Summer Romance: OAVS 8: Fifty Miles at a Breath

 

Hi all!

I’m flat out… well, past flat out, to finish your next story and another one shortly thereafter. One thing about being a self-pubbed author in two boxed-set groups…. there are deadlines to keep me honest!

Summer Romance on Main Street

Your new stories will be out very soon! As you’ve probably heard, we’re not only doing a Christmas boxed set this year, but also a Summertime one! Summer Romance on Main Street will be out this month!  Keep checking back here to hear when it’s out!

In case you’re wondering, yes, I have changed the cover image for Once Upon a Vet School #7: Lena Takes a Foal.

Here it is!  (and yes, that’s me, my horse Maya, and my youngest son…)1 1 OAVS 7 New EBOOK cover kb 500 2017 05 01

Join us for another story in Lena’s series of Once Upon a Vet School!

And you will too, when you read Once Upon a Vet School #6: Fifty Miles at a Breath (Page coming soon!) in our upcoming boxed set, Summer Romance on Main Street!

I’ve done endurance riding and ride-and-ties myself, plus crewed and vetted for many more.  I thought it might be nice to give people a little glimpse into that world.

So here’s a little excerpt from OAVS #6: Fifty Miles at a Breath: 

 


From Once Upon a Vet School #6: Fifty Miles at a Breath

Prince was back in the corral attached to his trailer when I arrived at Blake’s camper. The stallion whuffled softly to me and lipped at the grass I’d found for him. I may be a disaster with men, but I know how to make horses love me.

“He’ll leave me for you, if you keep that up.” Blake’s eyes glowed down at me from the open door of his camper.

I grinned.

“Come on in and have a drink with me, but leave Prince out there. He’d wreck the camper, so he has to stay outside, but you look like you have better manners.” He waved me in. “Beer? Juice? Whiskey?”

I thought the juice might be safest, in my present state of mind.

The comfortable cab-over camper looked well used, but well cared for. Blake caught me looking it over.

“It’s not fancy, but it’s gone a lot of miles. We take it camping in the high Sierra and to a lot of endurance rides.”

We?

I gulped. Getting ahead of myself again.  Of course, a man so vivacious and fun would have a wife. I swallowed the bitter disappointment and accepted the juice with thanks. “High Sierra?”

“Yes, we take the horses and camp up high, near the tree line, and take day rides out from the camper.”

I grinned at him beneath my brows. “That’s not real camping, in a camper.”

He snorted. “Have you ever done it?”

“I’ve camped for years.”

 He lifted one brow. “In the High Sierra?”

“Well, no.”

“Wait until you try it. You won’t think I’m such a tenderfoot, then.”

That got me. I had no idea what he meant. And I probably wasn’t going to find out. Surely he was married. Probably to one of those money- grubbers he’d mentioned last time we spoke.

“So, you’ve finished your meeting?”

“Sure have. I know where I need to be, and when. Stethoscope  in hand and secretary assigned. One Janelle Knight.”

“Nice girl, Janelle. Known her  parents for years. She wants to be a vet.”

I shuddered, then grinned. “I’ll try not to put her off vet school.”

“That tough?”

“Let’s just say the course is designed to be passed, but it’s tough. Their selection process is pretty strong. So far, we’ve not lost any of our classmates through the first three years of the program, and gained one from the previous class who had a little trouble adjusting back to school life after  he retired from a navy career.” I smiled. “His life dream was to be a vet. Fortunately or unfortunately, he grew up in  a navy family, so into the navy he went.”

“Wow, what dedication.”

“Yep. He adds so much to our class.”

“Let’s go, or will miss dinner.” Blake held the door for me as I climbed down the steps.

Gentlemanly.

I didn’t see much of that these days. I grinned over my shoulder as I thanked him, then promptly tripped over the trailer brake.

Pull it together. A guy’s nice to you and you melt.

 I managed to hit the ground with my feet, rather than my head, and stood waiting beside Prince while Blake climbed down—carefully, I noticed.

We headed in the general direction of the cookhouse. Blake stopped at this trailer and that to introduce me to his friends.

The on-duty ambulance rolled slowly to a halt near us, the driver looking around and talking on his radio.

“What’s up?” Blake asked someone.

“Faye Waters took her horse out for a ride and her horse came back alone. Not sure what happened, but they found her on the ground, her head against a rock. She had her helmet on, but she was unconscious.” He nodded his head at the ambulance. “They’ve radioed for a chopper and it’s on its way. They’re finalizing a landing spot now.”

