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Wild Horse Rescue

Wild Horse Rescue

The Alberta Adventures
edition:eBook
tagged : westerns, horses
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The Saddle Creek Series 5-Book Bundle

The Saddle Creek Series 5-Book Bundle

Christmas at Saddle Creek / Dark Days at Saddle Creek / and 3 more
edition:eBook
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Mystery at Saddle Creek
Excerpt

CHAPTER 1: BACK AT SADDLE CREEK

Tan ran as fast as he could through the dense underbrush, back toward the safety of his makeshift camp. Somebody had seen him! He stumbled on a root and fell to his knees, panting hard. He had to get away, get back to safety. There’d been so much blood! He scrambled to his feet and ran on. So much blood! He had to get the sight of it out of his mind.

Ten whole days!
Alberta Simms wiggled her toes and shivered with pleasure. She and her sister were staying at Saddle Creek Farm with their Aunt Hannah for ten whole days while their mother and Stuart were on their honeymoon. The girls had returned to the farm on Saturday night, after the wedding, and Alberta was already loving every minute of it.
Everybody called her Bird. Her long, dark hair was lightly brushed and needed a trim. She had tawny skin and sparkling, somewhat mischievous, deep brown eyes. Her graceful, slight limbs gave her a younger appearance than other fourteen-year-old girls, as did her ripped denim shorts and old white T-shirt. But Bird didn’t care. It was the perfect outfit for a day on the farm.
Ten. Whole. Days. Bird could think of nothing better in the world as she sat on the top step of the kitchen stoop, taking in every detail. Sunday’s persistent drizzle had greened up the fields. On this perfect Monday, late in June, the sky was pure blue and songbirds chirped madly. Bird took a deep lungful of sweet air and stretched like a cat.
As she waited for her Aunt Hannah — they had to get groceries, then pick up Julia from a friend’s house in Inglewood — her eyes absorbed the peaceful scene across the driveway. Two horses grazed in the front field, sleek and shiny in their summer coats. Charlemagne, Charlie for short, was jet black with a white blaze and four white socks. Sundancer was a tall, coppery chestnut.
The chestnut’s head shot up. What’re you looking at?
You, you handsome son of a gun.
Can’t blame you for that.
Sunny, you never change.
Bird smiled broadly at the horse’s enormous ego. Last summer, against all odds, she and Sundancer had won the trophy at the Haverford Fair. It had been a total upset. Sunny’s clean, careful jumping skills and quick turns had rendered the competition speechless. And out of luck.
Sundancer was a champion jumper; there was no question about that. More importantly, though, he was her best friend.
Bird absently picked at a scab on her calf as she waited; a mosquito bite gone bad. Aunt Hannah could take her time. She’d happily sit here all day long.
Life hadn’t always been this good. Her mother, Eva, had gone from job to job and man to man, and Bird had never known her father. He was a rodeo star whom Eva had met at the Calgary Stampede, and he’d left town long before Bird was born. She had been named Alberta after the province.
Bird knew she’d been a difficult child. At first everything had seemed fine, but that all changed when Bird was six. That’s when she’d stopped talking. The doctors called it selective mutism, but for Bird it just meant that she couldn’t get the words out of her mouth. Soon enough, she’d stopped trying — at least with humans. Animals, on the other hand, were no problem. Bird had always had an exceptional ability to communicate with them.
Eva probably would’ve had trouble coping with a perfectly “normal” child, but there was no way she could handle a girl who refused to talk. In desperation, she’d sent Bird off to Saddle Creek Farm to live with Aunt Hannah. It was a good decision for the entire family. Bird found what she needed to start speaking again. Eva found Stuart Gilmore, the local school principal, and fell in love.
Bird licked her finger and wiped the blood from her leg where she’d picked off the scab. Rays of light shone through the leaves, glistening on Sundancer’s sleek, coppery coat. She breathed in deeply and sighed with pleasure.
The screen door opened suddenly. Hannah appeared, followed by a young dog. Bird glanced up at her aunt — a tall, slim, middle-aged woman in jeans, a mint green blouse, and flip-flops.
“What are you waiting for, Bird? Let’s go!”
Bird jumped up. “Sorry to keep you waiting!” she shot back.
