Widowed at thirty, Hannah Bradley is a successful journalist focusing on animal abuse issues. An accidental meeting introduces her to lawyer, Winston Caughfield III. Drawn to Hannah’s gentle beauty and fierce commitment to her work, Win joins her in a fight to save wild mustangs from slaughter. Together they rescue a badly injured horse with a mysterious background. Hannah’s search to discover the animal’s true identity leads them into a web of black marketeering and international intrigue. Action packed with crisp colorful dialogue the story propels the reader to a race against time conclusion. Marilyn Holdsworth delivers a gripping tale of mystery, adventure and romance guaranteed to hold the interest and capture the heart. She brings true-life characters together with real-life issues to create a fast-paced irresistible story.
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By Marilyn Holdsworth
AuthorHouseCopyright © 2011 Marilyn Holdsworth
All right reserved.
Chapter OneHannah Pierce Bradley sat curled on the sofa in her country-style family room. Her long, silky chestnut hair tumbled around her shoulders, pulled back from her face with a wide blue band. Her large brown eyes, fringed by thick dark lashes, intently studied the papers strewn around her. Her creamy skin had a healthy glow from jogging in the morning air. The warmth of the room's colors and the friendly, comfortable, early-American furniture made it Hannah's favorite place in the house. Glass sliding doors opened out onto a wide brick patio, where two shaggy mongrels lolled in the sunlight. The larger of the two cocked an ear and thumped his tail as Hannah got up and crossed the room. The dog didn't move but watched her protectively as she passed into the kitchen to pour a cup of coffee and then returned to her place on the sofa, plumping the pillows and reaching for a tablet that lay on the side table. She sipped her coffee as she flipped through the pages of the notebook.
The phone shattered the stillness, and she answered reluctantly. This was going to be her day to begin work on her new series of articles. There was still much research to do, and she resented any intrusions. She reached for the phone and answered with a note of impatience in her voice. "Hello." Her tone immediately softened when she heard Winston Caughfield III's voice on the other end. "I'm so sorry, Win," she said affectionately. "I didn't mean to bite your head off. It's just that I was about to get into my first article. You know how I am when I'm working." She knew he'd understand as always.
His warm laugh was all the reassurance she needed. "It's okay, and I do understand," he replied. "But your work is why I called. I wondered if you'd seen the morning papers and thought perhaps if you were knee-deep in research you might not have. There's a story about an accident that might interest you. Take a look at the Daily Register, page two, bottom right-hand corner. Not a big write-up, so it might not make TV or radio news, and you might miss it. Now I won't keep you any longer from all that thinking and planning I know you're doing. Call me later about Saturday and tell me what you think of the story." The line went dead. Hannah unfolded her long legs and immediately went in search of the morning paper.
How very like Win, she reflected, undemanding, always interested in whatever concerned her. She pictured him this morning, his strong, even features and quick smile. He was over six feet tall, trim and athletic; only the silver streaks in his dark brown hair hinted at his age. Yes, Win was a special person, but it was still too soon. The ache and longing for Jonathan was too close to her heart, the healing process a long one. Jonathan's death had been such a shock, so swift; one day there, the next on his way to Chicago on business, and then the terrible snowstorm and fatal flight of United Airlines 111. Engine failure in the storm. She willed herself back to the present and her thoughts of Win. Maybe with time. That's what Win always said when they talked about their relationship. Just give it time.
She found the paper and quickly flipped to the article on page two. It was a brief account of an accident on some desolate canyon road. But what leaped out at her was the name, Vincent Rossi, and the Circle R horse farm. It was suspected that the horses in the van had belonged to him and that the van's driver was unlicensed, driving under the influence of alcohol. A truck and horse-trailer rig the size of the one in the accident should not have been on that narrow, winding road at all. There were no survivors reported at the scene. The driver of the van, the horses, and the two occupants of the small car that collided with the van had died in the crash. The wreckage at the bottom of the steep ravine was severely burned, making positive identification of the charred remains difficult.
Hannah let the paper slip to the floor. "What a waste, what a miserable waste," she said out loud. "Those beautiful animals carelessly killed. A crime." The worst kind of crime, in Hannah Pierce Bradley's opinion. A crime against harmless, helpless creatures. "That kind of scum shouldn't be allowed to raise animals," she muttered fiercely. "I hope they hang Vincent Rossi out on this one. And maybe I can help add some more fuel to that already smoldering fire."
