Read Alaskan Heat Online

Authors: Pam Champagne

Tags: #Romantic Suspense

Alaskan Heat (3 page)

Chapter Four
Sophie woke to a dull ache between her legs and a furnace-like heat hugging her back. A tanned hand clasped her right breast. Hawk! Oh, God. She and Hawk had made love last night. Without protection. She had no reason to suspect he wasn’t clean, but in this day and age, there was no excuse for sex without protection. A rush of disappointment made her dizzy. They hadn’t made love. They’d had sex. What had she been thinking? She’d taken her role in this charade too far. Sure she’d wanted him, but the things they’d done hadn’t been what she’d had in mind. With a groan, she pushed his hand away. He grunted and rolled over, but didn’t wake.

Last night Hawk had introduced her to a world of pleasure she hadn’t known existed. Embarrassed heat spread over her skin. As hot as the sex had been, she wasn’t the type to indulge in sex for mere satisfaction. Was she? Yet wasn’t that what she’d told Hawk? Her ruse had backfired. Big time.

Jesus, how could she face him? How could she face herself?
Buck up, Sophie. You have a job to do. Forget your personal woes.

Throwing back the covers and gingerly climbing over the naked, gorgeous body sprawled on the bed, she slid to the floor, careful to make no noise on her way to the bathroom. Huddled in the tiny cubicle, the hot water cascaded over her sore muscles, and she vigorously scrubbed her body, washing away any lingering smells of sex.

She railed at her stupidity. How naïve to have thought for an instant that last Christmas Eve had meant anything to Hawk. He’d been drunk by his own admission. For eight months she’d clung to false hope. By giving in to her lust for a man who had no interest in falling in love, not to mention one who might be a criminal, she’d set herself up for heartbreak.

She shut off the water. Damn it. She’d forget last night ever happened and concentrate on her assignment. Hopefully, she’d do a better job as an FBI agent than as a seductress.

Sophie’s gaze feasted on Hawk while she dressed. In sleep, his smooth forehead was free of wrinkles. It looked as if the man didn’t have a care in the world. His peaceful expression pissed her off. Maybe Hawk had the right idea about sex after all.

She’d hoped joining the FBI would bring new meaning to her existence. Give her ego the boost it needed. Her two brothers had run her life forever. They’d chased off more boyfriends than she could remember. They’d pampered her for every bump and bruise that comes with living. Bullied her into doing things their way. They’d chosen her cars, her college. Even tried to pick her career, which definitely hadn’t been law enforcement.

Finally, after college graduation, she’d had enough. Against their advice and demands, she’d applied to attend the academy and been accepted. At twenty-five, she still had a long way to go to shake the insecurities instilled by her well-meaning brothers.

She’d been content with her position with the Bureau. So what if she didn’t see action? When Stan had asked her to take this assignment, her heart had nearly stopped beating. Training to operate in the field was one thing. Actually being there was another. She should have been honest with Stan. Told him that the thought of shooting at someone or getting shot at scared her half to death. Should have told him that she had doubts about her ability.

Sophie yanked on her jeans and shoved her feet into her hiking boots. Grabbing her jacket, she let herself out of the camper. Rueger needed some freedom, and she had a day of driving ahead of her. No sense wallowing in pig slop over something she couldn’t fix.

Once outside in the brisk morning air, she pulled the collar of her fleece jacket up over her ears and let Rueger out of the cab. Reaching across the seat, she slid the key in the ignition, started the engine and turned the heat on full blast.

The designs in the crystal frost on the windshield might have been pretty if she didn’t have to scrape it. She rummaged behind the seat, sure her scraper from last winter hid somewhere beneath the clothes, shoes and first aid kit. Hopefully, this weather wasn’t the norm for Canada and Alaska in August.

Rueger bounded to the ground and headed for the bushes, giving her more time to think. Something she didn’t need. No matter how hard she tried, she couldn’t shrug off last night. She didn’t need the soreness between her legs or the ache in her nipples to keep the memories fresh. Never in her wildest fantasies had she come close to imagining the cravings and sensations that had taken control of her body. She’d been introduced to a world of erotica by Hawk, a man she’d hoped would fall head over heels in love with her. “Sophie? Where are you?” She shook her head, resigned to spending the day stuffed into a truck cab with him. Shoving her worries away, she returned to the camper.

By the time Sophie turned into the dirt parking lot of a country general store claiming to have everything a person needed, from wedding gowns to worms, the temperature had risen to a mild seventy-five, or so read the old thermometer hanging on the loose clapboards. She peeled off her sweater and tossed it behind the seat.

“This is it?”

