Ryan stared at the horizon and watched the stars vanish into the ocean. His eyes shifted to the dancing flashes of moonlight glittering across the water.
From a bench positioned next to the boardwalk, he listened to the pounding in his head as the waves crashed against the beach. He glanced at the climbing
tide and observed the sand castles from past visitors erode away.
He caught the moon’s reflection off the sign ten yards to his left, Dup’s Hamburgers and Fries above the closed concession stand. He watched as the
clump of ketchup squirted onto his arm from the gorgeous blonde standing by his side. She apologized and admitted her mistake, but Ryan always
suspected the accident was by design. She was like no woman he had ever seen, touched, or smelled. In a heartbeat, he knew she was the one.
He had never experienced such peace, such happiness, as when they were together. The strongest memories, those that still flooded his senses, were when
they made love, completely blinded by their attraction for each other. Everything was still there: the taste, her scent, and the pleasure.
He slammed his hands against his ears and pressed hard to drive out her voice, her laugh. He pushed against his eyes until the pressure caused flashes of
light. He wiped his face with his sleeve, scanned the black sky, and tried again to grasp the reason. He rubbed the skin on his knuckles until the flesh turned
I was the one that set things straight. Is this your answer? You can’t be that cruel. Is this some form of divine justice?  
His quest for an answer was returned by silence, except for the sound of the waves against the shoreline. The rhythmic noise hammered his eardrums. The
terrible images of what he had experienced tonight flashed like a beacon inside his brain.
He searched the horizon for an answer, for relief, but there was nothing. In rebellion for his loss, his agony, Ryan replied to the silence in the only way he
knew how. He gazed into the speckled night sky and with a harsh crackling tone, he yelled at no one. “If this is your idea of justice, then the hell with you!”
After an eternity, the faint hue of gray at the edge of the stars signaled the approaching sun. He watched the white surf form a backdrop for the spectrum
of colors bathing the debris line on the beach. He smelled the brackish odor of foam mixed with seaweed and water soaked driftwood cast onto the shore.
The first rays of morning light announced the arrival of a fresh beginning. The ballet of nature’s constant struggle with itself began as the gulls circled
above the shoreline searching for morsels to fill their empty gullets. A fiddler crab raced toward the surging tide and braved the onslaught of diving
predators. The crab and two gulls played a harsh game darting back and forth along the waterline. One bent on escape, the others fighting against hunger.
After several missed attempts, one of the gulls swooped down and captured the fleeing prey. The winner tried to race off with its bounty, only to have the
second bird execute a midair dogfight. After several attempts, the thief ripped the prey free and chased the crab as it plummeted into the temporary safety
of the water. The fiddler floated at the surface to tease the hovering tormentors at his momentary victory, while the gulls squawked and squalled blaming
each other for their loss. The brief splash and swirl of a fin marked the price of the crab’s mockery. The dolphin flipped her snout at the losers’ overhead
and tossed down her morning meal.
Ryan examined the cruel reality of nature’s riddle played out in the surf. The undeniable truth that some must perish so that others can survive. The
commotion somehow pushed back the grief and blocked out the memory long enough to catch motion between the series of tuff covered mounds of sand.
A family slowly drudged through the loose grains of silica, hands bulging with baskets, blankets and toys to support their outing. Once they broke beyond
the edge of the dunes, the sight of waves rolling against the shore caused the two children to drop everything. They yelled and screamed as each raced for
the prize; the opportunity to be first wet.
The small toddler in the rear tried to pursue her siblings but stumbled twice against the soft sand. The clambering of young voices ripped Ryan back into
his world. The sights and sounds of the children provided an abrupt awakening to his loss and his forgotten responsibility. “Emma.”

She reached out, but he resisted. “Please understand, and don’t be mad at me. It hurts me inside when you’re mad at me.” She stepped forward, grasped
his right hand and gently pressed his palm over her heart. She lifted his left hand, pressed it against her breast, and he felt the tremors in her body. “Look
inside me, Ryan. There’s nothing but love for you. No desire to control you, just love for the only man I’ve ever wanted in my entire life.”
