OAVS #6: Fifty Miles at a Breath Coming Soon!

Hi all! We can’t wait for our Summertime Boxed set to be released this month, including seven great new novellas by Authors of Main Street authors! It’ll feature my Once Upon a Vet School #6: Fifth Miles at a Breath!  (Yes, you noticed… I’m going backwards… LOL)

Well… mine’s sort of a novella… I seem to have this little problem with “writing short“.  It’s come out at 59K… when it was meant to be… much less. :/  I hope you enjoy it!

Like horses? Things veterinary? You’ll love Fifty Miles at a Breath!

Fifty Miles at a breath

Here’s the first chapter from Fifty Miles at a Breath:

Fifty miles at a breath break

Southern California, 1986

“You’ll regret you refused me,” Gareth Barnett-Payne menaced, reaching for me, but I spun and ran until my legs—

“Lena… Lena” Raywyn, the head veterinary technician, waved her hand before my eyes.

I blinked, shaking my head and willing my heart to stop pounding in my chest.

“Are you okay?” Her brows knitted together.

I gripped the edge of the desk before me. “Yes, fine,” I mumbled, wondering how anyone could be so vicious. “So,” I swallowed hard and dragged myself back to today, “what’s the surgery schedule for tomorrow, Ray?”

She looked at me sideways, then turned to the schedule before her.

I took a deep breath and let it out slowly, trying to release the tension stacked up from three weeks of flea allergy dermatitis, hotspots, anal glands and catfight abscesses. Through those stinking hot Santa Barbara summer days, I yearned for the touch of a velvet nose, the solid muscle and bone, and the scent of a horse. Any horse. It wouldn’t be much longer before I could go home to my own roan. I bit my lip and scanned the small animal clinic, my eyes and nose running as freely as they’d been since the moment I first walked in through the practice doorway. Cat allergy in a vet—great. Thank god I was going to be an equine vet.

“Let’s see,” Ray’s finger ran down the page, “two dogs spays, a cruciate surgery, four cat neuters, and… hmmm… I can’t read it. I’ll need to ask Dr. Franco.” She flashed a grin at me. “With your handwriting, you should make a fantastic veterinarian, too. I can’t read a thing you write.”

“I really do try,” I said, with a rueful grin.

“Could have fooled me.”

“Not too many cats for tomorrow, then,” I sighed, “that’s a good thing.”

“We don’t have many appointments, so Dr. Franco will be free to supervise and you should be able to do most of the surgeries.”

“I’m pretty lucky,” I nodded, “I get to do so much surgery here. I’ve been speaking with some of my classmates. They just don’t get the opportunities I’ve been handed. I’ll be forever grateful to you and Dr. Franco for that. I’m going to be a horse vet, but I’m sure there’ll still be other animals in my life.”

Ray looked at me, brows narrowed, until I began to squirm, with an overwhelming urge to cover myself. “What?”

“It’s a man, isn’t it?”

I gritted my teeth and held my breath. “Maybe.”

“No maybe about it. Who is he?”

“Some creep with a control fetish.”

Ray blinked and shook her head. “Tell me he isn’t your problem anymore.”

“He’s not my problem anymore.”

“Truth?”

I nodded. “Never was, much, though he encouraged the idea… rather forcefully.”

“You need to come out with us to a few clubs tomorrow night. Just the girls.”

“I’d rather stay away from men, but thanks all the same.”

Ray’s smile faded. “It’ll be fun, Lena. It’s a group of women. We’ll dance, have a blast, and go home. Alone. Can you think about it?” Her smile was hopeful.

“I’ll think about it,” I said, biting my lip. “Can I tell you tomorrow?”

“Sure, but we’d love to have you along.”

“I don’t know… I’m truly over men,” I swallowed hard. “They’re just not worth the angst.”

“All you have to do is come out with us. You don’t even need to dance with them. You can dance with the rest of the girls.”

I was far from certain, but I had no other plans for my hot Friday night. “Okay,” I finally said.

Fifty miles at a breath scene break

The electronic music throbbing across the dance floor jangled in my head. It was so loud, my heart thumped in shock along with the beat. With a deep breath, I forced my butt to stay on the barstool. And tried to smile. And look pleasant. Hard when everything about the place made me want to run screaming out the door. The men either plastic and young in their shiny, synthetic shi—

“Aren’t you glad you came with us, now?” Ray’s voice cut into my thoughts during a momentary lull in the noise,

I bit my cheek and nodded. No use wrecking her night, too. There certainly wasn’t anyone here with whom I’d want to wake up, much less spend the rest of my life. Maybe I was just too serious.

“That guy,” Ray nodded her chin, “the one who looks like he never leaves the beach, has been eyeing you up for the past half hour. Why don’t you go put him out of his misery?”

I rolled my eyes as the music started pounding again. “Come on, Ray, you know I can’t shoot guys in here,” I shouted over the music and smirked. “Someone might object.”

Ray closed her eyes and shook her head. “You really are a tough case, aren’t you?” she yelled back.

“Okay, I’ll go. I don’t imagine he knows how to dance Western Swing,” I said into her ear as I hopped from my perch.

“You go girl!” Ray barked, her eyes twinkling.

Mr. Lifeguard may have been eyeing me up, but he looked ready to bolt at my approach.

“Hi, my friend thought I should come ask you to dance.”

“Hello,” he said, with a heavy accent and I blinked.

“A Danish hello?” A smile cracked my visage.

This could be interesting.

His rabbit-in-the-headlights look dissolved and he laughed.

Hvordan har du de?” he said, in my mother’s native language.

Fint tak,” I replied. That made me smile. My mother would be pleased,

He started off on a stream of rapid-fire dansk, and with a laugh, I put a hand on his arm to stop him.

“Whoa there. You’ve already heard most of my Danish. From my mom, I learned hello, thank you, you’re welcome, and stand up. Baby words.”

His smile melted, and he bit his lip.

“It’s okay,” I smiled. “Want to dance?”

Tak, thank you. That, I would love,” he said, as he put a hand on the small of my back and guided me to the crowded dance floor.

“You wouldn’t know how to dance properly, would you?”

With a smile that lit the whole room, he took my hand and whirled me around the floor. The man could dance—and I was thankful once again for my many years of Latin and ballroom lessons. I never knew when they’d come in handy, like now.

“What are you doing so far from home?” I asked, after we’d been dancing for what seemed like hours.

“I’ve been at University here, studying marine biology.”

“Really?” So, the lifeguard guess was close. “I almost did that. I love to dive—I started when I was an undergraduate here,” I shouted, “but I’m in veterinary school up north now. Maybe we could go for a dive before I have to go home.”

“I would love to,” he bit his lip, his brow furrowed, “but I fly back to Danmark tomorrow morning. I wish we’d met sooner.” He genuinely looked wistful and my heart twinged at the thought of the friendship we might have had.

“Believe me when I say I’m gutted to hear you’re leaving.” That’d be right. I finally meet someone with the same interests… and he’s heading halfway around the world the next day.

“Gutted?”

“Sorry, very sorry.” My mouth twisted.

“Me too,” said the Viking. He took my hand and made a little bow over it, then he kissed it. I had to take a deep breath and lock my knees to keep from melting. I love Europeans.

“It seems your friends are ready to leave.” He nodded at Ray’s table full of women. They looked at us over their empty glasses, purses slung over their shoulders. “Mange tusind tak, and goodbye for now,” he said, as he turned away toward his own friends.

Many thousand thanks…

My heart sinking, I rejoined Ray and her friends as they walked out the door.

Outside on the street, Ray and I split from her friends and turned toward our apartment over the clinic. Ray stared at the retreating back of the blonde Viking as he and his friends headed away from us and tripped over a crack in the pavement. She recovered and turned back to me. Her mouth twitched in the light of the streetlamp. “Well, you’ve certainly found yourself a live one,” she said, with a wink. “When will you see him again?”

I snorted. “Probably never. He flies home to Denmark tomorrow.”

Ray’s face fell. “You can’t be serious.”

“Story of my life.” I nodded. “Told you it’s not worth it,” I couldn’t repress a smile, “but the dancing was spectacular.”

“You two were awesome out there.”

“It was all him. I just followed.”

“Could have fooled me,” Ray muttered.

“Truth be told, it’s easier, or safer, anyway, than dancing Western Swing, where the only rules are to try to stay on your feet while they fling you around. It’s fun, but Jesper’s dancing was… so much more subtle. It was easy, like… like… dancing.” I beamed at my friend. “Thank you for dragging me along. I really enjoyed myself.”

“You at least have each other’s contacts, right?”

My mouth dropped open and nothing came out.

“I can see,” Ray sighed, “I’ll need to take you under my wing. You clearly lack training.”

We both laughed, but mine was a bit self-conscious.

“I’ll be okay.” I gave her a half smile. “My focus needs to be veterinary school now. I really don’t have the time or the energy for anything other than that. The next two years are going to be hard enough just taking care of me and my animals, without worrying about the ups and downs of a relationship.”

“I see,” Ray said, though she looked like she did no such thing.

“It’s really true,” I said firmly, wrapped an arm around Ray’s shoulders, and gave her a squeeze. “I have friends like you. What more could a vet student want?”

“I guess you’re right, and you have your precious horse waiting for you back at home.” Ray stopped dead and stared at me. “Oh my god, horse.…” she slapped her palm to her forehead and jerked her head toward me. “How could I forget about you?”

“Pardon?”

“A vet tech friend of mine asked me last week if I knew anyone who could help at an endurance ride next weekend.”

“Like a horse endurance ride?” I goggled at her.

“No, you goof, they’re racing penguins. Of course, it’s a horse endurance ride.” Ray’s eyes sparkled. She’d grown up with horses, but with her head tech position at the clinic, she didn’t have time for them now.

“Where do I sign?”

“Have you ever helped at an endurance ride?”

fifty miles at a breath

“I’ve been on the ‘P & R Team’ at the vet school and my family’s done endurance since before I was born—I’ve been on my family’s Tevis Cup crew since before I could walk.”

