Cry of the wild, p.1
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       Cry of the Wild, p.1

           Catherine Anderson
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Cry of the Wild


  A crackling noise made Crysta whirl to look behind her

  Footsteps? Frustrated by the low rushing sound of the river, she strained to hear, eyes scanning the woods for movement, heart racing, senses bombarded.

  One word bounced off the walls of her mind. Bears. Still, if there was anything as big as a griz­zly out there, surely she would see it. Or hear it. Wouldn't she?

  She listened for a few seconds, flinching when leaves, caught by the wind, rustled overhead. Nothing. Whatever she had heard, it was gone now. She hoped. She ran across a stretch of marshy grass and back into the brush, darting right and left through the maze of undergrowth. Finally, she was safe.

  Then a towering dark form loomed above her, like a predator coming in for the kill . . . .

  ABOUT THE AUTHOR

  Alaska has always been a dream destination for Catherine Anderson and her family. Although she hasn't achieved her dream yet, her brother-in-law provided reams of videotape that proved to be inspiration for Cry of the Wild. She also had behind- the-scenes help from her son John, an Alaska fa­natic. Catherine lives with her husband and two sons in Roseburg, Oregon.

  Books by Catherine Anderson

  HARLEQUIN INTRIGUE

  92-REASONABLE DOUBT

  114-WITHOUT A TRACE

  135-SWITCHBACK

  Don't miss any of our special offers. Write to us at the following address for information on our newest releases.

  Harlequin Reader Service

  P.O. Box 1397,

  Buffalo, NY 14240

  Canadian address:

  P.O. Box 603,

  Fort Erie, Ont. L2A5X3

  In memory of Barton Eugene Gatewood. With special thanks to Gerald Christean.

  Harlequin Intrigue edition published December 1992 ISBN 0-373-22206-8 CRY OF THE WILD

  Copyright © 1992 Adeline Catherine Anderson. All rights reserved. Except for use in any review, the reproduction or utilization of this work in whole or in part in any form by any electronic, mechanical or other means, now known or hereafter invented, including xerography, photocopying and recording, or in any information storage or retrieval system, is forbidden without the permission of the publisher, Harlequin Enterprises Limited, 225 Duncan Mill Road, Don Mills, Ontario, Canada M3B 3K9.

  All the characters in this book have no existence outside the imagination of the author and have no relation whatsoever to anyone bearing the same name or names. They are not even distantly inspired by any individual known or unknown to the author, and all incidents are pure invention.

  ® are Trademarks registered in the United States Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries.

  CLS 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1

  Printed in U.S.A.

  Chapter One

  Chapter Two

  Chapter Three

  Chapter Four

  Chapter Five

  Chapter Six

  Chapter Seven

  Chapter Eight

  Chapter Nine

  Chapter Ten

  Chapter Eleven

  Chapter Twelve

  Chapter Thirteen

  Chapter Fourteen

  Chapter Fifteen

  CAST OF CHARACTERS

  Crysta Meyers—She wanted to distance herself from her twin brother—but not permanently.

  Sam Barrister—His best friend was missing and he knew someone other than Mother Nature was responsible.

  Derrick Meyers—Was his disappearance the result of harsh nature or foul play?

  Tip Barrister—Sam's son had the innocence of a young boy and the eyes of a wise man.

  Jangles—The mysterious Indian woman conveyed an immediate dislike of Crysta.

  Steve Henderson—His desperately ill son made him a desperate man.

  Todd Shriver—An incorrigible flirt and an excellent pilot, had he sold Crysta a bill of goods?

  Riley O'Keefe—This good-time boy seemed to have nothing on his mind but the next beer run.

  Chapter One

  A midnight-black wind swirled around Crysta Meyers, drawing her toward a point of light that grew steadily larger. When she reached it, she found herself walking along a brightly lit corridor. Alarmed without knowing why, she examined the walls and saw that they were actually tall stacks of sturdy packing boxes, each about two feet long and over a foot deep. A storage building of some kind? Dust particles stung her nostrils. Fluorescent light fixtures, blue- white and eerie, hung from lofty steel ceiling beams.