Through her tears, he began to see what was inside, how deeply she cared for this one man, and had kept herself only for him.
“Please don’t pull away. I couldn’t bare it. These years we’ve been apart have been so hard. I’ve spent so many lonely nights thinking of you. But I kept
going, waiting and praying that you would come back to me. Please love me, Ryan, the way I love you.”
He realized he did love her. That first day he saw her without the dirt on her face, when Ryan looked into those green eyes, he understood it then, what
was in her heart, but he denied the truth. Maybe he had always known, buried deep, hidden from his conscious mind, but still there at his core.
As he felt her chest pound, the dark shadows and sad memories from his past began to fade, replaced with warmth and peace. Ryan brushed the moisture
from her face. “Anything else I should be aware of?”
“Not right now.”
He placed his hand at the curve of her back and closed the gap between their bodies. “Guess I can live with that. It’ll take some adjustment, a lot of
adjustment, but we’ll work it out together.”
He lifted her hand and touched his lips to her wrist. He kissed her brow, her eyelids, moved down to her mouth. He lingered inside, tasted that sweet flavor,
and inhaled her scent. He caressed her neck, felt her pulse quicken, her muscles tighten, her breath matching his, increasing with each touch.
At that moment, Ryan felt the physical urge and emotional need to be with this woman, the hungry to consume her, touch her, become part of her. There
was no hesitation, no reluctance to put forth his feelings, his desires. There was no ambiguity. Everything was clear.
Her voice trembled. “I’ve waited so long. I feel like I’m going to explode.”
Ryan issued a low-pitched groan resonating from his throat as the hormonal fire raged through his body, a heat that could only be quenched one way. He
lifted her up, cupped her in his arms, and placed her on the blanket.
He unbuttoned her shirt, pressed his face between her breasts, and inhaled her unique feminine scent. Somehow it had changed, become musky,
transformed by the reaction of an aroused body. The intoxicating blend of honeysuckles, spice, and musk, it shot into his brain and stimulated his drive. His
response shifted from desire to pure lust, a need to satisfy his primal hunger with her entire form.
In one moment, their clothes were gone. He studied her skin, her shape, with his eyes, his hands, and his mouth. He became enraptured by its beauty, its
response to his touch. As he fell into her eyes, recognized her desire for him and him alone, his emotions blended together. Lust, tenderness, love, and a
powerful yearning to be with her forever, to be inside her body, share her mind, her soul. All these strong emotions focused his longing for this one
woman. He caressed her bare breast, watched as they pulsed and responded to the touch of his lips, the goose bumps encircling the protruded centers. He
kissed down below her rib cage, across her naval, and continued lower.
Her mouth opened, widened, and then it closed as she bit down across her lower lip. Her eyelids pulled back, opened fully as she arched upward, pressed
against his mouth. She felt the sensation, the tingling, rising from her legs up her back. As the waves rippled across her body, she moaned, again and again,
until her entire body rose up to meet his caress. Her form locked in midair, shuddered, and then exploded with release. After an eternity, she settled slowly
onto the blanket.
Ryan caressed back up her body. She felt his heart pound against her chest, his rapid breath against her face as she gazed back with contentment. He lifted
her waist quickly with one arm, placed a sleeping bag beneath her rump and slowly, gently joined with her, became one with the woman beneath him. In
the way that only a man and woman can bond. Carefully, they merged, two humans linked as one body, moving in harmony with their cadence. With each
thrust, she sensed the warmth inside, penetrating deeper, and the echo of rain skating across the metal roof blended with the sounds of two lovers.  Her
moans of pain morphed with those of pleasure, and he knew the truth. She had waited all these years, for him.