“I know, I know. But the phone rang again just as I was almost out the door.” Hannah walked briskly to the white Ford truck. “It was Paul. Vaccinations, worming, papers, entry forms for the show … you know!”
Bird followed at a more leisurely pace. She opened the rear door of the truck and motioned to Lucky. “Get in, boy,” she said aloud, catching her aunt’s pleased glance. Hannah still worried that Bird communicated too much with animals and too little with people, even though she’d been speaking aloud for a year.
Bird silently asked Lucky to bark. Speak dog-talk, Lucky.
“Arf arf arf arf!” he obeyed cheerfully.
Good boy! “He told me we’re out of dog food,” Bird said.
“Remind me to smack you about the ears.” Hannah shook her head and chuckled as she stepped up behind the wheel and started the engine. “Have you got the list?”
Bird waved a yellow sheet of paper in the air and jumped in. As they started down the lane, the impatiens and bluebells in the farmhouse gardens caught Bird’s eye through the truck window. Vibrant reds and purples and blues. Hannah sure loved colour.
Sundancer looked up as the truck moved past. Where are you going?
To the store. Let’s go for a ride when I get back.
Maybe. It’s kinda hot and the grass is delicious.
We have to practise.
Practise, shmactise. I can do those baby jumps with my eyes closed.
But I can’t.
You’re such a perfectionist.
See you in an hour. Get your saddle on and wait by the mounting block.
Ha ha ha.
Bird laughed with him, ignoring Hannah’s questioning look.
“I saw Cody this morning,” said Hannah. “Somehow he knows you’re back at Saddle Creek.”
Bird smiled. The small coyote was very clever. Of course he’d known that she was back. He knew everything.
“I’m so glad you and Julia are around for a while,” continued Hannah as they drove down the hill, past the badlands and over the railway tracks. “Like the old days! But the time will go by fast. Your mother and Stuart will be back before we know it.”
Bird didn’t want to think about it.
“Is there anything you especially want to do while you’re here?”
Bird shook her head and grinned. “Just ride and ride and ride. And go to horse shows.”
Hannah smiled broadly. “A girl after my own heart. But you’ve got a lot of catching up to do if you want to take Sunny this Friday.”
Bird nodded. “I’ll start as soon as we’re back from the store.”
She could hardly wait to get riding again. Since Bird’s speech had come back last summer, she’d fit in at school for the first time in her life. Suddenly, there were friends to hang out with, sports to play, clubs to join — and a new boyfriend — as well as schoolwork. Her days had been full and she’d ridden only sporadically since last summer, a fact that she now regretted. There was so much to do!
“Are you and Alec still dating?” asked Hannah. “Tell me if it’s none of my business.”
Bird blushed. It was all so new. “It’s none of your business, but yes … if he doesn’t forget all about me over the summer.” She was joking, but she really wasn’t happy that Alec would be away for three whole months. He had a job as a counsellor-in-training, or CIT, at Camp Kowabi, teaching kids how to canoe and make fires. Some of her other friends were CITs, too, but Bird hadn’t applied. She’d wanted to stay close to home so she could go to horse shows with Sunny.
“How could Alec forget about you? You’re an original.”
Bird grinned. Original was a nice way to put it. She thought about their last date, just a few days ago. She’d invited Alec to her mother’s wedding. Bird was busy being a bridesmaid, but after the vows, they’d danced the night away. She hugged herself and tingled with the memory of their kisses under the trees.
Hannah turned off the road and parked the truck beside the Inglewood General Store. They got out, leaving the windows down for Lucky.
Get me a treat?
I’ll see what they’ve got, Lucky, but you can’t have a treat every time we stop somewhere.
But can I have one this time?
Bird patted his furry brown head and ran her finger down the white on his nose. She smiled. Lucky was indeed lucky to live with Aunt Hannah.
Inside the store, Hannah took the grocery list from Bird and began gathering items while Bird looked through the movie selection. She’d seen a lot of them, but some new releases had just come in, and a few looked intriguing.
Suddenly, the door burst open and a middle-aged woman rushed in. Her face was red with exertion and her bleached blond hair was flattened with sweat. It was Ellen Wells, a neighbour.
“Call 911!” Ellen ordered. “A woman is lying on the road up at McLaughlin and the Grange. She’s bleeding badly, and my cell went dead!”

