Read Alaskan-Reunion Online

Authors: CBelle

Alaskan-Reunion

A Baby Between Them

After her father’s betrayal turned her hometown against her, Paige Reynolds fled Love, Alaska. Now she’s returned to mend the damage her dad’s actions caused. But repairing her broken heart is a different story. She must face Cameron Prescott, the man she left behind—and reveal he’s the father of her infant daughter. As Cameron falls in love with his baby girl, he can’t bury the growing feelings for her mother. In a time of turmoil, they turned on one another. But older and wiser, can Cameron and Paige learn that forgiveness may lead to their happily-ever-after?

“Under the circumstances, I thought it was best to show up here unannounced.”

“Circumstances? What circumstances?” Cameron asked, his mouth twisted. He let out a brittle laugh. “Are you talking about the fact that your father nearly bankrupted this town and then fled like a thief in the night? Or the fact that you’re not exactly welcome in this town?”

“All of that I suppose,” she said in a soft voice. “I knew if I had called beforehand, you would have refused to see me. Maybe even run me out of town again.”

His eyes cut straight through her. “You’re right. I would have told you to stay away. For good.” He spoke through gritted teeth. It seemed as if he was on the verge of exploding.

Even after all this time, it wounded her to see so much animosity in his beautiful green eyes.

Cameron’s harsh voice cut into the silence. His eyes sparked like molten fire. “Whatever brought you back to Love has to be huge. So, let’s cut to the chase. What are you doing here?”

Belle Calhoune
grew up in a small town in Massachusetts. Married to her college sweetheart, she is raising two lovely daughters in Connecticut. A dog lover, she has one mini poodle and a chocolate Lab. Writing for the Love Inspired line is a dream come true. Working at home in her pajamas is one of the best perks of the job. Belle enjoys summers in Cape Cod, traveling and reading.

Books by Belle Calhoune

Love Inspired

Reunited with the Sheriff

Forever Her Hero

Heart of a Soldier

An Alaskan Wedding

Alaskan Reunion

Get rewarded every time you buy a Harlequin ebook!
Click here to Join Harlequin My Rewards
http://www.harlequin.com/myrewards.html?mt=loyalty&cmpid=EBOOBPBPA201602010002

ALASKAN REUNION

Belle Calhoune

Where you go I will go,
and where you stay I will stay.


Ruth
1:16

For my brother, David.
You’re the bravest hero I know.

Acknowledgments

For all the readers who have embraced this Alaska series and who have let me know that they are waiting for more stories.

For my editor, Emily Rodmell, for being so enthusiastic about Love, Alaska.

Thanks to my fellow Love Inspired authors Sarah Varland and Angel Moore. Sarah—thanks for allowing me to constantly pick your brain about life in Alaska. Angel—thanks for all the pictures, cool facts and Alaska inspiration.

Chapter One

“I
t’s too late to turn back now,” Paige Reynolds muttered, her steps slowing as she neared her destination. Snow gracefully fluttered down from the pewter sky in Love, Alaska. She stuck her tongue out and tried to catch a snowflake. April weather in Alaska was unpredictable to say the least. Snow one moment and then nothing but blue skies the next. It was so cold she could see her breath swirling in the air right in front of her face.

From this vantage point, Jarvis Street looked quaint enough to be featured on an old-fashioned postcard. She, of all people, knew better than to give in to sentimentality. Greeting her past head-on wasn’t going to be a pleasant experience. Not by a long shot.

She’d stuffed her honey-blond hair under her hat and ducked her head down in order to minimize the possibility of being recognized by any of the townsfolk. Her arrival yesterday by seaplane just as it was getting dark had been deliberate. Landing in Love just as the sun went down lessened the chances of anyone noticing her.

Love, Alaska, a small fishing village, was located off the Pacific Ocean, on the southeastern tip of the state. She’d flown into Anchorage from her home in Seattle before taking the short flight to Love. She could only imagine the villagers’ reaction if they’d stumbled upon the secret she was cradling in her arms as she stepped off the plane. Paige had known from having lived in this town for years that few people would be hanging out at the pier at sunset. It was very unlikely that any of the villagers would have pulled out the welcome mat for her even if they had known of her return.

If anyone had told her a year ago that she’d ever come back, she would have called them crazy. The locals had run her out of town almost two years ago in the wake of a financial scandal involving her father, the town of Love’s treasury and the man who had once owned her heart. Even though she’d had no knowledge of her father’s embezzlement, she’d been caught in the cross fire and regarded as guilty by association. The daughter of Robert Reynolds had been deemed unwelcome in the town she had always adored. That knowledge still burned inside her.

It was a little bit ironic, considering all the media reports she’d seen recently about young women flocking to the town due to Mayor Jasper Prescott’s Operation Love campaign. Because of the female shortage in town, Jasper had reached out to the media and given an interview in which he invited eligible women to come to Love in order to be matched up with the single men.

She was probably the only woman the town wouldn’t welcome with open arms.