“Boy, am I glad to hear that.” Ray let out a breath and shook her head. “Sarah’s desperate for some helpers.” She turned to me, brow furrowed. “What’s a P & R team?”

“P for pulse, R for respiration. It’s a team of vet students that helps at local endurance rides by taking heart rates and respiratory rates on the horses before they go on to the vets at the control checks. It frees the vets up to focus on lameness and metabolic problems.”

“Oh, of course.”

“Where is it?” A tingle of excitement ran up my back.

“It’s at Los Lomitos, about an hour and a half from here. I’ll make you a deal: if you go help Sarah, you can leave on Friday at noon and needn’t be back at work until Tuesday morning—you can take some time for yourself up there.”

The weight, the tension sliding from my shoulders made me want to dance the rest of the way home. I was grateful for the opportunity offered by this summer preceptorship, but I wasn’t sure if I’d survive a whole two months down here, away from home and my animals, with only patient dogs and cats for company. Ray was offering me not only respite, but horses, too.

“Sweeten the deal,” Ray said, at my continued silence, “I’ll send you with my tent, sleeping bag and everything you’ll need to camp in luxury. Including poison oak medication.”

I laughed, afraid my cheeks might split from smiling so widely. “I’m in. You had me at hello.”

Fifty miles at a breath scene break

It was still early afternoon on Friday when I arrived at the endurance race campground and found Ray’s friend Sarah, the ride manager.

I’d beamed at myself in the rearview mirror for most of the drive. Four days of horses, camping, and outdoor life after the desert of life in a city. I’d owe Ray forever.

The somewhat frazzled Sarah managed a welcoming smile for me. “There’s nothing you need to do until later, Lena,” she said, handing me a lanyard and passes. “Ray told me your history, and I can’t say how glad I am to have a volunteer of your experience and training.”

“Happy to help,” I said. “I just want to touch some horses.”

“Plenty of opportunity for that.” Sarah’s eyes twinkled. “The P & R team briefing starts at 7 p.m. and there’s another session afterward to practice taking pulse and respiratory rates. You wouldn’t want to help with that, would you?”

“Of course,” I said. “I’m at your disposal.”

“I’d hoped you’d say that. Most of the team are experienced horse people, but only a few have taken vitals before.”

“I’d be happy to help them.” I smiled.

“Thanks so much.” Sarah’s eyes glinted. “Go ahead and set up your camp. There’s a nice swimming hole in the creek, just down there,” she pointed, “if you feel so inclined. I need to run,” she said, as a man wearing an OFFICIAL badge touched her on the shoulder, an expectant look on his face. “I’ll see you at dinner.” Sarah and the man headed off at a trot.

As my meals were supplied by the ride management, setting up camp took only minutes and I was soon free to enjoy my afternoon.

A luxury I haven’t had in long months,

Inside Ray’s tent, I dropped my jeans and slipped into my shorts and bikini top, grabbed a towel, and headed for the proffered swimming hole. I hadn’t gotten far when the throaty rumble of an Arabian caught my attention. He stared at me intently from his wooden tie stall and I approached him, looking around for someone connected to this magnificent creature, but no one was near. His blood bay coat gleamed over a faultlessly muscled body. He whickered again as I neared him. With his body carriage, he had to be a stallion, so I peeked under his belly. Yep, a stallion.

I reached out a hand to him and he lipped gently at my palm.

“Ooh, aren’t you the most handsome man?” I murmured.

I jumped when he answered.

“Why, thank you,” came a deep voice, tinged with humor.

I chuckled into the laughing gaze of the man who raised himself from the ground behind the short wall at the stallion’s feet. “I thought he answered me, for a moment.”

The man’s face creased into deep laugh lines around his gorgeous blue eyes. He was as handsome as the horse, to be sure.

“He talks, this boy,” he said, as he slid one arm over the bay’s back and gave him a scratch on his withers, then stuck out his other hand. “Blake, Blake Sagan. Pleased to meet you.”

I smiled and introduced myself. “Just admiring your stallion. He’s a beaut.”

“Thanks. He’s pretty special. His name’s Prince. Prince Witeż, after his grandfather. My pride and joy. Are you racing tomorrow?”

“Not this time. I’m here to help, P & R team.”

“Ever been to an endurance ride before?” He looked sideways at me while he waited for my answer.

“Oh, a few. My grandfather’s done the Tevis Cup numerous times, my mom and stepdad a few more, and I’ve done some shorter rides plus ride & ties. I usually get to crew, though.”

“Ah,” his eyes glinted, “you must be the vet student from Santa Barbara.”.

I blinked. News traveled fast.

“I knew Sarah was looking for helpers.” He smiled. “Thanks for coming along.”

“Glad to help. I was in serious need of a horse fix. I’ve been working in a small animal clinic this summer.”

“Not keen on the smallies?”

“I love them, but my heart’s with the horses.”

“You off for a swim?” He nodded at my towel.

“Sure am. Sarah told me to go down by the bridge.”

“It’s a nice spot, but there’s an even better one a little way upstream. I’m taking Prince down there for a swim shortly.”

“I’ll see you down there, then.”

“Be there soon,” he said, and waved at me as I walked away.

Blake’s gaze—there was more light in that man’s sparkling eyes then I’d seen in ages. I wondered what he did besides ride horses—with that quick, intelligent spark, it must be something special.

What can I be thinking?

The next two years are not about more devastating relationships. It’s time to finish my doctorate and establish my career.

I cannot go there.

I simply cannot.

 

 

Fifty miles at a breath break

Want to read more? Keep an eye out for Fifty Miles at a Breath in Summertime Romance on Main Street!

Coming in June 2018!

Fifty Miles at a Breath

Our Christmas Tree, or New Traditions for New Lives

This year, with my boys grown and moved away, my partner and I decided to simply decorate our living room for the holidays with a ficus tree, a veer away from tradition. Rather than purchase a cut-your-own pine Christmas tree, for the first time we chose to honour our own tree—the one which lives with us every day in our home.

traditional non treeMy partner, a native of the UK, has a history of disappointment and sadness at our New Zealand Christmas. I, too, was transplanted to New Zealand (by choice, of course…). Getting used to a summertime Christmas hasn’t always been easy for me, either.

Tradition at NZ Christmas

Credit to NZ Post, with thanks, at https://stamps.nzpost.co.nz/

Seasonally-inverted southern hemisphere Kiwis (New Zealanders) have imported the northern hemisphere holiday traditions—but someone forgot to change the dates. In doing so, we’ve essentially lost the fundamental reason for celebration of the midwinter festival: the anticipated return of life after the still-to-come times of hardship—the release from darkness and want, toward the time of renewal and plenty.

tradition Cold Winter

©Photo. R.M.N. / R.-G. OjŽda

Early on, I realized this concept was more deeply ingrained in me than I’d dreamed. Moving to New Zealand was a big change in more ways than one.

Whether we move away from our childhood home or relocate a long way from our families and close friends later in life, we may find the need to create our own holiday traditions. As children, and now grandchildren, enter our lives, our roles may change even further, necessitating further adjustments.

Those living far from their birth homes often confirm that being away from family and close friends can be daunting.

Tell me about it.

My first December 25th in New Zealand had to rate as my most depressing Christmas up until that date. I had a wonderful boss, but no real friends outside of work, as I had spent every weekend with my boyfriend out on the coast, an hour away from home—and he ended our relationship over the phone, out of the blue, on 23 December.

Tradition not so good.

Thanks to https://awakened2torah.com/2017/07/19/stay-in-the-box-jack/ for the use of the photo. 🙂

Looking back, I can see it was for the best, but at the time… let’s say it wasn’t ideal.

On the other hand, sometimes one must sink to great depths to plumb the true strength of one’s spirit and guts.

Eyes blurred by tears, I managed to create the day for myself by cutting out intricate paper snowflakes from wrapping paper.

Tradition snowflakes paper

Thanks to The Balance for use of the pic! https://www.thebalance.com/

I still remember as if it were yesterday: The paper was red on one side, white on the other, and thin enough for light to shine through it. In fine pencil, I wrote around the perimeter of each, and on inner circles, what the holiday was really about—about the day being about love, and not presents. About those whom I cared for, and who cared about me. About the beautiful country in which I had ensconced myself, the tremendous job as an equine vet in an otherwise eight-man dairy practice.

tradition NZ view

The little piece of NZ beside my home on the cover of my third novel

As the years passed, I found new ways of satisfying the yearnings in my heart at Christmas time when I was unable to return to my family for the holidays. Celebrating a sit-down, full-on Midwinter dinner on 21 June for a roomful of my Kiwi friends, many of whom had never experienced a northern hemisphere Christmas dinner, not only did something for them, but did something for my own heart. It gave me my Christmas back and let me begin to enjoy true Kiwi summertime Christmases.

“Christmas is so commercialised, I don’t want anything to do with it,” I’ve heard from several friends lately. This isn’t a problem for me. I don’t watch television at all, and since I began writing, I avoid town… even my radio time has diminished. I don’t hear the commercials or Christmas jingles, so the commercialism isn’t a part of my life. I have only my memories and traditions from which to browse.

In speaking with my partner in mid-June about it, he said Christmas really didn’t mean anything to him. We discussed it at length, what would make it for him, what makes it for me. The result? He enjoyed his holiday, and this year we will have a midwinter Christmas feast and hopefully, he will regain his joy of the holidays, no matter what time of year they arrive.

I hope this helps someone, estranged by distance or circumstance from loved ones, find peace in their life.

In Once Upon a Vet School #7, Lena Takes a Foal, Lena finds herself in a situation. She was going to stay in her vet school town and take extra Large Animal ICU shifts over the holidays, as her family was out of the country, but she was invited home with her hero, Kit.

