On the heels of her high school graduation, Ellie Morales is spending her summer vacation in the mountains of Western North Carolina with her dad and brother, Jonah. Having lost their mother only months earlier, all of them are trying to cope with the loss in their own way. Part routine, part escape, running is Ellie’s way of dealing with her grief. Shortly after sunrise each morning, Ellie and her dog, Bosco, set out for a lengthy run on the path that passes by her house and leads deep into the woods of the Blue Ridge Mountains. One fateful morning, Ellie is lead off of the trail and discovers a secret that will change her life, as well as the lives of the family she meets, forever. One member of this mysterious family is Sam Gantry, who seems unlike any guy she’s ever known. This meeting sparks a series of events, causing Ellie to question everything she’s ever known and believed. The more she learns about Sam and his family, the more she wants to help him find the missing puzzle pieces.
Ellie swallowed nervously. “Copperhead,” she whispered. She looked down at her feet in horror. Its fangs were so close to her leg she could smell it— the scent of cucumber filled the air. Ellie knew it was only a matter of seconds before the snake struck her. Bosco was trying to protect her, but the more he barked and growled, the more irate the snake became.
It seemed as if it all happened in slow motion. The snake’s fangs clung onto her ankle and wouldn’t let up. The venom instantly shot into her. A burning sensation came over her, and Ellie roared in pain. Anyone within a mile could hear her horrific cries. She cursed in Spanish and screamed again. It was excruciating. The snake had accomplished its mission and slithered under a nearby rock. She peered down at her ankle and grimaced. It was swelling by the second. The heat was unbearable – it was as if she had just stuck her leg in a pot of boiling hot water. She thought cool water would be a reprieve and hobbled toward the lake. She felt warm all over, and her vision was skewed. She gazed down, and the ground appeared as if it were moving. Things were spinning. She swayed back and forth, and it was getting more difficult to maintain her balance. Everything was fading to black, and then she passed out. Her body slammed against the ground.
The Thief ran over and stood by Ellie, staring at her in wonder, and then he looked at Bosco, almost as if he were trying to get permission for what it was he was about to do. Bosco wasn’t barking and watched as the stranger took off his shirt and wrapped it tight around the upper portion of her thigh, creating a tourniquet. Ellie opened her eyes, only slightly, and jumbled her words together.
“Shh,” he whispered. “We’re going to take care of you,” he said soothingly, trying to keep her calm. Her saw her leg, what damage the snake had done, and he knew what could happen if he didn’t act fast.
About the Author
I’m a Florida native who currently resides in Greenville, South Carolina with my husband and toy poodle. When I’m not writing, I can be found drinking Earl Grey tea with honey and cream, singing ineptly and butchering the lyrics to my favorite songs, and asking my friends ridiculous, hypothetical scenario-based questions.