The other ambulance attendant  hopped out. “Can you all please clear the area? The chopper is on its way,” he called out, in a loud voice.

 We moved to the edge of the clearing and searched the sky for a helicopter.  Blake saw it before I could even hear it.

“He’s going a pretty good clip.” Blake raised an eyebrow at the chopper, racing toward us.  Suddenly, it was right  above us, coming faster than I could have imagined, dropping like a stone into the clearing before us. It was only twenty feet above the ground, too close for comfort. A graying man walked past them, struggling to lead a gray Arabian as it danced sideways, snorting and tugging at its lead. The man glanced around, and then up to see what was frightening his charge.  Suddenly, his horse galloped past me, so close I felt the wind from its passing. I turned back to see if the man was okay, but he’d vanished.

Blake dashed off to catch the horse and I ran over to where the man had been. Where had he gone? I peered over the riverbank near where I’d last seen him. There he was. Ten feet down, hunched into a ball on the rocky riverbed, hands and arms cradling his head. His whole body shook.

“Are you all right?” I called out, but he didn’t respond. I scrambled down beside him and reached a hand out toward his shoulder.

“No!” Blake’s voice rang out from high above me.

I froze, but not before I’d touched the hot skin of the man’s shoulder and my world went ballistic. I tried to scream past the fingers digging into my face and covering my mouth, and then a band of flesh-covered steel clamped tight across my throat.


 

I’ve always adored Lena, and Blake’s pretty cool, too. Hope you love Lena and Blake’s story, coming SOON!

xx

Lizzi Tremayne

 

CyCon 2018: Come on By and See What it’s About!

Welcome! Thanks for coming along today!

I’m part of a big book party called CyCon 2018. It’ll be on from now through the end of Sunday, EST. There you’ll find plenty of information about a bunch of new indie authors in many categories!

There are Cover Wars (Mine are in the historical fiction section), a Blog Hop, Joe’s Bar (0pen 24 hours, from now~), a FB After Party, Tour of the Genres, Mass Giveaway, Book Expo, Author Showcase, Author Interviews, Story Time, Panel Discussions, and Character Tournaments…

All…. Weekend…Long~

Come on by!

I have four books in the Cover Wars, if you want to go in and vote for your fav’s!

Here are some links:

Reader Links Author Links More Western and Historical Fiction, Wait…..What!!
Book Expo
Events By Genre
B2B CyCon Fairgrounds
Western Daisy Chain
Historical Fiction Daisy Chain
Blog Tour
Shotgun Bo Rivers
Ken Farmer
John Burlinson
K.M. Pohlkamp
Ed Ireland
J.j. Devine
Paul Bishop
Lizzi Tremayne
Richard White
Cover Wars
Panel Discussion
Author Trade Show
Joes Bar

 

I’ve posted about all of my stories, either under Historical and Western Fiction or Romance.
We were asked to write about one of our  True Life Inspirations, which pleases me, as there are one, or two, as the case may be, in my first novel. MTrue Life Inspiration story is about a horse named “What?”, and his Pony Express Rider, George Scovell. It’s part ofA Long Trail Rolling, Book One of The Long Trails series.

“What?” I hear you say. 

Yes, “What?”  It’s a horse’s name. A real Pony Express mount… and his awesome rider.

Prior warning: Aleks is a bit of a stroppy chick… Can’t imagine where I got the inspiration for her… LOL.

Excerpt from A Long Trail Rolling

“—and this,” Xavier handed her a leather sheet with two slots in it, “is your mochila. It—”

“It fits over—” Aleksandra blurted out.

Again. Dios mío! He adored this chica, but she was driving him mad with her impatience and dogged determination about everything. “—it fits over the saddle,” he resumed, glaring at her.

She looked down at the ground. “Sorry,” she muttered, sounding anything but. Scowling, she stood with arms crossed, her fingernails digging into the sides of her buckskin shirt.

“Aleks, there is a list I need to cover with you before you ride. I still have serious doubts about letting you go, but if you’ll listen, you might survive just that little bit longer.”

She stared down at the toe of her boot tapping the ground, then lifted her eyes to his. He could swear she rolled her eyes.

His own narrowed. “You can ride this portion of the trail because it’s safer out here. All the Indian trouble is more than a hundred miles west of here. You’ll be right out of it.”

Raising an eyebrow at him, she smirked and seemed about to make some comment, but held her peace.

I wonder what I’m missing here.

