YA Fiction: Book Excerpt (with Horses!)
In the past, I haven’t allowed myself much of a break from the blog, but I decided that this year, I would take a 2-week writing vacation while my kids were out of school for Christmas break. So in keeping with that, I’ve decided to do something totally different and post a short excerpt from my YA novel which I’m currently trying to get published. It’s not your typical horse or western novel since the main character (Jaden) is a time traveler from the future. But here goes. I would love to hear what you think!
And just to add a little background here, this is Jaden’s first time traveling back to what is actually our present time. It’s also her very first time to get near a horse.
Another four-wheeled vehicle passes, and I crouch in the ditch, feeling jittery. This one has a small compartment up front where the driver sits and a large rectangular box attached to back. A big white sticker on the back window says I Love my Truck.
“Truck,” I say aloud, trying out the new word.
Eventually, I come to a wide paved road which intersects the gravel one. My eyes sweep over the landscape and pause on something moving in the distance. My breath hitches in my chest. There is no mistaking the familiar shapes.
A sturdy white pipe fence—unlike any I’ve ever seen before—encloses the horses, though they seem to have quite a bit of land on which to roam. I grasp the top rail of the fence, my eyes never leaving the two animals in the far left corner. They’re the same sorrel color as the horses in my dream although the markings on their faces are different. I wave to get their attention, but they seem oblivious. When I let out a low whistle, both their heads snap up and they look at me with interest now.
“Come here please,” I whisper.
To my utter surprise, they both move toward me. My stomach gives a lurch. Stay calm, I remind myself. Moments later, I’m face to face with the two horses, who seem equally as curious about me. Their beauty is breathtaking. They look almost identical, with wide white stripes on their faces, only one horse is slightly smaller with hollows above his eyes. Sparse gray hairs speckle his red coat, revealing his age. This older one steps closer.
“Hi there,” I whisper, trying to keep my voice steady. I don’t want to break the spell.
Slowly, he stretches his nose toward me and I extend a shaky hand. He sniffs my fingers and gives a loud snort, making me jump backward. But then his nose is back. His lips brush across my outstretched palm as I reach for him again. It tickles.
Mesmerized, I move my hand up his face until I’m stroking the white stripe on his nose with just my fingertips. I’m afraid of moving too quickly. As I rub just between his eyes, he leans into me, seeming to enjoy my touch.
“You like that?” I never imagined a horse could be so. . . so friendly. The other horse doesn’t appear as trusting, but he inches closer and I reach out to touch his face as well.
“Hello,” I say with a grin.
The fence separating us frustrates me—I want to be closer to them. Almost involuntarily, I step onto the bottom rail, but just as I start to climb over, a voice comes from behind me. I freeze in terror.
“You know, Robber’s always had an affinity for women.”
I jump to the ground and spin around, prepared to make a run for it or even teleport, if need be. But I’m shocked to see a boy about my own age staring back at me from the window of a black vehicle—another truck. I’d been so lost in the moment that I hadn’t even heard him approach. The boy’s mouth is turned up in a crooked grin.
I don’t know what I had expected a Regular to look like, but certainly not this. Dark blonde hair pokes out beneath his navy blue ball cap and his skin is a deep golden tan. My gaze shifts to his eyes though—they’re a beautiful, almost metallic blue. The tiniest flash of recognition darts through my mind, fading away before I can fully acknowledge it. I open my mouth to speak, but nothing comes out.
His grin fades. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to scare you.” He shuts the engine off and opens the door of the truck.
I finally find my voice. “Are these your horses?”
“Yes ma’am. I was just coming to feed them.”
His politeness surprises me almost as much as his appearance. “I hope it’s okay that I was touching them.” I try to keep my voice friendly. I don’t want to anger him. The Regulars might be be volatile, for all I know.
“Touching?” His eyebrows draw together and the grin returns. “Yes, that’s fine. Like I said, Robber likes women. Or um. . . girls.”
I stand a bit taller, pushing my hair over one shoulder. I know I look younger than I am. He steps out of the truck and is taller than I would have guessed. He’s lean, but not too thin, wearing a white t-shirt half-tucked into faded blue jeans.
“Would you like to help me feed them?” He reaches into the back of the truck to retrieve something.
My mind screams danger, but this boy is so different than the wild-eyed, crazy person I’d envisioned a Regular to be. He looks like someone I might see in my community. And one I would want to see in my community. I quickly shove that thought away. I desperately want to see the horses up close so I nod. The boy approaches, extending a hand toward me. Once again, I’m taken aback.
“I’m Chance Caldwell.”
His hand is warm and I can feel calluses along the top of his palms. Working hands, like mine. As I survey his face, I notice a thin pink scar running along his left jawline. It stands in contrast to his otherwise perfect features.
I clear my throat. “Jaden Roberts.” I briefly wonder if I should be telling my last name and then remember that it couldn’t possibly matter. It’s not like I’ll be coming back here again. He hands me a faded red can and I follow him through the gate. I peer into the can filled with small brown pellets and frown. “Horses eat this?” I’d only ever seen them eat grass.
But maybe tame horses were different.
“Yep, sure do.” He nods toward two round rubber tubs on the ground. “Right in there.”
I pour an equal amount of the pellets into each tub, as Chance instructs, and the horses lower their heads and eat hungrily. Still drawn to the older one, Robber, I carefully step toward him. I run my hand along the soft hair on his back, feeling the hard muscle underneath. Inhaling deeply, I breathe in his unique scent—a mixture of dust, newly fallen rain, and honeysuckle. I want to remember this smell forever.
When I look up, Chance is watching with amusement. “You really like horses, huh?”
I smile. “This is actually my first time to see one up close.”
And I promise–next week, I’ll be back to my regularly scheduled blog topics. Happy New Year, everyone!