He remained unmoved, so Carrie tried another tactic. Perhaps he would feel sorry for her. “I gave up spending Thanksgiving with my family in order to find you, but it’d be worth every one of my vacation days and a lot more if you were willing to give me an interview.” Studying him, she could tell he wasn’t the least bit concerned.
“Are you looking for sympathy from me?”
“No, of course not … well, maybe, just a little.”
He briefly closed his eyes and shook his head.
“I’ll tell you what,” she said in the same cheerful tone she’d used earlier. “I’ll let you preview the piece, give it your stamp of approval. If you don’t like it, then it won’t get printed.”
“Do you honestly expect me to believe that?”
“Well, yes, of course. I’m a woman of my word.”
“I’ve yet to meet one who is.” His words dripped with disdain. Snickering softly, he walked over to where the computer and the radio were set up. Pulling out the chair, he sat down, flipped a couple of switches, and put on headphones. It didn’t take Carrie long to figure out his call was to Sawyer.
Although Carrie could hear only one side of the conversation, it was enough. She was the main topic of interest.
“If this is a joke, I’m not laughing. Over.”
From Finn’s reaction, Sawyer was apparently amused.
“You’re way off base,” Finn shouted into the microphone. “Having a woman here, let alone a woman reporter, isn’t my idea of doing me a favor. I don’t care who she is or who she knows. Over.”
Sawyer replied, but Carrie couldn’t make out what he said.
“I don’t want her here, and that’s putting it mildly. Over.”
Silence followed. Finn rubbed his hand over his beard in what she could only assume was frustration.
“You have twenty-four hours to come get her. Over.”
He slapped his hand against the top of the table. “No … I don’t care about any damn storm. You brought this on yourself. Over.”
Carrie was worried. She really didn’t want to remain with Finn in this isolated cabin any longer than it took to get what she needed for the article. The sooner Sawyer came for her, the better. She needed to be back to work in Chicago. With the holidays coming up, there were any number of social events she’d been assigned to cover. If worse came to worst and she was stuck in Alaska, Nash would forgive her once she handed him the interview with Finn. Even in the short amount of time she’d been with him, she could relay a number of interesting details about the man.
“Twenty-four hours is my limit. Over.” Finn ended the conversation with what sounded very much like a threat.
Carrie was left to wonder what he would do if Sawyer didn’t return for her in the prescribed amount of time. Surely Finn wouldn’t put her out in the cold to deal with the elements alone. Would he?
When he finished he removed the headphones and turned off the radio.
Carrie remained frozen, hardly knowing what to do or say, so she did nothing.
Finn reached for his mug and drank down the last dregs of his coffee, and then delivered the empty cup to the kitchen sink. Carrie got out of the chair. Her own coffee was finished, so she followed him, the movement of the wool socks against the cabin floor nearly silent. Unfortunately she was closer behind him than either of them realized, because when he turned, he nearly mowed her down.
With his hands braced against her upper arms, he glared down at her, a deep frown etched into his forehead. “Stay out of my way.” Each word was distinctly spoken, leaving her in no doubt as to the strength of his feelings.
“Sorry … that was an accident.” She stuttered slightly, and while she attempted to figure how best to get his cooperation, Finn grabbed his coat, hat, and gloves, and after getting everything on, promptly walked outside.
Carrie stared at the closed door, too stunned to move. She’d had such high hopes for this interview, but if this “coffee time” was any indication of what was to follow, then she was going down in flames.
Hennessey remained by the stove, seemingly content to stay by the warm fire. Carrie got down on the rug next to him, sitting with her legs folded and her chin braced against her knees.
“He doesn’t like me,” she told the dog.
Hennessey lifted his head to gaze at her.
“I can’t say that I blame him. I barged into his life, and now I’m paying the price.”
To her delight, Hennessey lifted his chin and then rested it on top of her foot. Although Finn had warned her that he might bite, she gently placed her hand on the top of his head. After giving him a moment to adjust to the feel of her touch, she stroked the length of his spine.
“You’re nothing like the big, bad wolf Finn makes you out to be,” she whispered. “You’re a big puffball.”
Well, at least Finn’s dog liked her, and for now that was enough. She continued stroking his fur, burrowing her fingers into his thick coat. “Maybe I should interview you instead,” she suggested quietly. “How does that sound?”
The large wolf/dog didn’t indicate his feelings on the matter one way or another.
“Hennessey, tell me, what’s it like …”
The door opened again, and Finn came in along with a blast of frigid air and an armload of wood. Thankfully, he shut the door and latched it. He set the wood down by the stove, stacking it for the night.
“Can I do anything to help?” Carrie asked.
“I can’t,” she whispered.
“Don’t I know it.”
“I’d hoped … I’d assumed that Sawyer would fly me in to meet you, and the two of us could briefly chat and then I’d be on my way, mission accomplished.”
