Hey, gang! (Whoops, just wrote that as 'Hey, gag'. Hm. Different sort of story, that!)
I had planned on talking about the big-ass salamander that was hanging out in my kitchen the other day and scared the boots off me, but then I remembered--Summer at Mustang Ridge comes out a week from tomorrow. Yayyy! So to celebrate, I thought would post an exclusive excerpt. Enjoy!
(All rights reserved, blah, blah)
“Aren't you a big one?” Foster mimicked, grinning as he led Brutus in from the geldings' pen, where a dozen or so mustangs were munching hay and snoozing in the sun.
The chestnut snaked his head around, feinting for a nip.
“Quit that.” He nudged the horse out of his space, reminding him how the pecking order went. The mustang had been at the ranch since last fall's gather, and had been under saddle for nearly six months. He'd only been in the working string for a few weeks, though, and was still reserved for the wranglers' use because his better-than-average smarts were paired with an unpredictable streak wider than the stripe running down his nose. He wasn't dangerous, but Foster wouldn't exactly call him reliable yet, either. Given his quick mind, big feet and smooth gaits, though, Foster figured he was worth putting some time into.
Annoyed that his nap had been interrupted, the gelding rolled an eye back at him.
“Yeah, yeah, life's tough. You think this is hard work, try being a real cowhorse. Compared to them, you're just a glorified trail pony.”
Then again, what did that make him? Head trail-pony wrangler? Executive greenhorn herder? Overlord of make-sure-the-dudes-don't-kill-themselves?
It made him employed, that was what. And saving for better days.
As his shaggy black dog, Vader, whuffed and darted into the barn, Foster clucked to Brutus. “Come on there, trail-pony-with-attitude. Let's fix that flat tire of yours and get you back in action.”
As they came into early June, they were leaving a wet-dry-wet weather pattern that had turned the horses' hooves brittle, leading to a bonanza of quarter cracks and loose nails. Which meant that Foster—who was the ranch's farrier in addition to lead merry-go-round attendant—was busier on the horses' day off than he was just about any other day of the week.
He'd left Brutus 'til last because the gelding had pulled his shoe clean off yesterday up on the ridgeline and did some serious damage on the ride home, largely because Junior hadn't noticed. The young wrangler had gotten an earful, but it'd be up to Foster to bang a new blank into shape, clean up the hoof, and find some good horn to nail into.
“I'm onto you,” Foster said, giving the gelding another nudge as they reached the barn, where the bright sun turned to murky shadows at the doorway and a nervous horse—or one with a questionable sense of humor—could spook. “Don't even think about it,” he warned conversationally. “This is supposed to be my day off, and I'm not in the mood to deal with your—”
Movement flashed in his peripheral vision as they stepped from light into dark, and Brutus gave a sudden elephant snort and exploded in a spook that was part pent-up energy, part “aieeeee, mountain lion!” The big gelding's shoes struck sparks on the cement as he tried to wheel and bolt, dragging Foster around with a thousand pounds of momentum and a cement-strong neck. Vader got in front of him and splayed all four feet, barking, trying to head off the runaway.
Foster hauled back on the lead. “Whoa, dang it! And, Vader, git!”
As the dog scurried out the back, Foster caught a flash of brown hair and wide, scared hazel eyes. He had only a split second to realize that the little girl was about to get flattened. Then Brutus swung his haunches around and bumped her hard, and she went flying across the aisle.
She hit the wall and went down in a pink-and-denim heap.
Foster's stomach headed for his boots but his body kept reacting, using thirty-some years of experience to juggle the gelding away from the kid and down to the other end of the aisle.
“Knock it off!” he growled, getting right up near one of Brutus's white-rimmed eyes. Where
normally he would've soothed, now he muscled the block-headed chestnut under some semblance of control, then kicked open a nearby stall and sent him into it, still wearing his halter. “Don't you dare get tangled in that lead,” he ordered, then ran the door shut and latched it tight.
He spun back, expecting to find the little girl still down. She wasn't, though. She was on her feet, plastered in the corner where the tack stall jutted out a few feet into the aisle. Her pink t-shirt and jeans were streaked with dust, her face sheet-white. All arms and legs, with a long torso and those big hazel eyes, she reminded him of a yearling in the middle of a growth spurt, when all the pieces didn't go together quite right.
She hadn't made a sound, wasn't crying now, just stood there, staring at him.
“You okay?” When she didn't say anything, he took a step toward her and reached out a hand. “Are you hurt?”
Foster's head whipped around as a dark-haired woman in a ridiculous pantsuit raced into the barn wearing the same sort of look he'd seen before in a half-wild heifer's eyes when he made the mistake of getting between her and her newborn calf. The kind of look that said she didn't care what happened to her or anything around her as long as she got up close and personal with the little one, pronto.
He did what he should've done back then, saving himself a whole bunch of black-and-blues. He got the heck out of the way.
Buy at Amazon
Buy at BN.com
Other buy links
Buy at Amazon
Buy at BN.com
Other buy links