Authors: Julie Solano,Tracy Justice
Tags: #The Seasons of Jefferson Series, #Book 2
The Dead of Winter
Copyright ©2015 Julie Solano and Tracy Justice (JT Authors)
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Table of Contents
Seasons of Jefferson
For our husbands and four children who inspire us every day. Thank you for your unending support and understanding throughout this exciting journey. We did it again!
~ Like a snowflake on the wind, fate has a way of picking you up and setting you down right where you belong. Though you may not know where you’re headed, sometimes it’s best to enjoy the ride. Trusting that you are part of a larger plan. ~
STILL ANCHORED TO THE FREEZING
snow, I curl into a ball, shaking, shivering, and screaming in agony. The bitter cold bites at my fingertips, pierces through my soaking clothes, and stabs at my face, head, and ears. The pain of the frigid temperature does little to distract from the anguish that rips through my heart and soul. Trapped in an uncontrollable nightmare, I try to snap out of it, forcing myself to look up at my brother. His lifeless body lies unconscious on the ground in front of me. His face and clothes are covered in blood. A tourniquet has been tied around his arm.
Did this really happen? Did my brother just topple down an embankment in his truck? Peyton … Where is she?
My mind is fuzzy. I can’t think.
It’s so cold … so … so cold. Warm up.
Trying to trap the heat from escaping my body, I wrap my arms around myself, clutching intensely at my soaked jacket.
This isn’t working.
Hesitantly, I unfurl my shaking arms from around my waist and begin to rub my hands together. It’s too cold. Not even the friction of the rapid movement can create enough heat to bring the feeling back. Praying there is enough warm air left inside my lungs to defrost my icy fingertips, I pull my folded hands up to my mouth. I rock back and forth, huffing into them, and doing my darndest to understand the scene before me. With my vision anchored to my motionless brother, nothing breaks my fixed stare. Not even the sounds of screeching voices, intermittently streaking through my ears.
Howling winds shroud the hillside, muffling the voices. I don’t understand them.
What are they saying?
Straining to focus on their shrill pitch, I track the screaming sound. The trail of desperate cries creates a path that leads just beyond my brother. My focus settles on the figure of a girl. She’s huddled on the ground near Caden. Her long, blond hair fans out over a blue and black flannel jacket. I recognize her. She’s my best friend, Jenna.
Jenna’s here? That’s right
She was with us in the truck. We were following Caden and Peyton when they went over the cliff.
Her head is raised in the direction of the embankment. She’s screaming for help.
I pull my vision back to my brother’s lifeless body. Brody huddles over him, slapping the sides of his face incessantly. He’s gasping for air, panicked, “Caden, come on buddy. You can’t leave us! You can’t!” He pauses momentarily and arches into him. Turning his head, he rests his ear on Caden’s mouth. I watch his hand slide up toward his neck. Quickly, he pulls away and yells to Mason, who’s making his way toward me. “His breathing is shallow. I’m picking up a pulse, but I can’t get him to wake up!”
Mason’s movement quickens. “Kaitlyn! Snap out of it! You have to get up! We’re going to try to get Caden up the embankment. Nobody’s going to be able to see us down here. We don’t have a choice. We have to move him. It’s going to take all of us. We have to go, now. Come on!”
The scene before me begins to spin out of control. The wind is howling. The river is raging. There’s so much screaming. So much movement. From everywhere and everyone. Except from my brother. He’s still lifeless. Still unmoving. Panic erupts inside of me. I can’t think straight. Shaking my head, I try to clear my mind.
What is he trying to get me to do? Move Caden up the ridge? We can’t move him. He was just in a horrible car accident. What if he has a spinal injury? Come on. Be smart about this. What am I going to do?
My teeth audibly clap together from the intensity of the shivering. I look again toward my brother.
“Kaitlyn. Come with me. We need you,” Mason begs, grabbing my arm. I look down at his firm grasp and see my ex-boyfriend’s rough hand curled around my wrist. Reflexively, I recoil, balling my hand into a fist.
“That’s enough! Don’t touch me!” I scream, angry that he’s coming after me again.
How could that insensitive bastard hurt me at a time like this?
“Get away from me, Pistol!”
“Kaitlyn, I’m not Pistol. It’s me, Mason.” His voice is calm, as he releases my hand and backs away. “Your friend, Mason. I need your help. I’m not trying to hurt you. Look at me, sweetie.”
I take a second look at the horror stricken face staring back at me. It is Mason.
If this is Mason, where’s Pistol? Pistol? Oh, hell …
In my mind
I replay the haunting image of Caden’s truck swerving to dodge gunshots as it slides across the icy river road.
Pistol’s truck went over the embankment too. He’s the one who drove his truck into my brother’s, pulling them both over the edge. Where’s Pistol? And Peyton … Where’s Peyton? Peyton … she’s in the truck … in the river … Oh my God! Peyton is still in the river!
I turn toward the raging Salmon River, and look for any visible sign of my brother’s truck. “Peyton!” I scream, pulling myself from the snowy ground. Running down the riverbank, I scan the rushing water, searching for the truck.
“Stop, Kaitlyn! She’s gone!” Mason’s strained voice calls after me. “We need you back here! We need your help! You can’t do anything for her. It’s been too long. At least your brother still has a chance!”
I can’t give up. I have to get to Peyton.
Without looking back
I continue to run, stumbling over the icy rocks. Protruding brush and branches lash my frozen skin as I quickly wriggle my way through the thicket near the river. Discovering a possible opening, my desperate hands tear through the thick brush, pausing momentarily, when a small movement catches my eye. After moments of intense focus, I realize it’s just the water rolling over a small rapid in the middle of the river.
If Peyton is out there, time is working against us.
The voices in my head are telling me to move quickly.
Keep going, Kait. You can do it. You're a lifeguard, a swimmer. If anyone can do this, it’s you. You have to find her.
My face burns and my skin stings. It feels like I’ve just run through a maze of blackberry bushes. Tears roll down my cheeks as I continue to run down the riverbank. When there’s no shoreline left and a formation of boulders blocks my way to the rest of the river, I begin to climb.
There’s no way in hell that I’m going to stop searching for that truck.
Clambering up the steep surface, my foot slides over the slick, icy face of the rock. My knee crashes down with a shattering thud. Shrieking in agony, my body momentarily freezes as I slide down the slippery surface, and land back on the ground. I’m stunned by the harsh impact on my icy, cold bones.