Northern Lights Writers Present

Romance and Mystery
Under the Northern Lights

by Edna Curry, Denise Devine, Lori Ness, LuAnn Nies, Shirley Olson, Diane Pearson & Nancy Pirri

In For A Penny – Lori Ness
A couple who believes their marriage is irrevocably broken finds life lessons, healing and hope during a visit to an eccentric relative.

Hotshot – Denise Devine
When Megan Bristol's fiancé jilts her via a text message, her plan to seek revenge leads her right into the arms of another man.

Shadow Trail – LuAnn Nies
A quiet romantic weekend in the north woods of Minnesota turns into a dangerous adventure that Crystal hadn't bargained for.

Count the Days – Diane Pearson
Mary never expected to end up isolated in a north woods resort and in an oppressive marriage. However, when she reconnects with an old friend, the door opens to revenge, murder, and escape. Letters tell the tale.

Love, Fish and Fangs – Edna Curry
On what is supposed to be a fun filled vacation, a detective and his family stumble onto a murder. He fears for his son's safety when David recognizes one of his paper route customers at the scene of the crime.

Heal My Heart – Shirley Olson
Seventeen-year old June, unable to take any more of her stepfather's abuse, makes a daring escape. Despite encountering danger in her search for a new life, she also finds a real family, love and trust.

Candlelight and Silverware – Edna Curry
When Tom invites his boss and spouse to dinner, his wife, Carol, panics. Can a suburban housewife measure up to these sophisticated world travelers?

Night Magic – Nancy Pirri
In depression era Minnesota, Helen inherits her deceased parents' dream resort—six cabins near the Canadian border. Riley has recently lost his job as a lumberjack. When Helen offers him a position as her 'handy man' to repair the cabins, he gladly accepts, intrigued by her beauty and courage. Despite the ever present threat of wild animals, Riley and Helen don't give in, but discover true love beneath the northern lights.

Breath of God – Lori Ness
In the early 1900's, a Minnesota farm girl is forced by her mother's death to come to terms with the plans they'd made together and the expected role of a young woman. Betsy draws on the memory of her parents' love for each other to gain courage to face her future.


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Genres

Romance
Anthology

? Heat Level: 3


Northern Lights Writers anthology - Romance and Mystery Under the Northern Lights



Excerpt

Click the story title to view each excerpt:

"Love, Fish and Fangs" - Edna Curry
"Candlelight and Silverware" - Edna Curry
"Hot Shot" - Denise Devine
"In For A Penny" - Lori Ness
"Breath of God" - Lori Ness
"Shadow Trail" - LuAnn Nies
"Heal My Heart" - Shirley Olson
"Counting the Days" - Diane Pearson
"Night Magic" - Nancy Pirri

Love, Fish and Fangs

by Edna Curry

Late Friday afternoon, Bob and Jody Miller and their ten-year-old son, David, drove about two hours south from their home in a Minneapolis suburb to Whitewater State Park.

David bounced excitedly in the back seat of the car. “The newsman said the north lights will be out tonight, Dad. Can we go see them?”

“Northern Lights, David,” his mother corrected.

Bob laughed. “Sure, son, we should be able to see them from the park if the weather cooperates.”

“What do you mean, if the weather cooperates?”

“If it’s not too cloudy. Clouds sometimes get in the way so you can’t see them.”

“In any case, I hear the trout are biting this week,” Bob assured David as they arrived at the park. They enjoyed primitive tent camping and a weekend away from Bob’s police work in the crowded city so they could enjoy nature was a treat.

Yellow dust swirled behind them as they drove along the graveled road that wound along the creek at the bottom of the wooded valley. A few campers were already set up in little clearings in the trees off the sides of the road. Bob pulled in at a nice spot beside the rapids.

Jody made coffee on the camp stove while Bob and David set up their tent. When they’d finished, David asked, “Can I explore, Dad?”

“Sure. Don’t go far.” They went down to the creek, finding several places shallow enough to wade across its rocky bed. Bob worked his fly rod in a deeper pool, hoping to catch enough trout for supper. Jody spread a blanket on the grass nearby and relaxed, enjoying the sunshine and the graceful picture Bob’s tall, slim figure made.

