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Find Your Way Home
Author: Jackie Ashenden

 


Chapter 1


   “Stop! Stop the car right now!”

   Isabella Montgomery jammed her foot on the brake, the car skidding slightly on the loose gravel of the road but luckily not too much since they weren’t going very fast. There was a hundred-foot drop-off to the left and Izzy had been traveling for nearly three days solid, so to say she was tired would have been an understatement.

   “Yes!” Bethany exclaimed excitedly from the passenger seat, apparently uncaring that her abrupt screech had nearly caused them all calamity. “Stop here!”

   “Oh my God,” Indigo moaned from the back seat. “Are you insane, Beth?”

   Beth ignored her, too busy gazing out the window at the lovely valley that had appeared after they’d gone around that last, nerve-wracking hairpin corner.

   The guy at the car rental place had asked them if they were planning on driving down a road called Kelly’s Canyon, because if so, their insurance wouldn’t cover it. The three women had looked at each other with a touch of grimness, because yes, they were planning on driving down Kelly’s Canyon. It wasn’t the only road into Brightwater Valley, the little town they’d come halfway around the world to New Zealand to visit. There was another that apparently the tour buses used, but it took twice as long and they were all sick of traveling.

   Izzy had asked him why their insurance wouldn’t cover it, but he’d just shrugged and said the road could be “a bit tricky.”

   “A bit” was an understatement. As was “tricky.”

   The road was gravel for miles, so narrow there was barely any room to pass another car coming in the opposite direction, and then there was the little matter of the hundred-foot drop on one side.

   Izzy was jet-lagged, exhausted after three flights—one nearly twelve hours long—and a long car ride, plus driving on the other side of the road was a challenge she hadn’t prepared for. Beth’s constant excitement and optimism, coupled with Indigo’s frantic seat clutching and moaning, were beginning to grate.

   “Stop?” She tried not to sound cross since she’d only known Beth and Indigo for approximately twenty-four hours. They were her only link to anything resembling home for the next three months and she didn’t want to alienate them. “Stop where?”

   “Here.” Beth gestured to the side of the road where there was exactly zero room to park. “It’s not like there’s any traffic.”

   She was right. And what little of the road ahead that Izzy could see was empty, as was the road behind.

   Perhaps they could stop for a moment or two…

   Izzy wasn’t given a choice, since Beth was already undoing her seat belt and throwing open the door, leaving the paper map spread out over the dash—she’d been navigator since they’d lost cell service twenty minutes ago—and leaping out of the car. She hurtled toward the edge of the road as Indigo moaned in distress again.

   “Oh my God, I can’t look. She’s going to go over the edge.”

   Izzy flicked a glance at Indigo in the rearview mirror. She might not have known her two travel companions long, but certainly long enough to figure out that Beth was the eternal optimist, while Indigo leaned more toward the pessimistic.

   When Izzy had arrived at Auckland airport after her twelve-hour flight from LA and had approached Beth and Indigo to let them know that she was Georgie’s replacement, it had been Beth who’d welcomed her with open arms. Indigo, however, had regarded her with some suspicion, asking a whole lot of questions that Izzy didn’t want to answer.

   She couldn’t blame Indigo for her suspicion though. Leaving Houston for LA, then going on to New Zealand had been a spur-of-the-moment decision she’d made in a second of intense rage, which hadn’t left Izzy with a lot of time to let them know to expect her.

   Indigo and Beth were from Deep River, Alaska, where Izzy’s brother, Zeke, also lived. They were on their way to start a new business in Brightwater Valley, New Zealand. She’d met Beth and Indigo once before while visiting Zeke, and while she didn’t actually know them, she’d been able to recognize them at the airport at least.

   A third woman, Georgie, was supposed to have joined them, but she’d had to pull out at the last moment, so Izzy had thought to take her place.

   Nothing whatsoever to do with the cancelation of her wedding or being ousted from the board of her family’s company.

   Nothing at all.

   “She won’t go over the edge,” Izzy said with calm reassurance. “Are you sure you don’t want to come and look at the view?”

   Indigo had one hand over her blue eyes. “Oh, absolutely sure.”

   “Okay. I’ll only be a second.”

   Izzy undid her seat belt and got out of the car, checking the road once again for any traffic before going over to where Beth stood, right on the very edge of the cliff.

   The gravel crunched beneath the soles of the expensive and brand-new hiking boots she’d bought at the last minute in Houston. It was supposed to be midsummer here, but a cool breeze that had to have come directly off the mountains surrounding the valley made her pull her equally expensive, brand-new parka tighter around her.

   Beth was in a T-shirt and jeans, her long, white-blond hair blowing around her face. It was clear she did not feel chilly in the slightest.

   But she wouldn’t. She was from Alaska.

   “Isn’t this amazing?” Beth held out her arms at the vista before them. “It’s soooo beautiful!”

   Sharp, snowcapped mountains cloaked in dense, dark green forests ringed the small, deep valley that sat at the bottom, with the most beautiful blue lake glowing like a jewel in the middle of it. The silvery, glittery thread of a river sparkled in the sun as it wound through the open farmland on the valley floor.

   Brightwater Valley in New Zealand’s South Island. Their new home.

   It wasn’t where Izzy had planned to be when this year had opened. She’d thought she’d be married, she and Josh shopping for a new home in Houston. She’d thought she’d still be working at Montgomery Oil and Gas, engineering a new direction in green energy for her family’s company.

   She hadn’t known that only a week earlier, the company’s board would inform her that while they loved the company’s new direction, they couldn’t in good conscience keep progressing with the remnants of the “old guard” still at the company. Izzy being the “old guard.”

   Or that, as she was still reeling from that news, at a gala celebrating Montgomery’s new focus that same night, Josh would tell her that he couldn’t marry her and that he was in love with someone else.

   Which had been when the intense rage had come in.

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