Chief of police Jamie Allen is smitten by the new arrival in his remote Alaskan town of Barrow until he realises Ephram Welles comes with baggage—he’s an ex-con.
Any liaison between them is strictly forbidden. Jamie would be risking his job and reputation if he tangles with a convicted felon.
But Ephram isn’t easy to resist. He’s everywhere Jamie turns, and the mutual chemistry between them is sizzling hot, just waiting to explode. Jamie’s willing to risk everything for just one night of passion with Ephram, but can he stop there?
“I heard the SmartShop grocery store has a new manager,” John Savage said around a bite of his sandwich. “It’s gotten too much for old man Springfield.”
On the next stool, Police Chief Jamie Allen glanced at him with disinterest. “Is that right?” There wasn’t a lot to do around there. That was probably the highlight of the week’s gossip. The diner was packed that morning, and he knew most everyone by sight. In a town like Barrow, those four thousand faces got familiar quickly. Springfield had been in trouble for bootlegging from under the counter of the SmartShop before Jamie had arrived there, and he guessed it was only a matter of time before the owners let him go.
“Yeah. He’s an outsider too. Moving up here from Florida or some such place.” Savage cackled somewhat sadistically. “Man, what a shock he’s going to have. Fancy choosin’ the day after onset of polar night to relocate to Alaska.”
Jamie looked at him. He suspected that just because Savage was depressed, like a lot of people during the dark winter months, he bore the new arrival ill will. The thought irritated him. It was hard enough there without people like Savage gloating about it. “Then you’ll help him settle in, won’t you, John?” He held the muddy brown-eyed gaze of the town busybody and occasional petty criminal steadily. “Any problems he has, you tell him to come see me.”
Savage licked his lips nervously. He wiped his greasy fingers on his napkin. “No problem, Chief. I can look out for him.”
“Sure you can.” Jamie went back to his scrambled eggs. He watched the waitresses bustling about behind the counter, and his mind drifted to the sunshine and palm trees of Los Angeles. Was it too far to run up here to this place where you came when you didn’t want to be found? Jamie wasn’t sure. It had been a wrench, losing his relationship, his home, and his job, then starting again thousands of miles away. Should he have let Will’s infidelity drive him away from all he knew? Had it been an overreaction on his part? He squeezed his eyes shut. It still hurt.
He pictured that last scene, when he had confronted Will with what he knew. How it had escalated to screaming and then, God help him, it got physical. Jamie had thrown the first punch, and Will had thrown one right back. They’d tussled violently for a few heart-rending moments, smashing ornaments and bumping into furniture, and then it was over as soon as it had begun. Jamie had stood there breathing heavily, his nose dripping blood, looking at the man he had given up three years for and no longer knew.
The door opened, and a blast of arctic air on the back of Jamie’s neck startled him from his reverie. Damn it…he still wasn’t dealing with the temperatures here even two years later. Maybe it was time to cut his losses and go home. His family and friends were in L.A. He’d only made one close friend here, and the rest were acquaintances. The climate wasn’t the only challenge. The crime kept him busy. Alcohol and drugs lay at the root of most problems.
Savage slid off his stool. Maybe he’d decided Jamie’s early-morning conversation skills were lousy. “I’ll see ya around, Chief.”
Jamie inclined his head. He took a sip of coffee and sighed. Both years he’d felt his spirits dip with the slow slide of the sun below the horizon in November. As the twilight got less and less in the run-up to the winter solstice, so his energy and tolerance levels faded. He’d seen his doctor, started on some vitamin D supplements and got a UV light, but still, he was nowhere near full strength. He hated feeling that way. Perhaps he just wasn’t cut out for Alaska. He shook himself from his self-pity, put a couple of bills and some change on the counter, and got up. It was time to start the day. He stepped outside into the dark.
He fired up the Ford Expedition and headed back the short distance to the police station on Kiogak Street. A pile of paperwork on his desk awaited him—official letters about town projects, meetings, various updates. Jamie stared at the wall for a long while. Maybe the trouble was loneliness. He hadn’t been with anyone since arriving there. How could he, when any sexual indiscretion would likely come back to bite him in the ass when he saw the person in question in the grocery store or the diner next day? In a tight-knit community, everybody knew everyone else’s business. And while Jamie wasn’t closeted, he wasn’t sure how accepting the locals would be of their gay police chief. The answer was to look elsewhere—when he had to go to Anchorage or Fairbanks on conferences. But still, a one-night stand didn’t equal a relationship, someone to warm his sheets in the never-ending winter up here.
He pushed his chair back. He wasn’t a chief who sat on his ass pencil-pushing, even though the powers that be would rather he did that. He liked to get involved, know what was going on out there in his city. A cruel wind stung his face and made his eyes water as he walked to his patrol car.