Did you read the first thousand words? Ready for another sneak peak? Here is the second thousand words from my new novel The Hidden Horses of New York, available in pre-sale from Amazon! Order it now to receive an automatic download on November 26, and add it on GoodReads here.
In her pocket, Jenny’s phone buzzed three times—then stopped again. They were learning, she thought, tugging Mister in a circle for the jockey.
Mister was not the sort of horse who stood still for mounting, despite Jenny’s best efforts to teach him good manners. She’d come home last summer and ridden him each morning, teaching him to be a racehorse on the white-fenced oval back home in Ocala. It hadn’t been enough. Jenny’s mother had snorted that a body could hardly expect some rude New Yorker to teach manners to a two-year-old colt, and Jenny had protested even while inside she felt a glow of pride at being called a New Yorker. There was something about belonging in the city that was beginning to call to her by then, a realization that the alien streets and endless traffic and soaring towers were somehow as richly intoxicating as the green hills and ancient oaks and molasses-scented feed rooms of Ocala, and she had already begun to wonder if she was going to stay on after school was over.
Now, she was just waiting for the chance.
Her phone was still and silent, but she felt it rumbling against her hip, a phantom vibration with every step. Her whole life was waiting to begin, and she’d find out what came next in minutes… if she could just get Mister out to the race course without bloodshed.
She kept walking the colt, slowing his stride infinitesimally (infinitesimally was all Mister would tolerate) as her mother held out her palms alongside the colt, waiting to help Manny spring into the saddle. Mister, watching him with a sideways ear, tensed his muscles, his steps shifting into a hopping-skipping jig, his hindquarters weaving sideways as he hit Jenny’s unforgiving hands on the leather and chain binding them together and he ran out of room for all of the energy flowing through him. He held back for a moment, and Manny put his hands on the saddle, his knee into Andrea’s hands, and jumped onto the colt’s back.
“Watch him in the gate,” Jenny’s mother spat out, falling back from Mister’s swinging haunches before he let a hind hoof fly, heedless of what might be in his way. “Don’t let him twist and carry on or he’ll miss the break.” It had been Mister’s undoing in all but his last start this year. It was the reason he was still in Florida in May, when everyone had expected him to go to Kentucky. He just hadn’t had the brain to go with his speed yet.
Jenny thought his brain had finally caught up.
“I got this, Miss Andrea,” Manny said, his voice confident. Jenny glanced up at him and he grinned back at her.
“I’m glad you’re riding him,” Jenny told him.
“Yeah, me too.” Manny laughed and adjusted his stirrups. Mister was still trotting in slow motion, but the jockey wasn’t bothered. The only thing that would have gotten his attention was if the horse reared or bucked. Spine flat? All systems go. “I like this boy. He got a lot of spirit, but he not stupid.”
They gave up their circle, and started toward the gap in the track fencing. The outriders were waiting on their track ponies, the retired racehorses and bored quarter horses watching the younger horses’ antics without interest. Track ponies had seen everything before, twice over. Jenny slid the chain free of Mister’s halter, and began to unbuckle the strap behind his ears, preparing to turn the colt over to the outriders. Manny wouldn’t be asked to control Mister alone until the bell rang and the gates sprang open.
A darkly tanned woman with a long bleached ponytail flowing from the back of her helmet leaned down from her rangy horse’s back, and, just as Jenny slipped his halter free, the outrider slid a slim leather strap through the ring of Mister’s bit.
She timed it perfectly; Mister was never free for a moment.
“Let’s go, old man,” the outrider told her mount, and the horse broke into a shuffling jog while Mister hopped alongside like a big gray bunny, shaking his head furiously against the outrider’s taut hold on his bridle. As he sprang away, a gob of white foam slopped from his bit and onto Jenny’s shoulder. She brushed the saliva away without looking at the damage done to her blouse, wiping her hands on her race-day khakis, which had seen much worse. For one long, frozen moment she just watched Mister cavorting at the end of the leather thong. He flipped his head, propped his shoulders, blew loudly through his nostrils. No one paid him any mind. The outrider was ignoring him, the pony horse was ignoring him, even Manny, perched above his withers, was ignoring him. Refusing to acknowledge his foolishness was the only way to deal with Mister’s mischief-loving heart; the moment you got on his case about something, the colt escalated things to a scale that quickly got dangerous for everyone.
Jenny thought about how much she loved him, and how much she had missed him while she’d been in New York, and how much more she would miss him if she went back for good.
Then her phone buzzed again, breaking the spell, and she pulled it out of her pocket just as her mother came hustling up. “Let’s go, girl. You’re standing in the track like a crazy person,” Andrea commanded. “They’re trying to put a race on, if you haven’t noticed.”
She hit the green button on her phone’s screen, her heart between her boots, suddenly afraid of whatever news was waiting. Yay or nay, go or no go, it was all going to be a disaster for half of her.
“JENNY!” the people in her phone shrieked in a chorus, and her heart rebounded like a balloon freed of its string, soaring up into the endless blue of the Florida sky.
“GUYS!” she yelled back. “HOW DID IT GO?”
Stay tuned for another preview next week… or order your copy now!