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Jonas Redding never wants to work as a lawman again. He’s spent a decade as a US Marshal, wearing a tin star on his chest and chasing dangerous criminals across the great state of Texas. But when a case goes wrong, Jonas finds himself standing over two tombstones—his mother’s and his fiancée’s.


Resolved to protect his sister from meeting the same end, Jonas cuts off all communication with her, changes his name, and heads north to the vast, untamed Alaskan wilderness. Jonas isn’t even in Alaska for a day before meeting Ilya Amos, a boy with wide eyes, an endless smile, and a heart of pure gold. Before he realizes what’s happening, Jonas finds himself sucked into the everyday life of the Amoses—a sprawling family of eight siblings who are more Alaskan than American and unapologetic about their heritage.

But Jonas is determined not to get too close to the Amoses, especially Ilya’s older sister Evelina, a woman with long chestnut hair and kind eyes and a desire to help everyone she meets. The last thing he wants to do is put another person in jeopardy.

Yet when the unthinkable happens and dangerous men seek revenge against the Amos family, Jonas must decide  just how much he’s willing to sacrifice for a family he doesn’t want to admit he loves.

From windswept seas and raging waves to emerald green forests and towering mountains, Written on the Mist will sweep you away to a forgotten period of American history—and one family’s fight for justice and truth in the midst of a land plagued by corruption and lawlessness.

Excerpt

The Inside Passage near Juneau, Alaska; September, 1886

Never in his life had he been so cold. Jonas Redding hunkered deeper into his coat and stared out over the railing of the ship slowly chugging its way north.

It wasn’t just the air, which was cold enough to cause the tip of his nose to ache and the breath from his mouth to puff little plumes of white into the air. It was also the damp. There was a constant moisture that permeated the air. Even when it wasn’t raining, it still felt like dampness was touching his skin.

But at the moment, there was no question it was raining. The heavy fog that the ship had been traveling through for most of the morning had turned into a light mist a half hour ago, and now that mist was turning into a steady rain that drove the handful of other passengers aboard the cargo vessel belowdecks.

But not him.

There was too much to take in about this new land that he intended to call home—and too many memories to haunt him in the darkness of the ship’s belly.

The wooden vessel chugged past the end of yet another island, with mountains climbing from the shores along the water into the thick layer of gray clouds above.

At least he thought they were mountains, but the mist was too thick for him to get more than an occasional glimpse of the dark-green trees blanketing them. He had no idea how tall the mountains were, or if their tops were carpeted with trees or capped with jagged, rocky peaks.

Or if they were even mountains. They could be . . . Well, he couldn’t quite think what they would be if not mountains. But—

“You can go belowdecks, mister.” An older boy appeared at his side, rainwater plastering his long black hair against his head. “The rain’s only looking to get worse.”

Jonas glanced at the boy, who looked as if he belonged on the Cherokee reservation near where Jonas’s sister lived in Oklahoma. Everything about his features was Native American, from the straight black hair that fell to his shoulders, to his high cheekbones, to his tan skin. Yet he spoke as though English was his first language, wore the clothes of a white boy and seemed completely comfortable standing aboard the deck of the ship.

“How do you know the rain is going to get worse?”

The boy shrugged, but his dark eyes took in the surrounding scenery with a keen sense of understanding. “It always rains here. My brother says it’s because of them mountains.

See how they’re on both sides of us right now? The mountains keep the clouds over the valley, and there ain’t nothin’ for the clouds to do but rain. When the valley widens, the clouds leave and get all misty-like. On a lucky day, you might even see the sun.”

“On a lucky day?” He almost choked.

“Yes, sir.” A smile lit the boy’s face. “This here’s the most beautiful place in the world when it’s sunny.”

Jonas tilted his gaze up toward the tiny, drizzling drops leaking from the dark clouds above and the endless mist that didn’t allow a man to see much of anything.

The boy yammered on. He talked about how the trees were the richest green under the bright rays of the sun, and the water the deepest turquoise. How it never got too hot no matter how bright the sun was, and how in the summer whales congregated offshore along one of the islands.

Here Jonas had spent the better part of the year on assignment in the Texan desert, where the sun scorched the earth until the rocky terrain turned yellow, and the cacti were as brown as they were green. And he’d somehow ended up in a place where a glimpse of the sun was considered lucky?

“I sure do hope you get to see some sun while you’re in Juneau,” the boy continued, almost as though he didn’t know how to stop his tongue from forming words. “Like I said, when that happens, this is the prettiest place the whole world over. Just ask my sister if ya’ don’t believe me.”

