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Lauraine Snelling

BOOK: Lauraine Snelling
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Copyright © 2007 Lauraine Snelling

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 the prior written permission of the publisher.

FaithWords

Hachette Book Group

237 Park Avenue

New York, NY 10017

Visit our Web site at
www.HachetteBookGroup.com
.

First eBook Edition: August 2007

ISBN: 978-0-446-55509-8

The FaithWords name and logo are trademarks of Hachette Book Group.

Cover design by Susan Browne

Cover photography by Corbis

Contents

Dedication

Acknowledgments

One

Two

Three

Four

Five

Six

Seven

Eight

Nine

Ten

Eleven

Twelve

Thirteen

Fourteen

Fifteen

Sixteen

Seventeen

Eighteen

Nineteen

Twenty

Twenty-One

Twenty-Two

Twenty-Three

Twenty-Four

Twenty-Five

Twenty-Six

Twenty-Seven

Twenty-Eight

Twenty-Nine

Thirty

Thirty-One

Reading Group Guide

About the Author

 

T
he blood bay horse backed out of the trailer in a rush, dragging the two handlers with him. When his front feet hit the dirt, he reared, slashing the air with both front hooves. One of the men ducked and shouted at the other. “Tighten up on your rope before he kills me.”

“Bring him over to that open door.” Mr. James pointed to the open barn door.

“Right, like we can lead him anywhere.” The horse reared again and came down teeth bared, lunging at one of the men. “Tighten up, I said.”

“I am.”

“I ain’t takin’ that horse, no way.” Kool Kat hugged the fence. “I’ll go back to the yard afore that.”

Once near the barn, the horse headed for the open stall door, dragging the men behind him. When he stormed in, Mr. James slammed both the top and bottom halves shut. A frenzy of hooves pounding the walls rewarded his quick action.

“I’ll get your ropes back to you after he calms down.”

“Good luck. Only one solution for that one . . . a fast bullet.” The two men climbed back in the truck and drove off. The horse screamed again, his hooves thundering on the stall walls. The crack of wood told of the power of his kicks.

Mr. James settled his straw wide-brimmed hat tighter on his head and glanced down at the paper one of the men had given him. “Sounds like Breaking Free is trying to do just that. If we can’t get him under control, he’ll have to be put down. He could put the whole Thoroughbred program in jeopardy.” He looked at each of the dumbstruck women. “Stall one is off limits, you understand?”

To animal rescuers, the people who give of their time and money to help care for lost, wounded, or abandoned animals, many of them former pets or, as in this book, retired Thoroughbreds. In return, the animals give unconditional love that helps heal humans, a winning circle for all.

ACKNOWLEDGMENTS

R
esearch is always an adventure and this time I traveled to Wallkill, New York, and visited Wallkill Correctional Facility, the first prison to take in retired Thoroughbreds for rehabilitation. I cannot thank Jim Tremper, the vocational instructor, enough for sharing information and making it easy to talk with the inmates involved in the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation. My two days there were eye opening to say the least. Also thank you to the superintendent who gave us permission to tour the main facility, besides the horse program. Everyone there was most helpful, including the inmates who talked so openly. I patterned Los Lomas, the prison I made up, on all I saw and learned at Wallkill.

Diana Pikulski, Executive Director of the Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation, helped set all this up and then added to our information, including a visit with her own rescued horses. Thanks to her, I visited the TRF facility at the Horse Park in Lexington, Kentucky, and talked with Linda Dyer, the vocational instructor who runs the program at Blackburn Correctional Facility. I learned more about the open houses from Nikki Smith of TRF at the Horse Park, she introduced me to Chris Irwin who was there training riders and horses. His book,
Dancing with Your Dark Horse,
and videos were great information on horse training.

Therapeutic riding trainers make such a difference in people’s lives, but not only children like I thought before I started the research on this book. I visited various programs and talked with people involved, again volunteers who are rescuers at heart.

We have rescued two Basset hounds so far in our lives, Chewy from Daphneyland Rescue Ranch in Acton, California, owns us now, so I offered a contest to Basset lovers to have their hound star in this book, the proceeds going to Daphneyland. Our contest winner, Bonnie, belongs to Don and Pam Bullock and is a hound with a story all her own.

Having a good editor is critical, and I can’t thank Christina Boys enough, along with all the staff at FaithWords, an imprint of Hachette Book Group USA. I had to catch my breath when I first saw the incredible cover for this book. Thank you all.

I have an amazing team, Kathleen and Chelley, who read and critique for me, Cecile, my invaluable assistant, my Round Robin friends who both encourage and pray, and my A plus agent and friend, Deidre Knight. Thank you, my friends.

What an adventure this book has been and I’m always grateful for my husband and best friend Wayne who loves adventuring as much as I do. Thanks also to all my faithful readers who make it possible for me to continue to write more books. Come along for more adventures. Above all, to God be the glory. You can learn more about the background of this book, along with TRF information and pictures of Bonnie, at my Web site www.laurainesnelling.com.

Blessings,

Lauraine

ONE

M
aggie recognized menace as it slid over DC’s face right before the female tank, shielded by her groupies, slammed her against the chain-link fence. “Too late to run, Miss Prissy White Girl. I been waitin’ for you.”

Trying to swallow with the woman’s forearm pressing against her throat, Maggie clutched at the woman’s arm.
Someone, guard, please.
Already spots floated before her eyes.
Air, I need air
.

