Here is an excerpt from TRAPPED, my latest novel. Would love to hear comments.
Rotten people. Rotten rain. Rotten day.
Jake Taylor’s day had started out bad and hadn’t improved. If he’d been a half-hour earlier, he could have saved the dog’s life. Poor thing suffered for a long time before Jake happened along. His heart cracked a little. This mountainous road left little chance of survival for the animals dumped by uncaring humans. Rotten people.
His sweat-dampened shirt clung to his chest when he climbed back into his vehicle. He started the truck and the blast of air conditioning raised goosebumps across his shoulders. Dark storm clouds had turned the late afternoon sky into night. No way would he make it home before the downpour started. No sooner had he thought it than the torrent pummeled his vehicle. He hunched over the steering wheel to see better. The slapping windshield wipers did little to clear his view. He’d had his fill of this wretched weather, too. Rotten rain.
Rotten day. First, his sister, Becca, had harped at him for giving her daughter, Jenny, a puppy. He wanted to give the last of the litter to his niece. She’d been bugging him for weeks to have the fat little black and white furball. How could he resist her sweet dimples and big blue eyes? He told Becca he’d help with housebreaking and training, though he didn’t understand why it should be a problem. The puppy would have plenty of room to run around in their huge yard, and every child needed a pet. It taught responsibility, something he wished the scumbags who abandoned their pets had learned when they were kids. That wasn’t the main contributor to his mood, though. He knew he could win Becca over.
He rubbed the back of his neck. He had to make a decision soon. Shelley wanted Jake to make a commitment. He liked her, maybe even loved her, but he wasn’t in love with her. They’d been friends for years. But, Havens Creek didn’t offer many opportunities for romance. He’d either have to marry her, or live his life as a bachelor. Neither choice seemed right. He wanted kids of his own. Someone to love and take care of. He couldn’t spend the rest of his life with only the animals he rescued for company. Another problem. Shelley couldn’t abide his tolerance for pet hair. She believed animals belonged outside. He, on the other hand, enjoyed sharing his home with the poor creatures who’d known nothing but abuse until they came to live with him.
Dolly, the orange tabby with the loud voice, could maneuver around his house with ease, despite having lost her eyesight. His stomach rode a roller coaster thinking about the pain she endured as a result of someone shoving a pointed object through both of her eyes. Yet, she retained the ability to love. Every night she curled next to him on the bed and purred contentedly until they both fell asleep.
Tires squealed as he rounded another curve. With the rain, it was a good thing he knew the road so well. Anxious to get home, he drove a little faster than normal. A hot shower and a meal would lighten his mood. So would Buck, the yellow lab who’d be sprawled across the foot of Jake’s bed right now. The dog never jumped on the bed when Jake was home, but the telltale hair trail told the story of what happened while Jake patrolled the county roads. He didn’t care. In his opinion, the three-legged dog deserved a little comfort in his life. “Steaks tonight, Buck,” he said, as if the dog could hear him. “And a can of tuna for Dolly.” They all deserved a treat. Maybe it would help relieve the pain he felt from finding the dead dog. A good meal, a friendly tail wagging, a purring cat weaving figure eights between his legs. Home. The picture melded on his mind.
His headlights speared on the sign depicting the sharpest set of curves along this stretch. Slowing slightly, he reached for the radio knob. Static filled the vehicle. Would nothing go right this day? He needed music, sound—something to take his mind off the rain. He popped in a CD, taking his eyes from the road for a moment.
Suddenly, headlights speared through the rainfall from the opposite direction.
He yanked the wheel to avoid a collision. Heart hammering against his ribs, he felt the bump when his vehicle clipped the other car. He stomped hard on the brake pedal. The wet pavement proved to be too much, and his truck spun one-eighty. He spied the other car spinning in front of him, and then his throat tightened as the vehicle slid off the road and down the mountain. Lights flashed, metal crashed, and then silence scratched fingernails down the chalkboard of his soul.
He rested his head against his trembling hands, sickness churning in his gut. “Oh, God, help me.” He pried his hands from the death grip on the wheel and reacting on training, he called for an ambulance. Seconds later, he placed flares in the road. If only he could hear something…anything from the wreckage below. “God, please protect whoever is in that car.” The sound of his voice brought little comfort.
He moved his truck as close to the berm as possible, grabbed his flashlight, and began the tedious descent down the mountain. The car had lodged against a stand of trees. The skewed hood had popped open, and though all four tires appeared flat, the car had come to rest upright. Thank God. He beamed the light over the wreckage with a sinking feeling in the pit of his stomach. He couldn’t see clearly through the splintered glass, but it appeared the driver was female. Long dark hair hung over one shoulder, obscuring features.
“Hey, you all right?” he asked, tapping lightly on the door.
No response. The woman didn’t move. He wasn’t sure if she was unconscious or…dead. The driver door hugged the tree, making it impossible for him to get inside that way. He wiped the rain from his eyes with his soaked shirt sleeve. Where was that ambulance? And his deputy? He needed help, and he needed it fast.
He turned off his light, placed it on the ground by his feet and began tugging on the back door. Metal groaned and his muscles screamed, but finally he created an opening large enough to stuff his body through. This was one time he wished he’d inherited his mother’s diminutive frame instead of receiving the genes from his dad’s pool. He ignored the pain in his shoulder and forced his way inside the car. The front seat had shifted back, leaving little room for his long legs.
Then he caught sight of the carseat...