Friday Fiction – Out of Her Element, Chapter Eleven

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Missed part of the story? Find the full list of chapters HERE.

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Out of Her Element cover artMira’s gaze darted to her legs, but they were covered. She turned to Della, puzzled. “What do you mean?”

“You’re limping, dear.”

“Oh, that.” She retrieved two mugs from the cabinet. “It’s nothing. I’ll be fine.”

Bill gave her a doubtful look. “A person doesn’t limp from nothing.”

Ben cleared his throat. “It’s an old leg injury, sir, that’s acting up because of the snow moving in.”

Bill ignored him and stared at Mira. She finished pouring the coffee and handed one cup to Ben. He smiled his thanks and took a sip. After taking a sip of her own coffee, she returned her attention to Bill.

“Ben’s right. The explosion in Israel hurt my legs pretty bad. Sometimes when the weather changes, my right leg can ache something fierce. The coming snow is what made it hurt this time.”

“And the horse liniment?” Bill said, waving his hand at the bottle.

“It helps.” She shrugged and leaned back against the counter to drink her coffee.

The Montaignes went back to their breakfast, and Ben stood beside Mira silently drinking his coffee. Discomfort rolled off him in waves, and she spoke in a whisper.

“What’s wrong?”

“Nothing really.” He gave her a tight smile. “There’s just a lot you have to learn about the way society works.”

“What do you mean?”

“I’ll tell you another time.” He finished his coffee and handed her the mug with another smile, this one warmer than the last. “Thanks for the coffee. I’ll see you later.”

Before Mira could say anything, he left the room. She glanced at the Montaigne family and caught Tabby’s sympathetic look. Mira carried the mugs to the sink and washed them, her mind racing as she tried to figure out what she’d done to need sympathy. And what was with Ben’s sudden change in mood? As she dried her hands, Josh brought over a stack of dirty dishes.

He had the same sympathetic expression as his sister. “Mom wants to talk to you.”

“Okay.” She hesitated, but then asked what she’d wondered since Ben was so uncomfortable over drinking coffee. “Did I do something wrong?”

“Don’t worry about it.” He offered a reassuring smile.

Too bad Mira didn’t feel reassured as she joined Bill and Della at the table. Tabby had disappeared.

“Do sit down,” Della invited with a hint of a smile.

Mira pulled out one of the chairs and sat, feeling a little like a student called into the headmaster’s office.

“It was kind of you to offer Ben a cup of coffee,” Della said. “But, Mira, we just don’t do things like that.”

Her jaw dropped. “Why not? He’d been out riding in the cold, and he was kind enough to walk me back up to the house. I was just returning the kindness by offering him a cup of coffee. That’s what Harley and Marnie taught me. If someone does you a kindness, the least you can do is offer them coffee, or iced tea in the summer.”

“That may be, but things are done differently here. A person of means, especially a young lady of means, does not invite the stable help into the house.”

“I’m not a person of means.” Mira’s temper burned hot as she stared at Della. “I haven’t got a penny to my name.”

“Mira, dear, you’re living here now as one of the family. That means you count as a young lady of means.”

“I’m not going to forget every ounce of manners I was ever taught just because I’m living in a big fancy house.” She shoved back her chair and stood. “Please, excuse me. I’m going to go find something that makes sense.”

She left the kitchen and went to the mudroom. As she pulled on her coat, she fought the urge to go pack her belongings and leave. She opened the back door and stepped outside, wishing she had more housing options than the Montaignes or a lean-to in the woods. Taking a deep breath of the cold air, she headed for the stable. Inside its soothing, warm interior, she heard only the quiet sounds of the horses as they lazed the morning away. She walked to the last stall and found Maggie chewing a mouthful of hay. The horse looked up and shifted her weight with a restless snort.

“Easy, Maggie.” Mira spoke in Arabic, using her tone to soothe the horse. “It’s just me. I worked with you and groomed you, remember?”

The horse settled down and walked over to the stall door. Mira reached up and scratched her soft forehead, receiving a soft whuffle in return.

“At least you like the way I do things. You’ve got it easy. You get fed, groomed, and exercised, and never have to worry about doing something that’s going to upset some people and make others happy. I mean, what is so wrong with giving a friend a cup of coffee?”

The horse butted her shoulder with a large velvety nose. Mira gave a little laugh.

“I know. I barely know him and already I call him a friend. But I ask you, what is so terrible about befriending a man who works in a barn?” She sighed and rubbed behind the horse’s ears. “I know I’m in a different world now. Things aren’t so simple anymore.”

The stable door closed, and someone walked down the aisle toward her. She glanced over to find Bill drawing near, and then she turned back to Maggie.

“It looks like it’s time for round two.”

“Mira, can we talk?” Bill asked.

She sighed and answered in English as she turned to face him. “I guess so.”

“Why don’t we sit down?”

Mira moved to a pair of hay bales and sat on one. Bill sat on the other.

“Della may not have put it the best way. But she’s right. We don’t do things here the same way you did them in West Virginia.”

“But I do. I’ve been here less than two days. I’m not going to change that fast. And if I have to be unkind to nice people to fit in around here, I’ll go live somewhere else.” Assuming she could figure out where to go.

“No one is asking you to be unkind. Eventually, you’ll learn what the boundaries are, and then you won’t commit any more faux pas.”

“I don’t know what that means.”

“It means making a mistake. A faux pas is what inviting the stable boy into the house counts as.”

“Back home, what I did counts as neighborly hospitality.”

Bill sighed. “I know, but things are different here.”

“Maybe I should go somewhere else. Somewhere that kindness includes everyone, not just people that have money.”

“Kindness here does include everyone.” He spread his hands to emphasize his point. “There are just different ways of showing that kindness. Besides, where would you go?”

“I don’t know,” she said, tears springing to her eyes. “I’m pretty much trapped here. There’s nowhere else for me to go.”

“Mira, none of us want you to feel trapped. We just want you to be happy.”

“Then why do you want me to go against my nature?” She swiped at her eyes, irritated by the whole situation.

“I’m not asking you to go against your nature. I’m just pointing out the limitations society dictates and that we have to follow.”

“They’re stupid limitations.”

Bill shook his head and sighed again. “I’ll make a deal with you. You do your best to learn the limitations and try to stick to them regardless of how stupid they may seem, and I’ll buy you a thermos so you can bring coffee to Ben whenever you want.”

She considered his offer. It sounded fair enough, and the least she could do was try to get along since they were providing her with a place to live. “Okay. I’ll do what I can, but I can’t make any promises.”

“All I ask is that you give it your best shot,” he said, his relief at making progress strong enough she could almost feel it.

