When Louise Gordon left her small Alaskan hometown, she vowed to keep those snow-touched memories—and a certain heartbreak—far behind her. But a call from the past tugs her back, with every intention of making it a whirlwind visit to settle an estate. Easy in, easy out, without so much as a glance at the one who once shattered her dreams.
Brady Rockwell, on the other hand, has his cowboy boots firmly planted in Alaska's soil. The star rodeo rider has seen many horizons but always felt the shadow of the one that got away. In a town where everyone knows everyone, it's hard not to think of her.
Now fate has once again brought them toe-to-toe and heart-to-heart. Will this unexpected reunion melt their defenses or leave them frosty?
Jump into this heartwarming romance from New York Times bestselling author Melissa Storm and let the northern lights guide you to a sweet and satisfying happily ever after.
Louise's cell phone buzzed. She glanced at the out-of-area number and groaned, then sent the call straight to voicemail. But then it rang again, and again.
She hated when her assistant piped business calls to her personal line. Still, she could either answer or let it buzz for the rest of the day.
“Louise Gordon,” she snapped, hoping her irritation showed.
“Louise? Sorry to bother you like this. But I'm calling about an urgent matter.”
“Sorry, who is this?”
“This is Bill Ringstead of Ringstead and Associates, here in Anchorage.”
Anchorage, her former hometown, the city she'd vowed to forget when her family relocated to New York during her sophomore year of high school.
But now her past was calling. Literally.
This couldn't be good.
Mr. Ringstead continued, his voice friendly even though hers wasn't. “My firm represented your late aunt, Madeline Gordon. She's just passed on, but before that she instructed that no one was allowed to handle her estate but you. So how soon might you be able to make a trip out our way?”
She hadn't even spoken with her Great-Aunt Madeline for more than fifteen years, and had only met her a few times before that. Louise had never belonged in Alaska and had been all too happy to escape it when her father's company relocated them to Manhattan. No way she'd be going back.
“Can't you just handle the estate in my place? I'll sign off on whatever you need.”
“I'm sorry, but your aunt's instructions were very clear. It can only be you. Think you can make it out next week?”
Louise wracked her brain for an excuse. This did not come at a good time. The hunt for her firm's next partner was well underway, and she'd been pulling out all the stops to make sure that partner would be her. Randomly disappearing to handle an out-of-town family matter could only hurt her case.
But still family was family, and she'd hate to let her parents down by not at least making some effort to follow Aunt Maddie's wishes. She sighed, feeling her resolve crumble into dust.
“I'll need to move some things around, but fine. I'll see you in a week.”
“We'll expect you then. You take care now. Bye.”
What had she just agreed to? Her client roster was already filled to the brim, she was right in the thick of doing everything she could to land that new partner position, and besides, estate law wasn't even her focus.
A nagging feeling tugged at the back of her mind. Would she run into him? Her thoughts drifted back to his warm, chocolate eyes and confident smirk.
Stop being crazy. He must have moved on by now. Too much time had passed, and besides, he'd never been able to stay in one place for too long.
Well, good riddance. One less thing she'd have to deal with on her big return to Alaska.
* * *
The sun beat down on Brady's shoulders. Beautiful day for a ride, he thought, slipping his cowboy hat onto his shaggy dark hair.
Fair-goers crowded into the stadium and watched the between-act clowns dance and tidy up. He knew the growing crowd was really here for him, though. He'd had some truly amazing rides, earning the high score almost every time he saddled up. Wherever he went, the crowds followed, especially around these parts where everyone wanted to root for the local boy.
Of course, they came to see him for other reasons, too. Years of riding had given him strong arms and an even stronger torso. It was too bad he had to stay covered up for safety reasons, because he loved showing off the body he'd earned through so much hard work and dedication.
Besides, the ladies just couldn't get enough of him—and he couldn't get enough of them.
A trio of gorgeous, leggy women—buckle bunnies, his absolute favorite rodeo perk—made their way over to where he stood outside the stables, checking over his harness and tie to make sure everything was set for his ride. This personal attention to detail was part of what made him so successful in work and elsewhere.
“Hi, Brady,” they trilled in unison. Confidence. He liked that in a woman. He liked it even better in three of them at once.
“Ladies.” He tipped his hat in their direction. Man, they were gorgeous—especially the one with curly ringlets and large, cobalt eyes.
“What are you doing after the show?” she asked, pouting her lips seductively.
He was just about to answer that he'd be going out with them, of course, when a figure in the distance caught his eye. He shifted his gaze just to the right of his girls' heads and studied the gorgeous creature on the horizon.
Wow, it was really her. He hadn't seen her since she'd moved away in high school, but she'd stopped talking to him years before that. Of course, he'd never stopped trying to get back on her good side. As attractive as he found confidence, he needed a challenge every once in a while, too. And he'd never found another that rivaled Weezy.
