Into the Fire

In the sequel to Through the Mist,
we find Katherine's happily- ever-
after ending slowly unraveling
then suddenly blown to bits
by a phone call from her past.
Events are put into motion
that endanger everyone
she holds dear and force
her to make the most
difficult choice of her life.

Can we ever truly leave our past behind?

 Will be AVAILABLE  SPRING  2018

Excerpt: Chapter 3

“Give me the sack and I’ll set things up inside while you get us some water,” Josephine instructed.

TJ gave her a smirk, but didn’t hesitate, grabbing the bucket off the front porch and heading to the handpump out back. She had always had the upper hand in their friendship. TJ had never been shy about showing his feelings toward her. As far back as she could remember he’d had a crush on her; kissing her as a toddler, long uncomfortable stares in puberty, and now looking for any excuse to touch her or be close to her, which had become a problem at school.

She didn’t like the strange looks and rude comments made by her  friends anytime he stopped to talk to her in the hall. “Why do you even bother with him?” they would say. Sometimes she pretended not to see him or would turn away and begin a conversation with someone else before he could reach her. She felt bad afterward, but TJ seemed to understand and never brought it up. She was glad she wouldn’t have to choose between TJ and her friends at school any longer.

Next week she would be leaving for California! In no time at all she would meet some surfers like the Beach Boys or perhaps an older pre-law or pre-med student who struck her fancy. Josephine was well aware of her beauty, having had her pick of boys through high school, and figured the possibilities would be endless at college.   

Josephine pulled plates and glasses from the cabinet and tore a few paper towels off the roll that hung from a wire hanger above the water basin, setting the table for two.

TJ soon joined her, filled their glasses and sat down across from her. Before she could take a bite of her biscuit he leaned across the table and gently brushed a few loose hairs from her face. Josephine’s tummy flipped like a pancake. What was that? Was she going to be ill? She pushed his hand away – sending her full glass of water flying.

“Geeze, Jo, I was only trying to keep your hair out of your food.”

“Look at this mess, would you!” Josephine got up, took her plate to the basin in an effort to salvage her meal and grabbed the whole roll of paper towels. After wiping down her seat she got down on her hands and knees to dry the floor and wall. As she wiped up the corner, something brushed her hand. Stuck between the rough-cut baseboard and log wall was a Polaroid photograph. She pulled it out, got up off the floor and brushed the dust from it. She couldn’t believe her eyes! “What is this?!”

Quick as a bear protecting its cub, TJ rushed to her side. Unlike the time he had pulled a sliver from her finger when they were kids, or when he helped her walk from the bus stop after she sprained her ankle just last year, there wasn’t anything he could do but stare at the photo alongside of her.

The pound of Bonanza’s strides were deafening, yet she could hear one more set of hoofs closing in on them. Another hundred yards sat the end of the clearing and her new record! The moment the trail straightened out across the field, Josephine let the reins slide through her fingers and leaned over her mount, lengthening the gelding’s strides. Suddenly she felt a tug on her ponytail just as she entered the stand of aspen.  

Josephine sat back and drew up her reins. “I think I made it!”

“Not even close, Walker, maybe next time,” said TJ, circling her like a war party around a captured covered wagon.  

“Stop, you’re making me dizzy! And, I did so make it and look you pulled my ponytail out,” Josephine whined, flipping her hair over her shoulder as she turned to face the Blackfeet teenager. “Theodore James Black Feather! Where’s my hair band?”

“You’re not my mother, you know.” TJ pulled Cisco up next to her holding the band out in a teasing fashion. “I like your hair down.”

“Well, I like it up when I’m riding. Besides, I’ll need to put it up when we go swimming later,” she said, holding out her hand.

Flashing his father’s smile, he dropped the hair band onto her palm.

Then she noticed! “Your hair, you cut it!”

“Yeah, I think it makes me look older, more sophisticated, don’t you?” he said in a low masculine voice, turning his head to give her a better view.

No, I liked your hair long. It’s always been long.” As the pair began walking side by side along the lake trail, Bonanza and Cisco breathing heavily in unison, Katherine snuck peeks at TJ. The geeky and goofy neighbor boy she had played tag and hide-n-seek with since they were toddlers, did look different, more like a young man than an awkward teen. Even though he was three months her senior, he had always looked younger than she did... until now. Was it the shorter hair? For a moment she might have even felt attracted to him. Josephine shook her head, cracking a lop-sided smile to herself -enough silly thoughts.

“What did you bring us?” she asked, sliding her hair band over her wrist. For as long as they had gone on morning trail rides together, they took turns bringing breakfast.

TJ flipped a drawstring bag braided into Cisco’s mane over the gelding’s neck. “Ham biscuits, and they’re still warm, but they won’t be for long.” TJ cued Cisco into a trot leading the way down the trail toward the hunting cabin.

When they reached the log cabin built on stilts not far from shore, they slid from their mounts and tied them to the hitching post out front.