Home > Maverick (North Ridge #2)(6)

Maverick (North Ridge #2)(6)
Author: Karina Halle

But as we clink our drinks against each other, I can’t help but think about what’s next for me.


I’ll meet this now infamous Riley Clarke.












“Ugh,” I moan out loud to myself. The alarm beside me has been going on and off for the last hour as I’ve pressed snooze again and again, trying in vain to stave off my hangover and slip away into blissful sleep where pain doesn’t exist and bright lights can’t hurt me.

But it’s by the billionth ring that I realize that if I don’t eventually get up and face the day, I’m going to miss out on orientation at the new job. And even though going out last night was regretful in more than a few ways, I don’t want to further that feeling by not showing up at North Ridge Search and Rescue at all. Even though I don’t start officially until later in the week, I still haven’t met my boss or been formally introduced to the team.

“Riley, you’re an idiot,” I tell myself. Yes, out loud. Again. Hey, when you live by yourself and don’t know anyone in a new town, talking to yourself becomes more and more comforting. I don’t even know why there’s such a stigma anyway, I dare anyone to tell me they’ve never done it themselves. You’re often your own best listener, even if you ignore most of your advice.

And today I’m listening. Because honestly, I am an idiot. I should have gone home last night right after I left The Bear Trap Pub, but instead I headed over to Altitudes bar, which I know is the hookup place in town. I’m not sure what I was thinking, other than that The Bear Trap seemed full of couples and cliquey friends and I think it started to get to me. What better way to waste a night than to head to a bar and suck face with the first guy I see?

But it was more than just sucking face. I got drunk, fast, and ended up bringing the guy back here to my place for a late night roll in the hay. God, I’m so fucking needy. I have no problems with casual sex, not in the slightest, but I did it last night because I was feeling lonely, and that’s usually the worst reason of all. You should get laid because you’re aching for dick and not because you feel you’ve lost your place in the world.

What the hell was even his name? Ned? Nate? All I remember about him is he was fairly cute, at least harmless looking, and was trying to talk me up the moment I stepped into the bar. You’d think that I’d get attention and pick up lines all the time, but the truth is, most guys stay the hell away from me. I’ve been told time and time again that they’re intimidated, but no matter the reason, it doesn’t really help me. When I meet a guy “brave” enough to say hello, it means a lot.

Apparently, in the town of North Ridge, it means enough for me to sleep with the damn guy. I didn’t even call it off when I discovered he had a micropenis, but dammit I should have.

I manage to turn off the alarm for good and swing my legs out of bed, taking in a deep breath and ignoring the throbbing in my temples. My mouth tastes acidic, my tongue rough. I know I’m supposed to be at North Ridge SAR in about an hour and yet I can’t seem to get my body in motion. Luckily, the basement suite I’m renting isn’t too far from the office. Then again, everything in this town seems within arm’s reach, a quintessential hamlet.

I wonder if Nate/Ned/whatever his name was already talked about me. If there’s something I know very well it’s how fast gossip spreads in a small town. I won’t be surprised if everyone already knows that he screwed the new girl.

Again, you’re an idiot.

It doesn’t help that I’m supposedly the only women on the SAR team here. I’ve had more than my fair share of misogyny being a woman in this field and the last thing I need is for word to spread that I’m sleeping around. I mean, I’m twenty-five years old and way past all that high school bullshit but like I said, I know small towns and most of them operate like an extension of high school.

Despite my brain having turned to mush and my body moving at a drunken snail’s pace, I manage to get ready and out the door. The bracing air automatically sobers me up, the temperatures below freezing and making my nose dry out, my eyelashes stick together. I haven’t a lick of makeup on my face because I know it doesn’t make a difference when I’m going to be completely red-nosed from the cold.

I head down the town’s main street, glad that I’m completely bundled under my faux-fur lined parka, my boots trudging in the fresh snowfall. The crispness in the air does a great job of clearing the cobwebs and making me feel excited about this job for the first time since I moved here last week. In some ways I’ve been dreading this new beginning and everything it means, but in other ways I know it’s exactly what I need in order to move on.

The North Ridge Search and Rescue office is a rather boxy and drab-looking building located near the edge of town that totally screams “government run!” Which it is. I’ve heard working for the government can be a bit of a no-fun zone with people who do things by the book. That’s not exactly me, but I was ready for a change when I applied. Plus, unlike so many SAR operations, they actually pay you a salary, with benefits to boot.

I walk up past a truck with the North Ridge SAR logo on the side and stop in front of the door, suddenly hit with a wave of nausea and a case of nerves. I know I have the job, but I’ve yet to meet the boss, John Nelson, or anyone else from the team. What if they don’t like me? Scratch that, I don’t care if they don’t like me, but what if they don’t need me? What if I’m not ready for this job again? What happens if it’s just all too soon—or that this cements the fact that there’s no starting over for me at all?

What if the past…hasn’t passed?

Somehow though I find the courage to put my gloved hand on the door and open it, stepping inside.

There are three things I immediately notice about the office; one is that the room is dimly lit with some pretty horrible, flickering lighting that gives the area a sickly glow. Two, it’s messy, printed photos and maps and papers scattered across several desks, coffee cups acting like paperweights and leaving stains, Cliff bar wrappers and crumbs dotted everywhere.

Three, there’s only one person in here. And the guy sitting behind a desk, leaning back in his chair like he’s waiting for an old friend to show up, is disturbingly handsome. Like, the kind of handsome that you know is dangerous and should be outlawed because it’s apt to make the world bend over for you, every woman to fall on their knees. The kind of handsome that’s beyond handsome, because it’s not just a masculine face with gorgeous baby-blue eyes and a jaw that can cut paper, it’s everything else that it’s attached to, a giant hulk of a man that can probably bench press a bear.

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