A War of Daisies
“If you like:Amazon Reviewer
- atmospheric wild west settings
- strong, complicated women as main characters
- extremely cool plots
Then you should read this book right away.”
“I loved this book! 5 full and shiny stars.”Archaeolibrarian
“Are you ready for a series about magic, the west, steampunk, and amazing leading ladies? Great, this is your series then. If you don't enjoy complex stories of women in patriarchal societies navigating different cross sections of identity, sex, and race...well, I'm afraid I can't help you there, and neither can Chamberlynn.”Dark and Silly Book Reviews
Penelope is on a quest to reconnect with the tribe that represents half her blood. Willow wants to win the cross-country horse race, even if it means pretending to be a man. Felicity longs to escape from the cage society has created around her. And Dynah is bound and determined to be Rodeo Queen if it kills her.
But when strange things begin happening to each of the young women, their personal agendas are derailed by a much bigger purpose. By the time they realize what their new powers mean and that the four of them have been chosen for a dark destiny, the apocalypse is nigh.
Because Hell hath no fury...
Release date: October 26, 2020
Print pages: 253
Content advisory: Violence, sex
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A War of Daisies
The afternoon blazed so hot and so bright that Willow was having a hard time taking proper aim, and damn it all, if she missed her shot she would shoot the sun itself out of the sky. Waves of heat rose up from the hard, red earth, covering everything in a haze of watery lines. Sweat dampened the base of her spine, and dust swirled around her boots.
The high, sharp sound of glass shattering sounded better than a choir of angels. Her target, a bottle on a log, now lay broken in tiny pieces, a spray of blue across the dirt. Willow’s heart skipped a beat and her blood pulsed swiftly in her veins. She lifted the Colt to her lips and kissed it, and the metallic tang in her mouth tasted like victory. Victory and power.
A soft nicker from her mare Bullet alerted her to company. For a moment she didn’t see anything, which didn’t sit well at all, but then a familiar Appaloosa emerged from the copse of birch trees near the river. Its rider sat bareback, her skin the same cinnamon tone as the mountains rising behind her, her hair ink and midnight. Willow stuck her gun in her belt as they approached.
“You do know that no matter how good you are, they aren’t going to let you enter the sharpshooting competition or the race.” Penelope signaled her gelding to halt and swung off him. She always dismounted face forward by swinging her leg over her horse’s neck. “Girls aren’t allowed to enter.”
“First of all, I’m a woman,” Willow said, hips cocked to the side, hands resting on them. “But—” she cut off Penelope’s protest— “I’m well aware that women aren’t allowed, either. Because Hawk’s Hollow is way behind the times. It’s nearly the 20th century for crying out loud.” She stopped there and waited until Penelope pressed for further details.
“So, you’re out here shooting your gun for the fun of it?”
Willow’s lips twisted into a smirk. “Well, not that that wouldn’t be a perfectly legitimate reason, but no. I’m going to enter the competition. I’m just going to do it as a man.”
Penelope’s brow furrowed. “I’m not following.”
“I’m going. To pretend. I’m a man,” Willow said with great patience and a roll of her green eyes. Sometimes her friends really lacked imagination.
Penelope stared at her for a moment, and then began to laugh. Loudly. The sound of it carried up into the cloudless turquoise sky and bounced from the red peaks surrounding them.
“What’s so funny?” Willow narrowed her eyes to dangerous slits.
“You.” Penelope waved a hand in Willow’s general direction. “You’re way too pretty to pull off being a boy. I mean, your hair for starters.”
Willow looked down at her waist-length, arrow-straight platinum hair. It was true. The hair had to go. “So, I chop off my hair. And I bind my chest. Easy.”
Penelope muttered something under her breath about not having much of a chest to bind, which earned another famous glare. “And what of your mother?” she asked, louder this time.
“I’m technically an adult,” Willow began, but then stopped. It was a weak argument, and she knew it. Being an unwed woman and all, it didn’t matter that she was legally an adult. Again, antiquated. “But she’ll be out of town. Delivering a big shipment all the way to California.”
Her mother really couldn’t blame her for being as rebellious as she was. After all, she herself was an airship pilot, and Willow’s dad was an outlaw. It was like putting together two tigers and expecting a house cat.
A frown tugged at Penelope’s lips. “She’s going to find out. And she’s going to kill you.”
