I’m so excited about this release! This story was inspired by the beautiful cover, designed by Sable Grey, and my love of the legend of the Lost Dutchman Mine. I think I heard the original story at my father’s knee, then my interest was piqued from television shows and a young adult mystery I read (sorry I don’t remember the title and it is probably l-o-n-g out of print).
Somehow all that meshed into Rae & Mica’s story…I hope you enjoy the following exclusive excerpt from Fool’s Gold.
At noon they stopped next to a small stream to rest the horses and eat. Under normal conditions, Rae would have enjoyed the scenery. The rock walls of the canyon rose high above them, and one or two windblown trees leaned almost to the ground. At the moment, there wasn’t even a breeze, and she was suddenly reminded of Iraq and the silence right before a raid. Sweat coursed down her back, and a fly buzzed next to her ear. She swatted it away and heard a faint musical sound. She tipped her head when she heard it again. It was the echo of water dripping into a subterranean basin.
Hawke had dismounted and was busy filling a foldaway water bowl with water for his horse. Rae slid off Sunny and pulled a similar bowl out of her saddlebag. She glared at Marcus and Sue Ellen, who had dismounted and left their horses standing in the hot sun. She grabbed all of their reins and led them to the sparse shade.
What in the hell had she been thinking? She’d hoped to lead them close enough to the mine so that she could find it again by herself. And look what had happened. She knew better. Nothing good ever came from greed. It was all just a pipe dream. A dream that could have gotten them all killed.
Marcus and Sue Ellen went off hand in hand to explore a nearby cave, giggling like teenagers in love. She could only hope a big old mountain lion had taken refuge in the cave and would scare some sense into them.
Rae and Hawke manhandled Jason off his horse and laid him out flat on the ground. His leg looked worse. The skin was dead white and cold to the touch. The break must have cut off the circulation. If they didn’t get him back to civilization soon…
Jason moaned, and his eyelids fluttered. Rae dumped some of her water into his mouth causing him to gasp.
“We need to go back,” Hawke said to the prone man. “You could convince them to turn around before it’s too late.”
“No,” Jason said. “I want to go on. I want to find the gold.”
“You are crazier than they are.” Rae shook her head. “You’ll be lucky if they can save your leg after this.”
“I’ll deal with that when the time comes. You just worry about getting us to the mine.”
“Well, at least take this for the pain.” Rae poured two pills out of a bottle and offered them to Jason.
“What is it?”
“Tylenol with codeine. It’ll at least take the edge off.” Rae told him. She should know, for she had to take it herself every so often. Not for the part of her arm left, but for her missing hand. It was called phantom limb pain, and it was excruciating. Cramped fingers, a palm that felt as if she’d been clenching her fists so hard her fingernails had dug into the flesh. And pain from an old case of carpal tunnel syndrome would seize the muscles in her wrist.
“So, why are you so determined to turn back? Don’t tell me you don’t believe there’s gold. Experts at the museum even said there was.” Jason winced as he shifted his leg.
At that moment, Marcus and Sue Ellen rejoined them.
“There’s never been any doubt these mountains are rich in minerals. Finding them is easy, it’s getting the gold out. That’s the hard part,” Rae said.
“Why is that? You just carry it.” Marcus laughed.
“Well, for one, gold is heavy. The water we’re carrying weighs about 8 pounds a gallon, the same amount of gold would weigh one hundred sixty pounds.”
“Oh my. How many ounces are in one hundred sixty pounds?” Sue Ellen’s face lit up. “We’ll be rich.”
Rae wanted to reach out and shake the woman senseless.
“Not only is the weight of the gold a problem,” Hawke added. “There’s also the complication of the guardians.”
“The what?” Marcus asked.
“The mine is located on Apache holy ground. Legend has it there are guardians who prevent anyone from finding and desecrating the site.”
“Oh, what nonsense,” Sue Ellen exclaimed. “Indians are extinct.”
Rae nearly laughed but covered it with a strangled cough.
“Native Americans,” Hawke stressed the term, “still live in almost every state in the nation. They are certainly not extinct.”
“Well, we have guns, and I want that gold.” Sue Ellen’s blue eyes narrowed, and Rae had the sudden impression of a pit bull wearing lipstick. God help whichever man ended up with her at the end of this little adventure.
“So, let’s go,” Marcus said.
“You ready?” Rae looked at Jason. His eyes were dull, and she hoped the pain medication had kicked in enough to allow him to travel in relative comfort. She didn’t even want to think about trying to get him out of the mountains. If the search party found them soon enough, he could be airlifted out.
She couldn’t’ worry about it now.
Hawke and Marcus lifted Jason back onto the horse, and Hawke used rope to secure the injured man. As they all began to mount their horses, a strange sound echoed off the walls of the canyon.
“What the hell?” Marcus said.
Rae and Hawke exchanged a long look before she finally answered Marcus’ question.
“Shotgun,” Rae said quietly.
A chill finger of fear crept down her spine. They weren’t alone.
Fool’s Gold is dedicated to my partners in crime, D.L. Browne, Mr. Thrilling, and the rest of the gang — may your road to publication be paved with many acceptances.