She controlled the urge to snap at Hawk. What reason did he have to sound so cranky? “What do you mean?”

He waved his hand toward the store. “You call this a store? I believe you said the place had everything. I can’t believe this.”

The accusation in his tone pissed her off. “What did you expect? A super Wal-Mart? We’re approaching the Yukon Territories. There are no big cities.” Disgusted, she climbed out, slammed the door and strode toward the store, not caring if he followed or not.

Hawk made it to the door before her and held it open. Like the gentleman he wasn’t. Sophie breezed by without a glance and headed straight to the meat section. Having been in most of the stores on the highway, she wasn’t surprised at the lack of good quality food. Today the hamburger looked fresh, as did the steak. The chicken and the package labeled pork chops looked questionable. They’d be eating beef for awhile.

Next she grabbed a bag of wilted spinach and a bunch of yellowed broccoli, shaking her head at what passed as fresh vegetables. Two loaves of bread added to her pile, and she was ready to check out.

Where the hell was Hawk? The man had been a thorn in her side since he woke this morning. Sophie found him looking at deodorant. “It’s not as if you have a million choices. Pick one and let’s get on the road.”

Hawk frowned. “What’s wrong with you?”

Huh? He was the one who got up on the wrong side of the bed. Then again… “I’m short of patience this morning.”

“Tell me about it,” he muttered. “I ordered a couple of Italians at the deli. They should be ready.”

“Fine. Get them and let’s get back on the road.”

Hawk’s smile warmed his eyes along with her insides. “I’m right behind you. I’ve got to get one more thing.”

The young store clerk had almost finished ringing up her items when Hawk arrived with his deodorant, the sandwiches, a bag of chips and a bag of limp carrots with roots growing out of their entire length.

He handed the bag to the young kid. “For the bunny.”

Sophie’s skull near exploded. How dare he?

The clerk jumped right in. “You have rabbits? My family raises them…to eat. They taste like chicken, you know.”

Hawk laughed. “We’ve just got one. Cute little thing. I might have to start looking at her as a meal.”

Sophie dug her nails into his arm. “That’s what you think.”

“Ouch,” Hawk said and moved out of her reach.

The clerk chuckled, bagged their items and nodded at Hawk. “You’d better watch it. Sounds like the little bunny means a lot to your lady.”

“Yeah, we’re both attached to Furry. She’s so warm and cuddly. Why just last night—”

Sophie grabbed her bag. “I’ll be in the truck.”

She turned on heel and took a step. His voice stopped her cold. “Sophie? I don’t have any money.”

Breathing fire, Sophie stalked to the register haphazardly pulling money from her purse along the way. She slapped a handful of bills in Hawk’s hand. “Here.” The warm smile along with the twinkle in his eyes got her toes tingling, but she forced herself to turn back the way she’d come.

She never made it to the door. It wasn’t the man dressed in the red and black plaid shirt and green wool pants peering at a bulletin board that raised the alarm. Neither was it the rancid body odor emanating from his person. Nor was it Hawk’s picture on a wanted poster that freaked her out. The smelly Neanderthal sneaking covert looks between Hawk and his picture made her skin crawl.

How the hell had this happened? She refused to consider this was Stan’s doing. That left Reed and Blair
They must have printed an official-looking FBI wanted poster. She noticed the number to call was not an FBI hotline, or at least not one she was familiar with. Was Hawk’s image in every store between here and Alaska? A chill rattled down her spine. Had the poster been here when they’d come in. Surely, she’d have seen it. Were the two rogue agents lurking outside? Waiting for the opportunity to nab Hawk?

Even though Hawk’s face was smooth and clean shaven in the photograph, he was easily recognizable. Those damn whiskey colored eyes.

Before Sophie could react, an overweight woman wearing a sweatshirt sporting a colorful tied fishing fly with the slogan
Check your Fly
showed up behind the guy. “Move it, Everett. I wanna fish today, not tomorrow.”

Everett glanced in Sophie’s direction. She pretended interest in the magazines precariously perched on an old, teetering steel rack. He dragged the woman to his side, his wide grin revealing toothless gums. Then he whispered loud enough for anyone within ten feet to hear, “Look at this, Mel!” His finger jabbed the poster. “FBI’s offering a $20,000 reward for this dude.” His voice rose with excitement. “And guess what? He’s standing right over there.” With all the finesse of an orangutan, he lifted an arm and pointed it at Hawk still chatting with the young kid behind the counter.

Mel slapped the hand curled around her biceps. “For Christ’s sake. I’m so fuckin’ sick of your git rich quick schemes. Forgit it. Ya ain’t never gonna be rich. Get used to it. Try workin’ for your damned money, like everyone else.”