“Is Della going to get mad at me if I keep talking to Charlotte and Anita?”

“What Della doesn’t know can’t hurt her.” He winked. “I won’t tell her that you continue talking to them if you won’t.”

“Thanks, Bill.” Maybe he understood more than she’d given him credit for.

“You’re welcome.”

Another thought sprang to mind. “What about Lucas? Will the stupid limitations let me openly talk to him?”

“Lucas is a different case. He manages the estate on a day-to-day basis.”

“What does that mean?”

“It means Della won’t mind if you invite him in for a cup of coffee.”

When they went back to the house, Mira headed up to her room and pulled a small book with a dark blue cover out of her duffel bag. As she sprawled on her stomach across the bed, Frank jumped up and sprawled beside her.

“Hey, you big lazy fluff ball.” She gave him an affectionate scratch on the chin and received a happy purr in response. “I was beginning to wonder if I was going to see you today.”

Frank poked the cover of her book with a furry paw. She laughed as she looked into his inquisitive green eyes.

“It’s a photo album, you silly cat.” She moved his foot off the cover and stared at the paw that made her thumb look tiny. “Wow, you’ve got big feet.”

Frank purred and shot a pointed look at the photo album, causing Mira to laugh again.

“All right, if you want to see the pictures that badly, we’ll take a look.” She opened the front cover and pointed to the first picture. “Those are my parents.”

The ache of longing settled deep in her chest as she ran her fingers over the handsome Arab man with his arm around the pretty blonde woman leaning against him. They were so happy together, and she missed them so much. She turned the page and looked at another photograph of the same couple, but this time the woman held an infant with wisps of copper-colored hair and the same complexion as the man looking on with pride.

Frank sniffed the picture and Mira smiled. “That’s me a week after I was born.”

She continued to study each photograph in the album, sometimes commenting to the cat, but mostly reliving her memories as the infant with the copper hair progressed through childhood. The last picture in the book showed Mira as a young teen standing between her parents. In the background, the Dome of the Rock glowed in the sunlight, showing every bit of its well-known splendor. Tears filled her eyes as she gazed at the happy trio.

“Not long after this was taken, we went to that café for lunch and…” Her voice trailed off, and she buried her face in Frank’s soft fur. “Why did he have to set off his bomb in front of that café?”

As she cried, the gentle cat licked her hair a few times to comfort her. When her sobs quieted, she rolled away from Frank and stared at the ceiling. The cat crawled over and snuggled against her in such a way that she had no choice but to put her arm around him as if he were a stuffed animal. His rhythmic purr combined with the exhaustion of the emotional morning, and Mira drifted off to sleep.


Out of Her Element, Copyright © 2018 by Elizabeth West

 

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Wednesday Words – Lillian Duncan

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Please welcome author Lillian Duncan to The West Corner!

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Stepping Out Of My Comfort Zone

My usual books are fast-paced suspense and mystery novels but my newest release, Puzzle House is a different sort of book than I usually write. It’s definitely out of my comfort zone.

However, that makes sense. I’ve been living out of my comfort zone for more than six years. My life was turned upside down when I was diagnosed with brain tumors and a genetic condition known as Neurofibromatosis Type 2 (NF2) in 2012.

During these past several years, I’ve come to understand that nothing can be taken for granted. Except for God and his faithfulness. God has been there with me—every step of the way on this journey I didn’t want to take.

In many ways PUZZLE HOUSE is the book I never wanted to write because I know had I never been diagnosed with the brain tumors, I would never have written this particular story.

Like me, the main character has NF2 but that’s not the main point of the story. The focus is that Rachel stepped out of her comfort zone in obedience to what God wanted from her. And just like many of us, she thought that because it was what God wanted her journey would be an easy one.

Wrong!

Instead Rachel had many lessons to learn on her way to becoming all that God created her to be—as do all of us. As the story proceeds she shares her experiences with Nia, a young African-American girl who is dying as they work on a puzzle together.

Why did I choose a puzzle theme? Because in many ways life is like a puzzle—not a box of candy! There’s lot of pieces that have to be put together before you can see the whole picture. Many times we don’t understand why we need a particular piece but God always does.

It’s not easy to keep trusting God when we are suffering, whether it be from a physical condition like brain tumors or it be some other difficulty like losing a loved one. But when we trust God with all the puzzle pieces of our life, He will use them to create a thing of beauty.

After all I’ve written about NF 2 you might think PUZZLE HOUSE is a sad and depressing story, but you’d be wrong. The tagline for Puzzle House is a novel of healing and hope and that’s what I want people to take away from the story—that no matter what circumstances they find themselves in God promises that he will work all things out for the good of those who love him (Romans 8: 28).

Maybe not the way we want it to work out as Rachel discovers in Puzzle House, but then again God’s ways are not our ways. Puzzle House is a good example of that. I hate my brain tumors but I would never have written Puzzle House without them. God took my difficult circumstances and worked them out for my good by inspiring me to write out of my comfort zone.

About the Author

photo of author Lillian DuncanLillian Duncan…Stories of faith mingled… with murder & mayhem.

Lillian is a multi-published author who lives in the middle of Ohio Amish country with her husband and a menagerie of pets. After more than 30 years working as a speech pathologist for children, she believes in the power of words to transform lives, especially God’s Word.

Lillian writes the types of books she loves to read—fast-paced suspense with a touch of romance that demonstrates God’s love for all of us. To learn more about Lillian, you may visit her at www.lillianduncan.net or www.lillian-duncan.com. She also has a devotional blog at www.PowerUpWithGod.com

Book Description

Puzzle House cover artLife isn’t a box of candy—it’s a puzzle!

Rachel Summers is all about Rachel Summers…until the day she crashes headlong into a semi-truck. As her life hangs in the balance, she has a visitor who asks a very simple question.

Does she want to be healed or to be a healer?

She makes her choice, but the journey doesn’t go quite the way she expected.

And so Rachel now runs Puzzle House. Every guest is different and yet the same. They all come to the Puzzle House for one reason and one reason only—to be healed, usually from a life-threatening illness. Sometimes they receive their miracle, and sometimes they discover there’s more than one kind of healing.

Nia is a fifteen-year-old African-American girl who is dying. The doctors have told her there is nothing else to be done. No more treatments. No more hope. No more life. And she’s angry about that. Very angry. Against her wishes, Nia’s aunt brings her to The Puzzle House.

Together, Nia and Rachel will take a journey that will change both their lives.

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Puzzle House is available from Amazon.

Monday Mentions – Prince of the Sun, Princess of the Moon by M.R. Anglin

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Please welcome M.R. Anglin to The West Corner! She’s here today with her YA sci-fi novel Prince of the Sun, Princess of the Moon (Rulers of the Galaxy Book 1).

