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Authors: Julie Rowe

Icebound

BOOK: Icebound
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Icebound

By Julie Rowe

Dr. Emilie Saunderson is driven to finish her late husband’s research. Her quest brings her to Antarctica, where she hopes to find a measure of peace in the isolated and icy wilderness. It’s the last place on earth she expects to be given a second chance at love.

Tom Wolinski loves his work at the bottom of the world. Damaged by his dark past, he has vowed never to get close to anyone—a promise that’s easy to keep in a place with no permanent residents. That is, until Emilie arrives, and he’s irresistibly drawn to her warmth and inner strength.

Emilie has no desire to get involved with another adventurer, and Tom has made it clear he’s not interested in putting down roots. But as they work together to survive in the harshest of climates, they turn to one another for comfort. Is the heat between them enough to melt the ice around their hearts, and bind them together forever?

50,000 words

Dear Reader,

What do you get when you cross summer with lots of beach time, and long hours of traveling? An executive editor who’s too busy to write the Dear Reader letter, but has time for reading. I find both the beach and the plane are excellent places to read, and thanks to plenty of time spent on both this summer (I went to Australia! And New Zealand!) I’m able to tell you with confidence: our fall lineup of books is outstanding.

We kick off the fall season with seven romantic suspense titles, during our Romantic Suspense celebration in the first week of September. We’re pleased to offer novella
Fatal Destiny
by Marie Force as a free download to get you started with the romantic suspense offerings. Also in September, fans of Eleri Stone’s sexy, hot paranormal romance debut novel,
Mercy,
can look forward to her follow-up story,
Redemption,
set in the same world of the Lost City Shifters.

Looking to dive into a new erotic romance? We have a sizzling trilogy for you. In October, look for Christine D’Abo’s Long Shots trilogy featuring three siblings who share ownership of a coffee shop, and each of whom discover steamy passion within the walls of a local sex club. Christine’s trilogy kicks off with
Double Shot.

In addition to a variety of frontlist titles in historical, paranormal, contemporary, steampunk and erotic romance, we’re also pleased to present two authors releasing backlist titles with us. In October, we’ll re-release four science fiction romance titles from the backlist of C.J. Barry, and in November four Western romance titles from the backlist of Susan Edwards.

Also in November, we’re thrilled to offer our first two chick lit titles from three debut authors,
Liar’s Guide to True Love
by Wendy Chen and
Unscripted
by Natalie Aaron and Marla Schwartz. I hope you’ll check out these fun, sometimes laugh-out-loud novels.

Whether you’re on the beach, on a plane, or sitting in your favorite recliner at home, Carina Press can offer you a diverting read to take you away on your next great adventure this fall!

We love to hear from readers, and you can email us your thoughts, comments and questions to [email protected] You can also interact with Carina Press staff and authors on our blog, Twitter stream and Facebook fan page.

Happy reading!

~Angela James

Executive Editor, Carina Press

www.carinapress.com

www.twitter.com/carinapress

www.facebook.com/carinapress

Dedication

To Mary Goethals for daring me to write, and to my husband and daughters for their unfailing support and encouragement along the way.

Chapter One

“I must be crazy.” Dr. Emilie Saunderson stared out the porthole window of the cramped Twin Otter airplane at the frozen landscape of Antarctica. Snow. Nothing but snow in every direction. Cold, stark, barren.

Crazy was the only explanation for coming to a place that was nothing more than a constant reminder of her life and what she’d lost.

Grief and guilt closed their frozen fingers around her heart.

She shivered.

Could she ever forgive herself? It had been more than a year, yet it often seemed like only yesterday.

“Dr. Saunderson, we’re getting set to land,” the pilot called out to her. “It’s going to be bumpy.”

“Thanks for the heads-up,” she replied, raising her voice loud enough to be heard over the droning engines and thrusting the uncomfortable feelings aside. “I’ll hang on tight.”

To what exactly? Surrounded by boxes stacked to the ceiling, she didn’t have much of a handhold anywhere.

