Daphne’s story is a horrifying one. Truly though, when you get right down to it, this is Ryan’s story – told from his point of view. She comes to him broken and he believes he has nothing left to offer the world at large. A woman more wounded than he is pushes him past his boundaries, makes him take risks again, open up again, and ultimately connect again.
Ryan treats her, heals her, and shows her she is strong enough to survive what she’s been through – and good enough to still get a happily ever after.
If you haven’t read “The Hermit” – I hope you’ll give it a chance. That you fall a little in love with Ryan like I did while writing it…that you’ll cheer for Daphne when she discovers a core of steel she truly didn’t believe she had.
An Excerpt of “The Hermit“
Ryan Wallace hiked up the mountain, lost in thought as he always was. Some days he was lost in memory and those days were harder on him. He’d toyed with the idea of taking his life but somehow, it felt like the coward’s way out. He’d made his choices and it was only right that he deal with the consequences.
If he’d been walking just two steps to the left, he’d have missed her completely.
Walked right past her and she would have died of exposure within hours. If he hadn’t stumbled across what he at first thought was a child in the deepest wilderness of Alaska’s Wrangell Mountains, Ryan’s life would have gone on as it had for so long.
He didn’t miss her. He didn’t pass her. He tripped over her still form and barely caught himself, scrambling back to stare at her in shock and confusion.
He lived twenty miles from his closest neighbors, there were no roads, and the nearby river was packed with snow and ice this time of year. That meant she’d traveled overland on foot. How she’d survived at all puzzled him. There was a time when puzzles had meant everything to him. Ryan felt the familiar itch between his shoulder blades. The itch that told him he couldn’t rest until he knew how she’d come to be here.
He stood staring down at her for a long time before he approached. She could already be dead. She wore boots with no socks and clothes so thin there were places they were transparent.
It had been four years since he’d seen another person. He’d packed in ten years of supplies when he’d sold everything he owned and walked away from what was left of his life. Fresh goods were air-dropped in a meadow not far from his cabin and charged to his credit card without the annoying chatter other customers might require.
Solitude was a choice he’d made. Having it disturbed was…unexpected.
Sighing deep in his chest, he crouched beside her and removed a glove, immediately noting the jagged scar along her jaw that spoke of a serious injury and likely great pain. As Ryan reached out to take her pulse, his hand trembled.
He had no choice; he had to touch her to help her. He was many things but a cold-blooded murderer of innocents would never be one of them. He clenched his hand in a fist and sent a message through his body and mind to step the fuck up already. When he opened his hand again, his fingers were steady as a rock.
Placing them on her neck, he felt a pulse so shallow he almost missed it. She was in danger of freezing if he didn’t get her to shelter immediately.
Tugging his backpack off his shoulders, he removed a thermal blanket and wrapped it around her body. He pulled the bed roll blanket out and added that, placing his pack beneath her head. Standing, he set about making a litter from branches and twine to transport her back to his cabin.
He moved quickly, knowing he had only two hours before he lost the light and would be forced to make camp. Alone, this wouldn’t bother him but allowing her to remain at the mercy of the elements for another twelve hours would kill her. Of this, he was certain.
She was his responsibility now. It was his job to keep her safe and make her well so she could go back where she belonged and leave him alone again. Alone but not at peace. Never at peace.
He used his bedroll to shield her from the rough twine, lifting and moving her to lie on it, shocked at how little she weighed. He carefully tucked the blankets around her and used more twine to secure her to the litter.
Pack over his shoulders again, he stood staring out at the Kennecott Glacier in the distance with his hands on his narrow hips.
“I don’t know why you’ve sent this person to me. I won’t pretend to understand. I’ll help her and send her away. Is this going to become a regular thing? Sending me underfed strays to patch up?”
When there was no answer, he pinched the bridge of his nose between his finger and thumb, squeezing to relieve the tension building there. “Okay, let’s get this over with.” He turned back and lifted the litter, hauling it behind him as he retraced his steps.