“Getting stuck here for the night wasn’t what I planned, either,” she reminded him. “I don’t appreciate being here any more than you want me,” she said, and then felt she should explain further. “I need to be back in Chicago. Sophie will cover for me, but …” She stopped when it was clear he had no interest in listening to her concerns.
He paused, glanced up, and said, “You should have considered that earlier.”
The wind continued to howl and hiss, reminding her that it could be days before Sawyer would be able to return. This was quickly turning into an unmitigated disaster.
She was deep in her worries, and dinner proved to be a miserable affair. Finn served the stew, which he, thankfully, shared with her. The meat didn’t have a familiar taste, and Carrie decided she was better off not knowing what it was. Bear? Walrus? Mountain goat? For his part, Finn seemed to think if he pretended she was invisible he could completely ignore her. He made it clear he wasn’t interested in conversation. Carrie took the hint and ate her meal in silence. When she’d finished, she politely complimented his efforts and thanked him.
Almost immediately after dinner, Finn went into the bedroom and returned a few minutes later with two thick blankets and a pillow. Without a word, he handed them to her.
“Thank you,” she said, taking them from him and holding them against her chest. He might have the personality of a rattlesnake, but she wasn’t about to let his bad mood affect her.
Apologizing to Hennessey, she made her bed on the sofa, scooting it as close to the stove as she dared. As soon as she lay down, Hennessey leaped up and snuggled next to her legs. Stretching out her arm, she welcomed the canine’s warmth. This was probably the earliest she’d gone to bed since she was a toddler.
Although she should be exhausted, Carrie found her mind racing. “He’s not going to give me the interview,” she told the dog, rolling onto her back and staring up at the log beams of the ceiling.
“Maybe I will interview you,” she said, and gently petted Hennessey’s head.
The dog rested his chin against her knee in a move that both comforted and warmed her.
“Okay, Hennessey, tell me what it’s like living with the great Finn Dalton, esteemed author of Alone.”
She waited, pretending to listen to his answer.
“You can’t mean to say you actually like spending countless hours with such a cantankerous owner? I’m wrong, you say, and he really isn’t as bad as I assume? Frankly, I find that hard to believe! Oh, I’m sure you’re right, Finn Dalton can be civil, but unfortunately he sees me as an evil threat and he wants to boot me out of here as fast as he can. I know, I know, it’s a shame we couldn’t have reached an understanding. It’s only a matter of time, you know, before others track him down.”
Again she paused as though taking in the dog’s comments.
“Yes, I hear you. To you he’s a good guy, but to me he’s rude and arrogant and a narcissist. Oh, sorry, narcissist is a big word. It means he’s completely hung up on himself.”
A loud snort came from the other room, which was a sure sign Finn was listening in on their conversation.
“Okay, I realize you have a few questions for me, too. Ask away.”
She pretended to be listening before she answered. “Like I explained earlier, America is interested in learning what they can about the man who wrote Alone. They see Finn as some sort of hero. Little do they know what he’s really like.”
She paused and waited for a couple of moments. “Oh, you want to know how I was able to find him when so many others have failed? Sawyer asked me the same question. He told me a handful of reporters have tried to bribe him and a couple of other bush pilots to help locate Finn, but none of Finn’s friends would betray him.” She yawned as if she were ready to call it a night.
“Answer the dog’s question.” Finn stood in the doorway, holding back the fabric partition. “I’m curious to know what you have for me that convinced Sawyer to bring you here. He’s a good friend, and I know he wouldn’t be easily swayed.”
Carrie sat upright and wrapped her arms around her bent knees. So this is what it took to get the mighty Finn to open up. “If you must know, it was what I told him about your mother.”
“My mother,” Finn repeated slowly. “What does she have to do with any of this?”
“I found her, and—”
“You searched out my mother?” he demanded in what came across as anger mingled with restraint.
“Well, yes. So have others, but I was able to convince her to talk to me. Your mother and I had a good chat, and—”
Finn took two steps into the room and braced his hands against his hips, looking at her as if she were the lowest of the low. “You actually talked to my mother?”
“I just said as much, and she—”
“I don’t care what she said. I want nothing to do with her.”
Carrie sighed, feeling wretched for Joan when all she wanted was to connect with her son. “She told me that you’d probably react like this the minute I mentioned her to you.”
“She walked out on my father and me—”
“Oh, come on, Finn, you have to know it’s more complicated than that. She loves you, and your father didn’t give her many options.”
“Listen, Ms. Busybody, this is none of your business, so stay out of it.” He marched back to the bedroom and pushed aside the curtain with such force she was surprised it didn’t rip in half.
Carrie was ready to wash her hands of this obstinate, unfeeling man. He was unreasonable, unforgiving … and a dozen more unflattering words that circled her mind. Lying back down, she stared up at the ceiling. Hennessey remained at her side.
