Under the Alaskan Ice (Alaska Wild #2) by Karen Harper

CHAPTER ONE


            Thanksgiving Day

Falls Lake, Alaska


            “I’m getting really good walking in snowshoes, Mom!” Chip boasted as they plodded through the thick snow, heading toward the lake that gave the nearby town its name. His cheeks were already pink, and his freckles stood out. Their words made little white clouds. The crisp wind energized Meg, and their goggles and the massive Sitka spruce along the path muted the stark sun glare off the snow.

            “You sure are walking great in those snowshoes, but you don’t have to take steps that big, honey.”

            Since Chip was six, so many adventures were new to him. Meg had lost her husband, Chip’s father, Ryan, in a plane crash nearly three years ago, and she was still barely at the place she could cope. At least Chip was doing so much better accepting his father’s death. For months the boy had insisted his daddy was coming back as usual from a day of flying. At least now he didn’t insist each plane that went over was Daddy buzzing to them from heaven. In this cold, snowy season, fewer bush planes headed north, taking hunters or fishermen into the wilds, leaving them and picking them up later.

            “I just didn’t want us to fall asleep after that big turkey dinner,” she explained as they trudged along, heading out from the lodge where they lived with Meg’s twin sister, Suzanne. They had greatly renovated the old place they’d inherited from their grandmother and brought it into the modern world with online advertising to attract more guests. “There’s something in turkey called tryptophan that makes people sleepy,” she explained.

            “But the football games on TV wake them up, right?”

            “They wake some people. Besides, even in this chilly weather, exercise is good for us. This walk will help us digest that big meal Aunt Suze and I fixed.”

            Meg both loved and dreaded the holidays since they brought back memories of happier times—not that she wasn’t making a new life for herself and Chip at the Falls Lake Lodge, where she oversaw the kitchen and helped with their guests while Suze covered the business end of things. Meg had even begun to create homemade chocolate candies. She’d sold a lot of them this fall and winter to both guests at the lodge and townspeople in Falls Lake. The profits were going straight into the bank to provide for Chip’s future education—hopefully, not as a pilot. Anything but that.

            “Listen, Mom! I hear something—like a plane,” the boy shouted, clomping along as fast as he could to the open-sky shore of the frozen lake. He pulled off his sun goggles and shaded his eyes, craning his neck to look up.

            “It’s probably someone cutting firewood from trees,” she insisted, but she knew better. If their few and distant neighbors didn’t have their winter wood cut weeks ago, it was a bad time to do that with the burden of the snow.

            From the direction of the distant, snow-capped Talkeetna Mountains, beyond the frozen pillar of the waterfall that fed the lake in warmer weather, the buzzing whine came louder. Meg knew it sounded bad—rough, as though an engine were sputtering.

            Ripping off her goggles, which also snagged her knitted sock cap, she instinctively put a hand on Chip’s shoulder so he didn’t bolt, snowshoes or not. They squinted into the clear blue sky in the direction of the sporadic, choking sound.

            “There,” Chip shouted, pointing his leather mitten. His voice came back as an echo across the blinding white ice. There...there...there...

            She saw it too. At least the plane was clear of the mountains, unlike Ryan’s fatal flight.

            “It’s going to try to land on the lake,” she told Chip. “See, it’s a pontoon plane, and that will work. It might even have ski runners under there, given the lake is iced over.”