Fifteen years ago thirty men, women, and children, were found in a small California field. Now the only seven survivors are dying one by one.
Rachel Alton returned to Whitten’s Grove for one reason and that was to prevent a massacre. Her attendance at the local wedding of two of her best friends was just for fun. She never expected her reaction to seeing Ben Mitchell again. Without warning, he awakens her dormant heart, giving her hope for the future and she struggles to turn away. The clock is ticking, and as Rachel alone fights against the inevitable, but when forces from beyond throw Ben into the middle of the fight, will she walk away, or sacrifice herself to prevent a tragedy from happening twice?
Exclusive Excerpt for NLV!
“Thought you weren’t going to make it,” Ryan commented as Rachel joined him on the trail up the mountain
“I wouldn’t miss this for the world.” She heard Emily laugh and couldn’t help but glance back at Ben.
She is a really nice girl, he needs her…she is good for him.
“You do realize they broke up like a month ago.” Ryan’s voice made her focus snap back.
“Ben and Emily. They broke up over a month ago, he didn’t even know she was coming.”
“She is really nice, I am glad she is here. Maybe they can rekindle whatever it is they have. I think she is probably good for him.”
Rachel moved ahead, ending the conversation, the burning memory of Ben’s heated kisses flashing through her mind.
She is good for him…
They started on the rocky trail they all new by heart, it would lead them up and around the mountain to the lake. Having spent hundreds of hours there as a teenager, Ben remembered it as being quiet and secluded. One of the few places left where nature had been free to roam without interference.
The peacefulness of the hike promptly ended, when David went into elaboration about his initiative to protect the lake and keep it in its natural state. While long winded it, was nice to hear that he was doing something positive with his newly found power.
The hike would take about forty minutes and they would all be ready for a meal when they arrived. Kat had arranged for quite a buffet judging from the weight of the packs. Forty minutes later they arrived.
“Here we are,” David said turning the corner as the brush opened up into a large field with a huge glassy lake just against the side of the mountain. The blue of the sky and scattered puffs of clouds reflected back into the lake making the scene picturesque.
The group decided on a picnic spot on the far side of the lake under some shade trees. They broke out the packs laying out numerous blankets, and then unpacked the food. A variable array of delectability, everything from fruit, to Brie, to fried chicken.
They all dug in, feeding their heightened metabolism’s from the strenuous hike. With their appetites sustained, the group lounged lazily under the trees.
Rachel breathed in the fresh air, letting it fill her lungs. She needed this, the past few nights had been hard and exhaustion crept steadily at her mind. She felt unsettled being back with the gang, her friends, the only people she could truly call her friends besides Frank.
Spending time with Aisha and Kat brought back a flood of memories. It had been years since her thoughts were so simplistic. Hours at the mall, sodas at the diner, slumber parties and endless gossiping. Who’s dating whom, and what they were going to wear to the next dance. The boys, now handsome men, brought back memories of football, study sessions, pranks and laughter. She couldn’t help envy the small town life that surrounded her, a life of family, kids, PTA and Mini Vans. That had always been where she thought her life would go.
Sensing Ben’s approach, Rachel glanced back looking for Emily and found her preoccupied by Aisha and Ryan on the other side of the lake.
She took another deep cleansing breath trying to calm the foreign feeling butterflies in her stomach. Being near him had awakened a part of her she thought had disappeared long ago. The problem, her life, plain and simple. Over the years she had convinced herself that her wants were unreasonable and now she wondered if she wanted more than a cup of Starbucks to look forward to in the wee hours of the morning.”Mind if I join you?”
“Be my guest.” Rachel replied covering her eyes from the sun. “Is that for me?”
“Yep,” Ben handed her a sweating bottle of water before taking a seat next to her.
“Thanks, I was feeling a little parched. I forgot how beautiful it is here.”
His focus was on the lake and she wondered what he was thinking. She wondered if the heat of the previous evening flickered in his mind. “Yeah, so beautiful, that I could fall asleep.”
“That’s what happens when you relax, but I guess that might be a new concept, huh?”
