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Day Of Reckoning
By B.J. Daniels
Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.Copyright © 2004 Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.
All right reserved.
Chapter OneThe blur of red taillights on the highway ahead suddenly disappeared in the pouring rain and blackness.
Rozalyn Sawyer hit her brakes, shocked to realize she didn't know where she was. The road didn't look familiar. But it was hard to tell in this part of Oregon with an impenetrable jungle of green just off the pavement.
She'd been following the vehicle ahead of her for the past twenty miles. She'd picked it up outside of Oakridge, happy to see another car on this lonely stretch of highway tonight, especially at this time of year.
In her headlights she'd seen the solitary driver silhouetted behind the wheel of the pickup and felt an odd kinship. Between the rain, the darkness and the isolation, she'd been a little uneasy. But then she'd been feeling that way ever since she'd heard her father hadn't returned from his recent camping trip.
She vaguely remembered seeing a detour sign in the middle of the highway just before the pickup had turned. She'd followed the truck in front of her as the driver turned on to the narrower road to the left, and didn't remember any other roads off of this one.
But now she saw that the pavement ended. With a shock she realized where she was. Lost Creek Falls. She felt shaken, confused. How had she ended up on the dead-end road to the waterfall?
She'd been following the red taillights in front of her and not paying attention, that's how. The driver must have taken a wrong turn back at the detour sign and she'd blindly followed him. She'd been distracted, worrying about her father. As far as she could tell, no one had seen or heard from him in more than two weeks - and that included Emily, his bride of six months.
"I told you. He took his truck and camper and his camera, just like he always does," Emily had said when Roz called her yesterday. "He said he'd be back when he came back and not to concern myself. He was very clear about that."
Yes, for a few days. Not for two weeks. Liam Sawyer was in great shape for his age. He would be sixty on Thanksgiving Day, but Roz worried he might be trying to act even younger after marrying a woman fifteen years his junior.
Since no one had heard from him, Roz was sick with worry that something had happened. And now this "detour" would only make her arrival in Timber Falls all that much later.
The other driver had turned around in the gravel parking lot and stopped, his headlights blinding her as she pulled past and started to turn around.
The moonless rainy darkness and the dense forest closed in around her car as she began her turn. Remote areas like this had always unnerved her, especially since from the time she was a child she'd known what was really out there.
Suddenly someone ran through her headlights. All she caught was a flash of yellow raincoat. She hit her brakes and stared ahead of her as the person wearing the bright yellow hooded raincoat climbed over the safety barrier at the top of the falls and disappeared in the trees that grew out over the water.
The driver of the pickup? Why would he venture out to the falls on a night like this, she wondered, watching to see if he reappeared.
Suddenly, she spotted the yellow raincoat through the trees at the edge of the falls. The figure seemed to be teetering on the precipice above the roaring water as if -
"Oh, God, no." Roz threw open her door and ran coatless through the icy cold rain toward the waterfall, fear crushing her chest making it nearly impossible to breathe. Not again. Dear God, not again.
"Don't!" she cried, still a dozen yards away.
The person didn't look her way, didn't even acknowledge hearing her. Through the rain and darkness, Roz ran, watching in horror as the bright yellow raincoat seemed to waver before it fell forward, dropping over the edge, and being instantly swallowed up in the spray of the falls.
Roz raced to the railing but couldn't see anything past the trees. Panicked, she ran around the barrier and pushed her way through the tree limbs, praying she'd find the person clinging to the edge.
The roar of the waterfall was deafening. She could feel the spray, warmer than the rain falling around her as she worked her way out onto the moss-slick boulders. She'd had a horrible fear of heights for the past ten years.
But her fear for the jumper was stronger than for herself as she grasped the slim branch of a pine tree leaning out over the waterfall.
Holding on fiercely, she stepped to the edge, her heart dropping as she glimpsed something bright yellow churning in the dark waters below.
She let out a cry and tried to step back. The limb in her hand broke and suddenly she was trying to find purchase on the wet, slick moss at her feet.
With the roar of the waterfall in her ears, she didn't hear him. Nor did she realize he'd come out onto the rocks above the dizzying dark water until he grabbed her from behind.
Excerpted from Day Of Reckoning by B.J. Daniels Copyright © 2004 by Harlequin Enterprises, Ltd.. Excerpted by permission.
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