Striding Home by W.M. Kirkland
2 Hearts Rescue Book 2
M/M Contemporary Romance
Release Date: 8/1/17
Arcelio (Ace) Mendez lost his career as a jockey and part of his leg in a horrible accident during a race. He thought he’d lost his lover, Danny Raines, too. Ready to move on with his life, he accepts an invitation from 2 Hearts Rescue to come see the horse he’d been riding when the accident happened. When he arrives, he discovers Danny’s there, and they have a lot of catching up to do.
Danny would have kicked himself for not being there for Ace during his rehabilitation, except he’d had an accident getting to the hospital and shattered his ankle. His career as an exercise rider was over, and his self-destructive behavior ensured that career would stay dead. He found himself at 2 Hearts Rescue and it seemed that not only had the rescue saved him, but it also brought Ace back into his life. He has to prove to Ace that he won’t run again, and together they can make a new home.
NOTE: Each book in this series can be read on its own, though characters reappear through the books. A portion of the proceeds for this book are donated to animal rescue causes.
The thud of the horse’s hooves hitting the ground in a steady 3-beat canter rhythm rang like music in Arcelio’s ears. He leaned the crutches against the white fence, then rested his forearms along the top board to support his weight. His good leg held the rest of his weight. Seeing Topper canter effortlessly under saddle was worth it. The big chestnut horse had quieted some, but still moved with the majestic grace he’d shown on the race track.
His attention turned to the rider, and for a moment Arcelio, wondered if his heart hadn’t stopped. He’d recognize those long legs, easy seat, and more importantly, blue and green helmet anywhere. Danny. Arcelio reminded himself of the need to breathe, and then reached for his crutches. The need to run—not that he could run anymore with his lost leg—pummeled through him. The man who had been his world outside of jockeying, and who hadn’t even bothered to visit him in the hospital, sat aboard the horse he’d almost killed. It was too much.
Gravel crunched under boots, the only warning he had before a hand settled on his shoulder. “Stay. Danny will want to talk to you.” Jay Dunmore, the owner of 2 Hearts Rescue, said and gave his shoulder a friendly squeeze. “Don’t worry, Ace. It will be okay.”
Just hearing the old track nickname brought back too many memories, though thankfully most of them were good. He’d quit being Ace when the doctor chopped off his lower leg. Still, the nickname felt good, like coming home even, and he inhaled the scent of arena dust, hay, and horses, then nodded. “If you say so. Either way I’m glad you let me know that you have Topper now.”
“It wasn’t your fault. The Stewards said that his heels had been clipped and that’s what sent him into the rail. You had nothing to do with the accident.”
Ace turned to look at Jay to search his expression and see if maybe he was just humoring him. Jay hadn’t ridden Topper that day; he had. And he had gone over the accident in his mind a zillion times or more. A leg cue with his inside leg, maybe a tug on the reins, and the horse would have gone into the middle of the track instead of into the rail. Except then, most likely he would have taken out other horses, caused more injuries. “I keep trying to tell myself that,” he answered at last. “Thanks.”
“Cody needs me inside, but if you need to talk afterwards, you know where my office is.”
Ace nodded again. “Thanks.”
He glanced over his shoulder to make sure that Jay had gone back to the house, and then focused his attention on Topper and the rider. Not even a scar marred the horse’s lower legs, though there was evidence of the bowed tendon that had ended his racing career. The aftermath of the accident. Both horse and rider had damaged legs, only one of them had gotten up immediately after.
Lost in his thoughts, he didn’t realize Topper had slowed to a walk and then came to a halt on the other side of the fence. Automatically, he reached out to pat the horse’s shoulder, and the horse tried to nuzzle the top of his head through the fence.