To die for

Posted: Friday, May 27, 2011

Author's note: This is another story about hunky river ranger Rod and scrumptious Kenai River guide Jenna, my attempt to teach readers about fish while they read a steamy romance novel. -- LP

Jenna was not having a good day. While launching her boat at The Pillars, she had overheard Rod shamelessly flirting with a woman whose license he was checking. Probably getting her phone number while he was at it, Jenna grumbled to herself.

One glance from the muscular, deeply tanned ranger could set her heart to fluttering like a cheap spinner. A few minutes earlier, she was unhooking the tie-down straps from her trailer when he came up behind her and took her slender waist in his strong hands.

"Good morning, beautiful," he said.

She opened her mouth to reply, but his lips suddenly were on hers, and she was lost in a flood of emotions and conflicting thoughts, one of which was that her three clients were watching with great interest. She pulled away, gasping like a fish that's been played too long.

"Excuse me," she said. "I have work to do."

"I'll see ya later," Rod said.

A few minutes later, Jenna was still flustered. Preoccupied with the memory of Rod's powerful arms around her, she pulled away from the dock without looking to her left and nearly collided with a drift boat. To her dismay, it was her nemesis, Sister Providence. The one-legged nun who always seemed to turn up at the worst time.

"Watch where you're going, young lady!" the Sister yelled. "You almost rammed me."

"I'm sorry," Jenna said.

The Sister turned and continued rowing downstream, saying, "If you spent more time guiding and less time with that ranger, the world would be a better place."

Jenna was still smarting from that crotchety rebuke an hour later, when she and her clients were back-trolling, just upstream from Beaver Creek. To make matters worse, the kings weren't biting. She put her clients on a gravel bar to fish for sockeyes, but they weren't catching any. Just as she was feeling as inept as a humpy on a skateboard, she saw Rod's boat coming down-river. Her heart pounded with anticipation.

The tall river ranger deftly maneuvered his boat in close to hers, as close as his hands had been to her body.

"How you doing?" Rod said, nimbly hopping ashore.

With clients nearby, Jenna didn't trust herself. A little distraction is in order, she figured.

Gathering her composure, she said, "At least eight species of anadromous fish, besides five species of salmon, have been found in the Kenai River. Two of these, the Pacific lamprey and the arctic lamprey, are eel-like creatures. The larger of the two, the Pacific lamprey, averages about 21 inches in length and weighs a little under 1 pound. While migrating upstream to spawn in spring and summer, they employ an oral sucker to hold onto smooth obstructions, then let go and swim vigorously upstream to catch a new hold. In the spawning act, the female attaches herself to a stone and the male fastens his sucker on the head of the female. The adults die soon after spawning."

Before she could move, the lanky ranger had wrapped his arms around her as tight as a sardine fillet on a Kwikfish.

"That's you," he said, his dark eyes smoldering. "To die for."

Would-be romance novelist Les Palmer lives in Sterling.

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