2nd Place Winner
2015 International Digital Awards
At 22, Linny Eagan has already lost her dream of being an equestrian champion, along with her job and the love of her life. So she must start from scratch to invent a new dream—this time skipping the man part and trusting only in horses, which can never betray her.
Linny’s family, worried about her physical and financial security, pushes her toward the higher education and careers finally available to women in the 1970s. But Linny will only ride through the doors her ancestors fought to open. Her idea of feminism is having the freedom to choose one’s path in life. She just has to figure out how to support herself doing it.
Her first chance comes through a barn job at a trail-riding stable on Cape Cod, Massachusetts. There she meets Con Winston, also 22, who dreams of being a Western artist on a Montana ranch. His family, however, considers art a sissy pursuit, and demands that Con follow his father’s footsteps to football glory and investment riches, with the proper wife on his arm. If he complies, he will inherit on his 25th birthday a fortune that will free him to live his dream.
Linny, who has sworn off head games, has no desire to get involved with him—despite their perfect match of heart and mind. Her need for independence rules; and besides, she can’t wait another three years to solve her money problems. Con, meanwhile, won’t subject a woman to his family manipulations, and is willing to wait for one who will love him for himself rather than his face, his name, and his money.
So he and Linny push on in opposite directions, connected only by his horse.
When time and distance show that dream-pursuit needs love to sustain it, they try to find their way back together. But that won’t work unless they can create a joint dream without sacrificing what made them into the person the other one loves.
Their only path is through Con’s horse, whose injury forces them to bridge their differences and define new priorities. Ultimately they find a way to balance independence and partnership, and ride off into the sunset together.
Available through the publisher, The Wild Rose Press, as well as online print and e-book retailers (Amazon, B&N, etc.), and autographed copies directly from the author. Contact at dcmahaley [at sign] gmail.com.
In answer to our unspoken question, an arm of wind swept over the knoll to salt-tingle our noses. The group scrambled forward, to be blocked by Miriam upon mounting the crest.
“Look sharp and sit tight,” she told everyone. “Your horses might get excited at this part. Stay in line behind me, and if you all keep control, we might get in a little trot.”
We attempted to obey, falling silent as we beheld a broad, flat beach arching out of sight in both directions, fringed by ocean stained to gold-slashed burgundy by the setting sun. My collar and bandana fluttered as I gazed, while all around me the horses bobbed and blew, straining to be free.
Shark started to rev up like a race car—and Klatawah didn’t bother revving, just bunched her muscles and shot off in a spray of sand. Con yelped as he lurched back, but his polo reflexes saved him, whereas I had to save myself by grabbing the saddle horn when Shark dropped her head and leaped after them, searing the reins through my fingers. Around us whoops, whinnies, and hollers erupted as the rest of the herd spewed across the beach like buckshot.
In the space of two seconds, I relived my fall yet again while my limbs scrambled for purchase. I had never ridden as fast as Shark was galloping—wind ripping my bandana off and splaying open my shirt—and I’d lost my stirrups at her first plunging stride. But I found my balance and just let the horse go, inhibition having been blown away with everything else. Nothing mattered except the freedom of pounding across the sand straight into the sunset. Behind me lay a helter-skelter of shouting blurs belonging to another life.
Joy brought tears to my eyes, and wind streaked them across my face. I whipped by Con, who had managed to circle Klatawah and regain control. He spurred the mare after me like a cop after a speeder and ate the distance between us with Klatawah’s huge strides. I saw a russet shape encroaching from the corner of my eye; then Klatawah drew even, her nostrils gaping and mane streaming as Con stretched over her neck, urging her on. No chase, I realized, but a race!
This was not supposed to happen. From the glance he shot me, I knew that he knew, and was throwing responsibility away for a once-in-a-lifetime moment. I caught the same fever and spurred Shark onward, feeling wilder than I ever had in my life.
We veered toward the water, hooting and pumping the reins. Our horses extended beneath us in their own instinctive race, until the beach dropped sharply into the waves. Shark and Klatawah jammed on the brakes to get their hindquarters under them, almost hopping as they adjusted to the slope and the sudden momentum-stopping water. Con and I banged in our saddles, splashed to soaking before we realized we’d be swimming if we angled out any farther. Our race deteriorated into a scramble back upslope, the horses heaving through the wet, gummy sand to the drained, packed sand, and up over the shoulder to the dry beach.
I reined in, laughing, and met his grin while our mounts blew and bucked in circles around each other. He was waiting to meet my gaze each time our horses were pointed in the right direction, and he held it with equal intensity, all masks forgotten, all words that could be said captured in our smiles. For those moments, I felt my heart beat with his and almost saw something reach out between us and bind us to each other.
But then faint shouts broke the connection and brought reality back.
With a sigh, we turned toward the shouts and saw, far down the shore, that the other riders had stopped their horses and stayed in the saddle, though they remained confused and scattered. Miriam crisscrossed the beach trying to round them up. She paused after each success to holler and wave at us. We looked at each other again, no longer smiling—no longer an us—then exchanged nods and about-faced to lope leisurely back along the upper sands.