Shadows of Yesterday(78)

By: Sandra Brown



“Emory?”

Poised on the threshold, she turned. He leaned down and brushed his lips across hers. “Be careful.”

* * *

“Jeff? Hi. I made it.”

The two-hour drive from Atlanta had left Emory tired, but most of the fatigue was due to stress, not the drive itself. The traffic on northbound Interstate 85 had thinned out considerably about an hour outside the city, when she took the cutoff highway that angled northwest. She’d arrived at her destination before dusk, which had made navigating the unfamiliar town a bit easier. She was already tucked into bed at the motel, but tension still claimed the space between her shoulder blades.

Not wanting to exacerbate it, she’d considered not calling Jeff. Last night’s quarrel had been a skirmish. She sensed a much larger fight in their future. Along every step of the way, she wanted to fight fairly, not peevishly.

Besides, if the shoe had been on the other foot, if he had left on a road trip and didn’t call as promised, she would have been worried about his safety.

“Are you already in bed?” he asked.

“About to turn out the light. I want to get an early start in the morning.”

“How’s the motel?”

“Modest, but clean.”

“I get worried when clean is an itemized amenity.” He paused as though waiting for her to chuckle. When she didn’t, he asked how the drive had been.

“All right.”

“The weather?”

They were reduced to discussing the weather? “Cold. But I planned on that. Once I get started, I’ll warm up fast enough.”

“I still think it’s crazy.”

“I’ve mapped out the course, Jeff. I’ll be fine. Furthermore, I look forward to it.”

* * *

It was much colder than she had anticipated.

She realized that the moment she stepped out of her car. Of course the overlook was at a much higher elevation than the town of Drakeland where she’d spent the night. The sun was up, but it was obscured by clouds that shrouded the mountain peaks.

A twenty-mile run up here would be a challenge.

As she went through her stretching routine, she assessed the conditions. Although cold, it was a perfect day for running. There was negligible wind. In the surrounding forest, only the uppermost branches of the trees were stirred by the breeze.

Her breath formed a plume of vapor that fogged up her sunglasses, so she pulled the funnel neck of her running jacket up over her mouth and nose as she consulted her map one final time.

The parking lot accommodated tourists who came for the nearby overlook. It also served as the hub for numerous hiking trails that radiated from it like the spokes of a wheel before branching off into winding paths that crisscrossed the crest of the mountain. The names of the particular trails were printed on arrow-shaped signposts.

She located the trail she’d chosen after carefully reviewing the map of the national park and researching it further online. She welcomed a challenge, but she wasn’t foolhardy. If she wasn’t certain she could make it to her turnaround point and back, she wouldn’t be attempting it. Rather than being daunted by the inhospitable terrain, she was eager to take it on.

She locked her duffel bag in the trunk of her car and buckled on her fanny pack. Then she adjusted her headband, zeroed the timer on her wristwatch, pulled on her gloves, and set out.

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