In May this year, Whiskey Creek Press will release Amy Gallow's final book, Mitchell's Run. This fulfills a promise I made to myself when Saltwater Press failed in 2006. Mitchell's Run was my first attempt at writing a romance story and it won two National writing competitions before it was published as a paperback in Australia in 1999. In 2005, when Saltwater Press made an attempt to break into the US paperback market, I rewrote it at Saltwater Press' request, changing the location from the Victorian High Country and Melbourne to the Sierra Nevada and Sacremento, drawing on research and personal memories. Although the book sold its print run, the slow returns generally killed Saltwater Press bringing a gallant endeavour to an end.
Because I never felt that the story and characters translated well to the US setting and to justify Diane Colman's faith in me, I decided to see it released in its original setting in E-book format, an area it had never reached and Whiskey Creek agreed.
This is the opening
Cynthia was dying. She'd dragged herself out of the creek after crashing through the ice and struggled through the snow until her last reserve was exhausted. The biting cold was fading and her final sleep only the blink of an eye away.
"Not yet, Goldilocks." His chiding was gentle, a tolerant parent reminding a beloved child. "You still have things to do."
It could have been her father, but he was half a world away, in Africa, helping others. Resentment stirred, halting her retreat from life...
"Good for you, Goldilocks. Feed that anger. We'll need it to get you to shelter." He grasped her right wrist and wrapped her arm around his neck. "Up you get."
She felt his other hand grasp the waistband of her ski pants and she was lifted bodily, her sodden ski jacket gaping at the bottom to funnel an icy blast of wind against her cringing flesh and shock her back to the world of piercing cold and clinging snow.
She'd been rescued.
“A hundred paces and you’ll live,” he promised.
She shuddered violently, her involuntary movement almost pitching them both face down in the snow.
He staggered then recovered, startling her with a short bark of laughter. “I “m saving your life, Goldilocks. You won’t offend me by helping.”
In a distant corner of her mind, where a small part of Cynthia was still acting as an objective observer, her fear overwhelmed hope. Someone had found her, but shelter was impossibly far and he was alone. One death would become two.
She tried to help, but only succeeded in making his task more difficult as he half-carried, half-dragged her through the deep snow. The thin crust of ice would not support their combined weight and he sank to his waist at each step while her legs floundered helplessly to find a footing on the slick surface.
“Keep those legs moving, Goldilocks,” he urged, his voice cutting through the wind’s howl. “It is not far now.”
A single moment more was forever to Cynthia. She could feel herself slipping away, all feeling ebbing from her body. Her rescuer was tiring and she could hear desperation in the words echoing inside her mind. Worse, she could sense his fear.
They reached a screen of bushes and he broke through with a lunge that sent them sprawling full length into the sheltered lee of an overhanging rock ledge. Two metres away, yellow light gleamed around the edges of a rough plank door, but her thought processes were now too slow to understand its significance. The interrupted process of dying had taken charge and she was sinking back into the comfort of sleep.
“No you don’t.” He shook her awake. “I won’t let you die!”
She felt him stagger to his feet, lifting her with him as he made those few final steps to sanctuary, battering the door aside with his shoulder. The bitter wind became just a sound as she felt herself lowered onto the dry wooden bed of a trolley. As the last tenuous threads of her consciousness unravelled and blackness engulfed the tiny spark of life, she felt a rush of pity for him. He’d tried so hard, but she’d let him down.