A chance to start over means risking her heart.
Twenty-five years after her mother dragged her from Fog’s Edge, Shelby Barrett returns at the request of her grandfather’s executor. The terms of the will are very specific and include Shelby taking on a leadership role in the community – a role not everyone is happy to have an outsider fill. With a vote that could impact the future of Fog’s Edge on the horizon, Shelby must decide if staying in town is really what she wants. And the very tempting chief of police is making that decision more difficult.
After years away serving his country, Stone Childers has returned to Fog’s Edge and settled into a comfortable life. As chief of police, the most danger he faces is keeping the tourists safe from wildlife – and himself safe from cougars of a different kind. When the granddaughter of an old friend returns to town, his comfortable life is turned on its end.
Fog’s Edge is embattled in a fight for its future. Opposing sides bring bitter family battles to the table. Perhaps a little new blood is what is needed, especially if it can unite long-time rivals.
What Inspired You to Write Your Book?
The idea for this book came to me while driving to my grandfather’s funeral. I was crossing the mountains just outside Knoxville when I encountered a fog so thick that I couldn’t see the end of the hood of my car. It was dark and misting outside, which made my headlights reflect the fog instead of penetrating through it. I was literally going 35 on a major interstate, and I was the only car around for miles. I’d recently read an article about the history of Native Americans in Tennessee – the state name is actually from a Native word. Well, as is common, the two combined themselves and morphed into the story for Fog’s Edge.
How Did You Come up With Your Characters?
I knew that my main characters were going to be of Native American descent, so I started researching various tribes. I was drawn to the Yuchi for many reasons – their perseverance and their ability to accept all cultures to name a few. Stone was the first character that spoke to me. He wanted to tell the history of the Yuchi. Then Shelby entered the picture and thoughts of history fled – as they tend to do when a man sees the woman of his dreams. But Shelby was like an injured animal – Stone needed to proceed carefully in order to win her trust. They struggled for a while in my head until I reassured them that they would both have their stories told.
Shelby stood looking up at the cabin built into the side of the mountain. It had been over twenty-five years since she’d seen it, but the memories stored by her six-year-old brain were surfacing in flashes, almost like snapshots. Her grandfather chasing her around the yard. Her grandmother baking cookies in the kitchen. The sound of faded laughter. It had been so long since she laughed that even in her memory the sound was odd.
Fighting tears at the emotions that were threatening to drown her, Shelby stepped onto the front porch and turned around to look at the view. The town of Fog’s Edge was about a mile downhill, on the banks of a curve in the Watts Fork River in Roane County, Tennessee. It had grown from what she could remember, but those memories were faded with time and life experience. The river beyond was sparkling in the last of the afternoon sun. She couldn’t stop the tears that ran down her face as the beauty of the view before her stood in stark contrast to the ugliness of her life.
She stiffened as Duncan Edwards wrapped an arm around her shoulders. It was another first-in-a-long-time experience. Shelby had been avoiding human contact for so many years that the habit to pull away from him was nearly unconscious. But for some reason she couldn’t make herself withdraw. Perhaps it was because his hand rested on her good shoulder, or perhaps it was because he was the same age as her grandfather. Shelby could remember sitting on Duncan’s lap as a small child and the memory offered her as much comfort as the feel of his embrace.
Neither of them said anything as they stood there looking over the valley. Slowly, Shelby’s tears dried up, and she stepped out from under Duncan’s protective arm. Turning, she offered a small smile but was at a loss for words.
“I’m glad you agreed to come home, Shelby,” Duncan said in his raspy voice. His brown hair was nearly all gray now, but his hazel eyes were still as compassionate as they’d always been. His face was lined with wrinkles, and his hands showed age spots that hadn’t been there the last time Shelby saw him. “I’m just sorry we didn’t find you before your granddad died.” The mention of Sandy Barrett brought sadness into the old man’s eyes, and this time it was Shelby stepping forward to wrap her arms around Duncan.
“I wish I’d known to come back here, but I thought he died when I was young. I always thought Mom and I were on our own.” Shelby swallowed down the bitterness that threatened to overpower her every time she thought of her mother. It was a never-ending cycle – loving her mother, missing her, being angry, feeling abandoned, and finally, bitterness at how unfair her life was – how much easier things could have been if only her mother hadn’t run away. But running was a way of life for Piper Barrett, one that had started in her youth. Shaking her head to dislodge these thoughts, Shelby stepped back and took one last look at the town before turning toward the front door of the house.
Her grandfather had been full-blooded Yuchi Indian – one of the few remaining – and had followed the tradition of building his house partially subterranean. Instead of the home being built with a full basement, he built a two-story structure, one room deep, recessed into the mountain. The result was a house that was over two thousand square feet and twice as long as a regular house. The upper level had a balcony that stretched the entire length and formed a covered front porch for the lower level. It was a log home, with the back wall and part of the side walls underground, though the entire roofline was exposed. The front of the house also had large windows, allowing in the morning and early afternoon sunlight and affording the occupants an astounding view of the town situated on the plateau below.
Duncan offered her the keys, and she hesitated before reaching out to claim them. Taking them from his hand symbolized more in her mind than simply gaining a means to open a door. Those keys were the next step in recovering herself – closing the door to years of struggle and finally finding a purpose in her life. Her grandfather had provided her the means to stop treading water for basic survival without feeling like drowning. It was now up to her to make the most of it. The thought was scary, especially since she was only four hours into her journey and she’d already started reliving situations she wanted to keep buried. Taking a deep breath, and not at all sure that she was ready for what lay ahead, Shelby turned the key in the lock and pushed the door open.
