TITLE: Beyond The River Shadows
GENRE: Literary Fiction
Along the steep canyon walls trees swayed in unison like slow moving breakers. A wondrous expanse of green surrounded him, the sun anchored high above the ponderosa pines, the air laden with heat and the sweet fragrance of azaleas. Ten years had passed since Brad Lucas heard the sounds of a river; he had been away too long. He squatted down on his haunches and smiled at the McCloud River as it coursed by, shimmering with sunlight. His heart pounded in his fingertips.
“How much farther?” Brad’s voice cut the white noise of river and wind.
“It’s so damned pristine out here,” Dean Romans said, pausing in the middle of the trail, “I half-expect a unicorn to prance out of the woods.” His grin widened, exposing perfect white teeth that gleamed in contrast to his black eye.
Throughout the two hour hike, Dean had led the way like a four-star general. The fact that Dean insisted on leading didn’t surprise Brad—only Dean knew where they were going. What did come as a surprise to Brad, though, was Dean’s total lack of caution. Brad found it hard to keep up, and he hated that this irritated him. He had fully expected Dean to slow down in the woods. Even in the wilderness, Dean acted as if he owned the place.
Hands cupped, Brad splashed river water on his face and the nape of his neck. The cold snatched his breath away. For a moment, he felt reinvigorated. Only fleeting relief, he thought.