Cover by Laura Shinn
The white stallion grazed peacefully on a patch of sun-warmed grass beside a slow-moving river. The Lakota horse herd grazed nearby, never getting too close. In the distance, smoke rose from the lodges of the People.
The stallion did not belong to the Lakota. Or the Apache. Or the Cheyenne. Or any other tribe. He was Relámpago and he belonged to no one. The Apache called him a ghost horse because of his pale color. The Cheyenne called him a spirit horse because he could travel the shadow road between the past and the present, but he preferred to make his home in the past.
A gentle breeze stirred the leaves of the trees, carrying with it a voice from the present. A voice only the stallion could hear.
With a toss of his head, the stallion began to run, mane and tail flying in the wind as he raced swiftly over the rolling hills. It was not an Apache warrior that needed saving this time. Or a young woman contemplating suicide.
But a woman looking for love in all the wrong places.
“And they lived happily ever after.”
Bonnie Daniels sighed as she closed the book, then pressed it to her heart. Movies, books, and popular songs all had happy-ever-after endings. Why couldn’t she? What was wrong with her?
Laying the book aside, she went into the bedroom and studied her reflection in the mirror over her dresser. Long brown hair, brown eyes, pointy nose. So, she was a pound or two overweight. Okay, ten pounds. So, she wasn’t as beautiful as Angelina Jolie and she couldn’t sing like Taylor Swift or dance like Jennifer Gray. It was said that everyone had a talent; she just hadn’t found hers yet.
Maybe the problem was there were just too many beautiful, talented women running around these days. She should have been born in the Old West, where the men outnumbered the women. Even ugly women had been prized back then. And she wasn’t ugly, just not movie-star gorgeous.
In the 1800’s, she could have been a mail-order bride. Or, more likely, an old maid school teacher. She grinned at her fanciful thoughts.
“You’ve been watching too many old westerns,” she muttered. But hey, could she help it if she liked the romance of the Old West? After all, who could resist a tall, lanky cowboy wearing a black Stetson? Even homely cowboys looked sexy in a hat.
Life had been slower back then. There had been time to appreciate the things that were important, like friends and family. People had actually talked to each other instead of sending text messages or email. Families had stayed together and prayed together. It wasn’t like today, when everything was hurry, hurry, hurry, and nobody took the time to appreciate the simple things in life.
“Geez, Bonnie, how maudlin can you get?”
But who could blame her? Since her father retired, she hardly ever saw her parents any more. They were always on a cruise ship to some exotic location. Her brother had recently been promoted to CEO of his company and moved to New York. Her younger sister had been accepted at Harvard Law.
“And what have you done with your life, Bonnie Daniels? Nothing. Not one darn thing.”
She was a receptionist in a pediatrician’s office. She’d had three failed relationships in the last four years. None of them had been serious. Her love life was currently in the toilet, and she knew it was all her fault. There had been nothing wrong with Wade or Will or Luke. Except that they weren’t cowboys…of course, real cowboys were hard to find these days.
Unless you spent a lot of time at rodeos. Or stayed at a dude ranch.
Bonnie smacked her forehead. Of course! Why hadn’t she thought of it sooner? Her vacation was only a few weeks away. She would go to a dude ranch and indulge her fantasies.
Filled with a sudden excitement, she sat down at her computer and did a Google search for dude ranches. She hadn’t expected there to be so many. She checked those in Colorado, California, North Carolina, South Dakota and Wyoming, and decided on the one in South Dakota because the scenery was spectacular. According to the online brochure, the ranch had been in the Collins family for over two hundred years, and had once been a working cattle ranch. They offered hay rides, volleyball, a swimming pool, bingo, fly fishing, river rafting, square dances, riding lessons and trail rides.
It sounded perfect.