Book Description

Prince of the Sun, Princess of the Moon cover artFor years the Moon Palace in the Valley of Aijalon and the Sun Tower in the Plains of Jashar has stood as testaments to the power of the sun and the graciousness of the moon.  Helio and Lumina, Guardians of the sun and moon, kept watch over them and the Prince and the Princess who ruled them.  But the Prince and Princess are missing, and the sun is exhibiting strange behavior.

Now Joshua and his younger sister, Deborah, must untangle a web of lies and deceit to uncover the secret of who they really are and save their world from an imminent disaster brewing in the heavens.  And they must hurry.  Between the earthquakes, the sun and moon standing still in the sky, and the planet Jants hovering closer than it’s ever been, the planet could be torn apart before they have a chance to do something about it.

Excerpt

“Mr. Delango.” Mrs. Blaine’s voice sliced through the air, jarring Joshua out of his thoughts.

He jumped to his feet. “Yes, ma’am.” All around him snickers erupted as each of his classmates stared at him. Joshua stifled a groan. Judging by their reaction, he had missed something important.

“Perhaps you would like to elaborate on our topic?” Mrs. Blaine motioned to the blackboard.

Joshua winced. He had been staring out of the window and had no idea what she had been talking about.

His best friend, Neil, shrugged. With his skin the complexion of milk and Joshua’s the complexion of chocolate, Neil always said together they were two halves of the best drink ever to have been invented.

But now he shook his head at Joshua. “I tried to warn you,” he mouthed.

Joshua cleared his throat. “You are doing such a fantastic job at explaining this, Mrs. Blaine, I can’t elaborate.” He punctuated the remark with a smile meant to charm her.

“I think you can.” Mrs. Blaine pointed to the board. “Why don’t you come up and fill out this diagram?”

Joshua bit back a comment and made his way to the front of the classroom. The walls were white, and though Mrs. Blaine had set a plastic, potted tree in the corner, there were no posters or papers on the walls . . . just a blackboard where Mrs. Blaine wrote her lessons . . . not at all like the other teachers’ classes with their motivational posters and charts plastered all over the walls.

“No distractions for wayward thinking children,” Mrs. Blaine had said the first time someone remarked on the lack of decoration.

Joshua took the chalk from her and approached the blackboard. Empty spaces in the diagram she had written mocked him, but the words, “Planet/Celestial Body” and “Guardian” were written in separate columns at the top. At least Joshua knew what she was talking about now—the solar system and its Guardians.

“Fill it out.” Mrs. Blaine smirked. “Unless you aren’t smart enough to goof off in class and still retain the information.”

Again his classmates snickered.

Joshua took a deep breath and studied the diagram. Then he raised his chalk and wrote:

Planet/Celestial Body Guardian
Sun Helio
Chern Maro
Marte Cero
Melíne Alandri
Geon N/A
Geon’s moon Lumina
Arion Lucin
Jants Junen
Rindt Rin
Nuardt Urin
Plútz Plandte

 

Once finished, he faced Mrs. Blaine. “Is that correct?” He held out the chalk to her.

No one snickered now . . . well, except Neil. His face had surged red with the effort of stifling his laughter. To date, no one had bested Mrs. Blaine at her game to humiliate students who weren’t paying attention. In fact, Mrs. Blaine herself stared at the diagram Joshua had written with her mouth set.

Her eyes narrowed. “Go sit down.”

Joshua shot a smile at her as he went.

“See me after class,” Mrs. Blaine said.

Joshua winced. One smart gesture too far.

“The rest of you, commit this chart to memory.” Mrs. Blaine tapped the blackboard. “It will be on the test next week.”

“Dude, are you crazy?” Neil leaned over to him as Joshua sat. Joshua had to bite back a smile. His friend acted like he had been the one called in after class. “She’s going to hate you now.”

Joshua shrugged. “I’ve got more important things to worry about.”

“Like what?” Neil whispered, copying the diagram.

“Like . . .” Joshua stared full into the sun. “I think the sun is off by two minutes.”

Neil paused in his writing. “What?”

“The sun.” Joshua glanced at Mrs. Blaine to make sure she wasn’t watching. “It should be a little to the right. It’s in the wrong place.”

“Have you been moon-bathing or something? You’re as batty as a night-person.”

Joshua scowled at his friend. “Don’t say that.”

But Neil went on, ignoring Joshua’s annoyance, or . . . more likely . . . not noticing it at all. “The sun can’t be in the wrong place. It’s impossible.”

“Maybe.” Joshua could overlook his friend’s oversight. After all, he didn’t know how offensive the saying was. “But I’ve done the calculations over and over—”

“Done the calculations?” Neil snickered. “What do you know about calculations like those? There are smart people in the capital whose job it is to watch the sun. Don’t you think they would have said something if the sun was in the wrong place?”

“I guess . . .” Joshua faced the front of the class where Mrs. Blaine continued her lesson. He wrote the diagram down, more to get his mind off of the nagging feeling in the back of his mind than because he needed to remember it. Neil was right; Joshua had to be wrong. After all, Helio, the Guardian of the sun, was the epitome of precision. The sun would never drift out of position on his watch.

Still . . . a feeling, like a stone sitting in his stomach, told Joshua something was amiss. He had seen the sun doing strange things before. The other day he thought he saw it flickering, and the day before he was certain its rays were less intense than they should have been.

Joshua swallowed the knot rising in his throat and resisted the urge to fiddle with the gold necklace he wore hidden under his shirt. If something was wrong with the sun, he had more than filling out diagrams and studying for tests to worry about.

They all did.

~~

Prince of the Sun, Princess of the Moon is available from Amazon.

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About the Author

photo of author M.R. AnglinM.R. Anglin has always had a fascination with space—particularly the moon and stars. She also has three amazing nephews, two adorable “near-nephews,” and one brilliant niece, so it’s no wonder she eventually wrote a story that combines these loves into one. You can often find her gazing up at the Florida sky at night or hunching over her notebook/computer by day.

She is the author of the Middle Grade novel, Lucas, Guardian of Truth (LampPost 2012), the self-published Silver Foxes series. She has also been included in the Coyotl Award winning anthology, Gods With Fur (FurPlanet 2016), Dogs of War Vol. 2 (FurPlanet 2017) and Extinct? (Wolfsinger 2017).

Connect with M.R. Anglin online

Facebook

Twitter: @authoranglin

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Website

Goodreads

Fiction Friday – Out of Her Element, Chapter Ten

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Missed the previous installments? Start with chapter one HERE.