She called Win later that evening, after spending the day organizing her notes and outlines for her newest project. Most of her past work she had done as a freelance writer. But lately she had been approached by several magazines offering assignments after her tremendously successful series of articles on the brutalities of puppy mills had appeared in the Wall Street Journal. Acclaimed as the brave new voice of social conscience, she was bombarded with offers to speak at animal rights groups across the country. She declined each with a thank-you note and a firm refusal, citing her need to continue her work raising public awareness of the need for laws and strong legal action against those so willing to exploit animals for greedy financial gain.
"Those horses didn't stand a chance." She spoke with much feeling in her voice, and Win could imagine her soft features set in a firm, determined line. He remembered similar words when she fiercely attacked the puppy-mill owners. "Vincent Rossi should be run out of town on a rail and his stables shut down," she said flatly. "He's criminally abusive, and a little slap on the wrist isn't going to change him. A fine and a few lines of bad publicity aren't going to do any good. And you know it as well as I do, Win."
"I do. I know what you say is true. I also know the guy is a sleazy small-time gangster. He's not at all like his father. The Rossi farm raised some fine horses in the old days. Trained them well and raced them fairly. They were some of the best in the smaller racing leagues. Never made it to the big time but did real well at the small tracks, fairs, things like that. My dad knew old Dominic Rossi, respected him as a fine horseman. But Vince's gone sour, bad as they come. The guy is unscrupulous and mean. Backed into a corner, you don't know what he'll do."
"He's gotten away with it too long, Win," Hannah said firmly. "And for every one of him, there's another coming right up behind him, willing to make the money any way they can. Ready to follow his lead."
"Hannah, I didn't call attention to the article because I wanted to encourage your involvement in any attempt to bring Vincent Rossi to justice," Win said firmly. "I just knew you'd be interested and want to follow the story, that's all. I really don't think you should entertain any idea of digging into it. You still get threats after all those puppy-mill stories. You don't need to open any more of Pandora's boxes."
"Yes, I do. The stories need to be told," she said determinedly. "My next series is a follow-up on the adoption of the animals rescued from the mills and the outstanding efforts of the humane societies and private funding across the country that saved those dogs. Three different magazines have approached me on the follow-up stories. I started working on my outlines today. And I honestly think I should work straight through the weekend," she finished.
"But what about Saturday?" Disappointment edged his voice. "I thought you could come out to the ranch for the day, have lunch, and ride in the afternoon. Quiet, just the two of us. All the help will be off except Mary Little Deer. She always stays at the ranch. Wouldn't know what to do with a day off."
"It sounds so nice, Win. Just what I need—fresh air, riding, and quiet. I'd really love to come. Let me work like crazy for the next couple of days. Without too many interruptions, I should have things pretty well outlined by then."
"I'll pick you up on Saturday morning. The weather should be good; forecast is for a fair weekend. Besides just seeing you, I have something I want to show you." She could hear the enthusiasm in his voice.
"Win. You've done so many nice things for me already. I really couldn't accept more right now."
"Now don't start that again. You know how much I enjoy being with you. I'll look forward to Saturday."
She hung up the phone and sat for a moment, speculating on what Win might possibly have to show her on Saturday. She smiled; she had to admit he was clever. Her interest had been piqued, and she found herself eagerly anticipating the weekend. She not only looked forward to seeing him, but she wondered just what it was he wanted so much to show her at the ranch.
Chapter TwoSaturday was a warm, sunny day, just as Win had predicted, and the drive out of Los Angeles was a welcome change from the heavy work schedule Hannah had been demanding of herself for the last few days. Sitting next to Win, wearing a plaid shirt and jeans with her hair pulled back and fastened with a barrette at the nape of her neck, Hannah looked young and vulnerable. The miles sped by, and they chatted easily together, but Win made no further mention of what was so important for her to see at the ranch.
"I'm looking forward to riding today. I haven't been on a horse for ages. Hope I haven't forgotten how," she worried.
"Like riding a bicycle," he laughed. "Once you learn, you never forget. You'll do fine."
Win turned the sleek, midnight-blue Jaguar into a long, narrow drive flanked by split-rail fencing. On either side, rolling green pastures spread as far as she could see. An arched gateway marked the entrance to the ranch. Mounted at the top of the crescent was an imposing round emblem emblazoned with a large metal sculpture of Pegasus at its center.
"Pegasus, the winged horse," she exclaimed. "What a wonderful name for a horse ranch. Do all your horses fly?"
