Authors: Keary Taylor
Tags: #Literature & Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary, #Contemporary Fiction, #Inspirational
All rights reserved. Except as permitted under the U.S. Copyright act of 1976, no part of this publication may be reproduced, distributed, or transmitted in any form or by any means, or stored in a database or retrieval system, without prior written permission of the author.
First Digital Edition: October 2014
Cover Design by
Cover Images by
The characters and events portrayed in this book are fictitious. Any similarity to real persons, living or
is coincidental and not intended by the author.
a novel / by
Taylor. – 1
Playing it Kale (January 20, 2014)
FALL OF ANGELS
Afterlife: the novelette companion to Vindicated
THE EDEN TRILOGY
CONNECT WITH KEARY ONLINE AT
Keep up to date on everything
Sign up for The
Post mailing list
The red, white, and blue run through my veins; guess that’s why I came out with hair red like fire at sunset.
Dad served in the Marines for twenty-five years.
We moved around.
I bounced from school to school until my junior year.
Then we stopped when he retired.
He died three years ago when an old piece of shrapnel dislodged into his brainstem.
Last year I met Cal.
I fell in love.
He asked me to marry him.
And then on his last tour, he was killed.
The red, white, and blue
though my veins, but it has a tendency of ripping my heart out.
The morning is chilly and damp, just like it is every spring morning in Duvall, Washington.
Dew collects on my boots, turning the soft leather dark.
I reach the pole in front of the house and attach the well-worn fabric to the line.
A soft breeze catches it as I start hoisting it up.
The American flag waves over my head, just as it does every morning, when either Mom or I put it up in Dad’s honor.
And then one of us takes it down every night.
I watch it wave for a minute and there’s a dull ache in my chest. It’s always there.
I love this country.
Always have, always will.
But the cost of protecting it has caused me more than a fair share of pain.
A nicker from the barn draws my eyes away from the flag.
The gravel of our driveway crunches under my feet as I cross from our house to the barn.
The smell of hay and grain and horses hangs heavy in the air.
It’s a scent that triggers a lot of memories and feelings.
The giant sliding door screeches as I push it open and excited whinnies bid me good morning.
We have ten stalls total.
Two of them are for our own horses.
The rest are for horses I train and work with.
The young, the out of control, the ones in need of just a little polishing.
I take them all.
I was born while Dad was stationed in Quantico, VA.
We lived there for the first five years of my life.
Then we left for eight years, spending time in California and Georgia.
When we came back to Virginia, I was thirteen and I saw a flyer for horse riding lessons.
What thirteen-year-old girl doesn’t want to learn to ride a horse?
I climbed into the saddle and had never felt more at home.
Every waking moment I wasn’t at school or doing homework, I was on that horse.
Her name was Misty.
And I loved her more than I’d ever loved anything in my life.
Then two days after I turned fifteen, my parents dropped the bomb on me that Dad was officially retiring and we were settling in Washington State, where he was born.
I was angry for all of fifteen seconds.
We were moving, again, and I was going to have to leave my four-legged best friend behind.
But we weren’t moving just to another tiny, rented house.
They’d just bought a fifty-two acre ranch in need of resurrection.
And here we are.
Twelve years later.
I’m a whole lot more experienced on the back of a horse.
The ranch is on its feet.
But Dad’s gone.
It’s just me and Mom now.
We don’t have a whole lot of money, but we pay the bills and we get by, working sixty-hour weeks.
“Morning, Trooper,” I say to the black and white yearling in the first stall.
I take a wide flake of hay and swing it into his feeder.
I check his water.
It’s mostly full.
He tries nibbling my arm as I stroke his neck.
A week ago, he wouldn’t let me within ten feet of him.
“Trapper,” I say to Trooper’s cousin in the next stall.
I give him a flake as well, one that is extra wide, as well as a scoop of oats.
Trapper is thin and refusing to put on weight.
He’s a responsive horse, but I worry about his health.
If I don’t see progress in the next two weeks, I’m recommending a visit from the vet, Dr. Wyze.
I hope he doesn’t have worms or something.
That could be disastrous.
I work my way down the line until I get to the two last stalls.
“Hey, Radio,” I coo to my horse.
He’s a buckskin gelding, sixteen hands tall, with the creamiest body and black as night feet and mane.
He was the first colt we ever had, after we bred a mare a friend had given us.
We didn’t really know what we were doing back then, but oh I was excited for my first very own foal.
I was sixteen, about to start my junior year of high school.
That mare grew big and
and the vet told us the baby should come any day.
And grew concerned.
The baby wasn’t coming.
The vet said we’d have to do something about it soon.
I slept in the barn every night, waiting for that foal to come.
One night, I was growing tired, barely able to keep my eyes open.
So I turned the radio on to keep me awake.
And two minutes later, there he was.
I scratch between his ears and press a kiss to his soft, velvet nose when he sniffs at me.
Radio fed, I turn to the stall across from his.
That’s not his real name.
His real name is Sir Golden Touch, and his owners are as pretentious as his name.