Out of Her Element cover artChapter Ten

Shortly before sunrise, Mira went in search of food. She found Charlotte and Anita sitting at the kitchen table, dressed in casual clothing instead of their usual uniforms as they enjoyed cups of coffee. Charlotte shifted to stand, but Mira waved her back into her chair.

“Sit down and finish your coffee. It’s your day off, and I’m perfectly capable of finding my own breakfast.”

“All right.” Charlotte resumed her seat with a shrug as Mira walked to the pantry.

She returned with the container of oats they had labeled the previous evening. After measuring water into a small saucepan, she rinsed off an apple from a bowl on the counter and cut it up into the pan as the water came to a boil. She tossed in a handful of oats and stirred it with a wooden spoon. While the oats cooked, she searched through cabinets and drawers until she found a bowl and spoon. Once her oatmeal was in the bowl and she’d run water into the pan so nothing would stick, she carried her breakfast to the table and sat down.

Charlotte studied her with something that bordered on amazement. “I do believe you’re the first person I’ve seen eat oatmeal here, other than the employees.”

“I like oatmeal,” Mira said as she lifted a spoonful of the creamy food. “Besides, it’s a hearty breakfast, and I’m going to explore the woods for a while this morning.”

Anita wrinkled her nose. “Isn’t it kind of cold for that?”

“Not for me. I’m used to being outside in all kinds of weather.”

“You take your walk in the woods if you want,” Charlotte said, her expression stating her opinion of doing anything outside on a chilly morning. “I’m going to find something to do where it’s warm.”

Anita nodded. “Me, too.”

“You don’t know what you’re missing.” Mira finished her oatmeal and raised her eyebrows at her companions. “Do you think I could take Dan with me?”

“I don’t see why not,” Charlotte said, “but ask Lucas to make sure.”

“Okay.”

After drinking a glass of orange juice, Mira washed the dishes and headed upstairs to collect her coat. She also dug her water bottle out of her pack and refilled it at the bathroom sink. Hiking without food or water went against Harley’s teaching. She donned her outerwear and slipped the water bottle in one of the large pockets. The pouch of venison jerky went in the other.

The lights were on in the stable when Mira arrived. Ben walked out of the tack room, and she offered a smile.

“Hi. I didn’t know you worked on Sundays.”

“I don’t. Lucas wants to give a couple of the horses an outdoor ride, and he invited me along.”

“Oh. Well, have fun.” She shoved down the disappointment of not getting to talk to him for long. “I’m going to hike in the woods for a while. Do you know where Lucas is? I want to ask him if I can take Dan with me.”

“He went to his apartment for a minute.” Ben glanced toward the tack room. “I was just about to tack up the horses. Want to help?”

“Sure, why not?” She removed her outerwear and laid it on a nearby hay bale. “I should warn you, though, I don’t have any experience with English saddles.”

“They’re not that different from Western saddles in terms of how you put them on a horse,” Ben said as they entered the tack room. “I’ll show you what to do.”

“Thanks.” Her heart fluttered under his warm brown gaze.

They were putting bridles on the horses when Lucas came in followed by Dan. The large mutt wagged his tail happily when he saw Mira, but he stayed away from the horses.

Lucas walked over and patted the neck of the black gelding beside Mira. “What brings you out here so early? The sun is barely up.”

“I’m going to explore the woods, and Charlotte said to ask you if I can take Dan with me.”

“Sure, you can take old Dan. He likes to hike in the woods.”

“Thanks. Do I need a leash for him?”

“No, the property is fenced and he’ll stay close to you.”

“Okay.” Mira handed him the reins. “Have fun on your ride.”

“Thanks. You and Dan enjoy your hike,” Lucas said as she bundled up.

“We will.” She looked at the dog lying nearby. “Come on, Dan. Let’s go for a walk.”

He clambered to his feet and wagged his tail as he followed her out into the cold morning air.

An hour later, as Mira headed back to the stable with Dan at her side, her right leg began to ache with surprising intensity. She stopped and shifted her weight to her other leg, hoping the brief break would help. It didn’t. The dog looked up at her with a quizzical expression.

“Ouch. I’d forgotten how bad old injuries can hurt.” She limped to a fallen log and sat on the cold bark. “We’ll rest here for a few minutes until this leg of mine settles down.”

Dan whined and sat in front of her with a wrinkled forehead. Mira scratched his head with one hand and pulled out the venison jerky with the other. The moment he saw the leather pouch, the dog swept the frozen ground with his tail.

“Yes, Dan, you can have some jerky,” she said with a laugh. Then she cringed as a sharp pain shot through her leg. “Man, I wish this ache would go away.”

She fed the dog a piece of jerky and chewed on a small piece herself. Since she was sitting there anyway, she might as well have a snack. She handed Dan another bite and put the pouch back in her pocket. She opened her mouth to speak, but Dan sprang to his feet and took off through the woods.

“Dan! Get back here!” It was no use. He’d left her on her own. “Ungrateful dog. I give him a treat, and he decides to abandon me.”

Distant barks drifted to her, and she figured he had found an animal to chase. She should have expected it, taking a hunting dog into the woods. A cardinal landed in a tree close by, and she watched the brilliant red bird preen. She would head back to the house in a few minutes whether her leg quit hurting or not. The chilly air only made the ache worse.

As she prepared to stand, Dan ran up followed by two riders on horseback.

“You big goof,” Mira said, rubbing the dog’s velvety ears.

Lucas and Ben reined in their horses and dismounted. Both men walked over to Mira with concerned expressions.

“Are you hurt?” Lucas asked as he handed his reins to Ben and knelt in front of Mira.

Dan had pulled a Lassie and worried Lucas that much? “No, I just had an old leg injury decide to act up. I was about to head back to the house.”

“Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yeah, an aching leg is nothing new.” She stood to prove her point. “I don’t know why Dan went to get you. I’ll be fine.”

“But you’re not fine yet.” Lucas stood and motioned for Ben to bring the horses closer. “You’re not walking back.”

Mira opened her mouth to protest, but her leg chose that moment to intensify the ache. She shifted her weight to her left leg and nodded. “Okay.”

Lucas held the horse steady as Ben helped Mira onto its back and swung up behind her. Once Lucas mounted his horse, they headed back toward the stable with Dan running ahead.

“You doing okay?” Ben asked as she shifted in the small saddle.

“Yeah, but I’m going to guess there’s a major weather change headed this way.”

“There’s snow moving in later today, and the storm is supposed to hang around until sometime tomorrow. How did you know?”

“My leg only aches like this when the weather changes, and especially if there’s rain or snow coming.”

“Is there anything you can do to make it feel better?”