Sophie breathed a bit easier when the woman backed away, crossing her arms over ample breasts. The glint in her eyes dared Everett to argue.

Hawk chose that moment to arrive. “Hey, babe! You waited for me.”

Sophie’s desire to knock the silly grin down his throat died a fast death when Everett feverishly pulled a cell out of his shirt pocket. She all but threw herself into Hawk’s arms. He staggered backward. “Sweetheart! What took you so long? I got lonely waiting.”

He juggled the brown paper bag until he managed to get an arm around her shoulders. Whether it was her bottom lip jutted in a pout or his strong sense of survival, Hawk’s body tensed and his nostrils flared as if he smelled danger.

Mel’s shrill voice rang out in the small area. “Idiot. Put the damn phone away before ya make a fool of yaself in fronta all these people. Give it to me.” With little effort, she wrestled it away.

Everett grabbed for it. “I’m telling you, Mel, this guy—”

“Shut up!’ Mel hissed. With a flirty look through her lashes, she sidled up to Hawk, pushing her triple D’s against his arm. “I apologize for my dolt of a husband. He don’t know his ass from his elbow. Why you don’t look at all like the man on that poster.”

“Hey!” Everett protested. “Watch it. You’ll find yourself footing it to the lake.” He moved, bringing his stench closer.

Sophie slid an arm around Hawk’s waist, pulled him away from Mel, putting his back to the couple. “Isn’t this exciting, honey? Someone thought you were a wanted man. It’s our honeymoon, you know.” She smiled at Mel. “Oh, the stories we’ll have to tell our children.”

Accepting she’d batted out with Hawk, Mel muttered sour congratulations and latched onto Everett’s elbow. “Let’s go, pea brain, before these nice people press charges.”

Sophie pasted a smile on her face and kept her gaze glued to Everett whose narrowed eyes bore holes through them as his wife maneuvered him out the door.

Chapter Five
Sophie dropped her arm and stepped away from Hawk. “Wow! Too close for my peace of mind.”

Hawk ignored her and pulled back the chintzy, faded yellow curtain to peer out of the small window.

“Let’s get out of here,” Sophie pressed. “I need fresh air.”

Hawk seized her arm. “Wait. I don’t want them to know what we’re driving.”

He scanned the rest of the store. No one paid them any attention. Feigning interest, he walked to bulletin board and read notices pinned to the cork. A teenager looking for babysitting jobs. Bear traps and live bait for sale. A ten-year-old snow machine, “as is”. He ripped off a telephone number on one of the tabs under the snowmobile ad. At the same time, he snatched the poster and shoved it in his pocket.

His imagination ran amok, playing every possible scenario of the consequences if Blair and Reed got their hands on him and Sophie. Each one was more horrific than the last. Fear for Sophie got his heart beating overtime.

Sophie jumped when he touched her back. “Ready?”

“Ten minutes ago.” She shifted from foot to foot, making it clear she couldn’t get outside fast enough.

Her hand reached for the doorknob.


“Now what’s the matter?”

“I’ll go out first,” he said. “For a final check to make sure Pa and Ma Kettle are gone,” he quickly added when she started to protest. Before she could argue, he slipped out the door.

Satisfying himself no one suspicious hung around the lot, Hawk waved, giving Sophie the all clear signal.

She came out on wobbly legs. “Are you okay?”

She attempted a smile. “Do I look that bad? I’m fine. Just a bit unsettled.”

“Give me the keys. I’ll drive.”

“Yeah, right. No license, remember? We’re screwed if we get stopped. You can bet those two goons have put out APB’s with the state police.”

They’d reached the truck, and Hawk smashed his fist into the back of the camper.
Damn! That was stupid.
“You’re right. The motherfuckers.”

Rueger growled. “Sorry, Killer. Won’t happen again.”

Sophie hustled into the driver’s seat. She seemed steadier. Her momentary lapse must have been a letdown from the adrenaline rush.

Three hours later, Hawk was ready to rocket through the roof. The thick tension swirling inside the truck drove him nuts. Twice he’d attempted to make conversation and received a grunt and a nod for his efforts. If this was her reaction to the first sign of danger, then he’d be better off on his own. “Find a safe spot and pull over. I’m bailing.”

That got her full attention. The two passenger side tires went off the pavement into the soft gravel shoulder. Sophie fought to bring the truck back onto the road.

Hawk clung to the dash. “Watch where you’re going, damn it.”

Air whooshed from her lungs when she got the green monster under control.

“Are you insane?” she asked, sneaking another look at him.

“Keep your eyes on the road before you kill us both.”

Her hands clenched the wheel, probably pretending it was his neck.

“You’re not making sense.”