Here’s a little excerpt of their traditional Christmas:

Once Upon a Vet School #7, Lena Takes a Foal

Kit’s pickup eased off the highway into his family’s driveway, snow crunching beneath the tires. He slowed as we approached a beautiful bay Thoroughbred with a matching foal at foot, standing behind the post and rail fence.

“She’s my favorite jumper — the one I kept when everything got split up,” he said, and tightened his jaw.

“Glad you still have her then,” I said, taking a deep breath, and squeezed his fingers. “It’ll all be fine.”

“I know. Thank you for comin’ home with me,” he said, as we drove on toward the house.

“Glad you asked,” I said, taking my eyes off the pair of horses and looking forward through the windshield at what could only be Kit’s family members, by their resemblance.

“The welcoming committee awaits.” He smiled and shut off the engine, opened my door and handed me out into the freezing, dazzling sunshine, accented by the tang of the snow-drenched pines. His arm, warm over my shoulders, led me toward the group.

Any anxiety I might have had about meeting his family vanished into thin air as handshakes turned to hugs. Kit’s sister, a female version of him, stood tall and leggy in designer clothing and manicured nails, while his father offered a hint of the distinguished gentleman Kit would become. His beautiful mother was kindness itself as she pulled us in the door, toward her warm, cinnamon-scented farmhouse-style kitchen.

Christmas music played in the background when we eventually migrated from the hand-hewn kitchen table toward the living room with our foaming mugs of fresh eggnog. The huge tree caught my attention, its fairy lights and ornaments glittering against long pine needles, but my mouth dropped open at the view of Lake Tahoe completely filling the longest wall of the room. Its blue-black expanse shimmered against the snow on the surrounding mountains.

“Who’s dishing out the presents?” Kit’s mother asked, settling herself on the sofa.

“My turn.” Kit’s sister smiled and began delivering packages around the room.

I hadn’t expected anything, but had made gifts over the month since Kit had invited me. For his mother, a gardening apron; his sister, some padded hangers for her fashionable clothes; and for his pop, a big tin of the Danish Christmas cookies I’d grown up making with my family. Kit had already inhaled most of his cookies on the way up the mountain.

Soon there was a pile of gifts beside me. I stared at Kit over the top of it, my mouth open.

“What did you expect? You’re part of the family, now.

Enjoy it,” he said, and leaned across to kiss me.

My face heated. I couldn’t have been more pleased, as I picked up the first gaily wrapped package.

“A western shirt,” Kit said, holding up his first present. “I haven’t had a new one in years, thank you, Lena!”

“That forest green with chocolate is perfect on you,

Kit,” his sister said. “It looks designer, where did it come from?” She turned to me.

“It’s a Lena original,” I said.

“No, it can’t be,” she said, peering over her brother’s shoulder at the label. “It is!”

“What does it say?” his mother asked.

“Made Expressly for Kit by Lena,” she said.

Kit pulled it on and clicked the pearl snaps.

“It fits,” he said, astonished. “They never fit… and it’s actually long enough.”

“Of course, it fits, I’m a professional. Just remind me to give back your ratty old denim work shirt that was falling apart at the seams.”

“You didn’t cut it apart, did you?” Kit said, horror written all over his face.

“Your precious shirt is safe,” I said, squeezing his fingers. “I know how long it must’ve taken to get the fabric that soft.”

“You got that right,” he said, with a grin.

I glanced around, but everyone was absorbed elsewhere.

“Truth be told,” I whispered, “you might not get it back.”

He frowned, and I quirked my lips at him.

“What have you done with it?” His brows narrowed.

“Nothing, but it’s awfully nice to sleep in… it’s got your scent.”

He peeked toward the rest of the family, then turned back to me, eyes glowing.

“Now that, I’d like to see,” he said, in an undertone. “You can keep it, if that’s why you need it.” He chuckled.

The first present I opened was a beautiful copy of Robert Frost’s Birches.

“That’s for you, my dear,” Kit’s mother said, after I unwrapped it, “because you’re a swinger of birches.” Her eyes glowed as she gazed from me to her son and back again.

Everyone was happy with my homemade gifts and I was touched by the thought that had gone into their presents for me.

Kit disappeared for a moment, then returned to the room carrying a large, gaily decorated box. I glanced up at him with a smile and returned to reading about birches in the snow, my legs tucked up beneath me on the sofa.

All talk in the room ceased and I looked up to see Kit standing before me.

“This is for you.” He gently handed the package to me and sat down. “It’s breakable. Very.”

Looking sideways at him, I slipped my feet to the floor and pulled the end of the silk ribbon to untie the bow, then pulled off the paper. Whatever it was, it’d been packed securely.

Kit cut the heavy tape securing the box with his pocket knife and I opened the flaps.

Traditional Christmas in Once Upon a Vet School

Want to read more? 

Once Upon a Vet School #7 is available in print and digital. See details on my website here

It’s also available as part of Author’s of Main Street’s current boxed set Christmas Babies on Main Street here 

Come on by and check out my website here!

Looking forward to hearing from you soon.

Enjoy creating your own holiday traditions!

xx

Lizzi

 

Something Special About Growing up in a Small Town

There’s something special about growing up in a small town, my name for a Main Street town. Like the song says, you know everybody and everybody knows you…and their parents might as well be yours, if you stepped out of line. But they were always there for you, just like your own parents, whenever you needed them.

 

My true home town…plus there are two bars and two churches not shown…used to be a gas station, but that was even before my time. The trailer at the fire station is new, though!

I live half a world away from there now, but if I wandered back tomorrow, they’d still be there for me, as I’d be for them.

 

People are there for each other in a small town. Many I know grew up in cities and never knew their neighbours. Now they’re adults, they still don’t know the people up and down their street. I don’t get it. I couldn’t live with myself—being so close to others and never even knowing them, what’s going on in their lives, if they’re okay. They look at me blankly when I ask.

My adopted High School town–where I nearly stayed. 🙂 xxx

 

What I Learned in a Small Town

I learned gratitude in a small town, and love, respect, and caring. How looking after others was important. Sure, it got me into some binds when I left that small town for the big smoke…but I survived, because I knew there were still many, many people back there in my family, but not of my blood, who loved me. Unconditionally.

 

4-H. Without it, and its caring parent leaders, I’m sure I’d never, ever, have gotten into Veterinary School at UC Davis! I pay it back when I can. Small towns taught me this.

 

I wish more people had the opportunity to grow up in a small town, or in a “small town in a big city”. I’m sure they exist. While people, wherever they live, are getting “closer via the internet”, often it’s merely virtual—further away from real human and animal contact, the thing which makes us “human”. In a small town or rural area, people still get the contact, because their friends and families are still there for them.

 

 

Without this contact, it becomes that much easier for people to hide away and not get the care and love they crave, but fear to request. Some retreat from the world, disappear, but others become increasingly capable of “inhuman” actions.

 

I know, this is more morose than my usual post, but there has to be an answer. We’ve lived in one of the most peaceful times in history, in the States, Canada and New Zealand. I think it blinds us a bit to what much of the rest of the world experiences daily.

 

Can we help create small towns wherever we are?

Can we begin to show those around us, city or town, some interest, care, compassion? Whoever they are? Maybe that neighbour who doesn’t talk with anyone is afraid to try? Maybe they just truly want to be left alone, but what if they didn’t? And you made the difference to their life? Go outside and do some fun things together with others…

 

Starting small, one candle at a time, we can create a small town anywhere…

One candle at a time, we can light up the world.

If we’re willing to take that step outside ourselves.

You never know the difference it might make,

To someone.

I think that’s why I was so pleased to be offered a place with Authors of Main Street. It felt a little like coming home. A group of people who support each other, cheer with each other, and sometimes, cry with each other. Now we’re putting out another “sweet” romance boxed set for Christmas. There’s a lot of care going out in one big package.

 

I hope it gives you some positivity and warm feelings as the weather turns colder for those of you in the Northern Hemisphere.

 

Take the chance to share a little of your light.

Xx

Lizzi

 

 

Seeing as this is my last blog post before the 12 October release of our new Christmas Boxed set, I thought I’d post Chapter Three of Once Upon a Vet School for you. It’s one of the nine complete stories in our set. No teasers in our sets! The previous two chapters are in my last two posts, in case you missed them!

14 OVS 7 Lena EBOOKcoverLG FILE

Once Upon a Vet School #7 is now available for preorder as part of our new boxed set at

004 website

Amazon!

It’ll be delivered to your Kindle on 12 October! Only a few days away!!!

I hope you enjoy reading all the stories. I sure have loved the ones I got to beta!

All your favorite Main Street authors have stories tucked inside. Remember, we are an international group so everyone’s Main Street is a little different. But don’t you think that’s what makes it fun?

These are clean stories you don’t have to hide from the children, and of course the same wonderful quality that you’ve come to expect from us. They’d make a great Christmas gift for just about anyone on your list.

And if you have any horse lovers in the family, expect your Kindle to vanish while they read  my novella!

All though September and October, you’ve been reading snippets of these stories, which are all complete and brand new stories!

So grab your 99c copy today! It will be delivered to your Kindle on October 12, USA time. There’s not a sinker in the bunch, so read them all!

What’s Christmas without a little romance?

 

xx

Lizzi

 

And here’s your excerpt!

 

Once Upon a Vet School  #7   Lena Takes a Foal

CHAPTER  THREE

 

Dr. Rye was our lecturer for Wednesday’s Equine Surgery lecture, so I didn’t have to see Ki—Dr. Allen, and my focus in class was impeccable.

It seems all I had to do was think of Kit for my face to heat up, and it was starting to look like I had it bad. Maybe that’s why I nearly dropped a container of colostrum when his voice came from over my shoulder as I struggled to get into a comfortable position, half-kneeling, halfway underneath a mare in the Large Animal ICU stall.

“What the heck are you doing under there?” he growled.

“What does it look like? Milking a mare,” I said, my voice shaky. It had taken the better part of a half hour to milk this much out of her, never mind having to do it in strange contortions around my non-bending limb.

