You may have heard, Shadows of Destiny book 6 (a novella), is releasing December 20th!!! I’m excited for this surprise story. It’s short but sweet and sexy. I hope you like it too. Here’s a first look at the book. The very first chapter (unedited so don’t yell at me for typos). Enjoy!
There was nothing like disappearing into the wild to clear the mind.
Dozens of hikers lost their way in the Gila Wilderness every year, never to be heard from again. Now Bodhi understood why.
He paused to wipe the sweat from his brow then kept trudging. It felt like he was walking on hot coals. He couldn’t wait to reach the river, take his boots off, and plunge his feet into the coolness. His shirt clung to his skin uncomfortably. Maybe he’d jump in, clothes and all. He’d been daydreaming about it for the last hour, at least. It was easily ninety degrees in this hellhole.
He had no right to complain. This had been his idea. The solo backpacking trip, the location, the time of year. One of his only breaks from work was in the dead of summer, which made for a terrible time to hike across the small mountains of New Mexico.
The terrain didn’t look how he’d pictured it. New Mexico brought to mind sand, desert, small shrubs, and rattlesnakes. There were snakes alright, but what he hadn’t expected was evergreens, mountain peaks poking up in the distance, even a marsh he’d trekked through the day before. Versatile and interesting, but also dangerous. If he hadn’t much experience, he might have been one of the many that disappeared for good.
Through the thin tree line, a murky river appeared. He willed his feet to move faster but only ended up stumbling. At the edge, he dropped his pack then plopped down onto the rocky ground. He pulled off each hiking boot, hissing when it scraped against his raw blisters. With a deep inhale, he walked through a meditation to center himself.
Eyes closed, he pictured himself as a rock. The water was his pain and it flowed toward him. The sound of the small river helped the vision. In his mind, the water came to him but instead of rushing over him, it made a circle around him. On either side of the rock, it rushed past, never touching him. It was a meditation he’d done hundreds of times. It came so easily that in the next breath he exhaled, the raw pain of his feet diminished to just a dull ache.
He opened his eyes. The river was smaller than he’d thought – only a few yards wide. It was more of a stream though the guide book called it a river. The dry spell was especially bad this year it seemed. He rose from the ground, breathing through stone digging into his aching soles then walked to the water.
When the coolness washed over his feet, he exhaled a moan. The chill of the stream snaked up from his toes and worked its way
through his body, leaving him covered in goose bumps. He pulled his shirt over his head and threw it onto the shore. A warm breeze came by and tickled his sweaty skin. Using his hands like a cup, he scooped the water and trickled it onto his chest and arms, trying to keep his pants from getting too wet. Hiking in wet clothes was just asking for an infection from chaffing.
He’d picked the Gila Wilderness on purpose. Getting lost outdoors hadn’t sounded so bad months ago, in the middle of second term, performing monotonous lectures to sleeping students at the University. He’d always enjoyed solo journeys through secluded areas, but this time he’d craved a challenge.
That’d been his thought then. Now he felt like this particular challenge might kill him. He wanted to lose himself in the peacefulness of nature – not die in a pool of his own sweat.
When he felt less like a roasted pig, and more like a human being, he stepped out of the water and searched for a comfortable spot to sit and meditate.
His Indian father was a practicing Buddhist and Bodhi had grown up watching him meditate for hours at a time. He settled down on the grass and slowly, one body part at the time, breathed out his tension.
In his mind, he was as big as the sea and as small as a bug. He was the wind blowing freely but nothing at the same time. His heart beat slowed and his body fell into a state of stasis.
Quiet. Serene. Barely alive.
A soft splashing sound drew him out of the haze. Slowly, he became aware of himself. His breath, his arms and hands, then to his feet and toes. Finally, he cracked open his eyes. The remnants of day cast an orange glow over a set of trees to the west. He needed to eat and make camp.
A feminine voice pulled his focus to the river. Humming? He scanned the area, looking for the owner of the sweet singing. Who on earth was out here in this miserable place?
He caught movement upstream. A naked figure bathing in the water. Long blonde, almost white hair fell down her back, reaching the apex of her backside. What the hell was a woman doing out here, naked and alone?
He scanned the area near where she bathed but it was perfectly still. Too still. A sense of serenity settled over him. He half expected a deer to trot to the water and bring her a robe, like some kind of Disney movie.
As quietly as he could, he stood and crept closer to the girl. Gravel crunched under his feet and she spun around and gasped. Their gazes locked. Her lips parted and she froze with her arms covering her breasts.
“I won’t hurt you,” he said, hoping she spoke English. “I’m just a hiker, traveling through.” Where did she live? There hadn’t been signs of civilization in days.
Her eyes darted back and forth, as if she were looking for an escape route. Too enthralled to lose her now, he put his hands out in a peaceful gesture.
“Please don’t run. I won’t hurt you.” He crept closer. “Are you hungry? I’m going to make camp. I have extra food.”
Her shoulders relaxed and she dropped her arms at her sides, baring her breasts. Though he knew it was wrong, he couldn’t look away from the pale mounds and rosy nipples. Her small waist flared to wide hips then lower, a small patch of blonde hair showed between her thighs. Well, she wasn’t starving, that was for sure. Fuck, she was sexy.
Only a few feet from the river bank where she stood, he stopped and forced his gaze to her face then smiled at her. “Hi. I’m Bodhi.”
She blinked her luminous eyes and something clicked. A fierce sense of protectiveness swept over him. Like one end of a magnet, he felt drawn to her, to save her or to fuck her, he didn’t know. Either way, he was hooked.