Naked Edge — An excerpt! Or "When Kat met Gabe"

    A view of the real climb after which the book is named. You can see how it got its name. The edge sticking out is the arête.

    With the video of Dan (below) in mind, here's where we first meet Gabe in the prologue to The Naked Edge. Enjoy!


    Gabriel Rossiter crimped the chalked fingers of his right hand around the small handhold, then carefully shifted his weight onto his fingertips, drawing himself to the right. He didn’t notice his skinned shin or the people far below taking pictures of him and pointing, or the sweat trickling down his temples, his mind focused entirely on the rock as he worked the arête on a bad-tempered geological accident known as The Naked Edge. Scraped fingers reached again, caught rough stone and held.
    He maneuvered his way around the jutting, razor-sharp edge for which the climb was named—no ropes, no cams, nothing beneath him but 600 feet of air.

    Some people needed heroin. Gabe preferred adrenaline.

    He looked up and picked his way up the rock face with his gaze, thinking his way through his next move in a language without words. This was what he needed—internal silence, emptiness, oblivion. He needed to forget.

    He reached with his right foot… And then he heard her scream.

    He caught just a glimpse—rocks spilling down the side of a nearby slope, a woman falling with them—and felt a moment of vertigo as she tumbled out of sight. And then a decade of experience kicked in.

    So much for your day off, buddy.

    He fired himself around the arête and thrust his fist into an overhanging handcrack, liebacking his way on hand jams to the final pitch and an easy finish. Then, with no ropes or gear to pack up, he was off.

    It was a long, exposed scramble down the Eastern Slabs, but the rock was dry, enabling him to move quickly. He knew the terrain as if it were his own backyard—and, really, it was. He’d been climbing here since he was sixteen, and he’d been a Boulder Mountain Parks Ranger since he was 24—eight years. He’d spent almost every waking moment of his adult life in these mountains. He’d done his fair share of rescues over the years—and had helped bring down his share of bodies.

    And that’s what you’re going to find today, Rossiter—a body.

    He didn’t let the thought slow him. If by some miracle she had survived, she was going to need his help.

    He moved down the steep rock face, his cell phone out of his pocket and in his hand the moment his feet hit dirt. He dialed 911. “Sixty-forty-five, off-duty.”

    “Go ahead, sixty-forty-five.”

    “Rockslide in Eldorado Canyon State Park approximately one half-mile north of Redgarden Wall. Saw a woman go down with it. I’m en route, but I don’t have a damned bit of gear with me. I’ll call again when I have her location.”

    “Copy sixty-forty-five—”

    That was all he needed to hear.

    He hung up and took off through the trees at a run.

    # # #

    It took Gabe almost ten minutes to reach the base of the rockslide area. Sucking wind, his heart pounding from exertion, he searched for her amid the rubble—boulders as big as trashcans, smaller rocks, mangled tree branches. He found a lone turquoise earring and a backpack that must have belonged to her. But he didn’t find her.

    There was really only one possibility.

    She was dead and buried, crushed somewhere beneath all that rock.

    “Damn it! Goddamn it!” He pulled his cell out and dialed 911 again. “Sixty-forty-five, at the site.”

    “Sixty-forty-five, can you repeat? You’re breaking up.”

    “At the site. No sign of the victim, but there’s no way she walked away from this. She’s probably buried. There’s a good ton of rock here. We’re going to need—”

    A cry.

    Stunned, he stopped mid-sentence.

    Another cry—the sound of a woman in pain.

    “She’s alive! Are you getting a lat and a long on me?” Gabe hoped the signal from his phone was strong enough to give dispatch a solid GPS reading.

    The answer came in a burst of static—and then the call disconnected.

    Damned cell phones.

    He pocketed the phone, hitched her pack over his shoulder, and ran uphill through the trees toward the sound.

    She screamed again.

    He adjusted his direction, quickened his pace.

    And then he saw her.

    Her jeans torn and muddy, she was crawling, or trying to crawl, her right leg dragging behind her, probably broken. She inched forward, crying out as her injured leg dragged across the damp forest floor. Then she sank onto her belly, whimpering. But before he could call to her to let her know help had arrived, she pushed herself up again and struggled forward another few inches, her scream catching behind clenched teeth.

    She was heading toward the trail, he realized. She was trying to rescue herself, trying to get to where help could find her. Lucky for her, it already had.

    “I’m Gabe Rossiter with Boulder Mountain Parks.”

    She looked up at him with a startled gasp and tried to sit, but succeeded only in sinking onto her back, the movement making her moan in pain.

    “Easy, there.” He walked over to her. “Just lie still. I’m here to help you.”

    The first thing he noticed was her eyes. An usual shade of hazel green, they watched him warily as he knelt down beside her. Agony was etched on every feature of her pretty face, a streak of mud on her bruised cheek, pine needles in her long, dark hair, the other turquoise earring dangling from her left earlobe. She looked to be in her mid-twenties, no taller than five-five and small-boned—a red flag when it came to fractures. There were deep scratches on her arms and hands, but no obvious bleeding.

    “The rocks… They fell.” She spoke with just a hint of an accent.

    American Indian?

    “I saw. Last night’s rain must have eroded the ground beneath them.” Because he couldn’t seem to help it, he looked into her eyes again, relieved to find that her pupils weren’t dilated. “What’s your name?”

    “Katherine James.”

    “How old are you, Katherine?”


    “Do you know today’s date?”

    She shivered, cold sweat on her forehead. “It’s Sunday… August twenty-sixth.”