“Does your supervisor know what your leg looks like?” He frowned.

That got my attention. I whipped my head around to see if my boss had heard him and nearly tipped over, then clambered the rest of the way to my feet.

“Please Ki—Dr. Allen, please don’t say anything to Frank. I need the hours—I can’t feed that horse or me without it.” I was pleading, now.

“You’re a pain in the rear, you know?” Kit shook his head. “But you’re a trier, I’ll give you that. Hasn’t anyone shown you how to milk a mare with a syringe?”

“A syringe? I think she might object.” I had to grin at that. “She’s really been good—hasn’t moved a muscle for me all this time,” I said, wrapping my arms around the mare’s neck and burying my steaming face in her mane. She whuffled softly as she nosed my bottom, then returned to her hay.

He stroked the mare, while he looked over her back at the premature foal sleeping in the straw.

“Is he nursing yet?”

“His suck reflex is improving a little, but we’re still tubing him with colostrum every few hours,” I said.

“Want to learn to milk a mare…a little faster?”

“You bet.” He had my full attention, now.

“Sit down and put that leg up while I do this.”

I sat, thankful to get my weight off it for a moment, while he searched the cabinet drawers for a big syringe and pulled the plunger out.

“You cut off the business end of the clear part, here,” he began sawing at it with a pocket knife, “then turn the plunger around.” When he was finished, he handed the contraption to me.

I stared at it, with no idea how to begin.

“You place the smooth end around the mare’s teat,” he grinned, “and slowly draw down on the plunger.”

“Seriously?” I jumped to my feet with a wince and tried it. With only gentle pressure on the plunger, the golden, syrupy colostrum just flowed into the syringe. I shook my head and swore softly.

“Works, doesn’t it?” He grinned.

“I can’t believe it,” I breathed. “Thank you so much.” If he wasn’t my hero before, he surely was now.

“That should speed it up a little.”

I filled the rest of my container in three minutes flat.

“I’ve spent…you don’t want to know how long…getting that same volume…” My voice dwindled off and I gazed at him. If student ICU techs hugged residents, I would have.

He took one look at me, then backed away, the beginnings of a smile running screaming from his face.

“Good, well—” he muttered, and spun toward the patient bulletin board, his knuckles so white on the pen in his hand, I thought I’d be cleaning up plastic fragments.

I shook my head and filled another container with the precious golden liquid while he stared fixedly at the pink treatment sheets. His fingers had relaxed, and now he merely played with his pager buttons.

“How is that mare, Charlotte, over in C-Barn?” he called across the room.

“I’m on my way over there now, thanks to your milking gadget. Without it, I’d have been ages longer.”

His narrowed brows softened and the corners of his mouth even lifted a little.

“No worries,” he said.

I stifled a chuckle. Sounded like he’s been hanging out with the new Kiwi Equine Repro resident. New Zealand idioms were popping up all over the vet school. I covered the beakers of colostrum, put one into the fridge, and left the other out for the little guy’s next feed.

“So why,” he remarked, under his breath, “the heck are you working? You should have that leg up somewhere, not running around barns making it worse.”

“I already told you why,” I hissed, glancing around. “It’s been up long enough. Time for exercise, Doc. Soon I’ll be a hundred percent again.”

He shook his head.

“You said you were a farrier before you became a vet,” I said, changing the subject.

“Yes, I was. Why?” He looked sideways at me.

“I spend as much time in the farrier shop here as Sean will have me, but they’re all client horses, so I can’t trim them. I’d like to learn.”

He flicked a glance my way.

“Why do you want to trim feet? You’re training to be a vet, not a shoer.”

“Horses depend on their feet for their living. It’s important they’re right.”

“It’s a lot like hard work.” His brow wrinkled, and he looked away for a moment.

“Way I figure it,” I said, “horse vets need to know about feet—and the fastest way to lose an owner’s confidence is to mangle a shoe removal or basic trim. I don’t want to be a farrier, but I’d sure like to be able to pull a shoe and decently trim and balance a hoof.”

His eyes lit up and his lips slowly formed a twisted grin.

I couldn’t help beaming back. Encouraged, I rattled on.

“I’ve spent a lot of time reading about feet, but I haven’t had the opportunity to actually trim them.” I fell silent for a moment, waiting, but Kit didn’t offer.

He turned away and began looking at records.

I took a deep breath and let it out slowly, then turned back toward the fridge and stared at it, unseeing.

“Guess I’ll have to take a farrier course when I’m done with vet school. Doesn’t look like I’ll learn much about trimming here,” I mumbled, half to myself, half to the fridge.

Behind me, Kit sighed.

“I could teach you,” he said.

I spun to stare at him, just as he blinked, as if he didn’t quite believe he’d just said that.

“Would you? Would you really?” I was stunned. After his last words, I truly hadn’t expected him to say that.

He swallowed hard, then nodded.

“Yep,” he said. “There are plenty of horses in the research herds that could use a bit of attention.”

“When can we start?” I was so excited, I nearly forgot to breathe.

His jaw tensed as he held his own breath in silence for long moments.

“I’ll make you a deal,” he finally said.

I narrowed my brows at him. This couldn’t be good.

“You do only what you absolutely must on that leg for two more weeks, and then if it’s significantly better, I’ll take you out and teach you to trim feet. Mind you, they’re pretty unkempt, and they’ll be a bit rough to handle—”

“—oh please?” I interrupted. Oh cripes, I was begging to do feet…but I meant it.

“Yes,” he sighed, “but remember the conditions, eh?”

“Got it loud and clear, Doc,” I said, and hobbled on before him, eager to show him the progress Charlotte had made since he’d changed the heel elevation of the shoe on her injured leg.

***

“Hey, want to go for some pizza?” one of the girls in my class asked the students standing around me.

“Yeah, let’s go. I’ve got room for one more in my car, Miranda,” one of the guys said, and walked past me to steer her in the right direction, without a glance at me.

I took a deep breath and shook my head, riffling through my pack for my schedule to see what else I needed to do before heading home.

Maybe I was just born different.

But horses liked me…and men, until they got to know me—usually too well, too soon. And then they’d disappear. I couldn’t seem to get that one figured out. My female friends usually kicked me from here to Christmas when I did it…again. I only gave the guys what they asked for…and then they despised me for—

—with a shudder, I saw it—in black and white on the page and my heart hits my boots.

Oh hell. My cousin’s wedding is tomorrow.

More people. I closed my eyes and sank down onto the nearest planter box.

“You okay?” Jess walked up and dropped her pack next to me. “How’s the leg?”

I sighed and let my bag slide to the ground, too.

“Okay, but I’ve a wedding tomorrow.”

“Why so glum? I love weddings. I’ll go.”

“Fine, you go in my place,” I said, and gritted my teeth.

“What’s not to like about a wedding?” She scrunched her face up.

“Too many people, all in one place. When your parents and grandparents all have retail stores, it doesn’t matter if you’re an introvert—you still need to serve the customers and act extroverted, regardless.”

“Probably the best thing they ever did for you—probably helped you get into vet school.”

“Yeah, maybe, but it makes my heart hurt.”

“You’re pretty extroverted now,” she said.

“You’d think so, wouldn’t you? I tell myself it doesn’t matter what people think of me…but it’s not true,” I whispered. “Nobody, even you, gets that I’m terrified—of what they might say, what they might do. At least horses and dogs love you when they love you, even if it’s just cupboard love—and they don’t bother to lie or make promises they won’t keep.”

Jess blinked and stared at me.

“The thought of going to a wedding brought out all that?”

“Well, yes. I mean, the ceremonies are all right. I usually even cry. And the dancing’s good, if there’s someone there who can swing dance…but the rest isn’t so hot…drunk people who want to get close,” I shuddered, “and think it’s okay because it’s a wedding.”

“True. You don’t do drunks, period. I’ve seen that.” Jess put an arm over my shoulders and gave me a hug.

“I can usually escape into a kitchen,” I said, with a hint of a grin. “I hate weddings with caterers, though. No escape hatch.”

“Didn’t you used to work for a catering company when you were an undergraduate? How’d you deal with that?”

“They didn’t maul the kitchen minions. Hey,” I grinned, “that’s an idea. I can take along a black skirt and white blouse…and just disappear into the woodwork.”

“So where is it?” Jess said, shaking her head and chuckling.

“At my Aunt’s ranch.”

“What’s wrong with that? She’s the one with all the horses, right? If the kitchen trick doesn’t work, you could always head for the stables.”

“That’s why I love you so much, Jess. You get it.”

“Yep,” she said. “Are you done feeling sorry for yourself? Because I’m hungry.”

“Aren’t you always?”

She beamed back at me. She’s a tall, gorgeous beanpole and eats whatever she wants. I am eternally jealous.

***

“Oh, Lena, how’s Sunshine been?” The new resident, Dr. Masters, nodded at a post-op colic horse standing with one hind leg cocked, his tail lazily twitching at a fly in the ICU stall beside her.

“He’s looking good,” I said, with a smile, and reached for a second fluid bottle. “He grazes well, ate his feed tonight, and started my shift with a full flake of hay. It’s half gone now.”

“Good, so he’s eating again…” Dr. Masters looked down at the horse’s record in her hand and cocked her head, brows coming together a little. “Have you been writing up the records?”

“If I can squeeze in the time, I do.” My face heated, and I bit my lip.

Did she mind?

“As busy as it is today? You don’t have to do that,” she said. “It’s my job to write them from your treatment sheets entries. You have enough to do.”

I blinked.

“Seriously? You residents never even get time to sleep. If you’d rather write them up, that’s fine, but if not, I’m happy to help.”

“Thanks Lena,” she said, with a sigh. “It’s appreciated. Make you a deal. If you think it’ll be good for your training, go ahead and do them if you want. I’ll critique and sign them off.”

“Really?”

“Sure. Happy to.”