Suddenly they heard an angry shout. David came running toward them through the trees around the bend. He slid in close to his father and glanced fearfully over his shoulder.

Candlelight and Silverware

by Edna Curry

“Ow!” Carol exclaimed, pulling her hand back quickly from the spitting grease in the frying pan where she basted her husband's eggs. She turned down the gas flame to low where it should have been if she’d been paying attention to her cooking instead of stewing about their argument.

“Burn it?” asked Tom, looking up from the toast he was buttering. He jumped up and held her hand under cold water at the sink. “Better?”

“Yes. It's nothing serious. I'm just nervous this morning.” She frowned at the angry red mark on her hand, sighed, and served the eggs.

“Oh, yeah, I forgot. The Jamisons are coming to dinner tonight.”

“Yes.” Carol turned away to get his coffee, pursing her full lips. Forgot! After that big fight the other night when he had casually told her he had invited them to dinner? Fat chance he'd forgotten! They'd hardly spoken a loving word since.

The Jamisons were Tom's latest important clients at his advertising firm. And Tom had known Carol felt terribly inadequate beside Lori Jamison, yet he'd gone right ahead and invited them to dinner without consulting her. So inconsiderate of him.

True, he often invited clients home to dinner on short notice, but not someone like her. Lori always looked like she'd just stepped off a fashion magazine cover.

Hotshot

by Denise Devine

Cyndi Lauper screeched ‘Oh-oh, girls just wanna have fu-hunnn....’ on the radio as Meg Bristol sat in her Ford Fiesta on the I-35W entrance ramp, sandwiched between two eighteen wheelers. She took one look at the Friday morning rat race heading toward Minneapolis and shook her head. “Some days my life really sucks.”

“I’m sorry about Tom Duffey,” Nan O'Brien said as she curled up in the passenger seat. She reached over and turned down the radio, reducing Cyndi's voice to a high-pitched whine. “I never thought he could be such a jerk.”

“That makes two of us.” Meg cut a glance at her best friend. “I’m so mad I can’t stop thinking about what a fool I’ve been, believing his lies.” Her fists gripped the steering wheel. “Boy, I’d love to get my hands on him and show him a thing or two. By the time I got through with that lowlife,” she pointed to the rig in front of her as it rolled onto the freeway, “he’d look like that Mack truck ran over his head!” She released an angry sniffle. “That would make interesting wedding pictures for his lucky bride, whoever she is.”

“You’re letting him off easy.” Nan sucked down the last of her breakfast of Diet Coke. “If a guy dumped me like that, I’d aim lower than his face.” She pursed her lips. “When did you find out?”

“I got the news this morning.” Meg inched her car forward, wishing she could skip work. Given the circumstances, she didn’t have the best attitude for dealing with people today, or her mid-year performance review, scheduled for 10 AM. “The coward emailed my Blackberry.”

“You’re kidding....” Nan blinked in astonishment as she slowly turned her head. “What did he say?”

The meter turned green. Meg sped her Fiesta down the ramp, searching for an open spot in the flow. A collage of cars, vans and trucks cruised bumper to bumper at seventy plus miles per hour. She signaled and merged into the stampede.

“Can’t see you any more...getting married. Sorry.” She swallowed hard, determined not to shed even one tear over the likes of him.

“That’s cruel!” Nan reached down and grabbed a small cosmetic bag out of her purse. “I’ll bet his fiancée doesn’t have a clue he’s been seeing both of you at the same time.”

Meg rolled her eyes. “Well, I sure didn’t and I dated him for six months. I wish someone would have warned me—” Her jaw slowly dropped as the words sunk in. “Hey, I think someone should warn her!”

“She has the right to know.” Nan nodded as she held a small mirror in one hand and a brow pencil in the other. “He cheated on both of you.” She stared into the mirror, studying her brow. “How are you going to find her? You don’t know who she is.”

“Yeah, but I know Tom. He can’t resist the urge to show off his latest trophy. He’ll hit all of his favorite hangouts.” Meg stared at the road ahead, formulating a plan. “I’ll find them, and when I do, I’m going to let her know what a colossal fraud he is.”