Stepping across the threshold, the smell of pipe tobacco flooded her senses. The sweet scent immediately made her smile as it brought back memories of sitting on Grandy’s lap while he read to her in front of the fire. She’d had a slight lisp and stutter as a child and had never been able to say granddad. Instead it had come out Grandy, and the name had stuck. Maybe remembering the past wouldn’t totally crush her after all.
Looking to the right, Shelby saw a living room that hadn’t changed in forty years. The same brown, flowered couch with wooden arms sat in front of the fireplace with one matching chair and a brown recliner flanking each side. People had often asked why Sandy set up the furniture to face the fireplace instead of the giant picture window that faced east, overlooking the town. His answer was always the same – inside was time for family, not looking in on the neighbors. When he wanted to look at the town, he sat on the porch. Shelby smiled at the sound of Grandy in her head. She might have only been six when she heard that story, but the lesson behind it had carried a lot of weight. Even when she and her mother had moved on, family time was still important.
Because the house was only one room deep, she had to pass through the living room to the kitchen, which had open sight lines to both the living room she’d just exited and the dining room beyond. At the far end were stairs that led to the second floor where her memory filled in the details of three bedrooms separated by two bathrooms. A second staircase opened off the last bedroom on the other end and led back downstairs, ending behind the front door and making the house a full circle. There were partitions that could be pulled across the bedrooms to offer privacy, but they also closed out the natural light. Her childhood room had been in the middle with her grandparents on one side and her mother on the other.
Bringing her attention back to the present, she watched as Duncan moved into the room and began laying a fire. Knowing Grandy had been dead for two years, she was surprised to see the few pieces of wood still stacked in the holder, as if waiting for his return. The house didn’t even smell closed up or unoccupied.
Once the fire was blazing, burning off a chill that Shelby wasn’t sure originated from the cool May temperatures, Duncan turned serious eyes toward her. “I need to explain a few things, Shelby.” Moving to take a seat in the chair to the left of the fireplace, Shelby sat in the recliner on the right. She remembered it being her grandfather’s favorite chair and hoped that the fragrance and memories would protect her from the chill that Duncan’s words brought. The leather was soft as butter and had absorbed the scent of the tobacco, and it did bring about a level of peace. Duncan’s cell phone rang, destroying the peaceful silence and ratcheting up her anxiety at his words. Nothing good ever followed the words ‘we need to talk’.
Attempting to give Duncan privacy for his call, Shelby’s gaze turned to the large picture window where the early evening shafts of sunlight were shining on the town. It looked like a sight from hundreds of years ago. If it wasn’t for the electricity lighting the town, she could easily imagine her ancestors riding around on horseback and visiting the old saloon.
Duncan looked into the fire for a few minutes after hanging up his phone, letting the silence settle around them. With a final sigh, he heaved himself out of the chair. “There’s something I need to take care of. I’d better get going. If you need anything, my phone number is on the refrigerator. The house phone still works – your granddad wasn’t one for progress – he refused a cell phone. Said if anyone needed him, they knew where to find him. That old coot was as predictable as my arthritis. Spent every day at the museum and every evening on his front porch. Not much else to do around here, but we liked it like that.” A sadness had entered Duncan’s voice as he spoke of his best friend. They’d been inseparable since they were born, their mothers having been best friends.
“I’ll come back tomorrow to talk to you about some of the terms in your grandad’s will. For now, you should be mindful of any conversations you have with the townspeople. There’s more going on behind the scenes than I have time to explain right now.” Duncan leaned down and kissed the top of Shelby’s head before turning toward the kitchen to grab the keys he’d deposited on the counter.
Shelby stepped out onto the front porch. The evening rays were getting lower as the light faded. A movement to her right made her turn and look. Just beyond the swing set a figure stepped out of the woods. He was tall and leanly muscled, wearing deer-hide pants and moccasins that laced up to his knees. His chest was bare, and his hair hung down nearly to his elbows. As the evening breeze picked up, his hair blew out behind him. He lifted his head and took a deep breath before raising his bow, pulling an arrow from the quiver and darting forward to reenter the woods a few feet from where he exited. Never once did he look in her direction. Shelby blinked, and he was gone. Unsure if he was an apparition, she turned to ask Duncan if he’d seen the man. Realizing Duncan was just exiting the house and wouldn’t have had a chance to see him, the words stopped in her throat. But after a quick hug and watching Duncan drive away, she couldn’t stop herself from taking another look at the side yard and the tree line where the ghost had disappeared.
Julie is a native of Central Kentucky. After receiving her degree in English, she chose a career in higher education finance. Fifteen years later, she decided to allow her inner creative genius loose and began writing. She has been an avid reader her entire life, with a special love for mysteries, so she thought it fitting to make her first novel one of suspense. Growing up as an Army brat, she has lived in several states and foreign countries. To this day, she enjoys traveling to new places and experiencing new cultures. When at home she is likely to be found enjoying a few extreme sports, such as: rock climbing, scuba diving, or whitewater rafting. Her willingness to enter into activities of mortal peril is balanced by her commitment to ensure the quality of life for animals through her service with various dog rescue organizations. She now lives in Middle Tennessee with her two dogs, Ginny and Luna.
Links to Purchase Print Books
Link to Buy Fog’s Edge Print Edition at Amazon
Have you read this book? Tell us in the comments how you liked it!