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Authors: Alison Hart

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Marietta grabbed her wrist. “No. You’ll never find her in this weather. And the storm’s only getting worse. Help me drag Hugh into the barn.”

“I don’t care about Hugh.” Yanking her arm away, Jas jumped to her feet. She aimed the flashlight onto the gravel. Hoofprints headed down the alley made by the fence. Using the top board as a guide, she followed
the trail, her body tipped forward as she sliced through the wind. Branches and leaves were strewn on the grass.

The alley and fence ended at the hay field. Cupping her hands around her mouth, Jas hollered, “Whirlwind!” But the cry couldn’t be heard above the howling. A gust slammed her into the board. For a moment, she clung to it. Aiming the beam, she again found Whirlwind’s trail. The hoofprints were far apart, as if she’d galloped across the field. Jas shivered, wet to the bone. Should she turn back and wait for help? No, help might take forever to arrive and she’d
promised
.

Jas plunged into the storm. As she ran across the field, the tall grass switched her sodden jeans. “Whirlwind!” she continued to holler, even though she knew it was futile.

The trail disappeared into the woods. Branches snapped as the tops of the pines and oaks whipped back and forth. A limb cracked overhead. Just in time, Jas jumped sideways as it crashed at her feet. She trembled with cold and fatigue. It would be crazy to follow the mare into the woods. Yet, if she didn’t, the rain would erase the trail forever.

Desperation pushed Jas into the forest. The beam of her light grew dimmer. Blindly, she made her way from tree to tree. She tripped over logs and roots, her tennis shoes sinking in the saturated earth. Her Windbreaker clung to her body like plastic wrap. Her fingers were stiff with cold.

Suddenly, she realized she’d lost the trail. She swung the light in an arc. Ferns, moss, grassy hummocks, and rocks, but no tracks. Heart thudding, she turned in a circle, searching for an imprint in the leaves or ground.
Nothing
.

Throwing back her head, Jas howled as mournfully as Digger.
“Whirlwind!”
She pictured the mare running headlong into a tree or a ditch. Sobbing, she sank to her knees. Rain pelted her head and flowed under her collar and down her back. The wind threw twigs and dirt in her face. Jas didn’t care. Whirlwind was gone.

The mare would never survive a night in a hurricane. Hugh had won after all.

Then a soft whinny came from her right. Startled, Jas whipped her flashlight around, catching the reflection of two eyes and a jagged
white star. Whirlwind was walking toward her, dragging a muddy lead line.

With a cry, Jas jumped up and stumbled forward. “It’s you!” The mare was dripping wet, bedraggled and shaking. Trembling herself, Jas ran her hands lovingly down Whirlwind’s face, neck, ribs, and croup. Her fingers touched sticky wet. She directed the light on the horse’s hindquarters, where a deep gash snaked down her flank. It would need stitches and time to heal.

“You’ll be okay.” Jas kissed the mare’s muzzle. Then she began laughing giddily. “You just won’t be
perfect
anymore. That means you’ll be safe from people like Hugh for the rest of your life.” She picked up the dangling rope. “Come on. Let’s find our way out of these woods.”

Clasping the lead, Jas walked beside Whirlwind, the fingers of her right hand twined in her mane. Somehow, they found their way to the edge of the woods. Through the sheets of rain, Jas saw a light bobbing across the field. She heard Marietta’s voice, faint in the thunder of the hurricane.

Side by side, Jas and Whirlwind made their
way toward the light. The wind lashed Jas’s shoulders like a whip. The rain swirled her hair and tore at her arms.

She tightened her grip on the mare’s mane.
Let the storm rage
, Jas thought. She wasn’t letting go of her beloved horse.
Ever
.

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are the product of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, events, or locales is entirely coincidental.

Copyright © 2010 by Alison Hart
All rights reserved. Published in the United States by Laurel-Leaf, an imprint of Random House Children’s Books, a division of Random House, Inc., New York.

Laurel-Leaf Books with the colophon is a registered trademark of Random House, Inc.

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Hart, Alison.
Whirlwind / by Alison Hart.
p. cm.
Sequel to: Shadow horse
Summary: While working at Second Chance Farm, a rescue center,
Jas tries to find Whirlwind, her favorite horse that she thought had been killed by its wealthy and unscrupulous owner.
eISBN: 978-0-375-86006-5
[1. Horses—Fiction. 2. Animal rescue—Fiction.
3. Mystery and detective stories.] I. Title.
PZ7.H256272Wh 2010
[Fic]—dc22
2009016491

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