“Then I hope I get to see some sun too.”

And he did, but more because he wasn’t sure that his Texan-born body could tolerate being in a place without sun for more than a couple weeks than because he was convinced the murky gloom of his surroundings would somehow morph into the most beautiful place on earth.

His comment made the boy smile again nonetheless, his face filling with an optimistic sort of hope.

What was it that made the boy so hopeful? So happy that something as simple as the possibility of sunshine could brighten his entire day?

The boy had already been on the ship when Jonas had switched vessels in Bellingham, Washington, and nothing about his life seemed fun or optimistic. He’d spent the past two days mopping the deck, running errands for the captain, and fetching items for the other passengers traveling north.

It certainly wasn’t the type of job that should inspire bright smiles and an outrageous sort of cheerfulness, especially considering the Indian boy couldn’t seem more out of place, even with all his hard work.

“So are you going to go belowdecks?” the boy asked. “Your coat is awful wet.”

“No.” Though he probably should. The cold and wet only seemed to seep deeper into his bones the longer he stood on deck.

“It’s the sea, isn’t it? Don’t worry, you’re not the only one the sea makes sick. Lots of passengers lose their innards into the sea because of it. My brother says they’re landlubbers, and they can’t take the ship always moving so.”

If only the sea was what kept him from going belowdecks, not the memories that haunted him the second he found himself inside the dark, stifling hull.

The boy kept looking at him, as though expecting him to admit to feeling nauseous because of the waves.

Jonas turned toward one of the islands they were passing and settled his arms on the railing of the ship. “How much longer until we dock?”

“Not long. But you still better go dry off, or you’ll catch your death of pneumonia. Leastways, that’s what my sister always says.”

“Pneumonia?” Even saying the word gave him the sudden desire to cough. The air in this place was so thick and dense, it made his lungs feel heavy each time he drew breath.

The doctors in Juneau probably earned a living wage from treating pneumonia patients alone. “And what would this sister of yours say about you standing there with no hat and your slicker unbuttoned?”

The boy shrugged. “That I’ll catch my death for sure and for certain. But I won’t. I’m used to the rain.”

He certainly seemed to be. Just as the boy had predicted, the rain had picked up more since they’d started talking, but he seemed completely immune to the wet.

“So is Juneau located between mountains like this, where the clouds will get trapped and the sun never shines, or is it in one of the open spaces that’s just misty?”

“It’s got mountains, and it’s always rainy in Juneau. Didn’t no one tell ya?”

“No. I don’t suppose they did.” More to the point, he hadn’t bothered to ask. He’d known it would be cold in Alaska, so he bought as warm a coat as he could find before boarding the steamship in San Diego that had taken him up the coast to Bellingham.

But considering the temperature in San Diego wasn’t much different from that of Texas, the coat he had thought was thick and warm was proving useless.

The other passengers on the ship and the crew had at least known what kind of coat to bring. They all wore oilskin slickers and hats that allowed the rainwater to drip from the brim down their slickers while keeping the person beneath them perfectly dry.

Then there were the handful of men who didn’t even seem to notice the rain. Like the boy beside him, or the tall man headed down the stairs from the upper deck. His slicker was unbuttoned too, and he didn’t wear a hat.

“Looks like I’ll need to buy myself a slicker once we dock,” he muttered. “You should get one from the Sitka Trading Company. It’s right across from the wharf. They’ll have everything you need.”

“Will they now?”

“Sure will. They’ve got otter-pelt coats too, iffin you’re staying for the winter. Then after you stop by there, you’ll want to . . .” The boy’s brow scrunched. “Wait. Where are you headed? You never said.”

“Ilya.” The man from the stairs strode toward them. “It’s nearly time to dock. Captain White needs you.”

“Uh-oh.” Ilya’s eyes grew wide, then his teeth sank into his bottom lip. “I forgot to bring the map the captain wanted from his cabin. Sorry, sir. I’ve got to go.”

And the boy scampered off, his feet racing across the rain-slickened deck as though he hadn’t the slightest fear of slipping.

“I’m sorry.” The man came up to the railing. “He’s been instructed not to bother the passengers, but this is only his third voyage. I’m afraid Ilya has much to learn yet.”

Ilya. There was that name again. It was smooth and flowing, rolling easily off the tongue, but certainly not the type of name he expected for a native boy. Dark Hawk or

Cheerful Owl or Light Foot, he could understand. But Ilya?