“I’m after all the practice I can get,” I said, as Dr. Masters picked up a stack of records and ferried them toward the office. I jumped when I saw Kit already there, head down over his papers, scribbling for all he was worth. I hadn’t seen him come in. Butterflies bashing to escape my stomach walls, I shivered and turned on my bad leg with two, five-liter glass fluid bottles in my arms. I only just managed to keep my feet, and keep the profanity under my breath on my way to the barns. I really must learn to pay attention, even if the illustrious Dr. Allen was present.

Our residents, all of them, made me smile. For people, they’re pretty awesome, especially after my exposure to the wedding crowd last week. I’d survived, but only just. Ended up grooming horses in my silk dress. By the end of it, I could have come out of the pages of a Thelwell book—the sequence of drawings where a tidy rider begins all dressed for a show with the shaggy, muddy beast she’d evidently just pulled from the paddock…and their magical transformation to a gleaming, braided pony beside an exhausted and filthy ragamuffin with a trashed riding habit.

In C-Barn, I pulled the rope to raise the caged fluid bottle high above Cotillion. The palomino swung her head around and whickered at someone’s approach.

Kit. My heart jerked and I swallowed hard.

He reached out to the mare and she lipped at his fingers as our eyes met and held.

“How’s she going?”

“Her IV drip had stopped, but I’ve fixed it,” I said. “She’s looking a lot brighter than yesterday.”

“You know, you don’t have to write up records.” Kit looked at me sideways.

“I don’t have long until I get to be a real vet…and I need all the help I can get.”

“You’re doing pretty damn well already,” Kit said, his brows lowering. “Most third year students haven’t even tried procedures you do every shift as an ICU tech.”

“Yeah, well, that’s why I wanted to work here,” I said. “Even with this hospital’s big equine case load, the time in clinics is too short for me. I seem a bit slow to learn things.”

He rolled his eyes at that.

“You’re doing just what you need to be doing, and makin’ a good job of it.”

“It’d be nice if other people thought so,” I said, biting my lip. The black plastic cap from the new fluid bottle clicked into place as I shoved it onto the empty one.

“Who doesn’t think so?”

“Nobody,” I said, to my feet.

“Who?”

“I’m a pain in the neck, apparently, to my class.”

“I’d bet no resident or prof would say that,” Kit said, but he squirmed a little.

I swallowed hard. Guess he thought so, too. Must be my questions in class. I truly didn’t do it to show off. I just wanted to understand. If I learned it wrong the first time…

“Maybe if you kept your head down a little in cla—” Kit started.

“Seriously, you too?” I shook my head. And I’d thought…but that wasn’t worth thinking about, clearly. “Is there anything else you’d like to know about this horse, Dr. Allen?” In my iciest tone.

“Now don’t go gettin’ all huffy, I’m only trying to help.”

“Thank you for your concern.” I don’t imagine it sounded overly grateful, coming from between gritted teeth.

He closed his eyes and inhaled deeply.

“Okay, if you want to be that way about it,” he said. “Thanks, anyway, for taking such good care of the horses.”

“Any time,” I spat out, tucked my bottles beneath my arms, and bolted for B-Barn, the hemostats and stethoscope clipped to my scrubs swinging with every hop.

***

My alarm shocked me out of whatever pleasant dream had cocooned me. I smacked it on its head, then lay blinking at the sunshine streaming through the jasmine vines that waved in the open window. Their sweet, heady scent heavy in the early morning air. I rolled over, then sat bolt upright.

Today was the day.

My two weeks of penance were up. I had an appointment to make with a certain resident to trim feet. I stilled, though, thinking about our last meeting. I’d certainly have to apologize. I should’ve done it last week, but what can I say? I was gutless. After a deep breath to settle my butterflies into place, I shot out of bed and leapt into my clothes.

“What’s the hurry, girl? It’s early yet,” Tamarah said, dodging the gooey tennis ball the Lab spat at her from two feet away.

“Susie’s aim is improving.” I laughed. “Soon she won’t miss. I’m off.”

“You really are better,” she said, looking down at my leg.

“Amazing what a little water, sitting in the sun massaging, and jumping rope has done.” Most of the odd colors were gone and it was down to nearly normal size.

“So can you ride your bike yet?”

“Did it yesterday,” I nodded, pouring uncooked oats into a bowl. “Felt fine.”

“One lucky girl,” she said, and disappeared into her room, followed by the bouncing dog.

I wolfed my breakfast and shot across town. The only fly in the ointment was my treatment of Kit the other day. I chewed my lip over it while I waited outside K—I shook my head at myself—Dr. Allen’s office door. He arrived after only a few minutes, so I didn’t have long to stew.

“You all right?” He gave me a quizzical look.

“If I were any better, I’d be twins.” Cocky cover-up, with the butterflies bashing away inside me and my face doubtless bright red. “Um…Dr. Allen,” I groped for words, while I fisted the sides of my shirt, “I’m sorry about my attitude last week.” I dropped my eyes to the linoleum. “I had no call to jump down your throat like that—I’m…just a bit sensitive about the topic.”

“It’s okay, I understand.” Kit tried for a smile and shook his head, then he glanced down at my leg, below my running shorts. And froze in his fumbling with his door key. “What have you done with it?”

“Worked on it? It’s much better…” My heart sank. I thought it looked better…but maybe I was getting ahead of myself.

“It’s amazing.” He blinked, and stared again. “I’ve never seen bruises change that fast. How’d you do it?”

“I had motivation,” I said, resuming breathing again, and told him how, then continued. “I…I wanted to see if we could please make a time to go out and do feet.”

“You sure you’re ready for that?” He winced, glancing at the offending leg.

“I can jump rope, I rode my bicycle over here, and I’ve been working.”

“There’s still swelling on the front of the shin.”

“It seems to be a split muscle—it now sits over the top, see?” I propped my foot up on a handy chair and showed him.

“You’re right,” he said, his face coloring. “Well, I guess we’ve got a date.”

I gulped, at the same time he shuddered and stepped backward.

“Ah…” I said, backpaddling.

“Let me check my calendar,” he said in a rush, then tried a few more times to get the key into the lock.

If we weren’t both so uncomfortable, it would have been comic. As for me, tempting as he might be, it was time to take care of myself—and that didn’t include getting my heart burned again.

For quite some time in the foreseeable future.

 

ENJOY!

Again, if you wish to preorder Christmas Babies on Main Street, by Authors of Main Street, click here!  It’s only 99c$  What a deal!

Merry Christmas, early!

xx

Lizzi

 

Once Upon a Vet School: The First of the Series…Volume SEVEN??

Ever thought you wanted to be a veterinarian?

I did, when I was seven…and I’ve been on track ever since, with a minor diversion for a year. I’ve been that equine vet since 1988, when I graduated from vet school at UC Davis.

Following an injury (yes, another one), I started writing historical fiction, and wrote the first three books of The Long Trails series, and now, I’ve written my first contemporary, a veterinary tale, which will be included in our Christmas Boxed Set!  It’s to be Volume Seven in the Once Upon a Vet School series, and…I’m starting in the middle of the series, just to confound people. 🙂

Here’s the cover :

I posted the first chapter in my last post, but here’s Chapter Two!

It will be available in OCTOBER!  Just around the corner!

 

Once Upon a Vet School

Volume 7

CHAPTER TWO

I rested, leaning against a wall in the foyer, after my struggle to get to the classroom. When I’d gotten my breath back, the mere thought of the upcoming session’s topic had me hyperventilating…and the talk hadn’t even started.

When the lecturer enter the anteroom, I closed my eyes for a moment, and my already-warm face heated some more. It wasn’t Dr. Rye today, as scheduled, but Kit.

No—it’s Dr. Allen, I reminded myself, because I needed to think of him that way again. He looked up and our eyes met.

“How’s the leg?” he said, his own cheeks flushing as he approached.

“It’s fine, thanks.” I ducked my head and tried to ignore the fist curling in my gut, then I peered up at him.

He raised an eyebrow and glanced down at the crutch lodged in my armpit.

“So you did see a doctor, after all?”

“Yes, and thanks for your help that night.” I looked at the floor. “It would have been a long walk home.”

“It could have been rough,” he agreed.

I nodded while he hovered, as my fellow students flowed past us into the lecture hall, glancing our way before they walked down the steps toward their seats.

“Well, I’d best get prepared for my lecture.” Kit hesitated, then frowned. “Are you OK? You’re awfully pale.”

“I’ve been behaving, staying inside with my leg up.” I looked away, then glanced back to see his eyes narrow further.

“You take care of yourself, eh?”

“I promise.” I risked a smile upward.

He motioned for me to precede him down the steps, then headed for the podium. His slide carousel clicked into place as I worked my way across the row of seats. I stowed my wooden crutch by my feet and sank down with a sigh of relief. It was a long hobble from the bus stop, but it beat walking or driving my beast of a pickup. It’d be awhile before I could ride my bicycle.

Jess bounced into the seat beside me, glancing down toward her feet.

“A crutch? Whose is that? Yours?”

“Nailed, first guess.” I gave her a lopsided grin.

“What have you done now?”

I hesitated. She’d scream at me, class or no class.

“Slipped on some stairs and twisted my ankle. Sprained, doctor says.”

“Seriously? Sprained on steps?”

I bit my lip.

“Welcome back to school, everyone,” Kit called out, right on time.

Jess looked at me from the corners of her eyes while she pulled her notebook out, then turned her attention to the lecturer.

It seemed everything might just be all right. Kit, no, Dr. Allen, had plenty of cute slides of healthy mares and foals cavorting in grassy fields. He even got a grin out of me. I began to breathe again and shared a smile with Jess.

“That’s when everything goes as planned,” Dr. Allen’s voice cut into my reverie, and I gulped, “but this is a surgery lecture,” he continued, “and I wouldn’t be here speaking with you if everything always went right.”

I gripped my hands together as they began to shake.

“When everything goes to plan, most mares drop their foals within twenty to sixty minutes after their water breaks.” He flicked slowly through the next few slides.

