by Renee Donne
Release Date: 11/14/14
Summary from Goodreads:
Moving across the country isn’t Hunter’s ideal start to her Junior year of high school. She has no friends to hang out with, no beaches to lounge on, and she’s living just a few miles from the secluded hiking trail where her father died when she was a baby.
Living in Wyoming isn’t all bad, though, thanks to Logan, the handsome veterinary assistant at the animal clinic where she lands an after school job. And he seems just as interested in her as she is in him.
As Hunter begins to settle into her new home, she learns more about the circumstances surrounding her father’s tragic death, and it may not have been the accident everyone believes. Something dangerous lurks in the woods, and Hunter might be the next victim.
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Renee Donne is a native Floridian with a penchant for writing books with a western theme. In her head, she's a world traveler and an amateur chef. In real life, she's a hometown girl with an affinity for fine wine and good friends. Her favorite place to write is sitting on her veranda, overlooking the beach.
“Where you off to?” Grandfather Birchum’s gruff voice stopped me in my tracks just as I was about to descend the steps from the porch to the driveway.
I turned to face him. He was completely outfitted and ready for a day of ranch work in old jeans, boots, and a button down plaid shirt. He even wore a Stetson, which seemed to be typical attire around here. “Exploring,” I answered, waving my printed map in the air as proof.
“You got a trail in mind, or are you just planning to wing it? The land can be dangerous out there, you know.” There was a warning in his tone.
“I’m a big girl, Grandpa. And yes, I do have a trail in mind. I pointed toward what I hoped was West, toward the area of Grandpa’s land that bordered the forest.”
He nodded and reached into his pocket. “Take my truck.” He tossed his keys at me, and I caught them with an arm against my chest. Grandpa was clearly a man of few words, but I was happy for the offer. It sure beat biking out to the trail just to walk some more.
In no time, I’d reached the edge of Grandpa’s land and pulled to a stop when the vegetation became too thick to drive anymore. The air was warming a bit, but it was still on the cool side when I stepped out of the truck. I couldn’t remember ever seeing such gorgeous blue skies without it being ninety-five degrees outside. I slung my backpack over my shoulder and took the path leading away from Grandpa’s truck.
About an hour into my hike, I found myself wishing I had a pair of boots. My old sneakers just weren’t made for this terrain. The plant life around the path had thinned, and this was the perfect place to take a rest, sit and enjoy the solitude of nature. I slid down against a tree and pulled my snacks out of my bag.
I was just washing down my second granola bar with a bottle of water when I heard a faint shuffling noise behind me. Thinking some wild animal had happened upon me, I hopped up and spun around to face it far less gracefully than I’d intended.
Rather than a wolf or fox or whatever they had out here, it was a man. An old, Native-American man, standing no more than ten feet from me, and dressed like something straight out of a Western movie. How had he gotten so close without me hearing him? He stared at me, and not sure what to do, I just stared back.
He perched on a nearby boulder. "Relax Hunter. I don’t want to hurt you."
“How do you know my name? What do you want?" I was relieved there was no wild animal about to pounce, but I was still wary of this odd stranger.
“I have been expecting you. Before you were born, you had a purpose.” That cryptic response was apparently the only one I was going to get. He stood and began to walk away. When I didn’t follow, he turned to look over his shoulder at me. “Don’t just stand there. Let’s go.” He sounded so much like an annoyed father speaking to a child that, without even considering my actions, I followed him.
He motioned to a multi-colored blanket which lay folded on the ground against a large rock. “Sit,” he barked and crouched several feet away. Then he used his finger to draw a line in the dry earth. Unable to deny my curiosity, I sat and watched intently, trying to figure out what he was doing.
I observed in silence while he worked, not wanting to break what appeared to be intense concentration by asking what he was doing. For almost twenty minutes, he sat creating an intricate design. I couldn’t quite tell what the image was, but he seemed quite pleased with the finished product.
“It is done. You may leave now.” He hadn’t spoken since telling me to sit, and now he wanted me to just get up and leave?
“What you came for. I have learned all I needed. Now, you better leave, return to your vehicle, and go home before anyone realizes you’re here. They won’t like that you visited. You should stay away from here; it’s too close.”
This guy was obviously more than a little on the crazy side. Leaving was starting to look pretty appealing. Granted, I kind of liked him for the eccentricity, but if there were others like him, I didn’t want to be around when they showed up and the crazy party really started. I stood and moved slowly away from him. I headed back down the path, grabbing my pack from where I left it, and slipping my arms through the straps as I walked.
I made my way back to the truck, replaying the last bizarre hour in my head all the while. It seemed like a much shorter trip back than it was to get all the way out there, but I wasn’t going to complain. I was suddenly in a hurry to get home.