UNTIL YOU FIND ME – On sale November 11, 2014
About the book –
Amber Hart pushes contemporary romance to its wildest limits in this heart-pounding novel, the story of a girl who travels to Africa to protect the legacy of one man . . . and stays for the love of another.
Raven Moore, a twenty-year-old college student from Michigan, feels out of place in the beautiful, treacherous jungles of Cameroon, staying in the habitat where her father gave his life to help protect endangered gorillas. He left home years ago; now Raven refuses to return home until she unravels the truth about his last days.
Raven certainly doesn’t count on crossing paths with a handsome young hunter—especially one as charismatic and intense as Jospin Tondjii. Instantly, she’s hooked. But Jospin is hiding a dark truth: He is the heir to a powerful poaching empire, part of a ruthless black market that is responsible for the dwindling gorilla population.
Their fathers may have been enemies, but Raven and Jospin forge a bond that goes beyond blood, a relationship that is tested as Raven draws closer to the source of her father’s death. Can she and Jospin bear the weight of the secrets of the wild—and the secrets of their pasts? Or will the rain forest destroy them both?
I take a step. Crack. The noise makes me jump. Probably a twig. Or a crumbling animal bone. I try not to think too much. Plush moss skims my leg. My hand is a flyswatter, parting the air. Mosquitoes. So many mosquitoes. It’s a sweltering June day in Cameroon. The jungle clasps droplets of water in its leafy hands. Flies splash in the drops as if swimming in tiny pools. The liquid will soon be lost, consumed by greedy rays of sun. I take another sip of water. Relish how it slides down my throat, tingling with cold. A beetle crawls on my boot, worries at my laces as though they are the strangest terrain it has ever navigated.
I understand the feeling.
Why my dad chose to live in this alien African jungle, instead of remaining in Michigan with Mama and me, is beyond my comprehension. But that’s why I’m here, to understand. To trace the paths that Dad has walked. To get a feel for the jungle, his jungle. Today is my first time venturing away from the compound that houses Heart for Habitat, the rehab center Dad founded for young or injured apes. The surrounding land is thick with mystery.
One more sip and I put my water away. I try not to touch anything.
Yellow flashes in my vision. I look up, and I’m momentarily blinded by the sun. The yellow comes back into focus, bananas rocking on their branch like a child in a swing. I scour the green canopy for the source. Bananas do not move of their own accord.
Fruit hits bark. Blood dashes in my veins, a mad race of sorts. My heart knocks against the door of my sternum. I know it could be anything, any number of creatures. I consider standing still, but chances are that whatever caused the swaying has already spotted me. I can only hope that whatever stirred the fruit does not follow me. I move on.
And immediately spot the biggest snake I have ever seen.
I clamp both hands to my mouth. Smother a scream. Varying shades of brown cover the serpent like a patchwork quilt. It slides past, a slow crawl, paying me no attention.
My breathing slows as it leaves.
I wriggle my compass out of my pocket and check my coordinates. The aging silver of the casing catches the sun at just the right angle, reflecting speckles of light the size of grapes. The speckles dance on the forest floor. I twist the compass until the needle points in the right direction. I nearly smile. And they thought I wouldn’t be able to navigate the jungle.
As I shove the compass into my pocket, sticky strands of hair fall from my ponytail, tickling my face like fingers. Exasperated, I root around for a clip, somehow vanished in the depths of my bag.
That’s when I feel its eyes on me. My gaze shifts. Breath catches in my throat.
About twenty feet away crouches a huge gorilla. A fine mat of gray hair across its back reveals it as a silverback. Long face. Deep-set eyes. His coiled muscles wrap around his body like five hundred pounds of boulders. He is able to move faster than I can. If he chooses to.
I panic. My breath comes in gasps. I try to remember Dad’s words of advice.
I need to submit. But how? I can’t think.
The male can reach me in ten bounds. He can break me with two hands. He can kill me with one snap of his jaw.
The gorilla needs to feel confident that I’m not a threat. My five-foot-three frame hardly intimidates; what more can I do? Curl into a ball? No, wait. I think that’s for a bear. My body spasms, torn between moving and not moving. Don’t look it in the eyes, I think. But I can’t be sure.
In the few seconds it takes for these thoughts to bounce around my head, the silverback has raised himself. He is now on two legs—six feet of hostility directed at me. I drop my eyes to the ground, sweat running down my nose. Hear the thud of the gorilla beating his chest. The pounding reverberates. He is a sharpshooter and I am his target.
Next comes a bark-like sound: another sign of aggression. I look up again and see his nostrils flare. He swipes an arm out, uprooting a bush.
I need to get out of here. I glance around quickly.
The gorilla shifts.
I know I am no match. He outweighs me by hundreds of pounds. He is instinct and intimidation. I am weakness and fear. I jump over a stump. Twist my ankle in the off-balance landing. But I can’t stop.
Vines snag my clothing. Sharp foliage smacks my face and chest, leaving small stinging cuts. There is no way to tell if I am heading in the right direction.
I run through brush and webs and rocks. I make my own path. Hope I lose him.
He knows this jungle better than I do and catches me in no time. I scream as I am lifted by one shoulder. Stars explode in front of my eyes as I slam against the trunk of a tree. It feels as though every bone in my body has snapped on impact. I grunt. Roll to my side. Retch from the pain.
The gorilla stands above me, roaring. He bares two fanged teeth, each several inches long.
I can’t catch my breath. I try to push off the ground. Fail.
He swings a hand at me, raking nails across my arm. My compass sails through the air. I hadn’t even realized I was clutching it. It lands with a distant shatter. My vision is going dark. Something wet oozes down my skin. It takes me a minute to realize that it’s my blood.
The silverback’s face is so close to my own that we share a breath. This is it. My last moment. As I lie here, I can think of only one thing.
I can’t believe the monster who is about to take my life is the very creature my dad died trying to protect.
About the author –
Amber Hart is the author of Before You and Until You Find Me. She grew up in Orlando, Florida, and Atlanta, Georgia, and now resides on the Florida coastline with her family. When not reading, she can be found writing, daydreaming, or dipping her toes in the sand.
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