Fleeing from her cheating husband, Moira Shaughnessy stumbles across a man she never wanted to see again. A brutal storm and deadly magic open her eyes to the power of the love between them.
A ranger for the U.S. Park Service, strong, competent Moira Shaughnessy is in serious trouble. Fleeing from her cheating husband, a Native American shaman, she stumbles into the arms of a man she never thought she’d see again. He hurt her once by choosing his druid heritage over her. Can she take a chance on him now?
Pursuing very different motives, both men follow her deep into the backcountry. Moira is caught in the crossfire between Celtic magic and Native American shamanism. A freak blizzard compounds her problems, taxing her survival skills to the max. Against the specter of almost-certain death, the sweetest, purest love she’s ever known rises to the fore, engulfing her in unbelievable passion.
Moira Shaughnessy’s booted feet hit the ground in front of the Family Medicine Clinic. Slamming the door of the dusty white Park Service pickup, she considered ignoring her boss’s orders, peeling out of the parking lot, and heading for the Baxter Pass trailhead. She had a crew to oversee, goddammit. And a work project to complete. But her boss, John, had been painstakingly clear, both yesterday at Park Headquarters in Three Rivers, and just ten minutes ago on the sat phone. Granted, he’d been far more pointed on the phone.
“It’s not a suggestion, Moira,” he’d growled. “This is a directive—from me. I want to hear from someone with MD after his name before I authorize you to head up that work detail. Do not set one foot on that trail before you receive my orders, e-sign them, and e-mail them back to me.”
“But that’s usually a formality—”
“Not this time. No buts. I made you an appointment at the clinic in Bishop that clears some of our crews. They’re open until six. I already lost two rangers this summer in the Pinecrest fire. That was two too many in my book, so get your butt into that clinic.”
Moira had thought she could avoid dealing with the whole mess by leaving the office early yesterday and taking one of the northern passes over the Sierra Nevada Mountains, but John had tracked her down.
Phooey. I ran, but guess I couldn’t hide…
It was downright annoying that her boss needed a doctor to reassure him she wouldn’t collapse or something in the backcountry. For the briefest of moments, she felt like pounding her fist into the nearest tree—then she pulled herself together. Nothing was wrong with her, except her slimy, cheating husband. Sure, she’d lost a few pounds since she’d moved out, but she hadn’t been all that hungry.
Problem was John remembered similar struggles from years ago when she’d first started working as a park ranger. She hadn’t eaten enough then, either, and had gotten far too thin. Just her luck, he’d been overseeing a backcountry work detail when she’d gotten woozy and fallen off one of the mules.
Understanding surfaced. Her boss cared about her. That wasn’t a bad thing. The anger bled out of her with a whoosh.
“May as well get this over with,” she muttered. Moira walked briskly to the clinic, pushed the door open, and went to the counter.
“Yes?” A young woman with dyed red hair looked up from her computer screen with eyes so green she had to be wearing colored contact lenses.
“Moira Shaughnessy. I think you’re expecting me. My boss called from Kings Canyon-Sequoia Park Headquarters.”
The receptionist clicked a few keys. “Your insurance card, please.”
Moira blew out an impatient breath. She dug through her fanny pack for her wallet, extracted the plasticized Blue Cross card, and handed it over. “I’m really in a bit of a hurry—”
“Here’s your card back.” The clerk gestured at the nearly full waiting room. “The doctor will be with you as soon as he can. He had a full schedule before he agreed to work you in.”
“Is it okay if I go outside for a few minutes? I need to lock my truck. I, uh, didn’t think I’d be in here for very long.”
“Sure. So long as we know where to find you.” The phone trilled. The woman picked it up, Moira obviously forgotten. “Family Medicine, how may I help you?”
Moira paced up and down the parking lot. Fall had turned the aspen trees lining Bishop’s streets to shades of red and gold that were really quite striking, but all she could think about were the minutes ticking by. It was twelve miles from the trailhead to the top of the pass, and a couple more to where her trail crew was. Leaving today would be foolhardy at this point. She’d never even make the pass before night fell.
“Damn it!” She glanced at her watch. How long was this going to take anyway?
“Ms. Shaughnessy?” A man’s voice sounded from behind her.
She spun, surprised out of her funk. And stopped dead. “Tim?” Moira stared at the tall, rangy man with long, white-blond hair and ice-blue eyes. He was dressed in teal scrubs and sandals with a stethoscope draped around his neck. A broad grin split the clean planes of his face. She’d forgotten how heartbreakingly beautiful he was.
“I saw the name and hoped it was you.” He held out a hand, but she felt frozen in place. “After all, how many Moira Shaughnessys could there be?”
She just stood there, flabbergasted. What were the odds? She hadn’t seen Tim O’Malley since they’d both graduated from U.C. Davis. When she realized her mouth was hanging open, she shut it with a snap.
“Is that any way to greet an old friend?” One corner of his mouth turned down in an expression she remembered all too well.
“It’s just … I mean I never expected…” She felt warmth rise from the open neck of her buff-colored uniform shirt. Heat suffused her face until she was certain every freckle was outlined in bright, living color.
“Hey, mo ghrá. I know we didn’t split up under the best of circumstances…”
“No shit. And you can skip the beloved part.” A familiar anger stirred, but she batted it aside.
Ann Gimpel is a clinical psychologist, with a Jungian bent, who practices in a very isolated area high in California's Sierra Nevada Mountains. Her avocations include mountaineering, skiing, wilderness photography and, of course, writing. A lifelong aficionado of the unusual, she began writing speculative fiction a few years ago.
For a complete list of Ann's many short stories, novellas, and novels go to her website at www.anngimpel.com and click the link on the home page.
Out of the Shadows, a paranormal romance novella about shifters in 1700s Salem is coming 3/4/13. Magic's Daughter, another paranormal romance novella about reclaimed magic, will be out in April. Look for Fortune's Scion, a "new adult" fantasy novel coming this July from Desert Breeze Publishing and Earth's Requiem, the kick-off volume in the Earth Reclaimed Series coming around Christmas time from Musa Publications.