I loved Sarah Latchaw‘s books Hydraulic Level Five and Skygods! Sarah is helping us celebrate with an exclusive excerpt from Fourteeners, the last book in the series and giving away an ebook set!!
“Hola, mamacita. I have a proposal for you.”
She glances at the office invader over the top of her monitor. “What can I do for you, H?”
“You remember the Canadians?”
“The brothers we met on Longs Peak? Sure.”
H makes himself comfortable in the chair across from her desk. “Well, they have this plan to bag all of Canada’s fourteeners this year—that’s fifteen peaks.”
“I know how many fourteeners Canada has.”
“Right, okay. Anyway, you know how crazy competitive these guys are. They’ve decided it’s not enough to get fifteen peaks in a year—they want me to bag fifteen of Colorado’s this year, too, and see who gets their summits first. That’s cake, because Colorado has fifty-three alone.”
She rubs her eyes beneath her new reading glasses, not liking where this conversation is going. “I also know how many fourteeners Colorado has.”
“Right, of course. So, I’ll need a good partner. L’s in, but they have the baby on the way so he won’t be able to make every climb. Mountaineering isn’t really my wife’s thing—she’s more of a one-sport woman, and that sport’s skydiving. Then there’s you and Caulfield.”
“H, I haven’t summited a mountain in three years.”
“It’s like riding a bike. You just have to get back—”
“Caulfield put you up to this, didn’t he?” She shoves his feet off her desk and opens her old school planner to make note of a new client appointment. She can’t meet his eyes.
“Aspen,” he says in a wheedling tone, “it’s been three years since the avalanche. When are you going to start living your life again?”
She grinds her teeth, because he’s beginning to sound like her therapist. “I am living my life. I have a wonderful career, a great town, a husband and family who love me…”
“And you also have a daily affirmations calendar on your desk. With mountain views, ironically. Look, what you saw on the Longs climb, that woman…I get why going back up there is scary.”
Aspen slams her planner shut and glares at her friend. “No, you don’t. You didn’t dig through snow that was packed so hard it was like digging through concrete with your fingertips. Or claw into it with an ice axe and prayed to God you didn’t kill someone, only to dig them out and find them so…” She buries her face in her hands as the trembles start. “You didn’t see her face, or feel her skin when you had to find a pulse—”
“Aspen, shhh, tranquila. No te pongas enojada.” H’s arms are around her, and she stiffens at their unfamiliarity. He hasn’t been affectionate with her in years, not since he walked out of her wedding. “You’re right, I haven’t been in an avalanche. But I’ve seen legs snapped in two, heads gashed by ski and skydiving accidents—remember your bounce several summers ago? It’s part of the lifestyle.” She gradually begins to calm to the point where she sees the truth in H’s words.
“So here’s the gig—Pikes Peak, super easy. It’ll be a late fall climb, but we’ll take it slow. Just you, me, and your ball-and-chain.”
She shakes her head, though she knows H and Caulfield have reached a friendly understanding in recent years. “I haven’t been training, not even a rock wall. And Caulfield’s never climbed a fourteener in his life.”
“You guys run something like five miles a day.”
“And you’re freakishly strong for a Cabbage Patch Doll.”
She shoves his arm, proving his point. She wouldn’t say she resembles a Cabbage Patch Doll, though her face does have a round baby-ish shape, and she’s been plagued by freckles and frizzy ringlets since she was a tot. Ringlets which, when she’s active, she’ll braid down either side of her head. Fudge it all, H knows her too well.
Aspen sighs. “You have to admit, we’ve experienced some incredible things. How many people can say they’ve climbed above the clouds?”
“That’s it, Aspen. We’re not like other people. Some would be perfectly content to call it a day after that avalanche, but not you.” He leans in with that intense gaze of his. “You survived. Yet you’re letting it zap your mojo. Yeah, it’s risky, but you have to ask yourself whether it’s worth the risk…”
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Thank you Sarah Latchaw!! Good luck everyone!!