He proceeded, relentlessly—pre-and full-term mares, late ones—and finally, presentations of the fetus requiring veterinary intervention. My pen clattered on the concrete floor as my world began to fragment.

Image after image of ropes attached to tiny legs that protruded from beneath the tails of down, sweaty mares, and one with red—oh man, the red—coating the mare’s backside, the veterinarian, and the straw. I gripped my armrests and bit my lip until my own blood came, willing myself to hold on, but I finally gave up, staggered sideways along the aisle and raced for the back door. I barely made it to the women’s locker room.

I wiped my face after my time spent kissing the commode and tried to rinse the foul taste from my mouth. Hot, flushed cheeks and haunted, green eyes peeked from beneath my profusion of brown hair in the mirror. I bullied the mass into shape with my fingers and braided it down my back to my waist, then collapsed onto a bench, eyes squeezed shut against the tears threatening to escape. I couldn’t go back in there. How would I ever pass my equine reproduction service rotation? I wouldn’t graduate, much less practice, would never finish what I set out to achieve at seven years of age—and most importantly, couldn’t ever pay the horses back what I owed to them.

I wanted to melt into the shiny pink and gray tiles on the floor and not have to face my classmates, Dr. Allen, or anyone else.

***

I jumped, with a yelp, as the door slammed back against the wall. Jess strode into the locker room, lugging our backpacks and my crutch.

“Are you okay?” Her concerned frown helped.

“A little better now,” I said.

“Stomach bug?”

“Last night’s chicken must’ve been bad.”

“You missed a great lecture,” she said, as a smile stretched wide across her face. “He talked all about cesareans, midline as well as standing flank—”

“—can we talk about it some other time?” I interrupted.

“Sure, I’m sorry. Are you well enough to make our next lab?”

“I’m sure I will be. Maybe I’ll go over to The Granary and have a drink.”

“Thought you’d never ask,” Jess said. She held the door for me as I stumbled out into the hallway—and nearly crashed into my last disaster.

Gareth Barnett-Bayne dodged clear, his bedroom-brown eyes taking in my tearstained face. He looked me up and down as I stood like a rabbit in the headlights, frozen. He flicked his dark mane back, smirked, turned on his heel, and continued down the hall, whistling beneath his breath.

“Glad you’ve done with that creep,” Jess muttered, with a scowl at him. “Come on, we have better things to do than look at the likes of him.”

I inhaled slowly and followed her. Kit, Dr. Allen, I nearly screamed at myself, caught up with us as we neared the front entryway.

“I didn’t think you looked well,” he said, with a frown. “Are you sure you should be up, with that leg?”

Jess glanced at me and I looked away.

“I’ll go have a rest before my lab.” I tried to smile at him, but I think it came out more like a wince. “Thanks for asking.”

“Any time,” Kit said, with his killer smile, and a glint in his eye. He held the front door to the building open for us before he turned back toward his office.

I gathered what was left of my wits, while my gaze shifted back to the front entrance. As I did every time I entered or left the vet school building’s hallowed halls, I nodded a greeting to my old friends, the menagerie of raised-relief marble animals surrounding the doors. I’d first seen them on a 4-H visit, as an elementary school student. They always reminded me why I was here, and that whatever effort it took to get here was completely and utterly worth it. I owed animals, especially horses, so much. My heart a bit lighter, I limped on down the steps to catch Jess.

Just down the block, beside the road teeming with students on bicycle and foot, the front door of The Granary stood open, and I sighed in relief. Jess flicked a look back toward the vet school, then rounded on me.

“What does Dr. Allen know about your leg?”

“He saw me twist my ankle.” I bit my lips together and stumbled as my bad leg gave way beneath me. I lost my balance and staggered sideways into the pannier of a passing bicycle.

“Sorry,” called the bicyclist, as my world exploded.

Only years of working with green horses stopped me from shrieking as I sprawled face-first, willing the pavement to swallow me, while the blinding white pain in my leg blanked everything else out.

“Are you OK, Lena?” Jess’s voice came from far away, as I hunched into a ball over my tucked-up leg. I didn’t think it could bend that much. Go figure.

“I—I think so.”

“You aren’t OK.” She ducked down beside me.

“Yeah, well, it’s a bad sprain.” I struggled to a sitting position and blinked away the blurriness.

“Lena, you look like a ghost—tears? He didn’t hit you that hard, what’s up?”

I couldn’t tell her. She’d warned me.

“And what’s with the skirt and thigh-high boots? I’ve never seen you out of jeans.”

Silence.

“Oh,” she said, assessing. “Why aren’t you wearing jeans?”

“Can’t,” I mumbled to my pearl snaps. She’d find out soon enough anyway. I probably wouldn’t be able to walk after this—the leg felt like it had at the beginning.

“So, what’s up, chick?”

I froze as she lifted the hem of my skirt and gasped.

“Let’s go,” I muttered. “I’m glad it’s close. Don’t think I could walk much further.” Yep, it was worse now for sure. Jess pulled me to my feet and I turned toward the smell of brewing coffee from our favorite haunt. Trying to think of anything but my screaming leg, I wondered how something that smelled as good as coffee could taste so bad. I wiped the sweat from my brow as Jess and I struggled up the coffeehouse’s steps. She dragged me to a corner booth and slid me onto the smooth seat.

“Put your leg up on that,” she said. “Chocolate?”

“You’re a godsend,” I whispered, as she scurried off, then I bodily lifted my booted foot up onto the cushion.

I thought I’d need a scalpel to cut the silence after she returned. I looked up at her cute blonde curls peeking from beneath her cowboy hat and dropped my eyes again.

She sat in silence for a few minutes, then narrowed her brows and cut straight to the quick.

“It was that horse.”

“OK, I fell off,” I murmured, looking away. I scrabbled in my bag for a pen, hoping she’d believe me.

Her fingernails beat out a tattoo on the table tap and I finally glanced up to her frown.

“Let’s have a better look at that leg.” Refusal wasn’t an option, by the tone.

As my clammy fingers slowly pulled the skirt up to my groin, and Jess pushed the boot down toward my nonexistent ankle, her complexion faded to a sort of gray. Heck, the leg looked better than it had a week ago, but I wasn’t about to tell her that.

“Shit.”

Uh-oh. Jess never swears.

“What did the doctor say?” She raised a brow at me, and the steel in her baby blues warned me not to lie. “You did go, didn’t you?”

“Yes.” I’d have to remember to thank Tamarah. Without her insistence, Jess would be dragging me down the street toward student health right now.

“Why aren’t you in the hospital? By the colors in that leg,” Jess said, “it’s been two weeks. Just when did you see this doctor?”

I stared into the depths of my mug for as long as I dared.

“Three days ago,” I murmured.

“No time like the present, eh? Why’d you wait so long? Death wish?” Jess was nearly shouting. “What, did Tamarah make you go?”

“You should thank me—you get to see pathology in action,” I said lightly, but neither the full-color contusion demonstration nor my attempt at veterinary humor did the trick. I gulped.

“Why is it so hard to take care of yourself?” Jess said, shaking her head.

“You know why,” I growled. “She’d have put me in the hospital. I can’t just stop—”

“—oh, hell,” she snarled, “you could have gotten a stroke and died.”

“I’m still here.” I shrugged, with a twisted grin. “Hard to kill a weed.”

She closed her eyes and leaned over the table to hug me, carefully.

“But a much loved one, you idiot. Drink up, we need to move on soon—” she broke off and frowned, but then seemed to reconsider. She drank her coffee, peering at me from the corners of her eyes occasionally, then we headed slowly back to lab at the teaching hospital barn, watching over our shoulders for more demon bicycles.

***

I’d hoped I’d effectively distracted Jess from the details of how my injury happened, but I should have known there was a reason she cooked dinner for me that night. Turned out it wasn’t just pity, after all. Fancy that. She waited in silence until I was cornered behind the little table in her student digs.

“Tell me,” she said, picking up her fork.

“About what?” I knew what was coming, and concentrated on slicing a piece of spaghetti into 0.25 cm lengths like a microtome, afraid to look up from the perfect sections.

“How you did that.” She nodded at my leg.

“I told you.” I squirmed. “I fell off.”

“No, you didn’t,” she said, barely audible, and I jumped as her fork hit the table with a clatter. “The truth,” she barked.

It never pays to mess around with a horsey girl.

Jess sat, waiting for an eternity, arms folded against her chest.

I took a deep breath.

“Mickey and I disagreed. I wanted to go on and he wasn’t so keen.”

“And?”

I took a deep breath. This wouldn’t be pretty.

“And he reared,” I said, in a rush.

“And I suppose you fell off and knocked that leg on a branch, right?” she said, from between gritted teeth, as her eyes shot daggers. “How stupid do you think I am? That blasted nag threw himself over backwards and landed on you, didn’t he?”

I couldn’t even try for a reasonable excuse. Jess had known all along—and she’d begged me not to buy him, for this express reason.

“That horse’ll be the death of you.” She sat still, head in hands, and finally looked up. “And this isn’t the first time. He’s been doing it for years at that riding school where you bought him. He knew the fastest way home from a ride on the levees was to back up to a deep, steep-sided irrigation ditch and rear.”

“Yeah,” I whispered, staring at my plate. “I saw him do it, once. That student took one look over her shoulder at the water in the bottom of the drain and she practically let him gallop home. Never rode him again.”

“So why did you think Mickey’d be any different for you?”

“We usually get along well…this was the first time he went that high with me.”

“Yeah, well,” Jess drew a big breath, “it might have been the last. Don’t you get it?”

“Yeah, but what else can I do? As fantastic as he is in the arena and on the cross country course, nobody else’ll tolerate his behavior. He’d just end up in a can.” I stirred swirls into the sauce on my plate, and the scent of garlic tickled my nose. “I can usually keep him in line—but I wasn’t on my game that day and he hadn’t had enough work lately. Mea culpa.”

