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

Summertime Fun Time!

It’s a lazy August weekend with a few of our authors on vacation.

BUT!!!!

You don’t have to run away to witness one of the most fun events in our summer sky. It’s the Perseid Meteor Shower this weekend  and you don’t have to be a million miles from civilization to see it.

If the shower fell on a weeknight my husband would sleep through it, but otherwise he was right there with us. We’d make ourselves comfortable and then watch.  One year, when the shower fell on a weeknight, our girls were in their preteen-early teen years. We lived in a city.  We all went outside and I warned them to keep their voices down, because at that hour, sound seems to carry.  The girls spread out across the front of our vehicles and got comfortable.  On a  good viewing night, you can see 1 or 2 shooting stars a minute even in the city.

A police officer was patrolling through the area and stopped in front of our vehicles. He called for back up. Hmm, I’m sure a two young teens and their mom must have looked like we were about to riot  or do some other dastardly deed, and he’d  have to arrest us and a three to one ratio wasn’t exactly in his favor. Suddenly we had about 5 cars in the front of us.

I’m thinking what the heck is going on? Are they chasing a major bank robber through our quiet little neighborhood.  No. They were coming for us.  Seriously? We’re in our own yard and the girls are on our vehicles.

This story just keeps getting a little more complicated – sort of like Alice’s Restaurant. (I’m showing my age.) A little background… I had a family member who was one of the big brass in the police department. That sounds as though I should know most everyone there. Not even close. I knew a few of the people with which he closely worked, because they would show up at Christmas parties or Fourth of July picnics. One of the cars that pulled in with several others, I spotted who it was. He got out of his car, crossed his arms over his chest, and leaned against his car with his big Cheshire smile plastered on his face.  The young officer shined his bright flashlight into my eyes and starts asking questions. Aside from blinding me, I was having a difficult time keeping a straight face.

Now try to explaining why the children are draped across our cars and what we are doing around 1:30 in the morning. Fortunately he turned off the flashlight, because after being in the darkness, any light would have seemed super bright. I’m blinking and trying to decide if I’ll ever see in the dark again.

me: “We’re watching the meteor shower.”

him: “What shower?”

me: “Perseid.”

him: “It’s not raining.”

me: (snicker) “No, sir. It’s not. If it were, we couldn’t watch the Perseid Meteor Shower. There’s one!”

him: “Where?”

me: “Sir, you’ve got to be watching for them to see them. They are fast.”

him: “What’s fast?”

me: “The falling debris from the meteor.”

me: (pointing) “Don’t look there. Look in this direction!”

Now Big Bad John is laughing. My youngest has slid off her perch on her dad’s car and is standing by John. The two of them are watching the sky. (We had perfect viewing weather.) In the meantime, the young man who has confronted me, is certain that I have a few screws loose and the girls are juvenile delinquents. At this point, every cop who had stopped is standing with John who out ranks all of them, and probably was in charge of half the city’s police night shift.  (Thanks, John, for tossing me to the young wolf who apparently wasn’t paying attention in science class.)

At this point, I can no longer keep a straight face. I dissolved into giggles.  Several more officers pull in, get out of their cars, and turn in the direction of the meteor shower. Apparently my block was the only place in the city to view this fabulous sky show. (Yes, I’m joking – but I’m not sure they knew they could see it elsewhere.) My other daughter has also wandered away and is standing with John.

It was Mother Nature’s fireworks display. One of the officers who came to the party a little late was verbal. “Wow! Look at that. There’s another. How long have all ya all been watchin’ this? How long does it last?”

My oldest daughter answered him. That caused my lone young officer to realize that the girls were no longer on the cars, but had stealthily slid past him were standing with everyone else in blue. And they were all watching the meteor shower.  Fortunately as the young officer turned, he also caught sight of these shooting stars. “You weren’t kidding!”

me: “No.”

John walked over to me and put his arm around my shoulder in a friendly brotherly way.  (I guess he decided I needed to be rescued.) His youngest daughter and my girls all played together whenever they had the chance. John properly introduced me to the young officer and explained my connection to Martin. Even in the dark, I could see that young officer swallow real hard.