She tucked the folder of medical information on Antarctica she’d been reading into her backpack. The place had odd physical effects on people. The lack of humidity, cold and elevation caused some to experience high-altitude pulmonary edema—water on the lungs—or even cerebral edema—brain swelling—that could disorient a person, or in severe cases, even kill.

The plane shuddered and jerked, throwing her against her harness. The boxes shifted, and for a moment she entertained thoughts of getting squished flat. A hard bounce and bump had her grabbing at the nearest box, but nothing toppled over and she breathed a sigh of relief.

The plane slid to a stop and Emilie opened the clasp on her harness and stood, stretching cramped muscles. It had been a long six-hour flight from McMurdo, the base on the Antarctic coast that supplied the South Pole Station. She was glad she didn’t have to turn around and go right back like the pilots did.

She grabbed her backpack, squeezed past some boxes and crates and found her gear.

“You’ll need all your Extreme Cold Weather clothing on, Doctor,” the copilot said, coming back to open the side door of the plane. He stuck his head outside for a second before closing it again. “It’s blizzarding.”

“How long will it last?”

He shrugged. “This is normal weather down here. Could be a couple of hours or a couple of days.”

Emilie glanced out the nearest window at the storm. “This is normal?”

“Welcome to the glacial side of hell.”

“Gee, thanks.”

“Got your stuff?”

She nodded.

“Okay, it’ll be a few minutes before someone from the station gets here with snowmobiles to off-load the plane.”

“How far away are we?”

“About two hundred yards.” He turned to return to the cockpit and pick up his radio.

Her head pounded out a rough tempo between her temples as a blood-freezing chill seeped through her multiple layers of clothing. It hurt to breathe, and for the first time in her life she could actually smell the temperature. Cold—a sharp, metallic sting poking at the sensitive inside of her nose, making her want to cough and sneeze.

No way would she wait here slowly freezing into an icicle when warmth was only a short walk away.

Emilie shrugged on her backpack, grabbed her gear—a duffel bag stuffed full—then rolled her balaclava down over her face leaving only her eyes uncovered. She opened the door and jumped the couple of feet down to the packed ice surface. Ahead, the outline of buildings wavered as the snow flew around her, and she stumbled down a short embankment toward them. In her haste, the duffel bag got caught between her feet and she tumbled, boots over hood. It took a moment to get untangled and upright, the harsh wind like sandpaper on her face, despite the Mount Everest-worthy fabric protecting her skin.

She tried to keep her mouth shut and only breathe through her nose so her nasal passages had an opportunity to warm the air, but her lungs demanded more oxygen. She sucked in great gulps of frigid air that only served to make her sputter more.

Finally, she was able to search for the buildings she’d seen from the plane.

Nothing.

Only more snow blowing in every direction. Not even the plane, painted a vibrant fire-engine red, was visible.

Frowning, Emilie fought her body’s desire to inhale even more cold air. Calm logic was what was needed now.

She opened her mouth and yelled until her throat hurt.

No one came.

Emilie glanced down at her feet and gathered her frostbitten wits. She had to do something. Standing there turning into a pillar of ice wasn’t a winning survival technique. She looked around. The station should be right in front of her, so she’d walk in a straight line and hope to see buildings soon.

The first step forward surprised her; she didn’t sink into the snow, the white stuff was as firm as concrete. Walking slowly, she took another step and another. Still nothing in sight. She walked steadily for five minutes, but as each second passed, her heart pounded faster, harder.

Where were the buildings?

The cold stabbed barbs of ice through her clothing and into her skin, muscle and bone, making her headache dull and fuzzy. She controlled her breathing with great effort, stopped walking and crouched down, trying to hide from the wind behind her duffel bag for a moment. After her breathing calmed, she stood and stared into the wall of flying snow.

No use. Time to go back.

