After a harrowing accident with his dog sled, John Taylor returns home to Sweet Water with his leg in a cast and his dreams of running the Iditarod gone.
But when he meets the new doctor in town, Addey Blickensderfer, he ends up taking her troublemakeer teen son under his wing and teaches him about mushing.
Passion ignites, but can a man put down roots when all he wants to do is run?
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Excerpt from Loving John:
Late December – Alaska
John Thunderson Taylor forged his way through the fifty-mile-per-hour winds, trying to make it home with his team of sled dogs before they were blown halfway to Kansas. He never should have ventured out since he knew the weather conditions weren’t favorable, but his dogs needed to run and he thought he’d be able to make it back before the storm hit.
Hell, he wasn’t kidding anyone. He knew better than to risk the safety of his team, but the Iditarod was coming up soon, and he had pushed himself as well as his team harder than he ever should have because he wanted to run and win this race more than anything in his life right now. He’d wanted this so bad for so long, that he’d lived it every day. He’d only been back to his hometown in Sweet Water, Michigan, once in the last five years. He’d returned this past Christmas, though he should have returned six months ago when his mother died. John hadn’t been able to go back sooner, as he wasn’t one who dealt well with death of any kind.
He was a risk-taker and always had been his entire life. No one, including himself, ever knew what he would do until he actually did it. Acting irrationally was a trait of his, and had he taken time to think things through like his levelheaded brother, Philip, he wouldn’t be in this harrowing predicament right now.
He should have stayed to the trail, but it covered wide, open space. With the whipping wind and blowing snow, he was only trying to protect himself as well as his dogs by taking a shortcut through the woods. He knew there was a creek and sharp turns on a hill up ahead, but didn’t think it’d be as slippery as it was when he made the decision.
The storm picked up, and he felt the chill in his bones. He’d broken his left leg when he was eleven years old while hauling home the Christmas tree on a sled he’d rigged up to the family’s dogs. He’d been going over the frozen lake at the time when one of the dogs saw a squirrel. His leg ached as he thought about it, and that told him something bad was about to happen.
They rounded the hill up ahead, and since the snow was coming down so fast, he called out to his leads dogs, Lucifer and Albi. “Gee!” he shouted, giving them the command to turn right. He had twelve dogs on his team that trailed far out in front of him attached to the gangline, and wasn’t sure the dogs heard him. They were in a hurry to get home, and were taking this turn way too fast.
He saw a tree that had fallen blocking part of the trail, and he called out for his dogs to go around it. “On By!” he yelled out, feeling the icy snow beating against the exposed parts of his face. He wore a thick parka, goggles, warm boots, and a musher’s fur hat with long earflaps, as well as musher’s mitts. His dogs were donned in booties to keep their feet protected from the cold and sharp pieces of ice. Still, in these parts, the temperature could dip to twenty below zero or more in no time flat.
He applied the brake with one foot, helping to slow down the sled as the prongs from the horizontal metal bar dragged across the snow. The sled wobbled dangerously, threatening to topple over, and he hung on tight to the driver’s bow so he wouldn’t be thrown off and left behind, losing his team entirely.
It was late and getting dark. He snapped on the switch of his headlamp, but it only seemed to make a hazy glow in the whiteout conditions. “Damn,” he said under his breath, just wanting to be home. He called out louder this time. “Lucifer, Albi, Gee! Gee!”
They heard him and took a sharp right, but the swing dogs following right behind them didn’t fare as well. He couldn’t see clearly through the falling snow, but when the dogs turned too quickly and the sled tilted dangerously on the ice, he realized he had no choice but to stop his team.