Ursa Major

Ursa Major

Mary Winter

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Sarah Doyle's job with a reputable Washington firm sends her to the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge to write an honest report about oil drilling. She's aided by Liam Phillips, owner of RoundTheBend Eco Tours. All she wants is a few weeks in the wilderness and to keep her personal opinions in check so she can write the unbiased report her firm requests. Get in and get out. That's what she's done in the past, and what she expects to do now. She hadn't counted on her sexy, rugged guide or the feelings he kindles inside her.

Liam is a man who will do anything to save his home and keep his secret safe. The remote countryside keeps his people hidden. It's their refuge and their home. He expects a stuffy political puppet, not a woman as untamed as the land he loves. His goal is to give Sarah the information she needs and send her back to Washington DC as soon as possible.

However, pressures back in Washington DC, and from Liam's people, are mounting. Sarah has to persevere for her own peace of mind, for an entire ecosystem, and for a people she doesn't even know. But time is running out and Liam may have to reveal his darkest secrets in order to save everything.

 
PUBLISHED BY: Pink Petal Books
ISBN: 9780981951690
PUBLICATION DATE: 2009
WORD COUNT: 90000
SEXUAL CONTENT RATING: 3 3 3
PRODUCT RATING:
CATEGORIES: Shape-shifter, Romantic Fiction
KEYWORDS: Alaska, politics, oil drilling, bears, shape shifters, Washington DC,
 

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EXCERPT
COPYRIGHT Mary Winter/2009
The plane stopped and the pilot thanked them for flying with him, as if any of them really had a choice. She fished her sunglasses out of her carry-on and put them on before disembarking to gather her luggage. Just a small suitcase and camping supplies, but she had no doubt they’d be enough to carry into the terminal. She scanned the area, but didn’t see anyone who looked like her contact. I don’t know why you’re worrying about this. Just write your report and come back. It’s not that big of a deal. Her fiancé’s words haunted her as she slung her backpacking frame over her shoulders and pulled out the handle on her rolling suitcase. Sarah curled her lip in disgust. Walt Beamer hadn’t been beyond the city limits a day in his life and didn’t understand what it meant to be out here. He didn’t understand what her work meant to her. She drew in a breath of fresh, clean air, available even here at the airport, and smiled.

Just inside the terminal, Sarah removed her sunglasses and blinked at the sudden change in lighting. The small building housed worn chairs that looked left over from the ’70s and a few vending machines.

A man leaned against the wall next to the coffee machine. Thick hair the color of polished mahogany hung in soft waves nearly to his collar. He towered over most of the men—other than her, there were no women—in the terminal. Dressed in a long-sleeved black turtleneck that stretched across his broad chest, worn blue jeans, and heavy hiking boots, he radiated masculinity. Just looking at him made her throat dry and her pulse leap. She’d be in the backwoods of Alaska with him. Her body hummed at the prospect, and she struggled to keep her fiancé’s image foremost in her mind, though compared to this woodsman, a slick city lawyer had no chance.

Guilt assailed her. Just because she and Walt were having problems didn’t mean she should act impulsively. She could be professional. After all, she’d come out here to write her report on the impact of drilling on the environment. An impartial report, as her boss had reminded her time and time again with an implied “wink and nod.” She knew exactly what her boss expected to read. First, she’d gather the facts. Then, she’d write the report they required.

The man straightened. He gave her a long perusal, his shuttered gaze not giving anything away. His attention lingered on the thrust of her breasts against the faded oversized University of Mary Washington sweatshirt she wore, then down the length of her legs. He gave a slight nod at her hiking boots, as if she wasn’t completely without common sense, then with the leisurely stride of a man completely in control of his environment, he walked toward her. A hint of a smile crossed his chiseled lips as he neared.

“Sarah Doyle?” He held out a large hand.

She released the handle of her small suitcase and clasped it. His handshake was firm, but not overly so. Where his fingers touched hers, tingles shot up her arm. “You’re Liam?” She released his fingers.

He nodded. “Let me help you with that.”

“Thanks.” Sarah slid her backpacking frame from her shoulders, deciding there wasn’t any harm in letting him carry it to the vehicle. She’d carry it often enough if her plans to live out in the field bore fruit. “I appreciate that.” She grabbed the handle of her suitcase.