He smiled. "I'm sure when my dad was so into racing, he wished they could. But it was my grandfather who founded the ranch and named it Pegasus. He named it after the Greek mythological horse in hopes of pleasing my grandmother. She was a very scholarly lady of Greek heritage, very interested in the arts, especially the Greek classics. Grandfather spent his entire lifetime trying to please her, but I'm afraid to no avail. I'm told she detested the West and the ranch, preferring Eastern city life and its more sophisticated offerings. They separated shortly after my father was born. She kept her Eastern townhouse, attending operas and grand parties while he built his empire out here."
"Sad she couldn't have enjoyed it with him," Hannah said. "It's so wonderfully tranquil here, a truly rare and beautiful setting with the mountains in the background and the rolling green hillsides. Didn't she ever see the horses race? Not even when the ranch's prize winners were entered in all the country's grandest races?"
"No, she never did. And it was a great sorrow to my grandfather. But, oddly enough, he never divorced her. He always hoped she'd change her mind, come back to him, and learn to love the land as he did. My father was raised by Mary Little Deer's mother here at the ranch. He was an only child, of course, and the lifestyle Grandmother lived in the East was not meant for a boisterous little boy. So he grew up at Pegasus and loved the ranch until his dying day. Now it's mine, and I must say, I share his deep love for the place."
They had pulled up to a sprawling Spanish hacienda with a red tiled roof and thick adobe-brick walls. Built around a central courtyard, the house had the look of an early California mission.
"It's really the picture of the Old West, Win. I can see why you love it here," she said as he helped her out of the car.
The house's thick walls and Mexican tile flooring made it cool and inviting. He ushered her through wide carved doors adorned by large bronze knockers shaped like horse heads. As they stood together in the dimly lit hall, Hannah blinked to adjust her eyes. From a stained-glass window at the end, a prism of light slanted across the floor, illuminating a majestic bronze sculpture of Pegasus standing like a sentinel in the massive entry. She stared at the beautiful sculpture. "It looks like it would take flight at any moment, leave its marble pedestal for the heavens."
"My grandfather had it made in Europe," Win explained as she continued to study the art piece. "Another futile attempt to win back Athena's heart, I suppose. The artist who did the piece has become quite famous. Perhaps you know of him—P. J. Mene. He did some smaller renditions of the same subject for him. One is in the garden, but I'm not sure where the others are now."
Hannah walked closer to the exquisitely detailed bronze statue, gently touching its flowing mane and extended wings. "He certainly captured the spirit of the horse."
"I thought you might like it."
"And is this what you wanted so much for me to see?"
"No, it isn't," he said, smiling mysteriously. "You'll have to wait for that," he teased. "Now let's see if Mary Little Deer left us a snack in the library." He led her through wide double-oak doors into a large high-ceilinged room with open carved beams. At the far end was a massive stone fireplace surrounded by walls lined with bookshelves.
"What a lovely room, and such a collection of fine books," Hannah said, scanning the leather-bound volumes.
"Another of Grandfather's attempts to please Athena. All the classics are there, with a very special collection of Greek literature and ancient mythology. I'm afraid the architecture he chose when he built the ranch and its name do seem a bit incongruous, but when you know the history of the place, it fits together after all. I'm rattling on about the past too much," Win said, suddenly glancing across the room. "Sure hope you're hungry, Mary Little Deer's done her usual I see. Light snack just isn't in her vocabulary. Unless she hears the legs groan the table isn't set," he laughed. A tray of assorted sandwiches , a large fruit bowl and a plate of freshly baked cookies with a pot of coffee stood waiting on a long, low knotty-pine table in front of a deep saddle-brown leather sofa.
"It all looks delicious," Hannah said. "And actually I'm starved."
When lunch was finished and cleared away by the silently efficient Mary Little Deer, they went in search of the stables. Once again, Winston Caughfield III was right; it was like riding a bicycle. Hannah settled easily into the saddle on a bay mare. Riding next to her, astride his favorite horse, Alabaster, Win guided them around the barns, past the corrals and the training track, and toward the gently rolling hills. They rode for more than an hour, enjoying the sunny afternoon and clear, fresh air. The bay mare responded eagerly when Hannah nudged her into a canter. Although spirited, the horse was smooth-gaited and perfectly trained, and Alabaster pranced, tossing his head to show off for them both. Win rode with the grace and skill of an accomplished rider. It was obvious how much he loved the horse as he reached over to pat his arched neck when they pulled up after galloping across an open meadow.