Five hundred feet down the road, she steered into a turnout. “Spit it out.”

He twisted to face her. “It’s not working. What’s bothering you? Did that poster freak you out? If so, you’re not cut out for this.”

She shook her head hard enough to give herself whiplash. “No. That’s not what’s bothering me.”

“Then it’s last night. Is that why you can’t even look me in the eye?”

Her gaze drifted away. “See what I mean? We had sex. And for the record, it’s what you wanted.”

She sat stiff and unyielding as a nun who’d slept in, missed morning Mass and now waited for penance. “I didn’t hear you complaining,” she mumbled.

“What’s to complain about? You’re a beautiful woman. You were willing. We had great sex. Only an idiot would have said no. I’ve been called many things over the years, but a fool isn’t one of them.”

Sophie swallowed hard. “I know I’ve been a bitch. It’s the bunny thing… Jesus, Hawk, you embarrassed me.”

It took him a moment to comprehend what she said. “You’re shitting me. Right?” He laughed until his stomach ached. “The kid didn’t have a clue what I was talking about.”

“Maybe so. It’s just that…”

Hawk reached over and tucked a curl behind her ear. “What?”

“Last night was… I’ve never… I mean I haven’t…”

“You’re strictly a missionary position kind of a girl.” He heaved a sigh. “Sorry. I kind of figured that. That’s one reason why I avoided you for the past few years. We’re as opposite as the north and south poles.”

“I guess we are.”

After a short silence, Sophie changed the subject, and he couldn’t deny he was relieved. “You can’t just jump out and wander around the countryside—”

“Says who?”

“Think about it. You have no identification. What are you planning to do? Walk all the way to AK? We’re in this together until we get to your friends’ house.”

Hawk had his own opinion about that. Discussing it with Sophie behind the wheel might not be a good idea. He’d wait until they landed somewhere for the night.

For the rest of the day’s drive, Sophie remained on the quiet side. There was no camaraderie, but at least she’d drawn in her claws. Hawk pretended his thoughts were fallen leaves floating in a river’s current. The secret to the game was to make sure the leaves kept moving without getting snagged on a tree branch or caught in a side pool. He lost the game today. Three minutes into his mind game and the memory of last night caught on a monster branch, and he was stuck.

He had only himself to blame. She’d wanted satisfaction. He’d known damn well a sweet love-making session would have made her happy. Instead, he’d satisfied himself. Taken what he wanted. Enjoyed every inch of her sexy body. And the truth was he wanted more.

Their mind-blowing sex last night hadn’t kept her guilt at bay today. He’d known that would happen too. But it hadn’t stopped him. Bastard that he was, he heisted anything she offered, even things she didn’t. For two solid years, he’d kept his distance so he wouldn’t be in this pickle. And now, here he sat, fermenting in the pickle jar.

Suck it up, Hawkins, and get over it. You destroy everything good that you touch.

Sophie pulled into Liard River Hot Springs campground after over ten hours of driving. Her nerves were in ribbons, and she battled tears. The strain between her and Hawk set the evening’s mood. They circled each other as best they could in the small confines, like two dogs deciding whether or not to fight. Okay, so maybe she’d overreacted. Did he think she’d get a thrill hearing him tell the store clerk about their sex life?
Stop it. You’ve got a job to do and if it includes putting up with Hawk’s bad manners, then so be it
. She tried to put her emotions on the back burner along with the peas.
Admit it, Sophie. You’ve fallen in love with the man, crassness and all
. The truth was she’d been in love with Hawk since she’d first met him, in spite of the fact he did everything he could to stay out of her way. And the hardest truth of all to swallow? She’d expected him to feel the same after one night in her bed. Oh, gee. She must have been on drugs with that thought.

Determined to put an end to the ice, she forced cheer into her voice and said, “How about I make us a nice supper?”

“What can I do to help?”

The distant, offhand “I really don’t give a damn” tone of his voice grated on her frayed nerves. “Stay out of my way. The camper’s not much bigger than a sardine can.” God, she hadn’t meant to bite his head off.

His narrowed eyes gave her pause. So much for her decision to make the best of it. Hawk was right. This wouldn’t work. “I’m sorry.” How many more times would she be saying those words? “I’m tired and taking it out on you. Get a fire burning. I’ll make a salad and we’ll grill potatoes and steak.”

He shrugged his shoulders with the enthusiasm of a turkey waiting in line at the chopping block. “Sure, why not? Come on, Rueger, let’s go.”

