About the Book
Kate Winter teaches dog owners how to train their canine companions. During her spare time, accompanied by her Lab, Dakota, she explores the woods and beaches on foot or horseback. She’s worried that something’s happening in her relationship, but she can’t get her girlfriend Trish to talk to her about it.
Faith Hutchins recently lost her sight after a terrible outdoor accident. She’s dealt with her anger, depression, and blindness primarily on her own. A seeing-eye dog would help alleviate her reliance on anyone else, but the guide dog school has been unsuccessful in providing her with one. On a mission to find someone who will train a dog specifically for her, she ultimately zeroes in on Kate.
They say lightning never strikes the same place twice. But positive lightning is notoriously unpredictable and can ignite a fire when and where least expected . . . no matter who’s in its path.
“Author Laurie Salzler’s knowledge of all things canine and equestrian shows through in this story, and her details about dog training and horsemanship give an added dimension to the story that animal lovers will appreciate.” — Anna Furtado, Lambda Literary Review
KATE PASSED HER house on the way to work and glanced down the driveway by force of habit. But the canopy of leaves kept the house out of sight, and she couldn’t see her flower gardens and the little fruit orchard . . . or Trish’s car, the sight of which would probably have spiked her blood pressure anyway. She knew that wouldn’t be a good thing. She needed to exude calmness when working with the dogs and their owners. So like every other type of conflict, she forced it from her mind and drove on.
Ten minutes later, she turned onto Miller Road. The barn where she boarded her horse was located just down the dirt road. Part of the pasture lined the road, and she slowed, hoping to get a glimpse of Spinner, her paint gelding. She pulled over onto the shoulder, rolled the window down, and whistled. A deep whinny answered her. She craned her neck but couldn’t see him. She whistled again so Spinner could get a bearing on where she was.
A few seconds later, a sixteen-hand chestnut tobiano cantered to the fence line and slid to a stop. He tossed his head, pricked his ears forward, and swished his tail.
“Hey, buddy!” Kate got out of her truck, jumped the ditch, and reached over the high-tensile fence to rub Spinner’s face. “I know it’s been a couple days. I promise I’ll come see you tonight.” She gave him a final pat on the neck and returned to the truck. He nickered, and she turned around and smiled. “I know, but I barely got out of there with something to eat myself. I’ll steal an apple from Sandy for you.”
She took one last look at him, forced herself to get back into the truck, and continue down the road.
Sandy’s Subaru was the only vehicle in the parking lot. As usual, she’d parked it at the far end of the brick building next to the office door.
Kate parked alongside and looked at Dakota. “Ready to show them how it’s done?”
Dakota replied with an eager bark.
She opened the door, slid out, and waited for Dakota to follow. She slammed the door shut and smiled that Dakota was already at the entrance. He scratched at the door, and before Kate was halfway to the steps, it opened and Sandy stuck her head out.
“It’s about time you got here. I thought maybe Trish tied you to the bed or something.” Sandy pushed the door wider with her foot to let Kate in.
“You’d only like that if you could watch.” Kate smacked her playfully on the arm.
“Unfortunately, there’s no chance of that if you keep letting her pull those shades down.” Sandy closed the door behind Kate, walked past, and took a seat in one of the chairs. Dakota took his place on the dog bed in the corner.
“Can’t help you there. She usually ties me up first and then closes the shades.” Sandy’s mouth fell open, and Kate laughed. “I’m just kidding. I’m not into that, and with everything she sees at the hospital, I doubt Trish would even consider it.”
“Uh-huh.” Sandy got up, poured them each a fresh cup of coffee, and sat down at her desk.
“I saw Alex out riding along the river a little while ago.” Kate mentally slapped herself silly. Now Sandy would want to know what she was doing by the river so early.
“Problems at home again?”
Kate sighed and avoided looking Sandy in the eye. “Can we just not talk about my love life?”
“Or maybe a lack thereof?”
Kate closed her eyes and let her head fall against the back of the chair. “I thought the reason you called so freakin’ early and wanted me to come in was so you could talk about the service dog.”
