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Excerpt from Breaking Wild by Diane Les Becquets, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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Breaking Wild by Diane Les Becquets

Breaking Wild

by Diane Les Becquets
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  • First Published:
  • Feb 9, 2016
  • Paperback:
  • Feb 2017
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Amy Raye

It was snowing already, in early November, after days of hot, clear fall weather. The flakes landed on her tent like slow rain. She lay still, aware of every small, square inch around her, and in that stillness imagined changing her mind, sleeping almost warm for a few more hours, and after daybreak and coffee, packing up with the others and driving home.

Earlier that night, Kenny had asked her, "Do you still love him?" They'd been sitting by the fire. Aaron had already turned in.

She felt sorrow pass over her face when Kenny asked her this, and she knew Kenny had felt it, too, because he reached over to her chair, laid his hand on top of hers like something protective. He then moved his chair closer, lifted his arm, wrapped it around her shoulder, pulled her against him. It was an uncomfortable position, but she did not tell him that. He took his other arm, encircled her with it. He kissed the top of her head, pressed his face into her hair.

"You smell good," he said.

"I smell like elk piss and smoke," she said.

"No, I smell you."

"What do I smell like?"

"Like something tangy and salty and sweet, like something I've never smelled before."

And then her breathing and his became lost in the sound of the fire and the weight of moisture accumulating in the air. As brief as a moment, she felt a deep sense of the place, folding the days back to summer and wild rose columbine and life as pure as a mountain stream over a rocky bed.

"I'm going out in the morning," Amy Raye said. "I wasn't going to say anything. Yesterday I found a tree stand up on the mesa. It's a good spot. There's fresh sign."

"Do you want me to go with you? I want to go with you."


"You shouldn't go alone."

"Kenny." She said his name like she used to say that of her dog back home when Saddle was about to do something wrong. And then, "Don't tell Aaron," she said.

There were three of them—Kenny and Aaron and Amy Raye. Kenny and Aaron hunted with rifles. Aaron had filled his tag on the first day, taking down a four-point bull elk they'd come upon at a watering hole. Kenny had filled his tag for a cow elk the next, from a small herd grazing in a meadow, making a clean shot at about two hundred yards. They'd quartered the carcasses and hung the quarters from a two-by-four that they'd nailed between two trees alongside the camp. But Amy Raye didn't hunt with a rifle. She hunted with a compound bow, which meant getting within twenty to thirty yards of an elk. Harvesting an elk with a bow during rifle season was legal but hardly heard of. Amy Raye knew if she was to have any chance, she'd have to head out by herself and find where the elk had scattered. Just the day before she'd broken off on her own, had hiked miles into the area, where she'd discovered excellent sign—elk urine, rubbings in the nearby trees, trails that crisscrossed, and fresh tracks. And in the grasses nearby she'd glassed smooth indentions of elk bedding. She'd come upon a tree stand tucked about fifteen feet high in a pinyon, with tree steps still in place. Hunters were supposed to remove their stands at the end of a season. The screw-in tree steps looked like they had been set for a while, a residue of dust and rain deposits coating the brown-tempered steel. Amy Raye had navigated a trail for herself away from the stand, and set several reflector tags on trees on her way out.

That evening before dinner, before she and Kenny had sat by the fire and Aaron had turned in, she'd walked through the woods to a shallow stream, barely three feet wide and six inches deep. She'd removed her clothes and squatted, her buttocks resting against her ankles, the water so cold it was painful. She'd rushed through the ritual, running a nylon brush over her skin. But she hadn't washed her hair. And now, lying in her tent, she wished she had, hoping her scent wouldn't keep the elk away.

Excerpted from Breaking Wild by Diane Les Becquets. Copyright © 2016 by Diane Les Becquets. Excerpted by permission of Berkley Books. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

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