  Her boots echoed on the concrete floor as she moved along the narrow aisle. She paused to make a quick inven­tory of the boxes and came up with over a hundred. What was inside them? And why this sense of urgency?

  She took another step, then glanced down at herself. The top three buttons of her blue chambray shirt were unfas­tened, the neckline gaping. Each time she moved, corded muscle flexed in her thighs beneath the faded denim of her jeans. She wore a wide leather belt with a large silver-dollar buckle. She studied the buckle a moment and then realized it was her twin brother Derrick's, personalized with his ini­tials. She had had it made for him five years ago as a twenty- fifth-birthday gift.

  Crysta turned a corner and found herself in still another aisle. Something sticky swept across her face. A cobweb. She sputtered and wiped her lips. Ahead of her, she saw a row of wooden crates. Diablo Building Supplies, Inc. was printed in black on the side of each. She wanted to hurry forward to see what was inside them, but her body froze midstride. She could hear her heart slamming, feel sweat popping out on her forehead. Fear.

  Was someone coming? Yes, she heard them now, men talking, somewhere off to the left. She shrank back and im­mediately wondered what had prompted her to hide. Who were the men? And why did they frighten her so?

  Crysta heard the men drawing closer. The more distinct their voices became, the more frightened she felt. A shadow shifted in the aisle up ahead. Crysta stared, then whirled and ran. Up one aisle, down another, left, then right, like a ter­rified mouse in a maze. The jogging loosened her belt. She heard a clatter. She whirled and spied Derrick's buckle ly­ing on the floor several feet behind her. The silver dollar had been jarred loose and was rolling to disappear beneath a wooden pallet. She shouldn't leave it behind, not with Der­rick's initials on it. Before she could go back for it, though, the shadow ahead took on the distinct outline of a man.

  Hurry, hurry, before he sees you. She had no idea who the man might be, but her sense of urgency to escape unde­tected was too strong to be ignored. She threw a wild glance around her, looking for anything that would earmark this aisle so she could come back for the buckle later. On the floor, near the pallet, she saw a splotch of green paint. Sat­isfied, she turned to flee.

  Suddenly, inexplicably, Crysta's surroundings changed. Momentarily disoriented, she faltered, a different kind of fear swamping her as she tried to recognize where she was and figure out how she had gotten there.

  Cottonwood trees stood all around her, their billowy tops silhouetted against a powder-blue sky. Numbing coldness shot up her legs. She looked down and saw she was no longer on concrete but slogging through ankle-deep water in the shallows of a river. She could hear the stream rushing, the wind whistling.

  The shirt she now wore was red flannel, western-style with pearl snaps. Icy water seeped through her jeans and heavy boots. She wore a different belt now, narrow with an ordi­nary prong buckle. Exhaustion made her legs quiver. Tired, so tired.

  Sunshine glinted off the water. By the weariness in her legs, she knew she had been running a long while. To her right, up on the riverbank, was a stunted spruce, its trunk wind-twisted from years of harsh exposure.

  Crysta's lungs whined for breath. Defeat and exhaustion dragged her feet to a stop. There was a thrashing sound in the water beh
ind her, then low curses. Apprehension tin­gled up her spine. She was afraid to turn around.

  "You can't get away, Meyers!"

  The voice rent the air, deep and booming. Was it one of the voices she had heard inside the storage building? She couldn't be certain. Something silver arced over her shoul­der and splashed at her feet. Through the distortion of the ripples, she recognized Derrick's personalized belt buckle, minus the silver dollar, the one she had lost in the storage building.

  Another man spoke. "You dropped that the other night. We thought you might like it back. Pretty expensive mis­take, leaving it behind. Sorry, chum, but the game's up."

  Her movements sluggish, Crysta stooped and picked up the buckle. As she dropped it into her left breast pocket, her arm trembled. Still gasping for breath, she managed to re­ply, in a voice that sounded unlike her own, "Don't be worse fools than you already are. I've passed on the informa­tion."

  "You're bluffing. Who could you have told?"

  "Any number of people. For all you know, I could have used your mobile phone to call the police in Anchorage."

