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Phantom Stallion: Wild Horse Island #8: Water Lily
By Terri Farley
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.
Copyright © 2008
All right reserved.
Darby Carter lay belly down, as level to the ground as she could make herself. Her chin rested on red dirt. The grass of the Lehua High School football field tickled her nose, but everything about her remained still.
Except for her eyes.
They tracked the wild horses' steps as they followed the early-morning sun.
Without raising her head, Darby could only see the black stallion from hooves to chest. He stood that close.
Darby's best friend, Ann Potter, lay beside her. Ann was supposed to be equally still and silent. Though her unruly red curls didn't move, Ann whispered an imitation of a documentary film narrator.
"While stalking the crafty colts of Wild Horse Island—"
"Shh." Darby tried not to smile.
"—two intrepid naturalists were unable to conceal themselves from a pack of slobbering sophomores, with the end result that they were trampled quite—"
"Ann!" Darby scolded. She elbowed her friend in the ribs, even though the black mustang hadn't bolted.
They weren't stalking crafty colts, or concealing themselves from other students—sophomores or otherwise—but after two frustrating weeks, she and Ann had given up following the rules.
Fearing the stallion would charge some student, the parents, teachers,Department of Agriculture, and the school's principal, Ms. Cooke, had all been taking turns patrolling the horses' temporary pasture at the school to keep the kids away.
They've been pretty good at it, too, Darby thought. Each time she and Ann had come out to the field to check on the wild horses they'd helped rescue from the tsunami, they were shooed away "for their own safety."
This morning they'd finally crept close enough to really watch the horses, because they'd persuaded Ann's dad to drop them off an hour before classes began.
Darby had expected it to be cold this early in the day, but it hadn't rained since the tsunami. The earth was drying out and felt almost warm beneath her. Sunshine heated the denim of her jeans, too, but Darby didn't close her eyes and bask.
Who knew when she'd get this close to the horses again? She took in every detail of Black Lava, studying the sloping pasterns and wispy feathers on the black stallion's legs.
He could run forever, Darby thought. She sighed, and the stallion lowered his head to investigate the sound. Equine eyes—one brown and one blue as her own—fixed on her.
"He's watching us." At Ann's voice, a bay mare gave a low nicker and moved farther away.
Nine horses remained in Black Lava's band. Before the tsunami, there'd been eleven.
Snorting, the night-black stallion moved far enough away that Darby saw all of him. Head high, he trotted a circle around his herd. He seemed to count each of them—the bay mare and her black foal, a yellow dun with matching foal, a gray mare with a blue roan foal, and a putty-colored dun, chestnut, and black mare standing off to one side.
The stallion stopped beside the dun mare and lifted his muzzle as if pointing out the girls. He stood half a football field away, but Darby heard wind sing through his tail.
He and the dun sniffed, nostrils widened to take in the smell of the humans.
The horses had been forced to call this place home, but they didn't welcome visitors.
A squeal from one of the mares sent the herd off at a run, to the far side of the field. What had startled them?
Before Darby could roll up on her side to investigate, a voice told her it was a who, not a what.
"You don't mind standing up and coming with me, do you?"
Darby closed her eyes. She knew they were caught but didn't want to face it.
Darby and Ann pushed themselves onto their knees, then stood, brushing at the grass and dirt on their clothes as they looked at each other and tried to think of something to say.
"No surf this morning?" Ann asked finally.
"I could find bigger waves in my bathtub," the principal said.
Ms. Cooke was a world-class surfer. Most mornings she arrived at school with her sun-bleached hair still wet. But the moment she stashed her teal-blue surfboard behind her office door, Ms. Cooke turned into a no-nonsense principal.
"Let's go." Ms. Cooke strode off.
She clearly expected them to follow, and though excuses swirled through Darby's mind, she couldn't find the nerve to say anything. She'd seen Ms. Cooke around campus, but they'd never met.
Ann was less intimidated by the principal. As the girls caught up with her, Ann pointed in the opposite direction. "Our first class is this way, Ms. Cooke."
Ms. Cooke's smile crinkled the skin around her eyes. "We're headed for the office. You two knew the field was off-limits. You took a chance and lost."
"What's going to happen?" Darby knew she sounded chicken.
"A citation," Ms. Cooke's voice floated back to them as she continued walking. "And Nutrition Break detention for the rest of the week."
"A citation?" Darby gasped.
That was bad. Really bad. Short term, it might mean she couldn't ride out with her friend Cade to Crimson Vale today after school. Long term, it could be a disaster.
One of her mother's ground rules for remaining in Hawaii and on 'Iolani Ranch with her grandfather was: Darby must earn good grades. Of course that meant citizenship grades, too. Her mother said perfect behavior didn't take much brainpower.
Although Darby had been in Hawaii for only two and a half months, she'd already been in trouble more than she had during her entire life in Southern California.
Megan Kato, the daughter of the business manager on 'Iolani Ranch and one of Darby's best friends, had told Darby it was because she was actually doing things—riding the grasslands of wild Hawaii, for a start—instead of sitting in her room reading.
Excerpted from Phantom Stallion: Wild Horse Island #8: Water Lily by Terri Farley
Copyright © 2008 by Terri Farley. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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