- N. N. Light
Forging Forgiveness by @cbclarkauthor is a BHW pick #romanticsuspense #romance #bookboost
Title: Forging Forgiveness
Author: C.B. Clark
Genre: Romantic Suspense
Publisher: The Wild Rose Press
When small-town college instructor Candace Cooper discovers bloody, bare footprints in the snow while running in a state park deep in the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, it brings back the horrific nightmare of her past.
Detective Aiden Farrell is determined to redeem himself in his new position in Colorado, even if that means ignoring his growing feelings for the beautiful professor he meets during an investigation. His fear that the footprints she saw are connected to a recent spate of missing teens intensifies when Candace is assaulted on campus.
Aiden and Candace join forces, but as they start unraveling the truth, they get closer to each other—and to a killer who'll stop at nothing to achieve his nefarious goal.
Caught between duty and love, Aiden fights in a race against time to save the woman he loves.
Candace Cooper’s breath fogged out in plumes in the frosty, late afternoon air as she pumped her arms and loped along the narrow trail. Yesterday’s rain had turned to sleet, and overnight, two inches of fresh snow blanketed the path and weighed down the limbs of the tall pine trees.
Hey, what was that?
She slowed to a stop, turned around, and walked back three yards.
What the heck?
Indentations—a heel, the pad of a big toe, and the four, smaller indents of the other toes—were clearly formed in the smooth dusting of snow. The set of small, narrow footprints tracked along the snowy trail, veering into the deeper shadows of the forest. Someone had walked in his or her bare feet down the cold, snow- covered path.
The wind gusted against her damp face, and she shivered. Late November was too cold for anyone in their right mind to be out in the mountainous backcountry of northeast Colorado walking around without proper footgear, let alone barefoot. She squatted for a closer look.
A smear of dark red, stark against the white snow, marked the heel depression of each left footprint.
She touched the red splotch with the tip of her gloved finger. A rust-colored smudge stained the light blue cotton. Her heart rate kicked up.
Sinking back on her heels, she peered into the forest’s deepening shadows and shuddered. Only four o’clock in the afternoon, and the sun was already disappearing behind the mountains. Nothing stirred. Even the squirrels were quiet, as if the silent forest watched and waited.
She knew this area of the park, ran the trails in the summer and snowshoed over the flatlands in the winter. Nothing manmade existed out there—no houses, no cottages, nothing but trees and wild animals.
Most visitors to Creighton Springs State Park stayed on the well-groomed gravel walkways and didn’t venture far from the parking lot. She never saw anyone on the hilly trail, not in winter. Yet, as recently as this morning, or early afternoon, someone had gone this way—and in bare feet. They’d left a blood trail. If that person was injured, maybe they needed help.
She slipped off her gloves and traced her finger along the impression. Too small to be an adult male or female’s footprint. Her gut clenched.
God, no! Please don’t let it be a child. The unspeakable horror of the past reared over her like an attacking beast, and she sagged onto her knees, her heart pounding as if threatening to burst from her chest. A piteous moan escaped her lips. Not again. Dear Lord, please, not again.
Hot tears burned her eyes.
A loud crack reverberated throughout the silent forest.
She bit back a scream and surged to her feet. Gunshot?
An instant later, another sharp boom filled the air.
The piercing sounds of distant rifle fire were unmistakable. But no way would anyone be shooting. It was illegal to hunt in the park. Besides, it was too dark for a hunter to see his target.
Her heart thundered, her breath frozen in her chest. Seconds passed, turning into minutes. Her back tingled with the certainty she was being watched, but she couldn’t move, could only stand there and listen, waiting for the next shot.
The forest remained hushed.
The sun dipped behind the mountains, and the valley filled with dark shadows as night settled in.
A snap of a branch breaking shook her out of her paralysis. The breath she’d been holding whooshed out, and she fumbled in her backpack and drew out her headlamp. Slipping the elastic strap over her forehead, she switched on the light.
Following the thin beam of light cast by her headlamp, she jogged down the trail. Her legs wobbled, and she stumbled over slippery roots and rocks, staggering, almost falling, but she dug deep and kept running.
The parking lot where she’d left her car was an hour’s walk, but if she ran, she could make it in half that time. Heart thumping, her lungs burning, she raced around a bend in the trail but lurched to a stop at a flicker of movement in the trees on her right.
A large shadow separated from the trunk of a fir tree and formed into the shape of a man.
She shone her headlamp into the forest.
The beam of light revealed a tall man with broad shoulders wearing a camouflage-patterned coat and baggy, green cargo pants. A gray woolen toque hung low over his forehead, and a thick black beard covered the lower half of his face. A rifle was strapped over one shoulder.
“He...hello?” Her voice was thin and reedy. He wasn’t a park ranger. Not in that getup, but he had to be the person shooting, considering the enormous rifle slung over his shoulder.
Not one part of his body moved. He didn’t even blink.
Hands shaking, she peeled off her gloves, letting them fall to the ground, and yanked out the can of pepper spray she carried in a canvas holster strapped around her waist. Sliding off the safety guard, she held the can up, the nozzle pointed at the unsettling stranger. “Who are you? What do you want?”
The man remained still and unspeaking.
Her heart thundered in her ears. “Hey, I asked you a question. What do you want?”
Behind the beard, he smiled, his lips stretching wide, his teeth gleaming in the headlamp’s beam. In the encroaching darkness, his muscular frame appeared larger, his demeanor even more threatening.
Fear clawed her throat, and her primal instincts kicked in. Run! The urgent command roared through her, but her knees locked and refused to obey. Her breath puffed in and out in frantic huffs. “Don’t come any closer.” Gripping the can of pepper spray so tight her hand ached, she shifted her finger on the trigger.
Barnes & Noble: https://bit.ly/3Rc1Vje
Forging Forgiveness is award-winning author, C.B. Clark’s eighth novel published by The Wild Rose Press. When she’s not busy traveling around the globe or hiking and camping in the wilderness near her home in northern British Columbia, she can be found in front of her laptop plotting her next story.
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Amazon Author Page: https://www.amazon.com/C.-B.-Clark/e/B01BK61TQG/