She shook her head, then jerked it up and stared at me.

“So what does Dr. Allen really know about it?”

I shredded my nails beneath the table while I my brain scrambled for an answer.

“He was at Mickey’s stable when I rode in after my accident.”

“And?”

“And, it was dark. No one was around. I had no idea how I was going to get off the horse, much less drive my truck—and there he was. My knight in shining armor, just coming out of the barn. He was…a lot kinder than I expected.”

“Lucky you.” She raised a brow. “Was it nice?”

“As nice as it could be, with my leg, ribs, and scraped-up body throbbing all to hell.”

“Miranda will be so jealous.”

“Miranda?” I stared at her blankly.

“In our class. She’s been tagging along after him, but he seems to be running just a little faster than she is.”

“He’s a resident, and we’re students,” I said, flatly, then added, in my best snobby tone, “Not a gratuitous combination, by all accounts, according to the edicts handed down from the vet school hierarchy through perpetuity.”

“That’s never stopped you from looking at him before,” she said, with a sly look at me.

“Yeah, well,” I flushed so hot, my cheeks burned, “no use being a fly on the windshield…again. It’s not going to happen. I’m sure I’ll get over a little crush.”

Jess gave me a twisted grin and chuckled.

“We’ll see,” she said.

For more, keep tuned here and our boxed set of many, many novellas will be available soon!  Preorders will be available before you know it!

See you soon!

xx

Lizzi Tremayne

AoMS Christmas Boxed Set Coming Up Soon! Sneak preview!

  1. Hi All!

Sending out my best to all those affected by the Texas hurricane, and other disasters. We’re thinking about you all over the world.

I thought I’d share the first draft of Chaper 1 of the novella I’ll be including in our Christmas anthology, (You’ll have to read the boxed set for the final version, all 12 stories will only be 99c on Amazon!)

Once Upon a Vet School #7

Lena takes a Foal.  

It’s actually part of a series…and it’s in the middle. The others will be written out from there!

In case you don’t know, I’m an equine vet and have until now written awarded historical fiction and technical veterinary non-fiction. My writing buddies have been after me for ages to write these stories, so thank you to Authors of Main Street for offering me the opportunity to stretch my literary wings!

I hope you enjoy my first dip into contemporary fiction–my stab at becoming the next, albeit female, James Herriot!

Enjoy!

Let me know what you think!

xx

Lizzi

CHAPTER ONE

1986 Northern California

Mickey’s roan ears, silhouetted against the pale green light filtering into the tiny glade, rose higher and higher before me and my heart froze—he’d never reared this high before. The light disappeared as the horse’s massive body blocked out the sun. A blinding flash of pain, and then only blessed darkness.

***

Someone was there in the darkness before us. Biting my lip, I reined Mickey to a halt at the sight of a strange white pickup glowing in the light of the dim bulb above the stable yard. The barn door creaked as it swung open, then closed behind the tall figure of a man in the distance. No men boarded horses here.

Who was it?

I swallowed hard, glancing from side to side to see if anyone else was around, my fingers tightening on the reins. Mickey backed up a step, his bit clanking as he threw his head, and the figure turned to face us.

“Hello, who’s there?” he called out.

Kit Allen, a resident from the veterinary school. I let out my breath and shivered as the butterflies dancing in my stomach overtook even the throbbing in my leg.

“It’s me, Lena Scott,” I said.

He walked toward me and I squeezed my legs to move my horse forward before I thought. I yelped, but bit it off.

“What the heck are you doing out riding at this hour?” His brows narrowed as I rode up to him. “And what have you done to your face?”

“Ahhh…we had a…disagreement about going home.”

“Looks like the roan won. Bit late for a ride, isn’t it?” He set down a bucket of bandaging materials and held one of Mickey’s reins.

“I left mid-afternoon.” I said, wincing. “I only got as far as the glade, a few miles across the fields.”

“Are you OK?” He frowned as his eyes scanned the perfectly cool horse, then his gaze snapped to mine.

“I’ve hurt my leg.” My attempt at nonchalance came out as a whine. My left foot hung free of the stirrup—the leg hurt too much to do anything else.

“What have you done with Lena?” Kit muttered to the horse, as he moved to his near side and froze. He stared at the swelling bulging above the top of my boot, all the way to mid-thigh, then at my eyes, as comprehension dawned. “Is this horse called Mickey? What happened?”

I took a deep breath. I didn’t want anyone to know, especially someone from the vet school.

“Yes, it’s Mickey. He fell on me.”

“He fell? It’s flat out there.” His voice was terse and the furrows on his brow deepened further.

“He went over backwards,” I whispered, my heart in my throat.

“That riding school he came from should—” He stopped and gritted his teeth. “Anyway, you’re hurt.” His voice softened. “Can you get down?”

I shook my head.

“I was wondering how I’d get off,” I said, surveying the rickety old corral fences.

“Let me help.” He was tall enough to hold me around the waist and pull me carefully from the saddle. I whimpered at the pain when I bumped the leg and clamped my jaws together, then told the butterflies to go to play somewhere else while he lowered me to the ground.

I gasped when my bad limb hit the dirt.

“I’ll put him away and give you a ride.” Kit released me as soon as I was bearing weight on it.

“I can drive mys—”

“—good thing you were wearing that thing. There’s a great dent in it.” He raised a brow at me, eyeing the back of my helmet. “You were knocked out, weren’t you?”

I closed my eyes and took a deep breath.

“I don’t know.”

“Right. I don’t know what you’d planned, but you won’t manage the heavy clutch in your old truck with that leg, will you? I’ll take you to the hospital.”

“I hadn’t actually thought past getting back to the barn in one piece,” I mumbled, mostly to myself, as he led the horse away. I wrung my hands. “His feed’s made up,” I called after him.

“I’ll find it.” Kit slipped the girth as he walked and pulled the saddle off.

I limped to get my backpack, then closed my eyes, wishing my hot cheeks would cool down as I leaned against Kit’s truck—I recognized it now, it was a vet school ambulatory vehicle. Its metal panel cooled the burning abrasions on the backs of my arms. Maybe I should press my face against it, and the rest of my aching body.

I started when Kit spoke.

“Hop in,” he said, and led the roan into his stall. He growled something low at the horse, then exited the barn with my saddle over his arm.

“Can’t you get in?” he said, as he walked up.

I shook my head and glanced down at my swollen leg.

His eyes following mine, he grimaced, then picked me up with care and set me on the passenger seat.

“We need to get that boot off and get you to the hospital.”

“I’ll be fine at home, thanks.”

“You need the hospital.” His brows narrowed until they nearly touched.

“No. Thank you.”

He gritted his teeth in silence for a moment.

“How about student health?”

“I’ll be fine. They’ll tell me to elevate it, take anti-inflammatories, and rest.”

“Correct, but you should get checked out.”

“Can you please just check me?”

He sighed and pulled a penlight from his pocket, flicked it at my eyes, first one, then the other, then back and forth between them.

“Your light reflexes are normal, but that leg…”

“It’ll be fine. I’ve had worse.”

He squeezed his eyes shut for a moment.

“Home it is, then, but get it checked out as soon as possible, OK?”

Every tiny bump in the road on the way home jarred my leg. By the time we got near home, I was nearly vomiting from the pain, but riding beside Dr. Kit Allen made up for a lot. For the past few years, he’d had my utter admiration—bordering on hero worship, though he didn’t know me from a bar of soap. Dr. Allen was a magician with horses. He really seemed to care about them—not just their diagnosis and treatment—but them. I glanced across the cab to his profile outlined by a streetlamp. Pretty drop-dead gorgeous, too, if you happen to like your classical tall, dark and handsome. And his way with horses—that really got to me.

I shook my head.

Just remember how tall, dark, and handsome turned out last time.

“Is there someone at your place that can help you with your boot? Getting it on—off, I mean?” He flushed in the glow from the dashboard lights and clamped his lips together.

I clamped my own to keep from grinning at his blush. Made me feel better about mine, but it wasn’t helping me keep my mind where it belonged, really. Residents weren’t meant to consort with students. I’d never spent time with him, other than reporting on his cases in ICU, and perving when he wasn’t looking. Though he had a sharp wit, he didn’t say much. He’d seemed stuck up and hailed from the snobbiest horsey town in our home county, so I’d kept my distance, despite his regular appearances in my dreams for the past several months. He’d been pretty nice tonight—maybe he was just shy. The butterflies started kicking again, and I told them to quit.

“My housemate Tamarah might be home.”

He let out a long breath and a hint of a smile touched his lips.

“You might get that field boot off before some idiot wants to cut it off…the only reason not go to the hospital, I guess,” he said, with the hint of a grin.

“Call me vain, but I’d almost rather cut off my leg than this Dehner boot—I’ve waited two decades to own a pair,” I said, and reached down to loosen its lace. “You’d understand about good boots.”

“How’s that?”

“Some comment I overheard in ICU, sorry,” my cheeks heated further, “about you showing hunter-jumpers—to the degree of resetting shoes between judges to change your horses’ movement.”

“We were kinda serious.” He grinned. “Good thing I worked my way through college as a farrier. Kept the bills down.”

No lights showed as we stopped before my house. This time he didn’t even ask if I could manage. He came around to my side, picked me up and carried me to the door as if weighed nothing. Desired or not, his face that up-close and personal was disconcerting, so I turned my heated cheeks away and fumbled with the house keys as we stood exposed in the light of the bare porch bulb.

Ten minutes later, after displaying more swearing and tears than I’d have preferred, we got the boot off, intact.

“There’s a bandage in the bathroom, top drawer, and naproxen in the cabinet,” I said, surveying the leg, already blue from my toes to the top of my thigh. The pain was pretty unbearable by now.

“Are these yours?” He shot me a look and held up my running shorts. My face smoked now. They’d been on the bathroom floor beneath some lacy panties.

I nodded, and he tossed the shorts to me and disappeared.

