About the Author
Though born in Chicago and raised in L.A., CASSIE MILES has lived in Colorado long enough to be considered a semi-native. The first home she owned was a log cabin in the mountains overlooking Elk Creek, with a thirty-mile commute to her work at the Denver Post. After raising two daughters and cooking tons of macaroni and cheese for her family, Cassie is trying to be more adventurous in her culinary efforts. Seviche, anyone? She’s discovered that almost anything tastes better with wine. When she’s not plotting Intrigue books, Cassie likes to hang out at the Denver Botanical Gardens near her high-rise home.
To Sara Hanson, the next writer in the family.
As always, to Rick.
Morning sunlight sliced into the rocky alcove where he had taken shelter. A blinding glare hit his eyes. The sun was a laser pointed directly into his face. He sank back into the shadows.
If he stayed here, they’d find him. He had to move, to run … to keep running. This wasn’t the time for a nap. He shoved himself off the ground where he’d been sleeping and crouched while he got his bearings.
Behind him, the rock wall curved like bent fingers. Another boulder lay before him like a giant thumb. He had spent the night curled up inside this granite fist.
How did I get here?
Craning his neck, he peered over the edge of the thumb. His hideout was halfway up a slope. Around him were shrubs, lodgepole pines, more boulders and leafy green aspen trees. Through the trunks, he saw the opposite wall of a steep, rocky canyon.
Where the hell am I?
His head throbbed. The steady, pulsating pain synchronized with the beating of his heart.
When he raised his hand to his forehead, he saw a smear of dried blood on the sleeve of his plaid, flannel shirt. My blood? Other rusty blotches spattered the front of his shirt. Was I shot? He took a physical inventory. Apart from the killer headache, he didn’t seem to be badly hurt. There were scrapes and bruises but nothing serious.
By his feet, he saw a handgun. A SIG Sauer P-226. He checked the magazine. Four bullets left. This isn’t my gun. He preferred a Beretta M9, but the SIG would do just fine.
He felt in his pockets for an ammunition clip and found nothing. No wallet. No cell phone. Not a useful packet of aspirin. Nothing. He wasn’t wearing a belt or a holster. Though he had on socks, the laces of his steel-toed boots weren’t tied. Must have dressed in a hurry.
He licked his parched lips. The inside of his mouth tasted like he’d been chewing on a penny. The coppery taste was a symptom, but he didn’t know what it meant. I could ask the paramedics. Oh, wait. Nobody’s here. Nobody’s coming to help me.
He was on his own.
His fingers gingerly explored his scalp until he found the source of his pain. When he poked at the knot on the back of his head, his hand came away bloody. Head wounds tended to bleed a lot, but how had that blood gotten on the front of his shirt?
He remembered shots being fired in the night. A fist-fight. Running. Riding. On a horse? That can’t be right. He wasn’t a cowboy. Or was he?
No time for speculating. He had to move fast. In four days …
His mind blanked. There was nothing inside his head but a big, fat zero.
In four days, something big was going down, something life-changing and important. Why the hell couldn’t he remember? What was wrong with him?
The chirp of a bird screeched in his hypersensitive ears, and he was tempted to go back to sleep. If he waited, the truth would catch up to him. It always did. Can’t escape the truth. Can’t hide from reality.
He closed his eyes against the sun and gathered his strength. A different memory flashed. He wasn’t in a forest but on a city street. He heard traffic noise and the rumble of an overhead train. Tall buildings with starkly lit windows loomed against the night sky. He fell on the pavement. Shadows devoured him. He fought for breath. If he lost consciousness, he would die.
His eyelids snapped open. Was he dead? That was as plausible an explanation as any.
This mountain landscape was the afterlife. Through the treetops, he saw a sky of ethereal blue. One thing was for damn sure. If he was dead, he needed to find an angel to tell him what came next.
CAITLYN MORRIS STEPPED onto the wide porch of her cabin and sipped coffee from her U.S. Marine Corps skull-and-crossbones mug. A crisp breeze rustled across the open meadow that stretched to the forested slopes. Looking to the south, she saw distant peaks, still snowcapped in early June.
A lock of straight blond hair blew across her forehead. She probably ought to do something about her messy ponytail. Heather was going to be here any minute, and Caitlyn didn’t want to look like she was falling apart.
She leaned her elbows on the porch railing and sighed. She’d moved to the mountains looking for peace and solitude, but this had been a busy little morning.
At daybreak, she’d been awakened by an intruder—a dappled gray mare that stood outside her bedroom window, nickering and snorting, demanding attention. The mare hadn’t been wearing a bridle or saddle, but she had seemed tame. Without hesitation, she’d followed Caitlyn to the barn. There, Caitlyn kept the other two horses she was renting for the summer from the Circle L Ranch, which was about eight miles down the winding dirt road that led to Pinedale.
After she’d tended to the wayward horse, sleep had been out of the question. She’d gotten dressed, had breakfast, put in a call to the Circle L and went back to the horse barn to check the inventory slip for the supplies that had been delivered from the hardware store yesterday.
A handyman was supposed to be starting work for her today, even though it was Saturday. Most of her projects didn’t require two people, but she needed help to patch the barn roof. She checked her wristwatch. It was almost nine o’clock, and the guy who answered her ad had promised to be here by eight. Had he gotten lost? She really hoped he wasn’t going to flake out on her.
When she saw a black truck coming down the road, her spirits lifted. Then she noticed the Circle L logo and the horse trailer. This wasn’t her handyman.
The truck pulled into her drive and a tall, rangy brunette—Heather Laurence, half-owner of the Circle L—climbed out. “Good to see you, Caitlyn. How are you doing?”
There was a note of caution in the other woman’s СКАЧАТЬ