by Mariah Dietz
Sometimes life’s unforeseen paths lead us to discovering sides of ourselves we never knew existed.
Ace Bosse has always found solace at home, but when she returns for the summer from college she builds an unexpected relationship with the reckless Max Miller.
Three years ago, Max left for Alaska to find what he thought he’d lost, but now he realizes just how much he left behind.
Max teaches Ace that sometimes a little crazy is exactly what life needs while learning that some chances are worth taking, regardless of the risks.
But how do you know when you’ve met the right person? And will they be prepared to experience one of life’s biggest obstacles?
Falling in love isn’t easy, but holding on to it is where the real challenge lies.
“Why did you go to Alaska?” Max looks over at me, his eyes wide. “You don’t have to tell me, I just always wondered why you left.”
“No, no, it’s just that people only ask me why I came back, like they forgot I had a reason to go.” He pauses and adjusts the radio as the band that we’d listened to together in his kitchen after the TP incident streams softly through the speakers.
“I went to find my dad. I needed to know why he left.” Max sits quietly as my heart breaks a little for him. I can’t imagine having lost my father, especially to have him just walk away one day and never look back.
“My grandma had heard that he and my uncle ended up in Alaska. When I got there I met this guy that told me this long story about my dad and how he used to be a fisherman with his brother for this company that went out for Chinook Salmon and King Crabs. So I went and tried to find the ship that they had worked for. My dad was long gone, but they offered me a job and the chance to go to more ports where he might still be working.”
His eyes flicker to me, and the right side of his lips quirk up before he turns back to the road. “That’s where I met Jameson. We spent seven months out on the ocean together. Few people remembered my dad. So when we docked I got off and enrolled at the University of Alaska and continued looking for people that might know something. Jameson and I met Landon there. He’d just gotten out of the Army and was going to school. Every once in a while someone would swear they knew who I was talking about and would tell me where to go, but they were all a bunch of loose ends. Who knows, he’s probably dead.”
Max’s fingers clench the wheel. “He was a heavy alcoholic that liked to gamble and use his fists to make his hard-headed points. He’s been gone a long time.”
I work to swallow several of the words I want to say. “I feel sorry for him.”
“What?” He looks at me with a grin I know is forced.
“I feel sorry for him, for missing out on seeing who you are.” Max raises an eyebrow as he balks. “I’m serious. You’re pretty great, Max.”
As we pass a well-lit stretch, shadows dance across Max’s bare chest. I’ve seen him shirtless several times now, from both running together and swimming, yet the image still distracts me. My eyes slowly trace over the planes of his chest and the contours that accentuate his abs, over to his tattoos.
“What are you thinking about over there, Ace?” My eyes flash to his and I feel my face flush as I turn to look away, trying to formulate a comprehensive sentence.
Thankfully his phone rings saving me. We both glance down to see the name ‘Megan’ light up across the screen. I glance at the clock and see that it’s nearly two in the morning.
“You can get that if you want,” I say, folding my hands in my lap and regretting my earlier admission.
“That’s alright,” he says, clicking ignore as we pull into his driveway.
I wrench the door open as soon as the engine shuts off and slam it behind me, trying to convince myself to not care that a girl is calling him at two in the morning, and the reason for it. He stops me at the back of his Jeep.
I open my mouth to say a forced thank you when Max’s frustrated tone stops me in my tracks. “Why are you still dating him?”
This is not where I had anticipated the conversation going, and it makes me feel defensive since he’s been ignoring me to hang out with Felicia, and possibly Megan. I take a breath and close my eyes. I don’t want to fight with Max. I miss his friendship.
“Why does it matter?” My voice comes out quiet as I work to keep it level and calm from the rush of conflicting emotions.
“Are you kidding me? Why does it matter?” Max lifts both of his arms in the air like he wants to grip something, and then lets his hands fall behind his head tilting up. He stares at the sky for a long moment. “Why are you doing this?”
“You’re dating Felicia!” The words come as an accusation. I’m not even positive that he’s referring to us; I’m hardly ever certain because he dances on this gray line so often it’s making me go half insane.
“What do you want me to do?” His voice is raised with frustration. “You confuse the shit out of me, Ace!” He quietly growls as he runs his hand over his head which is now dipped to the ground.
“I’m tired of trying to read through the lines, Max!”
“This isn’t about me. It’s about you! As your friend, I’m telling you, you should dump the fucker and get it over with. He’s a complete dick.” And with that he’s done it again, bringing me back to a lighter shade of gray as we return closer to the friendship line. “You deserve better than him.”
“I appreciate your friendly advice, Max,” I say dryly, taking a wide step around him.
I turn, waiting for him to say what I need to hear. His lips part, but before he says anything, his phone rings piercing the moment.
“It sounds like she’s looking for you,” I say, looking at him, willing him to object or deny it. He stares back at me for a long moment before I turn around and make my way to my house.
“Dammit!” I hear Max growl in frustration, but I don’t turn around. I know if I do right now, I will reveal too much.
Mariah Dietz lives in Eastern Washington with her husband and two sons that are the axis of her crazy and wonderful world.
Mariah grew up in a tiny town outside of Portland, Oregon where she spent the majority of her time immersed in the pages of books that she both read and created.
She has a love for all things that include her sons, good coffee, books, travel, and dark chocolate. She also has a deep passion for the stories she writes, and hopes readers enjoy the journeys she takes them on, as much as she loves creating them.
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