I’ve gone and ruined everything by falling in love with my best friend. Now, not only have I lost my lover, I’ve lost the one person in the world that I could tell anything to. But that’s not the half of it. I’ve also alienated my family, friends and turned the entire community against me. I thought I was doing a good thing by searching for something meaningful. People accused me of being frivolous and shallow, so I was determined to earn a little respect, prove I could commit, dig deep, find my roots, and discover who and what I am. Guess what? I did and that’s what started all the trouble. The things I have uncovered could destroy people I love. I’ve become a target and I’m alone. I’m scared, damn scared and at my wits end. I don’t know how much longer I can hang on. Help!
—Spontaneous to a Fault
Zoey McCleary quivered atop Widow’s Peak on private land, directly across from Mount Livermore, the very spot where her parents had died over twenty years earlier in an airplane crash that had also severely wounded her older sister, Natalie. While she had come out of the accident without a scrape.
Not so lucky now, huh, McCleary. Looks like you’ve used up the last of your nine lives.
In her hand she crushed the crumpled letter she’d written to Cupid the previous evening. Last night, she thought she’d smacked rock bottom, now she fully understood how much farther she had to fall.
She stared down the sixty-five hundred feet to the town of Cupid, Texas nestled in the valley of the Davis Mountains. It was the only home she’d ever known. The town had been named after an impressive seven-foot stalagmite found in the local caverns that bore an uncanny resemblance to the Roman god of love. Local legend had it that if you wrote a letter, begging for divine intervention, Cupid would grant your wish. Her family on the Greenwood-Fant side was steeped neck deep in the lore, the lot of them avid beseechers of Cupid’s goodwill.
It was total romantic bullshit and Zoey knew it. Writing that letter spoke to precisely how desperate she was. Forgone conclusion—when a girl turned to a mythological cherub for Hail Mary help, she was seriously screwed.
However, it was the other side of the family that had driven her up the mountain, McClearys and their dark, ancestral secret.
Her pulse beat a hot stampede across her eardrums; she was exposed and vulnerable, stiff with fear, tension strained muscles, sweat slicked skin, nicks and scratches oozed blood, lungs flapped with the excruciating pain of trying to draw in air after a dead run up the mountain.
Heat from the setting August sun warmed her cheeks. Desert wind whipped through the Davis Mountains blowing sandy topsoil over her face. She licked her dry lips, tasted grit. On three sides of her yawned sheer drop-off. Overhead, a dozen buzzards circled.
Something tickled her cheek, feather soft and startling as the sweet sensation of an unexpected midnight kiss. She gasped and brushed at her face, her work-roughened fingertips scratching her skin and for one crazy moment she thought, Jericho.
But of course it wasn’t Jericho—she’d already chased him away by daring to declare her love—it was merely the caress of a passing cloud. She couldn’t regret telling him though, could she? Considering the very real possibility that she was about to die. He might not love her the way she loved him, but at least now he knew how she felt.
She put her palm to her lips, kissed it, whispered “Jericho” and blew the kiss into the gathering mist.
From behind her, she heard her pursuers crashing through the aspen and madrone trees, cursing black ugly threats. They were coming for her. This was it, the end of the trail, the end of the world, the end of her, and nowhere left to go but down.
The thundering footsteps were nearer now, closing in. Soon, her trackers would immerge from the forest and join her on the skinned, igneous peak.
Her heart took flight, faster than a hummingbird and thudding with jumpy brutality. Panic shuddered her bones. She could not stop trembling no matter how hard she willed it.
Teeth chattered. Knees wobbled. Nostrils flared.
Don’t just stand there. Do something! Do something!
There was only one solution, only one clear way out.
Zoey gathered her courage, took her last deep breath and jumped.