Susan Spess Shay

Still playing make believe.

Prepublished–Texas Hearts

Yesterday, I shared part of Make Me Howl. Today, I’m going to share the beginning of my first Christian Women’s Fiction. It’s nearly finished. I hope. 🙂

For now, I’m calling it TEXAS HEARTS, but I’m always open to a better idea. 🙂

Do they still hang horse thieves in Texas?

Buck tensed his muscles in his ready-to-run dance. Jessie stroked his neck and murmured, “Hang on, boy. It’s nearly time.”

Focusing on the ride, she walked Buck into position. The excitement built, adrenalin shot through her muscles like lightning strikes. Tugging her Stetson low so there was no chance of losing it, she leaned into the saddle, took a firm grip on Buck’s reins, inhaled, blew it out long and slow and booted him in the ribs.

He took off in an explosion of energy; she leaned into the run. She concentrated on the first barrel, the cheers of the crowd dimming to near silence. Spectator faces blurred past as they rounded second. Yes! It felt good. This is where she belonged.

Buck ran flat out as they charged the third turn. Heading into the pocket, he dug in, and the world shifted. Dipped. She snatched a breath and held tight to the saddle horn, her heart pounding as he fought for footing. He slid in the loose earth. She gave him his head, praying, by some miracle, he could stay on his feet.

Buck’s back left leg disappeared from under them. Fear tore through her as they dropped, then slammed into the ground. The saddle horn jerked from her grip.

He floundered, trying to get up. She kicked her foot free and tried to shove away from the panicked animal, but she couldn’t move. Her other leg was under him. Stories of riders being killed from similar falls flashed through her mind.

Buck fought his way to his feet, yanking her leg high in the air with her foot through the stirrup and leaving her head on the ground. His shod hooves cut so close, he kicked dirt in her face as he danced with anxiety.

If she could catch her breath, make him hear her, he might calm. But she couldn’t breathe. Couldn’t find words to ease him.

He threw his head back, gathering himself as he looked for a way to escape the nightmare.

Slamming shut her eyes, she wrapped her arms around her head. God! Help me.

“Whoa! It’s all right, fella.”

The man’s soothing voice calmed her. Removing her arms, she was able to see a cowboy with dark red hair take his life in his hands. No! Getting in front of a panicked horse is suicide. She struggled to form the words, but he stepped in front of Buck and grabbed the bridle. “You’re all right, boy. Shhhh.”

Buck quivered all over, but the stranger in the black hat released one hand to stroke his neck.

Cowboys who’d been watching from the nearby arena fence surrounded her, released her foot from the stirrup and helped her to her stand. Weak as water, she stiffened her knees so she could walk.

She had to see about Buck. What would she do if she’d seriously injured him? Had she stolen him just to have to put him down?

Quelling the sobs gathering inside her, she dragged in a rough breath and stumbled to the man at Buck’s head. “Is he okay?”

He kept stroking Buck’s neck, the fabric of his crisply starched shirt sleeve pleating rather than wrinkling like hers. “He’s skittish as a green-broke colt. Can you take his head?”

With a nod, she threaded her fingers through the bridle. The man moved to Buck’s side, the fringe on his chaps swinging with each step. He ran his hands down each of Buck’s legs. “I think he’s all right.”

Her frozen insides started to melt at his words. As she blew out her pent up breath, a knife jabbed her in the ribs. The fall must have been harder than she realized. She slid her fingers over the hurt. No blood. That was a good thing.

The man took his gaze from Buck for the first time to glance at her with eyes as green as tree leaves. “You all right?”

The inspiration came when G-Man and I went to the Jim Shoulders Rodeo in Tulsa a few years ago. They had cameras and a big screen showing closeups of all the action in the arena.

Even when one girl’s horse went down with her on the third barrel, we saw it all. Almost as soon as they were down, they were surrounded by fence sitting cowboys, who quickly got her and her horse on their feet.

So that’s the beginning of my first nearly finished Christian Women’s Fiction.

BTW: This manuscript won FIRST PRIZE at the OWFI conference in 2014! Woot!

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