Shannon here: Stacy Monson shares how her characters’ meet in her latest Contemporary Romance, When Mountains Sing. Comment or answer the question at the end of any post dated July 30th – Aug 2nd to enter the drawing. One print and one e-book up for grabs. Deadline: Aug 10th, 11:59 pm central time. Here’s Stacy:
Mikayla Gordon is an outdoor enthusiast, a columnist for an outdoor magazine, and a young woman on a search for answers now that her life has been turned inside out. Her journey takes her from Minnesota to Michigan, and finally to Colorado, encountering roadblocks all along the way. Enthralled by her first experience in the mountains, she heads out on a hike.
Dawson Dunne has been the director of Outlook Adventure Camp, a faith-based leadership camping experience, since his friend, mentor, and boss died several months earlier. He loves leading groups of teens into the wilderness, encouraging them to reach for their potential while sharing his faith in the God who created the beauty around them.
Neither is looking for love when they encounter each other on a mountain trail, but their meeting changes everything. Dawson is impressed with the pretty young woman who steps in to help one of his teens, while Mikayla has never met someone like the cute leader who seems dedicated to his youth group.
Let’s climb that mountain trail and eavesdrop…
Excerpt from When Mountains Sing by Stacy Monson:
She shared bites of her lunch with her sweet traveling companion, laughing at Lula’s enthusiastic exploration after each mouthful. She couldn’t imagine being on this journey without her. She’d have abandoned the search several times if Lula’s bright-eyed expression hadn’t offered the encouragement she needed.
Back on the trail, they needed only one more stop before reaching the top. Breathless, Mikayla stood, hands on her hips as she surveyed the beauty of the hidden lake surrounded by trees and craggy cliffs. Lula darted back and forth, sniffing, listening, peeking cautiously over the edge of the rocks.
“This is well worth the effort, wouldn’t you say, Lula?” Mikayla sat at the base of a gnarly old tree and opened her backpack. She filled a cup with water for Lula, then drank deeply from her hydration pack, leaning back with a contented sigh. From overhead came the sweet twitter of birds as they danced from branch to branch, and from below the splash of water that spilled into the lake. The knots in her back had steadily loosened with each step upward, the stress of days in the car littering the path behind.
Lula climbed into her lap and licked her chin. Mikayla smiled, stroking her small frame. “I’d be happy to just stop time and spend a month or six in this very spot. I don’t really need to find that guy, do I? My life was just fine before…”
The words trailed. Before knowing she had a hole in her heart. Before DNA. Before everything blew up and she was left with the shell of her life.
“I da winner! You da loser. Again.” The gloating male voice, accompanied by the scuffle of many feet, startled her from her musing. Lula shot off her lap and stood yipping protectively between her and the teen boys as they emerged from the woods and reached the plateau.
“Hey, look at Bigfoot over there,” one said, pointing at the fierce warrior dog.
Mikayla laughed and got to her feet, scooping Lula with one arm. “Watch it. Attitude counts for something. At least it does when you’re this small.”
The boys joined her, laughing and jostling each other to pet Lula, who now wagged her feathery tail, protectiveness forgotten under the attention.
“She’s definitely got attitude. What kind of dog is she?”
“A Chion, a mix of Chihuahua and Papillon. Tough, isn’t she?”
Three teen girls joined them, squealing with delight. “Oh, she’s so sweet! How cute is she? What’s her name? Can I hold her?”
The boys raced off to explore the area while the girls crowded around Mikayla. A bubbly brunette with a high ponytail coaxed Lula into her arms and snuggled her close. Mikayla told them what she knew about Lula, able to laugh now at her discovery that Lula got carsick.
“So what do we have here?” The male voice was older, tinged with laughter.
“Look, Daws. Isn’t she cute? She’s a…a…” The brunette glanced back at Mikayla.
“A cheeon,” she enunciated. “She’s so adorable. And she has the cutest name. Lula. Want to hold her?”
