Welcome! Indie Author Excerpts is a feature allowing indie authors the chance to showcase one of their books and allows readers to find their next favorite story. Each week, an indie author gets to promote a 1-2 page excerpt of their book here at The Bawdy Book Blog. This is a win-win for everyone! This feature was inspired in part by Indie Author Spotlight, a meme hosted by Beckie @ Bittersweet Enchantment and CYP @ A Bookalicious Story.
This Week’s Excerpt: Finding the Path by Michaela Grey!
Horse trainer Philippa Miller doesn’t whisper to horses; with her telepathic connection, she doesn’t have to. But when the sheriff of the territory comes to find out if her gift can help him discover what is happening to the growing number of missing persons and her own grandmother vanishes, Flip finds herself up against the challenge of her life. And her abilities will be tested by an evil beyond her worst nightmares even as she awakens to the possibility of a love beyond her wildest dreams.
FOREWORD She was weeding her garden when she heard the bells. Straightening, Iris pulled off her heavy gloves and pushed her straw hat back. She counted them as they rang out. At least six – no, seven of them, she thought. Walking to the fence, she listened again, but frowned. The trees that bounded her small house were blocking the purity of the peals and she couldn’t hear them well enough. Iris pushed the gate open and went through the trees, her feet finding the dirt path with the ease of long familiarity. She’d be able to hear the bells better once she was out of the forest. Glancing behind her, she thought briefly of closing the gate but shrugged a shoulder. She’d be right back. She just needed to find out where the ringing was coming from. Out of the trees, the path widened into the road that bordered her property. The bells still sounded distant, a little muffled. Just a little further down the road, she thought. She’d be able to hear them better soon. Just a little further. She didn’t look behind her again. ******************** CHAPTER ONE
Flip managed to dodge the fist that whistled by her ear, but she missed the one that followed close behind and connected solidly with her ribs.
Half-doubled over, she stumbled backwards a step and stared up at her opponent through heavy brown hair that had pulled free from its tidy braid.
Her attacker just waited, feet wide in a careful stance. Flip’s eyes narrowed and they circled, judging each other’s distances and movements. She tried a feint that he easily blocked. He went for a low kick that she easily blocked.
Circle. Step. Dodge. Glancing blow. Sideways skip, duck under another heavy fist and hammer his kidney. Dance back out. Another punch grazed her shoulder, knocking her briefly off-balance.
Quiet reigned in the barn except for their labored breathing and the rhythmic sound of horses eating breakfast. It was dark and warm and the fighters were lit by only a flickering oil lantern set on the hard ground nearby. Flip kept her eyes on her opponent’s, judging his intent before he moved, skipping sideways out of reach. His eyes narrowed in frustration and a punch went harmlessly wide.
Outside, a horse bugled, the sound startlingly loud in the silence. Taking advantage of his distraction, Flip went in low from behind, her shoulder connecting with his hip. He stumbled forward and tripped, hitting the packed dirt hard. The air left his lungs with a forceful whoosh as Flip followed him down, straddling his shoulder blades and locking his head in a chokehold that immobilized him.
He slapped the dirt and Flip let go, standing up with easy grace.
“Shit, Gavin, you’re never going to beat me if you let yourself get distracted by every little thing.”
The man on the ground rolled over onto his back, gasping for air. He held up a hand, still fighting to breathe.
“You…made…him whinny, didn’t you?” he managed.
Flip pulled back the hand she had offered him, affronted. “I ought to kick your ass again for that one. You know the rules and you know I wouldn’t break them.”
She took Gavin’s hand and yanked him to his feet, glaring up at the tall man. Silence fell in the barn, broken by the hissing of the guttering oil lamp. Finally Flip’s mouth lost the battle with her sense of humor and Gavin relaxed, grinning back at her.
“You just don’t want to admit that I can beat you three times out of four,” Flip said, turning away to adjust the lamp.
“Probably,” Gavin admitted, leaning down to pick up his jacket and straightening the deputy sheriff star that gleamed on the pocket. He settled his cowboy hat firmly on his head, brushing dirt from his jeans.
Flip coaxed more light from the weakly flickering lamp. “Dammit, I miss electricity,” she muttered.
“Can’t miss something you’ve never had,” Gavin pointed out.
Flip snorted a laugh. “Fine. I miss the potential of electricity. Better?” She pulled the elastic band from her hair, shaking the heavy strands loose and re-braiding with deft fingers. She glanced out the window; the sun was just starting to show over the horizon. Her best friend would have breakfast ready up at the house, and then it was time to start the day.
“Uh, Flip…got a minute?”
Flip glanced at Gavin’s face and what she saw made her pause. Gavin was slow to speak, a methodical mover and rarely concerned about what he couldn’t fix. But there was worry on his face and in his thoughts, and that was enough to make her straighten.
“What’s wrong?” Flip asked.
He sighed and pushed his Stetson back. “Have you heard of anyone disappearing lately?”
“No. Why? Is someone missing?”
“Martha Duncan, according to her husband,” Gavin said.
Flip’s eyes widened. “The midwife? What happened to her?”
