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Today's excerpt comes from a future novella titled, LOVE AFTER SNOWFALL. This is definitely a work in progress, but I'm pleased with the start of it enough to share it with you. In this beginning scene, Clementine Button realizes she's shot a moose and a man.
The cathedral-like spires of spruce, pine, and hemlock stood tribute to the season’s first snowfall. Shuffling her feet, the girl glanced back at her snowmobile parked on the trail and her dog waiting patiently at its side.
“No roamin’ around, Timmy,” she said to the dog. “I’ll be back.”
Timmy’s tail wagged, shooting a spray of snow upward with the motion. She returned her gaze forward.
She wound her way between the frosted trees over uneven ground toward the opening she’d spotted from the top of the pass. Half an hour passed before she reached it. There, huffing and puffing, she halted to survey the landscape.
Alaska stretched out before her in its glorious beauty, the natural rise and fall of the mountains miles pressed against a bleached winter sky.
She smiled. She was privileged to be here, to see the last frontier like this. She had Nathan to thank for that because he’d brought her here, shown her how to be self-sufficient. Thought of Nathan made her heart beat painful. She missed him so much.
Stuffing her thoughts back in place, she concentrated on the task at hand. That bull moose had been headed this way, should be here any minute, in fact. She readied her rifle, running one hand down the smooth, oiled barrel, and hooked her finger over the trigger.
The snap and pop of the low brush confirmed her suspicions. Scanning the space, she sighted one eye along the barrel and spotted the telltale antlers bobbing up and down with the beast’s ponderous steps. One shot, that’s all it’d take, and she could make that easy, had done so many times. The moose strolled along, and she tightened her grip, ready, alert.
Her shot rang out between the trees, echoing off the side of the distant mountains, alongside the moose’s squeal. Ecstatic, she tucked the rifle beneath her arm and surged forward. Now came the tedious part, hours of work carving up the carcass, with several trips to retrieve it all. It’d be worth it. She could feed herself the entire winter off this one animal.
She pressed ahead, following the crash of the moose into the distance. But another sound entered her ears – whimpering, thick breathing, and the gasp and grunt of something wounded. Not the moose, for the moose had moved on to die a mile or two away. Her senses awakened, she pushed toward the sound, and stopped solid at the sight, her insides curling into a ball.
A man lay prone on the ground, his leg bent at an awkward angle, his skin as pale as the inescapable ice.
“Who are you?” the girl asked.
The man looked upward into the face of an attractive girl with flaming red hair. Out of place in this pristine environment. “Ezekiel Knapp, and I’ll ask the same.” He said this through gritted teeth, pain rippling across him.
She narrowed her gaze. “My grandmother’s name. I hardly think this is the time to question me on it.”
He fell silent. She was angry. But she’d shot him, not the other way around. He raised one palm in surrender just the same.
“You had to go and complicate my life,” she said.
He blinked up at her. Was she serious? “Complicate your life? You shot me!”
She gave a snort. “Shouldn’t have been acting like a moose.”
“Shouldn’t have been …” His anger flared. “Look here, Miss Button. I didn’t even know the moose was there, nor did I think some girl would be standing here prepared to kill it.”
The pain in his leg flared, and he fell back with a moan.
“You’ve complicated it,” she reaffirmed. “Don’t suppose you can explain what you’re doing out here.”
He sucked in a shaky breath. What was her problem? She could see he was injured, so why question him now?
“Trapping.” He forced the word between his lips.
“Trapping?” One eyebrow arched upward. “You must have come quite a ways then. Aren’t any trappers living out here.”
“Ten miles,” he grunted.
“On foot? Gees, you’re dumb.”
He raised his head and glared at her. “I … would say … the same since …” He held in a groan. “Since you can’t aim.”
The curse words that left her mouth were out of place for someone so beautiful. Because despite her anger, she was by far the prettiest thing he’d ever seen. The sun filtered through her hair casting a flame-colored halo around her head.
He collapsed on the snow, his gaze frozen on her face.
She knelt, bringing the vision closer, and ran one hand over his leg. Poking around the bullet wound, her fingers brushed the hole in his pants, then she sat back on her heels. “Ten miles which direction?”
He gestured west.
“I’m not going that way,” she said.
Which meant what? He hadn’t the energy to ask. They were both a long ways away from any medical care, and he couldn’t get out of here without her help, so whatever direction she was going would be where he went as well.
“I have to get you to the snowmobile,” she said. “You can ride in the sled.” She lifted a clump of snow and pressed it to his wound. “Keep that on it. I’m afraid you’re in for a day of it.”
“A day?” he squeaked. He wouldn’t last an hour, much less the rest of the day. At least, it felt that way.
She eyed him. “I have to follow the moose. Not letting the wolves get him.”
Wolves. Thought of their blood-thirsty jaws made his blood chill.
“I’ll take you to my place after. I think I can get the bullet out, but you’ll be off your feet for a few days.”
Days? Weeks, more like it. And unable to fend for himself. Great.
“You got anything needin’ care at your place?” she asked.
He shook his head. “No.”
She stood to her feet. “Just as well, because it would’ve starved.” She rested one hand on her hip. “Where’s your things?”
He sucked in a breath and worked up the energy to respond. “Hundred yards or so,” he said.
She stared down at him, and he was struck again by how pretty she was. What was a girl like that doing out here?
“I can’t tote you,” she continued. “I suggest you say a prayer because you’re gonna have to figure out how to walk.”
Suzanne D. Williams
Suzanne Williams Photography
Suzanne Williams is a native Floridian, wife, and mother, with a penchant for spelling anything, who happens to love photography.