The young man blinked as Lula was thrust into his hands, then held her up for inspection. She stared back at him, wide-eyed. “Well, you sure are a tiny thing. That’s the littlest nose I’ve ever seen on an actual dog. You can’t weigh five pounds soaking wet.”
“Five very fierce pounds,” Mikayla laughed, accepting her when he held her out.
“I believe it.” He winked and Mikayla’s heart bumped.
“Dawson, check this out,” one of the boys called from where they’d climbed on rocks at the far side.
“Nice to meet you, Lula.” He stroked Lula’s head then lifted a smile to Mikayla. “And Lula’s mom. I’d better get back to work to keep them from falling off the mountain.”
The girls had wandered away, so Mikayla settled back at the base of the tree and watched Dawson join the boys. He was relaxed and cheerful as they bantered back and forth, keeping an eye on the girls who sat chatting and admiring the view of the lake below. Solidly built, a bandana tied over dark curls, his aura of strength was offset by the gentleness she’d seen in how he’d handled Lula.
He called the group together at the far side of the plateau. They sat in a haphazard circle listening to whatever he was saying. He had an easy command of their attention, making them laugh, apparently asking questions and then listening intently. Conversation flowed among the group, then they quieted and bowed their heads.
Ahh. A church group of some kind. Elbows on her knees, Mikayla propped her chin in her hand and turned her attention to the lake. An interesting twist to the trail guide idea. Using nature to talk about faith. Or was he using faith to talk about nature? She knew a lot about nature but nothing of faith. It hadn’t been part of their family except for holidays and an occasional wedding or funeral. And Sunday mornings had their own sacred ritual—fishing with Dad in sun, rain, snow or ice.
Now, with the mess her life had become, it was doubtful faith in a God she couldn’t see would change much. Her vision blurred and she blinked against the sting. But maybe if there were something like that to hold onto, she wouldn’t feel adrift in this ocean of anger and uncertainty.
The group finished their prayer and started back toward the trail, the girls waving farewell. Mikayla waved back and watched them disappear into the woods. For them faith was probably real. For her it would just be a crutch, a way to get through a tough time. That didn’t seem right. Either you believed it or not. She rubbed her eyes and sighed. She’d always relied on herself. And Dad. She couldn’t just manufacture faith in something she’d never understood and expect it to give her answers.
She’d focus on accomplishing what she set out to do, the way Dad taught her. There wasn’t time for spiritual musings, not now anyway. Maybe someday. She’d keep her mantra in the front of her mind—show no weakness. Rely only on yourself.
Pushing to her feet, she dusted off her jeans and called Lula from her wanderings. She wouldn’t see any wildlife on the way down following the noisy church group and their cute leader. She smiled and started after them. She’d rather look at him anyway with that curly hair and long lashes over smiling brown eyes. If she hurried, she could catch up…
Twenty minutes into the downward climb, she found them gathered at the side the path. The leader was on a walkie-talkie while several girls crouched beside the brunette with the ponytail.
“Hey, guys,” Mikayla greeted them as she drew closer. “Something wrong?”
“Hannah tripped and hurt her ankle,” came the jumbled response from the group.
Mikayla held back a grimace at the sight of the swollen joint as she knelt beside the girl.
Tear-reddened eyes looked up at her. “Is it…b-broken?” Hannah hiccupped.
“Hard to say, honey. Definitely sprained. An x-ray will show what’s wrong when we get you down the mountain.”
“B-but how?” Tears spilled over. “I can’t even s-stand up.”
Mikayla laid a gentle hand on her arm. “We’ll wrap your ankle so it’s stable, and then the others can help you.”
“Hey,” came Dawson’s voice. “Thanks for stopping.”
Mikayla glanced up with a nod. “No way would I just go past Lula’s favorite new friend. Speaking of which…” She unhooked the front pack. “How about if Hannah watches Lula while we get her ankle wrapped?”
