Only faith sustained Lindsey Mandel after the loss of her beloved twin brother. Now a freak accident would test the U.S. Army corporal's mettle once again. Desperate to save her brother's injured horse, Lindsey placed her trust in handsome veterinarian Brian Cutter.
When Brian saw Lindsey pinned beneath the steed, his only thought was to save her. With his own faith shaken by the death of his wife, he was amazed by this plucky female soldier who gave her all personally and professionally. Inspired by Lindsey's commitment to kin and country, Brian soon found a love that made him feel truly blessed.
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August 01, 2007
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Excerpt from The Color of Courage by Patricia Davids
Leaning forward in the saddle, Lindsey patted Dakota's neck and tried to quell her nervousness. "This is it, boy. This is your final test.You have to get this right."
The dark brown gelding responded by tossing his head and pulling at the reins as if to show her that he was eager to get down to business. She couldn't help but smile.
Running a hand down her mount's sleek, muscular neck, she found the calmness she needed. She drew a deep, cleansing breath. The cool breeze carried the smell of dust, fallen leaves and the earthy scent of horses. Looking over the fence to the hills rising just beyond the road, she saw the golden-hued stone buildings of old Fort Riley where they stood nestled between oaks, elms and sycamores bearing the first touches of fall colors. Dakota pulled impatiently at the reins again.
"Okay, I'm the one stalling," she admitted. "I just want this so badly--for you and me, but mostly for Danny."
Each week her brother called for updates about Dakota's training, offering advice and pointers that she didn't really need but accepted anyway. Today, he would be waiting impatiently for her call. She intended to give him good news.
Reaching down, she checked that her saber and rifle would slide easily out of their scabbard and boot. The reproduction models of the 1860s U.S. Cavalry equipment were spotless after her careful preparations that morning. Even the brass buttons of her blue wool cavalry jacket gleamed brightly in the latemorning sun. She was as ready as she could get.
Be with us today, Lord, for Danny's sake.
At the touch of her heels, Dakota bounded forward. Together, they sailed over a series of low jumps, then slid to a halt and whirled back at the end of the field. On the return run, Lindsey drew her saber and headed into a series of poles topped with red and white balloons. As Dakota wove in and out, she slashed left and right, breaking as many as she could. He didn't even flinch at the loud pops or the swish of the sword cutting close beside him.
Four men on horseback waited for her at the end of the course. She slowed to a trot. Each man drew his saber and held it over his head with the tip pointing backward. One by one she struck their swords with her own as she passed close behind them, making the steel weapons ring with bell-like tones.
Sheathing her saber, she drew her pistols. Digging her heels into her mount's sides, she headed into the jumps again, this time blasting the balloons with her revolvers. Dakota raced on without faltering until they cleared the last hurdle. Only one maneuver remained.
Holstering her guns, she pulled the horse to a sliding stop and dismounted. Drawing her carbine rifle from its boot, she gave a low command, lifted Dakota's foreleg and pulled his head around. "Throwing the Horse" was the hardest movement for the young gelding to perform. Many horses refused the command.
To her relief, Dakota knelt, then lay down and rolled onto his side without hesitation.
"Stay down," she ordered. Stretching out behind his back, Lindsey rested her rifle on his shoulder and fired off three rounds. They were only blanks, but the sharp reports were as loud as if they had been real bullets. Dakota jerked slightly at the sound of the first discharge, but remained quietly on his side, providing lifesaving cover for his rider as cavalry horses have been trained to do through the ages.
As the echoes of the last shot died away, Lindsey rose to her feet and gave the command to stand. After scrambling to his feet, Dakota shook himself and waited patiently for her to remount. She wanted to throw her arms around his neck and hug him, but not now, not yet.
"Good boy, you were perfect. Just perfect," she murmured as she swung up into the saddle. She knew she was grinning like a fool, but she couldn't help it. After only three months of training, Dakota had proved himself worthy of a place in the elite Commanding General's Mounted Color Guard at Fort Riley. Danny would be so proud.
She returned to the end of the field, where other members of her unit sat on their horses. Beside the men, Captain Jeffery Watson, her unit commander, stood with his arms crossed and a faint frown on his face. Stopping in front of him, Lindsey saluted smartly.
"Well done, Sergeant Mandel."
"Thank you, sir."
The other men in her unit gathered around. "You looked fine out there." Private Avery Barnes was the next to offer his opinion. The dark-haired Boston native pushed his cap back to smile at her with a roguish grin.
"She always looks good. It was Dakota who looked great," drawled Corporal Shane Ross as he leaned over and patted the horse's neck. It was no secret the tall blond Texan was fond of all the four-legged members of the unit. He took as much pride in their skill as he did in the abilities of the horses' human partners.
"So, does this mean Dakota is in?" the third soldier queried. Private Lee Gillis, the newest enlisted member of the mounted color guard was watching their captain closely.