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I take inventory. The girl possesses no visible weapons. There were no young gorillas involved, unless they ran off when the workers arrived—but that isn’t typical behavior. Normally the young stay by the adult’s side. Conscious or not. And the girl didn’t seem to have provoked it with a loud sound—I would have heard that. But there is always a trigger. I’m missing something.
The man and girl disappear from sight. The gorilla takes a shuddering breath, causing dirt around his face to puff up like smoke. He continues in his slumber while I watch the women. One reaches a hand to the ape’s rough palm. Touches it gently with two fingers, like a mother would her sleeping infant. Such love, such tenderness, in that act.
They clearly do not blame the ape.
A man’s voice comes over the radio, announcing that he’s approaching fast. Even without the radio, I can hear him crashing through the underbrush.
The gorilla stirs, and the woman removes her hand quickly. Her actions speak volumes. She cares for the animal but understands that he is wild, that only in his short-lived hibernation is it okay to invade his space.
But the woman is safe, because the dart hasn’t worn off yet.
The man who was talking on the radio appears, jogging through the trees. Another man is with him, and they immediately set to work, taking the gorilla’s vitals. A thick needle pierces the animal’s tough skin, withdrawing two vials of blood. It flows like a river into the tubes, I presume for the scientists to analyze in their lab later.
From a distance, my eyes scour the surface of the silverback, checking for wounds. As suspected, there aren’t any. Unless they are superficial, and superficial matters none to a gorilla.
Very few people come face-to-face with an angry silverback and live to tell. Even so, silverbacks have been hunted to an endangered status. Their meat sells on the bush market for prices worth the risk. Even the government is involved, quietly, in the poaching practice. People here train months, years, an eternity it seems, for the skills necessary to hunt gorillas. Should they want to be illegal hunters.
Then there is the process of being accepted by the poachers. Three main poaching groups patrol and surround this part of the jungle. The boundaries are clearly mapped. Violation of those borders by anyone belonging to another poaching pack is essentially suicide. Occasionally, wilds—people belonging to no pack—can be found searching for a quick kill, for a quick paycheck. But they are rare. If a gorilla doesn’t kill them first, a poaching leader will. It’s considered stealing from the poachers to undermine their training and boundaries and take their meat. There is an order to the black market. It is normally strictly adhered to, because it is necessary. After all, only those with minds as sharp as steel, only the strongest hunters, can outsmart the highly intelligent gorillas and live to tell about it.
I should know.
I am one of them.
Length: 270 pages
Publisher: Flirt (November 11, 2014)
Amber Hart pushes contemporary romance to its wildest limits in this heart-pounding novel, the story of a girl who travels to Africa to protect the legacy of one man . . . and stays for the love of another.
Raven Moore, a twenty-year-old college student from Michigan, feels out of place in the beautiful, treacherous jungles of Cameroon, staying in the habitat where her father gave his life to help protect endangered gorillas. He left home years ago; now Raven refuses to return home until she unravels the truth about his last days.
Raven certainly doesn’t count on crossing paths with a handsome young hunter—especially one as charismatic and intense as Jospin Tondjii. Instantly, she’s hooked. But Jospin is hiding a dark truth: He is the heir to a powerful poaching empire, part of a ruthless black market that is responsible for the dwindling gorilla population.
Their fathers may have been enemies, but Raven and Jospin forge a bond that goes beyond blood, a relationship that is tested as Raven draws closer to the source of her father’s death. Can she and Jospin bear the weight of the secrets of the wild—and the secrets of their pasts? Or will the rain forest destroy them both?
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