She’s from the boundary waters of Northwestern Ontario, and he’s from a place his people call Waiekwakitchigami in northern Minnesota. Neither expects to meet, much less spend Thanksgiving together.
Desperate for a Minneapolis getaway to prove she can break out of her by-the-numbers and by-the-book, disciplined life, divorcée Paulina Natawance doesn’t expect to have her truck break down outside the casino in Cloquet where she’s had lunch. Nor does she expect to encounter a handsome man with long, flowing black hair, ebony eyes, and a smile that could melt the ice cream she’s holding.
While finishing up his shift at the Big Bear Casino, widower Tripp Beargrease isn’t looking forward to going home to celebrate Thanksgiving alone…again. But when he encounters a stunning Anishinaabe-kwe with legs to her neck, a tiny waist, and a pink, wet tongue licking an ice cream cone standing helpless at her dead vehicle, he’s more than willing to paddle his canoe to her rescue like a true warrior should.
With the garage closed for the holiday and the hotels booked because of Thanksgiving, Tripp generously offers his dinner table for Paulina to dine at, and his spare bedroom for her to sleep in. And maybe, just maybe this proper woman can repair his broken heart. But her truck is ready the next day, and Paulina has a big decision to make—return to the boring, predictable life she’s created for herself, or throw away her day planner and take a huge gamble on Tripp.
Tripp had clocked out for the day. He was also far from the employee parking lot, but the shining sun had compelled a stroll around the perimeter. Although he didn’t have his communication headset on, he could alert another security guard if he required assistance.
He stopped. She was parked in the front lot far from the hotel, holding an ice cream and staring at a midnight-blue four by four crew-cab truck. Her long black hair fluttered in the light, warm breeze, and his Adam’s apple swelled. A fluffy beige coat hugged her slim body.
She couldn’t be a car thief since she held an ice cream cone.
“Do you need any help?” he called out, his usual question to anyone lurking around the parked vehicles.
She pivoted, presenting a beautiful round face, bright ebony eyes, plump lips painted a sexy shade of red, and full cheeks sweet enough to tempt any man to sample.
“I’m okay,” she said in a voice that was friendly, but a hint of professionalism lurked in her tone, possibly a habit from her job. “I’m hoping it’s a loose spark plug. If not, I’ll call roadside assistance.”
Before ambling up to her, Tripp memorized the license plate number. A Canadian. He set his hand on the vehicle, another part of his training—always leave his fingerprints behind…just in case. “Your ride died?”
“It won’t start.” She withdrew a cell phone from her coat. “I was going to use the manual to try to figure out the problem. You’re only allowed to use roadside assistance four times a year, and it—”
He couldn’t help his chuckle. “Let me guess. It takes a long time for it to arrive on the rez, huh?”
She flashed him perfect white teeth. “You live in the boonies, too?”
“Just down the highway. Which rez you from?”
“Rainy Lake First Nation.”
“Oh, that’s only about three hours from here. Just passing through to the Twin Cities?”
“Yes. It’s Black Friday tomorrow.” The formality vanished. Her speech was sweeter than her ice cream. “I guess I should use my roadside assistance. It is nearing the end of the year.”
A practical woman? Anyone else would’ve called for assistance right away, not debate whether they should use up one of their four free allotments.
“Excuse me.” She opened the truck door and grabbed a leather purse, and from the looks of it, it was expensive.
“I’m Tripp. Tripp Beargrease.” He extended his hand. Yes, as one of the supervisors for security, he was obliged to help, but he also sort of wanted to stick around.
“Paulina Natawance.” She held out her perfectly groomed hand.
When her palm met his, soothing warmth coated his flesh.