The River

Free The River by Cheryl Kaye Tardif

Book: The River by Cheryl Kaye Tardif Read Free Book Online
Authors: Cheryl Kaye Tardif
skin. And very, very revealing.
    She stole a peek at Jake and caught his admiring gaze.
    He was a dangerous man. Dangerously appealing. Falling for him could only lead to trouble―and she sure as hell didn't need any more of that.
     
    Del was stuffed.
    Supper had consisted of mouthwatering cheese tortellini in pesto sauce, spinach mandarin salad drizzled with Balsamic vinegar and orange juice, followed by fresh fruit salad.
    After months of skipping meals, or existing on takeout and Ichiban noodles, she thought she'd died and gone to heaven. If she wasn't careful, she'd end up gaining a ton of weight. And then she wouldn't fit into her jeans―whether the top button was secretly unfastened or not.
    Under Hawk's supervision, they washed the dishes, stored the food in the cache and repacked their bags for the morning portage ―the grueling walk along the trail to the Nahanni River. When he gave a final nod of satisfaction, they gathered around the campfire, sharing two bottles of strawberry wine.
    "My wife made this," Hawk said. "It's a little potent."
    Del took a nervous sip. "It's very good."
    TJ nudged Hawk. "You gonna tell us ghost stories, dawg?"
    "Only real ones."
    Francesca threw Hawk a disdainful look. "You can't tell ghost stories when the sun's shining. It's not the same. How can you stand it being light all the time?"
    "When you've lived here most of your life, you get used to it."
    TJ leaned forward impatiently. "Get on with the story, dawg."
    "The Nahanni National Park is filled with ghosts," Hawk said. "Especially those who died violent deaths."
    Del flinched, thinking of Neil Parnitski, her father's boss. There was no doubt in her mind that having one's head sliced clean off counted as a violent death.
    "For thousands of years, the Nahanni Indians, or the Nahaa as we were once called, lived along the shores of the MacKenzie and Liard Rivers. It was the white fur traders who called us Nahanni . Ever hear of the MacLeod brothers?"
    Del shook her head.
    "Back in the late 1800's, people were struck with gold fever. In 1904, two of the MacLeod brothers hit the Nahanni in search of their fortunes. Last time anyone saw them alive was when Willie, Frank and a young Scotsman headed for the mountains."
    Hawk took a long swig of wine.
    "What happened to them?" Gary asked.
    "Their other brother, Charlie, went searching for them. He found them, all right. They'd been shot in the middle of the night. Willie and Frank MacLeod were still lying in their sleeping bags. Afterward, the area was named Deadmen Valley."
    Del felt tiny fingers of fear slide up her spine. "What about the Scotsman?"
    "They never found him. Oh, I didn't tell you the worst part."
    "What could be worse than getting shot in your sleep?" Jake asked dryly.
    "The MacLeod bothers were missing their heads."
    Del gasped.
    Just like Neil Parnitski.
    TJ eyed Hawk suspiciously. "Is this for real, dawg?"
    "As real as it gets. Some stories say they were found tied to trees. Some say nothing was left but their skeletons. But most legends say they were found headless. And they weren't the only ones who died mysteriously on the Nahanni. Over the past fifty years, there've been many reports of unusual deaths, headless skeletons. Just a few years back, some scientists went miss―"
    Del jerked to her feet.
    Sucking in an agonizing breath, she rushed toward the lake.
    There was no way she was going to listen to some campfire ghost story about her father and his friends.
    TJ's hand clamped down on her shoulder. "You okay?"
    "Nothing will ever be okay, TJ. Not until I find him."
    He wrapped his arm around her. "You'll find him."
    They stood, silent, watching the glassy surface of the lake.
    A few minutes later, she followed him back to the campfire.
    Hawk raised his head. "I'm sorry, Del."
    "What for?"
    "I told him why we're here," Jake said. "His partner, McGee, was the guide for your dad's group."
    Hawk nodded. "McGee's never been the same since. He said they just up and

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