Beneath A Star-Lit Sky

About the Book

Book: Beneath A Star-Lit Sky

Author: JL Crosswhite

Genre: Christian romantic suspense

Release date: February 21, 2022

Small town girl looking to mend her broken heart…

…Small town boy needing to repair his reputation.

Who knew those simple goals could unearth life-threatening danger?

Holcomb Springs has a wild past, and the wilderness outside its borders hides a treacherous present.

Teacher Ella Sommer is ready to forget about her broken engagement and escape from running into her ex. An overnight hiking trip on the Pacific Crest Trail offers what she needs to clear her head and breathe out under the stars.

Ex-military Reese Vega left Holcomb Springs with a bad boy rep, but has returned wiser, longing for a fresh start in his hometown. His hiking tour business offers that opportunity, especially when he can get into the great outdoors and let his past evaporate into the mountain air.

When Reese and Ella are thrown together on the overnighter, what starts as a simple trek ends up being filled with danger when they stumble across something they weren’t supposed to see.

Can they put aside their history and use their wits to get out of this situation?

Or will it be too late?

You’ll love Beneath a Star-Lit Sky because while the wilderness can’t be tamed, the human heart can.

BOOK EXCERPT

Beneath A Star-Lit Sky Excerpt 1

Leading inexperienced people in the wilderness, even by someone with the skills Reese Vega had, was a recipe for disaster. The only person he would do this gig for was his brother. Even then, he was starting to regret it.

Reese stood to the side of the trail, the vanilla scent of ponderosa pines wafting around him, and wished he was hiking alone. The trip had originally been booked by Holcomb Springs Outfitters as a snowshoe tour, but the snow had melted to slushy piles on the trail and only remained in the shadows of the trees. Still, it was a beautiful day, if only he could enjoy it. Alone.

As the group of several girlfriends who had come up for a weekend away passed him, one of the women screamed and jumped, grabbing her friend’s arm. “What was that? I heard something in the bushes. Is it a bear? Or a mountain lion?” She shot Reese a wide-eyed look.

He resisted the urge to roll his eyes. “Probably just a squirrel.”

With all the noise they’d made, most wildlife was long gone. Even the chattering blue jays had left the area.

BOOK EXCERPT #2
The squirrel was probably hoping for a handout. Reese craved the quiet of the outdoors. It soothed him in a way nothing else could, especially after his injury. But this… this was not the kind of outdoors he liked.

But it was a peace offering for his brother who ran Holcomb Springs Outfitters. Maybe it would help mend the fences Reese’s enlisting in the military had broken in his pacifist family. He could only hope. They had wanted him to be someone different than who he was. They hadn’t exactly been in his corner.

He pointed for the group to continue on the trail while he remained behind to check on the stragglers. There were always stragglers. It gave him a chance to grab a minute of quiet. His headache had worsened from the chatter of the women. That and their endless flirting. He’d almost take another tour of duty compared to more tourists.

But due to his traumatic brain injury, that was no longer an option. And he’d told his brother, Raul, that he’d help run his outfitters shop until Raul got back on his feet. Literally. He’d had knee surgery and couldn’t lead the hikes and camping trips.

And being as the outfitter shop was the family’s main source of income, Reese couldn’t say no.

It was only temporary. He’d do his family duty and make an attempt to improve relations. And then he could figure out what he was going to do next. And it wouldn’t be escorting tourists through the wilderness.

Reese stepped toward the guest who had fallen behind. The man wasn’t wearing proper hiking boots. His tennis shoes were soaked from the slush, and he was breathing hard, his face red. Many people had no idea how the seven-thousand-foot altitude could affect them.

“Not too much farther. The lookout point is just ahead. Great view of the lake. It’ll be worth it.” Reese tried to infuse his voice with an enthusiasm he didn’t feel but Raul would expect. Raul was so much better with people than he was.

The man glanced up, nodded, and then went back to staring at the trail. Not enjoying the beauty around him, missing the whole point of a hike in the woods.

Reese shrugged as the man plodded past him. Not his problem. He rubbed his temples, hoping to ease the pain

Beneath A Star-Lit Sky Excerpt 4

Reaching into his pack, he grabbed a bottle of Aleve and popped a couple into his mouth, washing them down with water from his bottle.

A yelp went up from the area of the lookout, and Reese sprinted up the trail. One of the women on the girlfriends’ trip was sitting on her bottom a little way down the slope of the lookout, just before the sharp drop-off.

Her friend rushed over to him. “We were trying to take a selfie with the lake in the background. I think she stepped off, and then she just fell.”

He nodded and knelt beside the woman. Another two steps, and she would have been over the drop-off. People didn’t have common sense. He should have been up here to keep an eye on them. But then what about the straggler? He didn’t know how Raul did it.

“Are you hurt anywhere?” He scanned the woman, looking for any obvious sign of injury.

“My ankle. I think I twisted it when I stepped back and tried to catch my balance.” She glanced up at him and gave him a small smile.

He tugged her jeans up above her ankle.

eneath A Star-Lit Sky Excerpt 

At least she had boots on. He palpated the area. “Does that hurt?” 

She winced. “A little.” 

It wasn’t swollen, but that could change quickly. “What’s your name?” 

“Andrea.” She looked up at him and bit her lip. 

He should have remembered. Raul would have remembered. He never did live up to his family’s expectations. He reached in his pack for an Ace elastic wrap from the first aid kit. He eased off her boot, wrapped her ankle, then slipped the boot back on with the laces loosened. “That should stabilize it to get you down the hill. Do you think you can put any weight on it?” 

“Maybe. If you help me.” 

A glance shot among her friends, smiles they didn’t try to hide. 

Great. Was this a set up? “Okay, everyone get your final pictures, and we’ll head back.” He slipped his arm under the woman’s shoulders. “On three, we’re going to stand together. Just put your weight on your good foot and lean on me.” 

Her “okay” came out breathy. 

“One, two, three.” He pushed to his feet and pulled the woman up with him.  

She gingerly put weight on her foot then immediately retracted it. 

Beneath A Star-Lit Sky Excerpt 7

They pulled into Holcomb Springs Outfitters parking lot. Raul came out in his knee brace to help the guests with their gear and thank them for coming.

Reese closed the van door as the last guest left.

Raul laid a hand on his shoulder. “You should thank the guests and ask them to come back. Let them know we enjoy serving them.”

“Even if we don’t?” Reese brushed past him and carried the gear into the back of the shop. He’d have to repack the first-aid kit. “I don’t lie.” He opened the kit and rummaged through the supplies.

“It’s not lying. It’s good business.”

Reese grunted. He never was going to see eye to eye with his family on things. Important things.

“How’d it go?”

“Fine.” He told Raul about Andrea’s injury. “I’m not convinced it wasn’t an elaborate setup by her and her friends to flirt with me.”

Raul grinned. “It’s all part of the game. I should keep you around, put your face on the brochures and ads. It’d be good for business.”

“I’m only here until you are well enough to lead the tours again.”

The grin disappeared from Raul’s face, and his whole body deflated as if more than his knee was injured.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

JL’s favorite thing is discovering how much there is to love about America the Beautiful and the great outdoors. She’s a mom to two, navigating the young adult years while battling her daughter’s juvenile rheumatoid arthritis, exploring the delights of her son’s autism, and keeping gluten free. A California native who’s spent significant time in the Midwest, she’s thrilled to be back in the Golden State. Follow her on social media to see all her adventures and how she gets inspired for her books!

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