“Believe it or not, horse liniment works really well.”

“That’s unique,” Ben said with a chuckle. “There’s liniment back at the stable. I don’t think anyone will mind if you use some.”

When they arrived, Ben helped Mira limp to the bench in the tack room while Lucas took charge of the horses. As she removed her coat and gloves, Ben retrieved a plastic bottle from a shelf. He brought it over as she set her hat and scarf on top of her coat.

“Here you go.” He handed her the liniment.

“Thanks.” She didn’t want to lift her pants leg while he was there. He didn’t need to see the scars, but how could she ask him to leave when he was being so kind?

“Will you be okay if I go help Lucas with the horses?”

“Of course.” She couldn’t help a smile at his sweet show of concern. “I’ve been dealing with this since I was thirteen.”

“Okay. I’ll be back in a few minutes to see how you’re doing.”

As soon as he left, she turned sideways and propped her right foot on the bench. She pulled up the leg of her cargo pants and rubbed a small amount of liniment into her skin. The familiar minty scent filling the air reminded her of the day Harley had taught her how to use liniment. She’d been having a bad pain day, with the bones in her legs aching with a coming storm, and he’d told her about the old farmer’s remedy for arthritis. She hadn’t been sure about using a horse product on herself, but it had only taken that first application to make her a believer.

Between the warmth of the tack room, the liniment, and the massaging of her fingers, her leg soon began to feel better. She was still rubbing in the liniment when she heard a sharp intake of breath from the doorway. Mira yanked down her pants leg and looked over to find both men holding their tack and staring at her with wide eyes.

“What happened to your leg?” Lucas asked.

She fought down the familiar embarrassment over the patches of scar tissue crisscrossing her leg. “I got caught in an explosion when I was thirteen.”

Ben and Lucas put their tack away and sat down, Lucas on the bench by her feet and Ben in a chair he set near her. When Mira saw the compassion in their eyes, she wanted to cry.

“Was it the explosion that killed your parents?” Ben asked.

She nodded and bit her lip, dropping her gaze to the bottle of liniment on the floor beside her. They were quiet for a moment, and then Lucas leaned over to pick up the liniment.

“Did this help?”

“Yes, it did.” Why didn’t he ask about the explosion the way most people did after seeing her scars? Not that she wanted to talk about it, but his lack of curiosity was unusual.

“Take it.” He handed the bottle to her. “We have plenty more to use on the horses.”

“Thank you.” She barely kept her tears in check. So much kindness always got to her.

He stood and glanced at the dog lying in the middle of the floor. “I’m going to take Dan upstairs and get him some food and water. Ben can walk you up to the house whenever you’re ready.”

“Okay, and thanks again, Lucas.”

He smiled and left the tack room, snapping his fingers so Dan would follow. After they left, Mira finally worked up the courage to look at Ben. She found him watching her with a compassionate gaze she wasn’t quite sure how to handle. Unable to bear it a moment longer, she glanced at the bottle of liniment in her hands.

“Why don’t we go on up to the house?”

“Sure, I’ll go grab my coat.” Ben replaced the chair against the wall and left the room.

He returned as she finished zipping her coat. She stood and gingerly put more weight on her right leg. There was a dull ache, but she could ignore that pretty well.

Ben watched her with the same appraising gaze Harley had used when evaluating a horse’s soundness. “You okay?”

“Yeah, I’m just moving slow so my leg doesn’t start hurting again.” She picked up the liniment. “Let’s go.”

They strolled up to the house, keeping the pace slow. Mira had only a slight limp, but Ben stayed close, ready to offer support if she needed it. When they reached the back door, she faced him with a mix of hope and nerves.

“Would you like a cup of coffee or something?”

“Sure.” A surprised smile lit his eyes. “If you don’t think the Montaignes will mind.”

“Why would they mind?”

“Because I’m the stable boy.”

“And I’m a near stranger from the hills of West Virginia,” she said and opened the door. “Come on.”

He grinned and followed her into the mudroom. Once their coats hung on pegs, Mira led the way into the hall. As they approached the kitchen, Della’s voice drifted through the open doorway.

“Mira, is that you?”

“Yes, Della,” she said, stepping into the kitchen. The whole Montaigne family sat around the table, finishing breakfast. “I invited Ben in for a cup of coffee.”

The surprise in their faces disappeared behind friendliness, and Della smiled. “That’s fine, dear. Bill made coffee a short time ago. It’s on the counter.”

Mira turned to Ben and murmured, “I told you.”

They continued into the kitchen, and Mira set the liniment on the counter closest to the door. As she walked to the coffeepot, Della gasped.

“Mira, what happened?”


Out of Her Element, Copyright © 2018 by Elizabeth West

Wednesday Words – Kathleen Neely

Wednesday Words graphic

Please welcome author Kathleen Neely to The West Corner!

The Pros and Cons of Co-Writing

After completing my third novel, I sat brainstorming ideas for a new project. I kept returning to a series that I had read years earlier, The Potluck Club books, by Linda Evans Shepard and Eva Marie Everson. I remember them fondly since I read them with a book club. We ended each by holding a potluck dinner using their recipes.

As a plan began to form. I approached a colleague to see if she had any interest in collaborative writing, and together, we gave birth to Camellia House.

Co-writing has been a wonderful challenge. Does that sound like an oxymoron? Maybe, but it has a ring of truth. There are pros and cons to be aware of when entering into a collaborative writing project.

Let’s look at the plus side.

Two people can accomplish twice the work in half the time. Although each chapter represented one of four main character’s POV, we designed it not to be repetitive, but to advance the story. It amazed me how quickly the plot developed.

Accountability breaks through barriers that hinder writing progress. It’s difficult to become complacent when someone is waiting for your chapter. The easiest way to overcome writer’s block is to get writing. Co-writers offer support as well as accountability.

Each partner comes with different strengths and weaknesses. With any job in any field, I believe there are things that you love and things that you dislike. Chances are that your areas of challenge may be your partner’s area of strength. Here’s my big secret. I hate technology. You might wonder how that’s possible when I worked in an administrative position for many years. And the answer is—I just called tech. I told them what I wanted, and tada, it magically appeared on my computer. I didn’t want to know how to do it. I just wanted to make a phone call and have it done. I’m really good at making phone calls. My writing partner is tech savvy and a Pinterest guru. Praise God.

I bring other strengths to the table. Primarily, I finish. Good, bad, or ugly, I have three completed novels, all contracted and awaiting a release date. I plow right through, often ignoring laundry, cleaning, and grocery shopping. My husband may argue that this shouldn’t be on the plus side, but it gets the story done.

