Excerpt of Dangerous Legacy

"A good man out of the good treasure
of his heart brings forth good;
an evil man out of the evil treasure 
of his heart brings forth evil."
Luke 6:45


Wind whipped Maggie Morgan's long, honey-brown hair across her face as gathering clouds darkened the afternoon. Hurrying, she almost tripped over her enormous dog. "Out of the way, Wolfie. Mama has to finish her chores before the storm gets here." 

If the black and brown canine hadn't bristled and begun to bark, she might not have noticed the familiar pickup truck heading up the long driveway to the wild animal rescue facility where she lived and worked. 

"Oh, hush, dog. You know the game warden. He was here just last week."

With a friendly wave to her approaching visitor she went back to hauling armloads of fresh straw bedding. Whatever the guy wanted could wait until she'd tended to her patients' needs. Helpless animals always came first.

Approaching footsteps crinkled on dry leaves behind her while Maggie was bent over spreading loose straw in a lean-to. She glanced through the bottom of the wire fence and saw black boots. "I'm almost done. How come you're back so soon? Did you bring me another patient?"

The Game and Fish warden cleared his throat. "This isn't an official visit."

That voice! Momentarily stunned, Maggie froze. A shiver tickled her spine. It couldn't be him. Yet she knew it was. 

The injured doe in the pen with her sensed Maggie's sudden nervousness and bolted, running across the enclosure and careening off the fencing.

"Easy girl, easy." Maggie straightened and inched her way to the gate, slipping through and fastening it securely while steeling herself to turn and face her visitor. "Flint Crawford."

"You remember me."

How could she forget the man who had broken her heart and nearly ruined her life? She stalled by taking a moment to brush off her jeans and the sleeves of her denim jacket before she said, "Vaguely. What are you doing here?"

He spread his arms to display his dark green uniform and badge. "I work in Fulton County now. See?"

"I thought you were in the Marines."

Flint nodded. "Long story." 

Yeah, I imagine, Maggie thought. Scattered drops the size of dimes were beginning to dot the dry ground. She extended her hands, palms up. "It's starting to rain."

"I noticed. Guess I'd better get going."

"Guess so." 

"I just wanted to stop by and say hello."

The longer he lingered, the more emotionally unstable Maggie became. At this point she wasn't positive she could maintain a façade of indifference long enough for him to leave. Being in Flint's presence again was far more difficult than she'd imagined it would be when she'd envisioned his return. Where were all the irate speeches she'd rehearsed for the past six years?

Silent, Maggie accompanied him toward his truck, the dog at her heels. They began to circle the silver-gray pickup. Wolfie stiffened just as a deafening boom of thunder joined a blinding flash! 

Everything blurred as Maggie was smacked hard on the shoulder, knocked off her feet and ended up lying in the dirt with Flint hovering over her. Wolfie was growling as he circled them.

She gave Flint a push. "Get off me!" 

Instead, he supported himself on one arm and continued to keep her down. That was when she saw he'd drawn his gun. "No! Don't shoot my dog!"

"Hush," Flint ordered, getting to his knees. "Keep your head down."

"What are you babbling about? We almost got hit by lightning." The expression on his face argued otherwise.
"Didn't we?"

"No. Thunder doesn't have a high pitched echo. Whoever aimed at us expected the storm to mask a rifle shot."

Maggie tensed, blinking rapidly to try to clear her head. He was right! There had been a singing reverberation amid the rumbling noise of the storm. 

She reached out for Wolfie, understanding a moment too late that that was a mistake.

The dog bared his fangs, lunged, and latched onto Flint's pant leg. Maggie screamed. Flint fell back, rolling farther behind the truck as he fought to break free. 

Maggie barely registered the crack and whine of a second shot. A side window of the truck shattered. She screamed again and covered her head as glass rained down. Wolfie released his captive and made a beeline for her. 

The game warden recovered enough to sit, pulled out a cell phone and called for assistance before turning to Maggie. "Help is on its way."

Without thinking she crawled closer to him. "Are you hurt? Did he bite through the skin?"

"Don't worry about me. How are you?"

"I'm fine." 

"You don't look fine."

"I'm not used to being a target. Now I know how these poor wild animals must feel."
As Flint slowly reached toward her, she told herself to move away. That excellent advice didn't do a bit of good. Her knees felt welded to the ground. 

His warm, strong hands cupped her face as scattered drops of rain continued to fall. A thumb brushed her cheek and came away bloody. It took her a moment to realize it was her blood, not his.

"Don't worry. You're not shot," Flint said. "I think a sliver of glass may have nicked you." 

It's not the sight of blood that's making me quiver, Maggie admitted ruefully. It's your touch. 

She grasped his wrist and pulled it away, then sat back on her heels. Unexpected tenderness in Flint's green gaze was nearly her undoing. He'd always been a caring person, which is why his abandonment had shaken her so badly. Above all, she must keep reminding herself of that.

"We're about to get soaked," she said flatly.

"Better wet than dead." Flint was rubbing his lower leg. "I hope the shooter's gone. Thanks to your dog I couldn't catch a hibernating turtle right now." 

Another shiver skittered up her spine. "Do you think we're still in danger? I figured they were long gone."

"You're probably right. They've had plenty of time to sneak up on us and finish the job if they wanted to."

"Oh, that's comforting."

"I'm not trying to be comforting," Flint snapped back. "I'm trying to keep you alive."

Survival. He was right about that. She patted her pockets. She'd forgotten to bring her cell phone. "How long before we have that help you promised?"

"I don't know. We're pretty far out in the country."

"Then hand me your phone," Maggie said. "I need to make a call and mine is in the house. Please?"

"Okay, but keep it short. This is for official use only."

"As long as it works I don't care what the rules are." She saw him hesitate. "Unless you'd rather I made a run for the house to get my own."

That was enough to convince him. Grabbing the phone before he changed his mind, she had to think hard to remember the number that was programmed into her personal system. 

A tentative, "Hello" was all the greeting she allowed before blurting, "Mom?"

"Maggie? I almost didn't answer. This isn't your number."

"No. I'm using a borrowed phone."

"What happened to yours? 

"Never mind that. Please, just listen. I need you to pick up Mark from school and keep him at your place until you hear from me. I'll explain everything later."


"Please, Mom? This is really important."

"Okay, honey. But I'll expect all the details when you come get him. And plan to stay for supper. Bye!"

Yeah, assuming I'm able to put two and two together by then and make any sense of what's happened. Maggie's fondest hope was that the shooter was merely attempting to scare off the new game warden. 

Given that the warden was Flint Crawford, she owed their anonymous assailant a dubious debt of gratitude.