Kate heard Sandy open a desk drawer and rummage around. “You obviously need sustenance first. That’s the last one. You’ll have to make do with corn flakes after this.”
Something landed in Kate’s lap. She opened her eyes and grinned at the pint-sized box of Captain Crunch. “I could marry you this instant.” She ripped the box open and dumped half the crunchy squares into her mouth.
“Sorry, you’re not my type. I’m really after Trish.”
Kate snorted and the cereal pasted itself to the back of her throat. She choked on it, trying to dislodge it. Between her own gasps for breath, she heard Sandy’s laughter, and she wiped the tears from her face. “You’re going to kill me one of these days.”
“You know, you used to have a better sense of humor.”
“I don’t find the idea of an eventual death from foreign body pneumonia especially funny.” Kate took a gulp of coffee. “Now can we please talk about this dog?” She looked at the clock hanging on the wall over Sandy’s head. “My first class is due in about forty minutes.”
“Ah, you’re such a wet blanket. And I was just getting started.” Sandy tapped some keys on her computer. “Do you remember a news story a few years back about a woman who was snowshoeing along the river and went under a bridge just as a snowplow went over it?”
“I’m not sure. That’s just about the time I moved here.”
“The plow pushed a shitload of snow through the guardrail and over the edge. It landed on her and knocked her out for a while. She was facedown in the snow, and by the time the paramedics got to her, she was hypothermic.” Sandy turned her computer screen so Kate could see. “It’s right here. She developed some sort of brain bleed and eventually lost her sight.”
“That really happened? I honestly don’t remember hearing about it.” Kate tossed the empty box into the garbage before looking at the woman’s picture. “But I sure would have remembered her. She’s hot.”
“Is she a lesbian?” She looked at Sandy and was pinned to the spot by the devious expression on her face. “What?”
A smile lifted the corner of Sandy’s mouth, and she raised her eyebrows. “I don’t know. The newspaper didn’t exactly disclose her sexual preference. Although I’m sure it was the first thing the doctors asked her when she regained consciousness. You know, right before they asked her if she could see.”
“Oh, shut up.” Kate turned her attention to the computer screen again, immediately drawn to the woman’s eyes. What were those eyes saying? They seemed to hold looks of triumph, satisfaction, and maybe even a little lust. She wondered who took the photograph. More, she wondered what sex the photographer was.
“. . . introduce you.”
Kate whipped her head around to stare at Sandy. “No, don’t be silly.”
Sandy laughed. “Hello? You were so absorbed in looking at her picture, you didn’t hear a word I said.”
Kate took one more peek at the woman and forced herself to sit back down. She looked at Dakota. “So, why did you show me that picture?” She hoped by focusing elsewhere she could erase the image of those eyes that now scorched the memory banks in her brain.
Sandy leaned back in her chair and folded her hands. “Because that is Faith Hutchins.”
“So? I don’t know any Faith . . .” Kate widened her eyes and she could swear her heart skipped a beat or twenty. “She’s, she’s . . .” She gulped. “She’s the woman who wants a pup trained?”
Sandy nodded and leaned forward. “You’ll do it, right?”
A thousand reasons why she shouldn’t, not the least of which was Trish’s negative reaction this morning, raced through her mind. She shook her head no, amazed when the word “yes” passed through her lips at the same time. “Can I think about it? I mean I have no idea how to train a dog for a blind person. I’ve never done anything like that before. I mean, there’s—”
“—so much to learn and I’m not sure how Dakota would be with—”
Kate stared at Sandy.
“Honey, you’re rambling.” Sandy gave her a reassuring smile. “If I didn’t think you could do this, I would’ve declined the moment I got the call. My only other option is Patsy.”
“Patsy? As in Patsy McCaudle? You’ve got to be kidding. Number one, she dresses like somebody dipped her in glue and dragged her through a flea market. Secondly, I’ve seen her work with pups. She’s too rough with them. If she’s your only other option, I’ll do it. I’ll figure it out.”