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This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, brands, media, and incidents are either the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. The author acknowledges the trademarked status and trademark owners of various products referenced in this work of fiction, which have been used without permission. The publication/use of these trademarks is not authorized, associated with, or sponsored by the trademark owners.

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CHAPTER 1


“Wait a minute, Lemming! Let me catch my breath,” Jasmine gasped as she clutched a slender poplar for balance. A shower of bright leaves and water peppered her head and shoulders as the tree swayed. For a moment, her vision blurred and her legs trembled, but she stiffened them to wait out the asthma attack. The painful tightness in her chest nagged at her.

Grumbling, she dug out her inhaler and took a couple puffs. She hated resorting to medicine. Every couple of days it seemed, the TV would announce that people were getting cancer from some drug or another. Her favorite ads were the ones for male impotence that announced in fine print that the side effects included impotence. Next they’d announce that inhalers caused black lung.

She shook her head at her imagination and shoved the inhaler deep in her pocket. There was no sense being morbid.

Lemming trotted over to her, tail wagging, and sat gracefully at her feet. The black and white Border collie was used to such stops, but unlike her companion, she still had energy to burn.

Jasmine inspected a large rock that had washed free of the sticky clay, looking for ants. Satisfied, she shifted the holstered pistol on her hip and sat down gingerly. Cold seeped into her jeans from the lichen covered stone, even with the extra layer of long johns underneath. She ignored it and took in the view.

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