  From the corner of her eye, Crysta spotted one man's rubber boots, military-green with yellow bands at the tops and soles. A quick movement flashed. Pain exploded in­side her head. She reeled, unable to see. The next instant, she sprawled in the water. She willed herself to move, to run, but was too dazed.

  The shocking coldness of the water soaked her shirt and lapped against her jaw, perilously close to her mouth and nose. A metallic taste shriveled her tongue. Blood. She stirred and moaned. When she opened her eyes, the world spun. Disoriented, she stared at her outflung hand. Her lit­tle finger came into focus, familiar yet somehow not. A sickening smell wafted to her, thick and rotten, like spoiled fish.

  "You idiot! Why did you hit him?" someone cried.

  "You heard what he said. Someone else knows. We have to get rid of him. We don't have a choice."

  "No! Are you crazy? What do you mean, get rid of him?"

  A funnel cloud sucked at Crysta, ink-black and swirling. She clung desperately to the shrinking microcosm of real­ity, struggling to make sense of the words ricocheting around her. Him? Rolling weakly onto her side, she tried to focus on the men's faces, but her vision was badly blurred. Something gleamed in the sunlight. She guessed what it was and tried to scream. She felt herself doing a free-fall through blackness, the men's voices fading decibels a second.

  "You can't kill him!"

  "Watch me."

  She heard an ominous little click. The next instant, an explosive noise rent the air.

  Crysta jerked awake, eyes bulging, the sound of gunfire still ringing in her ears, her chest banded by a crushing pain. She didn't know where she was. Someone or something was holding her down. With a quick glance, she saw that the sheet and blankets were entwined around her. She just have been thrashing in her sleep.

  A parched sob tore up her throat. Her head ached fiercely. She worked one arm loose from the sweat-soaked sheets and ran her fingers along her temple, half expecting to feel swelling. Nothing. She stared at her little finger, so similar to the one she had studied in her dream. She knew of only one person with hands so much like her own: her twin, Derrick.

  With that realization came a surge of panic. Crysta rolled from the bed and onto her feet, so dizzy she could scarcely stand, fear washing over her in icy waves. "Derrick?"

  The sound of her voice bounced off the walls, quavery and raw with emotion. She swallowed and turned a half circle.

  "Derrick?"

  There was no answer, just a resounding silence broken only by the wild thrumming of her heart. Crysta stopped breathing so she might hear better, her pulse accelerating with each passing second. Within her, for the very first time in her life, she heard only silence... an awful silence.

  The horrible smell of rotting fish still clung to her. Her stomach plunged. Sick—she was going to be sick. She spun and headed for the bathroom. Minutes later, she clung to the porcelain toilet bowl, limbs trembling. The silence inside her head had magnified.

  She just had the flu, she assured herself. Yes, that was all it was, a simple case of flu, she assured herself. Yes, that was all it was, a simple case of flu and a bad dream.

  Her nightgown skimmed her body like wet gauze. Cinnamon-colored strands of hair hung in a curtain around her face, sticky with sweat and hair spray. She must have had a fever, and it had broken in her sleep. No wonder she had dreamed something so crazy. Delirium. So real, it had seemed so real.

  Pressing a hand to her chest, she rested a few more min­utes, trying to ignore the feeling of impending doom that still hovered around her. Struggling to get herself back on track, she shifted her gaze to the everyday things around her: the crimson dish of scented soap on the sink, her ratty pink slippers by the tub, her terry robe on the door hook, the rack of magazines by the toilet. Derrick. She couldn't rid herself of the feeling that something was wrong. She didn't have dreams like this about him unless he needed her.

  Tempted to call Blanchette Construction to find out where Derrick was working this week, she glanced at her clock. Six a.m. Derrick's boss wouldn't appreciate a phone call this early in the morning, and neither would Derrick. Besides, what would she say? Sorry for bothering you, brother dear, but I dreamed you were in trouble? She couldn't start mak­ing frantic phone calls. She wouldn't allow herself to. After three years of weekly therapy to distance herself from Der­rick, she should be well equipped to handle a frightening dream about him without panicking. If she couldn't, then she had spent all that time and money for nothing.

