Remembered Classics Romance
Former fashion model, and now tenured professor at a small college, Annabelle C. Doyle ("Acie") is part of a group trying to establish a wildlife sanctuary on a donated parcel of land. When the donor dies under unusual circumstances, the land endowment is put in jeopardy.
Unwillingly, Acie and fellow professor Ike Adler are pulled into the investigation. But when the donor’s heir is found dead—after arguing with Acie and Ike—they're suddenly in the spotlight and under suspicion.
Amidst the investigation, Acie is coerced into coming out of retirement to work on a fashion shoot on campus—a shoot that turns into a real "shoot," with Ike in the crosshairs. Acie may lose not only a chance for the love of her lifetime—she may lose her life.
We reached the park entrance, nothing more than a dense row of trees flanking a largely decorative metal gate attached to two limestone pillars like sentinels on either side of the drive into the park. Ike led the way, going to the left and taking a narrow path, disappearing from sight. I followed after him and joined him on the graveled roadway leading into the park.
I fumbled in my purse hanging over my shoulder and extracted my key chain. “I have a mini-flashlight thing,” I muttered, turning it on. The high-intensity light was startling blue in the semi-darkness. “Which way?” I turned slowly.
“The shelter’s right there.” Ike gestured to the right and ahead of us. I peered through the gloom and saw a brown structure, faintly illuminated by low-wattage exterior lights. “I saw the dogs on the other side, over by the golf course.” He headed to his left and I followed, but he stopped immediately. “There,” he whispered, pointing ahead. “On the Tor.”
I looked to where he gestured and saw shapes milling around on the rocky promontory over the river road. They were clearly outlined against the sky, tails wagging as they moved. “Conan!” I shouted.
One smaller figure broke away from the others and started toward me then the pack dispersed. The smaller shape disappeared into the darkness around Bloody Vixen Tor, so-called because on the left side was a tall, narrow pinnacle of rock that was vaguely like a fox at its top, tail upraised and one paw in the air. The reddish stains in the rock only added to the appearance, making it look like bloodstains trailing across the surface to the ground below.
I remembered scrambling up the steep pinnacle when I was a child, balancing on top and gazing over the river, totally fearless. I used to think it was enchanted and if I wished hard enough, my wishes would come true. The thought of doing it now made my palms sweat.
The main look-out was a narrow wedge jutting out over two lower out-jutting promontories, one about thirty or forty feet below and another fifty or sixty feet below the first one. A classmate of mine died here, slipping over the edge and landing on the ledge before crashing through trees and underbrush to land on the river road hundreds of feet below.
“Conan? Are you out here?” I started forward, flashlight bobbing in my hand. There were lights along the path leading to the Tor, but they were solar-powered and very dim, serving only to outline the way, not really provide illumination. “Conan?”
Ike strode ahead of me and I followed, keeping the light on the ground to help me pick my way over the uneven surface. Even so, I tripped over a root poking up through the hard-packed earth and the rock that composed the lower edge of the promontory. I went down hard, bruising my knee and scraping my hands. I picked myself up and hurried ahead, skidding into Ike where he stood at the top of the promontory, the Tor on his left.
He peered over the drop-off. “My God.”
“What is it?” I asked, fear making my stomach heave. Would I see a small puppy? I inched forward, taking baby steps, to peek over the edge. I moved the flashlight in a slow arc. At first I saw nothing, just darkness and branches. Then the moon broke through the clouds and moonlight, combined with my light, illuminated a bright red pile of something.
That’s when I realized the pile of something was Henrietta.
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