Knox had to blink when the woman walked through the doors. First of all, she was possibly the most beautiful woman he’d ever seen in his life…and he’d seen a lot of women! And secondly, she was dripping wet!
From her long, brown hair and her previously pristine suit, all the way down to her Prada heels, she was wet. And visibly shivering!
A beautiful drowned rat with silver eyes that looked like she wasn’t sure if she should laugh, cry or…something else. It was the something else that worried him.
With a muttered curse, Knox practically stomped out from behind the bar of The Rotten Apple and grabbed a wool blanket from the storage closet. When he was standing in front of her, he wrapped the blanket around her, rubbing her arms and legs, peeling her cold, wet hair away from her pale skin. “Sarah! Get me something warm!”
The thought quickly flashed through his mind that this woman was dangerous. Two of his friends had been tending bar here at The Rotten Apple when beautiful women had walked in. Both of them were now married. Was tending bar dangerous to a man’s single status?
At the same moment, Knox felt a shiver run through her slender figure and he banished that thought, knowing that he had to work quickly to help this woman. Marital status aside, hypothermia was a very real danger here in Alaska. The temperatures didn’t have to be below freezing for the cold to impact a body.
Ignoring her slight protests, Knox lifted her into his arms and carefully carried her over to one of the bar stools then knelt down so that he could slip her shoes off her feet. His fingers gently rubbed them and muttered another curse when he realized how cold her feet really were. “Honey, can you hear me?” he asked, even as he whipped his flannel shirt and Henley up, pressing her feet against his stomach to try and warm them.
Andie’s mouth had fallen open the moment she’d walked into the warmth of the bar. Everything about this day had gone wrong. She’d been traveling across country for the past three weeks, driving six to eight hours every day, enjoying the scenery and stopping when she wanted to take a break. But today had been the last leg of her journey and she’d wanted to look nice, arriving in her new hometown refreshed.
She’d torn her stockings and…who knew that it would be hard to find stockings in Alaska? Okay, so she should have known that not many people needed stockings way out here in rural Alaska but… none at all?
And then the rain had started. Not a problem. At first! But rain in Boston was one thing. Rain in Alaska? Do the people here have gills?! This wasn’t rain! This was a flood!
Then her car had gotten a flat tire about two miles down the road and she’d had to walk into town. The rain had been miserable and she was dressed completely wrong for the weather but she’d been determined to arrive on time and looking professional, not wanting the residents of Winthrop, Alaska to see her looking as rough as she’d been dressing over the past several weeks. Leggings and sweatshirts had been de rigueur as she’d driven across the Unites States and Canada to arrive here for her new job.
So yes, she was a bit flustered. And yes, she’d admit that she looked….horrible! But…could she please catch a break? After all her time spent wearing sweatshirts and no makeup, she’d tried! She’d put a lot of extra effort to look nice this morning! There had been days when the only person she’d run into had been the gas station attendant or the grocery store cashier. And in one town, there was a cat that had been elected as mayor! Seriously?! A cat!
So why, after finally pulling herself together, did she have to get rained on and walk into a bar where the most handsome man she’d ever seen was looking at her like she’d just lost her mind?
Secondly, this building was brighter, warmer, and much cleaner than she would have thought possible. She’d heard that Winthrop, Alaska was a small town without a thriving tourist industry. So how could a bar like this exist? How did it gain enough customers?
And why, why, why did this gorgeous man with the broadest, most delicious shoulders and yummy muscles have to be the first person to see her when she’d walked in?
This man who was trying to warm her up was rugged in ways that she hadn’t thought possible! The guy on the paper towels had nothing on this guy! The man wrapping her up in a scratchy wool blanket looked like he should be a movie actor, but one that only played bad guys that were really good guys but looked like bad guys when one first saw them.
She almost yelped when he lifted her into his arms but that was nothing compared to her shock when he slipped her shoes off and pressed her feet against the hardest, sexiest set of abs she’d ever seen! She had to concentrate to keep her toes from curling around, exploring those abs! She shivered, trying to wrap her mind around a man that looked like this and had abs like that!
