Virtue Falls Canyon, after the earthquake and tsunami
“What’s wrong now?” It was as if Elizabeth was picking up the conversation where they left off before the divorce.
“Why would you say something was wrong?” His voice was the same; deep, dangerous, derisive. “Three days ago, there was an earthquake.”
“There are still a hundred aftershocks a day, some of them sizeable. And you’re down in the canyon where the tsunami struck, looking at rocks.”
“You have a point—“
“But I didn’t mean to come down here. I went for a walk and found myself at the canyon rim, and wandered down…”
“You have tools,” he said icily.
Busted. “Well, yes.”
“The tools at the previous site have to have been swept away, ergo, you brought them with you.”
She admitted, “I did think I might need them if I spotted anything that required investigation.”
“You stole them from Virtue Falls resort’s gardening crew.”
“I didn’t steal them! I borrowed them.”
“You’re wearing gloves. You brought gardening gloves to protect your hands.”
“During the earthquake, I hurt my hand.” She looked at the glove on her left hand. “I cut it. I have stitches.”
“You have stitches and you came out here to work?” His voice rose.
“There hasn’t been an aftershock of more than five-point-zero for the last twenty-four hours.”
In a tone of exquisite sarcasm, Garik said, “A noted geologist of my acquaintance once told me an earthquake can occur anytime, especially along the Pacific Rim.”
“The descent to this site was easy and if climbing became necessary, the return could be swift.” Damn. She sounded defensive.
“That same geologist said that frequently one large earthquake triggers another, and landslides are a frequent consequence, which would make the ascent hazardous if not impossible.”
She tapped her saw-toothed trowel on the side of a displaced boulder. “Should another earthquake occur in the same location, I would have time to seek a way out before the tsunami arrived.”
“That noted geologist once told me—“
“Would you stop quoting me to myself?” She took a breath and pushed a dangling strand of hair off her forehead. No one ever made her lose her temper … except Garik. “I had to come down. There’s so much to see, to check on. Look at the exposed bare rock! The patches of mud!”
He lifted one shoe. The mud he stood in appeared not to impress him.
“Look at the displaced sea creatures that swept in from the tidal pools! My team is still MIA, and there’s no one else except me to…” She could see by his expression she hadn’t convinced him, would never convince him. “I brought all kinds of ropes and climbing supplies, and I’m healthy and will start up as soon as there’s the slightest sign of … oh, to hell with it.” Sweeping her arm in an arc, she slammed it and the flat side of her trowel behind his knees.
He stood on a downhill slope. When she hit him, his knee buckled. He windmilled his arms. His leather-soled shoes slipped out from underneath him. He slammed flat on his back. And he splatted.
“Oh, dear,” she said.
He shook his head to clear it.
Mud flew from the goo-covered strands.
“Oh, dear.” She covered her mouth with her hand.
Lifting his head, he focused on her and glared.
She sputtered. Tried to contain herself. Snorted, and sputtered again.
Outrage blossomed on his face.
And she laughed until she couldn’t breathe. She laughed so hard she bent over from the waist, holding her aching ribs. She laughed so hard she had to contain tears with a dig towel pressed over her eyes. She laughed so hard, she was hiccupping.
Every time she started to slow, she looked up to see him leaning on his elbows, glaring, with black, sticky mud caking the back of his head, splattered on his shoulders, his arms, between his legs, all over those pristine, shiny black shoes … and she started cackling again. — VIRTUE FALLS is on sale for $3.99 in audiobook on Chirp, regularly $32.99!
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FORGET WHAT YOU KNOW: Out now! “…a touch of magic, a dollop of mayhem, a drizzle of psychosis, a large splash of obsession, and just the right amount of sweet romance.” —Publishers Weekly