“Yeah, when?” Rachel challenged him, with a grin. “When was the last time you were so relaxed that you fell asleep in a field?”
“Well maybe not in a field.” His face lit up with a broad smile “But I go for jogs on the beach, and the occasional midnight movie.”
“That’s not relaxing, that’s preoccupation. I mean when was the last time that you were able to let go of your day, your worries, and your work. Sit back and relax.”
His gaze settled on her and she shifted, feeling heat rising to her cheeks. “I guess it’s been a while.
“Yeah well I am just as guilty. There just seems to be no time, everything else it too important.”
“That’s the point isn’t it,” Ben gently pushed back to her. “Places like these are here to remind us what is important, right? There are always excuses for not taking time to take care and relax, to spend time with our friends and family but when it’s all said and done they are the only ones who are left behind. If we lose them now we will have nothing in the end.”
Rachel stared at him for a long while, a small smile creeping upon her lips.
“Wow, Mitchell, you got all deep and stuff. That was, like, amazing,” Rachel said in her best valley girl accent making him laugh aloud.
“Are you laughing at me?” She laughed harder and he grabbed her by the waist pulling her down into the grass. He tickled her and she squealed. She squirmed in delight against him and quickly grabbed his hands, holding them above her chest.
“Still ticklish I see.”
His hands intertwined effortlessly with hers. “You always were the only one who could tickle me.”
A small grin formed in the corners of his mouth, his mind obviously preoccupied as he laid against her. “What can I say, I have the magic touch.”
“Is that what it is? I never knew--” Rachel started in a whisper but became also caught up in his body against her. Solid and strong, his arms surrounding her felt like a cocoon of safety and warmth she wanted to lose herself in. Bending her arms slightly he moved close enough to for her to feel his breath on her face. “I think you need to cool off cowboy.”
Rachel shifted from beneath him and rose to her feet. She looked back before stripping out of her clothes revealing her trim body and new blue bikini. There weren’t a lot of positives about her job but her body was one of them. She looked back, and found him staring at her, his mouth slightly gaping.
“Shut your mouth Mitch, your girlfriend is watching.”
“What? I –” Before he could finished she dove into the lake, leaving him behind.
Rachel broke the water with a grin. She shouldn’t be smiling but it was nice to have someone look at her like that again. Like a desired woman.
She heard a shout and a splash behind her and turned to see the ripples of water. She continued to swim toward the rock wall of mountain ahead, until she felt him beneath her legs. She dove under, out of Ben’s grasp, passing him underwater. He chased her to the wall until they finally broke the surface, panting for air. “She’s not my girlfriend.”
“You dove in and chased me half way across the lake to tell me that?” Rachel grabbed one of the outbreaks in the wall of stone and turned finding that he had summarily cornered her.
“Yes.” His eyes locked with hers and she felt herself beginning to melt. God, I can’t do this…not with him…She moved to pass him and he stopped her with his arm. “Where you running to Alton?”
“I’m not running.”
“Yes you are.”
He silenced her with a kiss, powerful and yet tender, taking her breath away. When it broke she felt dizzy and breathless. “Don’t run from me.”
“Don’t lie to me either.” His eyes were intense and focused solely on hers. His strong heated arm wrapped around her waist pulling her against him.
“Ben…” His breath played against her lips sending spasms of need up her spine. She couldn’t resist him. Putty in his arms, she let go of control. His lips came down on hers, juicy and soft, his tongue teasing the inside of her mouth. Her body sighed and she pulled his tongue into her mouth sucking on the tip. His smooth hands scorched lines down her body, the muscles quivered uncontrolled beneath his touch. She climbed up his body needing to feel his strength against her hot skin. Drunk on him, she couldn’t stop herself. Her legs squeeze his hips, his hands on her bum pushed her into the hardened steel against his groin. A bolt of ecstasy shot through her core. Oh my god he is so hard
His mouth moved from her lips to her neck and she tried to catch her breath, his tongue sliding up and down before nipping at her ear. “Do you feel what you do to me? Every time I look at you, I just…”
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