A maelstrom of white assaulted Claire as she searched for the reflection of a trail marker in the light of her headlamp. She needed to find shelter for herself and her dogs. There was supposed to be a cabin twenty-five miles from Elim, but she feared she could be standing right next to it and not see it. The longer they blindly thrashed on, the greater the odds of getting lost. If they weren't already. What if the wind had shifted? What if they'd been going in circles?
Be strong for me.
"Mama?" The wind ripped the question from her mouth, scattering it like confetti. "Mama, is that you?"
Oh God, I'm hallucinating again. The thought sent a jag of panic through her. How could she take care of her dogs if she couldn't trust what she was seeing or hearing?
They'd have to stop now, cabin or no cabin.
The dogs didn't need any further encouragement. Setting the snowhook, Claire made her way forward, shining her light on each dog, calling names as she went – Sugar, Daisy, Harmony, Sam. Putting the right name to the right dog helped her focus. Ginny, Mama's Boy, Zach. They wore their jackets against the heat-sucking wind. She checked ties and snaps, straightened and tightened where needed, checked booties, wiped a mitten over frosted faces.
She reached the front of her team. "How's my Handsome man?" He cast her a doleful look as she de-iced his face. The poor guy had been taking the brunt of the weather, running lead with Ranger. He'd clearly had enough. Another jag of panic, stronger this time. Handsome was her rock. What would she do if he quit on her?
She looked to his running mate, wiped ice from the little dog's mask. "How's my Lone Ranger doing? You've been here before. Any idea where that cabin is?"
The wind howled, but the undaunted husky tossed his head and leaned into his harness as if eager to go. Matt told her Ranger was her best bet in blizzard conditions. She didn't fully appreciate that fact until she squinted in the direction the dog pointed and the light from her headlamp flashed across the board siding of a cabin.
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