Take it away, Alana.
When bad luck just seems to follow you…
Jake Patrin has seen his share of trouble.
When he hit the age of thirty-five, he had the year from Hell, with a capital H. His wife had divorced him and he’d lost a good job driving truck in King City, California. Worse, a collision with a Mack truck late one night when he’d been driving too long had stuck him in the hospital for three months, left him in constant pain, controlled by serious doses of Oxycontin and other medications.
If that wasn’t enough, the devil kicked him down another flight of steps. That drug had become his master, had taken over for awhile. Almost a year later, he’d kicked the narcotic, but faces a daily struggle to leave the addiction behind.
That’s why he’s working as a caretaker at the Sherman Ranch, near Santa Fe, New Mexico. Living in the middle of nowhere. Here he can stay clean and sober. Weekly trips to Santa Fe, or even a phone call in more desperate moments, hook him up with a middle-aged male Alcoholics Anonymous group that help keep him sane. His sponsor is an old Indian, John White Horse, who’d fought his own good fight for nigh on forty years. John takes no bullshit. He’s a good friend and good support.
Groups rent out the place, and they come and go. Some have really strange demands—take out all the TVs, or hide the movie collections. Some bring truckloads of horses. Some just find their way to the hot tub and never leave.
Jake’s prepared for the group of fancy-schmancy lawyers coming in to rent the place for the week in March, even despite the boxes of alcohol they brought in. He thinks he can ignore that. He hopes he can.
He’d better be able to. The one thing he can control is his own sobriety. As he soon discovers, everything else this week is totally out of his hands.
Teo Haroun and the other lawyers in his firm look forward in varying degrees to the retreat at the Sherman Ranch in northern New Mexico. The boss has laid down some rules—no phones, no computers, no communication with the outside world—that makes them uneasy. But the corporate team-building exercises are necessary for this firm to survive its inner sniping and turmoil—and to protect the secrets they hold.
Inez Suela and thirty other Mexicans have paid a coyote hundreds of pesos to take them across the border into the United States, where they hope to make a better life. The crowded truck heads north into New Mexico to meet their local driver, the occupants unaware that a freak March snowstorm is waiting in its path.
Jake Patrin, the caretaker of the Ranch, fights demons of his own as he struggles daily with addiction. Working far from the city on the lonely Ranch, hosting those who rent the facility, is his protection and solace. But he’s about to lose the only peace he’s been able to grasp.
Davi Pilar needs to make some fast money to appease a couple of St. Louis loan sharks, so he agrees to pick up a truckload of illegals and take them to St. Louis. He drives to New Mexico, not knowing that Inez, the woman who rejected him years before, is one of those on that truck.
The intersection of these people, the collision of their cultures, the revelation of their secrets—all these things lead to violence, death, and even redemption in their New Mexico ENCOUNTER.
The others had disappeared into the casa; he heard their voices echo down the west hall. Pete helped him load their suitcases onto the cart.
Jake grinned at the weary look on the driver’s face. “Interesting group, eh, amigo?”
Pete snorted. “Not satisfied with anything. Big city gringos.”
“Hey, big city gringos’ money keeps enchiladas on the table, right? You and me, pal, we work for a living.” As he stacked the eleventh piece of luggage, he wondered exactly what these men and women thought they’d be doing for seven days that required all this. “How’s Maria?”
“She’s good, she’s good.” Pete smiled with his broken teeth. “Knitting for the grandbaby.” He whipped out his wallet and shared pictures of a fat, dark-skinned infant. “Esteban Marrero-Nunez.”
“Gonna be a ladykiller.” Jake grinned and handed the pictures back with a hint of jealousy. His wife had left after twelve years, taken everything they owned, but they’d never had kids. He’d been on the road so often, it hadn’t troubled him much. Except for times like this. He wished he had some pictures to flash around. Something of himself to leave behind. Something to help strengthen his resolve during those moments when the cravings really tore at his gut.
“Got time for coffee? Put a fresh pot on bit ago.”
Pete looked at the van, his watch and then down the hall. “Better head back, my friend. Bueno suerte. You’ll need it.” He shared a tired smile, then hurried out and hit the road.
That bad. Damn. It was gonna be a long week. Jake rubbed his forehead and went for a cup of that coffee all alone.