Shannon Stacey is a New York Times and USA TODAY bestselling author. She lives with her husband and two sons in New England, where her two favorite activities are writing stories of happily ever after and riding her four-wheeler. She prefers writing to laundry, however, and considers herself lucky she got to be an author when she grew up. Read her interview here. Below you can read an excerpt from her novel, Taken with You. Courtesy: Shannon Stacey.
The snarling, possibly rabid, five hundred pound grizzly bear lurking in the trees was the final straw.
Hailey Genest stopped in her tracks, staring at the area of the forest where she’d heard the rustling. Okay, so maybe it wasn’t a grizzly bear. She didn’t think Maine had grizzlies, even deep in the woods. It was probably only a black bear, but it was a really big one.
“I think it was a chipmunk,” her buddy system partner said.
Hailey turned her stare on Tori Burns, who’d talked her into this stupid wilderness adventure. “I hate you so much right now.”
Tori grinned. “Your mascara’s smudging.”
“Why are we friends again?”
“Because you came into the diner during my shift and whined about being the last single woman on the entire planet because all of your friends have found their soul mates. When I pointed out I’m single, you decided we should be friends.”
She hadn’t been whining. She’d just had a rough day and hadn’t felt like she could call her friends to vent because they were all probably greeting their menfolk at the door. And, yes, she had imagined them in aprons and pearls just because she could.
“First Paige married Mitch, then Lauren ran off to Massachusetts and married Ryan, and Katie’s living with Josh.” Hailey snorted and crossed her arms. “Those damn Kowalski men stole all my women.”
Tori sighed. “And now I’m friends with a woman who wears makeup and new hiking boots on a wilderness adventure.”
“The better I look, the better I feel and I thought I’d need the boost.” She looked down at her feet, trying not to wince. “Pretty sure my blisters are reaching horror movie proportions, though.”
“I told you it would be better to wear sneakers than brand new hiking boots.”
“I wanted to be fashionable.”
“Yes, because limping is totally the new black.”
Hailey took a few steps, trying to ignore how much her feet, calves and every other part of her body hurt, but then she stopped. “Listen.
After several seconds, Tori frowned. “I can’t hear the others anymore.”
“Not even the woman who sounds like she has a built-in megaphone and sucked helium for breakfast. They left us behind.” Even as she said the words, which should have been cause for concern, Hailey felt a pang of relief.
If the group had left them behind, there was no pressure to keep up, which was something she’d been failing at miserably for at least a mile. She considered herself to be in good shape, but hiking for miles over uneven ground in the woods was kicking her butt. And they still had paddling canoes to look forward to, just to make sure her arms and back ached as much as her legs tomorrow.
Since her usual daily workout was pushing a cart of books from the night drop box back into the library, she could only wonder what she’d been thinking. Or drinking.
“If we hurry, we can catch them.” Tori cast a doubtful glance at Hailey’s feet. “If it helps, we get to sit in the canoes.”
The thought of being off her feet did help a little, so Hailey did her best to keep up with her new friend. Tori wasn’t very tall, but she walked with a long, confident stride that was hard to match. Trying to ignore how her impending blisters and the muscles in the backs of her calves were having a contest to see which could burn the worst, Hailey put one foot in front of the other and tried not to stumble over roots.
After what felt like miles, Tori stopped in a clearing and shook her head. There were several paths in front of them and they all looked the same degree of disturbed. No matter how hard she looked, Hailey couldn’t tell which one their group had taken.
“Aren’t they supposed to break off tree branches or something to point the way?” she asked.
“We weren’t kidnapped by Magua. We just didn’t keep up. I think if the tour guides noticed they’d lost us, they would have waited rather than leave signs for us to interpret.”
Hailey slapped herself in the face, then grimaced. “I’m going to need a blood transfusion before we get out of these woods.”
“I have some Deep Woods Off in my pack. You want it?”
“No. I already have bug repellent on.” She waved at a particularly persistent black fly. “It’s all natural and it nourishes my skin. It smells good, too.”
“Too bad it doesn’t keep the bugs away.”
“The comments on Pinterest said it wasn’t quite as effective as the chemical versions, but did I mention it’s nourishing?”
Tori snorted. “And now you’re nourishing the black flies.”
“I suck at being outside.
“You are surprisingly bad at it for somebody born and raised in rural Maine.”
“Whitford’s rural, but it’s not this rural.” Hailey wanted to point out her parents had chosen Whitford, not her, but a bug almost flew into her mouth, so she closed it.
“Well.” Tori put her hands on her hips. “We’re lost.”