Table of Contents
whatever you do, don’T look down!
I jerked straight up in the saddle.
“You need to stay awake,” Jonathan warned. “Look to your left.”
Rubbing my eye, I looked to the left . . . and froze.
We were on a cliff.
And it dropped straight down.
of feet down. I couldn’t even see the bottom.
Not moving a muscle in my body, I stared at the ledge we were on. Each time one of Diablo’s hoofs came down, pebbles skidded over the edge and disappeared.
With my heart galloping, I inched my head to the right . . . and froze.
A really, really,
“Calm down, GiGi. Diablo knows what he’s doing. Concentrate on not moving. Don’t do anything to set him off balance.”
Locking every muscle in my body, I stared hard at the black hairs of Diablo’s mane. I concentrated on not moving, not breathing. I heard a short, choppy, shallow intake of air and realized it was me. Squeezing my eyes shut, I forced a swallow, trying to moisten my mouth. I’d rather see darkness than the reality of the minuscule ledge and the vast jungle around me.
I heard another choppy breath come in and out of my mouth and then a deafening roar. “Wh-what was that?!”
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Published by Speak, an imprint of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 2008
Copyright © Shannon Greenland, 2008
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A big, BIG, smooch to Tara for being, hands down, the best critique partner I could ask for. Love ya, girl!
A HUGE thanks goes to Britta, Shelly, and Tara for helping me plot this book.
A smile goes to Rob for talking vehicles with me.
And to Sara, Anita, and Jeanine for giving me Native American guidance.
darren stared at the door to his grandmother’s apartment. He’d been living with her for seven years, ever since his mom left, and every day it was the same thing. He’d come home from school, and she’d be sleeping on the couch.
Maybe today would be different.
Taking a deep breath, he turned the knob on the front door and walked in. Grandmother never locked anything. Nobody on the reservation did. That sense of trust always brought Darren peace.
As he passed through the shadowed living room toward his bedroom, he glanced at the corner where the worn-through couch sat, where his grandmother always was.
Her skinny body lay half on/half off the couch. One leg and arm dangled over the side. Her gray braid trailed across a cushion.
No matter how hard he tried, he couldn’t conjure up a good memory of his grandmother. There had to be one somewhere in the recesses of his brain. Perhaps one day he’d recall it and know that she’d loved him, that she’d been happy.
Setting down his backpack, Darren crossed the living room to the couch, and stopped.
He studied her.
Breathing. She wasn’t breathing.
Darren tentatively reached forward and placed his hand on her cheek.
He slid his fingers to her chest right where her heart should beat.
Silently, he waited, holding his breath, every sense in his body tuned to his palm against her chest.
Darren pushed away and stood over her, staring down at her lifeless form. No thoughts occupied his mind.
He waited for his body to react with tears, sickness, sadness . . .
But there was nothing. No emotion at all. Only the familiar emptiness in his heart.
Without a last glance in her direction, he gathered his things, walked from the apartment to the stables down the road, jumped onto his horse—his only friend in the world—and rode bareback across the Arizona desert toward the sun.
“vuv,” talon commanded Two days later. Sit.
Darren sat on a low wooden stool across from his tribal chief.
Between them a fire flickered in a shallow, stone pit. The smoke trailed upward out of a special opening in the roof.
Darren had never understood Talon’s penchant for heat. It could be one hundred degrees outside and he’d still have a fire burning. Although Talon lived in an ordinary one-story home, he spent all his time in this added-on room built to seem like something from a century ago. Animal skulls hung on the walls, and skins covered the floor. A few pieces of roughly made wood furniture sat scattered about.
Talon puffed his pipe and then extended it, keeping his black, heartless eyes level on Darren.
Sharing a smoke with an elder was a great privilege, one any teenage male would jump at. Darren had tried it a few times and ended up coughing for days afterward. So now he preferred not to do it at all.
Talon knew this, yet repeatedly offered Darren the pipe. It was one of the many reasons he had no respect for the tribal chief.
With a grunt, Talon indicated the hand-carved pipe.
Darren shook his head.
Talon’s lips sneered, as if he got some twisted amusement from the pipe game.
Darren hated coming to this room. The whole place had a wicked aura.
had a wicked aura.
Straightening his back, the tribal chief placed his palms on his knees. Barefoot and without a shirt, he wore only a pair of dark jeans.
“Yjoto jixo aae doop?”
Where have you been? Talon asked.
The cliffs. Darren would still be there if not for his grandmother’s funeral ceremony tomorrow.
Someone knocked softly on the door and then quietly opened it, sending in cooler air from the main house. Talon’s oldest daughter entered, head bowed, and shuffled across the floor to where Talon and Darren sat.