Friday, April 13, 2012

Excerpt; Love is Snowblind m/m, adult

Love is Snowblind by Deirdre O'Dare (a Canine Cupids Story)

Blurb: Dylan is a loner, seeking to heal old wounds as he pursues a new-found dream of training a sled dog team and winning the big one, the Iditarod. He makes a difficult choice to rescue a stranger lost in a blizzard instead of seeking a win in a preliminary race. This choice and the results throw an unexpected but major change into his solitary life. Can he accept and adapt to these changes?

Grey must prove himself, pursuing his dream of seeing Alaska first hand and writing about the world of sled dog racing in such a powerful way it will jump start his chosen sports and feature writing career. Green and naïve, he almost pays with his life for a bad decision. Can he learn and grow fast enough to survive in the unforgiving environment and overcome a rocky start with his new hero, musher Dylan Norgard, or has he sold that proverbial outhouse?

Excerpt: Dylan hit the third checkpoint at mid-morning. Seventy-five miles to go. While the vet went over the team, he listened to the checkpoint crew discussing the weather. The latest reports had them cautioning all the mushers that the next storm was coming in a lot faster than they'd expected. By tonight, it would be nasty--cold, vicious wind and heavy snow. They were all praying most of the racers would make it to the finish before the worst of the storm hit, but everyone knew the weather goddess in Alaska was one capricious bitch.
Just then, one of the volunteers rushed out of the cabin where they had the office set up. This checkpoint was at a village inhabited mostly by Native Americans, but also a few hardy European and American souls who liked to live in the most remote and harsh conditions they could find, generally under the radar of society. The cabin the race had preempted normally served as a kind of city hall, community center and office space for traveling Bureau of Indian Affairs and other state and federal officials who came through occasionally.
The young man, not Grey as Dylan quickly noted, looked flushed and anxious. "We just picked up a distress call. The caller's phone was fading in and out, but we did get a GPS fix on the location. It's about fifteen miles south and west of here. Sounded like someone tried to cut across the big loop the regular trail makes and got into trouble. Ground out there is cut up bad, worse than ever now because of the fire last summer."
He paused for breath and looked around at the four racers who were going through the checks before he continued.
"The villagers are trying to put together a crew to go out searching, but we need more, a good sled in case the party is injured...better dogs than the mutts the Indians have here. Most of them aren't even real sled dogs, much less trained, just mongrels that hang around the camp. It wouldn't be so urgent except the weather's due to change, a lot earlier than they'd predicted."
Dylan glanced at the sky. Already a leaden haze was darkening the faded blue to the north and west, the leading edge of the storm. Then he looked over his team. They'd begun the day rested and raring to go. The twenty miles or so they'd covered this morning hadn't phased them. This side trip would cost him the lead he'd managed to build, though. He could probably still finish, but it would be well back in the middle--or worse. He figured he was in the first five right now. Two of the three currently at the check were ready to go any minute.
He weighed the options. What he wanted to do versus what he knew needed to be done pulled him two ways. How could he turn his back on someone, maybe another racer, who'd screwed up or a fan trying to follow the action and leave him out there to face the coming storm? Unless the stranger was well outfitted, such exposure likely spelled out his death warrant, and if the man was injured or had dogs down, fatal consequences were even more likely. He'd been close to that a few times himself. His gut still cramped at the memory.
The volunteer said information had been sketchy as to what was wrong and the caller's phone had apparently died completely before he finished the call. All they had to go on was a frightened voice calling in a broken SOS and a general location. Everyone knew without it being said that GPS was notoriously unreliable at times.
Dylan took a deep breath and let it out slowly. "I'll go. Anybody got a map I can use to plot a route out there, a good topographic map that shows the terrain?"
Someone produced one. He hitched the team and went inside to spread it out and figure which way he'd go. It was going to be like looking for a needle in a haystack, maybe a big needle in a small stack, but still no easy task. He checked his own compass and GPS unit, watered the dogs and then headed out. Sergei and Sasha both looked askance at him, as if sensing they were leaving the trail and the route the other teams were taking.
"It's okay, kids. We're going to make a detour here. If we get lucky, we might still be able to finish this race. If we don't...well, someone's life is worth more than a cup and a title, right?"
As if they understood, the two lead dogs leaned into the harness and swung into a smooth wolfish trot that ate up distance with the least possible waste of energy. Dylan trotted alongside, knowing he needed to spare the team all he could now because there was no way to know what they might encounter. A keen regret knifed through him--he'd been counting so much on a good finish in this race and he'd just thrown that away.
