Chapter 1: Mugging

It wasn’t supposed to be so cold. Sure, Marie knew that she was in Alaska, but it still wasn’t supposed to be so cold. Her toes and fingertips were turning blue. She was sure of it. Marie was sure that she’d eventually get used to the cold. She’d have to if she was going to continue living in the small town just south of Anchorage.

The fact that this was her dream gave Marie a reason to adapt. Since she was a little girl and she had first seen pictures of Alaska, Marie had wanted to live there. At twenty, Marie was living her dream. She had pooled just about all of her money into buying herself a cabin in Alaska. For a girl who had grown up in Mississippi, Alaska was a great change. But for all the hardships living on her own so far from home created, Marie wouldn’t change it for anything. Marie loved her life and the people who were a part of it.

While she had adapted to everything else in the three months she had lived in Alaska, the one thing she was still working on was the cold. It was the only thing that she couldn’t seem to get used to. Marie was working on it, though. Every day, early in the morning, Marie would take jog the five miles from her cabin into town with her rotweiler puppy named Boris. Living on her own, Boris was her companion. He kept her company and protected her from anyone who meant her harm. Marie loved Boris to pieces. He had a no-nonsense attitude and refused to let Marie go off her schedule.

And that included their morning jog.

Every morning at seven, if she wasn’t already awake, Boris would jump up on her bed and start licking her face with his huge tongue. He kept it up until she was awake and getting out of bed. Once out of bed, Marie would slip into a pair of sweatpants or spandex running pants, then at least a t-shirt, long sleeved shirt and a sweat shirt. Sometimes more layers than that if it was really cold. After putting on her runners, Marie would clip Boris’ leash onto his collar and head out.

The town was small enough that everyone knew everyone. The first couple of weeks, Marie had been regarded as an oddity. Eventually, everyone got used to her and Boris and would wave hello each morning as they passed. Boris had even become welcome in the diner that Marie stopped to have her breakfast at every morning.

“I could set my watch by the two of you if I wanted to,” Martha Gibbons said as Marie entered the other woman’s diner with Boris panting behind her. In her mid-sixties, Martha was the town matriarch. She knew everything about everyone and people didn’t hesitate to go to her for advice.

Marie grinned at the older woman as she took her usual seat at the counter. “Don’t look at me. Boris is the one keepin’ our schedule. Aren’t ya, sugah?”

Boris growled softly and butted his head against the back of Marie’s leg.

“Oh quit yer whinin’, Boris. Ya know it’s the truth,” Marie said as she patted Boris on the head. “Now behave yerself an’ maybe Martha’ll give ya some breakfast.”

“And what about you, Marie? Are you going to have your regular?” Martha asked even though both women knew what Marie’s answer would be.

This time, however, Marie felt like trying something different. “Actually, Ah think Ah’ll have some blueberry waffles instead o’ the omelet. There’s somethin’ different in the air today an’ Ah’m gonna go along with it.”

“You are an odd one, Marie,” Martha teased, writing the order down on her pad of paper. “Then again, to be a writer I suppose you have to be.”

Marie rolled her eyes. “That is a highly overrated stereotype. Not all us writers are odd balls. Ah’ll have ya know that Ah’m perfectly sane. Ain’t that right, Boris?”

Boris cocked his head to the side, regarding Marie with a strange expression.

“Oh quit it, you,” Marie scolded, pushing on Boris’ forehead.

Marie loved the atmosphere that her new home provided. It was almost like going back in time a century to when everyone helped everyone out. If it wasn’t for that, Marie never would have gotten all her furniture up to her cabin. She had bought it all from a local builder and some local high school boys had helped her get it to her home. They hadn’t even complained when they had spent an entire Saturday afternoon moving it around until Marie was completely satisfied with her new home. As payment, she had taken them all out for dinner and had also become their hockey teams’ unofficial cheerleader, going to all their games and cheering from the sidelines.

“Hey there, Marie!” cried Dave, one of the hockey players, as he entered the diner just as Martha was bringing Marie her breakfast.

Boris went bounding towards Dave, barking happily. He jumped up so that his front paws were on Dave’s chest, his large tongue hanging out.

“It’s nice to see you too, Boris!” Dave laughed as he scratched the over-sized puppy behind the ears. “Did you have a nice job this morning?”

Marie just laughed, shaking her head in disbelief as Boris began bouncing up and down on his hind legs, attempting to slurp at Dave’s face with his tongue. “Boris, will ya leave the poor boy alone. Yer breakfast is here.”

At the mention of the word ‘breakfast’ Boris was back at Marie’s side in an instant. He already had his face buried in the plate of sausage and Canadian bacon before Marie even had it on the ground.

“You’re coming to the game tomorrow, right?” Dave asked as he joined Marie at the counter.

Marie pretended to look shocked and offended. “An’ just why would Ah miss the game? It’s not like Ah have anythin’ better t’ do.”

Dave shrugged his shoulders, glancing away nervously. “You never know. You’re a big shot writer. Who’s to say that you have time to watch a bunch of high schoolers play hockey.”

