Good morning! Wow! It's book release week already. Healing Skye releases on December 16th, and I'm always a bit of a wreck, hoping my friends will enjoy the story!
Here's the first chapter to give you a sneak peak!
Almost to the Gulf. Almost to the part of the world she’d left behind nearly a decade ago. Skye Youngblood had loved these warm waters, the golden marsh grass bowing in the southerly breeze, the hungry herons peering out at the surf, the dolphins crowning in the golden light, the rhythm of the tides. Nature’s dependable laws had a way of soothing rattled emotions inside a cracked human soul. During her chaotic childhood, the humid salt air loosened the relentless feelings of hopelessness that had squeezed around Skye, allowing her to breathe. Days wading in the Gulf’s warm waters with her sister had chased out some of the darkness that haunted her.
Beneath the shining surface of the deep, the glory expanded and multiplied. The bays, marshes, and sea clamored with hidden life. Hidden death too. All shrouded below the frothy waters, where few took the time to observe.
She lived that hidden life, too, out of sight as much as possible, hoping her past wouldn’t catch up to her.
Because some horrors should stay buried.
Even on this small island, almost an hour south of Mobile, Alabama, danger lurked too close. She couldn’t let her guard down. Couldn’t allow herself to forget the risks of coming here.
A heavy gust whipped through the van window, lashing strands of Skye’s hair against her face, rousing her senses, driving home her purpose. She needed to be here for Miss Lydia. For Sparrow.
Though Miss Lydia had tried to downplay her medical condition, the pain and fatigue in her voice had uprooted Skye from her research in Florida and sent her scrambling to come up with a plan to temporarily move to Alabama. The grant she’d received to study manatee migration should allow her to be here long enough to make sure Miss Lydia and Sparrow were okay. Then she could go back home where she felt safe. Or as safe as she could feel, knowing there were men like Denny Beasley in the world.
Enough about that monster. She focused on mindful breathing and centered herself on the present.
The bridge across the Intercoastal Waterway to Dauphin Island, Alabama, stretched out like a gateway to paradise. The Mobile Bay and the Gulf of Mexico met here to form a home for a myriad of aquatic life forms. In this little pocket of the world, she’d concentrate on her work while keeping tabs on Miss Lydia and Sparrow over in Mobile.
She swung a quick glance in the rearview mirror to her faithful crew in the back seat. Poor things. “We’re almost there, babies. I know you’re ready to get out.”
Returning her gaze to the road, Skye gasped. A truck crossed the middle line into her lane. Concrete barred both sides of the bridge, and water flowed below. Pulse thrashing, she slammed on her brakes and swerved right, as close as she could to the edge of the wall.
The screech of tires and the crash of metal colliding roared in her ears.
Impact threw her forward and then jerked her back. An airbag exploded into her face, but she held tight to the steering wheel. She couldn’t allow her helpless charges to careen over the bridge to a watery grave.
At last, her vehicle stilled, and a whistle of steam hissed. The acrid scent of airbag sulfur and engine smoke filled her nostrils.
Stunned, Skye looked down at her body, then the floor. No sea water. Had they made it?
Another pungent odor overpowered everything else. Gasoline.
She ripped off her seatbelt, yanked at the door handle. Stuck.
Open. Please, open.
Thick black smoke poured from the truck that seemed to be attached to her van’s left fender.
Despite a bone-deep ache in her back and left shoulder, she scrambled over the middle console to the passenger seat and pushed at the door. It opened only an inch before it hit the concrete barrier.
Maybe the back door behind the driver’s seat would open. “It’s going to be okay, guys,” she crooned as she climbed onto the console. “Just give me a second.”
“Hey, mister, back here!” a male voice yelled.
A dark-haired man opened the rear cargo door and climbed inside the van between her suitcases. He held out his hand. “Hurry, one of the vehicles might blow any minute.”
“I have to get—”
“Your stuff can be replaced. Come on.” The urgency in his voice sent a spike to Skye’s adrenaline.
She had to move faster, but her thoughts clouded. “I’ll hand them to you, but do not let them go. Put them in your vehicle one at a time.” She unlatched the first harness. Thank goodness she’d purchased the special seatbelts for this trip or they’d have been thrown around the van.
“What are you talking about?”
“Come on, it’s okay.” She lifted the ever-steady pug and then handed the small dog through the bucket seats to the stranger. “This is Sam.”
Frowning, the man stared at the dog then took him into his arms. “What else?”
“Take him and come back.” She unlatched Frodo’s harness. He quivered, ducked his head, and tucked his short tail. She’d have to be the one to carry the poor thing. Fear already had him immobilized.
The man sprinted back from wherever he’d gone and held out his arms. “This is dangerous. That smoke coming from the engine is no joke. I mean, animals aren’t worth your life.”
Wrong. “Here. Take Rocky. I got it after that.” She held out the cat’s crate, glad she’d kept him locked in.
“Come on, I’m risking my life, too, you know.” Sharp blue eyes squinted at her, but he took the handle. “I have a daughter depending on me.”
A daughter. Her mind raced. “I’m coming.” Her ears rang almost as loudly as her heart thudded, and she battled that old impulse to freeze. Her babies needed her.
A blaze of flames caught the corner of her eye, and intense heat warmed her back.
Hefting the seventy-pound Pudelpointer, she maneuvered between the captain’s chairs, over the laid-flat third-row seat, then around the plastic tubs that held her belongings.
