The wait is over! I’m beyond excited to be able to share the book trailer for Faith In Every Footstep. The book will be available worldwide on December 6, 2016.
In May 2015 I published Hope In Every Raindrop, to which I received a ton of emails asking for more about Kyle and the dogs. Faith In Every Footstep is the prequel, and will take you deeper into the world of Kyle Walker and the rarest dog breed in the world as they take on the Yukon Quest.
Read the first chapter of Faith In Every Footstep
Kyle stood on the bare ground, his head bathed in an ocean of frigid air, his feet heavy in last night’s snow. In one hand he lifted the splitting maul over his shoulder, bits of bark and sap flinging from the now blunted end, while his other hand gripped a frostbit rope. The makeshift sled, weighed down by chunks of timber, creaked over the clean snow as he pulled it along the fence line.
The cabin in the distance moved deceptively as the endless plains of white smoke rose from the chimney. A drift of cool air rolled in over the mountains. It chewed through his Sherpa lined jacket, and slipped in between a loose layer of fleece and negative brushed base layer that hugged his skin. He stopped to zip his jacket up higher before the chill could cling to his body like a cold shower. The feeling was still new to him, and yet it was old.
Kyle opened the shed door and placed the axe, along with the freshly cut pieces of pine, in a worn groove along left wall. The corrugated metal door clanged shut, and before he could turn around, he heard a familiar sound.
A low growl emanated from behind him. Every part of his body stiffened, except his neck, which he turned slightly to the left. The farthest part of his peripheral vision picked up the stark black coat. The cabin was nearly fifty feet across from the shed. He wouldn’t make it there in time.
One. Kyle breathed out slowly through his mouth and in through his nose.
Two. He tensed the muscles in his hands, arms, leg, and core.
Three. Without warning he pivoted on his left foot, pushing off with his right, and sprang at the animal. He was too slow though. Even at nineteen years old and in peak condition, he was not nearly as fast as a Carolina gray.
The animal jolted instantly, feinting away from Kyle and then flashing back at him.
Kyle wasn’t defeated just yet though. He spun to his right as the black paws pierced the snow just inches away, and swiped back at the beast, clipping its front leg. Then he drove his weight forward and pushed the animal onto its side.
Kyle reached for the animal’s neck, but again he was too slow, grasping nothing but air. He rolled onto his back but knew instantly he had made a mistake, exposing too much of his body.
In a blur the animal landed on top of him, and Kyle lay face to face with two cuspate fangs. He reached forward trying to find a safe handhold, but the fangs fell on each side. His hands gripped at clumps of fur along the animal’s neck, soft but bristly in the cold.
Kyle baited the beast by relinquishing the grip in his right hand. He shifted his weight down and to the right, and just as the animal repositioned his paws, Kyle drove his left heel into the ground and flipped to his right. He meant to drive the animal into the snow, but he was left with nothing but bits of pitch-black fur between his hands.
Kyle pushed himself to all fours, but before he could stand he found himself face to face with a pair of golden eyes. The moment the animal moved, Kyle knew it was over. He flinched and fell backward, but not fast enough. The wolflike creature stood atop him once again with a labyrinth of bared teeth.
But the snarl faded and out came an elongated, soppy tongue. It tickled his neck and face, leaving droplets of slobber along the way.
“King,” Kyle laughed. “Stop it. Stop it.”
King had been Kyle’s best friend since the day he discovered the rare breed of dog six years ago in the lowlands of South Carolina.
The booming sound of a passenger train interrupted their game. King and he both propped up on their left forearms and watched the train chug through morning mist of the Yukon. Kyle looked over at King. His amber eyes, his thick black fur, his angular face and pricked ears. This was not just a dog, not just a wolf. This was a Carolina gray. And in less than twenty-four hours, Kyle hoped the world would know the breed as the greatest sled dog to ever live.
About twenty yards away the front door opened over a fresh layer of hoar frost, and Kyle looked down the length of his body to see Jane step out on to the porch.