“Oh please! Ah’m yer cheerleader! It’s mah job t’ be there,” Marie reminded him, grinning broadly. “‘Sides, Ah’m not that big o’ writer. They won’t even let me stop writing those cheesy romance novels. Wait till Ah publish something worthwhile, then we’ll see.”

“When you do, you have to promise to autograph a copy of your book.”

It was no secret to anyone that Dave had a crush on Marie. Even Marie knew and thought that it was adorable. And it wasn’t that she didn’t think Dave was attractive. He was a well built, all-American boy. Handsome, good looking, with the most intense pair of blue eyes she had ever seen. And even though he was only two years younger than her, Marie felt infinitely older than him.

That was quite often the case when she tried to date. When her mother had died ten years ago, Marie had been forced to grow up real quick. It had been left up to her to take care of her father and brothers, taking on the role of mother and caregiver when she should have been going to the mall. Marie now found herself segregated from others her age. She had stopped caring about the things that they did when she was a little girl.

After a half hour of talking with Dave and Martha, Marie paid for her breakfast then led Boris out of the diner. She had another five chapters of her book to finish by the end of the week to send to her publisher for proofing. Marie liked her way of life, Being a writer was a good way to make a living. No set schedules on a day to day basis, just deadlines that had to be met a few times a month. Not very hard. Marie could pretty much do whatever she wanted as long as she met her deadlines. It also paid well, enabling Marie to move out on her own while most of her friends back in Mississippi still lived at home with their parents.

By the time she was halfway home, Marie’s nose and fingers were starting to go numb. She wiggled her nose a few times, trying to get some feeling in it. Marie absently wondered how Boris survived in the cold with a wet nose. One would think that it would freeze, but Boris seemed at home in the car.

As she was rounding the last turn that would lead to her cabin, Marie saw something that she hadn’t expected. There was a black car pulled over to the side of the road. That wasn’t the most shocking part. What caught Marie off guard was the fight going on beside the car. There were four men in total. The three larger ones were beating on a single man who didn’t seem to be faring very well.

“Hey!” Marie shouted, releasing Boris’ leash. The dog went on a rampage, charging towards the fight, barking loudly.

The three larger men reacted almost instantly. They pulled away from their victim and jumped into the car. With a roar, the car took off down the highway, speeding further north. While Marie ran towards the scene of the fight, Boris stood guard over the injured man.

“Oh mah Gawd! Are ya all right?” Marie cried as she knelt down next to him in the snow.

The man was curled into a fetal position, moaning and clutching at his stomach. Marie ran her fingers through his hair, gently coaxing him onto his back. He refused to move, though, squeezing his eyes shut tight and whimpering quietly.

“Ah know this hurts, but Ah need t’ get ya someplace warm. Ya might be hurt real bad an’ Ah don’t feel like havin’ t’ report yer death t’ the police,” Marie rambled on as she carefully rolled him onto his back.

He moaned loudly when Marie finally got him onto his back. His arm didn’t move off of his stomach and Marie didn’t try to pull it away. She knew that he had been hurt by the other men and needed to get him to the hospital one town over so that he could get some x-rays.

“You should get outta here,” he grumbled, struggling to push himself into a seated position. “They could come back.”

Marie shook her head, slipping an arm behind his shoulders to help him up. “Not gonna happen. Yer hurt an’ there’s no way Ah’m gonna leave ya out here like this. So yer just gonna hafta put up with me bein’ here.”

“You’re gonna get hurt,” he insisted, gasping as he shifted his upper body a little farther than it was willing to go.

“Ah’m a lot tougher than Ah look. Ah have two older brothers, after all. Teaches a girl a lot ‘bout fendin’ fer herself. Now quit bein’ such a baby an’ let me help ya,” Marie said, being very careful to keep his upper body as still as possible while she helped him to his feet.

Once he was standing, another predicament presented itself. Her injured companion couldn’t put very much pressure on his right leg. That would make the trek back to her cabin all but impossible. Cursing under her breath, Marie scanned the landscape for something that would make getting him to her cabin easier.

“My bike’s there in the ditch,” he informed her as though reading her mind.

Glancing over her shoulder at the ditch, Marie nearly crowed with delight as she set eyes on the shiny black Harley. Carefully easing him back onto the ground, Marie then ran to the ditch and began hauling the motorcycle out of the snowbank. It took her at least five minutes to get the bike back to the side of the road where it would be useful.

“Think ya can stay up long enough fer me t’ get ya on the bike?” Marie asked as she put the kickstand down, steadying the bike on the side of the road.

“I can do that, no problem,” he assured her. “Driving it might be a bit of a problem, though.”

Marie waved her hand absently. “Don’t worry ‘bout it. Ah can drive yer bike. Ah used t’ drive mah brother’s all the time.”

He stared at her in shock as she helped him to his feet. “You can drive a Harley?”

“‘Course Ah can. There’s a lot Ah can do that ya wouldn’t expect,” Marie said with a smirk. “Now get yerself on the bike so Ah can get us back t’ mah house.”

“Why are we going to your house?” he asked her, seemingly a little wary all of a sudden.

