Blood covered her hand
December 02, 2011
Part 1: Will it ruin Christmas and a chance at love?
Part 2: The crunch of metal on stone
(This is Part 3 of Fortune Cookie: A Christmas tale)
Rosalyn ran down the long driveway to find a brand new, cherry red, Dodge Ram truck pinioned against her stone sign. The truck’s right front fender was caved in.
The driver's side door slowly opened, and a tall, blond man emerged, clutching a cell phone.
"What the heck were you doing, talking on the cell phone?” Rosalyn’s temper boiled. “Look what you did to my sign!"
Her red rock sign, engraved and imported from Utah, had split and lay on the ground in two giant pieces. The surviving sign posts, almost as big as sawed-off telephone poles, stood like lonely soldiers, with one snuggled into the truck’s fender.
"Sorry, ma'am, I…" The stranger swayed toward Rosalyn. She reached out to catch him. "No, no, I'm fine. Don't touch me, ma’am."
He collapsed in a heap at her feet.
Rosalyn chewed her lip. By the time she ran to her house, dialed 911, ran back out, and waited for an ambulance, she would have a crowd. The stable didn’t need the bad publicity, and besides, he didn’t look too hurt.
But she couldn't leave him here, either. Rosalyn turned and ran to the old red hay barn near her house. She grabbed the handle of the heavy-duty Ursa hand cart they used for feeding bales of hay. Towing the cart, she ran back to the limp form lying near her sign.
Strong in spite of her petite build, Rosalyn wedged the cart against the sign’s remains, slipped her hands under the driver’s muscular arms and dragged, pulled and heaved his six-foot-plus form up until he flopped into the cart.
Bodie's vision cleared long enough between fluttering lashes for him to see a green-eyed, raven-haired woman hovering above. The sensation of her arms around him struck him as odd. Fading back into unconsciousness, Bodie caught the scent of horses and roses.
Rosalyn surveyed the rugged face, now caught in a grimace, but looking like it might one day bear a heartbreaking grin. His blond eyelashes bordered on obscenely long. Why was it always men that got the long lashes? His chest, a broad, muscular specimen, rose and fell as he breathed. He didn’t appear to be dying soon.
Rosalyn’s pulse pounded. I can’t be in that bad of shape. Her face grew warm. Nah, I’m done with men, remember? Rosalyn shook her head to clear it.
She spoke to the almost-still form. “All right, all right, back to business. We’ve got to get you out of here. It’s going to storm.”
To the southwest, the sun shone brightly, but to the west, dark clouds loomed. The temperature had dropped. Something was coming.
Watching the humans, Excalibur's ears flicked back and forth. The gelding trumpeted.
Rosalyn glanced at the horse.
“You’ll live. This isn’t like that storm,” she said under her breath. The horse hated weather. Excalibur’s stablemate had died because of a freak cloudburst. A shorted power cord had been dangling in a giant puddle. They found Excalibur on dry ground tied to the horse trailer. The stablemate was dead next to him in the puddle.
Excalibur did what any sane horse would do. He went crazy. Rosalyn rescued him just before he became dog food.
Now, blond mane and forelock swirling in the wind, Excalibur trotted back and forth in front of the front pasture gate. The horse carried his head high and watched for movement.
Rosalyn yelled as she hauled on the human-filled Ursa, “Hold on, Excalibur. I’ll be right there.” One of Bodie’s arms flopped out. “Crap!” Rosalyn stopped and tossed his arm back in. "Just what I need,” she said to herself. “A big, possibly dying guy and a horse headed for nutzo-land."
Rosalyn kicked aside portable saddle rack, empty Platinum Plus buckets, and loose pieces of tack littering her back porch. She needed a clear path to the mudroom door. She brushed away spider webs decorating the entry. How the spiders got there so fast, she never knew. Their webs were always popping up at the worst times, between Thanksgiving and Christmas for instance, when people loved to drop in unannounced.
Rosalyn returned to her cart, wedged her foot against the rear wheel, pulled the dump-lock pin, and gradually eased the cart bed up until the man’s still form began sliding to the ground. She held his head to keep it from hitting the cement of her stone walk. Hands under his arm pits, Rosalyn dragged him up the back steps of her house. She held the screen door open with her foot and dragged the inert form into her mudroom. Once inside, she knelt down and propped his head up with a pile of dirty laundry. At least it’s not my underwear. Rosalyn took her hand away from the makeshift dirty laundry pillow and felt warm moisture. Strange, considering this was a cold rain. Rosalyn turned on the light.
Blood covered her hand.
“That’s it, bad reputation or not, we’re calling the police,” she said. Rosalyn dialed 911. The sky darkened, and freezing rain began to fall.
She squatted on her heels next to Bodie. His hand whipped up and grabbed her wrist so hard that Rosalyn dropped the phone. He pulled her toward him, and completely off balance, Rosalyn fell foward.
She was stunned, yes, hardly able to breathe, but Rosalyn had enough of her mental faculties left to know that she would never forget the beckoning beat of the heart beneath her. She pushed herself away as if she had just received an electric shock. Wreathed by a head of hair gone wild in the wind and rain, Rosalyn backed up, fumbled for the kitchen door, turned and ran out.
Bodie couldn't remember why his head hurt so much. All he had meant to do was get her to help him sit up.
The kitchen darkened and the drop in temperature sharpened the pain in his head.
A horse somewhere outside issued another frenzied call.
Bodie shook his head and immediately regretted the movement. He rolled his head to the right, and found himself face to face with a dark, wet nose backed by liquid brown eyes and blond fur.
Bodie lifted his head. "Was it something I said?"
Buck wagged his tail. The movement set the rest of the mammoth Yellow Lab’s body quivering.
“Nice doggy. Nice doggy.”
Slowly, Bodie reached out for one of the plastic bins lining the walls; Buck’s dog food as luck would have it, and propped himself to a standing position.
The 90-plus-pound dog jumped up and danced a four-legged jig, expecting a cup of kibble to land in his dish any minute. But this stranger proved a disappointment. The human staggered to the door and walked out. Buck groaned, flopped down on his yellow belly, and covered his eyes with giant paws.
(An ad-free version of this story is available on the Kindle "Hoofprints" blog.)
(Next: ‘Heads up! Loose Horse!’)