Two writers will typically approach the writing process differently. Wait—is that a pro or a con? I believe that it’s both. Let’s talk about the benefits. When we sat down to plan, I quickly discovered that it wouldn’t be a quick let’s talk, then we’ll write, session. My ‘plow right into it’ method didn’t work for her. She’s far more meticulous. While we didn’t create an outline in the 1,2,3, A,B,C format, we did plot out our storyline on paper. I had always trusted the plot in my head to be sufficient. Additionally, as the story took shape, we built a file of character traits, physical characteristics, and secondary characters. I found it to be far more efficient that doing a word search to remember what I had once written. I guess that’s why she’s called The Efficiency Addict.

The absolute best discipline that I learned from my partner came through our private Pinterest board. We identified characters with pictures, and throughout the writing process, pinned elements of the story. Our characters are artists, all with different mediums. You’d love seeing our board, but sorry, it’s private. We’ve displayed quilt patterns, Irish lace, paintings, and upcycled art. Our Victorian house is pictured there as well as some inside features. This is more than a nice keepsake, it’s designed so we can see the same things. We were blessed when all three of our beta readers commented on the unity of our writing. We hadn’t told them who wrote which characters, and they couldn’t discern two different voices.

So what are the challenges of collaborative writing?

Two writers will typically approach the writing process differently. Yes, I already said that, but as noted, this can be a pro and a con. As in any job where people interact, much compromise is needed. Sometimes the story doesn’t develop in the manner that I had anticipated. While I might have preferred a slightly different plot path, there needs to be some give-and-take. It’s hard to admit, but my way isn’t the only way. We talk it through and reach an agreement. I don’t dig my heels in unless it’s something I can’t live with.

The timing may hurry or hinder the writer. As I said, when I get writing, I can forget everything around me. I love the process, and sometimes the words are begging to be written. When I can’t sleep at night, it’s typically because scenes are playing a movie in my mind. My writing colleague has other life commitments. She needs to pace writing slower than I would normally do, but maintains the pace that we agreed upon. We’ve fashioned our planning into four chapters at a time, so I can’t move ahead of the process.

Co-authors face a special challenge in character development. We have four main characters, and each chapter represents a different POV. There’s a false sense of control if we assume that we have free reign in developing two characters each. The story advances with each chapter, meaning any or all characters may be present in each chapter. It takes some serious critiquing to maintain the personality, nature, and voice of each.

Would I recommend collaborative writing? Yes! It’s been a learning and growing experience. The lessons go beyond writing, to include working with others and respecting their ideas. Camellia House is in the hands of our agent, looking for a forever home. We’ve designed it to be a series of three, and are more than halfway through book 2.

About the Author

photo of author Kathleen NeelyKathleen Neely is a former elementary teacher. Following her years in the classroom, she moved into administration, serving as an elementary principal. Kathleen earned her Bachelors of Education degree at Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania and her Masters in Educational Leadership at Regent University in Virginia. She held certifications in Early Childhood, Elementary, and Principal. She was a long-time member of the Association of Christian Schools International where she attended numerous leadership conferences. In addition to teaching children, Kathleen taught many staff development workshops and led forums for teachers.

Among her writing accomplishments, Kathleen won second place in a short story contest through ACFW-VA for her short story “The Missing Piece” and an honorable mention for her story “The Dance”. Both were published in a Christmas anthology. Her first novel, The Least of These, was awarded first place in the 2015 Fresh Voices contest through Almost an Author. She has numerous devotions published through Christian Devotions.

Kathleen continues to speak to students about writing and publication processes. She is a member of Association of Christian Fiction Writers.

Kathleen resides in Greenville, SC with her husband, two cats, and one dog. She enjoys time with family, visiting her two grandsons, traveling, and reading.

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Book Description

The Street Singer cover artTrisha Mills, a student in her final semester of law school, has fond memories of listening to the music of Adaline, a once famous recording artist. She learns that Adaline, now Adda Marsh, is a street singer living in the storage closet that she rents for her equipment. Adda’s sole means of support in her senior years comes from the donation box. Along with her meager possessions, Adda has a box labeled, “Things to Remember.” As their friendship grows, the singer agrees to show Trisha the contents of the box. Adda reveals her journey by sharing a few items at a time, beginning as a sharecropper’s daughter in Mississippi, to fame in Nashville, and to poverty in her old age. Trisha cannot overlook the injustices that Adda has experienced, but her involvement with a homeless lady angers her politically-minded fiancé, Grant Ramsey. Aided by attorney Rusty Bergstrom, Trisha convinces Adda to seek restitution. Will her growing relationship with Rusty impact her upcoming wedding?

Monday Mentions – When the Italian Came to Stay by A. R. Conti Fulwell

Monday Mentions graphic

Please welcome author A. R. Conti Fulwell to The West Corner! She’s here today with her novel When the Italian Came to Stay.

When the Italian Came to Stay cover artBook Description

Like a fish out of water

Serafina Rinaldi wants nothing more than be free. Free from boarding school, free from English society, and free from her haunting past. When her father calls in a favor from an English friend, Sir Matthew Renault, asking him to take his daughter back to Sir Matthew’s esteemed family estate, Cainesworth Abbey, Serafina is ready to give in, and forget she ever wanted anything more.

As Serafina settles in, she finds that not everyone at Cainesworth is against her. Making friends with Lady Eliza Carthidge, Matthew’s cousin, gives Serafina just the ally that she will need, as her past begins to collide with the family at Cainesworth. Joshua Stone, a man from Serafina’s past, comes to Cainesworth after the unfortunate death of his brother on the Titanic, looking for solace. Together, the four uncover a mystery, and a common scoundrel, connecting their worlds, testing their faith, and delivering them to the threshold of a destiny that they have all been seeking.

Excerpt

When I finally went down to the drawing room, I could hardly breathe. Fear, anticipation, and nerves pricked at my spine like a thousand needles. I can do this. All I have to do is follow the plan. I took a deep breath, and opened the door. My first reaction was to angle my gaze with the ground, and slip in unnoticed; however, I could not be that girl tonight. As I walked into the drawing room, my eyes were fixed on Matthew. His blue eyes were wide with amazement, and for a brief moment, he glanced around the room, and saw what I already knew.

Every man in the room couldn’t take their eyes off of me.

Turn around! Run! There’s still time! I shook my head as if to erase the thoughts.

“Sera, you look –” Matthew began.

“The poor chap is so dumbfounded he can’t spit it out,” an eerie voice from behind me said. The man I’d seen earlier, rose to join Matthew and I. “I don’t believe we’ve met,” he said.

