Witness in the Woods

By: Michele Hauf

He’ll fight tooth and nail

To keep her safe.

When shots are fired, wildlife officer Joe Cash responds to the call and finds himself face-to-face with Skylar Davis and her pet...wolf. It’s Joe’s job to protect all endangered species—including the pretty vet’s menagerie of rescues. As the threats intensify, Joe realizes Skylar could be the key to busting a ruthless poaching ring. But she’s keeping a secret that could cause more harm than either of them can imagine.





“If that bullet had been half an inch closer...” The man suddenly bowed his head and winced.

Skylar was taken aback by his reaction. “Joe? What’s wrong? I’m okay.”

“Right.” He lifted his head and his jaw pulsed with tension. “You always were able to take care of yourself.”

He’d learned exactly what she’d hoped to teach him about her. Regrettably.

Skylar lifted her chin bravely. “Still can take care of myself.”

“Being shot at is no way to go about it, Skylar. If anything would have happened to you...” He winced again and looked aside, toward the firepit.

Skylar found herself leaning forward in hopes of him finishing that sentence.







CAST OF CHARACTERS

Joseph Cash—A conservation officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. Joe’s investigation into a local poaching ring will rip a trusted friend from his life and bring him back to the woman he has always desired.

Skylar Davis—A small-animal veterinarian who rehabs rescue animals. Her only dream is to build a sanctuary for all the animals who need help. But will her family allow that to happen?

Max Owen—The elderly Chippewa naturalist who took Joseph under his wing when he was a child and became his lifelong mentor, teaching him to respect the wild.

Stella—The timber wolf Skylar rescued as a pup; lost a leg to a snare trap.

Cole Pruitt—Skylar’s ex-fiancé has a new job, a new address and a big secret.

Malcolm Davis—Skylar’s uncle, who lives on the property bordering her land and owns Davis Trucking. He’s known for poaching, and getting away with it, but what else is he doing to evade the law?

Dorothy Davis—Skylar’s long-lost mother. The things she doesn’t know could change Skylar’s life forever.






Chapter One


Joseph Cash raced toward the admittance doors of St. Luke’s emergency room. He’d driven furiously from Lake Seraphim the moment he’d heard the dispatcher’s voice announce that an elderly Indian man near death had been found crawling at the edge of County Road 7. A young couple had spotted him, pulled over and called the police.

Joe had responded to Dispatch and asked if he could take the call. She’d reported back that an ambulance was already at the scene and the man was being transferred to Duluth. The patient was seizing, and the initial report had been grim. They couldn’t know if he’d arrive alive or dead.

The description the dispatcher had given Joe could have been that of any elderly Native American. Sun-browned skin, long dark hair threaded with gray and pulled into a ponytail. Estimated age around eighty.

But Joe instinctually knew who the man was. His heart had dropped when he’d heard the location where the man had been found climbing up out of the ditch on all fours. That was the one place Max Owen had used to rendezvous with Joe when he brought him provisions, because from there it was a straight two-mile hike through the thick Boundary Waters to where he’d camped every summer for twenty years in a little tent at the edge of a small lake.

Joe hadn’t seen Max since June, two months earlier. He’d looked well, though his dry cough had grown more pronounced over the past year. Max had attributed it to the bad habit of smoking when he’d been a teenager. If anything happened to end that old man before Joe could see him—no, he mustn’t think like that.

Now he entered the too-bright, fluorescent-lit hallway of the ER intake area. Three people queued before the admissions desk, waiting to be assessed for triage. Normally, Joe would respectfully wait his turn, as he had occasion to check in on patients he’d brought here himself while on duty as a conservation officer with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

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