She sighed, and a hot cup of coffee was pressed into her hands.
“Thank you,” she whispered to the woman who hovered next to her. “I’m really okay,” she told the woman, then glanced down at the man kneeling in front of her. “I’m okay,” she told him.
The man shook his head. “You’re freezing,” he told her.
Not anymore, she thought silently! The man’s very presence had her whole body steaming. If she were wearing glasses, they would be fogging up right now. Andie supposed she should count her lucky stars for perfect vision. She actually pushed the wool blanket off of her shoulders because she was too warm!
And then he stood up! Oh my! He was crazy tall!
Andie pulled her hand away from the coffee cup to wipe her chin, relieved when she discovered that she wasn’t drooling. Nor was she melting into a puddle of lust. Whew!
She should be. Drooling, that is. She didn’t want to melt. Melting would be bad. Okay, so drooling would look absolutely ridiculous, but still. She should be.
“What’s your name, honey?” his rough voice asked her, pulling the wool blanket back up over her shoulders.
She tilted her head back, startled by the voice. Oh she loved that voice! She’d like to hear that voice tell her to do things. Naughty things. And from the looks of this lumberjack, this man knew a lot of naughty things! She shivered again, anticipating all of the possible naughty things this man might say to her. In bed. With that voice. And those abs.
He was curling the edges of the blanket more firmly around her, and she shivered as his knuckles brushed the skin of her neck briefly. “Sarah, call Cliff and let him know we might need to fly her to the hospital.”
Wait! Huh? “Hospital? And I don’t need the sheriff.”
Those green eyes moved back to her and she wanted to sigh with pleasure. Green eyes, black hair, a barely there beard that was most likely trying to soften a rock-hard jawline…oh my! She sighed again, and almost slouched against the back of the barstool. But years of etiquette training, ballet lessons, and a harsh mother snapping at her to sit up straight could not be ignored. Even with her fantasy lumberjack standing in front of her. No slouching. No drooling and definitely no melting into a puddle!
It took a lot out of a woman!
She checked once again for drool before she mentally shook herself, needing to reassure these people that she was okay before they hired a helicopter to take her to the emergency room.
The paper-towel guy was a wimp compared to this lumberjack man!
“I’m fine,” she told them both, and carefully set her cup of coffee back down on the bar beside her. Standing up, she almost tripped, not realizing that her shoes were directly underneath where her feet were trying to land.
Perfect! She’d mastered the no drooling and no melting thing, only to almost fall on her face! Great first impression, she thought!
Strong hands reached out to steady her and Andie’s head snapped up, her silver eyes staring into his green ones, startled by the heat that raced up her body with his touch. She should pull away, she told herself. Manners dictated that she step away from this man and thank him for his quick, although unnecessary, action.
But she couldn’t move. Her heart raced, her blood pounded heavily through her veins and she could feel the heat move through her body, warming her up to an almost uncomfortable level. But she couldn’t move. Not an inch.
Knox stared down at the woman with mascara running down her pale cheeks, her lips still tinged with blue, and all he could think about was carrying her upstairs and making love to her on one of the small beds. Or even better, carrying her out to his truck and driving back to his home, spreading her out on his large bed and making love to her there.
Never had he been struck so hard and so fast with lust like this.
“You’re all wet,” he said, moving closer.
“Yes,” she replied, a breathy sound that sent lust surging straight to his groin.
“You need to get your clothes off,” he told her. As soon as he said the words, he knew that they were wrong. He was trying to be a gentleman, but that came out wrong.
Her silver eyes widened and his hands clenched around her slender arms. It occurred to him that she was too skinny. And her skin was too delicate, too tender for the harsh winters. She wouldn’t make it long here in Alaska. She’d need more weight to keep her alive.
But she was perfect. Soft-looking, pale skin, huge eyes that were surrounded by long, crazy long lashes and that sweet, rosebud mouth that looked soft and inviting.
“You think we need to call in the…”
“No!” Andie gasped, afraid of what they might suggest next. She looked over at the older woman and then up at the man again.
