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PART I


Maggie sat with her feet propped on the hearth, trying to ease her tension, to think, but even after three days of recuperation her head still ached uncomfortably, a constant reminder that the ordeal she’d been through had taken everything out of her. And now worry kept her off balance. Opportunity to search for the arrest warrant or for her gun hadn’t presented itself. With each passing hour she became more certain Will must have found them and knew exactly who she was. So why didn’t he pack up and leave?

An open book in her hands, she tried to ignore him working at his potbellied stove. She didn’t want to notice the little things about him: eyes that twinkled when he allowed himself to smile, or his hands, large and capable, when they cut up potatoes, when they tended the fire, when they checked her ankle each day and rewrapped it. It took Herculean effort to remember those same hands had stabbed a pretty young girl to death.

Maggie leaned against the back of the chair with a sigh, uncomfortably aware of the strange sense of uneasiness growing between them. There was something damnably compelling about him, and she couldn’t ignore it.

She swallowed and tried again to read, but it was no use. “What are you cooking over there? It looks like enough to feed an army.”

He turned, and his eyes flashed with tension as though aware she’d been watching him. His expression softened. “I’ve got six hungry dogs outside. Sled dogs expend a lot of energy, so they need a lot of food. I try to get a week’s worth of cooking done all at once.”

She rested back against the pillows on the chair, and he turned back to his cooking. After a while the images around her began to blur, and her eyelids grew heavy. If she closed her eyes and emptied her mind for a minute or two, she’d better be able to deal with him, with her plight. Her eyes blinked, once, twice, and then they stayed closed.

Vaguely she remembered him lifting her. On the edge of sleep she breathed in his scent—the wood smoke, the meat he was cooking—as he carried her to his bed. She forgot all about searching his cabin for her gun and the warrant. He laid a blanket over her, and she thought she mumbled, “Thanks,” but wasn’t sure.

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