At the Forest Bend over-pass, a massive Dodge pickup roared by and cut in front of her. The shiny blue four-by-four looked mean enough to gobble her pint-sized Ford for breakfast. Traffic suddenly stopped. Meg hit the brakes, her hands clenching the steering wheel as the pickup in front of her fishtailed to a screeching halt. In the next lane, brake lights decorated the freeway like Christmas in July.

Nan lurched against her seatbelt, her coppery curls dancing around her face. The cosmetic bag flew off her lap and hurled against the dash, scattering its contents on the floor. She glared at the back window of the Dodge and shook her head. “Where do pickup owners learn to drive anyway? In a demolition derby?”

“Maybe the right to invent your own rules comes with title to the vehicle.” Meg tapped her fingers on the steering wheel. “This guy seems to think he owns the road.”

Nan scooped up her makeup, dumping it in her lap. “Are you kidding? He knows he owns the road. This car is a mouse compared to his macho machine.”

Traffic commenced at a snail’s pace. Nan held up her mirror again and dabbed taupe shadow across her brow bone with her middle finger. The car hit a pothole and her hand shot into the air--the lone finger still exposed. A moment later, she sucked in a horrified gasp. “Meg, did you see that?”

“See what?” Meg glanced around.

“The passenger in the blue pickup turned around and gave me the finger!”

Meg did a double take. Inconsiderate driving was one thing, but that level of rudeness between men and women just didn’t happen in Minnesota. She glared at the Ram in disgust. So, her Fiesta came across as a mouse, did it? Well, that monster pickup had better look out because this mouse knew how to roar.

In For A Penny

by Lori Ness

 

When he first mentioned the weekend visit, Rob talked of going alone. Slipping into his role of a surgeon preparing a patient for the upcoming ordeal, his words flowed. Like a distracted patient, however, Dorothy’s hearing turned selective with only fragmented phrases washing over her: “Back before you know it”…“Only gone two days”…“We’ll both feel better when it’s over…”

“I’m going with you, Rob.” Her firm tone silenced his unspoken protest. After a moment of staring, eyes narrowed, he scowled, turned, and stalked out of the condo. Biting her lip, Dorothy accepted this retreat, although she still struggled every moment with the knowledge that he’d walked out on her emotionally months ago.

So she’d laid down an ultimatum and now they were trapped together in the car, with unspoken awkwardness separating them from their destination.

As the sun glinted without mercy off the windshields of oncoming cars, stabbing through the protection of her sunglasses, Dorothy wondered whether, when Rob said, “we’ll both feel better when it’s over,” he’d been referring to this weekend, their marriage or the birth of the new life stirring within her.

“Tell me about your grandfather,” she said, the words spilling out and sending ripples to disturb the silence.

Rob hesitated. With her intimate knowledge of his thought processes, Dorothy could almost see him marshalling his words into orderly statements as though setting a row of delicate stitches. She waited with outward patience, the sharp edges of her fingernails gouging the palms of her hands.

As her husband swung the wheel in a left turn, Dorothy’s gaze snagged on his left wrist. Tanned, softly curling golden hairs, strong, but marred by the clinical precision of his TAG Heuer wristwatch. Her nails dug deeper—she’d been hoping he would leave it behind. The ever present symbol that time served as the master of their relationship stirred a faint nausea within her. She’d asked, no, begged, Rob to leave it behind on this trip.

“My grandfather isn’t a guy you can peg into a hole. He’s not someone comfortable in society and he’s never had much money.” The sting of the unspoken “unlike your family” echoed in Dorothy’s head.

Breath of God

by Lori Ness

Betsey knew, without opening her eyes, she’d overslept. The sleepy twitter of birds in the trees outside her window had given way to energetic debate, indicating that they were well along with the business of their day.

She sat up. Sunbeams spilling across the hand braided rug confirmed her fear. She was late! She hadn’t made breakfast; she had to get Erik up and both of them ready for school—

“Betsy!” Karl Swenson’s shout silenced the birds and jolted his daughter out of bed.