“Look, Aleksandra, you seem to think this is a joke. Station keepers have been dying out there.”

Her face fell. “Yes,” she said, with a little less certainty.

“I haven’t told you about “What?” yet, have I?”

“What?”  She frowned, but uncrossed her arms and left off wringing her buckskins to listen, raising one eyebrow and looking at him from beneath her lashes, jaw tensed.

“You don’t seem to understand my concern,” he spoke slowly, word by word.

“What is a “what”?” She still looked annoyed, but curiosity got the better of her.

He held his breath for a moment.

“Young George Scovell, an Express rider, nearly died a few weeks ago in an ambush,” he growled. “What? was an Express Mustang named for his question mark-shaped blaze. Going through the aspen bottoms west of Chokup Pass, What? was uneasy, flicking his ears back and forth, when swarms of arrows flew out of the brush beside them. They were chased by more than thirty Indian braves for over three miles into Diamond Springs Station. They got there, despite two arrows in Scovell’s leg and poor What? full of eleven more.”

“Oh.” Aleksandra’s attitude and scowl melted, her eyes pooling tears.

“That pony delivered Scovell safely, then collapsed. When they got rid of the Indians, Scovell put him out of his pain with a shot to the forehead and buried that pony, right next to the station.”

“He buried him,” she whispered. Eyes glowing through wet lashes, she gave him a crooked grin.

“That was his last ride for the Pony. Dead horses are usually left for scavengers, but young George felt pretty strongly about What?. On his way back East, George showed me his journal entry for the day, complete with a photo of the good horse that saved his life.

Aleksandra’s brow furrowed. “How did they protect themselves from the Indians?”

“Willie, the station keeper, dragged George into the station and defended it from the gun ports until the Indians left. Luckily the cedar post stockade and stone station house were difficult to set alight, so they survived.

“Now do you understand why I want you to listen?” He pulled her into his arms and tugged on her braid. “It would be nice to keep your hair, no?”

Aleksandra looked down at the ground, finally still. “I am ready to listen.” Xavier had to lean down to hear her whisper. “I apologize for making this difficult when you are only trying to keep me safe.”

“It’s okay,” Xavier held her tightly. “Shall we continue?” He raised an eyebrow at her and released her.

“I’m all ears,” she said, turning to face him.

The series:

The historical fiction sagas follow Aleksandra and Xavier from the wilderness of 1860 Utah to Colonial New Zealand. 

In A LONG TRAIL ROLLING (Book 1), Aleksandra is alone and running to prevent her father’s killer from discovering their family secret.  Disguised as a Pony Express rider in 1860’s Utah, she winds up in even deeper trouble when she rides full speed into the the Paiute Indian War. Can she and Xavier, her Californio boss, escape the Indians on the warpath, and evade the man who’s already killed Aleksandra’s father—and set his sights on her? 

THE HILLS OF GOLD UNCHANGING (Book 2) follows Aleksandra and Xavier through the mining camps of 1860s’ Nevada and California, the Sacramento floods and San Fran to Xavier’s Rancho de las Pulgas. As the Civil War rages, secessionists menace California. Embroiled in the Confederates’ fight to drag the new state from the Union and make it their own, can Aleks and Xavier survive? The secessionists mean business. No one will stand in their way—and live.

In A SEA OF GREEN UNFOLDING (Book 3), tragedy strikes in Aleksandra and Xavier’s newly-found paradise in California. Their friend, von Tempsky, invites them on a journey to adventure and a new life in peaceful 1862 New Zealand, but change is in the wind. They reach Aotearoa,only to discover the place is a turbulent wilderness—where the land wars between the European settlers and the local Māori have only just begun. 

In TATIANA (Book 4), stableman’s daughter Tatiana rises to glamorous heights by her equestrienne abilities—but the tsar’s glittering attention isn’t always gold. She and Vladimir are pawns in the emperor’s pursuit of a secret weapon. Vladimir must find it—or lose Tatiana and their son, arrested and held as surety against his success. As the odds mount against them, can they find each other again—half a world apart? Coming soon!

beach party           rabbit hole

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Author Bio:Lizzi Tremayne Author

Lizzi Tremayne writes about the Old West, Russia, and Colonial New Zealand, as well as veterinary fiction and non-fiction—all with a horsey flair.

She also now writes contemporary horsey veterinary fiction! Did you ever want to be a vet? Once Upon a Vet School is a new series of contemporary vet fiction. Share Lena’s escapades from the time she decides to become a veterinarian, through her education and practice time in the USA, to her career as a rural equine and sometimes zoo-dentistry veterinarian in New Zealand.

