It’s Thursday, the weekend is almost here and the blog has been jumping. Keeping up the pace here at Junkies today is always a pleasure.
Please help us welcome Anita Birt to the Junkies blog.
Anita Birt writer, avid reader, knitter lives on Vancouver Island with her husband, three African violets, a Christmas cactus that never blooms at Christmas and a demanding computer that sulks when neglected.
For Anita, writing romance novels is like having a love affair with words. Characters emerge. Plots develop. Crises erupt. Her historical stories are set in England, Scotland and Wales, countries she knows well.
When Ellie Paxton accepted the position of Nanny with Computer Skills to care for three month old, Nicki Blesnicoff she cheerfully moved to her employer’s mansion located deep in the Cascade Mountains in Washington. She’d save money, rescue her sinking bank balance and revive her credit cards. Private re-hab to treat her shop-a-holic problem. What she hadn’t factored into her new job were threats of rape, torture and death by armed thugs who invaded the mansion during the absence of Nicki’s parents. A city girl not given to feats of derring-do, Ellie wrapped Nicki in a soft blanket and escaped with him into a dense, terrifying forest. At midnight.
As dawn light filtered through the trees, Jack Merano and his two tracking dogs found Ellie huddling with the baby. A nanny and a baby. What could be more innocently appealing? Rescuing her and the bay from the dangerous forest was the easy part but soon enough Jack learned there was a price on Ellie’s head and a master criminal stalking her.
Excerpt for Too Young To Die by Anita Birt
Misery dogged her footsteps. Her feet hurt. Her legs ached. Being scared out of her wits didn’t help. For Nicki’s sake she had to keep going. Had to reach safety.
She plodded on. What time was it? How long had she been walking? Had she made a mistake leaving the house? Maybe she could’ve bargained with the man in black, given him access to the computer in exchange for her freedom.
She shook her head. Not in a pig’s eye, her mother would have said. Why a pig’s eye? Ellie wasn’t sure and shifted the baby from one arm to the other to ease her tense shoulders.
Do pigs know who to trust and who not to? She puzzled over that. Miss Piggy might know. Don’t trust the boss man.
“What do you think, Nicki?” He slept peacefully in her arms. Every step wearied her. Her legs had taken on a life of their own. If she got out of the forest alive and in one piece would her legs know how to quit?
She stopped for a few minutes to catch her breath, glanced around and suddenly realized she could see. A faint pink glow filtered through the leaves overhead.
“Nicki, honey, I think it’s getting light.”
When had they left the house? Midnight?
Her spirits lifted. People lived and worked in the Cascades. Maybe she’d find a logging camp or a house with helpful people who’d phone the police.
She longed to rest. Longed to put Nicki down safely. Longed to sleep.
She plodded on. One foot followed the other. Don’t stop. Keep moving. The forest had to end somewhere.
“Oh no!” She choked on the words.Two large dogs bounded towards her. Hackles raised they approached stealthily. She huddled Nicki in her arms and buried her face in his blanket. “They’ve sent tracking dogs. We haven’t a hope in hell of getting away. I did my best, sweetie.”
The dogs circled, closed in and sniffed at her and the baby. “Don’t bite,” she pleaded.
Torn to pieces by dogs or shot quickly? She’d choose the gun. Quick and easy if they aimed at her heart or blasted a hole in her head.
As for Nicki. Please God don’t let Nicki die because I failed him.
the sound of a loud whistle the dogs stiffened. A man emerged from the trees, a threatening rifle slung over his shoulder. The dogs left Ellie and stationed themselves beside the man, their eyes remained fixed on her.
The man walked up to her, frowning. “In the name of all the saints and the Pope himself, what are you doing here with a baby?”
Ellie backed away and bumped into a tree. “Don’t kill Nicki. He’s only three months old. He’s innocent. He doesn’t deserve to die.”
Nerves strung to the breaking point she sank down on her knees. Eyes blurry with tears she gazed up at the man.
“Give me a few minutes to pray then shoot me. Promise not to kill the baby.”
He knelt beside her. “I don’t kill babies and women.” He pulled a red and white polka dotted hanky from his jeans pocket and handed it to her. “Dry your eyes and tell me what you’re doing here. This is private land. No trespassing. Didn’t you see the signs?”
Crackling laughter erupted from Ellie’s dry throat. “No trespassing.” She rocked back and forth. “No trespassing. That’s very funny.”
She couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t stop laughing. She’d been through too much. He’d caught her trespassing. Where was she? Would he shoot her for trespassing? She clamped her lips together choking back the laughter.
The man slapped her sharply on the side of her face. “Stop it, you damned fool. You’re scaring the baby.”
She jerked sideways and punched his arm. “What do you think you’re doing?” The hysteria died.
“Stopped you screaming, didn’t I?” He smiled showing even white teeth. Even in the early morning light he was better looking than George and the man in black.
Intelligent eyes. No boxing scars. Probably an expert tracker.
“So what’s next?” Too tired to think clearly Ellie waited for the end. He said he didn’t kill babies and women that’s so she’d calm down and make an easy target. A sitting duck and a duckling.It wouldn’t hurt much. A single shot would do the trick.
“Kill me and get it over with.”
“Stop babbling about killing. Got that? Explain what you’re doing on Vinnie’s land.”
Ellie shook her head. If he wasn’t one of them she was safe. But was she? Whoever raided the Blesnicoff’s home would be searching for her and the baby. She’d witnessed the carnage, could identify two of the men.
Sucking in a deep breath, her brain spun out of its death spiral and emerged intact with an alibi. No way would she tell him her name. He might hand her over. She used his hanky to wipe her sweaty, teary face and plucked a name from the past—her high school English teacher.
“I’m Sarah Hargreave. I’ve run away from my husband.” She raised her head. “He threatened me and the baby.”
The man’s gray eyes darkened. “Did you spend the night in the forest?”
Ellie nodded. “I had to or he’d have found us.”
“Then you’re damned lucky. There’s a cougar lurking in the neighborhood. It killed and mauled some range cattle. Good job it didn’t find you.”
A stalking cougar was too much for Ellie. “We could’ve died,” she wailed and sagged against him.
“But you didn’t.” Grasping her hands he stood and helped her up. “You’re worn out. I’ll take you to my cabin. You can rest there.”
“Is it far?” She’d walked all night. Her nerves were frazzled. The soles of her feet burned. Her ankle throbbed. If he said a mile she’d never make it.
“I’ve got a vehicle.”
Ellie almost kissed him. “Show me.”
For now she had to trust him.