Then I gave him my spiel about shooting stars and how the Perseid shower passes through here every summer.  For the next two hours, I was probably the most protected mother in that city. The girls resumed their positions on our vehicles and a few of our neighbors had joined the impromptu Meet Your Local Cops block party. I went back inside, grabbed the sleeve of paper cups, filled the ice bucket, scooped up the sodas from the refrigerator and brought everything outside.

That young officer, I felt a little sorry for him, because I knew he’d get razzed by the other cops. And to cover his tracks, he tried to explain that there was a curfew on juveniles, and seeing “people” draped over vehicles was worthy of investigation because they might have been defacing  personal property. He did what he should have done, he investigated.

Oh, the girls were warned not to get on the cars if their jeans had pocket rivets. Because I would not been happy if they scratched my car, and omigosh, they would not have wanted to scratch their dad’s car!

In all fairness to our local city, not every police officer hung around that night and a few left the area only to be replaced by another.  One of them wanted to know how I knew this stuff. Was I a science teacher? Not hardly.

My father loved looking up at star clusters and telling me the names of the different ones. He was the kind of man who would wake me up and have me watch the aurora borealis or see a lunar eclipse. But on very rare occasions when a solar eclipse happened, such as the one coming up, my dad was prepared with a super thick dark glass that could be used for safe viewing. I want to say it was from some sort of special welding equipment. He had it taped in a box so that I wouldn’t drop it.

I learned lots from him. From names of flowers and trees to the various bugs, he taught me. He would have loved today’s phone apps. The one that allows me to identify just about any bird I might see, or the one that allows me to point my phone towards a star and it will give me the name, tell me where the space station is or the Hubble telescope, etc.

I’m sure if I had such a phone that fateful night, it would have been easier for me to explain the Perseid shower. That young officer was doing exactly what he should have been doing, keeping our neighborhood safe from vandals and hoodlums that would climb on someone’s car. And for that I did thank him. He just happened to stumble upon one of his commanding officer’s godchildren and their mom.

I hope everyone gets a nice clear view of the shower this weekend. Go out, get comfortable so your eyes adjust to the darkness, and look towards the north.  It’s the wee hours of Saturday morning here in Tidewater and it’s raining. I no longer live in that other city. But if it’s clear tonight (the prediction is for more rain this entire weekend), I’ll be out watching one of the fun light shows that Mother Nature provides. Doesn’t cost a penny, only a little loss of sleep, but it’s worth it. Grab the kids and explain to them what they are watching. Or spend it with your honey. Do  quick search, read, and impress the one you love with your knowledge of Perseid. What’s more romantic than watching the stars with the one you love?

A Berry Summertime Recipe

Image

Nothing says summertime like fresh, sun-riped berries. Growing up the Pacific NW, there is no place better for fresh berries of every variety–Loganbeggies, Marionberries, Lignonberries…and raspberries. Having also spent many a summer in the berry fields to pay for school clothes, the easiest to pick were the raspberries. No thorns and no stooping. Just good eating.

Image

Aside from noshing on warm berries plucked fresh from the cane, my favorite way to enjoy raspberries is Raspberry Pretzel Salad. You have berries, butter, cream cheese, and the saltiness of pretzels mixed with the sweet that make this to die for. And the bursting flavors of the raspberries are enhanced, not muted. Make this today and test your self-control.

Me…I have none.

Raspberry Pretzel Dessert

Crust:

  • 1 ½  cups crushed pretzels
  • ½ cup sugar
  • ½ cup butter, melted

Press into 9X13 inch pan and bake at 325 for 6 minutes.  Cool

 Filling:

  • 8 oz pkg. cream cheese, softened
  • ½ c sugar
  • 8 oz container cool whip

Cream together cream cheese and sugar.  Then add cool whip.  Spread on top of cooled crust.

Topping:

  • 6 oz pkg. raspberry jello
  • 2 cups boiling water
  • 24 oz bag frozen raspberries (if using fresh, add ½ cup more water)
     

Pour boiling water into jello and whisk until dissolved.  Add raspberries and mix well.  Place in refrigerator until it is the consistency of egg white.  Then pour on top of cool whip layer.  Refrigerate until firmly set, overnight works well.

(I reprinted this recipe from BeckyBakes.net)