She grew up riding wild in the Santa Cruz Mountain redwoods, became an equine veterinarian at UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and practiced in the California Pony Express and Gold Country before emigrating to New Zealand.

Lizzi has two wonderful, grown-up boys and an awesome partner in this sea of green. When she’s not writing, she’s swinging a rapier or shooting a bow in medieval garb, riding, driving a carriage or playing on her hobby farm, singing, or working as an equine veterinarian or science teacher. She’s multiply published and awarded in fiction, special interest magazines and veterinary periodicals.

Sign up for Lizzi Tremayne’s Newsletter and get one of Lizzi’s short stories for free here

Social Media Links:

Lizzi’s Website :   www.lizzitremayne.com/lizzi-tremayne-author

Facebook:   www.facebook.com/lizzitremayneauthor

Amazon:   www.amzn.to/16VVn1w

Goodreads:   www.goodreads.com/LizziTremayne

Instagram:   www.instagram.com/lizzitremayne/

Pinterest:   https://nz.pinterest.com/lizzitremayne/

Twitter:   www.twitter.com/LizziTremayne/

YouTube:   www.youtube.com/user/lizzikiwi

Newsletter signup:   https://lizzitremayne.com/signup/

Free on Kindle Unlimited or buy here: https://lizzitremayne.com/LongTrailRoll

 

 

To find more Brain to Books authors, genres, and more blog tours for this upcoming wonderful weekend at our Cyber Convention and Book Expo, visit the links below! Make sure you drop in to Brackify to vote on our Cover Wars; there are some great Western and Historical Fiction covers over there. Thanks for stopping by.

 

Reader Links Author Links More Western and Historical Fiction, Wait…..What!!
Book Expo
Events By Genre
B2B CyCon Fairgrounds
Western Daisy Chain
Historical Fiction Daisy Chain
Blog Tour
Shotgun Bo Rivers
Ken Farmer
John Burlinson
K.M. Pohlkamp
Ed Ireland
J.j. Devine
Paul Bishop
Lizzi Tremayne
Richard White
Cover Wars
Panel Discussion
Author Trade Show
Joes Bar

 

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Update on Lizzi Tremayne and Get Your Free Sampler!

Hello All!  I hope March finds you well! I’ve been busy marketing the three books I released in 2017,

history   history

marketingas well as my first, A Long Trail Rolling.marketing

The biggest challenge I find as a full time writer, part time veterinarian, small farm owner, and manufacturer/distributor of Equi-Still Portable Equine Stocks is organizing my time for writing as well as marketing (publicity, social media, etc.) my books, with all the other things to boot.

Certainly, I need to improve in this area (Perhaps by stopping some of it? Doh?), as my ticker is not handling the load, but with the right meds and more sleep, I’m staying out of atrial fibrillation this week.  That’s good. Marketing isn’t as important as my health. Contrary to my belief, I’m not 21 anymore. 🙂

Thus I find myself again with the ever-present spreadsheet and Asana (It’s on my resources page, here), working on organization.

What I’ve done well lately…

One of the great things I did in February was putting together a Lizzi Tremayne Sampler of the first books in The Long Trails series, so you can have a taste of my writing!

marketing

It’s free here, just for signing up to my newsletter list.

I keep my newsletter subscribers updated on news, special offers, and contests–open only to them!

Sign up here

So what am I up to now? More marketing?

Well, always… but I’m planning and researching three more novellas to be publishe this year, two for Authors of Main Street boxed sets, more of the Once Upon a Vet School series, and one for the Bluestocking Belles’  Christmas boxed set, which will be a side-novella off my The Long Trails series!

And one more book… just one more…

Research continues for Tatiana, the upcoming Book Four of The Long Trails series, and if you read my latest blog post here, you’ll see how far down rabbit holes I can fall!  Come have a read!

marketing  marketing

That’s it for me tonight, off to bed, nearly on time. I hope you have a lovely March!

Remember to get your free copy of my Lizzi Tremayne Long Trails Sampler today!

Take care, until next time,

xx

Lizzi Tremayne

 

 

Happy Holidays y Que le Vaya Bien!


I hope you all had a wonderful holiday, filled with the people you care about most in the world. If you couldn’t be with them, I hope they were in your heart.

