Hounded by the Past

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With Valentine’s Day fast approaching, budding lovebirds Dr. Ashley Hart and U.S. Forest Ranger Cole Hawke eagerly anticipate their first date, but an avalanche outside Aspen Falls, Colorado, delays their Friday night plans. Not letting the interruption ruffle her feathers, Ashley opens her veterinary clinic after hours to treat a dog and a falcon for hypothermia after they spent several freezing hours trapped in an icy cave with their caretaker, local historian Jedidiah Stone. She expects the animals to make a full recovery—what she doesn’t expect is to learn that Jedidiah discovered a human skeleton during his harrowing experience and the police suspect foul play.

Although Jedidiah seems innocent, Ashley senses he knows more about the bones than he lets on. Unable to determine whether Jedidiah’s secrets are sinister or not, Ashley decides she’d better watch the young man like a hawk as he draws her into a tangled web of half-truths and misdirection. 

Before long, identifying the bones becomes about much more than laying an unfortunate victim of the elements to rest—it turns into a murder investigation and Jedidiah is the main person of interest. Can Ashley decode the clues that will uncover a killer before her greatest fears are realized? If not, she might become the next person in Aspen Falls to fall prey to a cold-blooded murderer.

The Characters

Social butterfly and owner of the Mountain Goat Coffee Company, 50-year-old Melanie Lyons always seems to know the latest town gossip. Her coffee shop is located next door to the Happy Tails Veterinary Clinic and she befriends Ashley immediately, always eager to discuss her small herd of goats and two pet Barnevelder chickens, Butch and Cassidy.

With a degree in acting and a penchant for drama, Melanie sings in the church choir and often volunteers to be in the town’s Old West reenactments and other festivals. But Ashley detects another kind of acting going on . . . Melanie lives next door to the horse farm where the trainer Bruce Peterson was found dead in a stall, and she seems to know more about it than she’s telling.

A member of one of the town’s oldest families, Bruce was a kind man, dedicated to his job, and one who genuinely cared about the well-being of the horses he worked with. He was loved by all—or so it seemed. But when Ashley discovers evidence that his death was no accident, a cloud of suspicion settles over the town of Aspen Falls. Who would want the talented horse trainer dead? As it turns out, Bruce had a few secrets of his own. Ashley must unleash the truth and catch a thoroughbred killer before the culprit sets his sights on her.

38-year-old Cole Hawke is a U.S. Park Ranger in the White River National Forest. His friends would describe him as good-natured, dependable, and smart, and some would even say he’s one of Aspen Falls most eligible bachelors. An avid cross-country skier and mountain biker, he loves the great outdoors and spends as much time in it as possible, both on the job and off. He’s a member of the In CaHOOTS Bird Watchers club, and he often takes the unofficial lead on the hikes.

Cole is open to a serious romance but he hasn’t found the right woman—until Ashley moves to town. She has a beautiful smile and a spark he can’t resist, but he worries about her getting mixed up in the murder of local trainer, Bruce Peterson.

38-year-old veterinarian Dr. Ashley Hart is always up for a challenge. Smart, bighearted, and driven, she jumps at the chance to open her own practice in Aspen Falls. She’s thrilled that the residents have chosen her to be their veterinarian, and she looks forward to the adventures she and her Dalmatian, Max, will have in their new home. What she doesn’t expect, however, is the menagerie of mysteries that await them in the charming mountain town.

Independent and spunky, 32-year-old Holly Kipp grew up in Gilmore Creek, Colorado, a sleepy town located about an hour away from Aspen Falls. She’s always loved animals and decided to marry her passion for pets with her desire to open her own pet grooming business. 3 Alarm Fur is a full-service pet salon located in the town’s old firehouse, across the hall from Ashley’s clinic, and Holly and Ashley hit it off immediately. Holly enjoys a good conspiracy theory and is always ready to lend a sleuthing hand. She is also a member of the Bookaru Book Club and she never misses a meeting if they’re reading a mystery novel.