    In shock, but coherent. Probable broken leg. Scrapes and bruises.

    “Help is on its way.” He kept his voice soothing. “In the meantime, I’ll do what I can for you. Can you tell me where you hurt?”


    “I’ll bet.” He dug into her pack. She wasn’t carrying a first-aid kit, but she had brought a sweater. He draped it over her. “I’m a paramedic and a park ranger. If it’s okay with you, I’m going to check you to see how badly you’re injured.”

    She eyed him suspiciously, still shivering, her gaze dropping to his bare chest, with its chalk marks, to the chalk on his hands, to the climbing shoes on his feet.

    Okay, so he looked like some kind of half-naked freak to her. Fair enough. “I’m off-duty. I was rock climbing nearby and saw you fall. Let me help you.”

    She seemed to measure him, then nodded, wincing slightly with her next breath.

    Broken ribs. Possible internal bleeding.

    He put his hand on her shoulder, tried to reassure her. “I’m going to feel on the outside of your clothes, and you tell me where it hurts, okay?”


    He stood, walked around to her other side and started with the obvious, sliding his hands over her jeans along the length of her right thigh. “Does it hurt here?”


    Thank God it wasn’t her femur. He’d seen more than one woman bleed out from a severed femoral artery, dead before help could arrive.

    He slid his hands past her knee and heard her gasp just as he found the bulge on her shin. “Your tibia is broken.”

    Not quite a compound fracture, but bad enough.

    Her right ankle was tender and swollen, as well, either broken or sprained.

    But of more concern to him than the broken bones was the fact that she was beginning to fade, slowly falling into unconsciousness, her dark lashes now resting on her cheeks, her eyes closed. He’d bet his ass that she had some kind of head injury. With a fall like that, she wouldn’t need to hit her head to injure her brain.

    “Stay awake, Katherine. Stay with me.”

    Stay with me.

    Kat thought time must be playing tricks on her. He’d just spoken those words a moment ago, and yet it seemed like hours. She forced her eyes open, saw him watching her, a worried look on his face, his hands moving gently over her, seeming magically to find all the places she hurt most—her right leg and ankle, the ribs on her left side, the deep scratch on her left arm.

    As if through a fog, some part of her noticed that he was a very attractive man, rugged and tall, with deep blue eyes. His square jaw was covered with dark whiskers, his temples trickling sweat, his thick, dark hair curling at his nape. There were calluses and chalk on his fingers and scrapes on his knuckles and his left shin. He was wearing only shorts and strange shoes, and although Kat had seen many men without their shirts, she’d seen very few men who looked like him—all lean muscle from head to toe, as if an artist had carved him from marble and then brought him to life.

    Strange that she should notice such an unimportant thing right now.

    His callused fingers worked their way gently along her collarbones, over her shoulders and into her hair. “Did you lose consciousness when you fell?”

    She tried to think. She’d heard the rocks scrape, felt the ground give way, felt herself falling, and then…

    The next thing she remembered was looking up at the sky, her right leg hooked over a rock, her entire body wracked with pain. “I think… I must have.”

    Apparently done checking her, he sat back on his heels, looking down at her. “You are one amazing woman, Katherine James. I don’t know many people, men or women, who would have been tough enough to do what you just did. You crawled almost two hundred feet, dragging that broken leg behind you.”

    But Kat hadn’t been brave. She’d been terrified. Once she’d come to herself, she’d realized that no one knew where she was and that unless she could make her way back to the trail where hikers could discover her, she would die right where she lay. Fear had gotten her onto her hands and knees, driving her forward each unbearable inch, the pain excruciating.

    Without warning, the full weight of what had just happened hit her. Tears burned her eyes, spilled down her temples, her body shaking uncontrollably.

    You almost died, Kat.

    The ranger took her hand, held it, his fingers warm. “It’s going to be all right. I know it hurts, but they’ll be here soon.”

    She looked up at him. “Y-you saved my life.”

    He shook his head. “You’d have been all right without me. You’d have made it to the trail eventually. It wouldn’t have been fun, but you’d have made it.”

    But she wasn’t so sure.

    # # #

    She lost track of time after that.

    The park ranger telling her to stay awake, stroking her cheek, telling her everything was going to be all right. People crowding around her. An oxygen mask over her mouth. The prick of a needle in her arm. A warm blanket.

    There was a moment of terrible, sharp pain when they put a splint on her leg, and she heard herself cry out. The ranger’s warm hand squeezed hers, his voice deep and soothing. Why couldn’t she remember his name?

    “It’s almost over, Katherine. In twenty minutes you’ll be in Denver, and Saint Anthony’s will take good care of you.”

    Was he coming with her? A part of her hoped he was.

    She didn’t really know him at all, but somehow she trusted him.

    “She fell from there?” a man’s voice said. “Holy shit! Why is she still alive?”

    “I can’t believe she crawled all that way with a badly broken leg,” said a woman. “Just the thought makes me queasy.”

    “So, you were free-soloing The Naked Edge when you saw her fall. Gee-zus! You have a death wish, Rossiter. One of these days we’re going to be rescuing you, only there won’t be anything left of you to save.”

    And then Kat was bouncing along as they carried the stretcher out of the trees toward a helicopter, the ranger walking beside her, his voice her anchor.

    “Stay awake, Katherine.”

    Only after the helicopter had lifted off did she realize the he was gone.

    And she hadn’t even thanked him.

Blog Archive

Total Pageviews