NY Times & USA Today Bestselling Author
After an unstable childhood, Zoey Knight landed in Juneau, Alaska, during high school, and has never left. Now in her early thirties, she lives a quiet life that includes part-time caretaker for a beloved father figure. Despite the stability, she occasionally wishes for more adventure. She gets more than she bargained for when a plane she’s in goes down in a remote stretch of wilderness—and the only other passenger is a man she’s crushed on for years.
Life as a SEAL doesn’t allow for much spare time, but Mark “Bubba” Wright still regrets not trying harder to visit his pop. Now it’s too late, and the guilt is heavy when he heads to Alaska for the reading of his father’s will. The only bright spot is finding a girl he knew in high school on the same tiny plane. The same woman, it turns out, who’s been taking care of his pop…a girl he crushed on in high school.
Struggling to survive in the Alaska back country isn’t the kind of second chance either envisioned, but relying on each other makes Zoey and Bubba’s rekindled attraction hotter than ever. Funny how puzzling out who might want them dead can bring a couple closer together…
Mark ‘Bubba’ Wright’s father has died unexpectedly and he is heading home to Alaska filled with grief and guilt. At the airport he is surprised to see a woman sharing the flight with him.
It turns out he knows her, Zoey Knight had been in school with him and his twin Malcolm actually had dated her a couple of times. More than that it was Zoey who took care of his Dad, kept him company, listened to his stories, really an overall companion and friend. That kept her busy during the winter months, as her job at one of the tourist shops was part-time and only during cruise ship season.
They took off as scheduled, but then the unthinkable happens. An emergency landing on a lake, then instead of actually fixing the plane the pilot takes off again. Leaving Mark and Zoey stranded in the middle of the Alaskan wilderness.
This is a favorite scene.
“I should’ve been paying attention. I know better. But I was tired, and I let my guard down. It won’t happen again.”
“Mark, this isn’t your fault. How could we know this would happen?”
Much like it had in the airport, hearing his given name on her lips made him feel…odd. He couldn’t put his finger on why, though, so he simply ignored it. “Well, we both know my pop had plenty of money. So I’m guessing someone didn’t want us to make it back to Juneau for the reading of the will.”
“That’s stupid,” Zoey said. “I mean, making us disappear isn’t going to automatically make the money go to someone else…is it?”
Bubba shrugged. “I have no idea. I don’t know what was in Pop’s will or how he worded it. If he set up a trust, it’s possible if I was indisposed—or dead—it would go to someone else.”
Zoey’s eyes got big. “Who do you think is behind this?”
“That’s the million-dollar question, isn’t it?” he asked. “And something I should be asking you. You spent a lot more time with Pop than I did. Who do you think would want to get rid of us?”
“Us? I’m nobody. I wasn’t even related to Colin. Why would anyone include me in their scheme?”
“Another good question,” Bubba told her, glad she’d stopped crying. “And maybe you just had the bad luck of sharing a plane with me. But as far as you being a nobody, that’s definitely not true. I hadn’t seen Pop in forever, but I know that you’ve been by his side for over a decade. You were very important to him, and since he included you in his will, you definitely weren’t a nobody to him, either.”
Zoey stared at him in silence, and Bubba couldn’t read what she was thinking.
Eventually, she closed her eyes and sighed. “So someone wanted us both dead, or at least out of the picture so we couldn’t claim your dad’s inheritance? It’s a stupid plan.”
Again, Bubba chuckled. That definitely wasn’t what he thought she’d say. “I agree. Because if we are declared dead, whatever Pop left us will go to our heirs.”
“But it still leaves us with the question of who wants us dead,” Zoey said.
Bubba nodded. “Yes. But we have bigger things to deal with at the moment.”
Zoey looked around them. She hadn’t pulled out of his grasp. Bubba saw that she had a fleece-lined shirt tied around her waist, and he moved his hands down to tug at the knot.
“What are you—”
Before she could finish her question, he moved behind her and helped her shrug on the shirt. The temperature was in the lower sixties right now, but he was glad she had the extra layer because it would get quite chilly at night.
“Thank you,” she said when he walked back around her.
“We aren’t going to die out here,” he said in a sure, serious tone.
Zoey tilted her head up to look him in the eyes. “You don’t know that.”
“I do. Whoever was behind this messed up.”
She raised an eyebrow at him.
Bubba felt his lips curling upward again. God, she was adorable. “Their first mistake was thinking dropping us off in the middle of nowhere was going to get rid of us.”
