Out of Mind
Maximum Exposure Book 2
by Kendall Talbot
Genre: Romantic Suspense, Adventure
Holly knew the romantic helicopter ride up to the remote peak of Whisky Mountain was a bad idea. But she never expected it to snatch her fiancé from her—or destroy her life. A few fiery seconds turn a postcard-perfect morning in the Canadian Rockies into a snowy hell, thirteen thousand feet above sea level. And in the midst of grief and agony, Holly catches sight of a scene in the ice that will haunt her until she can return and discover the truth.
Oliver Nelson could see the stranger had a mystery inside her. The scars on her face, the pain in her eyes, the insistence that he teach her completely alone—no one needs to learn rock climbing, or so he thought. But the more he gets to know her, the more he admires her drive, her ingenuity, and that little edge of recklessness. If she can trust him with her story, he’s ready to follow her wherever her heart takes her.
But nature’s deadly beauty isn’t the only danger waiting for them on Whisky Mountain. To survive, Oliver and Holly will have to move fast—and think faster . . .
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This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity was supposed to be fun. But the buffering wind and shuddering windows made it so far from fun she could barely breathe. According to the pilot, a private picnic on the west summit of one of Canada’s highest peaks had never been done before. But Milton had charmed the man with both his expert persuasion skills and his generosity with money. So much so that the pilot simply couldn’t refuse.
Twelve thousand dollars had been his tipping point. For that, not only did they get a private helicopter, but the pilot also provided expensive champagne, a gourmet feast, and a folding table and three chairs, ready to be set up wherever they wanted.
Milton was capable of convincing anyone to do anything. Her being on Whiskey Mountain was a testament to that. She never did anything that even hinted at danger.
Death had a way of following her. Her brother died as a three-week-old baby. Her father went to work one day and never came home. Her best friend died in a freak accident that’d perplexed all the authorities. Even her one and only pet didn’t make it past puppy stage. And Holly was only twenty-four years old. Based on that average, one death every five or so years, she was due again. She smacked the disturbing statistic away and wiped her sweating palms on her ski pants.
Shielding her eyes from the sun, she looked up at the mountain peak. The snowcapped granite wall jutted skyward like an enormous shark fin. It was an interesting color, like the rocks were gilded in copper. She wondered if that’s why it’d been named Whiskey Mountain. With each foot they rose, it appeared to grow wider and higher, and the very tip glistened like a diamond.
The helicopter shot over the ski resort’s highest cable car station, leaving behind the last signs of civilization. The lump of dread, deep in the pit of her stomach, hit a whole new level. The white terrain stretched as far as she could see. Even the trees had given up trying to live here.
When Holly had suggested to Milton that they take a vacation, she’d envisaged lying in hammocks on a deserted beach, sipping fancy drinks out of coconuts. Not this. Not high in the mountains where snow and ice blanketed every surface. Cold weather seeped into her bones. Her mother said it was because she didn’t eat enough. Her fiancé said it was because she didn’t eat meat. Ever since their first date, two years ago, Milton had been trying to coax her off her strict vegetarian diet.
“Having fun?” Milton beamed at her. His eyes were hidden behind mirrored glasses, but she could picture the dazzle of excitement in his brown irises that she’d come to love.
Swallowing a bitter taste in her mouth, she decided to dodge his question. “It’s magnificent.” The last thing she’d do was voice her fear, not when he looked to be enjoying it so much. And especially not in front of Milton’s son, who’d commandeered the front seat next to the pilot. Kane had visited more countries in his seventeen years than Holly had dreamed of.
He hated Holly…and had made it his mission to tell her so at every opportunity. He blamed her for breaking up his parents’ marriage. She hadn’t. Their marriage was fractured long before Milton strolled into the coffee shop where she worked.
Holly had suggested to Milton that a vacation would be the perfect opportunity for Kane to get to know her better. She was desperate to prove to Milton’s son that she was worthy of his father’s love. At least, that’d been her plan.