She scrambled out, and the man draped an arm around her waist. She flinched at his touch.
“I’m trying to help you.” His tone was gentle, despite his obvious exasperation. Or was that fear?
“I’ve got it.” Glancing over her shoulder, the red blaze surrounding the other vehicle grew to an inferno and popped like an automatic weapon. It might spread to her van any second.
Frodo squealed and tucked his big head under her arm.
She looked up at the stranger beside her. “What about the other driver?”
“Someone helped him out.” The man led her to a four-door black pickup parked about thirty yards behind her van. Traffic snarled to a standstill on the bridge. Other drivers stood outside their cars, gaping at the wreckage.
He pointed at her nose, almost touching, but then stopped himself. “You’re bleeding. Where else are you hurt? Let me take that…enormous animal so we can look you over.” Sirens wailed in the distance. “You need to go to the hospital. What’s your name?”
So many questions. Did she need a hospital? Did her pets? The weight of the dog tugged at Skye’s arms. Her whole spine felt as though it had been thrown in the dryer with a fifty-pound dumbbell. But she’d gotten through worse.
“I just need to sit. Maybe a ride to my rental house once the police do an accident report.” More than likely, she could treat any wounds she or her pets may have. She’d managed in the past. If only her supplies made it out.
“Here, lay the dog in the back seat of the truck. Maybe you should get in and sit down too.” He held open the door.
Frodo fought being let go, but at last she settled him beside steady Sam. Then she climbed in with them and shut the door.
The man slid behind the wheel and turned to face her. “You could have sat up front.”
“They need me.” She and the animals needed each other, really. And now—with the van burning in front of them—it seemed like she’d be starting over with nothing.
He was going to be late. Pete Thompson shot a quick text to Hope to ask for her help. He hated depending on her so much. He’d already missed the meeting about this year’s fishing rodeo, and now Mom’s renter would be stuck without a key for a while.
He glanced at the clock on the dash, then back at the girl—the girl he’d thought was a young man at first, dressed in jeans, a tee, and a baseball cap. But as soon as he’d taken in the arc of her cheeks, the fullness of her lips, the smoothness of her skin, he’d realized his mistake. No matter that she wore not one stitch of makeup, she was totally feminine.
Long strands of obviously dyed-black hair escaped her cap. Her light brown eyes caressed her pets as she ran petite fingers over their bones and paws, checking each for injuries. New injuries, anyway.
Now that he’d gotten a good look, he noticed the scraggly pug had only three legs, and the ugly black cat was missing an eye.
“Are they okay?” If they were, maybe she’d let him come around and look her over. Or a paramedic could, if one ever made it around the traffic jam.
“I think so.” She dabbed at the blood on her face with the corner of her T-shirt.
“I have tissues over there.” He pointed on the floor in front of Olivia’s booster seat.
“I see.” The girl bent over, eliciting a soft moan.
“You’re obviously hurt. We need help.” He hopped out and rounded the truck. Where was a paramedic? Since the plumbing on the Sea of Grace was being repaired—again—Caleb should be around. He scanned the road for flashing lights and spotted a reflection. At least they were getting closer. As the captain of a charter boat, he knew first aid, but spinal injuries…
She cracked the power window. “I’m just stiff and need to rest.”
Frustration boiled, though he respected the way she cared for her haphazard trio. “You won’t be any good to your pets if you’re injured. You have to take care of yourself.”
Caramel-colored eyes met his and stayed there, evaluating him, piercing into his soul, it seemed.
She’s the one.
The words came clearly into his mind, sending a fresh burst of adrenaline.
What? No. I’m not ready. Probably never will be.
The stress of the situation had to have triggered the disturbing thought.
The door opened, and the girl slipped out. She stood before him. Not a girl, but a woman. He reached for her face, but she jerked back.
A scared wisp of a woman. There was nothing he could do if she wouldn’t let him near her.
She glanced down at herself, felt along her arms and legs like she’d done with the animals. Gave a stiff stretch. Groaned. “I’ll be sore for a week or so. That’s all. Does my nose look broken?”
The pert nose appeared straight. A little red with only a tad of swelling. “I don’t think so. What’s your name?”
Her lips pressed together before she spoke. Was that a sign she was about to lie, or was it fear? Maybe she’d forgotten with the knock to the head.
“Syd Smith,” she answered at last.
No way. It couldn’t be. “You rented a house? On the island?”
Eyes darting, she gave a single dip of her chin. Okay, she didn’t trust him, but she didn’t understand.
“You’re the Sydney Smith who rented a house from Dorothy Thompson?” He couldn’t believe this twist of coincidence.
Lips parted, her gaze locked onto him now. “How would you know that?”
“I’m Pete Thompson, Dorothy’s son. I was on my way to give you the key.” And pick up his daughter from school.
She’s the one.
Pete pressed his palm to his forehead. Kenzie had made him promise to listen for this…this still small Voice that would guide him when it was time. As much as he’d fought her, she’d made him promise he’d try at love again. But this peculiar woman?
No. She can’t be the one.
The preorder price is still available this week! Get your eBook copy for $1.99 on Amazon Barnes & Noble Apple Books KOBO
BTW: Here's another one of those contests where you can win a lot of books! Enter here
Stay in the Loop!
For News & Giveaways Click Subscribe Button!
Under the Southern Sun
Janet W. Ferguson