We’ve been promising you a novel experience, a collaboration by authors of Second Wind, and finally the day has arrived! The first chapter of Rubicon Ranch has been posted. You can find the first chapter here: “Chapter One by Pat Bertram“. Next week we will be posting a chapter by Lazarus Barnhill, author of the wonderful books Lacey Took a Holiday and The Medicine People. We hope you will join us in our adventure!
Here’s how the story begins:
Melanie Gray dressed all in white—loose cotton pants, billowing long-sleeved top, wide-brimmed straw hat, flowing scarf. She checked her pockets to make sure she had her cell phone, camera, and extra memory card, then grabbed a canteen of water, slung the strap over her shoulder like a bandolier, and stepped outside. Heat scorched her lungs and the glare of the desert sun burned her tear-sore eyes.
She hesitated. Maybe she should stay inside today. Seven o’clock in the morning, and the temperature had already climbed into the hundreds. She was more of a mountain girl—though at forty-three she could hardly be called a girl—and preferred the cool of higher elevations. To be fair, Rubicon Ranch lay three thousand feet above sea level, and the harsh weather and bleak desert vistas suited her present mood, but she hadn’t slept well lately, hadn’t slept much at all since Alexander died, and she had little strength to deal with the present heat wave.
Damn Alexander anyway. Why did he have to wreck the car and get himself killed? Didn’t he know better than to text while driving? And how could he have already spent their advance? Had he squandered it on the woman he’d been texting?
Melanie strode down the driveway to Delano Road, wishing their publisher wasn’t holding her to the contract for this final coffee table book. If she still had the advance, she could return the money, find somewhere to burrow, and heal in privacy, but now she had to finish the book of desert scenes by herself, and she knew nothing about photography—Alexander always took the pictures, she wrote the blurbs. Her only option was to shoot as many photos as possible using her small digital camera, and hope that by lucky accident some would be publishable.
When she reached the road, she hesitated again. Right or left? Odd how she couldn’t seem to make up her mind about anything since Alexander’s death. Not that it mattered which way she went. Most roads in Rubicon Ranch eventually wound to the desert.
Turning left on Delano Road was the shorter route—the desert lay a scant one hundred yards from her rented house—but she seldom went that way. Cut off from the vast stretches of wilderness by rocky knolls, the region had become a cross between a town park and a city dump. She’d have to dodge bicyclists, skirt discarded furniture, and climb over the steep knolls to get to the wilds. Turning right, as she usually did, she could amble through pleasant suburban streets before reaching the trails that would take her to the remote wilderness areas.
The heat radiating off the blacktop made up her mind for her. It would be cooler in the desert, if only by a couple of degrees, so the sooner she got there the better. She turned left.
As she neared the house two doors down, she felt the disturbing sensation of being scrutinized. She didn’t need to search for those observant eyes. She knew exactly who was watching. An old man always sat on the porch, like a land-locked amphibian, staring at everyone going by. Another reason she preferred the long way—she hated anyone knowing her business, especially now when her emotions were so raw.
“Damn you, Alexander,” she whispered fiercely. “How could you have done this to me?”
Click here to read the whole chapter: Rubicon Ranch, Chapter One by Pat Bertram