We'll Never Tell(4)

By: Jannine Gallant



“Yeah.” Ethan looked down at the dog before raising his eyes to meet her gaze. “If you’re sure you’re okay, I guess I’ll go.”

She nodded. “I’m fine. Just fine.”





Chapter Two




Seventeen Years Later…



The ringing wouldn’t stop. Samantha Beaumont slapped the alarm clock, knocking it to the floor, but still the sound went on and on. A tsunami warning… God, not again.

She swung her legs out of bed, feet hitting soft carpet instead of straw matting. Taking a deep breath to still her pounding heart, she shook herself fully awake. She was in her bedroom at Ravenswood, not in a South Pacific hut…

The phone rang again, and she jumped, hitting her elbow on the nightstand. Her gaze flew to the upended alarm clock. Who would be calling her at five-thirty in the morning? Grabbing the receiver, she punched the talk button.

“This better be good.”

“Afraid not. I heard you were back in town.”

“Ken?” Sam rubbed her eyes. “What’s wrong?”

“Lost hiker.”

She slumped against the pillows, picturing the twitching gray moustache and concerned brown eyes of Ravenswood’s fire chief. Ken Reeves was an institution. Heading up the local search and rescue team in addition to his duties as fire chief, the man could out hike and outlast most of the men on his crew, despite having celebrated his sixtieth birthday the year before.

“I don’t work for you anymore.”

“More’s the pity.” His sigh whistled through the phone line. “We could use the help. Some idiot tourist went off on his own yesterday and didn’t come back to the hotel last night. His wife’s description of his itinerary is, and I quote, ‘North, I think.’”

“Terrific.”

“Are you game? We’re meeting at the fire station at six sharp. It’ll be light enough to see by then.”

Sam yawned. “Sure. I’ve been home for a grand total of twenty-four hours. Looks like my vacation’s over.”

“Vacations are overrated.”

The dial tone buzzed in her ear. Smiling, she dropped the receiver onto the cradle and headed for the shower. Twenty minutes later, with her gear packed, she let the kitchen door slam shut behind her.

Birds chirped in the tall pines that crowded around the little cabin tucked into the far corner of her parents’ estate. The sun crept above the surrounding mountains, casting the gray light of dawn across the valley. Wisps of pale blonde hair blew around her face, stirred by the morning breeze. Shaking it out of her eyes, she walked quickly down the long drive. The main street through Ravenswood was mostly deserted. The only signs of life were two cars parked in front of the café and half a dozen pickups left in the empty lot next to the fire station, her current destination.

The side door creaked when she opened it. Male voices rumbled overhead. Bounding up the stairs, Sam walked into an open room filled with tables and chairs, most of them occupied. Ken Reeves leaned against the south facing window, his arms crossed over his barrel chest. He stopped speaking, glanced up at the institutional clock on the wall opposite him, and raised one shaggy brow.

Six-oh-five.

Sam grinned. “Shoot me.”

His moustache quivered. “Welcome home.”

“Thanks.” She spread her arms wide. “A party, just for me? You shouldn’t have.”

Deep male laughter echoed around the room.

“Pull up a chair while I bring you up to speed—” He broke off, and both brows shot up this time. “Well, well, look who the dog dragged in.”

“Sorry I’m late. I had to feed the beasts before I left the house.”

Sam spun around. A man stood at the top of the stairs, tall and lean with longish dark hair and the bluest eyes… A yellow lab sat at his feet. She swayed, unexpected memories surging.

“Ethan,” she croaked and cleared her throat.

Ethan Thorne stared back at her, his lips quirked in a hint of a smile. “How’s it going, Sam? It’s been a few years.”

Five years and two months, but who’s counting.

“Yeah, it has.”

“Enough chit-chat you two. Glad you could join us, Ethan.” Ken pointed at a photo tacked to the bulletin board. “Our lost hiker has been out in the mountains overnight, and while it didn’t get anywhere near freezing, there’s the possibility of injuries. Unfortunately our search area is a broad one. He could be anywhere.”

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