Kennady thought she’d found the perfect summer escape—working at a resort in Jackson Hole. But then Atticus comes to town, an international conference threatens world finances, and a Mexican cartel shows up to stop the conspirators. When Kennady’s friend Chelo gets entangled with a handsome and possibly dangerous man, her own life is threatened. From eco-terrorism and kidnappings, to gunshots and an earthquake, Jackson was not an escape after all.
BONUS: Hot Pursuit offers two storylines with two different endings for each. Also includes links to images, music, information about location, and other fun details that relate to the story.
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The car barely hummed as it moved rapidly through the increasing dusk. They were heading out of the Jackson area, but Chelo had lost track of the direction. “Where are we going?”
“It’s a piece of property my father owns,” Xavier replied. “Most summers since I turned fifteen, I spent a month here.”
“So my father contacted your father because he had property around here?” Chelo watched out the window, hoping to memorize landmarks. But the closing darkness only allowed her to see the occasional mile markers that whipped past much too often.
“Not exactly. Our fathers are cousins, and family helps family. Our cabin and my knowledge of the area were a bonus.”
They roared down the narrow highway, well over the speed limit. When they passed other cars, Chelo held her breath in fear, her nails digging into the door handle. Any moment the car could blow a tire, causing them to spin out of control and plummet over the side of the mountain. Chelo realized she had only herself to depend on. Nobody knew she’d left with Xavier. She had to stay calm and think her way out of this. “So everything has been a lie.”
“No.” He eased back behind a car rather than pass on a curve. “I had no idea how beautiful you would be, or how much I’d enjoy our time together. That is real.”
She stared ahead, avoiding his eyes. He turned down a lane that cut through thick lodgepole pines. A rail fence lined the road on either side. “Why are you bringing me here?” she asked.
After a hundred yards Xavier stopped before a closed gate. “Your father would like to talk to you, but first I’ve got to open this. Now I can drag you out there with me so you don’t run away, or you can wait until I get back and I’ll drive you to where you can talk to him.”
Chelo suddenly felt excited. She hadn’t seen her papa in over a year. She missed the cigar smell that clung to his clothes, and how his eyes lit up when he saw her. “I’ll wait,” she told Xavier.
The gate, made of logs, swung on large iron hinges. Xavier came back to the car and drove through, leaving the entrance open. The final light from the setting sun had gone, and they drove down a dark lane. At the end, the trees opened to a clearing with a stable to the left and a log-framed house to the right. A waning moon lit the space and flashed silver through the trees from where it reflected off a body of water. At the edge of the headlights, a long rope hung from a high branch, with a tire tied on the end of it. For a moment, Chelo pictured Xavier as a lean, tall youth, swinging recklessly over the roof of the cabin, then plunging earthward again, laughing and letting go with one hand.
“Chelo? Come inside.” He had gotten out of the car and walked around to get her door. She stepped out into the chilly air. Over the chorus of crickets, she could hear the sound of a rushing river. Above, in a space between the treetops, three bright stars shone in the sky. She hoped her father would come out and meet her here. Xavier took her elbow and guided her toward the front porch. The door didn’t open to welcoming arms. Why is the place so dark?
The headlights on his car faded, but Xavier slipped a key into the lock on the heavy cabin door and opened it quickly. He flipped a light switch, and the magic of moonlight and stars vanished with the realization of an empty room.
“I thought you said my father was here,” Chelo growled, assessing the wood-paneled space filled with rustic leather furniture and plaid wool blankets.
“I said he wanted to talk to you. Have a seat and I’ll get us a Coke.”
“Where is my dad?” she yelled.
“I only said that you’d get to talk to him.” The shock hit her like a blow to the gut.
“You’re a bully, Xavier—a mean, low-class thug.” Her voice came out scratchy with fear. Without her father there to help her, she felt unprotected.
Xavier only laughed. “Don’t get all worked up. You’ll talk to him soon.” Xavier went into an adjoining room and turned on another light. Chelo looked about for a weapon. Over a rock fireplace, a heavy beam served as a mantle. A brass clock noisily ticked off the seconds.
Xavier returned and handed her an open can. She turned away. “You are a liar. You do not care about me.”
“It’s just a Coke,” he coaxed.
She snatched the can from him and took a short drink. Despite her growing panic, a jolt of caffeine might help her carry through with an escape. Behind him, the clock on the mantle looked heavy enough to knock him out, but too large to conceal behind her back. And the sharp edges might cut his skull. I’ve never been good around blood. She drank again. The pop tasted good. Next to the clock sat a basket filled with dusty eucalyptus leaves and dried berries. She took another drink.
“So your dad is my dad’s cousin? Then you are my uncle? No, that’s not right.” Her mind had trouble making sense. Maybe she could go outside and get some fresh air. Her head began to ache.
“Sit down,” he said. “You don’t look too good.”
He tugged at her elbow and she mechanically moved toward a sofa, but the motion made her dizzy. She let her knees bend until she sank into the leather cushion. She raised her head and tried to focus. Next to the basket on the mantle, just before a series of framed pictures, three white wooden candlesticks with white candles on them offered another choice. The candlesticks had smooth bulging curves. One of them would be perfect.
“Here, have another drink—it’ll clear your head,” he said, easing her elbow upward. What he said made no sense, but she drank anyway. Nothing is making sense. I need to get to the candlesticks.
She tried to think of something to say to distract Xavier. “When do I talk to my father? Is he on his way?” Chelo tried to stand up so she could walk casually toward the fireplace.
“Some friends are bringing a satellite phone. We’ll call him then.” Xavier spoke right next to her.
Why was the fireplace still across the room? She realized she hadn’t stood up yet. And then she looked at the picture closest to the candlesticks. She recognized Xavier, though he looked about fifteen. He held a gun casually across his chest. It wasn’t a hunting rifle. She’d seen that type of gun all her life back home.
He reached out and took the soda can from her just before she slumped backward. A thought hovered around her slipping consciousness, like smoke from her father’s cigars, then drifted away before the words could form. He drugged me.
Susan writes constantly, gardens in rich earth, hikes where the sky brushes the mountains, loves without restraint, reads in between, and shovels snow in serpentine patterns. She is the author of Cold Pursuit, and Redemption, the story of Jonah.
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