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Excerpt: An Inner Fire

Excerpt: An Inner Fire

Book 1: Grayce Walters Series

Chapter One

Grayce Walters’ left hand twitched. Her universe spun on an altered axis. Her instincts swirled. Her intuition flared.

Earlier today, a cranky feline had gouged her, a sneaky dog had nipped her, and now, late for dinner with friends, the parking gods were messing with her. Something was coming. Something strange.

Her headlights probed the mist, dissolving in the murk of Puget Sound fog. Her intuition acted like an inner GPS, directing her to the far side of Seattle’s Fisherman’s Terminal. The beams shone on a yellow heap between stacks of crab traps. A dog lay on its side, barely visible in the shadow of a fishing shed.

Stepping out of her car, she inhaled the musky smell of salt water. A horn blared from the Ballard Bridge. Grayce jumped at the sudden sound. She grabbed a flashlight and moved into the mist toward the large canine.

She knelt on the damp cement next to the golden retriever. Relieved to observe the dog’s shallow respirations, she released a slow breath Baxter was written in bold script on the dog’s red leather collar.

She gently ran her hand along Baxter’s inert body. Her cold fingers probed the crown of his head, locating an egg-sized lump on the back of his skull.

“Your head hurting, Baxter?”

The large retriever wagged his tail ever so slightly and then stilled.

Grayce scanned the cluster of corrugated fishing sheds. A deep foreboding flooded her senses. “Baxter, I need to get us away from here.”

She searched the waterfront, looking for the perpetrator of Baxter’s injury. The overhead lights on the docks cast an eerie halo on the boats bobbing in the black water.

Screeching hinges broke the silence. The sound raked her skin like dogs’ nails skittering across the metal exam tables in vet school. Her nervous system ratcheted into high alert.

The sound of a door opening in the next row of sheds echoed in the night’s silence. Then she heard footsteps on the cement, moving toward the water. The sound of the footsteps grew distant, swallowed in the darkness.

Under the dock lights she spotted him, a beefy man with a satchel slung over his shoulder. Wearing the slicker and boots of a commercial fisherman, he moved with an energized self-assurance toward the boats. Rage and elation radiated from him. Grayce was sucked into his dark violent energy. She fought the temptation to absorb his malevolence.

The footsteps stopped. He looked back in her direction. A raw chill penetrated Grayce’s body. She bent forward to shield the dog and tightened her hold on the flashlight, ready to protect Baxter.

Moving in and out of the shadows on the wharf, the overhead beams caught the top of his head. His hair shone a fiery red. He walked into the fog.

Baxter whined, breaking the tense silence. She ran her hands along the damp dog searching for further injuries. “You’re going to be all right, big guy.”

Nerves stretched taut, she twisted to look for the man. She studied the entire area searching for him. Every sound boomed in her ears.

She fumbled in her jeans pocket for her phone, then hesitated. Grayce hit favorites for James, her best friend.

Damn! Voicemail.

Peeling off her coat, she covered the dog.

“Baxter!” A woman’s voice, then a whistle.

The dog’s ears shot up as he bolted upright. He gave a high-pitched yelp, shook several times, and loped in the direction of his owner’s voice. Twenty feet away, a middle aged woman stood next to her Volvo station wagon with the hatch-back door open. Baxter jumped effortlessly into the car. The dog’s large head was silhouetted in the rear window as they sped away.

She bent to pick up her rain jacket when a massive blast shook the wharf causing the cement to sway beneath her. The harsh sound reverberated in her ears as the tremor traveled through her legs.

She whirled around, trying to locate the source of the explosion. Shock waves continued to pulsate throughout her body.

She heard the fire before she saw it, a slow hiss followed by a roar. Twenty-foot-high flames shot out of a shed less than a few car lengths away. Heat blazed across her face, hot enough to singe her eyebrows and eyelashes.

Primitive fear imploded in her chest. She ran, ran as if the flames chased her.

The fire’s heat penetrated her sweater to her skin. She sprinted, her feet and heart pounding.

When she reached the far side of the wharf and the far side of the inferno, she dialed 911.

The wail of sirens filled the night’s silence.

In the frenzy of noise and flashing lights, she spotted the red-haired man lurking in the shadows. He was crouched, half hidden by an industrial dumpster. As if he sensed her watching him, he turned and vanished into the darkness.