Turning, she retreated, hunting for her footprints in the snow, but as soon as she lifted her feet, the vicious storm wiped them away. She couldn’t see the airplane or hear its engines over the roaring wind. She stopped, an icy ball of dismay filling her gut.

She was lost.

And there wasn’t a damn thing she could do about it. She was helpless to the elements. Helpless and dying, just like David all those months ago. Her mind jumped back to that day when she’d breathed for him and pumped his chest so hard she thought her arms would fall off. All those endless minutes of compressions to no avail. She couldn’t save him.

Then she lost the baby.

Don’t blame yourself, stress and heartbreak caused the miscarriage, they said.

But who else could she blame?

“I’m sorry, David,” she whispered as tears froze on her lashes. “So sorry.”

A low rumble, well below the scream of the wind, jolted her out of the past. The plane? Had the pilots discovered her missing and come to find her?

Emilie turned in a full circle. The snow and wind hadn’t lessened, but what was that in the distance? A dark shape of some sort.

She sucked in a deep breath, waved her arms and yelled, “Help!”

A tall, broad figure stepped out of the storm and grabbed her hand. Emilie looked up at her rescuer. Not even his eyes were visible behind layers of cloth and snow goggles, and she had to tilt her head back to see the top of his head. None of that mattered though, because even without a clear view of him, he embodied hope. Something she hadn’t felt in over a year.

He tugged and Emilie followed, trailing her duffel bag behind her. She stumbled, her legs numb, then stumbled once more before regaining her balance. The man tugged again, causing her to pitch forward as he grabbed her by the waist, bent at the knees and picked her up in a fireman-carry.

Another dark figure appeared from nowhere and took her duffel, then vanished into the whiteout, leaving her alone with her rescuer, who seemed in a hurry to take her somewhere.

Her gut hurt. It was hard to breathe, her diaphragm bouncing up and down on his shoulder.

“Hey,” she yelled, swinging her arm to catch his attention. “I can’t breathe. Can you hear me? I can’t…” She didn’t finish her words as the world of white went dark around her.

 

Someone was yelling in her ear. She raised a hand to push them away.

“Come on, gorgeous, wake up.”

Gorgeous?

Emilie pried frozen eyelids open.

The top of a dark head of hair hovered precariously close to her nose as male hands, large and warm, palmed her arms and legs.

“What…who?” she asked, trying to sit up, but he caught her shoulders and eased her back down. His head tilted to meet her gaze.

Ice-blue eyes made the breath catch in her throat, but it wasn’t their color that stalled her breathing. The worry and relief, a complex mix of compassion and concern radiating from them, stilled her questions.

“You’re okay,” he said, a smile carving crinkles next to those deep eyes. “No one’s going to hurt you.”

His voice, a rough rumble, triggered a response in the pit of her belly. A response she thought long dead. “Who are you?”

“I’m Tom Wolinski, South Pole Station manager. Can you tell me your name?”

“Dr. Emilie Saunderson.”

“Pleased to meet you, Emilie.” He shone a penlight into her eyes. “Can you tell me what day of the week it is?”

He’s checking for brain damage.
“Monday.”

“Do you know where you are?”

Maybe a concussion.
“You just told me. South Pole Station.”

“Sorry, got to make sure you’re all there.” He smiled again, the crinkles all but winking at her. He must laugh a lot. He had a nice face, not handsome in the traditional sense, but she liked the character etched in it. “Headache?”

Even worse than before. “Yes, how did you…” Of course. “The altitude,” she whispered to herself, relaxing, relieved at his thoroughness. “Cerebral edema.”

“Yep,” he said, picking up a preloaded syringe. “Happens a lot down here. A shot of dexamethasone should fix up you.”

She nodded. Dex was a good choice to treat brain swelling.

He swabbed her arm with an alcohol pad then injected the medication.

Emilie glanced around the room. It was small, square and stuffed with equipment and supplies. Good thing she wasn’t claustrophobic.

A set of double doors opened and two people completely covered in winter clothing came in loaded with medical supplies from the plane.

