KAREN’S KILLER BOOK BENCH: Welcome to Karen’s Killer Book Bench where readers can discover talented new authors and take a peek inside their wonderful books. This is not an age-filtered site so all book peeks are PG-13 or better. Come back and visit often. Happy reading!
The McKenna Curse Book 3
BY PATRICIA ROSEMOOR
Despite their psychic connection, Siobhan McKenna once pushed Clay Salazar away and married another man. Better to break Clay’s heart than to be responsible for his death, as her family curse threatens any man she loves. But now widowed Siobhan faces trouble on her ranch. Clay, a Navajo-trained horse gentler, insists he’s the one to help her run the place and stop the attacks. With their special connection severed, she thinks his life should be safe… or will the McKenna curse claim another victim?
“Don’t want to get too close!” The scrawny kid with a coiled rope in his hand danced around the corral and kept his distance from the adrenaline-driven roan. “Looks like he wants to kick me!”
Clay Salazar grinned. Mankato “Manny” Flores was newly incarcerated in the New Mexican High Desert Correctional Center, even newer to the inmate horse training program. This was his first time facing down one of the wild mustangs rounded up from federal land by the Bureau of Land Management and meant to be adopted out. Man and horse had something in common. Having worked as a staff trainer for more than a year now, Clay had seen enough panicky horses to liken the animal’s experience to that of a man being imprisoned for the first time.
“He does want to kick you, Manny.”
“I’ll show him who’s boss!” The inmate waved the rope wildly and in response, the horse screeched and bucked as he ran off.
“Stop right there! You try to muscle a mustang and he’ll show you who’s boss.” Clay eyed the frightened horse. “Stormcloud’s not mean, just wants to beat you so he can be free again. Go ahead and talk to him, get him used to the sound of your voice. Show him you have no fear.”
Which was wishful thinking, for if any inmate he’d worked with feared horses, it was Manny Flores. Why the kid had signed up for the program had baffled Clay until Manny admitted he knew he had to learn to do something so that when he got out, he could change his life. Clay was all up for that. It hadn’t been so long ago that he’d had to change his own life over a woman he couldn’t have, and wild horses had given him that opportunity.
Unfortunately, Manny wasn’t doing so well. The mustang hit the metal wall, fell to his knees and charged back up to his feet and straight for the kid, who ran like the demons of hell were after him.
“He’s never going to let me near him—this is my first horse—give me one that’s easier!” Clay worried the kid’s fear was progressing to anger.
Clay said, “Calm down and back off for a minute.”
Manny shook his head. “This horse is impossible.”
“He’s not. You just have to take your time with him and you’ll win him over.”
“You know so much, let’s see you get in here and show me how.”
Normally Clay would ignore the challenge, would keep his participation to backing up the inmate he was teaching to become a trainer. But this time Clay sensed he was about to lose Manny from the program, and that wasn’t okay with him.
Like Clay, Manny was mestizo. Being part Anglo, part Hispanic and part Indian put a man at a disadvantage when it came to opportunity, even here in tricultural New Mexico. Some people expected you to turn out bad, and it was easy to meet their low expectations. What was hard was changing your life—he knew all about that firsthand.
The kid wanted to go straight and Clay was going to do everything he could to see that he didn’t screw up his chance. He climbed down from the fence and entered the corral. Manny immediately handed off the rope, scooted out the gate and climbed up on top of the rail to watch.
Concentrating on Stormcloud, Clay picked up on the horse’s fear that had been exacerbated by the scared kid. He knew he could calm the wild horse if he could touch him. He had his Navajo grandfather to thank for knowing how.
After the woman he loved had married another man, he’d left town heartsick, had sought out his late mother’s clan. His grandfather had taught him to use a soft voice and a gentle hand when working with horses, had inspired him to find a spiritual connection that engendered trust. The technique worked not only with horses, but also with people, too. Clay’s learning that from both his grandfather and the wild horses had allowed him to become a better man.
He softly clucked at the mustang. “Hey, son, easy now.”
Stormcloud snorted and stomped his feet before charging. Clay waited until the horse was almost on him and then turned his body and easily stepped out of the way. He next advanced on the horse, arm and coiled rope raised.
“C’mon, son, move along.”
The horse bolted across the corral.
Clay advanced on Stormcloud again… and again… and again… never making a sharp or fast move. Finally, the mustang tired of the game and stood his ground. He snorted and rolled his eyes at Clay with suspicion, but he didn’t charge him.
“Good boy, Stormcloud,” Clay murmured as he inched closer. “That’s a good boy.”
Clay locked gazes with the mustang and continued murmuring sweet nothings meant to mesmerize. It usually took a week for an inmate to get close enough to touch a horse being trained, but as his grandfather had said, Clay possessed Navajo magic. He’d learned to communicate without words, to soothe the wildness in a horse, to abate the fear in its eyes.
He held out the coiled rope and froze in place. Stormcloud hesitated then stretched his neck just far enough to nose the rope. Seconds later, he popped his head and snorted. Still he didn’t skitter off. Clay switched hands, holding out the empty one, and continued making sounds meant to soothe. Hesitating even longer, the horse finally sniffed his hand.
A longing in the horse’s gaze touched Clay and he grabbed on to it, wrapped it with unspoken reassurances, the promise of safety and comfort. He sensed the slight shift—a softening in the horse’s attitude.
“I get it, son. Easy now,” Clay whispered, daring to touch Stormcloud’s nose. Continuing to mentally project promises that soothed the horse’s fear.
The horse allowed the human contact for several seconds.
Clay grinned. “Good boy! Enough for today.” Knowing that he needed to quit with the small victory, he backed off toward the gate to the chute, and about to open it, yelled to anyone in the corridor, “Back off, mustang coming through.”
Manny jumped down. “Man, if I could learn that…”
“You can. If you want to, you’ll do it.”
Clay read the kid’s gaze as easily as he read the mustang’s. The crisis was past. Manny Flores was in for the count.
New York Times and USA Today bestselling author Patricia Rosemoor has had 100 novels with 8 publishers and more than 7 million books in print. Always fascinated with “dangerous love,” Patricia combines romance with crime in her stories. She has won a Golden Heart from Romance Writers of America and two Reviewers Choice and two Career Achievement Awards from Romantic Times BOOKreviews, and in her other life, she taught Popular Fiction and Suspense-Thriller Writing at Columbia College Chicago.
Links to Patricia’s website, blog, books, etc.
Thanks, Patricia, for sharing your book with us!
Don’t miss the chance to read this book!