The sky bleeds red on the swaying, bruised tree line. Cardinals and blue jays sing loudly, their songs competing for the wide-open airwaves. The wind on her face is the fluttering of angel’s wings, the touch of a trusted lover.

Jessica had not ridden horses once during her time in Nashville. She hadn’t done anything that might remind her of home, of her father, of her mother, of the girl she used to be. Her vow of isolation remained firmly in tact as she ricocheted through part-time jobs and cocaine cocktail parties, carelessly acquiring then discarding a string of pretty-boys. She started with the studly upperclassmen at Vanderbilt then graduated to record company execs and rising young country stars. But none of them ever had a chance.

You can get used to anything. That’s what Jessica thinks out here in this place of beauty, this place that gave her so much joy and peace all those years ago. She is reminded of what she assumes she is still capable of feeling: happiness. But the years have turned her cold and she can barely even make out the figure of that quiet but happy little girl walking to school with her father. A million years ago. You can get used to anything.

With the lower half of her body, she guides Dusty up a hill and into the farm’s most spacious clearing, a dozen football fields in length at least. She’s been careful not to push the old boy but doesn’t restrain him as he surges into an all-out gallop. The feeling is magic, poetry in motion as he hits his stride. Jessica could swear the graceful animal is floating above the ground. It’s effortless and exhilarating, absolute perfection.

Why did she let this all go, she wonders as they soar? Why had she stopped considering herself worthy of this joy, or this joy worthy of her time? How could she have denied herself this feeling for so long?

For one moment, she almost forgets all she had grown used to and becomes, again, the child she once was.

Published October 2009

On a bitter January night twenty years ago, Beverly Moon disappeared from the home she shared with her husband and daughter in the idyllic river town of Fairmont, Pennsylvania. When present-day writer/bartender Will Jameson gets wind of the story he unwittingly returns it to the front page of the local newspaper and sets a maelstrom in motion that won’t come to rest until not one, but two mysteries are unraveled.