Is Love Enough To Keep Them Together?
When a fall from a horse ends her show-riding career, Jolyn Sutherland comes home to Blue Ridge, Arizona, to heal and rebuild her life. But the onetime star performer has jumped from the frying pan into the fire...smack in the middle of a brewing domestic storm that could sabotage her blossoming relationship with Chase Raintree, her first love.
Jolyn's homecoming is a complication the vet and devoted single father doesn't need. Especially with her family questioning whether Chase is the biological father of his eight-year-old daughter. Mandy is everything to Chase, and Jolyn could help him complete his little family. But now that family is in danger of being split apart. Chase won't let anyone take his child away from him, even if it means losing his second chance with Jolyn....
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February 11, 2008
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Excerpt from The Family Plan by Cathy McDavid
Jolyn Sutherland swung open the rear door of her horse trailer, retreated a safe distance and waited for the explosion. It came right on schedule.
Sinbad, her seventeen-year-old paint gelding, charged backward out of the trailer, legs thrashing, hooves clattering and sides heaving. He came to stop only when all four feet were firmly planted on the ground--for about two seconds. Jolyn grabbed his dangling lead rope before he trotted off in search of the barn and the barrel of oats he knew was waiting for him.
"That old horse never did trailer worth a lick."
Jolyn looked up to see a familiar face. "Dad!"
"You made it." Milt Sutherland strode toward her. "How was the drive down the mountain?"
"Touch and go in one or two spots. But we managed." Ignoring the ribbons of pain that shot up her right leg, she rushed to meet him, a whinnying Sinbad in tow.
Her father enveloped her in a bear hug and for a brief moment, Jolyn was a little girl again, her big, strong Daddy making everything all right. "It's good to be home," she said, her face buried in his shirtfront.
"It's good to have you home, sweetie pie."
She'd missed Blue Ridge, missed living in a town where folks waved when they drove past and karaoke night at Sage's Bar and Grill was considered big entertainment. The only thing better than watching the morning sun peek slowly over the top of Saddle Horn Butte was watching the evening sun set in the distant Verde Mountains.
Jolyn loved touring and wouldn't have traded the last nine years on the road for anything except this, her father's arms holding her tight.
"Your mother's in the kitchen," he said, "fixing enough food to feed an army. She's been a nervous wreck the last few days, worried sick you wouldn't survive the drive from Dallas in one piece. Especially in this heat. I swear summer comes earlier every year."
Jolyn thought it was probably just the opposite. Her dad, not her mom, had been the nervous wreck.
"Well, we're here." She drew back after giving him a smacking kiss on the cheek. "Safe and sound."
"Safe, yes. Don't know about the sound part."
"What do you mean?"
Her dad nodded pointedly in Sinbad's direction. She spun around and let out a gasp. "Oh, my gosh! How did that happen?" Bending over, she inspected Sinbad's left side.
The horse sported a nasty gash just behind his shoulder. The wound, in the shape of a jagged V, was at least four inches long and deep from the looks of it. Blood had seeped out, staining the horse's hide a dark red.
"I checked the trailer this morning in Phoenix before we loaded him," she said, her voice echoing her dismay. "So did Uncle Leroy."
Jolyn had stayed with various friends and relatives on her four-day trip cross-country from Texas to Arizona's north country, including stopping to have lunch today with her brother in Pineville. She'd taken her time traveling, not wanting to wear Sinbad--or herself--out.
Her father came to stand beside her, the two of them contemplating the horse's injury. "He must have run up on something between Pineville and here. The gate maybe."
"I suppose." Jolyn straightened and shook her head. The mountain road did twist and turn, but she'd driven slowly. Five miles under the posted speed limit the entire way.
"That horse has always been clumsy."
She swallowed the retort on the tip of her tongue. It was easier for some people to blame the horse rather than the rider. Jolyn knew better. She, and not Sinbad, was at fault for each of their mishaps, including the last. This latest one was no exception.
"He's excitable. That's what made him a champion barrel racer and headlining performer."
Her father smiled. "He was good in his day. So were you." At twenty years old, Jolyn had left Blue Ridge and joined the Wild and Wooly West Equestrian Show. She and Sinbad traveled with the show until fourteen months ago, their signature bareback jump over a wagon full of mock settlers one of the show's biggest crowd pleasers.
In a split second, the time it took for Sinbad's right rear hoof to catch on the side of the wagon, their career was cut short. Sinbad was laid up for six weeks after the accident. Jolyn for six months. She was lucky she could walk again, much less drive a truck and trailer.
It was the worst and, if things went well for her here in Blue Ridge, the best thing to ever happen to her.
"Do you have any antibiotics in the barn?" she asked her dad while patting Sinbad's neck.
"No. My supplies are a little low."
She wasn't surprised. Her parents hadn't kept horses on the property since she moved out. Anything out in the barn had been recently purchased in anticipation of her coming home.
She reached for her cell phone in her pocket. "I'm going to call Chase."
"Is that really necessary? He's probably in the middle of dinner."
"It's a bad cut, Dad, and needs to be treated."