Buried Mountain Secrets

By: Terri Reed


Nowhere to run. Nowhere to hide.

Can they get off the mountain alive?


Desperate to find her missing teenage brother, Maya Gallo ventures into the Colorado Rockies expecting rough terrain—not deadly treasure hunters. But when she’s caught in their crosshairs, ruggedly handsome mounted patrolman Alex Trevino comes to her aid. The deputy sheriff knows what these bandits are capable of, so getting Maya—and her brother—home safely may be his hardest mission yet





“Come out with your hands up.”


Deputy Alex Trevino.

This wasn’t her attacker. This was her rescuer. God had answered her prayers. Though why He’d send Alex, of all people, she couldn’t fathom.

Shaking her head at her own idiotic thoughts—who was she to complain about how God answered her prayer?—Maya slowly rose and stepped out from behind the bushes. “Alex.”

He quickly holstered his drawn weapon, for which she was thankful.

He hurried to her side. “Maya? Are you okay?” He gripped her shoulders, visually searching her, his gaze warm and concerned.

She let go of the stick she’d expected to use as a weapon and hugged her arms around her middle as a measure of relief ebbed through her veins. She could only imagine how frightful she must look considering her trek through the woods. And why that should even matter she didn’t know. The only thing that mattered was her brother. “I’m fine. But Brady...” She swallowed back the bile of fear burning her throat.






ONE


“Maya! Maya!”

The crack of the office door bouncing off the back wall reverberated throughout the hardware and feed store.

At the front counter, Maya Gallo braced herself and gave the customer she was helping an apologetic smile. “Excuse me, Ethan. Apparently, Brady has something to tell me.”

“No worries, dear,” the older gentleman replied and wandered off toward the tack room. There was no pity in his voice, but Maya could feel the empathy and sympathy radiating off of one of Bristle Township’s most stalwart citizens.

Maya’s fifteen-year-old brother, Brady, skidded down the aisle between the bags of goat and backyard flock feed of the Gallo Hardware and Feed. Their parents had opened the establishment shortly after Maya was born. She couldn’t remember a day when she wasn’t in the store. She missed them so much.

It had been ten years since that tragic night when her mother and father were on the road coming down from a day of skiing on Eagle Crest Mountain, Colorado, and hit a patch of ice. The resulting car accident had taken both their lives, leaving eighteen-year-old Maya to raise her five-year-old brother.

Brady’s almond-shaped eyes danced with anticipation as he halted in front of her and Maya’s heart filled with love for her little brother. Though he had Down syndrome, he functioned at a high level and was smarter than most people gave him credit for. He was also a hard worker, opinionated and determined. But, more important, full of joy. A joy that at times broke her heart.

She could guess today’s excitement meant another clue in the “Treasure Hunt of the Century” had been uploaded to the blog of the wealthy and eccentric Patrick Delaney.

Knowing if she tried to stall, he would burst with his enthusiasm. “Okay, what is it?”

“Another clue,” he said, confirming her suspicion. “A piece of a map. I need to hike up Aspen Creek Trail. Can I, please?”

A pang of sorrow and grief hit Maya square in the chest. The trail was on the lower half of Eagle Crest Mountain. The other side of the mountain was where the skiing resort and runs were located. And the road on which her parents had perished.

The urge to remind Brady that finding the Delaney treasure was a hopeless cause rose up strong within her, but she bit the words back. They’d gone down this road so many times over the past few weeks, ever since the peculiar billionaire, who lived on the outskirts of Bristle Township, had put out to the world that he had hidden some sort of treasure somewhere along the Rocky Mountains.

The man hadn’t said where in the Rockies. And considering the mountains ran from Canada down to New Mexico, that was a lot of territory to cover. Towns all along the Rockies were being overrun with seekers of fortune and fame who ate up every clue, and then spent hours and hours searching the canyons, forests, peaks, hills and valleys of the rugged mountain range. Bristle Township and County was no exception.

Not that the townsfolk didn’t appreciate the business the fervor stirred up, but for Maya it was a constant worry. Brady loved puzzles. The more challenging, the better. He’d glommed on to the treasure hunt with both hands.

She glanced at the clock. Just after nine in the morning. If he left now, he’d be at the trailhead in fifteen minutes. She doubted Mr. Delaney had hidden his prize along such a well-used hiking path, but following the clues made her brother happy. Thankfully, Brady wouldn’t be alone out there. Even in the fall when the air turned cool, there were sturdy souls who hiked the trail every day.

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