It was all right. They didn’t need to greet her with a ticker-tape parade. What mattered most was that she was back, with an agenda that might be beneficial for everyone in town, if they would only listen to her. She bit her lip as a rising tide of anxiety rose up inside her. There was no telling what might happen once the villagers discovered she had returned. As far as they were concerned, the treachery of Robert Reynolds had cost them a cannery deal that would have greatly improved the financial status of their town.

The fishing village of Love had always been abundant in cod, salmon, pollock and halibut. The idea to build a cannery had been an excellent one. It would have created jobs for hundreds of residents, increased local revenue and put the town on the map with regards to the export of canned salmon. It had also been the hope that people would move to Love as jobs became available.

Her father’s greed and selfishness in stealing the money earmarked for the venture had put a stop to those dreams and wounded a lot of people. And it had led to the town’s financial downturn when creditors sought payment for construction of the cannery. Trying to help repair the damage to the town would hopefully lead to her own personal healing. Despite her father’s treachery, she wanted to uphold his dying wish of redemption. And she needed to introduce her baby daughter to a father who had no idea about her existence. After all this time, she needed to do the right thing.

Everyone deserved forgiveness and an opportunity to make amends. But now being back in Love made her question whether her goals were way out of her reach. Had the choice to return to Alaska been a wise one?

Lord, please let this decision be the right one. My beautiful Emma needs to know her dad and he has a right to know her. And I need to make amends for my father’s actions and repair some of the damage he inflicted. I want to be a source of healing for all the villagers. And, if possible, I want to provide redemption for my father. So much is riding on this!

Paige felt the corners of her mouth tilting upward into a smile as the wooden sign embossed with gold came into view
.
The Moose Café. Cameron Prescott’s establishment. Her ex-boyfriend. The only man she had ever loved. Her knees trembled underneath her, threatening to give way at any moment. She steadied herself against the sheer magnitude of what the sign meant. Her father’s treachery hadn’t broken Cameron. He’d picked himself up, dusted himself off and built this café out of nothing but pure will and determination. That was who he was at his very core. She was so proud of him she could almost burst.

Cameron had been the love of her life. She’d long ago come to terms with the fact that he always would be. She had known he was special the very first time she’d laid eyes on him as a shy preteen. Since she and her parents had lived in Seattle for most of the year, she’d been able to catch only random glimpses of Cameron during summer vacations or holiday trips. Everything had changed with her mother’s untimely death, her father’s early retirement and their relocation to Alaska when she was fifteen. With Hazel Tookes, beloved owner of the Black Bear Cabins, playing matchmaker, she and Cameron had started dating and became a couple when they were seventeen. They had taken a break in their relationship when Paige had left Alaska to attend college. Upon her return four years later, they had picked up right where they had left off. Everything had been wonderful between them until the bottom fell out of their world.

Tears pricked her eyes at the thought of all Cameron had endured since the cannery deal fell through. The town had trusted him, along with her father, to deal with all aspects of getting the business up and running. They’d been in charge of hiring the employees, getting additional funding, overseeing the construction of the factory and handling the funds the town had appropriated toward the endeavor. When her father absconded with the town’s money, the whole project had folded. And Cameron had been branded as an incompetent fool. Everyone had whispered about how he had let the wool be pulled over his eyes by a con man.

Even after all this time, the guilt threatened to pull her under. Her father’s actions had torpedoed Cameron’s life and created ripples throughout Love. She pushed past the painful emotions, knowing she had to keep moving forward. She’d come too far to lose her nerve now. Even though she’d made mistakes along the way, the time had come to bridge the gap between them. It was time to lay everything on the table.

Paige peered into the huge bay window, basking in the soft glow emanating from inside. The café had a rustic charm. A quick glance reassured her that all the customers were gone. A black-and-white Closed sign hung on the door. Her pulse quickened as a familiar sight came into view. Hazel was vigorously cleaning off a table. With her commanding height and silver hair, the older woman had a striking appearance. She was one of the most formidable women Paige had ever known.

Gruff, loyal
Hazel.
She had a tough exterior but a marshmallow center. Once, not too long ago, they’d been friends.

Paige turned the knob and, meeting no resistance, pushed open the door and stepped inside. The little bell over the frame jangled. Warmth enveloped her like a welcoming hug. The savory smell of coffee wafted in the air. The aroma of baked bread rose to her nostrils. She inhaled deeply, then exhaled. The door made a clicking sound as she shut it behind her, leaving the snow and the cold in her wake. She took her woolen hat off her head and shook it free of snow, then quickly peeled off her mittens. Paige ran her fingers through her hair and smoothed a few flyaway strands back in place. Her heart thundered inside her chest.

“Sorry. We’re closed for the day. Stop by tomorrow morning and I’ll make you the best waffles known to man. I’ll even throw in a mochaccino on the house.” Hazel’s voice rang out loud and clear. It had an unmistakably brusque quality. She continued to focus on cleaning the table without even bothering to look up. After stacking a few plates and cups on a tray, she picked it up and balanced it against her middle.