Am I a fool or a crazy, half-assed hero? Perhaps a bit of both, he decided.
* * * *
Two hours of that steady trot got Dylan close to the GPS coordinates he'd received. The wind had started to blow, swirling the dry surface layer of snow as he made his cautious way down a ridge. A bad forest fire had ravaged the area the past summer. Now dead trees that had not completely burned lay like giant jackstraws, and holes left where some had blown over, pulling out their roots, lurked under the snow to trap a dog or tip a sled. It was ugly terrain.
Sasha seemed to have an inborn sense for hazards. She had slowed from the trot and zigzagged along, picking her way as daintily as a gymnast or a dancer. The rest of the dogs followed her lead, also showing cautious alertness. The ridge finally leveled off into a gentle bowl. Just before a stronger gust obscured his view, Dylan thought he saw a flash of color off to one side, color at variance with the uniform black and white of the landscape.
Damn it, will the fucking wind die for just a few seconds? He squinted through the spinning, whirling white, trying to find the spot, the color, once again. If there were other dogs, maybe his team would scent them. The wind kept shifting so it was hard to line up with the place where he thought he'd seen something that didn't belong.
He didn't speak, but sent the thought to Sasha. Sometimes she seemed to read his mind. Maybe she would this time. Find them, girl. If there's someone here, close, find them.
The lead pair halted, heads up, ears pointed like antennas. He knew their noses would be twitching, sampling the frigid air. Finally, Sasha stepped off again, moving faster now and in as direct a line as she could. Here the fallen logs were fewer and there seemed to be no holes or other booby traps. He didn't try to guide the team. If Sasha was onto something, he'd let her find it.
When the team stopped, Dylan almost tripped over the sled. For an instant, the blizzard let up and he saw it, a patch of red, just in front of Sasha and Sergei. A tent? It looked like one, but a damned small one. He edged along beside the team until he reached it. Yep, a miniscule half-tube of red nylon, stretched by several light plastic arches.
He knelt at the end. "Hallo. Anyone here?"
The next instant he rocked back on his heels as a very pale face suddenly appeared in the opening as a zipper slid down.
At first, he did not recognize the person who drew opened the tent and began to wiggle out, dragging a green sleeping bag with him.
"Oh, my God, oh, my God, I'm not going to die after all." A gloved hand grasped Dylan's and another reached out to Sasha. "Somebody heard; somebody came. I didn't think anyone would."
"Don't go bawling," Dylan said. "The tears'll freeze your eyes shut. Let's get you packed up and on board, and head back to civilization before this blizzard gets any worse."
"Mr. Norgard? Is it really you? I thought you were trying to win the race."
Dylan didn't know whether to laugh or cuss. It was that damn cheechako kid, the reporter. What in bloody fucking hell was he doing out here alone in the snow?
"Where's your team, your rig?"
The younger man was fumbling to try to collapse and fold up his tent. "I--a guy named Hoolihan was going to get me to the third checkpoint ahead of the racers. One of his lead dogs came up lame, and he said he was going to take it to a village a few miles back just off the way we'd come. He said he'd be back in two hours. After four or five, I figured he'd left me."
"Hoolihan. Might've known. That sorry son of a bitch. You paid him, of course."
The younger man nodded. "Yeah, I paid him. And he suckered me, didn't he?"
"Looks that way." Dylan took pity on the kid, and anxious to head back, slammed the tent into a bundle and jammed it and the sleeping bag into his sled bag. "Get on and hang on tight. We're going to be fighting the wind all the way back, but we'll make it, gods willing."
Almost before he gave the command, Sasha and Sergei turned and headed back the way they had come, following the tracks and runner-ruts that were rapidly filling with new and blowing snow. No trotting now, but they kept a steady pace, leaning into the harness to take the extra weight. Dylan muttered a prayer they'd make it back to the checkpoint. If they got that far, he'd forget about the race. There would be other races, but he only had one life, as did his unexpected passenger and each dog of his precious team.
The trip that had taken two hours coming out took five going back. Long before they got there, the dogs had to break drifts higher than their backs. The wind howled like an insane banshee and ripped at them, sucking off every bit of heat their bodies could produce. A time or two Dylan considered stopping and making a cold camp, but he didn't have enough to feed the whole team because he hadn't picked up his drop bag before he left the checkpoint--mistake on his part. It was make it or other choice.
He stumbled now, pacing beside the sled, knowing that his added weight on the runners would be too much for the tiring team to handle. All at once he tripped, his leg twisting beneath him and he fell. A searing pain knifed up his right leg. Oh, shit, I've done it now.
Somehow, the dogs knew, stopping almost at once. He grabbed at the sled and tried to get up, but he couldn't. His leg was not going to bear his weight.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Warning: Offensive or spam comments will be deleted promptly!