For generations, the rangers of Black Water Island have guarded the Old Herd against the horrors released by the Rift. And Cal West, an apprentice ranger, fights daily to prove he belongs within their ranks. But even greater challenges await with the return of his childhood friend Meg Archer and the onset of a new threat that not even the rangers are prepared for. Now Meg and Cal, while struggling with their mutual attraction, must face their darkest fears to save the island from disaster. In a possible near future where Big Pharma is pitted against ancient traditions and the supernatural, Rachael Craw’s gripping and brutal tale, inspired by Greek mythology, will immerse readers and leave them intoxicated by its richly imagined world.
|Product dimensions:||5.50(w) x 8.30(h) x 1.30(d)|
|Age Range:||12 - 17 Years|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
Cal’s too late. He knows it even as he leaps down the thickly treed slope, knees jarring with the impact of each footstep. Certainty like an iron clamp fastens at the top of his throat, making his breath short. The long oilskin hampers his stride. His rifle thumps, bruising his hip. Heavy rain slicks his hair to his face, and he mops it back, hot with frustration and fear. Everything’s working against him — weather, terrain, gear, the thunder of his pulse — obscuring the Voice of the Herd.
Clinging to the initial flare of instinct, Cal makes for the Western Spit. He strains to hear past the torrential rain. There’s no howling. Not yet. Maybe it’s too far from the Rift for the animal’s distress signal to draw the Hounds. Or maybe that’s wishful thinking. There are only four days until the moon grows full; the timing couldn’t be worse.
Reeva’s frantic cawing echoes above the treetops, and he curses her — useless bird. He could have used the aerial support to boost his night vision. His boots slide in the wet, mud and leaf mold threatening to wrench his ankles.
It must be a full five minutes since he first felt the alarm up on the Ridgeway. Perhaps he should be grateful he’s too agitated to tap into it now — the signal must be roaring with grief. That first sign of distress had been a shock vibration in his mind — like the string of a fragile instrument, viciously plucked. If he’d been concentrating, he’d have caught the earlier warning notes of danger and deployed his raven to scout. But he hadn’t been paying attention, too self-absorbed, obsessing over the news he’d heard in the mess hall this morning. Meg Archer is coming home.
When the signal from the Old Herd finally broke into his consciousness, panic cost him precious seconds and his link with Reeva.
Cal curses himself. This proves everything they’ve ever said about you, you worthless piece of —
An image flashes into his mind. A doe, tall, slender, strong. A sable coat with silver markings on her chest and flanks. Deep, brown, fathomless eyes. Ancient, knowing, wild. His gut plummets. What if it’s Fallon? What if it’s Fallon and she’s been killed by a trapper’s snare?
The unthinkable shame of losing the matriarch of the Old Herd . . . it scrambles his brain. He pictures himself denounced by the head ranger before the whole community, cast out under the full weight of his failure, heralding the total collapse of everything the Black Water Rangers stand for. Thousands of years of toil, trials, and tradition passed from parent to child, nullified in a single night’s screwup by a kid who never deserved to be counted among their ranks.
God. God. Please don’t let it be Fallon.
As if her name in his thoughts summons it, the Voice of the Herd flickers in his mind. He gasps — or sobs — and skids to a stop. His chest heaves, and his quads and calves burn, but the momentary relief of connection fills him, centers him. Oneness, wonder, and longing for the mountain. Longing for the veins of living energy pulsing in the ley lines. He listens. Even that small flicker thrums with oppressive grief. Knowing fills him, confirming the location like an internal GPS. There, in the deep shadow, forty feet below where the narrow track twists back on itself, a light gray smudge swings from a noose. His skin contracts with goose bumps; if his hair wasn’t slicked to his head, tendrils would rise at the nape of his neck.
He sees the antlers, and his heart beats. It’s not Fallon. It’s not Fallon.
The gloves are a polymer-based microfiber blended with Tibetan yak fur. Better than her rock-climbing gloves. Better than her hiking gloves. Better than any of her kayaking, water sports, or orienteering gloves. Meg slides them out of the fabric drawstring bag like she’s handling a booby trap and lays them beside her on the bed. Even the ethically sourced eco-packaging is hipster nonsense.
There’s no way Sargent bought them on Black Water Island, that’s for sure. The knot in her gut gives a nauseating little tug. Two hundred and forty-seven dollars — the price tag left on the gift. Her mother’s jaw clicked with the grinding of her teeth when Meg unwrapped them in the kitchen yesterday morning.
Meg had stuffed them in her dresser drawer, an odd mix of giddy and bitter and aware. So many unspoken messages. But how to read the meaning? Meg fixates on the unlikely logistics of Sargent selecting the gloves from a catalog, posting an order at Leaman’s General Store, explaining to Mrs. Leaman who they’re for and the occasion. Maybe Mrs. Leaman helped him choose. It’s the first gift Sargent has bothered to send her since he became head ranger. It may have arrived a few days early but still well within the week of her eighteenth birthday. Blue wrapping paper decorated with gray antlers. No card, of course, just her name and address and a Black Water postage stamp.
He could have waited and given them to her in person.
An alert pings on her phone, and she bounces with a pulse of nervous energy. Eleven fifteen. The taxi for the Midnight Ferry will be here soon. Rain thunders on the roof. She can hear her mother moving through the house checking windows and locks. Meg blows through her lips; she’s been packed for days. Passport and ticket secure beneath the old troop leader trophy on her dresser. Now only minutes to fill. She dabs tiny drops of Bio-Oil on her palms, massaging it into the rough lattice of scars. The webbing of melted skin is numb, a hash of dead nerve endings in raw pinks and mottled whites.