Lugh's mother packed up and moved them from sunny Florida to tiny Steamboat Springs, Colorado after his father's accidental drowning. Resigned to his mom having to work a lot, and only just beginning to deal with his dad's death, Lugh is disappointed when she is called in to work on his fifteenth birthday.
After an unnerving dream, he decides to head to the nearby river where he ends up following a strange, urgent, internal pull. When another boy helps him rescue a young cat from the river, Lugh discovers a family secret he never suspected. Now, with his new cousin Abby and their friend Wyn, Lugh must figure out the rules of his new life before the forces that seek to destroy them can get the upper hand.
CONTENT ADVISORY: As part of a series, this book contains a HFN ending. Stand by for book two, where the action continues!
Water swirled all around. In the distance, someone called his name, but he could barely make it out over the roar of the river. The blue sky didn't allow for any shadows. Shadows offered protection, but the water was too close and rising nearer by the second. Soon the water would be high enough to engulf the rock that provided his only haven. The frothing waves splashed and ice cold water soaked him. A soul-shaking shiver ravaged his scrawny body.
Lugh McNeal woke suddenly, still frigid from his dream. Warm sunlight poured through the blue calico curtains onto the blue rug and gray wolf bedspread. It was going to be a great day. This was his fifteenth birthday. He lay there for a moment, listening to the quiet house around him. Has Mom already gone to work? He tried to remember if she'd told him her schedule the night before.
The sensation of the cold water drenching him persisted. Lugh ran his hand through his rumpled red hair. It was dry. He still felt the water splashing him as it had in his dream. Since his father died in a boating accident months before, strange dreams had become a normal occurrence. However, they didn't normally leave him feeling cold and wet. He wished he had someone to talk to about them, but didn't want to burden his mother with it. He still heard her crying some nights in her room when she thought he was asleep.
Jumping out of bed, he changed to his jeans and t-shirt before grabbing his shoes and charging down the stairs. A note and a cinnamon roll waited for him on the kitchen table.
Happy Birthday my young man. I got called into work for a bit. Will try and be home this afternoon so we can do something for your special day. Go out and have fun.
Lugh sighed, wishing she could be there, and grabbed the cinnamon roll. The disappointment that his birthday plans would be delayed stung. With the roar of the water still pounding in his ears, he debated what to do. The river was only a few blocks away. Mom said to have fun and somewhere in the back of his mind, he really wanted to go to the river. Maybe it has something to do with the dream? Grabbing a can of soda from the fridge to wash down the cinnamon roll, he headed toward the river, making sure he had his key in his pocket before locking the door.
The summer morning in Steamboat Springs, Colorado was cool, although not cold enough for a coat. Lugh hurried toward the Yampa River. The urge to rush for the river was so strong he cut across streets before stop lights turned green on Lincoln Avenue, dodging around the early morning joggers that always seemed to be on the old-town streets. Luckily, the non-foot traffic was light. Several people shouted at him to be careful as he ran against the stop light.
The river's roar filled his ears before he saw it. Rounding the last corner to the river trail, he couldn't deny something pulled at his soul. Something in or around the river wanted--no, needed--Lugh. With each step toward the river, the urge to get there grew stronger. The crashing of the rolling river came at him in stereo. As well as the sounds he heard with his own ears, there were others, almost louder. Disoriented, he stood for a moment, staring at the river.
Lugh turned right, but after a few steps, the pull weakened again. He dropped his soda can into a trash barrel, spun around and gave in to the silent call. Weaving in and out of the line of joggers moving steadily east along the trail, he moved as quickly as he could. Where the sidewalk turned into the path running alongside the river, he stopped briefly, panting to catch his breath. His lungs hadn't fully adjusted to Colorado's altitude after the move from Florida yet. As soon as he could, Lugh pushed on down the river.
Rains over the past couple of days had swollen the river, pushing it higher than it had been last week when he and his mother came down to explore the major waterway of their new hometown. Here, along the section of river that ran behind the art shops and cafés that made up old town, it roared and rolled like an angry monster, throwing spray and white foam up when it crashed into the rocks filling its course. Last week there'd been kayakers paddling through the white water. This morning, the river lay empty. But the feeling told him something in the river needed him.
An odd spot of gray glistened from on top of one of the rocks as foam drained away. Lugh stopped and stared at the small, drenched cat clinging to the rock. His heart lodged in his throat. He could never resist an animal in need. Lugh ran off the jogging path toward the turbulent water.
The cat looked at him from the rock in the middle of the Yampa River. Lugh thought there might be hope in those eyes as he kicked off his sneakers at the water's edge. He dove into the river. The frigid water took his breath away and disorientated him. Where is the cat and its rock?
The current was fast. Faster than anything he'd ever faced before. Swimming in the raging river wasn't anything like swimming in the ocean he grew up with in Florida. There were a lot of rocks and he knew he had to get out of the water soon or be smashed against one of them.
"This way!" someone shouted.
He focused on the voice that continued to urge him on and tried to swim across the current. The water pushed at him but he persisted and finally made it to the rapidly disappearing rock the cat clung to. Shivering, he grabbed the rock and stared up into the terrified orange eyes. For just a moment, warmth flooded through him, pushing the water's chill away. Then it was gone and the glacial cold of the river closed in on him again.
"Hang on, cat." He scooped the soaked feline into his arms. Little more than a kitten, his heart went out to it. For a moment, he thought he might have to put it inside his T-shirt and swim back to shore. He looked around, wondering how he was going to get both of them to safety. Rocks ringed a calmer pool of water not far away. Maybe he could jump several rocks and reach that pool. "Hang on, kitty."
Lugh leapt for the first rock. The surface was slick, but he managed to keep a foothold on it, thankful he'd taken his shoes off. He'd have fallen for sure if he'd still been wearing them. The cat yowled its complaint on his second landing when he almost crashed head first into the whitewater before him. On the third leap, he made it to the edge of the calmer pool.
"We're going to get wet again, but we'll be okay." He soothed himself as much as the cat. Braced for the cold water, with the cat cradled in and wrapped around his left arm, Lugh dove in. The cat's claws dug in to his skin, but it didn't scratch as Lugh brought them back up to the surface near another large rock.
After hauling them out onto the rock, Lugh looked about for more rocks to jump to.
"Over here!" a guy shouted.
Lugh looked and saw several joggers standing along the north bank trail watching him. On the south bank, a young man--who looked to be about his age--waved. A series of large rocks jutted out of the foamy river. They looked close enough for Lugh to make each jump, if he was careful.
"Thanks!" he shouted back. "Almost home now," he whispered to the cat. He thought he saw a look of relief on the water-darkened features as the feline gave a pitiful meow. The warmth he'd felt when he'd first reached the cat came back for a moment. It emboldened him. He made the first leap in his dash for the south shore.
Several jumps later, Lugh landed on solid ground. He stopped, set the cat down and they both shook the water off. The cat didn't run off after it finished shaking. Instead, it looked up at him with those large orange eyes. Something in those eyes tugged at Lugh. It felt similar to the pull that had called him to the river.
"Wow, that was amazing!" The words drew Lugh's attention from the cat and he looked up into a pair of startling blue eyes. In the morning sunshine, water droplets sparkled on the curly blond hair above the eyes. The young man offered him a hand up the last couple of rocks to the sidewalk along that side of the river.