He called to Hannah as she reined in beside him. "Over there," he said, pointing to the ridge. "Just over that crest is where we're going." He urged Alabaster into a trot, beckoning for her to follow. At the top of the rise, they pulled the horses up, and Hannah gazed down into a small valley. Several corrals dotted the landscape, each with its own enclosure and hay bin. A feed storage shed stood close by, and a barn was under construction at the far end.
Hannah looked questioningly at Win, but he said nothing, just guided his horse down the slope; she fell in behind him. Hannah's mare picked her way down the hillside and came up next to Alabaster at the base of the hill. "Well, this is it," he said, spreading his arm wide to indicate the corrals and structures.
Hannah looked at him blankly. The corrals were empty, and there seemed to be no one around.
"Come on," Win said. "I want to show you something." They dismounted, tied the horses, and walked toward the newly erected barn. He swung the door wide for her to enter.
"Almost finished. Some work inside and some paint outside left to do," he said with satisfaction. "This week will do it, and then we'll be ready for occupancy. Don't you think?" He turned to a very puzzled Hannah.
"Yes, it does seem to be almost finished," she responded. "Are you planning on moving some of your horses here from outlying pastures or the main barn?"
Excerpted from Pegasus by Marilyn Holdsworth Copyright © 2011 by Marilyn Holdsworth. Excerpted by permission of AuthorHouse. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I really enjoyed "Pegasus."  The characters are very likable and well drawn out.   Hannah is a true heroine who knows what she wants and how to get it even with potential harm in the way.   Pegasus is also an enjoyable character, and his recovery scenes were endearing.  The action moved the story along well, and the storyline kept my interest.  When a story stays with me after I have put a book down and I look forward to picking it back up, I know it's good.   I recommend "Pegasus" to anyone who wants a good story to take them away for a few hours, whether a lover of horses or not.  You will enjoy the ride, much like an easy canter through the field on a nice, spring day. Reviewed by Marissa Libbit for Reader Views
"Pegasus" by Marilyn Holdsworth was really a eye opener for me that this type of treatment of cruelty of animals actually happens. Wow! It is even more appealing to know there are 'those who love animals and stand up for their rights.' YES! "Pegasus" was really a ride from the beginning of the story till the very end focusing on humanity toward these wild mustangs and racehorses that the owner, Victor Rossi who sold badly damaged horses to overseas meat markets. How this turns out is really worth the read of "Pegasus." The authors characters were really very interesting in how Hannah Bradley(who was a journalist-heroine) and Winston Caughfield(a lawyer-hero) coming together ...both widowers...finding love....and not just of horses...... the rescue of 'Pegasus' .... the horse rescue to healing was a miracle all in itself....definitely a one of a kind horse. Had Pegasus been a racing horse? You must get this wonderful read to find out this and more. With Hannah and Winston coming together to save these horses from slaughter was a real interesting read to see how this was done. The other characters... Mary Little Deer, Hank,Victor, Candy, Al, Dee Dee, Dr.Ward Stevens, Mike Adams,Martha Preacher, Clyde Morris, Black Hawk, Aaron Carson, B. Jay and Franz only to name a few really made this novel a good read. "Pegasus" was filled with fast and action packed mystery,adventure and romance that would definitely hold your attention for a unforgettable read. Even if you aren't a animal lover I think you will still enjoy this novel but if you are a lover I would definitely recommend it to you as a excellent read.
Reviewed by Marissa Libbit for Reader Views (5/11) ¿Pegasus¿ by Marilyn Holdsworth is the fictional journey of the main character Hannah Bradley as she uncovers a mystery surrounding her rescued horse Pegasus. As a writer, Hannah covers stories about animal abuse which leads to her desire to rescue wild horses. Upon the adoption of Pegasus, she discovers his true identity and connections to a black market ring involving the slaughter of wild mustangs. Helping Hannah with her quest to save the horses is her love Win Caufield. I really enjoyed ¿Pegasus.¿ The characters are very likable and well drawn out. Even the nefarious characters are entertaining because they are just so easy to dislike. Hannah is a true heroine who knows what she wants and how to get it even with potential harm in the way. Win is a tad too perfect in a Prince Charming sort of way, but who doesn¿t like a good fairy tale? Pegasus is also an enjoyable character, and his recovery scenes were endearing. The action moved the story along well, and the storyline kept my interest. When a story stays with me after I have put a book down and I look forward to picking it back up, I know it¿s good. My only critique is that the ending was a bit too ¿pretty¿ in that everything tied up a little too easily in my opinion, and I had hoped for a bit more drama. Overall, though, it was a nice, easy read. I recommend ¿Pegasus¿ to anyone who wants a good story to take them away for a few hours, whether a lover of horses or not. You will enjoy the ride, much like an easy canter through the field on a nice, spring day.
