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Excerpt of Past Lies by Bobby Hutchinson


Harlequin Superromance 1325
January 2006
Featuring: Ivy; Alex Nolan
ISBN: 0373713258
Add to Wish List

Romance Series

Also by Bobby Hutchinson:

The Family Solution, August 2007
Mass Market Paperback
Echoes, January 2007
Past Lies, January 2006
Good Medicine, March 2005
Undercover Summer, June 2004
Married In Spring, February 2002
Merry Christmas, Baby!, October 1996
Their First Noel, November 1995

Excerpt of Past Lies by Bobby Hutchinson

Well, here I am at last, the Final Frontier. The boat just dumped me off in Valdez "which, by the way, the natives here call Valldeeze." A dude with a beard and an attitude corrected my pronunciation. Tell the sprout his old man's about to start off on the adventure of a lifetime.

From letters written by Roy Nolan,

April, 1972

Valdez, Alaska

Present Day

BE THE HELICOPTER, and keep an eye on the torque gauge.

Ivy's dad had drilled those axioms into her head while teaching her to fly. Like a soundless litany, his rules flitted through her mind as the altimeter needle dropped and she expertly guided the Bell Jet Ranger toward her targeted landing spot high on La Grave Mountain.

Sure, she'd flown the Bell innumerable times. And yeah, she'd attended professional flight school. But it was still Tom's voice she heard as she systematically ticked off the details of her landing procedure.

Pay attention to the wind, watch your approach speed, beware a right crosswind � and never get cocky. Safety never takes a holiday.

The Ranger hovered and then settled with a gentle bump exactly where Ivy had planned to bring it down, the rotors kicking up clouds of snow. As the blades slowed and the white storm settled, Ivy squinted through her sunglasses against the blinding sunshine glinting off glaciers, sending up prisms of color.

Mid-April inAlaska meant that the temperature on La Grave was a chilly twenty below. There'd been thirty centimeters of new snow this week in the higher altitudes, and the skiing was reportedly fantastic.

Ivy didn't know that from personal experience. She skied cross-country and conservatively downhill, but there was no way she'd strap boards on and attempt the heart- stopping crevasses and perpendicular drops of these sheer mountain cliffs. Extreme sports struck her as ridiculously foolhardy, although of course she'd never say any such thing to these ski bums and their guide who'd paid her top dollar to ferry them up here.

"Okay, gentlemen, last stop. Everybody out." Ivy's voice sounded loud in her ears as the rotors slowed. She opened her door and balanced on a strut to help unload the men's equipment. "Great flight, skipper. You free for dinner tonight, by any chance?"

Ivy smiled at Glen as the muscular giant from Lake Tahoe strapped on his skis. He'd been hitting on her the past couple of days. He was probably in his early thirties. She was only twenty-seven, but she'd already outgrown him. Glen was looking for the next thrill. He wanted new ranges, new mountains. New lovers.

She understood that, because she used to be just like Glen. But somewhere along the line, she'd changed. Now she was looking for � what?

Stability? Long-term? No simple answer came to mind. How come it was always easier to know what you didn't want than what you did?

"Sorry," she said as he looked at her hopefully over the top of his expensive sunglasses. "I have a standing date with my steady tonight, and for some reason he doesn't believe in sharing."

It was a white lie. Well, maybe it was more like a whopper. She did have a dinner date, but there was no steady guy. Definitely not. Although Dylan was starting to make assumptions about that, and it was time to set him straight.

Glen pretended he'd been stabbed in the heart and had to slowly pull out the knife. There was laughter and good- natured ribbing from the other two guys.

"I'll be waiting at the pickup point around three this aft. Try to keep the slippy side down, troopers."

The package they paid for through Raven Lodge included instruction from a certified Heli-Ski guide, drop-off by helicopter at the top of the mountain and pickup at a designated spot at the bottom.

With a flourish and a final wave, they were off, gliding through the powder like dancers. Ivy climbed back into the Ranger and began her preparations for takeoff, a smile on her lips.

This was always the best part of her job, this time alone in the copter after the customers were safely delivered to their destination. Now she could relax as she lifted off and skimmed over the breathtaking Chugach terrain, catching glimpses of sparkling lakes, soaring over row after row of tall glaciers. Ivy had been born in Alaska, and sometimes she imagined there was still an invisible umbilical cord stretching from her heart down to the soul of this wild and magical land.

"It's born in us, love of the land and the air," her father had once told her. "It's an addiction, but it's a good one."

