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The air was crisp. A bit of snow lingered in the shadows of the craggy rocks they passed. It was quiet and still. There were no calls from the birds or scurries of a chipmunk. It was as if the animals in the forest felt the same tension Dylan felt. It had been building from the moment he'd stepped foot outside the cabin. Now he felt tighter than the string on his bow.

The trail was used enough that it was well-worn. The soft thump of their boots hitting the dark, rocky soil was the only sound. Only occasionally, would Dylan hear the crunch of a fallen leaf or the snap of a branch that had strayed onto the trail.

When they passed out from the shelter of the trees and into the bare arch of the overlook, Dylan stopped. Why am I doing this?

He looked down at Skye, sinking into her green eyes. For her. He was doing it for her.

Dylan tightened his grip on her hand as he sighed and walked to the edge of the overlook, pulling her along with him.

"Remember when I told you I hated this place?"

"Yes, I remember," Skye said.

"It's because this is where my guilt lies. Down this cliff. Down the very drop Jesse would've gone that day."

Wide-eyed, Skye looked down the steep, long drop then back at him

"What's down there, Dylan?"

It took him a moment. He pressed his lips together more than once before he could steady himself enough to say, "My mother."


Dylan didn't look at Skye. It was hard enough to hear the shock in her voice.

Skye took a small step back from the edge. "Dylan, your mother is truly down this cliff?"


"No! Oh, no, Dylan," Skye said as she shook her head and stumbled backward. Her actions mirroring the ones he'd had when his father had dragged him and Wade up here and told them. It'd taken every shred of his will not to shove the old man down there too.

Dylan felt Skye's free hand grip his arm, felt her pull him away from the edge, and let her.

"Why?" she asked softly.

Dylan's tight shoulders slumped as he looked at Skye. Tears sat ready to fall from her eyes, her skin had lost its rosy glow and seemed paler than usual. A cold wind rushed up from below the cliff wildly stirring her dark hair. Dylan moved his hand to gently push it behind her ear. Then he wrapped his arms around her, to ward off the chill.

"After what mom said. Her bein' worried he'd kill me and all. We started stayin' up here more and more. It was me. One day, we hammered the last nail into the roof. I was the one that said we shouldn't go back.

"Wade was all for it at first. But after awhile, he wanted to go home. It was a lot for him, bein' the oldest. I think he felt a responsibility to makin' sure we did okay.

"I refused. I told Wade to go back if he wanted, but I wasn't going so he ended up stayin'. I always wondered if it was because I gave up my real dad for him."

Dylan cleared his throat. "We'd heard Dad was ornerier than ever. We'd stopped in and seen her a couple times, made sure she was okay. She didn't let on. We didn't know.

"She was never close with Wade and me. Wasn't all that caring of a woman. Wasn't really even a good mom, I always knew that. But while I might have a spare dad, I only got one mom. And she didn't deserve what she got.

"The last time we visited her. She told us to go away and not come back. That we were just causin' her trouble. I was upset, but Wade took it real hard and stormed out of the place. When I looked back at her, she looked, I don't know, lost somehow. I thought, 'She's savin' us.' That was the last time I saw her, with that look on her face.

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