Tangling her foot in the quilt, Betsy crashed to the floor. Wincing, she scrambled up and grabbed her dressing gown before rushing down the stairs.

Her father stood in front of the stove, glaring into the interior where a fire should be burning. The familiar fragrances of fresh milk and corn wafting from his clothing in place of the scent of coffee only served as an accusation to her dereliction of duty.

Betsy rubbed the sore knee resulting from her fall and hung her head.

“The stove is cold.” Karl’s thick accent emphasized his disgust.

“I overslept, Papa. I’m sorry.”

“The chickens were making such a noise I checked and found out they hadn’t been fed or the eggs collected.” He pointed to a pail near the door, with brown eggs piled inside.

Betsy gulped and looked down at the floor.

“Are you sickening for something?” The dairy farmer took a step closer and peered at his daughter; the bushy, sandy brows which reminded Betsy of sheaves of wheat drew together in a frown. “Your eyes are as red as Mrs. Jeppson’s Sunday hat.”

“I had homework.” Betsy blushed because she hadn’t been doing schoolwork; she’d burned the kerosene lamp by her bed into the early morning hours and wept over the last chapters of Ivanhoe. The love story, so beautiful, had her tears watering the pages like spring showers.

“I have fed and milked the cows. I have a field of corn that needs to be picked. Is a man expecting too much to want food on the table when he comes in for his breakfast?

Six year old Erik, blonde and stocky like his papa, appeared in the doorway with his suspenders trailing to the floor and one shoe on. “Time for breakfast?”

Karl Swenson ignored the hopeful question from his only son. “School foolishness again keeping you from your chores. Clothes need washing. The bread box is nearly empty. Apples are rotting on the ground in the orchard. You stay up late and ruin your eyesight on books. I have no breakfast.” His voice rose with each sentence.

Betsy bit her lip and kneaded a fold of her nightgown. Not just books—she had discovered magazines and several were even now hidden under her bed. Her teacher had encouraged her to borrow them, declaring they would open her eyes to the wide vistas beyond a Minnesota dairy farm. A fascinated Betsy had spent hours studying pictures of faraway places.

“I’m sorry, Papa,” she apologized again, scurrying to the stove. “I can scramble eggs now and I’ll do the baking as soon as I get home from school.”

Karl slammed his hand down on the oak harvester table. “You have no time for school. Things must be done around here, today.”

Betsy almost dropped the iron skillet. “No school?? But, Papa, I have three more years until graduation—”

Her father’s cheeks looked as ruddy as Mrs. Jeppson’s Sunday hat. “No school!” He spat the words in her direction and stomped out of the house.

Shadow Trail

by LuAnn Nies

Crystal Harrington swore she had the worst luck ever. Not only had she gotten stuck with the ugly purple snowmobile, which the hand warmers on the handlebars didn’t work, she’d been selected to carry the tampons and matches from the survival kit. If that wasn’t bad enough, the man her friend Melissa had fixed her up with for the romantic weekend had backed out.

“You know what, Melissa?” Crystal stopped and placed a hand on her friend’s arm as they reached the main doors leading to the Northern Lights Lodge parking lot. “It’s alright with me if I don’t snowmobile today.” Or any other day for that matter, she thought. Spending the holiday weekend alone in the north woods, in the middle of February was not Crystal’s idea of a romantic weekend. Besides, she didn’t want to be remembered as being the only one who couldn’t get a date for Valentine’s Day.

“Crystal, we all want you to stay for the weekend,” Melissa pleaded, grasping both of Crystal’s hands in hers. “It won’t be the same without you.”

Crystal chuckled. “No, it would be better.” She’d only agreed to come this weekend because Melissa insisted it was time she extended her boundaries. It had been two years since her last romance blew up in her face when she hadn’t leaped at the chance to go bungee jumping or skydiving.  This weekend was supposed to be about her loosening up and trying something new.  

Soon the rest of the group chimed in with their remarks, convincing Crystal to at least stay for the day. Tomorrow morning she’d pack up and head back to the Twin Cities - leaving romance to the lovers.   

She flipped her head forward, used a scrunchie™ to place her unruly auburn curls in a Pebbles style ponytail, then donned her helmet and goggles. It wasn’t long before she and the six couples were suited up and heading out across a frozen lake. 

