Romance w/ Light Paranormal Elements
Date Published: 9/23/2012
The mysterious recluse…
Owen Campbell holds himself apart from other people. Badly scarred from emotional wounds that have never healed, he doesn’t expect to find true love or happiness. He remains isolated in a prison of his own making, determined to not let anyone close enough to hurt him again. But his willpower is shaken to the core when Sarah Browning enters his world.
The girl next door…
Sarah Jane Browning is three years into her college degree when a call from home changes everything. Back at the family homestead in the heart of Appalachia, she’s forced to reevaluate her hopes and dreams for the future.
Distraction from her heartache comes in the form of her parents’ neighbor. Whispers about “odd Owen Campbell” abound in their small community, and Sarah’s curiosity is aroused. When she breaks the rules and trespasses onto his land, what she finds is beyond her wildest imaginings.
As Sarah struggles to overcome tragedy and loss, her burgeoning relationship with Owen is sorely tested. Will love conquer all, or will the secrets from Owen’s past tear them apart forever?
Checking back over her shoulder after a few steps, Sarah frowned when the deer continued to mimic her path. Dismissing the incident as the curiosity of a wild young deer that hadn’t yet learned humans were the enemy, she let her mind drift. Before long, she heard the sound of water trickling rapidly over rocks, and as she rounded a curve, she saw a small stream curving through the mountainside. The branch of water cut into a shallow hollow, one side protected by a higher ledge of earth that was full of mountain laurel.
Sarah stopped to take in the sight and drew in a cleansing breath. As she looked around, she realized the deer had followed her and stopped a short distance away. The bench of land it stood on converged with the deer path alongside the stream.
If Sarah hadn’t known better, she would have sworn the deer wore a look of consternation. The animal bent its head to nibble at some greenery on the ground, but kept its eyes on her. It almost seemed to glance between her and the water, as though weighing the danger of coming closer for a drink.
“Maybe if I turn away, you’ll feel bolder.” The deer path crossed the branch at a narrow point, and she decided to go a bit further. The water cascaded down a small waterfall above the narrow point, pooling in a shallow area that would be the perfect spot for a thirsty deer to get a cooling drink. Hopping across the water, Sarah followed the trail. To her surprise, the path didn’t continue to the flat bench on the other side of the small ridge, but climbed up and around the rocky outcropping. Curious, she climbed the incline. The sight took her breath away, and for a moment, she didn’t believe what was in front of her was real.
The rocky outcropping the water cascaded down was a sort of natural dam. On its other side, a large pool of water had collected. Fifteen feet across and nearly that wide again going in the opposite direction, the pool was surrounded by sloping granite on all sides except the front, where the water dropped over the edge. The water was blue-green, going from light aqua to deeper cobalt, and the banks of rock and earth protected it on all sides.
On the opposite side, a craggy granite cliff rose about ten feet out of the water, overhanging slightly to form a shallow cave. The mountain seemed to curve around the pool and, mesmerized, Sarah continued around, crossing the branch once more at a point above the pool. From there, she was able to climb on top of the granite boulder that created the cliff. Easing to the edge, she carefully sat down, her legs dangling over the side.
When the curious deer appeared at the edge of the pool below, Sarah laughed. The deer gave a small jerk at the sound, eyeing her warily.
“I’m sorry.” She felt utterly insane, carrying on a conversation with a deer, but it had followed her like a curious puppy. Sarah realized that keeping quiet would feel even more absurd. “It’s so beautiful here. I had no idea any place like this existed.” She looked around, noticing that the trees didn’t arch out over the pool the way she thought they would have.
“I’ll bet it’s really hot here in the summer, and that water feels so good and cool. Or does the pool dry up, I wonder?”
For a while, she just sat, braced back on her hands, her face lifted to the sky. The peace imbued in the place washed over her. When she felt ready, she let herself remember Kathy’s words to Paul, and their laughter. The memory made Sarah sad and still made her cringe with embarrassment, but she realized that she didn’t feel quite as angry about it as she had.
“Thank you, God, for letting me hear that today. At least I don’t have to face Paul until Monday,” she said to the sky. “And… and maybe, if that’s what he likes, then maybe he’s not as special as I thought he was. Let him have his buxom girls. At least I don’t look like a milk cow, unlike someone I could name.”
A snort came from below, and Sarah jumped. She’d forgotten the deer. Looking down, she saw that it had moved to the edge of the exposed granite and settled down on a soft patch of leaves.
“What are you snorting at?”
When the deer shook its head, Sarah laughed. Even though she knew it was probably batting away flies with its ears, the deer acted almost human.
She glanced down at her watch and was shocked when she saw the time. She was going to have to run in order to make it home in time for supper. With a muted curse that she’d heard her father say when he hit his thumb with the hammer, she scrambled to her feet and looked around. Another bench ran down from the side of the boulder opposite where she’d come up and fell naturally into the one the deer had been on when she’d first seen it.
“That saves me a little time.” With one last look at the deer, which had gotten to its feet when Sarah did, she headed down the bench. “I’ll come back someday,” she promised over her shoulder. “Try to not get shot or anything.”
For a day that had gone so badly, she thought as she ran, things had turned out to be okay.
* * *
For a long time after the girl had gone, Owen stood on the edge of the pool, looking after her. With his enhanced hearing, he could follow her progress down the trail and back onto Browning land.
He didn’t know what to think. He’d never encountered another human in all the time he’d been exploring the woods. His parents had seen to that over the years; no one dared come onto Campbell property without his father’s permission. Now that the property belonged to Owen, he guessed he was the one who’d have to do something about trespassers.
He bent his neck, taking another sip from the water. As the girl had guessed, it was cool and delightful.
Owen sighed, a sound that came out in deer form much as it did when he was human. The pool was one of his favorite places to roam, one of his safe places. If the girl came back as she promised, he didn’t know what it would mean for him. He couldn’t risk being caught, and he wasn’t willing to give up his solitude. If the girl threatened that… he hated the thought of having to go to her parents, but if it came to that, he’d do it.
About the Author ~ T.L. Haddix
T.L. Haddix was born in Hazard, Kentucky, a small town in the center of the Appalachian coal fields. Taught to read by her grandmother, T.L. has had a life-long love affair with books, devouring whatever she could get her hands on. From childhood favorites such as the Trixie Belden series and Laura Ingalls Wilder’s “Little House” books, to her current favorites from authors like Tami Hoag, Alex Kava, J.A. Jance and Lisa Kleypas (among many others), T.L. still finds refuge in the written word.
“Growing up, I wanted to be everything – astronaut, police officer, doctor, teacher, reporter, psychologist – there was no clear choice for me. I wanted to do it all. Becoming a writer has allowed me to do just that, because I can live vicariously through my characters.”
A resident of eastern Kentucky, T.L. is hard at work on her next book, when she isn’t chasing after her three cat-children with her husband.