“Put them on, please,” he called from the bathroom. “I’d like to check that leg.”

Sounded like he was talking about a horse. I grinned, despite myself, and managed to peel my breeches down and off, then tugged the nylon shorts up as he returned with a compression bandage, pills and a glass of water.

Dr. Allen blinked at the leg, then checked the femur, tibia and fibula for stability. Taking the heel in one hand, he flexed, extended, and rotated the joints in all directions, but nothing crunched, while I bit my cheek. It’d be the hospital for sure, if I let myself scream.

“No crepitus, and the joints work fine. I’ll bandage it up, but you must get it looked at.”

I compressed my lips together. I had two weeks to recover before school and work started again.

Piece of cake.

***

For all my bravado, Tamarah, my fourth-year vet student housemate, still had to go with a friend to the barn the next day to pick up my truck and feed the horse—I wasn’t going anywhere.

“How did you get back?” Tamarah said, after she returned. “It’s a long way to the barn from where he dumped you.”

“Rode back,” I mumbled through a full mouth.

“Didn’t Mickey leave?”

“I had his reins in a death-grip when I woke up in the dark,” I said. “I learned young to keep hold of my reins when I fell off—riding boots aren’t exactly made for hiking home in the Santa Cruz Mountains.”

“How’d you get back on him? That’s your mounting leg.” She frowned at my swollen appendage.

“Hopped to a fallen log, clinging to his mane, then clambered onto his back all anyhow, swearing and sweating like a demented thing. I still ache all over.”

“And you haven’t seen a doctor?” Tamarah said, glancing up from her granola.

“It’s OK, Dr. Allen checked it out.”

She blinked.

“Dr. Allen? The resident? Where did you see him?”

“He was at the barn when I rode in on Mickey.”

“That’s all very well,” she set down her spoon down carefully, “but he’s a vet. You need a human doctor.”

“Are you serious, Tam?” I stared at her. “They’ll put me in the hospital.”

“Where you belong,” she stated flatly.

“I can’t make my rent if I don’t finish typing Sarah’s doctoral dissertation before school starts again.”

“You can do that in hospital.”

“Yeah, I can’t even lift the electric typewriter, I’m sure that’s going to work. No, I’ll just have to take care of it at home. I can keep it elevated and massage the heck out of it.”

She shook her head as she rinsed her bowl in the sink.

“Besides, if I’m in hospital and miss classes, I’ll never catch up.”

“Of course you will.” Her brows narrowed at me. “Why didn’t Dr. Allen take you to the hospital?”

“He tried,” I said, wincing.

“Sometimes you have rocks in your head, girl.” Tamarah shook her head as she slapped my bowl down on the counter and stalked off.

Some people just seem to be born brilliant. Like Tamarah. Somehow I’d ended up with 150 of them in my vet school class. The rest of us work our buns off just to survive.

I’m not bitter, it’s just the way it is.

***

The jingle of the ice cream truck pulled me out of whatever internal medicine doctorate-dissertation trance I was in, typing myself stupid. I’d been stuck in bed with Sarah’s Previously Unknown E. coli in a Dog for nearly a week and I had a desperate urge to catch that truck—and snag me a chocolate gelato.

Never mind I could barely make it to the toilet.

With a frown at Tamarah’s makeshift desk sitting over my lap, topped by 35 pounds of IBM Selectric correcting electric typewriter, I bit my lip, held my breath and heaved. The typewriter budged…but not enough. I tried again and managed to get it off my legs, then I swung my legs over and dived for the door…but my leg was trapped in the sheet, wasn’t it?

I hit the floor with a grunt and a scream, then dragged myself to the doorframe and climbed up its slippery surface.

That ice cream had better be good.

I staggered down the hallway, leaning against the wall as I went. If I’d gone to the doctor, I’d no doubt have a crutch, but I had to decline, didn’t I? I nearly fell over Tamarah’s golden Labrador, who ran up to me with her leash in her mouth and a hopeful look in her big brown eyes.

“Watch out, Susie, not now,” I mumbled, then stumbled down the porch steps. I was limping across the lawn at a great rate of knots, when the brightly painted van, playing its merry tune, drove away in a cloud of diesel smoke.

I growled beneath my breath at the universe for denying me the chance to add inches to my waistline, then took a deep breath and looked up to see the mailbox. I might as well check it, now I was out here.

“Susie, what have you got?” I called out to the dog, as I reached into the mailbox. She looked at me, all big, innocent Labrador eyes, with a half-grown bunny draped through her mouth.

“Gently, gently,” I whispered, as I followed her into the bushes, dragging my screaming leg and picked up the leash she’d dropped. Any domestic type rabbit, like this Belgian Lop, running around in the middle of town must be someone’s pet. It was currently still alive, hyperventilating, its little chest heaving in triple time, but that could change in a heartbeat.

“Come on, Susie, give it here,” I cajoled, and waved her leash at her.

With a joyous look, she spat the rabbit at me and lunged for the leash. I dove for the bunny like a wide receiver making the final play in the end zone, quite forgetting for one brief moment that I only had one functional leg.

This time, I’m sure the whole neighborhood heard me swear.

I figured it must be time to exercise my leg, so Susie got her walk, after all. We returned to the house and I put the bunny in a box with some water and lettuce to calm down while I fashioned a rough—operative word, rough—crutch.  After loading the bunny into a backpack, while trying to prevent Labrador from helping, it snuggled down quiet, then we set off to tour the neighborhood. Susie’s enthusiasm helped me—I think—to hobble from house to house, while muttering imprecations under my breath, for the next hour until we found the little old lady whose granddaughter had brought it over to show it off last week—and forgot about it while it was grazing on granny’s back lawn.

They’d thought they’d never see it again.

Made my day.

***

A few days later, despite the hydrotherapy, massage, and loving care by Tamarah, the leg actually looked worse. Not content to stay a nice blue color, it had morphed to a camouflage pattern of purple, black and yellow. Understanding the medical significance of the color changes was all very nice, but it didn’t make the bruises resolve any faster.

“Do you want to see that blasted horse of yours?” Tamarah said,

“Really, you’ll take me?”

She scowled at my enthusiasm.

“I go there every day to take care of him, anyway,” she grumbled. “You might as well come along…on one condition.”

“What is it?” I was rather ungracious, under the circumstances. She’d been caring for Mickey and me since my fall. I peered sideways at her.

“We go by student health on the way back. I don’t want to come home from walking the dog to find you seizuring from a blood clot in your brain.”

Susie jumped to her feet at the W-word and spat her slimy tennis ball at me. I sidestepped and gave her a twisted grin, thankful, after the bunny incident, that the dog was good at hurling things with her mouth.

“My father would shoot me,” Tamarah continued smoothly, “if he knew I’d let you stay away from the doctor.”

That got me.

Tamarah’s daddy, a lovely man, was also a professor…at our veterinary school. I bit my cheek. He wouldn’t be impressed by my irresponsible behavior. Now was not the time to annoy his daughter. It’d also occurred to me that a more comfortable crutch could be useful when school started—in too few days.

“Thanks,” I managed, past gritted teeth. “I’d like that…the first part, but…I’ll go to the doctor.”

“Get a sock on that foot and we’ll go,” she said.

I hopped away as fast as I could, before she changed her mind.

While Tamarah cleaned his stall, I mooned over the fence at Mickey. The creature at least had the decency to look guilty when I limped toward him with his feed.

“Don’t even think about taking him for a walk, much less riding.” Tamarah stood between me and the tack room, with a look on her face that made me cringe.

I quashed the desire to ask for his halter and kissed his soft nose, instead.

***

“I’ll wait out here,” Tamarah said fifteen minutes later, with a triumphant smile, as she opened the car door for me outside student health.

“You should have come in right away,” the doctor said, with a frown. “You could have had a blood clot! How long has it been?”

“A week and a half,” I mumbled into my shirt.

“I see you rushed right in.” She scowled and shook her head. “What have you been doing for it?”

Her demeanor softened a little when I told her.

“I guess you’re out of the danger zone, anyway. I’d have hospitalized you.”

I nodded.

“So you start school next week? What are you studying?”

“Vet med.”

“Vet?” She blinked. “You should know bett—oh well,” she sighed, and scribbled in her notes. “Never mind. Small animals, I hope? Try to stay off it. Sit down while you’re treating your patients.”

I mumbled something incoherent, lacking have the heart to tell her I was Equine Track and worked as a Large Animal ICU Technician—galloping on foot between three barns, running IV fluids to twelve horses at a time, and tubing colicky horses all night. She’d have the vapors.

Oblivious to her patient’s dastardly plans, the doctor smiled and left me with a packet of anti-inflammatories and admonitions to rest, elevate it, and keep up the massage.

At least I could hold my head up in front of Tamarah again, but I was still rather glad school was about to start. While I appreciated her loving, if tight-lipped, care, I really didn’t need the pillow under my leg fluffed every fifteen minutes and if I kept drinking so many hot chocolates, I’d never fit my jeans again when the swelling in my leg eventually went down. I still hopped, but getting to class on time could be tricky—not travelling at my regular speed.

***

My friend Jess returned from a trip away with her family the night before classes were to resume.

“Did you see what our first lecture is tomorrow?” Her voice over the phone line leapt with expectancy.

I pulled the schedule from my bag, where it had lain, forgotten, since the final day of last quarter. One glance, and my grin at her excitement vanished. Spots swam before my eyes as I read the title on the first lecture:

Dystocia: Difficult Birth in the Mare and Determining the Need for Surgical Intervention

I nearly dropped the phone.

Not dystocia. Not foaling difficulties.

Anything but that.


 

I hope you enjoyed reading Chapter One of Once Upon a Vet School, volume 7! To read the final version and the rest of my story, and eleven more, you’ll have to see our Christmas Boxed Set, out SOON!!!!!

Be sure to subscribe to our page to keep posted of when it’ll be available!

I’d love to hear your thoughts!  Hear from you soon!

xx

Lizzi