Matthew curled his left hand into a fist. “Mr. Windham, allow me to present, Lady Serafina Renaldi.”

“Pleasure, Lady Serafina,” he took my hand. I couldn’t help but shutter at the sound of my name coming out of his mouth. “How do you know the Carthidge family?”

Matthew glared at me.

“Papa and Matthew are old friend, isn’t that right, darling?” I smiled, batting my eyelashes at Matthew.

“Yes,” Matthew said, barely able to keep a straight face. “‘Old friends.’ ”

Elinor joined us. “So, Alastair, you’ve met our Italian. Charming, isn’t she?”

“I imagine about as charming as an Englishman in Milan,” I paused, wavering as to whether or not to continue. I fabricated some confidence, and looked to the Dowager Countess. “Don’t you agree, Lady Plymouth?”

“A foreigner is always a novelty, my dear,” she said. “But some people don’t understand the value of an Italian. Perhaps you could play something for us later?”

“I’d be delighted,” I lied, hoping she would forget.

“Granny, why do you never ask me to play? You know how much I used to practice,” Elinor whined.

“My dear,” the Dowager raised a scolding eyebrow. “The answer is within your question, for preparation, in its best application, must be recent and repetitive. Just because you sought to be a virtuoso, does not mean that you have succeeded.”

Shock exploded on Elinor’s features. “Well, how do you know that Lady Sera plays?”

“Have you noticed her eyes that instrument all week? Goodness! You’d think she was a thirsty traveler who had just seen a spring,” the Dowager chuckled at her own sarcasm.

Elinor huffed and went to complain to her mother. I glanced at Matthew for reassurance. He nodded.

“So, Lady Serafina, is it?” Alastair began. “How long will you be in the country?”

I swallowed. “Indefinitely, Mr. Windham. I am completely at the disposal of my champions on either side of the water.”

Matthew had to cover his mouth to hide his laughter.

“Well, when you have a spare moment, you must come to London and do an interview. Surely you’d like your story to be told under the finest English newspaper title?”

Here’s the punch. Lord help me. “That is very kind, but unfortunately, another man has already cornered that market. I was forced to sign a very binding contract, you know how these things are.”

Windham was taken back. “Another man? From another newspaper?”

“Yes, it seems the news is everywhere.”

Windham eyed me in a most unwelcome fashion. “Really? And what paper was this man from?”

Oh no, we never discussed this…. “I can’t be sure, it all happened so quickly.”

“Then perhaps you can recall the man’s name? I should like to see this article.”

Name? “It was….”

“Yes? Or was he a ghost?”

“Stone!”

“What?” Windham gawked at me.

“Stone was his name. Funny name isn’t it?”

Suddenly, Reynolds opened the door as dinner was served.

~~

When the Italian Came to Stay is available from Amazon.

~~

About the Author

photo of author A. R. Conti FulwellA. R. Conti Fulwell holds a Bachelor’s Degree in English, and a Minor in Music, from Malone University, but her story-telling journey began long before her college years. Long ago, immersed in the Medici chapel, surrounded by the paintings of Gentileschi, the writings of Castiglione and Machiavelli, and the architecture of Brunelleschi, she found herself fascinated by the art of historical fiction, she began fashioning her own tales after the greats – Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, T.S. Eliot, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. Amanda resides in Hartville, Ohio, and often shoots short-films within her hometown.

Connect with A. R. Conti Fulwell online

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Fiction Friday – Out of Her Element, Chapter Nine

Fiction Friday graphic

Missed the previous installments? Start with chapter one HERE.

Out of Her Element cover artChapter Nine

After Tabby left to meet her friends, Mira wandered into the kitchen and found Charlotte and Anita studying her deerskin bags. They looked up, and Charlotte waved her hand at the bags.

“Do you know what all this is? I only ask because they arrived the same day you did.”

“It’s food I dried over the summer and early fall,” Mira said as she joined them by the island. “There’s also some herbs for healing and some for cooking and teas.”

Charlotte gave a little laugh. “Now I understand why Miss Della had me go buy a bunch of storage containers and spice jars.”

“Do you want some help putting this stuff in the containers?” She hadn’t meant to create more work for the cook, especially since she could put it away just as easily. Maybe more so, considering she’d had to read the labels for Lucas.

“Yes, you’d better help.” The glance Charlotte cast toward the bags told Mira she’d guessed right about the woman’s inability to read Arabic. “Then you can label it so I know what it is.”

Write out labels the average American could read? Embarrassment burned Mira’s face. “I’ll tell you what everything is, but you’d better label it. People tend to have trouble reading my labels.”

Anita grinned. “My brother has the same problem. His handwriting is so bad that sometimes even he can’t read it.”

They gathered the plastic containers and spice jars, labels and a felt-tip pen. Mira and Anita transferred the food from the deerskin bags to the storage containers, and Charlotte neatly labeled each one. When they reached the herbs, Anita studied the Arabic labels on the pouches.

“This is really pretty.” She traced her fingers over the curving lines as she turned to Mira. “Did you do it?”

“Yeah.” Her heart lifted. Not everyone appreciated the work she’d put into the calligraphy. “I had to label the herbs somehow, and I like the look of Arabic.”

“You can read and write Arabic?”

“Yes. I know Hebrew, too.”

“That’s really neat.”

Charlotte looked up from the label she had just stuck to the last of the plastic containers. “I have an idea. Why don’t you label everything in Arabic? Anita’s right, it is pretty.”

“Okay.” Maybe she’d managed to find friends from her own social class in this unfamiliar world.

Anita placed the herbs in the jars, and Mira told them the name of each herb and what it was for while she wrote out a label in Arabic. Charlotte made the English label and stuck them both to the jars.

Once they put everything away in the large, well-stocked pantry, Anita glanced toward the deerskin bags on the counter. Her expression turned thoughtful, and she headed toward the hall.

“I’ll be right back.”

Charlotte walked over to the island and picked up one of the deerskin bags. She turned it over as she studied it.

“These are beautiful.” She ran her hand across the soft leather. “Did you make them?”

“Some of them. Marnie made the others.” Mira joined her and folded a bag as memories of the woman who’d become a mother to her flooded her mind. Would she ever stop missing Harley and Marnie?

“Well, they’re gorgeous,” Charlotte said.

Mira looked at the bags more closely than she had in months. Since getting kicked out of the cabin, those bags had become a necessary part of life. Now, in this huge kitchen with fancy appliances, she tried to see them the way Charlotte did. Each bag was more or less rectangular with a flap that folded over the top to close it. A single piece of leather formed the shoulder strap, and the top-stitching along the seams continued along the edges of the strap. From there, Mira noticed the small differences in her bags and the ones Marnie had made. They’d both followed the same basic pattern, but Marnie’s stitchwork was more even. Marnie had added a few painted flowers here and there for decoration. Mira had gone for a more Islamic flair with geometric patterns and calligraphy.