Now that looks like a romantic spot, Crystal sighed, admiring a little cabin nestled among assorted pines and birch trees. Throw in a cozy fire and a handsome woodsman and she’d have it made. 

Crystal would have rather stayed out in the open, which made it easier to keep an eye on Melissa up ahead of her, but her friend’s sled shot up a narrow trail and disappeared into a dense growth of trees. Maneuvering her sled onto the trail, Crystal blinked as she was suddenly engulfed in darkness. Within seconds, her eyes adjusted as she bumped along the twisting, narrow trail where pines, oaks, and birch trees shot skyward. She giggled. This must be what a bug feels like to be lost in a lush green shag carpet.

Her sled bounced and bucked along, jerking from one side of the rough trail to the other. As she wrestled for control of the handlebars, barely missing the rocks and trees that lined the trail, a scene from her past flashed before her eyes of a night she spent in the back seat of Danny Larson’s car.

Crystal fell behind, slowed by trees, rocks, dips, and turns. When she came to an open area, she accelerated and caught up to the group. By now, they had removed their helmets and coats. They had divided into pairs, some had their heads together talking, and others stood holding hands. It was obvious by their expressions some craved privacy. Superstitious, Crystal knew she was the unlucky number thirteen, and wished she hadn’t agreed to come along.

Glancing around, she found they’d stopped in a swampy area where cattails and tree stumps covered the frozen ground. Had it been summer, Crystal could have pictured a moose and calf standing up to their knees in water munching on the lush vegetation.

The sound of engines roaring to life pulled Crystal out of her daydream. She frowned. Oh, I wish I’d see some wild life. I’m sure the snowmobiles have scared everything away.

They rode for several more hours, through fields, across lakes and winding trails through the woods. Thankfully, the group always stopped and waited for her to catch up. Melissa would turn, give Crystal the thumbs up sign and Crystal always returned the gesture.

Heal My Heart

by Shirley Olson

June knew that she needed to get away tonight. She could not take her step-dad’s abuse one more minute. This had been going on for much too long. She wished that she would have been brave enough to stop this, years earlier. But now she was ready. She had dressed fully and crawled into her bed with her baseball bat at her side.

Suddenly the door creaked and in he came, reeking like a brewery as usual. He unzipped his pants, dropped them to the floor, and just as he started to crawl into bed with June she brought out the bat and whacked him on his head with all the anger and hate she had seething inside of her.

As the blood spurted from the open wound, he groaned as he passed out on her bed. She jumped out of bed, not even bothering to check to see if he was dead or alive, grabbed his billfold and took out the cash. She threw the billfold back at him, and rushed out of the room.  Flying past her Mom, passed out on the couch, she hissed, “You deserve each other. She fled out the door of the jail in which she had been forced to live in since she was ten years old.

Frantically running through the long dark eerie Rochester city blocks, June spied a city bus. Waving her arms wildly, the bus stopped right in front of her and she jumped on, threw in her fare and hurried to the back of the bus. This bus took her right up to the Greyhound bus depot. She had no clue as to where she was going. She just knew she had to get away as far as she could go.

Soon the bus stopped at the depot. It was well after midnight, and June, in her rush, to enter the depot, slammed into a well-dressed older man. Frightened, she pulled back as she stammered, “Oh, I’m-m so sorry,” as she pulled her jacket tight around her.

“Whoa, where are you going in such a hurry, young lady?” the man said in a gentle, kind voice.

Unaccustomed to kindness, especially from any man, June stepped back, not sure what to do. Was this man going to treat her just like all the men she knew? She quickly came to her senses and said, “I’m in a hurry to get to the ticket booth before my bus arrives.”

“Follow me. I’m also purchasing tickets.”

June lagged behind, just close enough to hear him tell the ticket master, “I’m Bill Anderson and I would like a ticket for Duluth.”

Bill sat down and June turned to the ticket master. “My name is June Anderson. I’m going to Duluth also.”

“Was that your dad, just before you?”

Needing a name beside her own, June hesitantly said, “Yes.” She peered back to check that Bill wasn’t within hearing.