“What’s life without a little drama?” Willow shrugged, then took two strides to her chestnut mare and swung up into the saddle. The leather creaked softly, her seat and legs melting into it like they were one and the same. She sighed. With a horse beneath her and cold iron strapped to her hip, she didn’t need a thing in the whole wide world.
Penelope jumped back up onto her own horse. “Fine. It’s your funeral.”
“Will you bring flowers?” Willow grinned, then let out a cry and pressed her legs against Bullet’s sides. The mare shot out across the earth.
They led for an eighth of a mile, but the Appaloosa wasn’t about to let them win. Willow heard hoofbeats behind her as they came up fast. Nothing but flat red earth and blue sky lay before them, blurring like a watercolor painting as they flashed across the plains. Far, far in the distance, mountains waved them on. Out here Willow knew no boundaries; Hawk’s Hollow was a dot on a map that held no power over her. Out here she was the sky.
The Appaloosa’s nose came into view at her elbow. His chest was flecked with foam, his shoulders dark with sweat. Penelope laid low across his neck, his black mane mingling with Penelope’s own raven locks. The horses drew neck and neck. One nose would surge forward, then the other. Red, black, red, black. An eagle swooped down from above to watch them, flinging its shadow across the parched dirt.
And then it was over, the horses spent and the wind tired of chasing them. Willow reined in Bullet and gave the mare a pat on the neck. She pranced proudly in place.
“I defy any of the men to beat us in a race,” Willow said. “We’re the fastest thing they’ll ever see.”
“The race is about endurance, not speed,” Penelope pointed out. “Not as much your strong suit.”
“That just means it’s easier,” Willow scoffed.
Penelope raised her eyebrows. “A hundred miles in two days? If you say so.”
“Well, I’d better get going. I assume you’ll be at the fairgrounds tomorrow?”
Willow nodded, eyes aglow. Tomorrow marked two weeks until the Hawk’s Hollow Annual Fair, and just about the whole town showed up to see who was signing up for the race, rodeo, and shooting competition, and to watch the try-outs for the team sports. It was almost as big a to-do as the fair itself.
“You’re signing up for the rodeo, aren’t you?” Willow asked. Women were allowed to compete in roping, reining, and trick-riding, just not the bronco riding, shooting, or the race.
Penelope shrugged. “Dynah is. And you know how that goes.”
“You should do it anyway,” Willow said. “Your sister’s choices have nothing to do with your own.”
A snort. “We’ll see.” Penelope waved farewell and turned her horse west.
The two racers parted ways. Willow headed back to her house, taking the long route. Hopefully by the time she got there, her mother would already be gone on her trip. If not, there could be questions, or lectures about staying by herself, or offers to have the neighbors come check on her, and none of those things were desirable in the least. The sooner her mother quit worrying about her when she went on trips, the better.
But when Willow got back to the little house nestled between the river and the red buttes, she saw to her dismay that her mother’s airship was still perched atop the cliffs overhead. Blast it all.
She hid the Colt in a wooden box at the base of a large birch tree, then took her time unsaddling Bullet and cooling her off in the shallows downstream from the house. The water from the mountains was cold as the stars and bit like a rattler. Bullet snorted and shimmied in place as she scooped handfuls of it onto her neck and shoulders. Willow didn’t hear her mother approach until she was almost on them, just the shuffle of a boot to alert them to her presence. Her mother never went noticed unless she desired it.
Willow turned. Her mother stopped a couple of feet away, arms crossed over her chest, dagger sheathed in worn leather strung low across her hips. Faded jeans, fringe jacket, suede hat. Around her neck hung her pilot’s goggles, their huge, black eyepieces staring at Willow as if they suspected her plan. Her mother was desperately pretty, and they looked exactly alike except that her mother had more than a tint of strawberry in her blonde, a fact that made Willow jealous as hell. But we all have our struggles in life.
“I’m headed out, kid,” she said. Her voice was like the rocks in the river, smooth but hard. “No boys, no guns, no booze, and don’t forget to feed the chickens.”
“Of course, Lyla,” Willow said. She never called her mother by any of the maternal nicknames. “I won’t play with dynamite, either.”
“Always the kidder.” Lyla didn’t smile when she said it. “Oh, and one more thing. Don’t even think about getting involved in that race.”
Willow had been expecting this, so her face was perfectly smooth and her eyes unblinking as she said, “Yes, Lyla.”
Lyla stared at her for a moment and then rocked back on her boots. “Okay, then. I’m off.” She turned and headed along the narrow path up the canyon wall to her ship.
