An excerpt from BLACK CAT AND THE LETHAL LAWYER
BY Elaine Faber
The sun crept over the horizon, warming the air, changing the dark shadows to recognizable images. Kimberlee felt the pressures of the last few days slip off her shoulders. Brett was right. This was exactly what she needed. She smiled and filled her lungs with crisp morning air. A sense of peace flowed through her, as though she had stepped onto another planet where there was no need to fret about the events of the week and the difficulties that lay ahead. Out here, one could greet each moment with joy.
The hot sun rose higher, evaporating the dew on the ground. Shimmering colors rose from the prairie floor, giving the illusion that the distant hills were alive, gently weaving and rippling. At 10:00, the riders stopped for a brief rest and pulled off their jackets. Kimberlee picked up a feather and twirled it aimlessly. Within fifteen minutes, they were back on the trail.
The trees and underbrush grew thicker as the trail edged toward the summit. Eventually, they came to the top of the rise and gazed down into the valley. A stand of oaks grew off to the right. A little river ran through a grassy meadow down the center. On the left, a rocky wall climbed upward, topped by jagged fingers reaching skyward. A group of horses grazed in the meadow beside the river. The black stallion, Quantum, stood a little distance apart, guarding against the chance another stallion might woo his mares away.
“There! Off to the right. Can you see them? They’re clustered by that crop of oak trees. It’s Quantum and his herd.” Brett pointed toward the herd.
“Can we get a closer look?” Kimberlee said.
Brett looked up at the darkening sky. “I don’t know how much longer that storm is going to hold off. We might be riding back in the rain.”
“That’s okay. We’ve all got slickers. I’d like to see them myself,” Dorian said.
The riders rode single file down the trail through the underbrush into the valley while dark clouds swirled overhead. A streak of lightning crackled across the sky. Thunder rumbled in the distance. They reached the edge of the grassy meadow and approached the herd.
“Let’s catch up with them.” Brett gave his mount a kick. Dorian and Kimberlee’s horses raced after him. They followed the stampeding herd like cowboys in a Western roundup.
Quantum reared, whinnied and thundered off at a gallop. His black mane whipped in the wind and you could almost see him sneer as he led his mares away.
Kimberlee grabbed the pommel with one hand and gripped the body of the horse with her legs. She felt the wind whip her face. The sound of the thundering hooves rose up and engulfed her. Dorian and Brett’s horses on each side surrounded her with dust and wind and noise. Adrenaline mixed with an element of terror as she raced beside them, caught between the thrill of the moment and her better judgment that what they were doing was exhilarating, but dangerous and foolish.
She raced across the meadow and with each stride, she felt the surge of muscles of the beast beneath her legs. Waves of heat throbbed through her body and her throat burned with each breath. She was neck and neck with Dorian’s gray mare. Her horse’s white mane whipped in the wind, stinging her hands with each stride.
She turned toward Brett on her other side and stared into his horse’s giant brown eye. She became one with the wind and the grass and the dirt and the noise and she was overcome with abounding joy. As she raced between her husband and her friend, all thoughts of her troubles were momentarily erased from her mind. She was the center of the universe and she swallowed a sob, as the ecstasy of the moment washed over her and she wished it would never end.
Streaks of lightning flashed across the sky and thunder rumbled in the distance. Quantum and his mares raced down the meadow and left the inexperienced riders behind.
Brett’s horse slowed and Dorian and Kimberlee’s mounts followed his example. “Wow! That was great. I don’t know when I’ve had so much fun,” he exclaimed. Kimberlee nodded, panting from the exertion. Her body tingled. She had never felt so alive and reveled in the joy of it.
“We need to get moving. That storm is going to hit any time. I don’t want to be caught out here on the prairie if we can help it. Let’s make tracks, guys.” Brett turned his horse and the riders moved off toward the ranch.
Overhead, the sky opened and great drops of rain pelted down. Kimberlee sniffed and tasted the scent of damp earth wafting through the air. The smell of damp earth would forever remind her of this wonderful afternoon.
“Get your slickers on. We’re in for a good one.”
Already soaked through before they could don their slickers, the group took off again across the plains.
The sky blackened as the sheeting rain obliterated every recognizable landmark. The riders slowed to a walk, hunched over their saddles to protect their faces, trying to keep the freezing rain from their eyes. They could barely see the path beneath their feet, relying on the horses to follow the trail. Raindrops turned to hail, beating against the horses and riders, striking them like rocks pounding from the skies.
The lump in her throat turned to sobs as Kimberlee felt the adrenaline drain from her body. Her hands shook from cold. The exhilaration she hoped to never lose, slipped away, and following the herd and sharing Quantum’s joy became a memory.