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Dark Days at Saddle Creek
Excerpt

Alberta Simms studied the black clouds gathering overhead and hoped the rain would stay inside of them for just another few minutes. All day long the sky had swirled with indecision, but now it darkened with the inevitability of a massive downpour.
Easy does it, boy. There it was again. The voice. Her heart quickened. She examined the crowd at the horse show, her eyes darting from one person to the next, alert to every facial movement and gesture. Nothing. Was she imagining things?
Twice now, she’d thought she’d heard a mental transmission, but both times she hadn’t been able to locate the origin of the voice. It was unique, somehow. Was it a human, and not an animal, that she’d heard? She set her jaw. Forget it, she told herself. If it’s real, it’ll come again.
Alberta, or Bird as she was known, heard a distant rumble of thunder. She wondered if her sister’s class would have to be cancelled. Now her fingers were crossed.
Determined to remain undistracted by the weather or the voice, Bird leaned on the white rail fence and refocused her attention on the action in the show ring. Her younger sister, Julia, was doing a great job of steering her chestnut pony around the course of jumps. Theirs was the fastest time so far, and all the rails were still up. Julia had talked of nothing but showing since her first-place finish at the Palston Classic in June. Now it was August, and they were back for the Summer Summit.
It was the last class of the day, and Julia was the last rider. The skies blackened dramatically as the pair made the final turn into a line of jumps. Small raindrops were beginning to fall.
Earlier that day, Bird and her formidable horse, Sundancer, had won their class, setting high expectations for the other riders from Saddle Creek Farm. Bird replayed the moment in her mind with considerable pleasure. It had been close to a perfect ride. Sunny was responsive and brave, and Bird was on her game. Horse and rider were totally synchronized — listening and moving and thinking as one.
After that, though, the entire day had felt odd — ominous, even, with the weight of humidity and the threat of rain hovering. Red-haired Kimberly and her mare, Moonlight Sonata, had gone off course and were whistled out. Liz and Pastor had crashed through a jump. But perhaps the barn’s luck was about to change. If Julia and Sabrina kept this up, there’d be two firstplace ribbons for Saddle Creek Farm.
Sabrina, Julia’s pretty Welsh pony, was certainly intent on winning. Her tiny pointed ears strained forward and her mouth was tense with effort as she cantered over the blue and white oxer and took three quick strides to the red and green vertical. One stride, then over the yellow boards with her knees tucked up neatly under her chin. They landed safely and raced through the finish gate.
Julia’s face broke into a huge grin.
Bird slapped her sister’s calf when she trotted out of the ring. “Good job, Julia!” She gave Sabrina a pat on the neck. Good job, Sabrina! Did you have a little trouble on the far corner?
A huge flower popped up!
Bird smiled. A woman had opened her yellow umbrella just as Sabrina and Julia were cantering past. It might have seemed like a surprisingly big flower to the pony.
You did well to stay focused, Sabrina.
Think I’d spoil my ride because of a stupid flower?
Bird laughed out loud. Other horses would have spooked.
Julia slid off Sabrina and removed her helmet. “I wish Mom had stayed to watch that.”
Bird hugged her little sister. “She’ll wish she did when we tell her.” Eva had been around earlier in the day, but something had “come up” and she’d left before Julia’s class. Bird snorted. Probably a manicure or a shoe sale. Maybe lunch with a gossipy friend.
Big drops of rain landed on their heads. Julia looked up at the sky. “It’s really starting now.”
And start it did. Thunder rolled and the clouds let loose their burden. All around, people hurried for cover. Umbrellas opened and horses were dragged into trailers. People crowded under trees, dashed for their vehicles, and ducked under overhangs. Within seconds, Bird and Julia were soaked to the skin.
“Let it rain!” yelled Julia as they ran for the trailer with the pony. “I had the best time of my life out there!”
“I think you won first,” called Bird, running beside her.
You think? We won for sure! corrected Sabrina.
Bird dropped the rear ramp of the horse trailer, and Sabrina trotted right up beside the other horses. The sisters jumped in, and together they stood dripping as the rain pounded on the aluminum roof.
“Holy,” said Julia. “I’m glad this waited till we finished.” Bird nodded. “Yeah. Your ride would’ve been called off with this thunder.”
The rain was coming down so hard that a curtain of water streamed down the trailer door opening, inches from the girls. Julia put out her hand and squealed as water sprayed everywhere.
“Bring it on,” laughed Bird. “We couldn’t get wetter if we tried!”
That’s just stupid, commented Sundancer. The big chestnut gelding stood on the other side of Sabrina. I was perfectly dry until now.
Suck it up, Sunny, answered Bird. A little water never hurt anybody.
Tell that to a cat!
Sundancer always took an animal’s point of view, Bird observed. Where is everybody?
Moonie and Pastor are here in the trailer. Duh.
I can see that, smartass. I meant Aunt Hannah, Liz, and Kimberly.
They’re in the truck.
Bird spoke aloud to Julia. “Let’s go for it. When I count to three, get out. We’ll close up the trailer, run to the truck, and beat the rush out of here.”

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