Willow waited until the gas tanks in the ship had ignited the flames that flared out the two large hot-air balloons atop the deck; until the ship had risen above the canyon, spooking all the chickens; until the secondary wings had unfolded and the vessel had soared out of sight. Lyla and her rules with it. Then she retrieved her gun, took Bullet to their little ramshackle stable that abutted the cabin, threw her some hay, and went inside to chop off all her hair. She was of half a mind to smoke one of Lyla’s cigars while she did it, but then she’d have to spend well-earned money replacing them before she got back, and it just wasn’t worth it. They tasted awful anyway.
The cabin was built from small river boulders and boards made from birch and oak. It had a chimney, two tiny bedrooms, and a large kitchen and sitting room. A window in the front lined with brown plaid curtains let in the gurgling song of the river, a song that Willow was fairly certain echoed in her own bloodstream. She was in love with the river and the canyon and the sky and the open plains. But she was also in love with the idea of seeing other rivers, canyons, skies, and plains. Her father was out there somewhere, exploring the world, seeing new things. It chafed at her, just as much as the idea of leaving did. The two opposing yearnings warred inside her every day, some days one taking the lead, the next the other, like wild horses racing.
She sighed, pulled the rusty scissors out of a drawer in the kitchen, and sat down in one of the wooden chairs. Taking a big chunk of her white-blonde hair in one fist, she tucked it inside the open blades of the scissors up near her ear. With a final mournful look at the shining glory of it, she brought the blades together with a sound both terrifying and triumphant.
Penelope always dreamt of wolves. Red ones and gray ones, occasionally a black or a white one. Sometimes a lone wolf, other times a whole pack of them. Eyes like tiny harvest moons, or perhaps with an edge of green the shade of an exotic lime. The dream often spun out beneath a dark, star-pocked sky, though sometimes it was daytime in the dream, a turquoise so bright it hurt. But one thing remained constant. The wolves always called to her. And when they did, she woke up.
She was awake now, and instantly wished she wasn’t, because she could hear very adult sounds coming from her mother and stepfather’s room. Her sister, Dynah, lay asleep in the bed across the room. The moon streamed in the window, and for just a moment, Penelope thought she caught the fading howl of a wolf off in the hills. A real one, not one of the phantom dream wolves. The sound of it vibrated in her chest and made her shiver: wolves were much less common than coyotes in this area. She swung her legs over the side of the bed and got up.
The window by her bed creaked as she swung it open, the glass cool against her fingers. The crisscross pattern of the wood framing the panes threw a shadow across her floor that looked like the bars of a prison cell. But this cell was open, and the prisoner escaping. She stepped into her boots, grabbed her leather jacket off one of the rough-hewn posts of her bed, and shimmied through the window.
Night wrapped around her, chilly and welcoming. Her boots landed in soft red earth and a bit of sage that her mother had planted a long time ago. Now her mother planted neat rows of bright flowers at the front of the house. Tulips and geraniums and other flora from across the sea. They fit better with her new life and her new husband. Penelope, unfortunately, did not.
She passed by the corral where they kept the horses and moved quickly and silently into the darkness. A few more steps took her into a copse of birch trees. The ground rose rapidly up toward the buttes at the edge of the canyon. At this time of night, the peaks looked black, black against a purple sky. Penelope hunched forward, using her hands to balance as she climbed the steep incline strewn with rocks and boulders. Her muscles warmed up quickly, and her breath came out in little white puffs. Above, the stars in the sky winked at her as she drew closer.
A quarter of an hour later she hauled herself up onto a small bluff. It was no more than a dozen feet across, wedged between two jagged spikes of rock near the rim of the canyon. From one side of the little plateau you could gaze upon the glittering lights of Hawk’s Hollow to the east, and to the west, an endless stretch of plains. The wide-open space called to her like the wolves.
Out there, somewhere in the night, her father’s tribe slept beneath the same sky. Or perhaps, like her, they couldn’t rest. The people that shared half her blood. The people that her mother had tried to erase from her history. Both hers and Penelope’s.
Once, many years ago, her mother had spoken of her father. Penelope had been eight at the time. She’d been needling her mother for years to tell her something about him, anything really. Anything would be better than the nothing she’d received her whole life. It had been painfully obvious from an early age that she was different than the rest of the family. Brown skin and black hair to her mother and sister’s freckles and red curls. The way her stepfather treated her like a servant. The stares they drew when they went into town.
