the river the town was named for. Deep River. It had been settled during the gold rush at the end of the nineteenth century by the West family, who’d bought the land Deep River sat on and leased out bits of it to anyone who wanted a place to call home.

A quirky little town, as Damon had spent the last three days finding out.

Deep River consisted of a ramshackle series of buildings clustered on the side of the river, connected by a boardwalk that projected out over the water and a narrow street that ran behind the buildings on the land side. They were old, those buildings, the paint on them faded, the wood cracked and worn through long exposure to rain and sun and snow. Not as picture-postcard as the ones in Ketchikan to the south, but there was definitely a certain vintage charm to them. Like a group of elderly ladies whose beauty was a little faded and careworn, they still possessed the ghost of their stunning youth, a certain timeless magic that tugged at the heartstrings.

Houses very similar to those at the water’s edge were scattered up the hill behind the town, and there were a few more buildings along from the boardwalk, huddling against the hill’s side.

A set of wooden steps led down from the boardwalk to a dock where several fishing boats and trawlers were tied up, but since it was comparatively empty, most of the boats must have gone up the river to the sea for a day working the nets.

Damon took a deep breath and then another, the fresh bite of the air settling his headache and cooling his skin, waking him up. He wasn’t a small-town kind of guy, but there was something quite majestic about the mountains and the forested hills that loomed above him. Especially now the sun was shining.

He’d complained about the rain the night before to one of the locals, who’d then informed him of Deep River’s average rainfall, which was some horrendous amount that sounded just wrong to someone from LA.

Still, it did explain the solid three-day downpour and made him feel lucky that it was a beautiful day now.

Movement below him caught his eye, and he glanced down at the boardwalk.

The kid was there again, skulking by the big wooden pole stuck in the boardwalk that had “Middle of