Love Finds You in North Pole, Alaska

By: Loree Lough

She considered asking him if he knew a good lawyer in town but shot him a half grin instead. “Maybe you can vouch for me if I need a personal reference.”

“But of course I will!” He turned her hands loose as the freckle-faced kid signaled to him. Reaching into his suit coat pocket, Edmunds withdrew a dinner coupon and scribbled something on the back. “This will entitle you to free meals for as long as you need them.” Pressing it into her hand, he added, “And if anyone in the restaurant questions you, send them to me.”

Oh, right, Sam thought, send them to the guy with no power. Besides, why would she want to eat in the place where the new chef was eighteen, if that? “Thanks,” she said as the threat of tears prickled behind her eyelids. Before they could spill down her cheeks, she headed for the door, wondering how in the world she could have misread God’s signals so badly.

“Miss Sinclair,” called Edmunds, “wait, please…”

She held her breath and willed the tears to subside as he caught up with her.

The hotel manager handed her a copy of The North Pole Daily Star. “Perhaps you’ll find something to your liking in the want ads.”

Sam murmured a less than enthusiastic “Thanks” and tucked it under her arm before shoving through the big glass doors. Please, Lord, she prayed, just let me make it to the RV before the waterworks start.

Bryce paced the well-worn hardwood floor at Rudolph’s, hoping a qualified assistant would soon materialize. Because if he had to spend one more ten-hour day cooped up in this cramped, cluttered gift shop, frustration might just drive him out the door, where he’d bellow like a wounded bull moose. And in a town like North Pole, that just might invite trouble…of the four-hoofed kind.

He’d placed the want ad in the paper just as Olive had suggested. So far, his poor aunt had suffered through four dead-end interviews. The first was a housewife who spoke so softly, Olive found herself nodding even though he couldn’t make out a word the woman said. And while the arthritic man with the cane spoke more than loudly enough, Olive admitted it wasn’t likely the poor fellow had the stamina to last even one hour, let alone six hours, five days a week.

The high school kid who showed up fifteen minutes late for the scheduled appointment showed some promise, and Olive said she might just have hired him…if his mom hadn’t tagged along and recited her son’s long list of extracurricular activities. Then Buster, the town drunk, came in to say, “I might-could squeeze in a couple-few hours a day…if the li’l woman approves.” As it turned out, Olive hadn’t needed to turn Buster down, because the little woman didn’t approve.

By the end of the second week of interviews, Bryce gave some serious thought to boarding up the place and heading for Quantico. Last he heard, the Communications Specialist position the marines had dangled like a carrot was still available. Not his favorite option, but better than no options. Hard as it was to admit, working Rudolph’s beat sitting in a windowless office eight hours a day. Still, if he could figure out how to cope with the confinement of a desk in a windowless Quantico office for a couple of months, maybe he could pull in a favor from his buddy the lieutenant general and snag a choice reassignment that didn’t involve florescent lighting….

Bryce’s email program pinged, announcing an incoming message. As he spun his desk chair around to face the computer, he prepared himself for yet another disappointing want ad response. Instead, he grinned at the brief letter of introduction.

Dear Mr. Stone, it began, I have read with interest your listing in The North Pole Daily Star and would appreciate an opportunity to speak with you at your earliest convenience about the advertised management position. If, after reviewing my résumé (attached), you feel I’m qualified for the job, feel free to contact me at this email address to schedule an interview. I am available to begin work immediately and look forward to hearing from you soon. And it was signed, Sam Sinclair.

“Hot dog!” Bryce exclaimed. He hastily pecked out a reply message inviting Sam to come in for an interview with Olive that very afternoon at three. If that was too last-minute, he typed, Sam could suggest a better time tomorrow. Hopefully, he thought as his forefinger mashed the SEND button, good ol’ Sam was still at his computer and would confirm the appointment. Soon.

“Hot dog!” he repeated when, a moment later, the machine alerted him to Sam’s response: I look forward to meeting with you today at three. He printed out the attached pages, left a phone message for Olive that spelled out the details, and headed for his garage workshop. Though he hadn’t read Sam’s résumé, something told him the guy would be perfect for the job.

Bryce passed the time by checking every power tool on the shelves. Miraculously, none were beyond repair. A little sharpening here, a little sanding and oil there, and he could get down to the business of building one-of-a-kind furniture.

It wasn’t easy, but he made a point of staying away from Rudolph’s and finish up the interview. When he couldn’t stand the suspense a minute longer, he tidied the work bench and headed for Rudolph’s.. At least until four o’clock. By then, Olive would have had more than enough time to review Sam Sinclair’s résumé

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