A Coalcliff Stud novel—His beloved home is under threat, and with it the beautiful, haunted woman he’s never been able to forget …
X-Treme TV sports star Reid Stratton has everything—until his best friend falls to his death on a climb while shooting their show. In the fierce media fallout, Reid begins to question everything about himself. Crippled by a new fear of climbing, Reid returns to CoalCliff Stud, his family’s horse farm, to recover.
Single mother Natalia Robinson is determined to start afresh, away from the shadow of her past. A job at CoalCliff Stud where she lived as a child is the perfect opportunity to live the quiet life she always wanted. But she is unprepared to see Reid, and is even more unprepared for the passion that still burns between them.
But after a series of menacing events threaten the new home she is trying to build, Nat realises that Reid is the only person she can rely on to keep her and her daughter safe. Together, Reid and Nat must face the pasts that haunt them if they are to survive the present and forge a future of hope.
‘Right. Here goes nothing.’ Or something. Reid really hoped it was something.
He dipped his hands into his chalk bag, wiping the chalk over them, shaking off the excess then stepped up to the rock face and took a deep breath. His lungs filled with the scent of dirt and lichen and the sharp scents of the eucalypts that gave the Blue Mountains their moniker. In the distance a bird cawed, the sound echoing and lonely. He couldn’t take any notice, must concentrate on the wall of rock before him.
Heart pounding, he rolled his shoulders and tried to ignore the perspiration trickling down his forehead, his back. His palms itched. This was the moment of truth. His moment of truth.
He should probably have got Steve and the production crew involved in this climb, to capture his big comeback for posterity—and the ratings it would undoubtedly bring—but he’d wanted to do this in private. It seemed right somehow that his first climb after the accident wasn’t in front of the cameras. The first time ever he hadn’t wanted to show off for the world. He could just imagine what Luke would have said about that.
But then, Luke couldn’t say anything. He was dead.
He shuddered, a cold sweat prickling his skin. Don’t think of that. Think of the climb. Only the climb.
Only the climb. It had been their mantra and had served him well through championships and their TV show, but now the words hung empty.
Race you to the top. The echo of Luke’s voice rang in his ears. He shook his head and looked up at the wall of rock in front of him. He’d done this climb at Echo Point many times before, the view from the top of the famous sandstone plateau one you could breathe into your soul and keep with you forever.
The line he’d chosen wasn’t a difficult climb—bloody easy compared to what he’d done before—but a good solid one to cut his teeth on. What he and Luke had become famous for. And if he was to get their TV show up and going again, do the charity climb in Luke’s name that he and Steve planned on the soaring pristine lines of the Gorge at Mt Buffalo—Luke’s favourite place to climb and the first place they’d ever filmed themselves climbing to post online—he needed to do this.
‘Right.’ He clapped his hands together, chalk blooming up, making his nose twitch. ‘One grip at a time.’ He stepped to the rock face, reached, took the first hold, fingers gripping over the small ridge of rock and pulled up. He settled his feet into grooves in the striations of the sandstone—only five reach holds, none of them difficult, before he would position the first cam to clip the lead rope to. He would normally free climb this section, but nerves had him needing to anchor the rope. It was a bit of a stupid thing to do without a partner, but given what happened the last time he climbed with one …
He swallowed hard. He’d checked his rope, the cams and carabiners a hundred times before getting here and again once here. They were safe. Nothing would break. He was good. He needed this. He reached for the next hold, gripped, found a foot hold, pushed up grabbed the next grip. Easy. There was no reason for his heart to be a thunder of hooves in his chest. For his breath to be coming in short-sharp gasps, razoring his throat, as if he’d just run the London Marathon. No reason for sweat to be dripping off him. Or for the ghost pain to be driving through his shoulder like an ice spike. His shoulder was healed and aside from the pull of the scar tissue, it shouldn’t be hurting. It was strong. He’d worked hard to make it strong again. Why else had he done that if not to get back to this?
Push through, Stratton. Eye on the prize. Think of the climb. We can do this.
He blinked the sweat out of his eyes, rubbing his face against his shoulder before he pushed up for the next grip. Two more and he’d reach the fissure he could push the cam into and create his anchor.
He settled his toes firmly in the thin ridge of rock, feeling the dig of the sharp stone through his thin, flexible rock climbing shoes, before reaching up again. His fingers found purchase on a little jut of weathered stone. He pulled up.
Rock crumbled through his fingers. He began to slip. He made a desperate grab for a nearby small ridge in the rock, but his foot slipped. For a moment, he hung, scrabbling at the rock, trying to find the holds he’d found before, but it was as if the rock face had become a sheet of marble, slippery and smooth. He could find nothing. Nothing. His shoulder was screaming, the pain spiking through him. His fingers were slipping. He couldn’t hold on. He was going to fall. Going to fall.
Leisl is a tall red head with an overly large imagination. As a child, she identified strongly with Anne of Green Gables. A voracious reader and a born performer, it came as no surprise to anyone when she did a double major in English Literature and Drama for her BA, then went on to a career as an actor, singer and dancer, as well as script writer, stage manager and musical director for cabaret and theatre restaurants (one of which she co-owned and ran for six years).
After starting a family Leisl stopped performing and instead, began writing the stories that had been plaguing her dreams. Leisl’s stories have won and placed in many competitions in Australia and the US, including the STALI, Golden Opportunities, Heart of the West, Linda Howard Award of Excellence, Touch of Magic and many others.
Leisl lives in the leafy suburbs of Melbourne with her two beautiful boys, lovely hubby, overly spunky dogs, Buffy and Skye, and likes to spend time with family and friends. She is addicted to the Syfy channel, and her shelves are full of fantasy and paranormal books and scifi DVDs. She sometimes sings in a choir, has worked as a swim teacher, loves to ski, can talk the hind leg off a donkey and has been President of Romance Writers of Australia from 2014-2017.
Other Books by this Author
My paranormal romance Pack Bound series – Pack Bound, Moon Bound, Shifter Bound and Wolf Bound are available to order on Amazon Here, iBooks Here, Google Play Here, Kobo Here and at all other good ebook sellers.
My romantic rural suspense, Dangerous Echoes, Book 1 in the Echo Springs Series is available as an ebook at: iBooks, Google Play, Kobo, Amazon AU. Or you can buy the four book series, Echo Springs in paperback at Big W, Kmart and online at Angus&Robertson, Booktopia, The Nile, Boomerang Books, Dymocks