About the Book
Country girl Chris Martel has struggled all her life to form strong, lasting relationships. For Chris, love, compassion, and trust are critical. In their absence, she has turned to her dog and her horse for the emotional fulfillment she craves. Then along comes Mary Jo Cavanaugh.
Fresh out of veterinary school, Mary Jo inadvertently antagonizes Chris with her overconfident assumptions about how to care for animals. She comes to learn that Chris’s practical experience provides both a wealth of knowledge and a friendship unlike any she’s ever known.
The carefully built walls around Chris’s heart crumble as she acknowledges the unfamiliar feelings evoked by being with Mary Jo. Just as she believes she’s found the happiness that had always eluded her, someone from Chris’s past comes back into her life. Can the love between Chris and Mary Jo survive so they can share a kiss before dawn?
“Laurie Salzler makes you feel the soft fur of horses, breath the clean air, enjoy the fantastic landscape, as well as live a beautiful story about a woman who didn’t really believes that something so magnificent could happen to her until she met the love of her life.” — Lesbian Fiction Review
“The pace of the novel, like the life in the countryside, is laid back and relaxing. People take their time, drink coffee, talk to each other. They notice flowers, the weather, the smell of a new truck, the smell of the forest, the birds. The scenery and animals are wonderfully vivid and real and the leisurely pace encourages you to sit back and enjoy living in the novel for a while.” — Review, Clare Ashton
AT FIVE O’CLOCK in the morning, Chris Martel opened the door, boots in hand. Three dogs followed her out of the house and wagged their tails as they waited. She sat down on the porch step to put the boots on and get ready to head out to the barn to start chores. As she laced her boots, she glanced up at heavy purple clouds.
“It’s going to be another hot one today, girlies,” she said to a chorus of happy tail thumps from the dogs. A thin sheen of sweat had formed on her tanned skin, and she mopped her brow on her shirtsleeve. Her scalp was already sweaty.
It had been raining off and on for the past two weeks. With the rain came stifling August heat and humidity since Lake Ontario’s effects were strong enough to reach forty-two miles into New York State to the small town of Bristol. The dogs were panting, and their paws left brief sweaty prints on the concrete patio.
Chris stood up, stretched her back, and followed the girls down the lane. Cedar, the oldest and most protective, and Cagney, Chris’s self-appointed nursemaid, both yellow Labrador retrievers, stuck close, cautious of the herd of hungry cats that tended to be grumpy at this time of the morning. Sadie, the Jack Russell, single-minded as always, headed into one of the grassy pastures to hunt for rodents.
The daily chorus of impatient whinnies and nickers from ten horses greeted Chris as she neared the barn. The stall nearest the house had a window that afforded a good view to a big black Thoroughbred named Top Hat, or Mad Hattie as Chris fondly called her. The minute lights came on in the house and Chris started out the door, Mad Hattie would sound out a whinny and alert the other horses on the farm.
Warm barn aromas met Chris’s nose as she opened the doors. She grabbed the feed cart and started to dish out the morning grain. She loved this time of day. The barn smelled of hay, bedding, and the sweet scent of horse.
Ruby, her Paint mare, walked into her stall subtly favoring her right front foot. Chris narrowed her eyes and scrutinized her. She’d bred Ruby to her stallion the day before, and the mare had seemed fine then. She finished dishing out the grain and returned to the mare’s stall. Ruby nickered softly when she saw Chris coming near.
“Hey, big girl,” she said softly as she entered Ruby’s stall. “What kind of trouble did you get into last night?” She ran her hands down Ruby’s front legs. “You don’t have any heat or swelling. Okay, let me see that hoof of yours.”
She rotated to Ruby’s side and lifted her foot. Ruby leaned on her, and Chris grunted with the shared weight. While she inspected the hoof, Ruby reached around and nuzzled Chris’s butt with obvious affection.
“A little higher, darling, it’s my back that hurts this morning.” Chris tried to ignore the sting of sweat that ran into her eyes. Ruby gingerly put her hoof down as Chris released it. She patted Ruby on the neck, walked out of the stall, and debated what to do.
She heard Bill Went’s voice as if he were there. “If the horse has her mind on pain, she’s not going to do the foal justice.”
“Well, sweetie,” she said, “I think it may be a bruise, but I’m going to have Doc come look at you anyway. I can’t let you be in pain while you’re carrying that baby.”
With strict horse-keeping practices in place, she summoned Dr. Richard Hall to the farm mostly during the foaling and breeding season, so she hadn’t seen him in weeks.
Chris reached through the metal bars, gave Ruby a pat on the forehead, and walked down the aisle toward the office to call the veterinary clinic. The dogs got up from the cool floor and followed in her wake.