As they moved together, he caressed her smooth soft skin, felt the flesh of her body absorb his heat. He increased their rhythm, pushed faster, and at the
peak, it all disappeared. The shadows in his memories, the sorrow of his loss; everything vanished except her. For an instant, at the crest of their journey,
they remained motionless, united as one, all their muscles strained, their nerves on fire. Then they floated back and collapsed beside each other.
After several moments, Ryan turned her body. He pressed his groin against her warm flushed buttocks. He lifted her hair, kissed behind her ear, and across
her neck to her arms. He paused again to take in her enticing scent, now mixed with the lingering aroma of the passion they just shared. He traced his hand
down the curve of her waist, along her thigh, and arched his arm across her chest. He held her tightly, until they both drifted off, together.
He returned to the pool, the green water by the beaver dam, but this time, he was no longer alone. They were together, floating nude on the surface. They
moved below the ripples in the cold mountain water, but he felt warm and peaceful. He pulled them together. Their legs and arms entwined, until they were
one body, one mind, and it felt right, like it was always meant to be.

“Please, May. Let’s not go over this again. I’m tired. My back is killing me, and nothing you say is going to change the way I feel about him.”
“Sweetheart, you’ve been left by yourself with a child. It’s you that will bear the burden for one moment of poor judgment. He got what he wanted, left his
seed behind, and where is he now? He sure ain’t beside you, is he?”
“It took two of us. I knew what I was doing when it happened, and I’m not sorry for it. Not one bit.”
Glancing at her sister’s stomach, May vented her frustration. “Was this in your plans, to be saddled with a baby to take care of on your own? What were
you thinking, child? Did you think he’d leave his wife and come stay with you? Hell, you’re not even twenty years old, and that selfish bastard is almost
twice your age.”
“Stop it, May. It’s not like that. He’s a good man. Things are just messed up at home for him right now. I know he cares for me. When things change, I’ll
tell him, and then you’ll see. He’ll be there for both of us. I know he will.”
“You know I love you. You’re the only family I have left, but you’ve been blind. You’re just too damn young. You have no idea of what’s in store for you
and that child, how hard it will be for the both of you, for all of us. He’s used you, and when you do tell him, he’ll scurry away like the skunk he is. Now
open the door for me. I just felt a drop of rain. Let’s go fix dinner.”
The two females arrived at the house and Julie pulled back the rickety screen door. “You’re wrong, May. What we have together is . . .”
The air exploded. The wooden door frame splintered into several large fragments. The impact tossed both women into the air like debris from a bomb blast.
May opened her eyes to droplets splashing in the cool mud beneath her face. She wiped the mixture of dirt and water from her mouth and pushed up on her
hands, but collapsed right back into the brown puddle. She tried again, but both her legs refused to obey. Everything below her waist was numb except for
a searing pain at the base of her back, like her insides were on fire.
She struggled to roll on her side, but something blocked her movement. She screamed as another series of sharp pains charged into her brain. She reached
around and felt a wooden projectile protruding out of her back, one inch above her buttocks. With one hard jerk, she yanked out the fragment and the
piercing pain caused everything around her to blank out. After several minutes, the stinging sensation above her hips brought her back. She glanced at the
blood soaked tip of the six-inch wooden sliver still locked in her fist. Then she saw the charred flesh along her forearm.
She looked in the direction where Julie had been moments before, but her sister was gone.
She wiped the rain from her eyes and searched the front yard. A flash of lightning removed the darkness and she saw her sister.  Julie’s body was smashed
against their eight-year-old 1974 Pinto. Her arms and legs were entangled in the clothesline that stood a few feet from the screen door before being struck
by three hundred thousand volts of nature’s wrath.
May crawled through the dirt, into the house, and across the pine-grooved floor. She reached up and pulled down the phone from the small table. She
dialed the phone and waited for someone, anyone that could help. “Beth, It’s May. Julie is hurt. She’s been hit by lightning. Please get help. I don’t know
about the baby. Just get them here. Please, Beth.”
May dropped the receiver and scanned the room. She needed something, anything to set Julie free. She reached up to the kitchen table and grabbed a knife.
