Various Authors: Autumn Paths

Today iI’m pleased to be taking part in the blog tour for Autumn Paths. I’m sharing an extract from the book with thanks to Rachel Gilbey at Rachel’s Random Resources for inviting me on the tour and to the publisher for my copy of the book.

Blurb:

Nine writers from both sides of the Atlantic, including best-selling and award-winning authors, have created this miscellany of stories.
These tales of family, mystery, intrigue, adventure, and suspense will take you across continents, through time and space in this world and others. With a linking theme of autumn, discover new landscapes, encounter new and intriguing characters, uncover secrets and lies, and witness the resolution of old enmities.
Take the first step on this roller-coaster of an emotional journey, and you won’t be disappointed.

Extract:

Path to Nowhere

§

By Angella Cormier

A BIRD CHIRPED SEVERAL HIGH-PITCHED BURSTS as a warning call. The female was sounding off to the predators who came too close to her nest. The hatchlings had been startled. It was an animal’s nature to be fully in the present, ever aware of the dangers that could appear at any moment. The pair in the woods, their assumed predators, had been identified and warned as soon as they came too close.

Humans are a completely different kind of species. They don’t always live fully in the moment. The pain that can bring runs much, much deeper than any predatory threat or attack. The lucky few learn that sometimes, the past is best left alone.

*

Julia halted to a stop. She held her breath, her ears anticipating another crisp snapping sound of a branch behind her. It never came. She turned around and looked back at the small groomed trail of the park where she had been hiking, the same trail she hiked every day. Her eyes quickly scanned the trees and shrubbery surrounding both sides of the path. Nothing moved nor looked out of place. Some leaves whirled about as the wind took hold of them, sending them sprawling across the trail. A few more orange and red leaves fell from their perch in the trees, the surest sign that autumn had indeed arrived and was in full season. 

“Probably just a squirrel,” she thought to herself. They were always coming out of hiding to see if the park visitors had brought them something to nibble on. Julia never did. She had no time for the critters when she was in the woods. She spent her time there alone for a reason. She needed that time to think and most importantly to remember.

There was so much thinking to do in her life. This was the only place she had found that offered the quiet and solitude she desired. It was one of the most arduous paths. Not many ventured out this way, which was exactly why Julia consistently picked this one. 

She continued on her usual route down the longest of the trails in the park. She was almost at the midpoint. The multitude of large oak trees along this path was the reason why it was called the ‘Oakwood Island Trek’. It had been named for the trees, but also in honor of several fallen victims of the tragedy on the nearby Oakwood Island a few years prior. Julia’s mind wandered to those events. She had followed the news closely and was struck by the mystery of it all.

Keeping her brisk pace steady, she looked ahead at the section of the trail where the oak trees were most prominent. Her thoughts swam back to some of the details surrounding the Oakwood Island cases.

Another snapping sound of a branch. She knew this was no squirrel that had startled her. This time it came louder, meaning that whatever was making the noise was getting closer. She whipped her head around and to her right, where she could also hear some scurrying on the forest floor. She gasped as she caught a quick glimpse of a man positioning himself behind a large oak tree, hiding from her view. 

Her instincts kicked in. Adrenaline began pumping in her bloodstream, giving her the energy she needed to start running and fast. As soon as she began sprinting to try to get some distance from the stranger in the woods, she heard the quickening of his steps too.

Her experiences throughout the years had been great practice for how to react and how best to escape. Cutting through the woods to her left, she roughly knew how far she needed to run to reach the main parking lot. She only hoped that the man following her was slower and perhaps not as good a runner as she was. She jumped over fallen trees and rocks as fast as she could.

Keeping herself in top shape had been a priority most of her life. This was exactly the reason why. She had always needed to defend herself. Bullied in schools she attended, she had not only been mocked but beaten up, kicked and punched on several occasions. The only man she had been in a relationship with had turned out to be physically abusive, too. She seemed to have been a magnet for trouble and pain back then. Until she decided to get stronger and fight back. That was when everything changed. She was reborn, in a sense. From then on, she had kept her body strong and fast.

Her eyes darted all around the forest, searching for the man. She wanted to see if he had kept up with her and if he was still on her tail. She thought she was making some headway when she glanced back and saw no sign of him. Slowing down, she took control of her breathing. As soon as she started catching her breath, she saw him. He was wearing a tan colored jacket, a black ball cap and wearing sunglasses. In those few seconds, her worst fears came true as she saw him lift his arm and hand. She heard the gunshot and saw the bullet strike the tree nearest her as she realized what he was holding in his hand. 

He wants to kill me,” she thought as she looked around for some way to escape…

***

Autumn Paths is available here.

You can follow the rest of the blog tour here:

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