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A brothel is no place to call home. Especially, if you are a young woman living a lie in the wild gold rush town of Barkerville. Jolian Grayson is determined to follow her dreams even if the rules of society force her into a life she doesnâ€™t want to live. But keeping up appearances wonâ€™t be easy once Cooper Holt stakes a claim on her heart.
"Hurry up, Jo, this is your second stop today!â€ Jakebâ€™s booted foot crunched the frozen white path. Jolian glanced between the snow-laden branches to the trail above her and saw her brother hop from one shabby leather sole to the other. His red cheeks were stiff from the cold and Jo saw his next words huffed out in front of him.
"Jo... Ma and Pa are getting too far ahead!â€
"Iâ€™m coming!â€ Her frozen fingers fumbled with the buttons on her union suit. Sheâ€™d waited as long as she could to relieve herself. Did Jakeb honestly believe she wanted to expose her bare skin to the raw Cariboo air for any extended period of time? She yanked homespun trousers over woolen-covered thighs, tucking the flannel shirt tight at her waist.
Her second stop today, ha! Didnâ€™t he welcome the break from the non-stop walking? Their last break had been more than two hours ago with only enough time to nibble cold biscuits and down stale coffee. Her belly growled in response to the memory of the false nooning. She shook her blanket coat free of a dusting of snow and then slipped her arms into the heaviness of its sleeves. Would she ever feel warm again? Even the thickness of her clothing couldnâ€™t stop her teeth from chattering. Time to walk again. At least it might take her mind off the temperature. For the fiftieth time today she cursed the weight of her canvas pack as it settled into place on her shoulder. The curse echoed in the hollow of her belly and sent back the ringing of her second favorite grumble: the fact that the entire miserable situation was of her own making.
With the toe of her oversized boots she covered the hole sheâ€™d made in the snow. No sense attracting unwelcome animals. A flutter of an entirely different kind, twinged in her belly. Who knew what creatures lingered behind the surrounding ancient pines and cedars? A barely audible prayer whispered from her lips. Shelter, or any thing resembling shelter, would be more than appreciated. The old map her father was following had been pretty accurate thus far, allowing them to find abandoned roadhouses and trappersâ€™ cabins along their route. Maybe theyâ€™d get lucky again soon.
"All right, Iâ€™m finished!â€ She waded through thigh-high powder until she found the branch sheâ€™d clung to when sheâ€™d left the trail. Mittens slipped on the wet pine needles as she heaved herself up the branch, hand over hand. Her breath came out in white puffs and a very unladylike sound grunted from her throat. Jakeb reached out a hand to pull her back up onto the trail while keeping his eyes focused on the direction their parents had taken.
"Can you still see them?â€ She fiddled with her glove trying to right the fingers.
"They just rounded that bend yonder.â€ Jakeb motioned with a glove-covered hand. "I think theyâ€™re--â€
The sound of the gunshot stopped him mid-sentence. The echo hung between them and it felt as though time suddenly began to move with minutes between each second.
"Maybe pa saw a rabbit,â€ Jakeb muttered as they stared in the direction their parents had gone. His astonishment rooted him to the spot.
"Run!â€ Jolianâ€™s mind screamed, but she remained inert. Then Jolian heard a sound she knew sheâ€™d remember for the rest of her days. Her motherâ€™s scream bounced off the canyon walls and reverberated in Jolianâ€™s bones. Almost drowning out the sound of the second shot... almost.
Time sped for a moment as Jakeb removed his pack and tossed it off the trail into the trees. He lifted her up, pack and all, and then half threw her into the trees as well.
"Stay there,â€ he whispered. "Donâ€™t make a sound. Stay right there until I get back. Dâ€™ya hear?â€
Camilleâ€™s first memory of wanting to be a writer comes from her early teens. Her short story "A Love to Rememberâ€ had been gingerly passed to a friend. Unbeknownst to her, that friend shared it with another, and eventually circled it around the school, until one day a classmate thrust a well-worn copy back into her hands and said, "I donâ€™t know who wrote this, but youâ€™ve got to read it!â€
She has since written several novels, short stories and poems and is thrilled to see her first novel in print. Camille lives in British Columbia, Canada.
Book Publisher: Wings e Press
No. of Pages: 324
Paper Weight (lb): 13.4
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