Home > Maverick (North Ridge #2)(2)

Maverick (North Ridge #2)(2)
Author: Karina Halle

But knowing Levi, he probably kept going, determined to find the skiers. He probably crossed this section of the mountain that I’m crossing right now, a steep open part of the slope devoid of trees and piled high with snow drifts. With the spring, the snow loosens, making this area an avalanche hazard, not to mention the fact that this faux run breaks off into crevasses and drop-offs at the lower elevation.

When I’m halfway across the slope and can make out the shapes of the trees on the other side—shifting shadows that flicker in and out through the ongoing white—a noise makes me stop in my tracks.

It’s not a loud noise, kind of a soft poof that is barely heard above the roar of the wind and snow, but then I see it. The sky glows a faint pink with a red-hot ember in the middle of it.

A flare!

Shot from where I just came from, but further to the north, though even as I stand here looking at it, it’s already moving over, pushed by the wind. But mentally I’m calculating it, tracking exactly where it could have come from.

I bring up the walkie and speak into it. “Brett, come in. A flare just went up, about a mile northeast of where I am. Permission to investigate? Over.”

“Permission granted. Be careful, Riley. Over.”

Warmth spreads in my chest, a tiny bit of hope. Whoever sent it was capable of shooting a flare. That means they’re alive. Most skiers, especially ones who go “off-piste” or beyond the avalanche-controlled boundaries of the mountain resorts, should always have transceivers on them, as well as an emergency kit. This group didn’t have the transceivers, but at least they have a flare. It’s possible they even saw the helicopter come by earlier and they’re too cold or injured to move. That’s actually the smartest thing to do—stay exactly where you are and let us find you.

I start back across the open slope, noting that the wind is starting to die down a bit and the visibility is getting better. I glance up at the sky and see faint light patches amongst the whirling snow, meaning the storm is starting to break apart, at least for the time being. I’m just a few feet from the trees again and I can already see how much calmer it is under the canopies.


My name sounds like a fragment from a dream but even so, it roots me in place. I turn around to see a shadow behind me, emerging from the trees, looking larger than life with his gear on his back.


I want to yell back but I can’t do anything but smile. I wave at him, frantically, and point toward where the flare went up, the sky just a faint pink in that spot now.

“Stay there! I’m coming,” he says, voice faint, and starts making his way over.

He’s moving fairly fast, even with his gear, and he’s nearly at the middle of the slope when a loud whumpf rings through the air.

He stops and looks at me, wide-eyed.

That noise, that whumpf, like someone dropping a sack of potatoes from fifty feet high onto the snow, is all too familiar.

It’s the sound of fear.

Of death.

To be more specific, it’s the sound of fresh powder that’s been sitting on top of a frozen layer compressing, shifting, or sliding downhill.

An avalanche.

“Levi!” I scream. “Hurry!”

There’s a roar building now, a haunting, ghostly rumble from high up the mountain where I know the snow is now coming down like a freight train, barreling toward us, sending tremors up my legs.

One thing I know about avalanches, is that you never have time.

I look over to Levi who is hurrying through the snow, the powder flying out behind him as he runs. He’s so focused on getting to me that he doesn’t look to his left, up the slope, where a wall of snow is building, rushing, ready to consume us.

In my panic and the whirling storm, it’s hard to tell how big of an avalanche it is, what kind. It could be powder or wet or a deadly slab. It could level trees and knock us unconscious, or be a soft cloud, just enough to dust us like icing sugar. There’s no time to wonder because in seconds it will be here and I only have two thoughts ringing in my head:

I hope the trees will protect us.

I hope Levi gets here in time.

And then it’s here.

Time is ripped away.

I stare across at Levi’s face, his eyes locked on mine, caught in fear and horror and then everything is white.

Somehow, in that split second before the blast of air hits me, followed by the snow moving at fifty miles an hour, I wrap my arms around the pine’s rough trunk and hold on for dear life. It feels like an eternity and my world is just ice, the air knocked out of me.

Everything is a roar.

Everything is white.

Everything is sharp and cold and relentless.

I’m drowning and I’m holding on and I don’t know if it will ever stop, if it will ever stop pummeling me, if I’ll ever be free of this torment.


So, so cold.

So monstrous.

So real.

This is fucking it.

This is how I’m going to die.

Entombed in ice, lungs full of snow.

And I never got a chance to tell Levi how I really felt.

All those years of pushing the feelings down, of swallowing them whole.

He never knew.

And then, then, it…


The world is reduced to a muffle. Everything comes to a still, a hushed calm, with powder hanging in the air. I’m caked head to toe in ice and snow.

My mouth opens, gasping for air, and I cough out white.

I feel like I could stay here forever, stuck to this tree, buried to my waist in snow. I could freeze, a statue, frozen in time.

But then…



I manage to bring my arms off the tree, frantically dusting away the snow from my limbs, my face, my eyes.

The snow is still whirling from the storm, lighter now, though the world around me glows a deeper white.

Levi is nowhere to be found.

“Levi!” I scream, spinning around to find him, but all I see is a rough blanket of snow. “Levi!”

I know that standing here and screaming isn’t going to do me much good. The avalanche wasn’t strong enough to flatten the trees, but it would have knocked him off his feet. He’s not swept down the mountain, he hasn’t made it to safety.

He’s buried.

And he only has minutes to live.

I have no time to think.

I go on auto-pilot, all the years of training rising out of me.

I move through the snow, walking as quickly as I can, even though I’m stumbling, falling, my footing loose and unstable.

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