Gavin shrugged. “No one knows. She went to bed with her husband two nights ago seeming perfectly normal, and he woke up the next morning without her. Paul swears up and down that they were happy and she had no reason to leave. But there are no signs of abduction; it looks like she left of her own accord.”
“Anything missing from her house? Clothes, shoes?”
“Nope. Seems she just walked out her door in what she was wearing. Paul swears there’s nothing gone from her closet. Joss and I did a thorough inspection of the house and barn, and there were no footprints that shouldn’t have been there, according to Paul.”
Silence fell as Flip considered the situation. “What are y’all going to do?” she finally asked.
Gavin pulled his hat off and ran his hand through his hair. “Not sure what we can do,” he said. “Joss and I are riding the area, checking to see if there are any other disappearances, but you know how big the territory is; unless someone makes the trip to town and reports directly to one of us, it could be months before we hear about it. It just smells wrong to Joss. Him being the sheriff and all, I tend to follow his lead. I know you, uh … hear better than most, so I guess I hoped you’d picked up on something.”
Flip shook her head, then studied him closer. “Gavin … you do realize that you don’t shield worth a damn, right?
He glowered at her. “It can be damned uncomfortable sometimes, having you for a friend.”
“Relax,” Flip said, smiling. “I haven’t told MaryAnn, and I won’t, unless you want me to.”
“No!” he exclaimed. “I just … I just need to figure out how to approach her. She doesn’t see me that way. But I don’t want her to know about the disappearances either.”
“You want me to lie to her?” Flip demanded, and punched his arm.
“Ow! No!” he said as he dodged. “Not lie, per se … more like, um … don’t tell her about them? She’ll just worry, and there’s nothing she can do anyway.”
Flip rolled her eyes. “Gavin, outside MaryAnn, you’re the best friend I’ve got. You’re a great guy, and you know I’m rooting for you. But I gotta tell you … if you try the whole ‘little woman/keep her barefoot and pregnant’ routine with MaryAnn, you’ll be lucky to escape with your testicles intact.”
He winced and shifted his weight.
“MaryAnn’s the strongest woman I know,” Flip said. “Losing Pete, raising a baby on her own, she learned really fast how to handle anything life threw at her and she’s done it without losing her sense of humor. And she would not thank you for ‘protecting’ her like this. If you try to ‘protect’ her, or keep her from being ‘upset’, I guarantee you will regret it. Do her the favor of treating her like she has a brain and knows how to use it, and you’ll get a lot farther with her than you have till now.”
Gavin sighed and rubbed his close-cropped hair. “I just … she’s just so small and sweet … ” he said. “I want to keep her safe. I get around her and I forget how to think. God only knows what I’ll actually say when I talk to her. I swear, she scrambles my brains.”
Flip took pity on him and patted his arm. “If it’s any consolation, you’re getting to her.”
He brightened a little. “Really? You think so?”
She couldn’t help the laugh that bubbled up. “You’re pathetic, you know that? Get out of here. Go up to the house and ask MaryAnn for some coffee. And tell her what you told me, no sparing the details. I’ll let you know if I hear anything.
He grinned at her as he shoved his hat back on. “You’re the best sister I never had, Flip,” he said, and headed for the doors.
Flip shook her head, turning to Posey’s stall.
The big brown mare lifted her head as Flip unlatched the door. She’d finished her morning grain and Flip could feel her active mind nudging hers. Out? Out? Bored. Treat? Ride?
“No ride yet, butterfly,” Flip told her, leading her out into the aisle. “I have to work with Belle before she forgets what I taught her yesterday. She’s not as smart as you.”
Out? Posey sounded hopeful.
“Yes,” Flip agreed. “You’re going out with the babies. Come on now.” She snapped the lead rope to her halter and Posey swung into step beside her, nickering occasionally to stalls’ occupants as they passed. They left the barn and walked down the hill to the foals’ pasture, where Flip kept the foals sent to her.
Flip swung the gate open, slid Posey’s halter off and stepped aside. Posey broke into a gallop as she went through, kicking up sod as she thundered across the grass, tossing in a few bucks and squeals for good measure. Flip laughed and headed back into the barn but stopped before she reached the door, her eye caught by movement on the road. A wagon was stopped by the fence, a man and a woman in their fifties sitting in the front seat, both with eyes fixed on Flip.
Flip glanced behind herself, then back at the couple. They looked vaguely familiar, but she couldn’t place them. She lifted a hand in a friendly wave and the woman stiffened, clutching the man’s arm.
The man had gray hair and worry lines radiating from his eyes and mouth. His lips tightened and Flip winced, realizing what was coming.
“You are an aberration,” he hissed. “You are …” He searched for words.
“Satan spawn?” Flip suggested helpfully. “The Devil’s child? Beelzebub’s heir apparent?”
“You are evil!” the man spat, and slapped the reins across the horse’s back. The wagon rattled away, but Flip could feel the woman’s eyes boring into her until the trees hid them from view.
“Okay then,” Flip said. “You have a nice day too.” She sighed and pulled the barn door open.
About the Author
Michaela Grey is the author of Finding the Path, available on Amazon.com. She is an avid horse lover, knitter, and voracious reader and is currently hard at work on her next novel.
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