June walked toward Bill, hoping to find a seat away from the crowd. She noticed only one seat left right next to Bill. As he looked up, he held out his hand to her. “My name is Bill Anderson. You’re welcome to sit here if you like. May I ask your name?”

June lightly shook his hand and said shyly, “My name is June.” She wasn’t about to tell him more. After all, he was another man. Aren’t they all the same? But, he seems so different. What the heck, after all she needed someone to trust, and for some reason maybe—just maybe he wouldn’t hurt her, like the rest; At least not right in front of everyone.

As she sat down beside him, he continued, “You look pretty young to be traveling alone. Will someone be waiting for you when you get to where you are going?”

“I plan on meeting up with my sister in Duluth. I’m eighteen years old,” she lied to prevent him from asking so many questions.

“That’s where I’m going. It’ll be nice to have a traveling companion, if that’s okay with you? You look like you could use a friend. When we get to Duluth, I can stay with you until you get settled, if you would like that.”

Oh, no, is he coming on to me? she thought, but said, “I really do appreciate having someone to travel with, but when we get there, I’ll be okay.”

The two talked for a short time. Then Bill yawned. “I think I’ll take a cat-nap until our bus comes. Wake me if you need anything.”

Relieved that she did not have to talk, but as Bill dozed off, she suddenly felt all alone. She hated that because it would bring back bad thoughts.

Suddenly a policeman came toward her. Now what do I do? Maybe he’ll take me back home. I certainly can’t go back there! Maybe I’ll have to go to jail. Her mind was in agony. She grabbed a newspaper to hide behind, but too late. She could feel his presence and smell the stench of tobacco on him as he stopped right in front of her. Her heart pounded so loud she thought he would hear it. Now I’m a goner.

“You look pretty young to be traveling alone. Are you with anyone?”

Counting the Days

by Diane Pearson

Monday, April 6

 

Dear Mickey,

Wow! What a delightful surprise! The birthday card and your note brought back so many happy memories it made me cry. Can you believe how fast three years go by?

Sorry I didn’t write after we moved to northern Minnesota. I never dreamed I’d be living up here this long. I thought for sure we’d get back to the Twin Cities a few months after Rob’s parents died. But I was wrong. Now he says with this shaky economy, he’ll never find a buyer. Sometimes I feel stuck here.

Hearing from you brightened my day.

One thing is for sure; I could never handle the hurricanes that you have to put up with where you live. Thinking about the ocean and big waves makes me nauseous. I guess it all goes back to the time after finals when we partied on Lake Minnetonka and I fell out of the boat. You came to the hospital and brought me that bouquet of red and white carnations. You made me feel extra special. That was when carnations became my favorite flower; and they still are. One good thing is the nightmares about drowning have stopped. That’s a good thing, yes?

Last summer, Rob demanded I take swimming lessons. I’ve tried twice and now that spring is here again, he says he expects me to make progress. Well, I have improved; but he doesn’t see it. I float and thrash around in the water doing my version of the dog paddle. It’s not pretty and now I don’t get panic attacks when I’m near the water. But mostly, I’m more comfortable near the lake as long as it’s calm or frozen over to a good twelve inches.

Gosh it’s so good to remember all the fun we had. I miss dressing up and you taking me to salsa at the pavilion. Now that you’ve mentioned it, I had forgotten about my purple stilettos and little black dress that you favored. They’re packed away some place—not sure where. Up here the fashion is jeans, flannel shirts, and boots.

Sorry I can’t give you a cell phone number. Since there is no signal up here, I’ve cancelled my phone. For now I have to stick with snail mail.

We have a landline, but Rob doesn’t like me to use it. According to him, the phone is only for business and emergencies. Besides, I’d feel uncomfortable talking to you if he’s around. Maybe when the library gets hooked up to the Internet we can e-mail. Don’t know when that will happen; the city council has been talking about it for over a year. Gosh, I miss my computer. So many clients from the Twin Cities are asking for Internet access, I hope Rob will change his mind and get a Wi Fi hookup. He says it’s too damn expensive and that the clients come for the rustic experience. Well, there is rustic and then there is, the dark ages. But he doesn’t care what I think.