But he’s a devil of a horse, mean as a school-yard bully, and big as Goliath.
They spent a small fortune on his breeding and now can’t even get a halter on him.
I had to go out to their property and get him in the trailer myself.
I got kicked once and my feet stomped on three times before we got him loaded in the trailer.
He kicked the hell out of it.
Thankfully money was not an issue, and the owners replaced my old beater with a brand new one as an apology.
There are a few perks to working with wealthy clients.
Sir Devil flares his nostrils and stomps a foot as I feed him and check his water.
I don’t take my eyes off of him while I’m in his stall.
He’ll charge the second I look away.
Just as I finish off the morning feedings, the twins come charging in.
Chico, the handsomely dressed Boston terrier, jumps up on me, his little paws leaving muddy footprints on my jeans.
He starts licking my legs and his little rear end wiggles back and forth in furious happiness.
He was given to us because his old owners couldn’t handle his energy or jumpiness.
He just needed some space to roam.
He’s a great dog now.
Bear lumbers in behind Chico, huge and hairy, and very muddy right now.
He’s a gentle giant of a Bernese mountain dog.
I got him as a puppy for my twenty-first birthday.
Some people want to go out for drinks and to party.
I just wanted someone who’d love me unconditionally.
Bear does exactly that.
While Bear is the giant, Chico is the boss, and Bear goes wherever Chico goes.
“Come on, guys,” I call to the dogs and start for Mom’s garden.
The garden lies directly behind the house, huge and sprawling.
It’s just the two of us, so Mom has learned to be an expert in canning to deal with the excess.
We have at least a year’s worth of food stored in the cold storage area of the garage just behind the garden.
I grab the scarecrow that blew over last night and hammer it back into the ground.
It sinks down in with little effort.
The rainy spring has made the ground soft and slippery.
Inside, I can hear Mom getting breakfast ready.
She’ll have none of that processed cereal stuff that “all tastes like cardboard.”
fresh fruit and oatmeal every day for us.
Prepared exactly how Dad used to like it.
He’s been gone now for three years, and other than the two months right after it occurred, you’d never know it happened where Mom is concerned.
She’s a rock of kindness and strength, and that didn’t change when her husband of twenty-eight years died.
She carried on with a smile and dirt under her fingernails to get done what needed to be done.
I try to be like her, I really do.
But I don’t know if I’ll ever have her strength.
Suddenly, the back door swings open and Mom’s face pokes out the door.
“I can see it in your eyes that you’re thinking about it, but you get in here and eat something before you go work a minute more.”
Her own eyes, green and vivid as an emerald, tell me she’s not kidding around.
I am expected inside right now.
Stuffing my hands deep into the pockets of my camo jacket, I cross the yard to the back door.
Leaving my muddy boots and the muddy dogs on the porch, I step inside and sit at the table.
There’s a smell in the kitchen that doesn’t belong.
As Mom finishes getting our food ready, my eyes sweep the kitchen.
There, in the garbage in the corner,
a dozen roses.
But I don’t say anything to Mom.
They’re in the trash for a reason, and because they’re there, it means that Mom’s trying to protect me.
She sets a bowl on the table, hands me a spoon, and starts talking about something she watched on the news.
Minimal engagement is required.
I’m Riley James and I’m twenty-six years old now.
I’ve lived outside of my parents’ home for a grand total of fourteen months.
And I keep coming back.
Some might call it a failure to launch.
But my duty is here, taking care of the mother that took care of me.
Taking care of the land my father fought to protect.
And there’s no place I’d rather be.
Rotating horses between the pasture and the arena.
Rotating horses again.
The sun rises up high in the sky, burning through the morning clouds.
I grab a bottle of canned pears and a slice of Mom’s homemade bread for lunch, eating on the fence while I watch Sir Devil run himself crazy in the pasture.
“I’m headed into town,” Mom calls from behind me.
I look over my shoulder and see her digging through her purse, looking for keys.
She heads for the garage.
“Gonna get some feed for the chickens and some more rat killer.
Did you notice them in the barn this morning?”
I shake my head.
“I did find a dead one in Sir Devil’s stall three days ago.
It was pretty flat by that point.”
Mom wrinkles her nose.
“Well, I don’t want it becoming a problem, so I thought we’d get on it before it became one.
I’m also stopping by the grocery store.
Want me to pick anything up for you?”
into Woodinville?” I ask.
I hop down from the fence and start for the house to wash out the jar.
her hand on the door to the garage.
She’s got to speak loud over the wide expanse.
“Love you, Honey.”
“Love you too, Mom,” I say as I walk inside.
The air grows humid that afternoon as the sun beats down on the wet earth.
It’s the last day of April, and we’ve had a wet one.
The forecast is sunny and warm the next few days, but it’s supposed to pour on Wednesday.
If the rain had continued much longer this week we would have had flooding issues.
That’s the problem of being right at the base of a mountain in Washington.
The back of our property butts up to the Cascade Mountains.
We get snow pretty often in the winter, where most of the area around us doesn’t.