Sunday, January 23, 2011

#Sample Sunday: Talented Horsewoman

As I announced yesterday, my publisher for Talented Horsewoman the first in my Leigh McRae horse mystery series has put it on sale to help me promote the upcoming indie publication of the second in the series. Talented Horsewoman is reduced from $6.99 to $2.99 for a short time only. If you love horse mysteries, now is the time to get the first book.

Here's a sample from Chapter One:

Chapter One

If only. Those two little words were to haunt me for weeks. If only I hadn’t put off getting my hair trimmed, I wouldn’t have had to spend so much time forcing the flyaway blond strands into a single neat braid. If only I hadn’t paused to answer the phone, I wouldn’t have wasted ten minutes, too polite to hang up on a telemarketer who said my name—Leigh McRae—in reverent tones that could have indicated she’d mistaken me for a movie star.

I finally cut her off and, still feeling no sense of urgency, sauntered out to my truck.  Later I would wonder why I’d given in to a demon sweet tooth that had made me stop for coffee at Bo’s Diner and then linger stuffing my face with a chocolate donut.

It wasn’t until I’d licked the last bit of sugar from my fingers that I finally considered I’d be late if I didn’t hurry. I drove a few miles over the limit until I came to a construction zone where I lost all the minutes I’d gained.

Cursing under my breath, I inched my way past a mile of traffic cones and then sped the rest of the way down Brick House Road to whip the truck into Rita’s driveway. I bounced through a pothole, rounded a bend, and instantly registered a horse barreling toward me. In a microsecond I hit the brakes and jammed the shift lever into park, barely avoiding a nasty collision.

A sorrel filly raced free as a mustang back down the driveway. She’d streaked toward the truck at dazzling speed before sliding to a stop that left grooves in the dirt. Without pause she rolled on her hocks and reversed direction. After a quick circuit of the corral, she finally slowed from a gallop to a prance, flying her flame-red tail like a banner and holding her head high as the prow of a sailing ship. 

My breath whooshed out. The one horse stampede was over. Another second or two and the filly I knew as Sandstone Tinker Star would likely head for the patch of Bermuda grass near the hay barn and settle down to grazing—easy for me to catch her. But before I could act, a screaming woman brandishing a flimsy pine branch flashed into view from the left, and Tinker turned on the afterburners.

I leaped out of the truck and hit the ground running, my arms whirling like plane propellers. "Stop screaming and waving that stick around. You’re scaring her."

The branch-wielding woman showed no signs of having heard and, as Tinker raced past, she planted her legs wide apart and landed a solid blow on the filly’s rump. Without missing a beat, Tinker fired with both hind legs, just missing the woman’s shoulder. The filly’s tail swished and she swerved toward the training arena.

By then I’d had time to conclude that the horse-chasing woman was Millie Destin, Rita’s neighbor from across the road. If she wasn’t careful she was going to end up with getting kicked or worse.

I turned to follow Tinker’s movement, hoping she wouldn’t head back to Millie. As I tracked the galloping form past the barn, a bundle of rags on the ground barely merited my attention—until an instant later when I realized the bundle wasn’t rags. With a jolt somewhere in the center of my chest I stumbled forward.

"Oh, my God, it's Rita," Millie sang out, echoing my thoughts. She scurried over to grab my arm, her fingers digging in like pincers until I peeled her loose. I glanced sideways and noted her complexion was the color of an undercooked biscuit. Mine probably matched.

We moved closer and I saw that the figure was indeed Rita Cameron. Holding on to each other for support, Millie and I stared down at Rita. She lay on her stomach, her face pressed against the concrete that formed a parking pad in front of the hay barn. Blood had pooled around her head.

I dropped to my knees and felt for a pulse in her neck. Nothing. I knew it might be dangerous to move her if she were still alive, but she wasn’t breathing. CPR might be her only chance, so with Millie’s help I rolled her over. Then I wished I hadn’t. Rita’s blue eyes were wide open and had taken on the blankness of dolls’ eyes. Her blood-caked face was tinged purple.

“She's dead, ain't she?" Millie stuck her hands in the pockets of her baggy overalls. She screwed up her mouth in an attempt at a smile as if we were simply discussing last night’s rain, but I couldn’t miss the wobble in her voice.

I nodded. I’d never seen a dead person up close, but there wasn’t a shade of doubt. Living people have light in their eyes.

"Must of fell out of the hay loft." Millie bobbed her head to reinforce her conclusion.

I swallowed hard, barely able to take in that Rita was gone. “Looks that way.”

A soft whicker drew my attention back to Rita’s filly. After ending her race at the edge of the woods, she'd ambled back as far as the training arena gate where she stopped and watched us, her head lowered and her ears flicking back and forth. For the first time I saw the bright smear of crimson on her right shoulder.

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  1. Okay. I'm hooked. Great excertpt, Linda.

  2. This is great, and I just bought it! You should have "buy links" on the bottom.

  3. Edie, thank you so much. I'll try to get those links. Last time I tried, I got a message that I couldn't because I live in North Carolina. Maybe I'm doing something wrong.

  4. A horse story AND A mystery? Love it! I downloaded a sample.
    Here's the Amazon page.

    You should be able to get this on your blog putting the above URL into the "link" icon.

    Good luck

  5. Thank you, Kae. I'm slowly learning how to do all of these tech things and I certainly appreciate the helpful comments.