Page List



It was a good thing Julie’s goggles had the added fabric on the bottom that covered the rest of her face. She hadn’t stopped smiling like a loon the entire way back to camp and the thirty minutes it took her and Gunnar to get the dogs settled. Clark and Sunny had already set up the second tent and had snow melting for the dogs.

Stomping to the tent Mason lay injured in sobered Julie’s soaring mood. She hated that he’d been hurt, hated that they’d have to call the expedition when they were so close. The night before, Gunnar had pulled up their location on the GPS and informed them they were only a week away, shorter if they could keep the decent pace they’d settled into the last week.

But with one wrong step, the expedition had failed.

She scanned the dogs curled into their straw beds and the sleds stocked with supplies. Her gaze traveled farther out to the horizon and the variations of blue showing salty ice newly formed from the constant shifting of the ocean. Soon, the sun would set low in the south, and the ice and snow would turn brilliant shades of pink and orange like a final bow before the curtain closed.

Sure, there’d been times she doubted why she’d come. The frigid temperatures, brutal winds, and loneliness that came from hours of mushing often made her introspection turn negative, especially at first. Each day she pushed farther, and each night that filled with camaraderie edged the pessimistic self-talk further into the back of her mind.

She was a part of the team because she’d earned the spot. Not because of her father’s reputation. Nor because of their kennel’s. Her dedication to the sport of mushing and days and years spent in the rugged Alaskan wilderness earned her this once in a lifetime experience.

Even though they wouldn’t make it to the Pole, she would forever remember the adventure for how it showed that her passion for mushing was her own. Born from legacy. Frozen into her soul through miles of hardship.

“I’m gonna miss this.” She blinked the moisture away as footsteps crunched behind her.

Gunnar stopped beside her, wrapping one hand around her back and pulling her into a side hug. “Me too.”

She leaned into his side, a ghost of the gleeful grin returning. Even if they didn’t reach the finish line, she still received a prize worth more than gold. Having Gunnar back in her life beat mushing to the North Pole, paws down.

“Let’s go see when the plane will be here.” She pulled him toward the tent, smiling when he unzipped it and motioned her in like the gentleman he was.

The tent seemed to shrink as the four mobile members of the team squeezed around an outstretched Mason. Pain pulled his mouth tight, and Julie patted his shoulder gently in comfort. If she could give him a hug, she’d give him a big one. The poor guy had planned this trip for five years. The last two, it took up most of his focus. Miserable couldn’t begin to explain how he must feel.

Julie sniffed. “Tough break.” She slapped her hand over her mouth. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

Her eyebrows went to her hairline as she darted her gaze to everyone. How could she be so insensitive? She didn’t need the propane stove burning in the corner to heat her cheeks. Her humiliation did a fine job.

Mason chuckled, then guffawed. His shoulders shook as the loud sound filled the tent. Everyone joined in the laughter, and the tension eased through the thin tent fabric.

“When does the evac arrive?” Gunnar rubbed his hand across her shoulder and got right to business.

“There’s a storm south of here, so it won’t be able to come until the weather clears.” Sunny sighed, pouring hot water into a mug lined up next to three others, and chocolate-scented steam wafted into the air.

“Okay, do we have enough medical supplies to keep gimpy comfortable? There’s no worry of infection setting in or him losing circulation to his foot?” Gunnar shot the questions at Clark.

“From what I can tell, it’s a clean break and shouldn’t cause issues, other than the obvious.” Clark checked Mason’s leg and adjusted the ice pack.

“So, we wait. There are plenty of supplies, and as long as the ice doesn’t shift much, the open area Mason’s dogs took off down makes a perfect runway.” Gunnar shifted to his knees, and Julie pressed her lips to keep a chuckle in, amused at his military tone. “I’m going to organize our supplies. Get us set up for long-term.”

“Nope.” Mason sighed. “You’re going to get supplies moved to yours and Julie’s sleds.” His determined stare shifted from Gunnar to her. “You two are finishing.”

“What? No.” Julie shook her head.

“Yes.” Mason grimaced as he pushed himself to sit up. “Julie, we’ve worked too hard and too long to give up now, especially when we are so close.”

“But, I—”

“We’re a team. If you two make it, then it’s a win for all of us.” Mason talked over her.

“But what if the rescue plane can’t make it? What if your injury turns septic or something?” Her eyes bounced between all of them. “Shouldn’t Gunnar be here to help Clark? I mean… his medical experience is the reason he’s on the team.”

Why was she arguing? She wanted to finish and make it to the Pole. It just didn’t feel right leaving the others behind.

“The storm is only supposed to last a day or two.” Clark took the mug Julie handed to him. “It’ll be fine. With Sunny’s experience guiding up Mount Denali, she has more than enough skills to help.”

Julie pushed her fingers along her eyebrows, her head shaking in disbelief. Pairs went to the North Pole every year. Heck, people ventured solo on cross-country skis. It’d be fine with the two of them going on, but was it right?

Tags: Sara Blackard Alaskan Rebels Romance