She pulled herself back outside, crawled on her hands to the body lying rigid against the car, twisted like a pretzel in the knotted clothesline.
“Julie! Baby, wake up.” She looked up into the dark sky. “Please, let her wake up,” but there was nothing, no movement, no breathing.
She pressed her ear against her sister’s scorched chest. There was no sound, no heartbeat. “Oh dear God in heaven. Not my baby sister. Not Julie. She’s
all I’ve got left. Don’t take her from me, please Lord.”
Her tears disappeared, mixed with the falling rain. Out of the corner of her eye, she caught movement in the midsection of her sister’s torso. It wasn’t
breathing, yet there was something turning inside, something still alive.
She stared at the scorched face of her young sister, then at Julie’s stomach, and finally at the knife in her hand. She gazed up at the dark clouds swirling
angrily above her.
“Sweet Jesus, why? Not like this. Help me to understand your way, please. What am I supposed to do?”
But there was no answer, no reprieve from her only option.
“I can’t let her die this way, Lord. Not both of them.”
May stared at the only life left inside her sister’s burned body. She looked at Julie’s face and begged for forgiveness at what she was about to do to her
own flesh and blood. “Forgive me, Julie. Please forgive me, but I have to do it. Dear God in Heaven, I have no choice.”
She scanned the black clouds and pleaded.  “Lord, give me the strength to do this terrible thing. Please show me the way.”
She looked at her baby sister’s face one last time. “I love you, Julie.”
May pulled up the soaked blouse, exposed the young skin, and pointed the sharp edge of the knife above her sister’s baby. “Guide my hand, Lord, and save
this poor child.” Then she did the only thing she could do. The horrible thing forced upon her on an isolated farm in an insignificant valley perched at the
center of a horseshoe shaped range of small mountains. With tears streaming down her face, she did what no civilized person should have to do to save
their niece’s life.
Excerpt 1
Copyright 2010 by Michael W. Davis
Excerpt 2
The town of Tanglewood Falls offers breath-taking views, yet the serendipity is misleading. The impoverished people and their
forgotten community have been unwittingly exploited. Their act of trust and blind consent altered their existence and the secret has
remained buried, until Ryan returns to explore his heritage. For twenty years, he’s been haunted by confusing images, recurring dreams
rooted in his past. He’s driven to understand their meaning, to obtain answers to his lost memories. Ryan’s search for truth collides with
the folklore of the simple people and the belief that their beautiful Annie is blessed. Together, they unravel the mystery, but at a price.
They become targets of those responsible for what happened to the town. As the truth is exposed, Ryan must grapple with his own
reality; the fact that his past, his nightmares, and Annie’s secret, everything is entangled in the desperate act of one lonely man.
Excerpt 3
Publisher Best Seller
The answers are buried in the secrets of the past
"Davis creates a unique story about second chances and
amazing love that never waivers. He invites the reader in and
seems to disappear allowing the reader to enjoy a poignant
sojourn with the people of Tanglewood Falls!" 4.5 of 5 stars
"Davis has once again written a top-notch thriller. He starts out
with a bang, then steps back and slowly reels the reader into a
story both believable and otherworldly... a necessary read for
thriller lovers everywhere." 5 stars
"The author took a hold of me from the first chapter. He weaves
a story of not only the characters leaving you breathless, but a
plot that will have you frantically reading to get to the next
page. His characters show emotion, humor, love, compassion,
and courage in a story that is beautiful to the end."
"a riveting thriller that will hold you captive from start to finish! ..,  
holds you on the edge of the mystical while setting in motion an
intriguing plot twisted nicely with a touch of romance. ", 4 of 4 stars
"Full of twists, turns and an ending you don’t see, I was blown
away by the sheer scope. The characters are imaginative,
multifaceted and intriguing. Mr. Davis does a masterful job telling
the hidden story behind the breathtaking Tanglewood Falls."
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