“The truck’s this way.” Without waiting for her, he easily lifted her gear, the muscles in his biceps bulging. Sarah tried not to notice, just as she tried to ignore the way his jeans clung to his rear. She had an engagement ring tucked in her dresser back home. She shouldn’t be looking at him this way. Damn Walt and his angry words. She sighed, knowing she’d have to make a decision one way or the other about his proposal. And right now, the fact that she’d taken off the ring and put it in her jewelry box spoke volumes.

She followed him to the truck, where he opened the door and helped her inside. Moments later, they were on their way.

Not one to chatter, Sarah watched as the scenery changed from the homes and small businesses designed to cater to the oil workers, to the sparse landscape. On the horizon, she thought she saw an elk, though the thought of wildlife so close to town seemed foreign to her. She’d read there were bears here. Both black bears and grizzlies, and a shudder wound its way down her spine at the thought of meeting them in the woods.

“Cold?” Liam asked. His voice sounded like Swiss chocolate. Just the sound of it chased the chill from her and filled her with liquid heat. Damn it, why was she so hot for this guy?

“I’m fine. Just a shock from the weather in DC,” she answered.

“I’ll bet. The lower 48 has nothing on us.” His smile flashed white teeth against his tanned skin. “The lodge is just about five miles from town. We’ll be there shortly.” He turned onto a gravel road, maneuvering the large quad-cab truck easily between ruts and larger rocks. True to his word, he pulled up in front of the lodge before much longer.

The two story building, built from stone and logs, rose from a flat plain around it. Liam pressed the garage door opener on the sun visor, and the door opened to reveal room for three cars, though one of the bays held an ATV and a snowmobile. A red jeep sat in the other parking spot. He pulled the truck in and stopped. Just as before, he held the door open for her and grabbed her backpack frame before she could protest, then led her into the building.

An open floor plan showcased a large living area with a fireplace and a kitchen with a spacious dining area. A short hall led to closed doors, and a wooden staircase led to the upstairs rooms. A balcony overlooked the living room with its large windows that looked out onto the Alaskan wilderness. Everything was polished wood with bronze trim, the leather couches and heavy bookshelves giving the place a masculine air. Sarah suddenly felt very small and very feminine.

“Let me give you the nickel tour.” He pointed down the hall, showing her the master bath, the closed door to his study. Upstairs, there appeared to be six bedrooms, with a couple more bathrooms. He showed her to a room close to the stairs decorated in a North Woods theme. “Don’t get too comfy. We’ll head out early tomorrow morning. I’ll be back in a couple of hours to take you downstairs for dinner. I’ve got some work to do.” From downstairs, male voices rumbled, and he listened to them for a charged moment before hurrying downstairs.

No sooner had he left than her cell phone rang. Sarah answered it.

“I trust you made it all right,” Ken’s voice crackled across the connection.

“Just got here. Everything okay?” She’d been given her instructions. She hadn’t expected her boss to call so soon.

“Yeah, fine.” Ken’s voice shook. Sarah knew he lied. Something was going on. First this mission, her employer’s insistence that she not sway her report one way or other, when Ken knew the kind of work she did. In fact, he’d told her repeatedly that was why she was picked for this project. “Let me know as soon as you start on the report, all right?”

“I will. Don’t worry, Ken. You can count on me.”

“Good.” Muffled sounds of a hushed conversation filtered through the phone line. “I got to go.” The line went dead.

Sarah stared at her silent phone for a moment. It rang again.

“Don’t worry, Ken,” she said as she lifted the phone to her ear. “I have it covered.”

“Well I’m glad to hear that,” Walt’s voice sounded. “You made it all right?”

“Just got here.” She sat down on the bed, the comforter soft beneath her.

“So how soon can you wrap up your work and come back? I have an important function in two weeks. I’d like you to be there.”

Sarah rolled her eyes. They’d discussed this. “I have an open ended assignment, Walt. I’ll be here as long as it takes to get the job done.”

He guffawed. “Go out, take a look around and write your report. You’ll be home in a week.”

Sarah shook her head, feeling displeasure pull the corners of her mouth down. He didn’t understand. “I take my work seriously, Walt. I’ll be here as long as it takes.” From downstairs, she heard rustling. She needed to find out more about her host. Interviewing him would be the perfect place to start gathering information. “Good bye.” She disconnected the call. Later, she’d deal with Walt and decide just what she was going to do about him.

 
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