She lifted the Bell up and over the final peak and began the descent to Valdez. As the ground came up to meet her, she could see her father standing outside the mobile trailer that served as an office for their company, Up And Away Adventures. Tall and barrel-chested, Tom Pierce was still ruggedly handsome and incredibly fit for a man nearly sixty years old.

She set the chopper down precisely in the center of the cement landing pad and shut the engine off. The rotors thwacked as they slowed, before finally stopping. Ivy pressed the flight idle stop button and rolled the twist grip to full closed position. Light switches, off. Battery switch, off.

Another mission accomplished, Captain.

HE WATCHED AS HIS daughter expertly landed the copter on the pad. When the rotors stilled and the motor died, Ivy opened the door and jumped down, her long, lean body as toned as any athlete's. She waved her blue-billed cap at him in greeting, then ran her fingers through the short, thick copper curls cut boyishly close to her scalp.

Ivy's mother had had hair that same color when he first met her, although now Frances had let hers go snowy-white. She wore her hair long, down past her shoulders. She styled it every morning with an artist's precision and an arsenal of equipment. Tom had always liked watching her.

Lately, though, she closed her bedroom door. Ivy, now, she wasn't interested in gilding the lily, not that she needed to. She, too, was beautiful, although in a very different way than Frances.

Ivy didn't accentuate her looks or even seem to be aware of them, which of course drove her mother nuts. Under his mustache, Tom's narrow mouth curled into a small, enigmatic smile. Frances's makeup case was bigger than most suitcases, and all Ivy carried with her was a tube of stuff that kept her lips from chapping.

"Hey, Captain." Ivy smiled at him, her high, Slavic cheekbones an inheritance from his father's side of the family. Tom's sister, Caitlin, had them, too. But Ivy's hair and her wide-set apple-green eyes were gifts from her mother, reminding him, as always, of Frances when they'd first met.

Tom rubbed a hand absently across his chest, where the familiar tightness lodged whenever he thought about his wife.

"So what's happening?" Ivy looped a hand through his arm, and with an affectionate squeeze he trapped it against his side. She was only a couple inches shorter than his six- two. He'd long ago stopped caring that she automatically shortened her stride to accommodate his limp. The old leg injury was bothering him more than usual today, maybe a storm coming.

"We got any more charters lined up?"

"Nope, not for today. Might be some last-minute tourists, you never know." Tom shook his head. "Just got back myself, I took that load of supplies up and dropped it where those damn fool climbers wanted. No sign of them, although their tent was there. I buzzed around a few times, place was deserted."

"Probably halfway up the mountain," Ivy speculated. "Climbers wouldn't waste a morning like this waiting for their supplies to arrive."

"Maniacs, the lot of them."

"Yeah, well, as long as we keep our radical opinions to ourselves, Captain, they'll go on hiring us. And that's good for our bank balance."

"I can play nice guy with the best of them," he snorted. "Never pissed off a client yet."

"What a track record, keep up the good work." Tom knew that visitors to Alaska often viewed him as an eccentric local character. He figured it didn't hurt their business at all.

She playfully punched his arm. "You're such a phony. Everybody knows there's a soft gummy center under that prickly surface."

Not everybody. He knew for a fact Frances didn't think so. Tom squeezed Ivy's arm a little tighter and changed the subject.

"I've got that lumber and insulation Theo ordered loaded on the boat."

Raven Lodge was in a remote bay accessible only by boat or plane. "I'll take it up to the lodge this afternoon if we don't get any last-minute business," Tom declared. "Theo really wants to get going on those new cabins. I hear he's hired some damned yahoo from down south to help him."

"Oh, yeah? And how'd he meet this yahoo?"

"Jerry down at the Anchor introduced them when Theo was in town a couple days ago. Perfectly fine carpenters right around here � you'd think Theo would hire local."

"Everybody's working on the new hotel," she reminded him.

"Well, I hope this dude has more going for him than that so-called fishing guide from San Francisco Theo hired last year."

The idiot hadn't known his elbow from his ass. He'd somehow foundered a boat with four tourists out in the Sound. Just luck that another boat was nearby, or the lot of them would have died from hypothermia.

"Uncle Theo must have liked this current yahoo or he wouldn't have hired him."

Tom knew she was teasing him. He grunted. "Theo likes everybody, that's his biggest problem." It wasn't a criticism of his brother-in-law so much as a statement of fact.

Excerpt from Past Lies by Bobby Hutchinson
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