She ignored the lift of his brow as she slid out of the pack, Lula still snug inside, and leaned toward Hannah. “Could I ask you to hold her for a minute, hon?”
Hannah held out shaking arms and Mikayla slid the straps of the front pack up to her shoulders. “Thanks. This way she won’t get lost while we get you ready to head out. Sound good?”
Hannah nodded and buried her nose in Lula’s fur. Mikayla stood and followed Dawson a few steps away where he faced her.
“Thanks again for stopping. I’ve radioed ahead so there’ll be an ambulance waiting. Once we get her set, a couple of the guys will help her get down.”
“I have a few things in my backpack that might help.”
He didn’t hide his surprise. “For splinting?”
“Among other things.”
“Wow. That’s great. I’ve got a few things as well. Can you start getting her leg stabilized?”
Before she stepped away, he thrust out a hand. “I’m Dawson, by the way.”
His smile revealed a dimple at the corner of his mouth as he released her hand. “Thanks, Mikayla.”
“Glad to help.” She returned to Hannah and knelt beside her, pulling a rolled newspaper, small blanket and cloth strips from her backpack. “Hannah, let’s get your leg ready for a splint. That will keep it protected and make you more comfortable. Can you lift your leg a bit so I can slide this blanket under it?”
“I don’t… It hurts,” Hannah whimpered.
“I know, hon. Here, I’ll help you. Just up a bit.” She deftly slid the blanket under her leg. “There. Perfect.”
Dawson joined them, and they worked quickly to complete the wrapping. Hannah’s sniffling stopped when the injury was set, then she managed a smile when Lula licked her cheek.
“Why don’t you head down with the rest of the group,” Mikayla suggested in an aside to Dawson, “and I’ll hang back with the boys who are going to help Hannah.”
Fists on his hips, he frowned. “I don’t like leaving part of the group behind.”
“I get that, but there’s no point in all of us creeping our way down,” she countered. “It’ll be way past dark at that rate. Get the other kids down and then, if you need to, head back up to check on us.” Not that she needed checking up on, but she understood his reluctance to leave part of his group with a complete stranger. “We’ll work our way down slowly.”
He unclipped the walkie-talkie from his belt and handed it to her. “You can let me know your progress. Zeke knows how to work it.”
About Stacy: Stacy Monson is the award-winning author of The Chain of Lakes series, including Shattered Image, Dance of Grace, and The Color of Truth, and also Open Circle. Her stories reveal an extraordinary God at work in ordinary life. She’s an active member of American Christian Fiction Writers (ACFW) and the MN Christian Writers Guild (MCWG). Residing in the Twin Cities, she is the wife of a juggling, unicycling recently-retired physical education teacher, mom to two amazing kids and two wonderful in-law kids, and a very proud grandma of 4 (and counting) grands.
For news about upcoming books, contests, giveaways, and other fun stuff – stop by www.stacymonson.com and sign up for her monthly newsletter. You can find information about her speaking ministry there, as well. Learn more & connect:
About the book – When Mountains Sing:
When the truth cost her everything, she thought there was nothing left to lose.
Mikayla Gordon loves nothing more than sleeping under the stars, reeling in the “big one,” and long hikes in the wilderness. A medical crisis reveals a 30-year-old secret that turns everything she’s known and believed upside down, unraveling her dreams and her identity.
In search of answers, she follows a trail from Minnesota to Colorado and discovers more unwelcome secrets even as she falls in love with the majestic beauty of the Rocky Mountains, and a wilderness camp leader who shares the greatest secret of all.
Knowing her life can never go back to what it was, she must make decisions that will impact far more than just her future.
Can’t wait for the drawing or worried you won’t win? Pre-order you copy now! On sale for .99 through August 6th! When Mountains Sing – Amazon
Question for Readers: What’s the most fun thing you’ve ever done with a church group?