“That’s enough.” Maggie heard the words from a distance, and air, blessed air returned to her lungs as DC lurched backward, propelled by a black hand sunk into her shoulder.

“Beat it.” Kool Kat hissed as she slid in front of Maggie. Both women smiled and kept their voices low so as not to attract the attention of the correctional officers, who were safe in their bulletproof shelter by the fence. She turned to Maggie. “Keep walkin’ like nothin’ wrong.”

Maggie kept from staggering and resumed her walk, fear flailing her shoulders like a crazed jockey.

After the big black woman sauntered back to the exercise yard population, Maggie rubbed her throat. Four months until her review by the parole board and she’d almost not lived to see it. She tried to breathe evenly to calm the deep trembles. Seven years of keeping her head down, three of them here at Los Lomas and she’d only this once had any trouble. She’d been afraid at her sentencing, afraid of being alone with her memories, afraid with the terror of a normal woman—as she used to see herself—in an abnormal environment. But now, with DC having marked her, she knew real fear.

“Roberts, I’ve got something for you.” Ms. Donelli, head of the occupational programs, beckoned from The Bubble where the correctional officers stayed, watching the prisoners in the concrete exercise yard. DC had made sure none of the COs had seen her little activity. There was always a way not to be seen. Until a few moments ago, Maggie thought she knew most of them.

She trotted over to the gate, managing a wave at the correctional officer who checked her name off the roster as she passed through the gate.

“What’s up?” Maggie asked, voice still raspy from the attack. At five-five she felt like a dachshund next to a Great Dane. Elegant was the word for Ms. Donelli, a word and concept Maggie had left behind with her entry into the penal system. They entered the three-story, cut-stone building that housed A wing and climbed two flights of concrete stairs. Even with freshly painted green walls, the bars on the windows screamed prison.

“A new program. You’re a fit. Parole in four months instead of release in a year and a half.” Ms. Donelli smiled down at Maggie and nodded at another inmate they met.

Smiles were a precious commodity in Maggie’s life so she horded this one, just like she had done since the accident that sent her here.

“Your record’s good,” Ms. Donelli continued. The officer of the day sat at the front desk and greeted them both as they turned down the hall to the offices.

Which meant she’d stayed out of trouble with both inmates and staff. Until today. How fast would the grapevine travel and this carrot be removed?

“And I heard you like horses.”

“I did . . . as a kid.”

Donelli ushered Maggie into her private office and motioned to sit beside her on a love seat that, like the other furnishings in the room, had seen better days. Donelli lived by the rule she touted. The budget was better spent on helping inmates than decorating offices. “An organization called The Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation has contracted with us to rehabilitate horses that can no longer race for one reason or another. The program pioneered in New York, but we will be the first one in a women’s prison. If you agree to do this, you will care for the horses along with taking classes in stable management.”

“So are you saying this will be a paid job, like working on the beef ranch?”

“Yes, they’ll actually be appropriating the unused barns at the beef ranch. Are you interested?”

Pictures of the horses she’d cared for at the riding stable in her teens flashed through her mind. Dusty with the loose lower lip who loved lemon drops; Jefferson who nosed her pockets for carrots; old Silver who acted like he was going to kick the daylights out of you but once you laid a hand on his rump, nickered a soft hello. Did she want to work with horses again—did dogs bark? A tiny sliver of—what? excitement?—shivered down her spine.

“Yes, please.” She brushed a straw-like hank of hair from her eyes. It needed trimming with her nail scissors again. She’d realized that anyone who had known her as the wife of a rising executive and stay-at-home mom wouldn’t recognize her now. Back then, she’d known she was attractive with sun streaked brown hair and laughing blue eyes. Her husband Dennis often told her how beautiful she was. Now the mirror said mousy, nondescript—a perfect cover for safety’s sake.

“Good. We’ll be starting with ten inmates and ten horses. Our occupational trainer is a man named Trenton James. He’s managed horse farms for years. Comes highly recommended as both a teacher and a trainer.”

“When do we start?”

“Tomorrow.”

Tomorrow she would be safer—far away at the barns—safe from DC. Even though she knew no one was ever really safe on the inside of prison fences. “Thank you.”

“You’re welcome. Do you have any suggestions for others who might be interested?”

The immense bulk of Kool Kat plucking DC’s arm off Maggie’s throat skittered across her mind. She owed a debt. “Kool Kat.”

Donelli seemed surprised by the suggestion. Everyone knew Kool Kat was regarded as one of the tougher prisoners and had been called many uncomplimentary names by more than a few. Starting in her teens, she’d been incarcerated enough times to know her way around prison rules and make some of her own.

“She’s inner-city LA, probably never seen a horse in real life,” Donelli said dismissively.

“I know, but she told me once when we were working in the kitchen that she likes animals. She’s a hard worker.”
And strong as a sumo wrestler, fortunately for me.

“I’ll consider it.”

Maggie knew that possibly doing someone a favor was stepping out of character and might cost her. She’d lived her life in prison by the words an old woman told her when she first came in: “Just get through.” Staying to herself all these years had gotten her through. But Kool Kat had saved her
life
. It wasn’t the same as conferring favors with contraband perfume. This was different. Besides, she had read that change started in the mind. No matter if she was in prison or not.

The next morning Maggie joined the small group waiting for the van to take them to the beef ranch, part of which would soon be a horse farm.

Kool Kat, her black hair braided and looped in intricate swirls, stopped beside Maggie. She lowered her voice. “What you be wantin’?”

BOOK: Lauraine Snelling
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