He watched as she strode across the fairgrounds as if she owned the place—confident and hard-to-get—the perfect pursuit. Wasn't it just like her to turn up right as he was settling into his old, familiar rut? He grinned, remembering their last exchange, the one in which he'd shown up at her parents' place right before the cab that would take her away toward her new life. He begged her to give him another chance, to at least write him or call, but she just shook her head and got in the cab with her parents and drove out of his life—although not for good, apparently.
The girls turned to follow the path of his eyes as he studied Louise from a distance. “Who’s that?” one of them asked with a sneer.
But Brady didn’t have the time or heart to answer. He couldn’t tear his eyes away from this gorgeous blast from his past.
Louise had grown up nicely. He loved her out-of-place pencil skirt and purple blouse. Showed how different she was from every random beauty queen that paraded across his path. Those legs, those hips, that short, striking haircut that perfectly contrasted her creamy skin. Clearly, she hadn't spent much time outdoors since they'd parted, and he intended to fix that straight away.
“You're up next, Rockwell,” the show's lackey came up and slapped him on the back. “Let's get goin'.”
“I'll be seeing you around,” he told the girls as he headed to work—still unable to tear his eyes away from Weezy.
A few moments later, the announcer's voice boomed over the stadium speakers. “And now it's the time you've all been waiting for! Announcing our favorite bad boy, Bucking Brady Rockwell.”
He took a deep breath, as the gate released him into the ring.
* * *
The cinnamony scent of fresh-fried elephant ears swirled around Louise's head as dust kicked up from the fairgrounds and whipped about in the wind.
“I can't believe we're at a real-life rodeo,” her friend Missy gushed. She’d been born and raised in New York, and had insisted she come along for the journey the moment Louise had told her about the plan for a visit to Anchorage. “I didn’t know Alaska was so country.”
Louise's heel snagged on a discarded cotton candy cone. “Yeah, well… Thanks for coming along with me. This trip would have been unbearable without you.”
“Hey, I needed a break, too. Wedding planning is so much harder than you'd think. Maybe I should just let my sisters plan it. They love this stuff, but all it does is make my head spin.”
Louise felt every man's eyes turn toward them as they entered the stadium and took their seats. While Louise commanded the attention of everyone who dared enter the courtroom, Missy tended to have the same effect twenty times over, no matter where they went. It was hard not to stare at the beautiful up-and-coming actress as she passed through, full of confidence in knowing exactly who she was. Sometimes, Louise found herself staring, too.
But she loved the way Missy shook her life up. Sure, they both clocked long hours at work, but her friend always found new ways to pull Louise away from the office and get her out on the town. In fact, that's what she had done the moment they arrived in Anchorage.
“We're here!” Missy trilled as the plane touched down on the runway. “What should we do first?”
Louise set her book down, making sure to hold her place with her thumb as she talked to Missy. “Let's go straight to check out the rental place, order takeout, and unpack our bags. Have a quiet night in. I'm so close to finishing this book and really want to know what happens. We'll be in town for a few days, and I promise we'll find something fun to do. It's just that, aren't you supposed to be taking a break from all the chaos of your life?”
Missy took out her phone, and moments later was sticking it in Louise's face and waving it around. “Oh, the rodeo is in town! We are so going.”
Louise laughed. “Okay, okay. We'll go.”
They'd stopped quickly by the rental to drop off their bags, and then come straight to the fairgrounds. Missy was thrilled by their surroundings, but Louise couldn't help searching the many faces in the crowd.
Would he be here? No, he'd probably moved back to Austin long ago. Besides, he'd never been one to blend into the crowd. If he were here, he'd make absolute certain he had everyone's attention—including hers.
The announcer's voice boomed over the speakers, “It's the time you've all been waiting for!” Cheers rose from the crowd as they stomped their feet on the bleachers and chanted.
Louise missed the name of the performer in all the ruckus that ensued, but when he came tearing into the ring, she recognized him at once. Brady.
The bronco moved at a furious pace, but it was as if time slowed around them. Louise focused on Brady's hips as they rose up and down to accommodate the bucking movements, one hand gripped the saddle refusing to let go while the other held steady high over his head, his muscular legs hugging tight to the horse.
It was a sight to behold.
But this was crazy… She dated wealthy men in business suits who rode in luxury cars, not cowboys from her past life. But, still, there was no denying Brady's rugged, manly appeal as he worked the bucking horse to his will. She wouldn't put up nearly as much of a fight if she had the chance…
The chance to what?
She was not that girl anymore. She'd moved on to bigger and better things. She'd chased her dreams and caught them. So why couldn't she tear her eyes from this reckless boy from her past?
She wasn't ready to settle down. At least not until she'd settled comfortably into the partner role at her firm—that is if this whole interruption hadn't completely botched her chances altogether. But still there'd be other firms, and they'd be lucky to have her. And when she was ready, there would be other men, more compatible men.
This one was definitely off limits.