“Thanks for being friendly to him.”

An unsettled feeling lodged in his stomach. Just how long had this man been watching him and Ilya? And where had he been watching from? The upper deck? Jonas glanced in the direction of the deck, the hairs on the back of his neck growing prickly. He should have been more aware of his surroundings. He couldn’t let his guard down simply because he was in Alaska. Yet he’d had no idea someone was paying that much attention to him and the boy.

Not that there was anything about the man that seemed menacing. He was serious and tall, with dark hair, a pronounced nose and cheekbones, and prominent eyebrows that slashed in harsh lines above his eyes. Nothing about how he carried himself seemed dishonest or threatening.

On the contrary, he seemed like a man who knew what he wanted and wasn’t afraid to get it. He also seemed displeased with Ilya for talking to him.

“I didn’t mind the chat,” Jonas said. If anything, he almost felt like thanking the boy. The few minutes of conversation had distracted him from the memories that couldn’t seem to leave him alone.

It had been two months, and still they were there, every time he looked into the mist, every time he closed his eyes at night. Every time he drew breath.

But Alaska was going to fix that. He’d bury himself in a dark mineshaft and . . .

What?

Would visions of Harriet and his mother haunt him there the way they had in the belly of the ship?

No. He’d work himself hard and fast, until his mind was too tired to form a coherent thought, let alone remember what had happened back in Austin. Then he’d eat a few bites of dinner, stumble into bed, and sleep until his next shift started. Six days a week, twelve hours a day. That’s what the advertisement for workers had said in the paper.

It sounded like the perfect kind of job to purge a man of his memories.

“I’m Alexei Amos.”

Jonas blinked, bringing the man beside him back into focus.

Because there was still a man standing beside him. He hadn’t walked off while Jonas had gotten lost in his memories, and he was extending his palm toward him for a handshake.

A faint thrumming had started as well. It wasn’t overly loud, but it was constant, almost as though the crew had fired up a second steam engine belowdecks, except the noise wasn’t loud enough for it to come from anything on the ship.

“Jonas Darrow.” Jonas gave Alexei the name he’d decided on back in Oklahoma, before he’d said good-bye to his sister. Then he reached out and shook the man’s hand.

“What brings you to Juneau, Jonas?” Alexei asked.

“Gold.”

A small smile turned the corners of the man’s mouth. “You and every other unmarried man on the Pacific Coast.”

Jonas let the comment slide past him. Better to let the man think he came from California or Oregon rather than Texas. “I saw an ad for jobs at the Treadwell Mine, and there was nothing holding me to where I was living. So I figured, why not?”

Alexei raised one of his eyebrows. “You’ve a mind to work for the Treadwell? I didn’t peg you for that type of a miner.”

“Well, I am.” Or he would be by this time tomorrow. How hard could it be to haul gold and rock out of the belly of the earth? “What’s that sound?”

It was growing louder, and there was a pulsing thrum to it.

The faint smile crept back onto Alexei’s mouth, adding the smallest hint of friendliness to the serious man’s face. “That, my friend, is the Treadwell Mine. Your new place of employment.”

“That’s the Treadwell?” He scanned the mountains through the rain, but he spotted nothing against the landscape that could possibly make such a racket. “Where is it?”

“You hear the Treadwell long before you see it, I’m afraid.”

The noise from the mine was already loud, and they weren’t even close enough to see it?

“You smell it too.” Alexei sniffed the air, then scrunched his nose.

Jonas could smell a faint chemical scent now. It fought its way through the thick, dank air.

“See here, we’re traveling up the Gastineau Channel.” Alexei gestured toward the front of the ship, then extended his hand to the left. “That’s Douglas Island to our left, and the mainland to our right.”

“The Treadwell Mine is on Douglas Island.” Jonas remembered that from the ad and the few articles he’d been able to scrounge up about the mine before purchasing his passage north.

“It is indeed.” The pulsing noise grew louder, and Alexei had to raise his voice to be heard above it. “Give it about ninety seconds, and you’ll be able to see it.”

Just as Alexei said, the thrumming increased as the ship made its way down the narrow strip of water wedged between mist-shrouded mountains on either side.

And just as Ilya said, the closer the mountains were, the thicker the mist became and the heavier the patter of rain.

Along the island shore a series of buildings appeared, some made of wood and others of concrete, all crammed together into one small stretch of beach and patch of hillside.

