A door slammed.
Nine-year-old Lincoln Warfield Clark Todd was sleeping comfortably atop several bales of hay next to the stall of his mother’s Thoroughbred stallion, Comanche, when the horse began pawing and snorting.
He thought little of it, as the black stallion was always restless and skittish. It wasn’t until the horse began kicking his stall door that Linc sat up from his makeshift bed and rubbed his sleepy hazel eyes. “Whoa, boy. Nothing’s gonna hurt ya while Linc’s here,” he murmured softly to the horse. “Go back to sleep.”
It was then that he heard two loud voices coming from deep within the race-training complex. He looked at his cell phone. It was 2:30 in the morning. Linc crept over to soothe the horse by rubbing his velvety muzzle.
“Quiet, Comanche,” Linc commanded the big Thoroughbred.
Both horse and boy strained to listen. Comanche’s ears lay flat against his gleaming black coat. Linc held on to the horse’s halter as he wondered where the night watchman was. Probably watching TV in the owner’s office.
A chair scraped across concrete. The voices became louder and more argumentative. A man called the other a “son-of-a-bitch” and said “you’ll ruin me.”
The young boy, heavy with excitement, crept forward among the hanging tack, leaning rakes, stacked bales of hay, and black plastic buckets stuffed with brushes, combs, and hoof picks. Peeking around the corner, he chewed on his lower lip, a habit his mother was trying to get him to quit.
At the far end of the stable corridor, two men stood facing each other like gunfighters. He couldn’t see them very well as only one yellow light glowed feebly from the ceiling. Horses poked their shaggy heads out of their stalls, their walnut eyeballs wide and glassy with foreboding.
A washed-out-looking man drew his fists up, crying, “I’ll kill you if you tell. I’ll kill you. I swear I will.” A single light, dangling from a worn-out cord, swung slightly from a light breeze, creating eerie dancing shadows on the man’s gray flesh. He fumbled toward the other man, who raised his arms in defense.
A spike of fear ran up Linc’s back. He rose from his crouching position, gasping.
Both men swiveled, staring at him with dumbfounded irritation. One of the men thudded toward Linc. The young boy ran in the opposite direction, but fell over a feed bucket, cracking his head on the concrete floor. His world went black.
It stayed black for a very long time.
Shaneika called at seven that morning, relating that Linc was in the hospital and asking me to come right away.
“I’ll be there,” I mumbled, wiping the sleep from my eyes. Pushing away Baby, my fawn English Mastiff, I untangled myself from the bed sheets but Shaneika hung up before I could ask any questions.
I called my best friend Matt at his law office, informing him of the morning’s call. Both he and Shaneika were my lawyers, often working together. Matt asked that I keep him apprised of the situation. He replied that he had to go after I heard someone calling his name.
A woman. Hmmm. I recognized that friendly sexy tone of voice and knew what it meant, but couldn’t bother to think of that now.
Looking for Jake, I found him swimming laps in the heated infinity pool. Jake had been my bodyguard/physician’s assistant since my fall from a cliff when a rogue cop tried to kill me. That’s a long story, one that I want to forget, but the cop is still on the loose.
My daughter assigned Jake to me. He really works for her.
Somewhere along the line, I crossed the no-no boundary and fell in love with Jake, but I have nothing to offer. I’m much older. My body is put together with glue and wire. I don’t think it could survive a younger man’s attention. What little money I have is tied up in paying medical bills and keeping my farm afloat. So when his contract is up this October, I’m going to send Jake away.
By the way, my name is Josiah Reynolds. My grandmother named me after a Hebrew king known for his righteousness.
I’m known for other things, not all of them nice.
Previously an art history professor, I now keep honeybees and sell honey at the Farmers’ Market in Lexington, Kentucky. It’s enough to get by on if I live on the cheap. I’ll never get rich on honeybees. It’s more a work of love.
I clutched my robe at the throat while leaning over the steaming water to get Jake’s attention. He rose up like Nix, the Norse god of lakes––water streaming from his long, blue-black hair and down his ruddy, muscular body. “What’s up,” he asked, wiping hair from his eyes. He looked at me from under thick, dark eyelashes.
The pool wasn’t the only thing steaming.
“Shaneika called. Said her boy was in the hospital. Wants me to come. Can you drive?”
“Sure thing. Why’s he in the hospital?”
“Don’t know. Just told me he was and asked me to hurry.”
“Okay, but you do your exercises first, have breakfast, take your medication, and then we’ll go.”
I shook my head. “That will take too long. She wants me to come now.”
Jake scowled. “I don’t care what she wants. You’re still on a medical schedule. You don’t know how strenuous a day this will be. You’ll need your therapy and medication to make sure you can endure today without a lot of pain.”
The magic word––pain.
I was terrified of pain and would do most anything to avoid it. We never fight except about my pain medication. I want more––lots more of the pain medication––not the pain.
He was right and I knew it. I dropped my robe and, in my jammies, got into the warm water. We did a half hour of stretching before Jake sent me to the showers while he made breakfast and got dressed himself. Within minutes, we were racing toward the hospital.