“Hello, Hazel.” Paige’s simple greeting caused the older woman to swing her head up and lock gazes with her from across the room. A high-pitched squeak slipped past Hazel’s lips. The tray slipped from her hands, landing with a loud crash on the hardwood floor. Liquid spewed everywhere. Hazel stood there like a statue with her mouth agape.

“Hazel! Are you okay? What happened? What’s wrong?” Cameron’s voice washed over her like a welcome rain after months of drought.

He came rushing from the other room to Hazel’s side, and for a few seconds Paige was able to gaze at him without his being aware of her scrutiny. She clenched her hands at her sides as a rising tide of emotion overtook her in powerful waves. He was still achingly handsome. His chocolate-brown hair had grown out a little so that it now hung a bit past his ears. His profile was strong and manly. Paige couldn’t see his eyes, but she knew the moment they connected with hers she would have to steady herself against the impact.

He was wearing a dark brown, long-sleeved T-shirt with a cartoon moose on it. In other circumstances it would have made her laugh out loud.

She soaked in as many details as she could in a matter of seconds. She wanted to savor the visual he was giving her.

A strong desire to burrow herself against his chest swept over her. His strong arms had always provided protection. And love. It had been a long time since she had experienced that type of comfort and closeness. She stuffed down the urge to reach for him. Those days were long gone.

“Cameron.” Hazel uttered his name and then jutted her chin in Paige’s direction. With a look of confusion etched on his face, he swung his gaze in her direction. Time slowed down, and for a moment it felt as if it were only the two of them standing in the room. Everything else just faded away.

Cameron’s green-hazel eyes flickered, and she watched as a half-dozen emotions ran across his face. He took a step forward, then stopped. Hazel grabbed hold of his T-shirt sleeve and pulled him back to her side. She was in full Mama Bear mode.

“What are you doing here?” Cameron asked in a curt voice. His expression was now shuttered.

“Hello, Cameron,” she said with a nod in his direction. “I—I’m sorry to just drop in like this, but under the circumstances, I thought it was best to show up here unannounced.”

“Circumstances? What circumstances?” Cameron asked, his mouth twisted. His eyes seemed dazed. He let out a brittle laugh. “Are you talking about the fact that your father nearly bankrupted this town and then fled like a thief in the night? Or the fact that you’re not exactly welcome here?”

“All of that, I suppose,” she said in a soft voice. “I knew if I had called beforehand, you would have refused to see me. Maybe even run me out of town again.”

His almond-shaped eyes cut straight through her. “You’re right. I would have told you to stay away. For good.” He spoke through gritted teeth. It seemed as if he was on the verge of exploding.

Her mouth was as dry as sandpaper. She felt as if she’d lost all her nerve under the heat of Cameron’s anger. And Hazel was glaring at her with such venom. Her harsh facade served a purpose. She was protecting Cameron, who was the closest thing she had to a son. It warmed her to know that she was still looking out for him.

“Hazel, would you give us a minute? Alone?” It took every ounce of courage she had to make the request. Hazel had been shooting daggers at her ever since she’d walked in.

The older woman’s eyes bulged and her frown grew even more ominous.

“If you think I’m leaving Cameron here alone with you so you can torture him some more—” Hazel blustered.

“It’s fine, Hazel,” Cameron interrupted. He placed an arm around her shoulders and gave her a squeeze. “Thanks for the backup, but I’ll be all right.”

A silent form of communication passed between them. With a quick nod at Cameron, Hazel strode off toward the back of the café, her heavy footsteps the only sound echoing in the room.

Though she had asked for a private moment with Cameron, a feeling of awkwardness settled over her. An obvious tension hummed in the air between them. The intensity blazing from his eyes made her look away from him. Even after all this time, it wounded her to see so much animosity in his beautiful green-hazel eyes. She wrapped her arms around her middle. Her gaze focused on the coffee pooling on the floor and the shards of the shattered mugs that needed to be cleaned up.

Cameron’s harsh voice cut into the silence. His eyes sparked like molten fire. “Whatever brought you back to Love has to be huge. So, let’s cut to the chase. What are you doing here?”

* * *

Paige’s mouth opened, then closed. She cleared her throat. He easily recognized the signs of her anxiety. Her warm hazel eyes blinked rapidly. She bit her lip, shifting from one foot to another. Time hadn’t lessened her impact. As always, she took his breath away with her beauty. Her golden hair fell all around her shoulders in waves. He couldn’t help but appreciate her stunning features and heart-shaped face. She was the most beautiful woman he’d ever known. But unlike how he had in the past, he wasn’t about to tumble over the edge. Been there, done that. Falling for her had cost him everything. He had nothing more to give her.

Now when he looked at Paige Reynolds, all he saw were flashing warning signs.

“I’ll ask you again. What are you doing here?” He repeated the question, his tone curt. “It’s pretty foolish to come back to the scene of the crime.”

Other books

Bodies of Light by Lisabet Sarai
Under His Control by Richards, Lynn
Black Horn by A. J. Quinnell
Charlotte in New York by Joan MacPhail Knight
Beasts of Gor by John Norman
Cousins by Virginia Hamilton