Keeper of Secrets by J. A. Clarke

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A shocking betrayal by the man she thought she loved is forcing Shawna Carlton to make some critical life choices. All she craves is peace and quiet this holiday season. The isolated cabin in the Mt. Hood National Forest seems perfect for reflection. But thatís before she discovers she has a woman-hating neighbor, and the old fishing cabin is home to more than just layers of dust.

Dr. Gregory Harris has his own heart-rending reasons for seeking solitude during the holiday season. What he doesnít need is a noisy, helpless, forest-challenged city girl moving in next door. Before he know it, heís chopping her wood, building her fires and letting her use his modern plumbing.

Fresh from the pain of lost love, can two people who sought solitude in the vastness of a forest, begin to heal together?


Around her the forest moaned and creaked in the storm. A gust of wind tore down the road, wrenched the door to the shed from her hands and flung it back against the wall. The light from the cabin's window was just enough to reveal two shadowy rows of neatly stacked logs. An axe and a couple of other unfamiliar tools leaned against the pile.

A vague image of a brawny man in suspenders and no shirt, hefting an axe over his head flitted through her mind. Much good that did. She hadn't the slightest idea how to split wood and had no desire to try in the middle of a storm in the middle of the night. Whole logs would work just as well, wouldn't they? She picked up a small one.

"Do you think you're going to quit with the noise any time soon?"

Shawna dropped the log and spun around. Then she shrieked, stumbled back. The woodpile poked her in the rear.

A hulking mass stood before her, details obscured by the dark. A powerful flashlight flicked on, blinded her, moved off to the side.

"Don't even think about chopping wood this time of night. There are noise ordinances around here, you know." The voice was a deep rumble. Angry. Impatient.

Shawna tried to ask a question. Anything. Her mouth refused to work. All her energy seemed to be concentrated in her pounding heart.

"What's the matter with you? Bloody hell. Women! Where's your boyfriend? I'll talk with him."


"Bloody hell." The hulking mass stamped off toward the cabin.

She was still glued to the same spot when he returned seconds later.

"You're here on your own, aren't you?" He made it sound like a crime. The faintly accented voice was angrier.

"Yes," she whispered, and squeezed her eyes shut. That was stupider than stupid. She opened her eyes.

The hulking mass was still there, bigger than ever. He uttered a rude word. A thick arm came up and pointed. "Go back inside. I'll bring in some wood."

"No, you--"

"GO! I would like to get back to bed sometime tonight. And I sure as hell can't chop wood with you defending the woodpile." Then he actually reached out, caught her arm, pulled her out of the shed and pushed her in the direction of the cabin.

She stumbled over the uneven ground and up the steps. Why had she admitted to being here on her own? Would that pathetic lock hold? He could break the glass window in the door. Forget the window, he could probably break the ancient door. He had an axe. Where had he come from, this relative of Sasquatch?

The last thought was so ludicrous, she slumped against the cabin wall and uttered a weak laugh. He was only a man. Had to be a neighbor, although all the cabins around had seemed deserted when she'd driven in earlier. He was doing a neighborly deed and bringing her some wood. A series of dull thumps from outside confirmed it. She shivered uncontrollably, acutely conscious of the cold and her wet clothes, acutely aware of the cabin's isolation.

She was going to take self-defense classes with Debra for sure when and if she made it back to Portland.

This had been a really lousy idea.

She was still propped against the wall when she heard his boots on the steps, but simply didn't have the energy to move. If he was bent on pillage and rape, this was his lucky night. She wouldn't be able to fend off a fly.

  • Published by: Uncial Press

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