Chapter 2

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Chapter 2 ~ Valery ~

A loud crunch started Valery awake.

As Vince navigated a gravel road, the truck dipped back and forth and side to side — seemingly all at once. She held up her phone and checked the time.

Vince squeezed her knee. "Look who can't make it all night?"

As Vince had warned, it was a two-hour trip, and she had drunk a bit too much. But that's because she'd been working up the nerve to approach him. She'd almost chickened out, but then she'd spotted a saucy-looking redhead eying his dance moves.

Vince didn't need to know why she'd tied one on. She stretched and stared out at the port. "I'm wide awake now." She lowered the window to get the full effect of the bay. She'd missed the brisk Alaska air ... missed visiting the coast with Vince. Missed Vince.

Although sunset was technically around eleven-ish, the summer sun merely dipped behind the horizon a couple hours each evening. A golden hue tinged the skyline, casting the harbor in sepia tones that made it look like a vintage Field & Stream cover.

To the north, a high gated fence blocked passage to a large shipyard. Where they were parked, only a half-dozen or more boats bobbed softly, the mooring lines providing a soft creaking rhythm that alternated with the lapping tide. Shipping containers, primarily in faded shades of yellow, red, and green, dotted the banks, providing a wall of sorts.

Vince hopped out and extended his hand. Since she was in the middle, it was just as easy to scoot out the driver's side.

As she moved her legs over the side of the bench seat, he placed both hands on her hips and lifted her out, immediately setting her down.

Again, her heels sank into the gravel parking area. Her boots weren't made for this terrain.

Vince offered her the crook of his arm again and led her down the gentle slope to the awaiting pier. Only murky water rested beyond the marina, where the silty water of the cove made its way to Cook Inlet. When they were teenagers, Vince had brought her here in the late summer months, pointing out the beluga whales that hunted salmon.

On the dock, Valery paid special attention to where she stepped. If one of her heels lodged between the slats, she'd go straight down. That wouldn't be a pretty picture.

Vince directed her to a navy-blue boat with an orange cabin. "It doesn't have actual living quarters, but it's comfortable enough." He hauled the boat to the dock and held out his hand.

Valery accepted his help, but then pulled her hand back. "Hang on." She unzipped her boots and stepped out of them, picking them up with one hand, accepting Vince's outstretched hand with the other. "Don't want to walk on such a nice boat with these spikes."

"It is a nice boat." Vince hopped aboard and led her to the helm. "Plus, it's virtually unsinkable." He knocked on something that wasn't wood, and she almost burst out laughing. Both their mothers were extremely superstitious, but Vince had always laughed at their irrational folklore, reminding the women that they didn't live in the Old Country anymore. "It's self-righting," Vince continued, "and the hull is divided into five sections by watertight bulkheads. Great search-and-rescue boat."

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