  Remembering her analyst's advice, Crysta closed her eyes and took a deep breath, repeating one sentence over and over in her mind. It was only a dream. She tried desperately to believe the words, but it wasn't that easy, not when her past was littered with dozens of similar dreams that had proven almost prophetic in their accuracy.

  Childhood memories pelted Crysta. The time Derrick had been "stricken with appendicitis while he was away at sum­mer camp, and she had awakened in the dead of night screaming with abdominal pain. The time Derrick had been hit in the temple with a bat at baseball practice, and Crysta, miles away, had fallen to her knees, momentarily blinded with pain. Coincidences, the family physician had insisted, but Crysta and Derrick had known better. Over the years, Derrick had been treated to similar experiences, aware that Crysta was in trouble or ill when they were physically sepa­rated. In some indefinable, inexplicable way that even they couldn't understand, they were connected, emotionally and mentally, as other people were not.

  As it always did after one of her dreams, a feeling of ur­gency filled Crysta, a compulsive need to find Derrick and assure herself he was okay. It was a compulsion she refused to gratify, for her sake and Derrick's.

  Crysta forced herself to stand up, continuing to deep breathe. Only a dream, only a dream. It wasn't real. The litany provided little comfort. Even so, Crysta embraced the thought, determined not to let her dreams control her.

  Not this time.

  She would get started with her day and keep busy, just as her analyst had told her she should, until the dream lost its hold on her. It was what Derrick would insist she do if he were here. He was a grown man and perfectly capable of taking care of himself. If he was in trouble, he'd find a way to extricate himself from it.

  A cup of tea would help settle her stomach, soothe her nerves and clear her mind. Groping her way from the bath­room, Crysta grabbed her robe from the hook and draped it around her shoulders. Still unsteady on her feet, she made her way through the living room and into the adjoining kitchen. After putting some water on to boil, she sat at the breakfast bar and dropped her head into her hands, fight­ing off another wave of nausea. Only a dream. She had to believe that.

  Four hours later, Crysta still had a nagging sense of un­ease but otherwise felt fine. Her dream that morning had been just that: a scary dream.

  She sat at her desk in the back room of her dress shop, tallying yes
terday's receipts, the adding machine keys clacking rhythmically beneath her quick fingers. The height of her spike heels prevented her from crossing her legs without colliding with the underside of the desk, and an ache inched up her thigh from sitting so long in the same position. She squirmed, tugging on her white skirt so it wouldn't be hopelessly crunched and wrinkled beneath her.

  The boutique's entrance bell chimed. Crysta glanced out the office doorway at Rosanne, her partner, who was re­stocking the cashier stand with mauve shopping bags. "Is that Mrs. Grimes?"

  "No, just a browser." Rosanne straightened the last stack of bags, then looked over her shoulder and grinned. "Since when did old Grimy ever come on time? Maybe something wonderful will happen and she won't show for her appoint­ment. You don't look quite up to her today. What's her fantasy this month? To look like Twiggy?"

  "No, Farrah, I think. She's gone blond."

  Rosanne groaned. "Give me a break. Who does she think we are miracle workers? That woman's built like a sumo wrestler."

  Crysta bit back a grin. It was, after all, her business to design dresses to camouflage the problem figure. Mrs. Grimes just happened to have more problems than most—about a hundred of them, if Crysta was any judge of poundage. "I'll think of something."

  "What, a tent dress? Or maybe a starvation diet?"

  "Bite your tongue."

  "Hey, I hate diets, too, but I detest fat more."

  Crysta scanned Rosanne's stringy figure, quite certain the other woman had never dieted a day in her life. "The im­perfect figure is what keeps us in business."

  "Is that my cue to say thank goodness for Mrs. Grimes?"

  "At least she makes a constant effort to look her best. She's very stylish, always does her hair and wears make—" A sudden pain in Crysta's chest made her break off and clamp a hand over her heart. She jackknifed forward over her desk, her head swimming with dizziness. "Oh..."

 
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