Author: Marilyn HoldsworthPublished By: AuthorHouseAge Recommend: AdultReviewed By: Arlena DeanRaven Rating: 5Blog Review For: GMTAReview:"Pegasus" by Marilyn Holdsworth was really a eye opener for me that this type of treatment of cruelty of animals actually happens. Wow! It is even more appealing to know there are 'those who love animals and stand up for their rights.' YES!"Pegasus" was really a ride from the beginning of the story till the very end focusing on humanity toward these wild mustangs and racehorses that the owner, Victor Rossi who sold badly damaged horses to overseas meat markets. How this turns out is really worth the read of "Pegasus." The authors characters were really very interesting in how Hannah Bradley(who was a journalist-heroine) and Winston Caughfield(a lawyer-hero) coming together ...both widowers...finding love....and not just of horses...... the rescue of 'Pegasus' .... the horse rescue to healing was a miracle all in itself....definitely a one of a kind horse. Had Pegasus been a racing horse? You must get this wonderful read to find out this and more.With Hannah and Winston coming together to save these horses from slaughter was a real interesting read to see how this was done. The other characters... Mary Little Deer, Hank,Victor, Candy, Al, Dee Dee, Dr.Ward Stevens, Mike Adams, Martha Preacher, Clyde Morris, Black Hawk, Aaron Carson, B. Jay and Franz only to name a few really made this novel a good read."Pegasus" was filled with fast and action packed mystery, adventure and romance that would definitely hold your attentionfor a unforgettable read. Even if you aren't a animal lover I think you will still enjoy this novel but if you are a lover I would definitely recommend it to you as a excellent read.
I own horses and read a great deal of fiction and non-fiction stories and books about them and have for years. There were some aspects I liked, I liked the horse, I liked the fact they are showing the dirty side of what happens to horses no one wants- on the track and off, and the story line itself isn't bad at all. But I think it would have been better for me when I younger and more impressionable wasn't such a stickler for a realistic portrayal of horsemanship. The main character Hannah having the ability to hop on Pegasus to figure out if he was a racehorse or not and breeze him is totally unbelievable in real life. I did something like that with my first horse, an aging ex racehorse with a respectable career behind him, and he wasn't in his prime. We galloped the track at a notch under full speed "breezing" and even with lessons and a few years riding him it was absolutely exhausting. Unrealistic this woman could do it with virtually no riding experience. I also wish the bad guys weren't so stereotypical and over-the-top, It made it hard to enjoy those portions of the book with the dialog and B-movie bad guy types. 2 1/2 to 3 stars.
Rarity lives here with Sweetie Belle.
This book was great. The only reason that I gave this book 4 stars is that it cussed A LOT! I advise to younger readers "Wait until you get older" It also had alot of adult scenes. It uses the f*** word a little to much for me personaly. Younger readers, wait until your older!!!!!!
I love horses, and especially love the title of this book. Pegasus is a thrill ride from beginning to end. This book focuses on the humanity towards horses and the cruelty of one Victor Rossi, who would be a disgrace to his father. Victor sells rundown horses to meat markets to be shipped overseas. That alone makes me cringe. Hannah and Win have both been thru tough times, but thru their mutual love of horses, are determined to save one horse after an awful crash in the prologue. They have no idea where this horse came from or what is has been thru, but Hannah's overpowering love for animals, faces down a gun to save this horse, a horse so badly damaged that she doesn't even know if it will live. This book should be a reminder to everyone that we must speak for those that can't:animals. The side story of Hannah and Win is interesting to follow,and Win's need to protect Hannah from what might be death, makes this book even more intriguing. The only fault I find in this book is the sheer constant use of vulgar language. I feel it was not really needed and that the book would be just find without the constant use of the f-bomb. I cannot comprehend why authors today feel the need to use vulgarity to try and sell books. I guess the use of language like that is common place in our society, but I have yet to read a Jane Austen, Wilkie Collins, or the Bronte sisters books using such vulgarity, and yet they are being read over and over again, and are named as favorites by many readers. I liked reading this book for the fact of the author's image of animal cruelty, and the crusade of one young woman to speak out for them. If you can get past the vulgar language, this book is a good read. Kudos to the author for writing on such a deep subject.