Out of Reach
Maximum Exposure Book 1
Lily saw the temple of Agulinta on television: a vast stone structure swallowed by the Yucatan jungle, rediscovered only now after hundreds of years. So why did the papers she found after her father’s death show the same mysterious carvings that puzzled archaeologists at Agulinta? Her search for answers pulls her to Mexico’s southern border, where the journey to the lost temple will take her through jungle and mountain, over waters home to crocodiles and drug runners, and into uncomfortably close quarters with a man whose need to wander has become a way of life . . .
Australian Carter Logan’s work as a nature photographer has given him the excuse he needs to roam wherever his restless feet take him. But in all the time he’s traveled, he’s never been drawn to anyone the way he is to this determined, cagey young American. Lily’s perseverance through dirt, sweat, and danger to the heart of the ancient temple fires through him. But when the two of them are left alone and stranded in a vicious wilderness, their connection might prove the difference between life and death . . . if the secrets of the past don’t come between them first.
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She’d already memorized everything inside its weathered pages.
Especially her late father’s sketch of the unusual temple she’d been shocked to see on CNN six weeks ago. According to the news report, the newly discovered, three-thousand-year-old Agulinta Temple had been hidden for centuries—literally consumed by the Mexican jungle.
Yet, somehow her father knew it existed.
The temptation to open the journal again was powerful . . . too powerful.
She pulled it from her satchel and flicked over the yellowed pages, stopping on his drawing of a hollowed-out circular statue, like a giant donut. Around the face of the structure, pictographs appeared to tell a story. CNN had shown footage of a statue at Agulinta Temple exactly like this. Exactly.
A branch with enormous elephant-ear-sized leaves swiped the side of the taxi, brushing the elbow she’d leaned out the door. It was hard to know what was worse—the hot air seeping through the car vents or the humid air blowing in through the window. Shifting on the cracked vinyl seat, she tugged her cotton dress over her knees, hoping for a slight breeze up her skirt, but it was pointless.
She cleared her throat. “How much farther?”
The taxi driver looked at her in the mirror and smiled, showing off his chipped front tooth. “Not long.”
That’s what he’d said an hour ago.
Her mind drifted back to the horror written on her mother’s face when they’d opened the beat-up old suitcase they’d discovered in her father’s shed after he’d passed away. Lily thought she’d known her father well, until that moment.
Alongside the leather-bound journal, they’d also found a collection of black-and-white photos. The implications behind the pictures further shattered her mother’s already broken heart. His sudden death meant their future was forever changed; however, the mysterious items they’d found in that case, changed their past too.
For nearly a year, she’d watched her mother’s slide into a grieving darkness, dragging Lily and her brothers along with her. Lily had feared the secrets her father had taken to his grave were destined to remain unsolved.
Until CNN revealed Agulinta Temple to the world.
From the moment she’d seen that news report and heard the archaeologist’s declaration that the unusual shape of the ancient statue was one of a kind, she’d made it her mission to come down to Mexico and see Agulinta for herself. She needed answers. As did her mother. It’d been a whirlwind couple of weeks, and she still couldn’t believe she was here.
Lily took a tissue from her satchel and dabbed it across her neck and chest before using it to soak up the sweat under her armpits. The driver snuck a glance at her, but when she met his gaze, he quickly looked away. She was used to that. With six older brothers, and overprotective parents, she’d felt the eyes of someone watching her whole life. It was like living in a snow globe, and when things tipped upside-down, they’d all be watching to see how she’d handle it.
That wasn’t how she’d ended up here, though. Traveling to the middle of the Mexican jungle had been her decision. She’d listened to everyone’s objections, fielding calls from every member of her family and her girlfriends.
Her boss had put his foot down, proclaiming the trip too dangerous for a woman like her, which made her even more determined. Taking her new position with More to Explore was a stepping-stone for her career. It had also relocated her from Montana, where she’d grown up under the wings of her abundant family, and into her own dinky little apartment in Seattle.
Defying them all, she’d taken unpaid leave to make this journey from Seattle to the jungles of Mexico. Once she’d proved her decision was final, her boss, being the dirtbag he was, had added a caveat: If she did write a story, and if it was any good, the magazine would publish it.
Everybody thought she was crazy.
Maybe she was.
But this was something she had to do. For her mother’s sake. And her own. People had been controlling her all her life. It was time to show everyone that Lily had grown up.
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