Today's Reading

CHAPTER 1

TARGHEE FALLS, IDAHO

"Why are those dogs barking?" I pointed across the wooden picnic table toward two obviously upset canines yelping nearby.

A man staring at a clipboard didn't look up. "They're dogs. That's what they do. Are you Darby Graham?"

"Yes."

The man checked something on his clipboard. "Good. You're all here." He had to speak up to be heard over the commotion.

Before I could ask about the dogs again, he turned and strolled toward the nearby general store.

Although the man seemed unmoved by the dogs' distress, the other people seated around me on Adirondack chairs or at picnic tables had stopped speaking to each other and were staring. The dogs—a black Lab cross with hound-length ears, and a huge Great Dane mix—both had their tails tucked between their legs and were howling.

The picnic table trembled.

I lifted my hands off the rough pine surface but could still feel the movement under my body. A flock of birds burst from the treetops. Pinecones dropped to the ground from the towering ponderosas.

Earthquake.

I was seated near the general store, just below a plate-glass window. The glass rippled, then rattled.

Heart thudding, I dove under the table. The ground rolled under me like ocean waves. A low rumbling was followed by car alarms going off from the parking lot on the other side of the store.

The black Lab flew under the table and landed in my lap. I wrapped my arms around the quivering dog, feeling the prominent bones of her spine and rib cage. "It's okay there, girl. You're safe. Your big buddy isn't so scared—"

The second quaking dog joined us, his large body pressing against my back.

The earthquake ended.

"All over." I reached around and scratched the Dane's chest, feeling more bones. Didn't anyone ever feed these dogs?

Both dogs seemed content to stay put, but the weight of the Lab—even though she was too thin—was still more than my leg was used to and it was rapidly going to sleep. "Come on, sweet girl, time to get up," I whispered.

Both dogs took the hint.

On the other hand, here under the table seemed a nice place to stay. Tucked into the shadows, I didn't need to worry about anyone staring at me. I had room to stretch out and could smell the cut grass. I'd be prepared should another earthquake come. And my assignment was to maintain a low profile. Sitting on the ground under a table seemed to be as low profile as I could get.

Two legs appeared next to me. "Miss Graham?"

Flapperdoodle. Mr. Clipboard found me.

I crawled between the bench and table, sliding onto the seat, then glanced around. Several other people had taken similar action. Only Clipboard had noticed my reluctance to leave my hiding place.

One by one, the car alarms stopped. The slight breeze stirred the fragrance of fallen pine needles.

Mr. Clipboard stared at me for a moment, then turned toward the others. He was holding a number of fabric bags imprinted with Mule Shoe Ranch. "Don't be worried, folks. The town of Targhee Falls is less than fifteen miles from Yellowstone. The national park routinely has between one and three thousand quakes a year—"

"Excuse me, but I've heard most of those quakes aren't noticeable," a gray-haired woman in a denim shirt said.

"Obviously some are." The man gave her a rueful half smile and started handing out the bags after checking the attached name tags. "I'm Sam, owner of the general store over there." He nodded toward the building featuring a two-story false front and wooden sidewalk. The peeling sign said Sam's Mercantile. "I provide Mule Shoe with transportation, supplies, and assistance during team-building exercises. Inside these bags you'll find a great deal of information about your stay at the ranch. The owner, Roy Zaring, wanted you to have these while you're waiting for your transportation—"

"When will that be?" asked a handsome teen with flawless olive skin and a thick lock of black hair. "I'm not getting any cell service here." He held up his phone. An impeccably dressed man and woman sitting at the same table gave each other sideways glances.
...

Join the Library's Online Book Clubs and start receiving chapters from popular books in your daily email. Every day, Monday through Friday, we'll send you a portion of a book that takes only five minutes to read. Each Monday we begin a new book and by Friday you will have the chance to read 2 or 3 chapters, enough to know if it's a book you want to finish. You can read a wide variety of books including fiction, nonfiction, romance, business, teen and mystery books. Just give us your email address and five minutes a day, and we'll give you an exciting world of reading.

What our readers think...