The book you are currently viewing has been written in part by KaiaJersaga and in part by MercedesBlue. The characters featured are a blend of KaiaJersaga's I Knew characters and MercedesBlue's Fire Keeper characters.
Dedicated to Mercedes' Hunter and Kaia's Zybryn
After all we put you guys through in the books you came from, we decided to show a little sympathy on you and preserve you from this one. We know you feel a little left out, but trust us, you won't miss the drama. ;)
“Oh, come on! Not this song again!” Kassie exclaimed, reaching for the dial on the radio and snapping it off. Her annoyed brown eyes moved back to her phone. “At least we aren’t far from the cabin,” she mused, lifting her eyes and moving them toward her cousin.
Jed’s gaze moved momentarily from the road. A faint smile touched his lips as he halted the pickup at the end of the gravel lane they had been traveling on and flicked on the left blinker. “You’re so impatient,” he muttered, casting his cousin a teasing glance. “We’re literally like five minutes away…or less,” he added, turning the pickup onto another gravel road.
Kassie rolled her eyes and aimlessly traced a strand of her blond hair from the side of her cheek down to her waist as she glanced down at her phone. “Yeah,” she replied distantly.
Jed shot her a glance and slid a hand off the steering wheel, aimlessly pulling a strand of his hair that had come loose from his ponytail behind his ear.
An opening in the forest appeared ahead, and a gravel drive became visible. Jed slowed the speed of the pickup and made the turn into the driveway.
Kassie’s eyes lifted from the blond ends of her hair she had been twisting. A faint smile touched her lips as she gazed in awe up at the two-story high cabin before her eyes. Letting her hair twirl out of the twist she had put it in, Kassie turned to face Jed. “I just can’t believe we get this whole place to ourselves until the family reunion. Dad’s crazy to have reserved it so early.”
Jed smiled faintly as he stopped the vehicle at the side of the cabin. “Yeah,” he replied shortly, pulling the keys out of the ignition. “But I don’t mind.” His eyes moved to the passenger seat, but Kassie had already slipped out of it and was pulling open the door to the backseat.
A golden retriever bounded out, dragging a leash behind it. It lunged toward Kassie and eagerly jumped on its hind legs to greet her.
“Hi, Lexi,” Kassie greeted as she bent down to scratch the dog behind her ears. Lexi dropped onto her front paws again as Kassie reached into the backseat and pulled out a bag of snacks she had just purchased.
Jed exited the vehicle and locked it behind himself. Lexi eagerly moved from Kassie toward Jed, dragging her leash dangerously behind her. Jed stepped back, lifting his eyes to Kassie.
She laughed, recognizing the disgust in her cousin’s hazel eyes. She called the dog to herself and started toward the porch. Jed followed behind her. Stepping to the side of the porch, he set the key he had been given to the lock and opened the door, allowing Kassie and her dog to enter first.
A refreshing coolness swept out into the summer heat as Jed pulled his keys from the door and entered the living room after Kassie.
His gaze moved to a comfortable sofa standing in front of a dark TV screen. The remote lay on a small wooden table beside the sofa. A coat hanger stood to the right of the door upon which Kassie had flopped Lexi’s leash.
The girl cast Jed a glance and started for the kitchen, humming a Christmas tune as enthusiastically as if snow were floating down from the summer sky. Her dog followed her. Jed exited the living room and started for the hall leading to the other rooms in the cabin. A thunderous bang suddenly exploded the silence. The windows rattled, followed by a chilling silence.
“What was that?” Kassie shrieked as she ran into the hallway and grabbed Jed’s arm for protection as her nervous eyes moved about the cabin.
Jed shrugged in more of an attempt to relax his shoulders than to respond to Kassie. He stepped past his cousin to where Lexi stood, paws to the door, barking loudly. Casting Kassie a glance, Jed pulled open the door and stepped onto the porch, Lexi eagerly pressing past him to bark at the forest from where the sound appeared to have come from. Jed’s gaze moved to the edge of the forest, and he stared out at it in silent contemplation.
Kassie followed him outside, her worried eyes scanning the forest at the side of the cabin. “What was it?” Kassie whispered hoarsely, wrapping her pale fingers around Jed’s arm. “A bomb?” she asked, lifting her worried eyes to Jed’s face to search for comfort.
Jed shook his head distantly. “Maybe a hunter.” His eyes dropped to his cousin’s worried eyes gazing up at him. Gently, he laid a hand on her arm. “Nothing to worry about, okay?”
Lexi barked again and took a step closer to the grass separating her from the forest.
Kassie stepped forward and grabbed her dog’s collar to hold her back. Her worried eyes lifted to Jed’s face. “What would a hunter be doing down here?”
Jed shrugged. “Probably nothing to worry about.”
Lexi barked again and jolted forward.
“Whoa, girl,” Kassie shouted, trying to force the dog to take a step back. “Don’t go anywhere, Lexi. It’s probably not safe out there for a dog like you to be running around wild.”
Lexi’s barking grew more desperate. Kassie cast Jed a glance. The dog suddenly bolted forward, tearing itself free of Kassie’s restraining hold. “Lexi!” Kassie shrieked after her dog as the moving blur reached the edge of the woods.
Jed turned swiftly just as Kassie took off after her dog, screaming its name.
“Kassie!” Jed called after her, breaking into a run to catch up with his cousin. He reached the forest and plunged into it, following the row of bent grass blades in the direction he supposed Kassie had gone.
Ahead, she came into view, running wildly toward the blurry image of her dog running crazily through the forest. Kassie slowed her footsteps and dropped to the ground, exhausted.
Jed stopped beside her, casting the vicinity a glance.
Kassie lifted her eyes to her cousin’s face. She frowned and quickly stood up, staring questioningly into the sky. “Jed…” she breathed, her lips parting in surprise.
“What?” Jed asked, continuing to glance around in search of the dog. “Where’d she go?”
“What is…” Kassie’s voice trailed off as she stared up at the sky questioningly. She suddenly turned back to Jed. “Look! Look!” she exclaimed, pointing excitedly to the sky and eagerly grabbing Jed’s arm.
Jed frowned and glanced skeptically up at the sky from between the tree branches. “What?” he asked in an irritated tone. His eyes moved back to Kassie as he tried to pry her fingers from his arm. “We need to find your dog before she—"
“There it is again!” Kassie exclaimed, cutting off her cousin’s words and pointing wildly above her. Her excited brown eyes moved to Jed’s face as she tugged at his arm, still pointing to the sky. “I bet that’s what Lexi’s going crazy about.”
“Look, we don’t have time for this. We need to find your dog,” Jed ordered, tearing his arm free of Kassie’s fervent grasp.
Kassie frowned and lowered her arm, her big brown eyes slowly lowering from the sky. “Aw, man, it’s gone. I can’t see it anymore.”
She turned her eager eyes back to Jed and opened her arms in front of her. “It was the biggest bird I have ever seen,” she declared in perfect seriousness as her excited eyes traced her cousin’s disbelieving face and characteristically crossed arms.
Jed frowned skeptically. “Come on. Let’s go.” He started in the direction the dog was last seen, but Kassie grabbed his arm to stop him. Annoyed, Jed turned to face his cousin. “What?”
“No, I’m being serious!” Kassie exclaimed, casting the sky another hopeful glance. “That thing was huge!”
“It doesn’t matter. We need to find Lexi before she gets lost,” Jed replied, pulling his hair from his ponytail and sliding his hair tie over his wrist.
Kassie nodded, lowering her eyes disappointedly from the sky. “Maybe she’ll find where it landed,” she suggested optimistically, turning to cast Jed a glance.
He rolled his eyes and drew his hair back again.