Impact

By: Tiffinie Helmer

DEDICATION



To my grandparents, Don and Afton Blanc who survived a plane crash on Kodiak Island in 1989 when the Beaver DeHavilland they were traveling in hit a mountain due to bad weather. The many following years we had with you were a gift much treasured.

You are both missed more than words can express.





ACKNOWLEDGMENTS



Thank you to my amazing four kids and understanding husband for putting up with the many nights of take out, semi-forced self-sufficiency, and taking it in stride when I argue with myself. To my mother, Barb Blanc, for telling me I could be anything I wanted to be. To Cindy Nielsen and Kerri LeRoy, you both have been with me a long time. Thank you for sanding my rough writing edges. To the Writers of Imminent Death, Mikki Kells, Natalie Ainge, Heather Wallace, and Heidi Turner, for the bleeding ink and the killer laughs. And to my agent, Christine Witthohn of Book Cents Literary Agency, thank you for your unwavering belief in me and constant support.

You all rock!





Chapter One



Damn, he looked good.

Why couldn’t he show his age like the rest of them? Was it too much to hope for that he’d let himself go? Sported a beer belly? Lost his hair?

Five years had passed since Wren Terni’s last encounter with Skip Ozhuwan. Five years since he’d arrested her.

Not her finest hour.

It was official. Whatever puny luck the gods had deemed to give her had run out.

The only thing going her way was that he hadn’t seen her yet. Taking a couple of steps back, she stood off to the side behind a pillar in the small airport at King Salmon, Alaska. She wasn’t hiding, really. She just needed a moment to prepare herself before walking up to him and pretending he didn’t mean squat to her.

She’d known they were bound to see each other this weekend. It was his sister’s wedding, after all. But what trick of fate had her sharing the same puddle jumper to Egegik with him?

This weekend needed to hurry up and be over with. The sooner she returned to her life the better for everyone. So far she’d done a pretty bang up job of not dealing with her past. She was the type who moved on.

Past was past.

She’d hoped she could’ve put off seeing Skip until the actual wedding. Her plan was to suffer through the reception and then dart out of there like a wily fox with no words exchanged between them.

There was nothing to say to the man she’d loved—the man who’d incarcerated her—other than cursing his manhood and future offspring.

She schooled her features to try and appear bored instead of revealing the panic and yearning bubbling to the surface. Skip looked better than she’d remembered, more mature, more muscular. His hair was blacker than the deep winter nights on the Bering Sea of Alaska. His mouth set in the same smile that used to infuriate and arouse her at the same time. Broad shoulders V’ed into a trim waist, and his thighs were roped with muscle. Muscle that was defined through his unzipped jacket, t-shirt and jeans. She’d never felt safer in any man’s arms than when she’d been held by Skip Ozhuwan.

While he was only five ten, he seemed to tower over men much taller than him. His commanding presence left no question of who was in charge when he was in the room. She’d heard he now worked for the AWT, Alaska Wildlife Troopers and wondered what the small fishing village of Egegik thought about one of their own now working as a fish cop. How did he cope with that?

If she could have stayed away from the wedding, she would have. She’d given her best excuse, but when one is commanded—threatened—by her best friend since infancy and given the title of maid of honor, you go.

Fortunately, Skip hadn’t seen her yet, giving her time to compose herself, though she’d spent too much time on that already. None of it seemed to have done any good. She was torn with whether she wanted to kiss him or kill him. He’d sent her up the river, but worse than that, he’d broken her heart. Had he even written her? No. Sent a Christmas card or a care package? Cigarettes for barter? No. Nothing in all those years.

Yeah, she pretty much hated him.

She’d done her time, gotten clean and had a pretty quiet existence since being sprung from the joint.

And still not one word from him.

He must have felt her stare from across the small terminal for he suddenly turned, and his piercing umber eyes met hers.