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I’m currently working on my second novel, which has now morphed to a story titled Murderous Decisions. My heroine is battling her way through a host of issues, including a handsome attorney she’s recently met. Not the usual fare for mystery novels. But the romance angle is secondary to the mystery. Plus it’s part of the plot. And to make matter worse, Victoria Cross is married to a very nice guy.

So here’s today’s rough, unedited work. My only hope is that you enjoy it. The book’s working title is, Murderous Decisions.

When Ashworth picked me up at one that day at my motel, I learned the man looked just as fetching in a sweatshirt and jeans as he did in a well-cut suit. I also noted that he was right on time. Mr. Precision is the thought that popped into my mind, and somehow, I found that aspect of him appealing. With Jake, one o’clock could just as easily mean three.

“I hope you don’t mind stretching your legs today,” Matthew said as he led me to his car and opened the passenger-side door for me.

“Where are we going?” I slid onto the seat. I had wondered at his instructions to wear sturdy footwear and casual clothes.

He laughed and closed the door.

Quickly, he rounded the car and maneuvered himself into the driver’s seat. “We’re headed to a nearby state park.”

He must have read the disbelief on my face, because he added, with a self-satisfied chuckle, “Don’t look so glum. With its twenty-two waterfalls, it’s quite a sight.”

“Twenty two? I can’t imagine any park having that many falls.”

“It’s been called one of the most beautiful state parks in the nation.”

I settled back in my seat as he fired up the car and found myself smirking on the inside. Ashworth, the carefully groomed attorney hiking through a state park. Somehow I wouldn’t have expected it of him—this love of mother nature.

We spoke of neutral topics on the drive between my motel and our destination. No further discussion of Tinker, or break ins, or probate matters. As time passed, I felt the tension in my shoulders ease. I suddenly I understood just how obsessed I’d grown with my problems here. I glanced over at Matthew and felt grateful to him for distracting me from all that for a while.

The dive took us north and west out of Wilkes Barre, along the road I traveled daily in my jaunt to and from Harry’s place. But we drove on, past the turnoff to Centerville with its access to Harry’s house. We passed again the old Inn where Matthew and I had dined that my first night here. Had it only been four days ago? Now, here we were zooming along on route 119 like a pair of youngsters without a worry in the world.

We arrived at our destination, one Ricketts Glen State Park, all too quickly for my tastes. I think in Matthew’s comfy car, I could have ridden on forever.

Now Matthew steered his way into a parking lot. Once there, he exited the car and stretched.. “We need to hurry. Falls Trail is about seven miles long. The sun starts going down early this time of year. And this trail can be tricky.”

But we took off. Matthew leading the way. I following close behind him.

The place was lovely. A rushing stream. Blue skies. Green grass. Tall trees, some kind of pines or firs. I’ve never learned the difference. I’d never actually needed to know. They mixed in with other trees, deciduous trees with leaves turning riotous shades of autumn colors. I breathed deeply and slowly, well pleased with my surroundings. “It’s lovely.”

“I’m glad you like it.”

“You say there are twenty-two falls?”

“Yes, all of them lined up along this creek. It’s called Kitchen Creek. The falls begin at the far side of the park and then repeat themselves in all kinds of shapes and sizes as the creek tumbles down on its journey through the park.”

“Amazing.”

Matthew set out on the trail. Behind him I lingered a moment, reading the posted warning. It cautioned people contemplating this trek to be in good health, to have on sturdy shoes, and to be aware of the trail’s sometimes wet, slippery, and steep conditions. It sounded like this outing came carried with it some very real challenges.

“Come on,” Ashworth said, turning and waving his arm at me, urging me to catch up with him.

I strode off, placing one foot in front of the other. Already there was a slight incline. Already I could feel the strain of moving up.

We trudged on sometimes faster, sometimes slower. But my effort was rewarded with some of the most beautiful scenery I’d ever seen or imagined. At one stop, foaming water cascading over huge boulders onto those below them and then onto the next level below that. The boulders underpinning the rushing water looking like a set of stairs carved out for nameless giants.

Or in another setting, water pouring over a wide expanse, putting me in mind of a miniature Niagara Falls. Or another delightful fall, twisting, curving, spilling water down and around and changing its direction in its relentless rush in Kitchen Creek.

Matthew listened to my oohs and ahs and beamed.

And all the time around us, the splash and crash and boom of tumbling water filled our ears. Or sometimes the spray encircled us in a mist. It was at one of these spots, as I made my way up a set of stone stairs, My foot faltered on the slippery surface, and I threatened to tumble to my side, into the relentless, tumbling waters of Kitchen Creek. My arms windmilled, and somehow Matthew managed to grasp one and pull me to him, into the safety of his arms.

I stood there a moment, his arms wrapped about me, as I gasped for air and allowed my adrenalin level return to a more normal level. Then awareness returned. I realized I was pressed tight against Matthew’s body. So tight I felt that I could almost hear his heartbeat. I glanced up at his face. His gaze locked and held with mine.

Shadows drifted over us from the towering trees above. The scent of moss drifted up from the patch of land beside the steps. We had no need for words. We simply stood and stared into each other’s eyes. Then, carefully, I stepped backward, and the moment resolved itself. We were again, two people, nearly strangers, launched into an adventure not of our own making.

“I can’t wait to tell my son about the falls.”

Matthew nodded. His recognition of my other life, of my commitments elsewhere.

He cleared his throat. “We’ll soon reach the highest point. Then the path is all downhill from there.”

“That sounds good.”

He released me,and  turned, and we moved on.

End of scene.

Thanks for reading,

Anna Drake.

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