“And now I’m stuck with you.”
“Yes, I know, and I apologize.” Seeing that he didn’t welcome her help with the evening meal, she felt the least she could do was get her carry-on bag out of the way.
“Is there someplace you’d like me to put my suitcase?” she asked.
“You mean like in a guest bedroom?” he asked with more than a hint of sarcasm.
He snickered. “There’s only one bedroom, and only one bed, and I’m telling you right now I’m not sleeping on the sofa.”
This was an unwelcome predicament, and Finn wasn’t the least bit happy. The biggest shock was that Sawyer had turned on him. Sawyer O’Halloran was a friend, a good friend, and beyond reproach … until now. Their brief conversation left more questions than it provided answers. The woman had something for him, Sawyer claimed, but to this point she’d kept it to herself. Finn hadn’t questioned his friend, although the temptation had been strong. Whatever it was had convinced Sawyer to fly her in. To his credit, Sawyer had attempted to reach him.
After several hours of tense silence, Finn loaded wood into the stove and brought out the leftover moose-meat stew for his dinner. He glanced at Carrie and grumbled under his breath. She was a pretty thing, with hair dark enough to be called chocolate and startling blue eyes, although he tried not to notice anything about her. Women like Carrie Slayton were sure to leave a string of broken hearts in their wake, and Finn was determined not to be one of them. He noticed that she kept touching her head. It appeared to have something to do with her hair, which had twisted into springy ringlets after it’d gotten wet in the snow. She seemed to be self-conscious about it, waiting for him to tease her. He wouldn’t. Truth be known, he found her hair to be one of the most attractive features about her.
Not good. Noticing anything about the woman in his cabin was a sign of weakness, and Finn refused to allow her to take up one iota of consideration.
As much as he hated to admit it, what she said about granting her the interview made sense. If she’d been able to find him, then other reporters would as well, sooner or later. He’d ignored that inevitability longer than he should have. Not that her argument had persuaded him—nothing would. Finn wrote the book to share his love of the wilderness and to fill the long, lonely hours of the winter solitude. Never in his wildest dreams had he expected it to be such an overwhelming success. Thankfully, he’d done all the legal transactions through an attorney, with the stipulation that he maintain his privacy. He hadn’t agreed to a single interview, regardless of repeated attempts by his publisher. Despite how it looked, Finn wasn’t a recluse but simply a man who enjoyed his solitude. He wasn’t about to disrupt his life and become a media darling.
Finn didn’t dislike women; he simply didn’t trust a single one of them. Those were lessons he’d learned the hard way. His father was never the same after his mother left. He’d grown bitter and hard, and drummed those lessons into Finn. Later Finn had discovered on his own what his father had tried to tell him. Women were fickle and not worth the trouble they caused in a man’s life. He’d fallen for Pamela, but she’d hurt him the same way his mother had hurt his father. Thankfully, Finn had learned early in their relationship that Pamela wasn’t trustworthy. It embarrassed him to remember the way she’d played him. Finn made the mistake of believing he was falling in love with her only to learn she was married and bored and looking for a little action on the side while her husband was overseas. Finn was willing to admit he enjoyed being with women, but he knew better than to involve his heart.
He did feel bad about the sleeping situation. But Carrie was the one who’d come uninvited and unannounced. What she’d done was stupid and dangerous, and there were consequences. Finn refused to give her his bed, although the idea of sharing it with her was fairly tempting. He quickly shook his head, casting the image out of his mind.
Despite his best efforts, his gaze wandered back to her and her beautiful hair. Who was he kidding? It wasn’t only her hair that attracted him; she was a knockout. Little wonder Sawyer hadn’t been able to refuse her. No doubt she had a string of boyfriends as long as the Alaska shoreline.
Frowning, he realized he wasn’t the only one who noticed how attractive she was. Hennessey had cozied right up to her. Finn wouldn’t have believed it if he hadn’t seen it with his own eyes. Generally, Hennessey didn’t take kindly to strangers. It seemed his faithful mutt wasn’t immune to her charms, either.
As far as he was concerned, the sooner Carrie Slayton was out of his hair, the better.
Carrie swallowed hard as she surveyed the cozy living room off the kitchen. The couch was old and lumpy, but the only alternative was the floor. “Where would you like me to sleep?” She sat down on the couch, testing it, her hands at her sides. It would do in a pinch, she supposed, and it would be more comfortable than the hard floor.
“Wherever you want. The choice is yours, although I should warn you Hennessey considers the sofa his.”
Finn remained in the kitchen, and from what she could see he appeared to be putting dinner together, heating a pot on the stove. Although it was early evening, it seemed much later. The aroma from the stew was heavenly. Carrie’s stomach growled, reminding her that it’d been several hours since she’d last eaten, and that had been pretzels the airline handed out during the flight. In her rush to get to the airport, she’d skipped breakfast.
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