The mailman is due any minute, so I’ll sign off for now. I promise to write more real soon.

 

Sincerely,

 

Mary Eden

From the “rustic” Northern Lights Lodge

Night Magic

by Nancy Pirri

September 1934

John Swenson slouched in his chair at O’Reilly’s pub, drinking a tall mug of beer, his second of the evening. His flinty-eyed gaze swept around the pub, stopping now and again on one pretty woman then another.

“Stop staring at the ladies, John!” Helen Swenson scolded. “You’re supposed to be finding a man for me.”

John’s laughter lifted above the raucous music of piano music across the room. “There’s no reason why we can’t kill two birds with one stone, is there, sis?” he asked, one eyebrow lifted.

Helen tossed a hank of unfashionable straight blonde hair over her back. “I wouldn’t need to be finding myself a man if you’d return home with me, and help out at the resort.”

He gave her a long, withering look. “That resort is not my home.” Changing the topic, he tilted his head to one side and stared at her. “You know, you should do something about your hair.”

“What’s wrong with my hair?” she blustered.

“It’s long, boring and not quite the thing these days. You’d have a better chance of attracting a man if you cut and permed it. Also, it would look much better with that hat you’re wearing.”

“I refuse to waste a single cent on myself. You know how important the resort is to me. It’s my livelihood, and I mean to make something of it.”

“Sorry, Sis. With this depression, the place is losing money. People can’t afford a vacation nowadays with so many out of work. Besides, why did our parents have to buy all of that land up north, nearly to the Canadian border anyway, for God’s sake? I refuse to live away from civilization, and that’s that. Now stop your fussing. I’ll find you a nice sturdy man, one unafraid of physical labor. It just might take me some time is all,” he murmured, his eyes on the waitress headed straight for their table.

“Another brew for you, sir?” she softly inquired.

With a small smile, John asked, “What’s your name, darling?”

“Why…why, it’s Maggie.”

Helen took pity on the poor girl whose cheeks were turning pink as she grasped an empty beer mug in each hand. “We were just leaving, Maggie, so nothing more. Thank you.”

“Oh, but don’t leave on my account!” the waitress protested.

“I’m not, John said, his grin widening, “I’ll have another brew. After the long dry spell we’ve had in this country, I have some catching up to do.”

Helen rose from her seat. “I’ll be at your house. I’m returning home in the morning.”

“You just got here,” he protested. “What’s the rush?”

“A few fishermen are coming up from Iowa and I have a cabin to clean, that’s what.”

“Thought you said it’s been a slow season.”

“For summer it was. But this early fall, I’ve had a few come in, like this one tomorrow.”

“I’m frankly amazed, but what the heck. Make hay while you can, especially since winter will be here soon.” He frowned. “Then what will you do?”

“I’ll just hole up in my cabin for the entire season, same as last year.”

“Fighting off bears again?”

“I hope not,” she said, her voice trembling as she recalled several close encounters she’d had with roaming black bears on the resort property.

“Come home for the winter since you’ve no customers.”

“I need to work to make the cabins more habitable, and winter is the season to do it,” she said. “Remember? That’s why I came down—to find someone to help me.”

As she left the pub, she thought about her home, Swenson’s Haven Resort, in northeastern Minnesota. Beauty and isolation surrounded her at the small resort.

Her parents had purchased several acres of lakeshore property on a large Canadian border lake called Crane ten years ago. They’d started the small vacation spot in 1928, before the stock market crashed. They built three small cabins and the following year, two more. Before rough times, the cabins had always been booked with guests, from mid-May until late October; guests wanting to experience the great outdoors, including fishing, hunting, and enjoying nature at its finest.

During late fall, an array of colors called the aurora borealis, would paint the sky—a breath-taking sight unlike anything Helen had ever seen in her life. She couldn’t wait to see it again.

Unfortunately, the cabins had never been insulated properly and were never meant for winter habitation, but Helen had chosen to live there year round. Insulating her cabin was necessary and she had no idea how to go about it. She’d tried using various items over the past winter, but nothing seemed to work well.