She suddenly realized that she’d been standing here staring up at the man, rudely taking up his time. She probably looked like an idiot but…well, any red-blooded female would understand. He was hot, as in smokin’.
Okay, so her mother definitely wouldn’t approve, but Andie wasn’t completely convinced that her mother had blood running through her veins. The woman wasn’t very “warm”. She was elegant and refined. But her smile rarely reached her eyes.
Not an excuse, she thought. Mind back on the issue of not being transported to the hospital for lunacy.
Blinking, she stepped backwards and, darn it! Why were her shoes always where her feet were trying to go lately?
She looked down and located the offending things and almost spilled the cup of coffee because the wool blanket was too big.
Blowing out a breath of air, she shook her head and closed her eyes, trying to get a grip. When she opened her eyes again, the man’s fascinating green eyes were still staring down at her, and the worry wasn’t gone.
Great! She finally met a gorgeous man who makes her body hum with excitement, and he thinks she’s a candidate for Bedlam. Perfect!
Taking a deep breath, she recalled every one of her lessons on deportment, pulled her shoulders back and stood up straight. “I’m so sorry to have worried both of you, but I’m fine. Just a bit surprised by the amount of rain that could fall within a sixty-second period,” she joked. No one laughed. Well, she wasn’t really aware of anyone but this man and he didn’t laugh. “I just had a flat tire about two miles back and, since I…” she finished off weakly when she saw the man’s jaw harden. “I just walked here.”
His hands fisted on his hips as he glared down at her. “You walked here, in the rain, in Prada heels?” he growled out.
Andie didn’t understand why he was angry all of a sudden. “Well, yes. Was there something else I should have done?”
He rubbed a hand over his face. “Why are you here?”
Andie realized that she hadn’t even introduced herself. “Goodness, I can’t believe how rude I am! I’m Andie…um…Andrea Kingsley. I’m the new high school English teacher.”
Knox stared down at the delicate looking beauty, his anger rising as he grasped that this woman wasn’t just passing through. “You’re staying here?”
Andie lowered her hand, not really understanding his anger. “Well, yes!” she forced a bright smile to her face.
She hesitated, not sure why he was asking such a silly question. And why was he blustering like that? He had been so sweet and gentle only moments ago, but now he was acting like a giant bully!
She wasn’t sure how to answer the question. “Uh…because I got the job?” she offered.
He shook his head. He turned to Sarah who was standing behind the bar, a suspicious smile on her features. “Call Joe and tell him that his new high school teacher isn’t going to work out.”
Huh? Wait! What was this man saying? She wasn’t going to work out? “What?” Andie cried. “Wait a minute! Why am I not going to work out? Don’t I get a chance to teach before someone tells me that I’m not good enough?” She fisted her hands on her own hips, facing off with the arrogant lumberjack who dared to malign her teaching abilities. “I’m a darn good teacher! I sent all of my letters of recommendation to Joe Sinclair over the summer, and he offered me the job several weeks ago. He asked how soon I could be here and I quit my other job to come straight here. So don’t you dare tell anyone that I can’t teach when I haven’t even been given the chance to prove myself!”
She was furious now, and not willing to take this abuse, even from a gorgeous, fantasy-man lumberjack!
Knox looked down at her again, trying to resist the temptation to kiss her into silence. “You’re too delicate, Ms. Kingsley. You won’t last a week here in the Alaska wilds. Winter is settling in and you’re going to need to get out of town before the snows start to block your exit.”
She huffed again. “Listen you big bully! I’m fine! I don’t know a lot about Alaska, but I’m here. I’m going to learn!”
He shook his head. “A week,” he grumbled.
Her eyes narrowed and she stepped closer. “Want to bet?”
His eyes widened and he would have laughed if…well, if he wasn’t trying to hold himself back from kissing those perfect, rosebud lips. They had to be fake, he thought. A surgeon had done an excellent job. No scars at all. He had to focus on the conversation, of which he was losing track of at the moment. “A bet?”
She nodded that cute little chin. “That I last longer than a week.”