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Sniffling back more emotion, she looked again at her drinking buddy. Norrie’s usually meticulous hairdo resembled a broken bird’s nest, and she had wrinkle marks on her face from the crumpled-up blanket she’d clung to.

A half-empty bottle of whiskey appeared on the table between fallen-down glasses. Pools of liquid stained the magazines on the coffee table.

Strewn everywhere were bowls of popcorn, cheezies, and various other snack foods they’d filled up on rather than cooking.

Thumping from it’s painful reminder of their debauchery, her brain took it’s time to return her to the present. A world where howls of anger were mixed with the cries of a much tinier baby. Both needing attention.

“Christ, Demi. What time is it?”

“It’s still dark out. Can’t be too late.”

Norrie sat up and held her head. “A lot you know. It’s Alaska honey. Soon, we’ll be in darkness from mid-morning to late afternoon.” She groaned again and reached over to check her three babies. “Thank God we fed these guys before passing out.” She raised the sleeve of her sweater and yelped. “Fuck me, I should have opened the store by now.”

Shrugging, Demi answered. “Guess it’s going to be a late start today.” She knew her sympathy was lacking, but if Norrie felt even half the way Demi did, she’d be useless to get much work done anyway.

Norrie looked at Demi and began laughing. “You should see yourself. Your crazy hair is everywhere. Looks like you’re on one of those goofy TV commercials for shampoo.”

Rising slowly, bending her spine forward and back, Demi gathered her mane and using the scrunchie on her wrist, she wrapped the mess in a bun at the nape of her neck.

Norrie headed for the fridge where they’d stored the bottles she’d prepared and brought with her for her feline charges. Once she had four resting in a pot of water on the stove, she took a slab of meat from the container and left it on the counter.

“You want to feed that little bastard to shut him up or do you want me to?”

Demi grimaced first and then grinned evilly. “Hey, he’s your pal. You wanted me to keep him… you feed him. Maybe give him a pat for me.”

“Ha ha, very funny.” Norrie took the meat and headed for the bedroom. Demi heard her talking to the wolf pup and when her words were met with a vicious growl and what sounded like a lunge at the cage, she broke into a laugh.

Norrie returned, shaking her head. “Yep, he’s still our little sweetheart.”

Before Demi knew it, Norrie had gotten herself and her brood ready to return to town, leaving Demi alone with her own responsibilities. Deciding she needed to stay busy, she fetched the jars from the storage room Glen and Whit had added on to the back of the cabin and began organizing the bags of frozen berries she’d saved to make jam. According to Whit, blackberry jelly was his favorite.

And so she made a dozen jars for when he returned. Then she peeled and cut the apples from his tree to make the pies she’d promised herself to bake for his welcome home party.

Not paying attention to the weather outside, she finally finished her kitchen chores and looked out the window into a world of white.

Chapter Four

All the way back to the cabin, Glen fought with his conscience. He’d made a promise, under immense pressure it’s true, but he couldn’t break it and still call himself a friend. Yet having to lie to one of the two people who’d slipped inside his heart’s walls and made him care about himself – well that would be the hardest thing he’d ever have to do.

Once he saw the smoke from the cabin through the falling snow, his pulse doubled. Joy filled him to overflowing. Never in his whole life had he ever felt this way. As if someone who really cared waited for him and would make him feel better.

He pulled up to the cabin and parked Whit’s truck in its usual spot. Grabbing his gear, he headed for the front door, opened it, and stepped inside. What greeted him had his head spinning. Incredible smells made his mouth water. But before he could focus on any of that, his ears took over and he listened carefully.

Sounds from a furious young canine were coming from Demi’s bedroom but what made him break out with laughter was listening to Demi’s enraged responses.

“Don’t you bark at me you ungrateful pile of ugly fur. Little bastard. I’m just trying to clean up the mess you made. You want to get scabies from all this shit you keep dumping? Christ almighty, I already told you I have a hangover, but do you give a flying fuck? No! All you care about is driving me over the edge until I get Harold’s old rifle and shoot you between those grumpy green eyes of yours.”

Glen stepped inside the room and laughed harder. “I think he’s trying to tell you that you have company.”

Swirling around, glee coating her earlier cranky expression, Demi flung herself toward Glen. Her arms wrapped around his shoulders as she hugged him hard. Not realizing how foreign her behavior was, she clung fiercely and patted his back over and over.

“You’re home.”

He’d never heard sweeter words.

“Yes. Just pulled in. Couldn’t ignore the ruckus here. Came to check it out. Who’s your new friend?”

“Oh, you won’t believe it. Come. I’ll cook your favorite meal and tell you all about him, and the other little guest we have staying with us.”

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