Once the door closed, Sophie rested her head on the refrigerator door and considered having a good cry. Tears always relieved the pressure. She had a feeling Hawk wouldn’t quite understand, so she grabbed a knife and vented her frustration whacking a head of lettuce. Next came the tomatoes and cukes. They received even harsher treatment. By the time she’d added the onions and radishes, she felt much calmer.

She had no reason to be mad at Hawk. She should be angry at herself for giving in to temptation. The moment she’d made the bargain with him, she’d had doubts. There was only one person who’d get hurt here, and it sure wasn’t Hawk.
Face it, lady. You grabbed this chance to bump and grind with him. So you got more than you bargained for. Is that his fault? You knew how powerful his touch was. You’ve got no one to blame but yourself.

Today had convinced her of Hawk’s innocence, something she’d already known deep in her heart, but refused to acknowledge. Doubting him kept him at an emotional distance. He acted the rogue, but she saw an honest side, a tender side that he tried to hide. His anger at Reed and Blair was genuine. She’d bet her job.

She almost sliced her finger with the paring knife when the camper door squeaked open. “That was fast.” Sophie whirled around to hide the tears on her cheeks. “What is it?” she asked with a sniff.

“We need to move to a site near other campers. Are you crying?”

She rubbed her cheeks. “Of course not. It’s the onions.”

The skepticism in his eyes said he didn’t believe her. Now wasn’t the time to get into it. “Why?”

“The closer we are to people, the less likely we’ll get ambushed.”

Sophie piled the steaks and potatoes on a plate and shoved it in the refrigerator. You’re right. Call Rueger and we’ll pull up stakes.”

An hour later they had a new location between a travel trailer and a family tenting. Sophie could only imagine the irritation of both parties. They’d probably deliberately left some space between them for privacy. She carried the plate of food outside and plunked the russet potatoes wrapped in aluminum foil on the grate over the sizzling fire. Hawk’s husky voice carried on the wind from the woods. Who was he talking to? The truth dawned, and she smiled. He was having a conversation with Rueger, the killer dog. The dog he couldn’t stand. Rueger had the same effect on everyone he decided to like. She tilted her head and breathed in the aromatic pine forest. The woodsy scent mingling with campfire smoke made everything seem all right.

Hawk bent and picked up a dead dried log. Added it to the pile in his arms. The cool air, a reminder of his stint in the woods, invigorated him. He’d discovered something during his alone time in the forest where it was him pitted against nature. He learned to survive under the most adverse conditions. Who’d have thought he’d eat bugs and raw squirrels for protein? All his senses were in tune and coordinated after his adventure. As good as that was, he didn’t want to repeat the experience any time soon. There’d been some days when he thought he wouldn’t make it. He’d accepted the possibility his fate might be to die in the harsh unforgiving Canadian wilderness.

Falling leaves swirled around the nearly deserted campground giving it the distinct feel of autumn. He supposed August was fall here in the North Country. The campground shouldn’t be so empty at this time of year. Granted, it offered no amenities like gas and electrical hookups and the nights turned chilly, if not downright cold. Still, he’d have expected more campers.

If Bob and Jack were hot on his ass, he and Sophie would stand out like a tree in the desert. The smell of barbecued steaks hit him hard. His mouth watered and his stomach growled louder than the dog. “Come on, Rueger, time to eat.”

He dropped an armful of wood by the fireplace. “Smells good.”

“I’ll second that,” Sophie murmured. “Help yourself.”

After filling their plates, they settled on separate logs, a distance apart. Rueger, always the optimist, lay halfway between them in anticipation of any pieces of food that might hit the ground.

His meal half-eaten, Hawk was replete and wondered when his normal appetite would return. He reached for a stick and poked the burning embers before tossing on a few more chunks of wood. Basking in the fire’s heat with a full belly, he wondered if life could get any better. Sophie had moved to a nearer stump, within touching distance, yet a million miles away, seemingly lost in her own world.

He’d known last Christmas Eve she was trouble, yet he’d caved within a few hours of meeting her again. He spoke softly to keep the ambiance. “A penny for them.”

A few blinks later, she smiled. “I’m reminiscing about camping trips with my dad. Every evening we sat around a fire. Not talking, really, but it was a comfortable silence. Eventually, he’d say, ‘I wonder what the poor people are doing right now.’”

“He sounds as if he was a down-to-earth type of guy.”

She pulled in her legs and wrapped her arms around them. Envy stabbed him. He wanted her arms around him. In the dim light of the glowing embers, Hawk watched a tear track down her cheek. His finger itched to wipe it away. “Your dad was special to you.”

“Yes. He died when I was twelve, leaving two ogres to raise me. While he was alive he taught me what’s important in life. Like sitting here, enjoying the fire and listening to the night sounds. How many people take time from their busy lives to do something like this?”

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