Seeing them now and paying attention to the details reminded her of why she’d chosen her style of decoration. It had nothing to do with religion. She missed her parents and her life in Palestine. It hadn’t been easy, but it had been full of love. Harley and Marnie had offered the same unconditional love, but many of Selma’s residents had never accepted her as one of their own. Unlike the village in the West Bank, where she’d been accepted and treated like every other child her age.

Would she find acceptance in this new world of high society and wealth? Or would she be met with disdain because she was a poor immigrant with an Arab last name? Sighing, she admitted to herself that she had no way of knowing until she saw people’s reactions. Until then, she would have to do her best to fit into a world that was as unfamiliar as West Virginia had been when she first arrived in the United States. Either she would learn the local customs and language well enough to fit in, or she would do her best and still be an outcast. Regardless of which way it went, she was stuck there until she could find a way to support herself and move out on her own. With her lack of education, it could be a long wait.

She picked up another bag and folded it while Charlotte tucked the pouches from the herbs in a small bag. When they finished folding the bags, they placed them on a shelf in the pantry. Mira hated leaving them in the kitchen, but she had no good way to store them in her bedroom. Besides, they were intended for food storage, so keeping them in the pantry made more sense.

Anita returned carrying a cloth-covered book. “Miss Mira, is this yours?”

“Yes, it’s my journal.” She accepted it and smoothed a hand across the cover. “Where did you find it?”

“It was lying on the window seat in the library when I dusted in there this morning.”

“I wondered where I left it.” How had she forgotten to take it back to her room last night when she’d finished writing in it? Then again, she’d had a lot on her mind and Tabby had insisted on giving her a tour of the house. “How did you know it was mine?”

Anita’s face flushed, and she clasped her hands together so tightly her knuckles turned white. “When I didn’t see a title on the cover, I looked inside to see what it was.”

“Don’t worry about it.” Mira smiled, hoping to relieve the maid’s nervousness. She had no concerns about anyone spying on her innermost thoughts. Not in this house. “I’m not sure anyone around here could read it.”

Anita laughed, a relieved sound that matched her expression. Charlotte’s gaze shifted back and forth between them, confusion spreading across her face. Mira handed her the journal, unable to resist seeing her reaction.

“Here. Take a look.”

She opened the book to the middle and thumbed through a few pages. Then she handed it back with a chuckle. “You weren’t kidding when you said you know Arabic and Hebrew.”

“No, I wasn’t.” Mira tapped the cover of her journal. “I write in both so I don’t forget the languages.”

“That’s a good idea,” Charlotte said, appearing impressed. “How do you keep from forgetting how to speak them?”

“When I talk to animals, it’s usually in Hebrew or Arabic.” She’d learned a while back that animals preferred her native languages to English. They didn’t seem to mind anyone else speaking to them in English, so she figured it had something to do with her accent. Or maybe it was just wishful thinking giving her an excuse to use the languages she missed hearing everywhere she went.

“Is that how you talk to Maggie?” Charlotte asked. “Lucas told me you sweet-talked the horse into behaving.”

“I did talk to her in Hebrew, but mostly I listened to what she told me with her behavior and gave her the reassurance she needed.”

How many people had Lucas told about the training session? For that matter, why was everyone so stunned? It wasn’t as if she was doing anything unusual. She’d done the same thing with cats and dogs before immigrating, and she’d done the same thing with every animal she came across in West Virginia. True, Harley had taught her a lot about working with horses, but she hadn’t seen anything unusual about his methods. Then again, maybe she had and hadn’t realized it. How many times had she seen someone take a harsh hand to a horse at the fairgrounds? Or swat a misbehaving dog with a rolled up newspaper?

“Well, whatever you did,” Charlotte said, “Lucas said it worked wonders.”

“And good thing, too,” Anita added. “I think Mr. Montaigne was about ready to sell her off.”

“Sell her?” Mira stared at them. “Why would he do that?”

“She’s crazy. Or she was, anyway.” Anita shook her head. “Lucas took me out to the stable and showed her to me one time. That horse kicked the stall wall hard enough I was afraid she’d put a hole in it or break her leg. And all because Lucas tried to coax her into coming closer to the stall door.”

Charlotte nodded. “He tried everything he knew to get that horse to settle down. So did his assistant. Some days it worked. Other days, it was as if they’d never worked with her at all. They did eventually get her to the point where she no longer kicks the stall whenever someone goes near it, but sometimes it still takes both of them to get her out of the stall so they can clean it.”

“Well, it did, anyway.” Anita sent Mira a smile. “From what Lucas says, moving her from one place to another is no longer a problem.”

Mira held up her hands, hoping they would understand what really happened with the horse. “I’m not a miracle worker. She still has a long way to go and could easily slip back into her old habits at any moment.”

“But you made amazing progress with her.”

“Only because I listened to her and used the same tactics Harley taught me when we rescued a couple of horses in worse shape than Maggie.”

“Mira, honey,” Charlotte said, putting her hand on her hip, “No matter how much you try to deny it, you can’t convince me you don’t have a special touch when it comes to animals. I’ve heard how you charmed old Dan into becoming your best friend.”

“Okay, so maybe I do get along well with animals.” She smiled at the memory of Harley saying something similar when he saw her interact with his animals. Her parents had believed she would grow up to work with animals because of how well she got along with them and how much she loved to be around them. “I listen to what they tell me and use my instincts to give them what they need.”

“That’s a good talent to have.”

“Were you some kind of animal trainer before you came here?” Anita asked, her face full of curiosity.

“No, I was just a girl trying to get by in life. The only training I ever did was on my own pets or the animals Harley owned. He taught me a lot about working with horses.”

“I’d say you learned your lessons well.” Charlotte studied her. “Have you considered talking to Mr. Montaigne and Lucas about helping out with the horses while you’re here?”

“Not really. I think they’re going to let me continue working with Maggie, but Lucas has Ben to help him with the regular chores.” The thought of Ben warmed her heart. With any luck she could get to know him better without getting him in trouble by distracting him from his job.

“They’d be crazy to refuse your help with that horse. You’ve made more progress with her in one morning than anyone else has in the entire time she’s been in that stable.”

Mira hoped Charlotte was right. Working with Maggie would give her a great excuse to spend a lot of time in the familiar atmosphere of the stable…and with Ben.


Out of Her Element, Copyright © 2018 by Elizabeth West

Click here to continue on to Chapter Ten…