My youngest son, my partner, and I are far from our New Zealand home… in Fort Worth, Texas. We had quite a different Thanksgiving holiday. Matthew had never had one, being from the UK and then NZ, and my son Elliot has only had what I could cobble together in New Zealand for the traditional dinner. For me, this was my first one in a restaurant! 

Luckily we booked a few days in advance and actually found a restaurant with room for us which did a non-yuppie thanksgiving feast. I ate too much… once again. I could seriously have done without the pumpkin cheesecake.  I ate it like it was pie…but it was far from that… being mostly cream. A few miles’ walk back to our hotel helped considerably.

 

The dinner was spectacular and afterwards, the entertainment was hysterical…some people at the next table had their turkey hats on…complete with gobbling and wriggling legs.

Last week, we enjoyed some great Southern hospitality in San Antonio, where we exhibited our Equi-Still Portable Equine Stocks at the AAEP (American Association of Equine Practitioners) Convention last weekend.  6000 equine vets all in one place! This was just one lecture!

The stocks are pretty versatile….here’s our smallest visitor to the booth!   

We headed out east three times to eat at Taqueria Los Dos Laredos Mexican restaurant where few spoke English. The best kind.  Plus, I got to practice my rusty Español. 🙂

We stayed at the historic Menger Hotel, established and in operation since 1859. Carriage horses from the Lollypop Carriage Company waited right outside

and the Alamo is across the street! Right up my alley. 🙂

I’ve had a week off from writing, but after publishing three books so far this year, I guess that’s okay.  Plus, I’ve been accumulating new stories…

I hadn’t known the history of the Alamo before, but “Battle for Texas” in the mall nearby gave much more detail on it than was even present at the Alamo site itself.

I’m already ruminating on how to include it in one of my upcoming stories…maybe in one of the novellas I’d like to write about Krzysztof’s life!  We’ll have to work on that one. 🙂 It’ll have to be heresay, as the Alamo fell in 1836 and the Galician Slaughter, the stimulus for Aleksandra’s father and mother leaving Poland, occurred in 1846. :/  That’ll take some thinking.

Today we visited the historic Fort Worth Stockyard Station. It was pretty cool.

Instead of tearing the old stockyards down, as often happens, they transformed much of the site into a tourist attraction, full of stores, restaurants, and wedding venues, with some of the old stock areas still in evidence. It’s lucky for people like me, who want to see those too!

Billy Bob’s famous honkey tonk/ dance hall is there, but as it was Thanksgiving today… well, everyone was home with their families. Few places were open. But that, too, I liked. We got to see the place without hordes of people!

Have a wonderful holiday, talk with you next month!

Hasta luego y que le vaya bien from the travellers!

Thanks for coming by!

xx

Lizzi

PS…

If you haven’t yet ordered your copy of Christmas Babies on Main Street, it’s available now!  Click here to get it now!

Hope you love the heartwarming stories therein. If you do, we’d love you to leave a review on Amazon!

Thanks again for visiting

xx

Lizzi

Ever Thought of Riding the Pony Express?

I sure did…probably obsessed on riding the Pony Express, too, when I was a little girl riding out in the hills around La Honda, California.

Maybe that’s why my first novel, A Long Trail Rolling, ended up being about the Pony Express…and a girl rider.

Many have asked why I wrote about this for my first novel. For those of you who don’t know my history, suffice it to say I grew up on Highway 84 in La Honda, California, where the Younger Brothers used to hang out after big heists, the Stage ran through, and the Peek-a Boo Inn (yes, it is what it sounds like…), the eleven bars and three churches and one store were the standard, back in the day.

I went away to university and finally finished veterinary school. I had to be a hoss-doc, didn’t I? I moved on to Placerville, of Gold Country fame, on the Pony Express Trail.  You might say I was rather steeped in the Old West.

Things led to things and I found myself in New Zealand, where I’ve lived for the past 22 years. I’ve now finished my third historical fiction (with romantic elements, of course) and my first contemporary vet girl story, Once Upon a Vet School #7: Lena Takes a Foal.

It’s actually included in our Christmas boxed set, Christmas Babies on Main Street! You’ll see it in the right sidebar, all dressed in midnight blue!

Back to History and the Pony Express!

I discovered some pretty cool things can happen when you’re researching a story. 

