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Susan Wiggs

Starlight on Willow Lake

Susan Wiggs Starlight On Willow Lake
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Series:

The Lakeshore Chronicles

Excerpt from book:

Mason Bellamy stared up at the face of the mountain that had killed his father. The mountain's name was innocent enough— Cloud Piercer. The rich afternoon light of the New Zealand winter cast a spell over the moment. Snow-clad slopes glowed with the impossible pink and amethyst of a rare jewel. The stunning backdrop of the Southern Alps created a panorama of craggy peaks, veined with granite and glacial ice, against a sky so clear it caused the eyes to smart.

The bony, white structure of a cell phone tower, its discs grabbing signals from outer space, rose from a nearby peak. The only other intrusions into the natural beauty were located at the top of the slope—a black-and-yellow gate marked Experts Only and a round dial designating Avalanche Danger: Moderate.

He wondered if someone came all the way up here each day to move the needle on the dial. Maybe his father had wondered the same thing last year. Maybe it had been the last thought to go through his head before he was buried by two hundred thousand cubic meters of snow.

According to witnesses in the town near the base of the mountain, it had been a dry snow avalanche with a powder cloud that had been visible to any resident of Hillside Township who happened to look up. The incident report stated that there had been a delay before the noise came. Then everyone for miles around had heard the sonic boom.

The Maori in the region had legends about this mountain. The natives respected its threatening beauty as well as its lethal nature, their myths filled with cautionary tales of humans being swallowed to appease the gods. For generations, the lofty crag, with its year-round cloak of snow, had challenged the world's most adventurous skiers, and its gleaming north face had been Trevor Bellamy's favorite run. It had also been his final run.

Trevor's final wish, spelled out in his last will and testament, had brought Mason halfway around the world, and down into the Southern Hemisphere's winter. At the moment he felt anything but cold. He unzipped his parka, having worked up a major sweat climbing to the peak. This run was accessible only to those willing to be helicoptered to a landing pad at three thousand meters, and then to climb another few hundred meters on allterrain skis outfitted with nonslip skins. He removed his skis and peeled the Velcro-like skins from the underside, carefully stowing the gear in his backpack. Then he studied the mountain's face again and felt a sweet rush of adrenaline.

When it came to skiing in dangerous places, he was his father's son.

A rhythmic sliding sound drew Mason's attention to the trail he'd just climbed. He glanced over and lifted his ski pole in a wave. "Over here, bro."

Adam Bellamy came over the crest of the trail, shading his eyes against the afternoon light. "You said you'd kick my ass, and you did," he called. His voice echoed across the empty, frozen terrain.

Mason grinned at his younger brother. "I'm a man of my word. But look at you. You haven't even broken a sweat."

"Mets. We get tested for metabolic conditioning every three months for work." Adam was a firefighter, built to haul eighty pounds of gear up multiple flights of stairs.

"Cool. My only conditioning program involves running to catch the subway."

"The tough life of an international financier," said Adam. "Hold everything while I get out my tiny violin."

"Who says I'm complaining?" Mason took off his goggles to apply some defogger. "Is Ivy close? Or did our little sister stop to hire a team of mountain guides to carry her up the hill so she doesn't have to climb it on her skis?"

"She's close enough to h"Wiggs tells a layered, powerful story of love, loss, hope and redemption."
-Kirkus Reviews on The Apple Orchard, starred review


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