“I hate to break it to you, Superman, but we have no food. No transportation. No way of contacting anyone. No shelter.” Zoey looked around comically. “And I don’t see any Ubers lining up to take us home.”
“Oh, ye of little faith,” he chided. “On a scale of one to ten, how comfortable are you with the outdoors?”
She frowned and wrinkled her nose. “Maybe a four. Four and a half,” she said.
Bubba beamed. “Perfect.”
“Perfect? Has anyone ever told you that you’re insane?”
“My teammates, actually,” he told her, straight-faced. “If you had said zero or one, then things might’ve been a little more difficult, but I can work with a four.”
Zoey shook her head and rolled her eyes, making Bubba suddenly want to grab ahold of her head and kiss the look of exasperation off her face. He didn’t have time to examine that reaction before she was talking again.
“Seriously, you’re crazy. I mean, I live in Juneau, so of course I’m somewhat familiar with the outdoors. You know as well as I do that we all like to be outside as much as possible in the summer because it’s so miserable, cold, and dark in the winters.”
“I do know that. What about exercise?”
“What about it?” she asked.
“Do you do it?”
Zoey sighed again, and her gaze slipped away from his. “If you’re asking if I’m secretly a triathlete or something, you’re going to be disappointed.”
Bubba didn’t like that he’d embarrassed her. He put a finger on her chin and gently turned her face back to his. “I have a feeling nothing you do could disappoint me.”
When she rolled her eyes again, Bubba internally sighed in relief. He liked her subtle snarkiness.
“To answer your question, I don’t work out regularly. I don’t like the gym, I feel too self-conscious there, working out next to the super-buff men and women who frequent the one in Juneau. But I also don’t have a car, so I walk a lot. The house I was renting from your dad was a few blocks from his own, so when I went over to help him, I walked. When I had to go into town, I rode my bike.”
Bubba nodded in satisfaction. “That’s great.” At her look of disbelief, he went on. “Seriously. Walking in Juneau isn’t exactly easy. Maybe you forgot that I lived there too. Dad’s house is at the top of that huge hill, and I know from firsthand experience that it’s not easy walking up there. And if you biked into town, you had to go up and down several hills. That will help a lot out here.”
Zoey bit her lip and looked around. “Mark, we’re in the middle of nowhere. We don’t even know what direction Anchorage is in. How in the world do you think we’re going to get there? We can’t walk. We were in the air for an hour!”
Bubba could hear her working herself into a frenzy, so he reached into one of the pockets of his cargo pants and pulled something out. He held it in his palm so she could see, and said, “We won’t have to walk all the way. Eventually we’ll run into someone. And I’ve got this.”
Zoey looked down at his hand, then back up at his face. “You have a compass?”
“Why not?” he asked flippantly. When she didn’t smile, he got serious. “It’s been beaten into my head to be prepared for just about anything. I might not have my duffle, but I promise that we aren’t going to starve or freeze.”
She swallowed hard. “Do you think we’re really alone out here? What if whoever planned this hid someone out here to make sure we didn’t make it out alive?”
Bubba had already thought about that. “Honestly? I hope like hell they did.”
Her eyes rounded, and she stared at him as if he’d suddenly grown three heads. “What? Why?”
“Because I could capture them and make them tell me who the hell’s behind this. They’d probably have supplies I could pilfer, as well. Maybe even a satellite phone.”
“You sound so sure of yourself,” Zoey said after a beat.
“That’s because I am. Zoey, I’m a Navy SEAL.”
He shook his head. “But I don’t think you really understand what that means.”
Stoker, Susan. Securing Zoey (SEAL of Protection: Legacy Book 4). Stoker Aces Production, LLC. Kindle Locations (427-486). Kindle Edition.
Even though Mark is sure his team would come after him when he doesn’t call to check in, it’s a long and sometimes treacherous hike heading in a direction they hope will lead to civilization.
I loved the conversations, the way Mark keeps her warm and teaches her things for survival out there. The chemistry between these two is obvious but neither act upon it as they trek day to day overcoming obstacles.
Full of intrigue, suspense, romance, some sizzle and so much more!
I really can’t wait for the next book in this series!
5 Contented Purrs for Susan!
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New York Times, USA Today, and Wall Street Journal Bestselling Author, Susan Stoker has a heart as big as the state of Tennessee where she lives, but this all American girl has also spent the last fourteen years living in Missouri, California, Colorado, Indiana, and Tennessee. She’s married to a retired Army man who now gets to follow her around the country.