Questions even remotely skirting the issue of Penelope’s father were met with a sharp tone and extra chores. One day, however, when they’d ridden toward town, just the two of them, Penelope’s pony had spooked, knocking her to the ground. She’d gashed her elbow on a rock and cried at the sight of the blood. She remembered the conversation distinctly.
“Stop crying,” her mother had said. “It’s only a scrape.”
“But everyone will see!” she’d wailed.
“It’s just blood. No one will care.”
“But… but they say my blood is different. Won’t they see?”
It was the silly sort of thing that a child confuses in their head. Her mother had gone very still before she’d finally spoken. “Everyone’s blood is red, Penelope. What they mean is… your father… your father is from the Navajo Tribe.”
“Indians,” she said briskly. “That’s what they mean when they say your blood is different. You’re half Indian.”
“Where is my father?”
“He died. When you were only a few months old.”
Her mother’s eyes had a far-off look as she spoke, her tone hushed. Then, she’d stood abruptly and lifted Penelope back onto her pony. And when she’d remounted her own horse, she said, sitting up very straight and shooting Penelope a look that could frost the mountaintops, “We will never speak of this again. Do you understand?”
And they hadn’t.
Penelope shivered beneath the night sky. Another howl carried across the plains, and this time it was a coyote. The moon shone brightly, illuminating everything in a soft glow. Willow thought Penelope could just enter the rodeo along with her sister, like a normal person. She didn’t know how it was. With the townsfolk. With her own family. Dynah had competed the last five years, but somehow there was always some thinly-veiled excuse from her stepfather for Penelope to watch from the sidelines.
Penelope let out her breath in one long exhale, watching it swirl like tiny spirits. She shifted to face the plains full-on, her back to Hawk’s Hollow, pretending for a moment that the town and her family didn’t exist. That her limitations didn’t exist. Her eyes scanned the open space before her, and movement caught her eye about a quarter mile from the base of the ridge. She sat up straighter, squinting. A wolf, a real one, white like the moon. And behind it, a rider on a horse.
Penelope went still. Even from this distance, she could tell the rider wasn’t from Hawk’s Hollow. This was no cowboy on a late-night ride. It was one of her tribespeople.
As she watched, the rider stopped and turned to face her. Her skin prickled. Could they see her, sitting atop the butte? Somehow, she knew they could. They stared at each other, the rider and Penelope, for countless minutes. Then the wolf howled, making Penelope flinch, and the rider turned and galloped off into the night.
If music came from the soul, then perhaps Felicity’s was missing. Each tug of her fingers on the harp strings resonated within her, vibrated to her core, and echoed back empty. Like calling into an enormous room with no response.
“Put some spirit into it, girl!” her instructor growled.
Across the gleaming wood-paneled parlor, her mother looked up from her knitting with a frown. Felicity closed her eyes and bent her head to the task, but the music came out thin, hollow. Wanting.
Professor Klimten stood, waving a hand at her in disgust. “That’s enough for today, Felicity. I’m not sure where your head is this morning, but I do hope you find it again before the performance at church.”
“My apologies, Professor,” Felicity said, folding her hands in her lap. She could feel their disappointment, both the professor’s and her mother’s, but all she could summon in return was a swell of relief. The lesson had ended at last.
They left the professor’s austere, European-styled house. Felicity’s mother walked behind her, her presence like a red-hot brand, and Felicity knew that as soon as they were alone, she was going to get a tongue-lashing. They stepped out onto the professor’s porch, which fronted Main Street running through Hawk’s Hollow. Horses and buggies and cowboys and merchants flowed back and forth like fish in a river. The noise of the busy town swirled around her and the sun peered down as if it were judging her, too.
Her mother stayed silent, maintaining a lady-like appearance, as she tightened the sunbonnet that Felicity had already fastened quite adequately around her chin. The silence grew exponentially, building by the second. Silence as they mounted their horses, side-saddle of course. Silence as they wove through the traffic on the streets, and silence as they passed the church, even though here Felicity could feel the weight of that silence the most. Silence until they reached the big white house at the end of the nicest street in town and took the horses into the stable out back.
When the trip finally ended, her mother’s scorpion tongue spewed venom. “What is wrong with you?” Her anger hurled into Felicity, a near-physical force.
“I was doing my best, Mama…”
Felicity’s mother made the sign of the cross over her chest. “God help us if that’s true. I will not have a daughter that displays her failure in front of the whole town.”