Thanks to Pony Express History –

The Pony Express Re-Ride runs every year, all the way from St. Jo, Missouri, to Sacramento, California. Patrick Hearty, past president of the National Pony Express Association (NPEA), wrote the Foreword of A Long Trail Rolling for me. He and his wife, Linda, hosted my son Elliot and I a few years ago, and again last year, when they invited me to ride in the re-ride and lent me their horses for the famed ride. It was awe-inspiring to ride over the same trail as all those young men, so many years ago. It is strange to realize that the portion I rode over is less populated than it was back in the day!

The  Pony Express Re-Ride continues!

This rider is putting the “mochila,” (the leather pad with the mail pockets, below) over his horse’s saddle. It’s transferred from horse to horse all the way from St. Joseph to Old Sacramento for the western run, and another one is transferred at the same time, in the reverse direction…all the way from Old Sac to St. Joseph for the eastward run.  Members of the NPEA and others may insert a commemorative letter at one end and have them delivered to the other.

Credit to Ryan Long, Deseret News

Patrick has put a commemorative letter in for me every year since we met and I cherish the growing stack of letters, knowing how many miles those letters have gone, carried by horse after horse in their locked “cantinas”, over 2000 miles of hot summer sweat and dust, prairies, rivers, and the Sierra Nevada Ranges.

Map of the Pony Express Route

http://dinosaurcowboys.files.wordpress.com/2012/03/pony-express-map.jpgThanks to Union Pacific and http://bit.ly/11K21Oh

To join the NPEA or follow the mochilas on their yearly trip, you can visit the XPHome Site

Thanks to Tom Crews!

This is Patee House, the eastward terminus of the  Pony Express, or “Pony”, as it was called.

https://i2.wp.com/www.legendsofamerica.com/photos-missouri/StJoePateeHotel-600.jpg

Thanks to Kathy Weiser, owner/editor, Legends of America

 

Pony_Express_Map

Patrick Hearty and Dr. Joseph Hatch of Utah speaking on the Pony Express

 

Patrick Hearty The Pony Express Stations in Utah

Patrick Hearty The Pony Express Stations in Utah

Photo above: Patrick and Joseph’s book. Photo to right: Joseph L. Hatch, left, and Patrick Hearty talk about the history of the Pony Express. (Thanks to Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News)

Traveler’s Rest Pony Express Station, Near Salt Lake City, Utah

Travellers rest station

Here is the Traveler’s Rest (or Absalom Smith) Station, with the front torn down, but the pic shows the first part built.  Thanks to the University of Utah

 

Simpson’s Springs (Somewhere out in the Utah Salt Desert!).

Simpson's Springs Station

Painting of Simpson’s Springs Station

Lookout Pass, Where my Heroine, Aleksandra, Finds a “Bit of Strife”

Lookout Pass - Pony Express Trail Thanks to Roger Douglass 

It’s in Lookout Pass that Aleksandra, my heroine, is ambushed by Paiute Indians and… (but that would be telling!)…. you’ll just have to read the book!

INDIAN ARROWE AND ECHO STATION PE STATION KEEPERS

“Mose Wright described the Indian arrow-poison. The rattlesnake – the copperhead and the moccasin he ignored – is caught with a forked stick planted over its neck, and is allowed to fix its fangs in an antelope’s liver. The meat, which turns green, is carried upon a skewer when wanted for use: the flint head of an arrow, made purposely to break in the wound, is thrust into the poison, and when withdrawn is covered with a thin coat of glue. Ammonia is considered a cure for it and the Indians treat snake bites with the actual cautery. . .”

Yep, it gets messy, but then, it often did.

The “Pony”, as the Pony Express was called, only actually ran for 18 months or so, a bit less because Indian attacks caused it to shut down for about a month and a half…  (Why, you say? Well, when all the stations for over 50 miles are burned down, stock stolen and station tenders killed, it’s pretty hard to maintain a route!)

Thanks to  David David Gallery / SuperStock

The opening of  the new trans-continental telegraph line sounded the death knell of the “Pony”, but it had served its purpose in keeping California in the Union, preventing its secession to the South! This is actually the main storyline of Book 2 in the series, The Hills of Gold Unchanging. 

Thanks to Trips into History 

That’s my bit of history for today, I hope you enjoyed hearing about the “Pony”.

Back to Today!

As you probably know, The Authors of Main Street have just put out our Christmas Boxes Set!

If you haven’t  read it yet, go for it, there are nine heartwarming stories from your favorite, and new favorite, we hope, authors, all for only 99c!

If you love the stories, we’d sure appreciate your reviews on Amazon!

Take good care.

XX from NZ,

Lizzi and the rest at Authors of Main Street

 

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.

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Lizzi Tremayne