“You better get a move on. It’s nearly three,” she said.
Kyle stood and brushed a mixture of snow and fur off his jacket and fire-hose pants. The Alaskan sun still hung high above the tallest evergreens, but Jane was right. He was going to be late if he didn’t head out soon. He breathed in and out, and his breath condensed visibly among the wintry air.
“Thank you,” he said.
Jane shook her head. “Would you stop that nonsense?”
She was older, probably over three times Kyle’s age, and he could see it now more than ever in the lines and creases across her face. But she was burly and hardened, and like the trees of the inland Yukon Territory, she held on to her youth in old age. She reminded him so much of Doc.
He had spent the better part of six months here. And without her none of this would have been possible. For the last few days he had been trying to thank her for everything, but she wanted no part of it. Because thank you meant goodbye, and nobody wanted to say goodbye.
“I mean it,” he said.
Jane let out an audible breath. “Finish up and come get a little bit of soup before you head to town.”
“You know this is the Musher’s Dinner,” he said.
“You need all the meat you can get on that bag of bones, ’specially since you’re so stubborn. You’ll run yourself ragged long before them dogs…” Her voice trailed off as the cabin door closed behind her.
Kyle let his eyes scan over the old miner’s cabin. Two rows of silver sheet metal clung to the front of the roof, while the back made do with several pieces brick red with rust. The trim around the two windows on the side was painted the color of fresh biscuits, and just looking at the cabin made Kyle smile. Even though the Toyostove heater did absolutely nothing to prevent the bedrooms from turning into ice boxes. Even though the plumbing stopped working in January, and he had to clean dishes by heating water in the coffeemaker. Even though he yearned for the mild winters of South Carolina. He would miss this place.
The locomotive choked out several puffs of coal as the engineer announced the train’s parting with a long pull of the horn. Next to the shed, and across from the cabin, sat twelve more Carolina grays. Several howled from atop their snow kennels, matching the sound in both tone and cadence.
The dogs were used to the quiet comfort of Doc’s barn, but they had spent all their downtime in the last six months tied up to wooden boxes, with saw-cut holes for front doors, just big enough to fit their curled-up bodies. The only thing that remained familiar was the scattered straw that most of them lay upon.
Kyle walked King over to the only vacant snow kennel and latched the silver chain to his collar. He had arranged the kennels in pairs, except for King’s, which jutted out in front of the others. The layout mimicked that of the sled. Behind King was Story and Link, then Shyanne and Spirit, Hali and Sunshine, Giza and Gardens, Alexandria and Artemis, and finally Colossus and Olympia. Tails wagging and bodies stretched out shaking off the cold, each dog stood to greet him. Except Ria.
She lay still, her jet-black body in contrast to the snow, with her head resting at a slight angle across her front legs. Kyle kneeled in front of her, and the frozen ground crunched under his right knee.
He didn’t reach his hand out for her. He didn’t speak. He just watched. His eyes traced down her neck and along her muscled shoulders, over the slick line where her hackles sometimes appeared, and around the sharp curves of her stifle and hock. Kyle rolled his wrist like he was reeling in a fish, and Ria leaned over onto her side. He slid his hand on the inside of her thigh to check her pulse. Calm.
“It’s okay to be nervous,” Kyle said.
Ria lifted her head and looked at him with two black eyes of infinite depth.
“I’m a little nervous about tomorrow too,” Kyle said.
Ria plopped her head back down on several strands of straw.
Kyle ran his hand from her thigh up to her chest and let it rest there firmly for just a second. “Tomorrow will be here soon,” he said. “Get some rest.”
The train cried out one final time before the last car faded into the woods. A little boy stared out the window of the last passenger car, and on the brink of the world’s toughest race, all Kyle Walker could think about was Bishopville, South Carolina, where this all started when he was just thirteen.
Faith In Every Footstep will be here December 6, 2016!