“The whole town doesn’t attend church,” Felicity said.
“Everyone who matters does.”
Felicity opened her mouth to start apologizing; she knew she should have done that initially. But her mother had become a torrential downpour and there was no stopping her.
“We’ve worked so hard for where we are, for our business, for this house, for the things you have. So hard. You know how much harder we have to work than everyone else, because of who we are. And all we ask is a few simple things. Music is how we praise, Felicity. The harp is your connection to the divine. It shows everyone that you are favored. And you are favored, but you just squander it.” Her mother’s riding crop hit the side of the barn with a loud thwap, making Felicity jump.
“Yes, Mama, I understand,” she murmured, over and over, but it was another quarter-hour before her mother abruptly stopped her assault, turned on her heel, and stalked into the house.
Felicity took several deep inhales and exhales to calm herself, then with shaking hands she began to attend to the horses. Hers and her mother’s both, since of course her mother had stormed off. It was fine, though, she told herself. She didn’t want her mother here, anyhow. The barn was her place, the only place she could breathe.
It was a quintessential barn, precisely as a barn should be. Strong, wooden beams. Cobwebs here and there. The smell of pine shavings and sweet, fresh hay. Shafts of sunlight shooting down between the rafters. And of course, the occupants. She took the saddles and bridles off the horses and put them up in their tack room, then led each horse to their stall. She brushed them down and made sure they had water, checked their hooves for rocks. She patted her horse Music on her black shoulder and snuck her a sugar cube.
After Felicity had taken care of the horses, she climbed the wooden ladder at the north end of the barn aisle, up into the loft where they kept the hay. In the far corner of the hayloft, she wiggled between the stacks of baled hay, then reached her fingers into a narrow crack between two boards. She pulled out a leather-bound book, along with a small well of ink.
She couldn’t help but glance over her shoulder to make sure she was alone. Every time she touched her book, her pulse raced just a little. Slowly, she retreated out from between the rows of hay and sat down on the floor, her back against the bales. With fingers that trembled, but for an entirely different reason now, Felicity opened the book and picked up the feather pen tucked inside.
Ebony scrawlings crisscrossed the pages. She flipped through to the spot where she’d left off. Just the smell of paper and ink made her feel like a normal person again. With these tools in her hands, she was just Felicity. Not Felicity the future harp virtuoso. Not Felicity the churchgoer. Not Felicity the doting daughter of the wealthiest merchants in town. Not Felicity the only girl with brown skin to go to her private school. Not Felicity who had to be perfect all the time because her mother had given her everything, and why couldn’t she just be more grateful?
She took a deep breath and dipped her pen in the ink. Just Felicity. She laid pen to paper.
A strange thing, beauty. It made lots of people love you, and it made lots of people hate you. And it didn’t seem there was a whole lot of in-between, at least not that Dynah had ever seen.
“What about this one?” asked her mother, holding up a bolt of plaid lavender cotton.
They stood in the haberdashery looking at the fabric that had recently arrived from Denver. Her mother held the lavender cloth up against Dynah’s chest, and they looked in the mirror across from them. The pale purple made her flame-colored curls pop out like a winter sunset.
“Ooh, that’s nice,” Dynah said. “Though the blue one is, too.” She ran her fingers over a different bolt of fabric, crisp and new. She could almost smell the indigo dye.
“We should get both, I think,” her mother said, flashing a hundred-watt smile. Everyone said Dynah got her smile from her mama. That, along with her freckles and bright red hair.
They went to the register and paid for a large piece of cloth in each color, her mother carefully counting several coins and laying them one, two, three on the slick wood counter. Dynah knew the store was owned by the black family, but she never saw them here. The store clerk smiled shyly at Dynah until her mother cleared her throat. He slid the coins into the register with an embarrassed blush. Dynah threw him a huge smile which made the blush reach new depths of color, and they left the store, exiting into the late-morning sun.
With the Hawk’s Hollow Annual Fair coming up, Dynah was, naturally, the favorite to win Rodeo Queen. She’d just turned eighteen and was finally eligible. She’d been told for years she was the prettiest thing to walk the earth in these parts, though she had to admit a couple of the other girls gave her a run for the money. As things heated up to the big event, she had lots of boys vying for her attention, hoping to stand by her side as she was crowned a local celebrity. That, and plenty of girls shooting her the stink eye and wishing she’d drop dead.
Her sister, of course, was always at the top of that list, though perhaps for different reasons.