Marie helped him onto the bike, making sure that he was properly situated before climbing on herself. “We’re goin’ t’ mah house so that we can get mah jeep. It’ll be a whole lot easier t’ get ya to the hospital in mah jeep then on yer bike, don’t ya think?”

Even though he seemed a little reluctant, he wrapped his arms around her waist to steady himself when she reared the engine to life. Once she was sure that he would be able to hold on, Marie revved forward, heading towards her cabin. Not wanting to jar him too much, Marie went at a slower pace than she would have normally. Still, what would have been a ten minute jog took all of a minute on the bike.

By the time she got back to her cabin, the dark-haired man was gasping and moaning openly. Worried that he’d been severely injured by the monster mountain men. Up until now, Marie had always had a thingfor monster mountain men, but, then again, the ones that she’d met up till that point had all be real sweeties.

“Ah’m just gonna let Boris inta the house then we’ll get ya t’ the hospital,” Marie announced as she all but jumped off the bike.

Rushing towards the door, Marie pulled her keys out of the pocket of her jacket and unlocked the door. After she let Boris in and grabbed her purse from the side table, Marie ran back to the bike where the injured man who was trying to get himself off the bike.

“Careful, yer gonna hurt yerself more,” Marie chided as she slipped an around his waist.

With the same care that she had used to get him on the bike, Marie got him off. She could tell that she was hurting him and knew that there was nothing she could do about it. All that really mattered to her was getting him to a doctor before something real bad happened to him. At least he didn’t seem to be losing too much blood which was a good thing.

“Look, I’m real grateful for you helping me out like this,” he told her once they were on the road again. “I ain’t used to people helping me out like this.”

Marie grinned over at him. “Well Ah’m a pretty helpful person. Mah momma raised me like that. Mah name’s Marie, by the way.”

“I’m Logan.”

Right then and there, Marie decided that she liked Logan’s smile. Despite the pain hardening his features, Logan’s smile lit up his entire face. He then leaned back into the seat, his entire body relaxing as Marie began the forty minute drive to the hospital in the next town.

Within minutes he was sound asleep.

While she was driving, Marie couldn’t help but glance repeatedly at the sleeping man next to her. He looked so completely innocent. High, defined cheekbones, full lips, straight-edged nose. The few sweeping whisps of hair that fell across his brows made him appear all the more peaceful. Like he would never hurt anyone. Of course, Marie had nothing to base that on. Considering how she had found him, Marie had ever reason to believe that Logan was a roughneck fighter. Something that could be potentially hazardous to her health. At the moment, he looked pretty harmless all banged up and bleeding.

When Marie reached the hospital, Logan was in a very deep sleep. The lines on his face had softened a great deal giving Marie second thoughts about waking him up. It really wouldn’t hurt if they stayed in the jeep a few minutes longer. Still, they would eventually have to get out and the sooner they got out, the sooner Logan could get some medical attention.

Unfastening her seatbelt, Marie leaned over and lightly began to shake Logan’s shoulder. “Hey. Time t’ wake up. We’re here.”

Growling softly under his breath at first, eventually, Logan began flopping his head from side to side, slowly opening his eyes. Every so slowly, Logan’s intense hazel eyes focused on her. A ghost of a smile appeared on his face. One which Marie instantly returned.

“We’re here, Logan,” Marie said softly, brushing the hair off his forehead.

“Thank you,” Logan murmured, carefully raising himself into a seated position.

Getting Logan into the small hospital was a workout Marie hadn’t experienced since she had moved into her cottage. Unable to put any pressure on his right leg, she was forced to bear a lot of Logan’s weight.

“Ya know, helpin’ lug ya around is gonna keep me from havin’ t’ do any cardio workout for at least a month,” Marie huffed as they reached the emergency entrance of the hospital.

Logan chuckled quietly. “I’m a man, Marie. I’m supposed to be heavy. But I assure you, it’s all muscle.”

“Muscles and squishy ribs,” Marie amended.

“I think I have to agree with you on that. A couple of my ribs feel pretty damn squishy,” Logan confirmed.

Within moments of entering the hospital, Logan was whisked away from Marie and taken into the ER. Since she was his ride back to his bike, Marie made herself comfortable in the waiting room, grabbing the small notebook she kept in her oversized purse at all times. It was great for when she got a sudden inspiration when she was nowhere near her computer. Marie had about ten of the 180 page books full and was in the middle of her eleventh and twelfth, depending on what story she was working on.

Marie was in the middle of the second page when a nurse came out to get her. “The doctor is finished with your friend if you’d like to come in.”

“Sure,” Marie said with a grin, shoving the book and pen back into her purse. “He’s all right, isn’t he? No lasting damage?”

“He’s pretty banged up, but I daresay he’ll be all right,” the nurse informed her. “What happened to him anyway?”

“Idiot-boy took a tumble on his bike,” Marie told the other woman as they entered the room that Logan was in. “Lucky thing Ah was joggin’ by or he’d have had t’ crawl back t’ mah place all by himself.”

Logan grinned at her once again and Marie could tell that he was grateful she hadn’t told the truth. “You’d have noticed I wasn’t around and came looking for me.”

“Ya wish,” Marie smirked with a roll of her eyes. “Now tell me what’s wrong with the big lug.”