CASCADE FUGITIVE (PAGE COUNT: 228)
Susanna takes her infant daughter and flees into the Cascade Mountains in order to keep her out of the clutches of a vicious woman. She’s forced to make sacrifices and is caught in many perilous situations. Because of her love for Maria, she becomes a fugitive, and her trust in God is tried.
She hides in a deserted cabin, but is it a sanctuary or another trap? Bounty hunters appear, and she’s forced to run deeper into the mountains. Who killed her friend’s husband and why? Is one of the men chasing her the murderer?
A malefactor is injured. Susanna is the only one who can aid him. If she doesn’t, he’ll die. If she does, he’ll turn her in to collect the reward. Is her faith strong enough to endure, or will fear spur her to race into another unknown danger?
Adoration for Matthew Colt nestles in her heart. Mystery surrounds him. Why is he hiding in the mountains? Is he running, too? Why and from whom? Can she trust him? Can she trust her heart?
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CASCADE FUGITIVE (228 pages)
BLAZE SERIES Book 1
Excerpt from Chapter One
Susanna donned a gray silk dress for her journey and draped her pink knit shawl over her shoulders. Priscilla chose her drabbest black dress. Susanna supposed widow’s weeds were in order, but they looked so somber.
In the past, Priscilla’s lovely complexion had glowed with joy and her cheeks were rosy with health, but grief over Carlos’s murder had drained her, and the contrast between the paleness of her face and her black garb was stark.
Priscilla’s eyes were downcast as she accompanied Susanna onto the station platform. Men loading a boxcar stopped to stare. So did a huge burly man who stood out in the crowd. His shaggy brown hair and beard needed washed, and his thin dark jacket hadn’t seen soap in months. Bushy eyebrows shadowed but didn’t hide his penetrating dark eyes. A chill trickled down Susanna’s spine as her gaze locked with his. He then ogled Priscilla in a way that made Susanna’s flesh crawl. She hurried her friend aboard and chose a seat.
As the train chugged from the station, Susanna glanced up and gasped. The grimy man took the seat across from them. He was so close, she could see the red veins in his bulbous nose. The skin of his eyelids folded like excess cowhide. He continued to steal glances at Priscilla. What did he want? Would the porter come to their aid, should they need protection?
Straightening her skirt, she pretended to ignore the man. Nevertheless, she felt his eyes searing her. What was behind his scalding stares?
The train stopped at noon. They hurried into the station for a cup of tea. Susanna longed to get out of the bearish man’s presence, but he traipsed after them. She hoped he couldn’t find a seat nearby.
“Let’s eat quickly,” Priscilla whispered.
Apprehension prodded them to leave without finishing their tea. Before they reached the exit, the grizzled passenger stepped in front of Susanna. The pungent smell emanating from him assaulted her nostrils. She recoiled.
He glared at her, then turned his attention to Priscilla. “What’re ya doin’ here?”
Priscilla quickened her pace, her eyes straight ahead.
His hand struck like a snake and his pudgy fingers clamped around her arm. “I asked ya a question.”
Priscilla peered at the curly black hair on his fingers, then her head lifted to face him. “What do you want?”
His lip curled, exposing yellowed teeth. “What are ya up to?”
Spots of color appeared on her cheekbones. “Let me go.”
He bent nearer her face. “Not ‘til ya answer my question.”
Susanna looked for a broomstick or poker that she could use to defend her friend, but there was nothing nearby.
The man pushed Priscilla toward the back door. “Maybe I can help ta loosen your tongue.”
Fright glistened in Priscilla’s brown eyes.
A tall man dressed in black stepped from behind Susanna. The wide brim of his hat shielded his face.
“Kurtz,” the man said low but stern. “Are you disturbing these ladies?”
Wrenching free, Priscilla ran. Susanna followed. She heard scuffling behind her, but anxious to leave the dining room, she didn’t look back. Thanking God for their rescuer, she and Priscilla quickly boarded the train. “Priscilla, who is that obnoxious man?”
“I . . . don’t know.”
Susanna narrowed her eyes. “You had a suspicion. I saw it on your face. I think he did, too.”
Tears welled in Priscilla’s eyes and rolled down her ashen cheeks. “He’s one of the drifters I saw in town the day before Carlos was shot. He could be the one who did it.”
“The gentleman who helped you called him Kurtz. We’ll go to the sheriff.”
“No! I have no proof. All it will do is convince the man that I suspect him.”
“He’s suspicious now. The law should be informed.”
A sob jerked Priscilla’s shoulders. “It won’t bring Carlos back.” She twisted her handkerchief until the pink tatting tore. “I can’t prove anything. Accusing that man would make him come after me.”
He seemed to be after her already, but Susanna wasn’t going to say so. Priscilla was terrified enough.
Susanna peered through her soot-streaked window. Kurtz wasn’t in sight, but a tall stranger drew her attention. She studied his broad back. Was he the one who had rescued them? He turned suddenly and grinned. A small dimple appeared to the lower left of his mouth. She smiled, but abashed to be caught staring, she turned away. His hat brim had shaded the top half of his face, hiding his features, but she would remember that smile. None had ever rocked her senses so.
When the train hissed steam and chugged from the station, she glanced at the platform. He was gone. She wondered if she would ever see him again. If she did, would she recognize him? She wouldn’t know his eyes, but his smile would forever linger in the recesses of her mind. “That’s foolish,” she murmured. Dressed the way he was, he could be a gambler! Maybe he was a cardsharp trying his luck on the tracks. Whatever he was, she admired him for the way he had handled Kurtz.
Finally, the train pulled into the Roseburg station where they were to disembark. Susanna envisioned bumping into Kurtz and wanted to run. Controlling the urge, she offered a boy a coin to carry their luggage. Would Ronnie and Jenny be waiting? Grasping Priscilla’s arm, she hurried inside. Was their pursuer nearby? Was their life in danger?
“Don’t look around,” Susanna whispered.
“I won’t! I don’t want to see Carlos’s murderer again.”
“Sh.” Susanna shuddered. Had the man been close enough to hear? She dug in her purse to pay the boy, fumbled her change and had to chase coins across the floor. A pudgy hairy hand seized the last one. His gruff chortle made Susanna’s heart skip several beats. Still on one knee, she glanced up, met Kurtz’s dark eyes inches from hers, and strangled a shriek.