They climbed into their small one-horse wagon and rolled down the dusty street. The haberdashery had been their last stop after picking up horse feed, groceries, and a couple things from the general store. Boys waved at Dynah as she rode by. Once or twice, a grown man stopped and stared as well, which drew an evil look from her mother, and whatever woman happened to be at the man’s elbow. Dynah just smiled and waved. Love or hate. She was used to it.
When they got home, her mother drove the wagon around to the back of the house. “Now, you’d better go get changed and head to the fairgrounds for registration,” she said to Dynah as she started to unhitch their palomino gelding.
Dynah nodded and headed into the house while her mother finished handling the cart horse. Within a few minutes, she’d changed into a yellow blouse and let her hair out of its braid. It now cascaded down one shoulder. She grabbed her suede cowgirl hat, wiped a few spots of dust off her boots, and headed back out to the barn.
Her horse Moon stood in a small corral next to the barn. True to his name, he was a pale gray from head to toe. He’d been a gift from her parents a few months back, when she’d started training for the rodeo. They performed a variety of roping tricks. Nothing with real steer—that was for the men—but lassoing barrels and such. Moon loved to show off almost as much as she did.
Dynah saddled him up and bid farewell to her mother before riding back toward town. The registrations and tryouts took place on the far side, at the Hawk’s Hollow fairground. They held most public events there. There was a large riding arena dead center with several corrals adjacent to it, and a large stage at one end.
She alternated between trotting and loping Moon the three miles to the grounds, nothing too strenuous. It wouldn’t do at all to show up sweaty and dusty. She could hear the crowd gathered by the arena almost before she could see it. Pretty much every able-bodied man in town, plus a number of spectators, along with all the local merchants, their wares set out on tables or in the backs of wagons.
There were also bound to be lots of out-of-towners: Hawk’s Hollow was the largest town in fifty miles and the annual fair drew a big crowd. Dynah’s heart beat faster at the thought. She’d had her eye on a couple handsome cowboys from around here, but wouldn’t it be even better if she snagged herself a fine man from Grand Junction or Denver? Someone from money who could buy her a big ranch? Several of her friends were already married, and she could feel the clock ticking on her window of opportunity. She had no doubt she’d find a husband; it was simply a matter of ensuring she found the best one.
As she rode up, she sat straighter in her saddle. Heads began to turn, eyes began to widen, and she just smiled. She knew the effect she had, riding up with her flame-colored hair on her pale horse, belt buckle and saddle gleaming. She was already their Rodeo Queen and they all knew it.
“Dynah!” someone yelled, followed by a chorus of whistles and hoots.
Billy Boynton. Top contender for future husband if Dynah did pick a man from Hawk’s Hollow. Blonde hair, blue eyes. Almost too pretty to be a cowboy, but those rough, calloused hands told the truth of his upbringing. He was in line to inherit his father’s ranch and 3,000 head of cattle. Dynah turned Moon and headed in his direction.
As she sidled Moon in between Billy and his friends, who were lined up on their horses to watch the bronco team tryouts, she threw him a smile. “Hey, Billy.”
“How’s my girl?” He reached out and tugged at one of her curls. He had a smile that could almost match hers in luminosity. Almost.
“Well I’m fine, now that I’m here.” She shot him a look from beneath her lashes.
“They’re just starting the bronco team tryouts. You get signed up for the roping competition yet?”
Billy shrugged. “Everyone knows you’ll win anyway.”
Dynah smiled coyly and didn’t reply. She caught sight of her sister Penelope on the far side of the bronco pen, and they cast each other indifferent nods of acknowledgment. Inside the fence, a tough-as-nails mustang with murder in his eyes stared out across the crowd, sensing the souls of the men who would try to ride him. For just a moment, Dynah considered what it would be like to sit astride him. But no. She knew her place, and that wasn’t it. That was for the men.
A loud voice boomed across the crowd. “Who’s first?”
Several cowboys jumped up to the fence, dangling atop it like dusty grasshoppers. From behind her came the sound of galloping hooves. Dynah turned to see a chestnut mare barreling through the crowd. The mare looked a bit familiar, but she shook it off a moment later. The tall, lanky cowboy riding her was definitely a stranger. Short, white-blonde hair. A face that needed a proper washing. Eyelashes that would make any girl jealous.
Dynah’s attention was pulled away from the newcomer as a weathered man hopped down into the ring and began to warily approach the mustang. The bronco tryouts had officially begun.
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