Can they conquer the mountains and the past in time to save Hope?
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Seventeen-year-old Hope Craig is deaf and training hard to make the biathlon Olympic Team. But when she is kidnapped from the groomed trails and taken to a remote cabin in the mountains, she must battle more than the elements to survive.
On the hunt for her daughter's abductor, Colonel Amelia Matheson enlists the help of Richmond Morgan, a local Sheriff who once hurt her. To find Hope, Sheriff Morgan and Colonel Matheson must untangle a web of secrets, including their own.
Using her wits and skills, Hope sets out to escape the mountains and save the man her mother had sent to rescue her – a man who is not who he appears to be.
The snow glistened in the early morning sun and the air sparkled with tiny crystals, changing the mountains into a picturesque Christmas card.
Quest loved the serenity and beauty of winter with as much passion as she loved skiing and shooting.
Her skis glided on the trail, packing the fresh snow into two parallel lines every time she raced down a hill and adding crisscross design to every slope she climbed. Ahead of her, a cute blond guy with dark brown eyes and a smile that could melt a glacier, groomed the trail. The vibrations of his machine sizzled through Quest's body, but as the distance between them grew farther, the sensation faded away.
Her rifle bounced on her back, unloaded, a comforting ally in her silent world. Alone on the trail, Quest didn't bring any ammunition for target practice and didn't wear her transmitter. Later on, once she rejoined the other athletes, she would rectify both situations.
To give her brief reprieves from the white noise she must tolerate in order to hear, Coach Goldman had requested special accommodations. Thanks to him, Quest had been granted permission to train in the early morning solitude of the sleepy mountains, outside the normal hours of operation. She appreciated the consideration.
As she ventured deeper into the forested area, the naked trees cuddled closer against the evergreens, blocking her view of the valley below.
Being invited by her coach to the altitude training camp at Snowy Tip had been a dream come true. Convincing her mother and grandfather to let her take the year off and postpone her entrance to Princeton University in order to train full-time for the Olympic trials had required grueling efforts and perseverance.
White clouds formed around her mouth with every breath she took. After two months in Montana, her lungs had adapted to the lower atmospheric pressure. She no longer felt the effect of the altitude. The trials were three weeks away. She was as ready—mentally and physically—as she'd ever be.
Beads of perspiration trickled between her shoulder blades, quickly whisked away by the microfiber undershirt she wore like a second skin. Every piece of clothing and equipment played a role, down to her gloves from which she'd cut off the tip of the right index finger to better feel the resistance of the trigger when she fired.
The flat section ahead curved around a frozen pond. Red markers delimited the perimeter of the ice surface in case some skiers were tempted to cross over.
A yellow light reflecting over the white blanket of snow caught Quest's attention. Pausing, she looked behind her. Two snowmobiles were headed in her direction. The last one pulled a rake on the ground, mimicking the grooming effect and erasing her ski tracks. Puzzled by their presence on the trail, she moved to the side to let them pass. As they approached, they slowed down, stopping a few feet away from her.
Despite the cold and wind, the ski masks covering their faces weren't common attires among the maintenance crewmembers. One driver stood up. Big and stocky in his black snowsuit, he looked more like a man than a woman.
Trying her best not to appear intimidated, Quest glanced back and forth between the two of them as she tried to decipher which one led the pack. "Is there a problem, guys?"
The lips of the closer individual moved. "Hope Craig?"
Only strangers—and her mother—called her Hope. "Who wants to know?"
He pulled a gun on her. "No reaching for your rifle. You're coming with us."