“He really has mother issues, doesn’t he?” she told the dog, lowering her voice to a whisper.
“I heard that.”
Carrie ignored him, seeing how well he’d managed to pretend she didn’t exist. “His heart must be as cold as ice not to care about his own mother.”
“Stay out of it, Carrie.”
She ignored that, too.
“His attitude toward her explains a great deal. It seems to me Finnegan Dalton has distinct abandonment issues, right along with issues regarding all women.”
He laughed as though he found her analysis amusing.
“Why else would he choose to live in the Alaska wilderness alone?”
“You think you’re clever, don’t you?” he muttered.
“But all that is probably just the tip of the iceberg.”
“Would you stop!”
“Alone is right.” She raised her voice to be sure he heard her loud and clear. “He’s probably been running away his entire life. Then he had to go and make the mistake of writing a bestselling book that captured the public’s attention. How unfortunate for him.”
The blizzard howled outside the door, and Carrie was grateful Hennessey had chosen to stay with her. She punched the pillow several times and then lay back down, pulling the thick blanket over her shoulders and forcing her eyes closed. Finn Dalton could thank his lucky stars she wasn’t writing the article on him right that minute. She couldn’t think of a single flattering comment she could make about this ill-mannered man.
The minutes ticked past, but as hard as she tried, Carrie couldn’t fall sleep. The sofa was uncomfortable, and Finn had made her so angry the adrenaline pumped through her, making it impossible to relax.
“He hates all women, doesn’t he?” she asked Hennessey, keeping her voice low and soft.
The dog lifted his head, and she almost expected an answer.
“Not true,” Finn insisted. He stood in the doorway to the bedroom again, filling it with his bulk.
Ah, so he hadn’t been able to fall asleep, either. “Is so,” she returned with equal fervor. “How else do you explain yourself? Your mother was given very few options. My goodness, Finn, think about it. She was a southern belle; these harsh elements were too much for her. She wanted to compromise, but your father wouldn’t hear of it. She told me it broke her heart to leave you behind, but you and your father were so close she couldn’t bear to separate you. When you chose to stay with your father, she could have insisted, could have taken the matter to the courts, but she didn’t. She bowed to your wishes even though it broke her heart.”
“She told you all this, did she?”
“Yes, and that’s not all. She mentioned how rude you were to her when your father died. She attended his funeral to make what amends she could, and you rejected her.” Carrie’s jaw tightened just thinking about the unkind way Finn had behaved toward his mother.
“She had no right to be there. She remarried.”
“She loved your father, and she loves you.” It was beyond Carrie’s imagination that Finn would continue to shut his mother out, especially after losing his father. “You were a boy when she left. You only heard one side of the story.”
“So did you, and frankly, what’s between my mother and me is none of your concern.”
He was right; Carrie was butting her head into areas that had nothing to do with writing the article. However, now that she’d started, she couldn’t seem to stop. “Your mother wants you in her life. You’re her only child.”
“She should have thought of that twenty-five years ago.” As though he was exhausted from their argument, he slowly shook his head and whispered, “Just go to sleep, would you?”
She was about to mention how uncomfortable the sofa was, but he might assume she was looking for an invitation to join him in his bed. Nothing could be further from the truth. “I’m trying, but you make me so angry that I can’t think straight.”
“Try harder.” The curtain between the two rooms swayed as he whirled around and returned to bed.
Carrie didn’t know how long it was before she managed to sleep. At some point in the night she woke from the cold and drew the thick blankets more snugly about her shoulders. Later, she was overly warm and kicked them free from her jean-clad legs.
At about midnight, she opened her eyes to find Finn standing by the stove, feeding it the wood he’d brought in earlier.
The next thing she knew, he was gently waking her. “You can have the bed now.”
She blinked up at him without understanding. He was fully dressed, and while it surely must be close to morning, the only light that showed came from the fire in the stove.
Finn led her into the bedroom, and once she’d crawled into the ultracomfortable feather bed, he covered her with thick blankets. “I’ll be gone for a while.”
“Okay,” she mumbled, already half asleep. Surrounded by warmth and comfort, she thought sleeping on this soft mattress was heavenly.
When she woke, it was still dark. She quickly put on every bit of clothing that she could fit into until her arms were so thick with two long-sleeved shirts and two sweaters that she could barely bend her elbows.
Although she’d never cooked on a cast-iron stove, it didn’t seem that difficult. The coffeepot sat on the stove top, but she was unable to get water from the faucet. Once she got the fire going, she opened the cabin door. She blinked at the cold that seemed to come at her like a giant fist. It stole her breath, but she managed to pack the coffeepot with snow and then quickly came back inside. Searching through Finn’s cupboards, she found coffee and quickly assembled a pot. The coffee had just finished brewing when she heard Hennessey bark.