“How’s she doing?” one of the two asked, his deep voice proclaiming his gender.

“Good,” Tom answered. “She’s got a headache, but her memory seems fine and her pupils are normal.”

The man looked familiar. “You’re the guy who grabbed my duffel bag?” she asked.

At his nod, she held out her hand. “Thanks for coming to my rescue.”

His body shook with laughter as he bent over her hand. “My pleasure, ma’am. I don’t get to play Don Quixote too often.”

She smiled at him.

“Stan Murphy, jack-of-all-trades,” Tom said. “This is our new doctor, Emilie Saunderson.”

Stan wore so much gear she had no idea what he looked like. Hopefully, she’d be able to pick him out by his voice later.

“I’m going to finish unloading the plane,” Stan said to Tom. “You sticking around Club Med?”

“Yeah, I want to be sure our new doctor is feeling one hundred percent.”

“I’ll doc-sit,” the man with Stan offered. He took off his goggles and scarf, showing her a barracuda smile.

“Thanks, Mark,” Tom said, “but I’ve got to stay with her and fill out a week’s worth of paperwork in the next two hours.”

“Too bad.” Mark’s head moved up and down. “She’s hot.”

“Come on, Romeo,” Stan said, punching Mark’s shoulder. “We’ve got work to do.”

They left, the door swinging behind them.

“Did he just check me out?” Emilie asked, blinking.

“Yeah.” Tom bent over her legs and sighed. “Unfortunately, he’s hit on every woman here. Ignore him.”

“Just ignore him, huh?”

“I’m keeping my eye on him.” For a moment Tom’s gaze rested heavy on hers. Reaching out to her knees, he slid his hands down to her boots. “Time to get you out of these things,” he said as the first one hit the floor. “Got to see if you’ve done any damage.” The second followed, then he tugged off her two pairs of socks.

“I can feel my toes,” she protested, embarrassed that she, the physician, was the recipient of the exam.

“Down here what you feel isn’t always what’s real, especially since you reacted to the elevation.”

“I understand, it’s just…”

“You’re the doctor?” he asked, inspecting her toes.

“Yeah.”

“No worries, you’re in good hands. I’m a paramedic.”

She cocked her head. “Doesn’t everyone here have first-aid training?”

“Yeah, it’s required, but I’m your official help,” he said, using his fingers to put quotes around the word
help
. “Nurse, assistant, whatever you want to call me.” His voice lowered with the last choice, becoming rough.

Was he flirting with her? “I thought you were the station manager.”

“True.” He paused in his examination. “Since that’s the case, I guess you’ll have to call me sir.”

She snorted, then slapped a hand over her face. The elevation must still be affecting her.

Tom didn’t react. “You need at least three pairs of socks on if you’re going outside,” he told her, a slight frown replacing the friendly, open expression on his face. “Station rules. You break ’em and the consequences aren’t pretty, as you almost found out.” He cradled her feet in his warm hands, making her wish he was doing more than carefully studying each toe, then massaging her heels, toes and arches with a firm but gentle motion.

His intimate touch disoriented her, and she tried to distance herself by stiffening her spine. “I don’t suppose this is the best way for the station doctor to make her entrance, is it? Thrown over your shoulder like a sack of potatoes.”

“I’ve seen worse.” He glanced at her with those bottomless, penetrating eyes as he lowered her tingling extremities.

“Such as?”

“Let’s have a look at your hands.” He held her right hand in both of his, rubbing and checking every inch. “A couple of winters ago our doctor arrived in a storm much worse than this. The plane landed, but the weather was so bad no one could go out to meet it. Unfortunately, once on the ground, the hydraulics froze up and it was stuck on the ice runway, unable to take off.”

He picked up her other hand, inspecting and massaging it. “By the time we got him and the two pilots inside the station, the doctor had to have a couple of toes amputated due to frostbite. He was only wearing one pair of socks.” Tom looked at her, his eyes serious. “You’re very lucky.”

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