Jonas felt claustrophobic just looking at it. Was there any space between the houses behind the industrial buildings? Because it looked as though they had been built one on top of the other. Each one with identical rooflines and windows, rolled out as though the houses had been manufactured in some sort of factory that yielded countless copies of the same exact house.

As the ship drew nearer the buildings, the chemical stench increased, clinging to the dampness and rain as though the two were somehow inseparable.

“What’s making all the noise?” The pounding of the machinery made it so loud he had to shout lest his words be swallowed.

“That would be the one-hundred-and-twenty-stamp mill,” Alexei shouted back.

“Stamp mill?”

“It crushes the rock hauled from the mine so the gold can be extracted. And if you think this is loud, just wait until they finish construction on the other one hundred and twenty stamps they’re adding next year. The noise will be twice as loud.”

Twice as loud, and he already wanted to cover his ears.

“And the smell?” he yelled, nearly gagging on the foul air he dragged into his lungs.

“The chlorination plant. Yet another step in extracting gold from rock.” Alexei nodded toward the mine. “I’m told you get used to both the noise and the stench.”

Jonas didn’t believe it. He’d handled his share of dead bodies over the years and was all too familiar with the stench of decomposing flesh, but the burning sensation from the chlorination plant was something else entirely.

“What happened to the trees?” He surveyed the mountainside again, packed with buildings of all shapes and sizes. There weren’t many trees, but the ones present appeared to be dying, their branches bare and brittle, with nary a pine needle to be found.

“You can thank the chlorination plant for that too. The mine had some kind of fancy scientist out here from the Department of the Interior to figure out why the spruce were losing their needles earlier this year. He determined it’s due to the gases the chlorination plant releases into the air. Evidently they are toxic to trees.”

Were the gases toxic to people too? It certainly seemed like they should be. Jonas drew a handkerchief out of his pocket, sodden as it was, and pressed it to his nose. “If the gases are toxic, why don’t they shut the mine down?”

“Because gold is more valuable than trees, of course.”

“Of course.” He surveyed the buildings again. The entire complex looked like something one might find in Austin’s industrial district or beside the wharves in Houston.

It was one thing to lose himself in the dark quiet of a mine tunnel somewhere, but another thing entirely to plant himself in the middle of the noisy, stinking hub of activity that was the Treadwell Mine.

When he’d pictured himself coming north to Alaska, he’d imagined a vast expanse of rugged wilderness where a man could lose himself.

And he’d been right. The Alliance had passed nothing other than wild, desolate wilderness ever since leaving port.

He might not have realized just how much rain and gloom would accompany the untamed land, but it was still a place where a man could get lost and never be found again—if that’s what he chose.

Then there was the Treadwell Mine.

“I won’t be working there.”

“No?” Alexei arched an eyebrow, then ran his gaze down him. “Few men start out there, but the Treadwell is the only mine that operates year-round. Come November, you’ll find yourself working there right along with everyone else.”

He wouldn’t, but he wasn’t about to argue the point with a man he’d just met.

Maybe didn’t need to mine at all but could build a cabin, hole up on one of the mountains, and allow himself to be snowed in all winter while he tried his hand at trapping.

Except that seemed like the kind of living that would allow a man’s memories to plague him, and he needed something that would erase them.

But it was only September. He still had two months to figure out what he’d do over the winter.

Someone shouted from the upper deck, and Alexei straightened, then gave him a slap on the back. “I wish you well, Jonas Darrow, wherever you end up working. Now if you’ll excuse me, we’re about ready to dock.”

And with that, the man was off, calling something to a couple of crew members before stalking to the opposite side of the ship and grabbing one of the thick ropes that was almost as large in diameter as Alexei’s forearm. He moved with the utmost confidence, almost as though he owned everything he touched.

But that couldn’t be. Jonas had figured out who the captain was within the first hour of leaving Bellingham, and the captain was currently in the wheelhouse, slowly guiding the ship toward the wharf that grew ever closer.

The Treadwell Mine had disappeared into the mist, and dark-green trees now covered the mountains of Douglas Island. But the mountains and trees and island altogether became less visible as the ship edged away from the middle of the channel toward the mainland.

Just like how he wanted his former life to slip from his memory. Would living in Alaska make his past disappear as easily as the mist made Douglas Island vanish from sight?

Dear God . . .

But the words wouldn’t come. They hadn’t been able to come for months.

So he stood on the deck, watching until the fog and gloom engulfed the mountains on the other side of the channel, and hoping the gloom just might find a way to shroud his heart from the memories that ravaged it.

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