Beth Phillips returns to Platteville, Nebraska in order to begin a new life and to hide from her abusive ex-husband. The secluded cabin offers a chance to stay hidden and to draw closer to God, but Beth quickly discovers she is not alone in the woods. She befriends a curious, displaced wolf, but instead of fearing the animal Beth finds comfort in his company.
When field biologist, Aiden Holt, follows up on reported wolf sightings, he finds the animal and Beth Phillips. With emotional baggage of his own, Aiden usually prefers animals to people, but Beth's passion to keep the wolf draws Aiden in. Experience tells him the wolf needs relocation. His heart tells him he needs Beth Phillips. He camps nearby to capture the wolf, but can he capture Beth's heart, too? Two souls, each lost in their own way, are brought together by one of God's beautiful creations. Will the Lord's path to their destiny be found in the woods?
A sudden shuffling outside the cabin heightened all of Beth Phillips’ senses to full alert.
Snuggled in her sleeping bag atop an airbed, she admonished her imagination. This wasn’t a vast forest inhabited by huge creatures. She was safe in this run-down cabin in the Platte River woods.
But just in case, she secured the flashlight near the edge of her pillow.
Beth pushed up on an elbow and squinted at the lock at the base of the bare window. The flashlight rolled off the mattress and clinked to the floor. She checked her wristwatch time by the moon’s reflection. Ten past ten. She was usually asleep by now, but the full moon made it eerily bright.
Outside the window, tree shapes and varied shadows filled her limited view. Nothing swayed in the slight breeze other than branches and bushes. The buds of new leaves stood out in fuzzy relief against the moon.
She stretched higher, searched for movement on the ground, and commanded her pulse to slow. It picked up its pace when she jumped at an intrusive thump. Something unseen hit the back side of the cabin and shook the whole side wall.
Her breath caught. Her heartbeat thundered in her ears.
A man’s quiet curse came from right outside the bedroom window. She shifted below the sill so she wouldn’t be seen through the glass.
Her stomach hardened into a familiar mass of knots. She covered her mouth with both hands to choke back a scream.
Could it be—?
No. He couldn’t find her here.
She tried to swallow, fought the rising clot of nausea.
What is wrong with me? She’d asked herself that question since she was a child.
Beth refused to give in to the familiar panic.
Not this time. She willed strength to override fear.
Mobilized into action, she slithered out from under the sleeping bag. Her fingers trembled as she searched in vain for her flashlight.
She crouched to her feet and crushed the urge to match the stranger’s curses. Once the flashlight was again secure in her grasp, she dared a closer look, keeping her shoulders beneath the windowsill.
Lord, help me, she screamed in silence.
Afraid to make noise, she ordered her trembling fingers to stop rattling against the sill. She focused, as though narrowing her vision could keep her safe. Then she peered out.
The prison authorities promised advance notice when her ex-husband neared release. Calm yourself. No way can he find me here.
Visions of who, or what, might be outside the door weighed her down. She felt paralyzed, too scared to move.
Beth clamped her back teeth against the hated, helpless feeling of giving in to an emotion she was so determined to rise above.
A scrape followed the next thud. In front of the cabin, now.
Her body trembled. Her mind screamed in denial at what sounded like a work boot connecting with one of her sawhorses.
She fought the buzzing in her ears. No way would she give in, be blinded by fear. Her mind carried on an argument with her feelings. This can’t be happening. I’m supposed to be safe.
She grappled with the urge to react as she would have in the past, with her own colorful expletives. She managed to draw in cleansing, calming oxygen, but it hissed from her body.
Oh Lord, forgive me for not thinking of You, first. Please, please, be with me as I cross this room.
Her will to survive felt as strong as iron. Adrenaline popped into action. In two steps she leaped through the bedroom door. In two more running steps she blasted open the front door. Her free hand flipped on the porch light.
A huge, dark shadow dove into a plum thicket.
Beth followed instinct. She dropped the light and grabbed a three-foot-long two-by-four. She heaved it towards the figure crouching in the brush.
“Ooof!” What had hit him in the head? Aiden Holt rubbed at the lump already forming and lost his flashlight.
Never mind the flashlight. Why in the world was there a cabin light?
He swiveled on the balls of his feet. Yet at the same time, he felt like a lumbering fool.
When he caught sight of the woman framed in the doorway, he refused to relax. This small woman looked like no threat. But she could have a gun.
“Who’s out there?” her husky voice demanded.
Maybe she was a threat. He could only see one hand. The cabin was supposed to be abandoned. He rubbed his fingers against his stinging side where the wood had connected.
“Nebraska Game and Parks, ma’am. Would you show your other hand, please?”
Careful not to become a visible target, he knelt behind a tree trunk and bent to pick up his light. Then keeping the woman within sight, he stepped into the dim glow coming from the porch.
“I’m not a threat.” He stood. “See. Only a flashlight in my hand.” Aiden swallowed. “I’d feel a lot better, though, if you’d show your other hand.”
What a relief when she revealed empty palms.
Then he approached the edge of the narrow porch and took a full look. She appeared no bigger than a minute. Even dressed in bulky sweats, she was too slight for his liking. Her blonde hair went every which way, as though she’d been crawling through a plum thicket of her own. If the room were lit beyond the door he’d be able to tell what color her eyes were.
“What are you doing sneaking around my place in the dark?” she snapped.
“First, I had no idea anyone was staying here. The cabin appeared empty. Second, who are you, and do you have permission to be here?”
“I’m Beth Phillips. I know who I am. But I don’t know you. It’s late. Any business you have here will have to wait until tomorrow.”
“Oh, I have a reason to come back.”
“Tell me why, please.”
“I’m here about a reported wolf sighting.”
“A wolf? I’ve never heard of a wolf in Nebraska.” Humor colored her tone.
“I just got into town and wanted to get a sense of where the river runs. I thought I saw an animal tear into the trees about a quarter mile back and decided to investigate.” He gave her a shoulder, turned back for a last look. She didn’t appear strong enough to stay out here by herself.
“You sure surprised me when you flung that two-by-four. What exactly are you doing?” He swung his arm in an arc. “Place looks uninhabitable to me.”
“I’m renovating. And I’d really like to get to sleep.”
“Sorry to disturb you. I’ll be back tomorrow, then.”