Back in Georgia, Jenna Rathburne was known as just "the pretty blonde." But from crushing on the smartest boy in school (and being rejected by him) to starting her own business in Alaska, Jenna has always defied everyone's expectations. Still, when her high school crush comes to Good Riddance, Jenna knows her own expectations--and her self-control--are about to get seriously tested...
Geologist Logan Jeffries is in Alaska on business. Specifically, to buy out the town of Good Riddance for a mining company. It's a fantastic offer...if only he could get someone interested in it! But someone is very interested in Logan--and he doesn't need a science degree to know his chemistry with Jenna is off the charts. And the longer he stays, the harder it is to say so long to Good Riddance...
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October 01, 2011
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Excerpt from Northern Fascination by Jennifer LaBrecque
Jenna stepped out onto Good Riddance, Alaska's snow-covered sidewalk, into the last of the October sun's dying rays.
Edging back into the middle of Main Street, Norms Watts dodged a pothole and waved Jenna more to the left. "I want to make sure I get the entire window in the shot." Curl's lettered window was something of an attention grabber. Curl's Taxidermy, Barber Shop, Salon and Mortuary.
"Wait. Let me grab Tama. He needs to be in the photo, too."
Norris sighed. "Fine, go get the cat." Norris wasn't really put out. She liked Tama as much as everyone else did.
Jenna dashed back into Curl's and picked up the big Maine Coon mix lounging on top of his scratching post on the far side of the room. "C'mon, you big punkin', photo op."
Tama blinked at her, unimpressed and she laughed, pressing a kiss to his furry head. She'd adopted him two months ago from a no-kill shelter in Anchorage. He was, without a doubt, the most awesome, perfect cat on the planet. Of course, he just happened to be her very first pet ever but he was still perfect.
He went everywhere with Jenna, except Gus's. Honestly, it was as if he was half dog because he followed her everywhere. She adored her fur-baby.
Holding Tama, Jenna stood to the right as Norris had previously directed. "How's this?" She held up one of Tama's paws as if he was waving and said to him, "Say kitty treat."
"Perfect," Norris said, speaking without removing the lit cigarette in her mouth. Her gravelly voice interested Jenna. The older woman, an unapologetic chain smoker, sounded as if she'd been puffing a pack of unfiltered cigarettes a day since birth.
She fired off a couple of shot. "Perfect. We needed to get those shots before the sun was gone completely. Now just a couple more questions, if you don't mind."
"Sure." Jenna didn't mind. She liked Norris. She liked everyone in Good Riddance.
Norris, even more of a newcomer than Jenna, had retired to Good Riddance in June after a fortysomething year stint as a reporter for a daily newspaper in Philadelphia. At first content with spending the longer days of the Alaskan summer fishing and camping, Norris had claimed to be bored out of her skull once the days began to shorten. She'd decided Good Riddance and the other remote towns needed a local newspaper to keep folks in touch with what was going on locally.
Because Jenna was one of the newer residents and a business owner, Norris wanted to do a "feature" on her. While Jenna didn't much see herself as particularly newsworthy, she was all for helping a friend. So here they were.
The photo over with, Norris took a final drag off her cigarette and extinguished it. She dropped the butt in a little tin she carried with her.
They stepped back into the "front room" of Curl's where Jenna worked at a table in the small rectangular room. A sink and a barber chair shared the area as well. Compliments of the taxidermy and mortuary located in the rear, a faint odor of formaldehyde always hung in the air, blending with the scent of nail polish and remover.
Luckily, Curl's animal stuffing business was a whole lot more active than his funeral home gig. In the past year there'd only been one funeral. While it had been kind of sad, they lived in a place where life and death seemed more accepted as the natural order of things.
Jenna returned Tama to his platform and gave him the promised kitty treat, earning a head bump against her hand. Crossing the room, she sat in the straight chair behind the table.
"So, I understand you initially came to Good Riddance with your former fiance, Tad Weatherspoon?" Norris eyed the straight chair on the opposite side of the table and shook her head.
"That's right." That had been a close call.
Norris settled in the barber chair and swiveled it around to face Jenna. "But once you got here, you found out he was still married to the town founder and mayor, Merrilee Danville Weatherspoon Swenson?" Norris popped a stick of chewing gum in her mouth. "Sounds kind of like a soap opera to me."
"Yeah, I guess it does. Life's sort of like that sometimes. Except on the soaps, they're always dressed up nice all the time--like that would happen in real life--and there are no commercial breaks."
Lucky, a retired Army cook who had taken over Gus's, the town restaurant, was addicted to two soap operas. From noon until two, Monday through Friday, both televisions in the place were tuned in. He'd even been known to burn a grilled cheese or two if there was a high-drama scene involved. These days, half the town crammed in to watch them, too.
"So, Tad was still married to Merrilee. And nobody in town guessed Merrilee was married, either?"
Norris said, shaking her head. "You've got to love a married man with a fianc�e on the side."
"Tell me about it. He said we were just coming for a visit. It turned out the reason for the visit was because he needed Merrilee to sign the divorce papers so he could marry me."
"But you didn't marry him?"
"Hel-lo, Norris. I'm here and he's not."
"I'm just checking facts."
Jenna nodded. "No wedding there. I didn't want to marry a liar. He'd lied about being divorced, his age and who knows what else at that point. I decided he wasn't the kind of man I was meant to be with." She'd mistakenly thought an older man had meant stability. Boy, had she been wrong.
"Why'd you stay here instead of going back to Georgia with him?"
"While I was here, I'd popped into Curl's to check out the place out since he advertised a salon. I have a beauty supply store back in Georgia which is doing well. I've got a great manager and it's set up as a profit-share. Every employee, after being with the company for six months, gets a percentage of the profits. They treat my business like it's their own, because...well, it kind of is. Anyway, Curl and I got to talking and I wound up doing a couple of manicures for free with some nail polish I had in my suitcase." It had been fun and the people were interesting, which was more than she could say about Tad at that stage.
"I discovered I really liked it here. So Tad left and I stayed."
To say she liked it here was an understatement. All she'd ever wanted was some stability in her life and a place where she could put down roots. Her heart had recognized Good Riddance as that place.
Tad had been mad as a wet hen. She smiled, thinking of him clucking instead of strutting around like the rooster he liked to pretend he was. "It was the best move I ever made. Well, actually, I guess you could say being engaged to Tad was the best move I ever made. Otherwise I wouldn't have ever come here. I'd never heard of the place before."