In the seventh book of the Keystone Stables series, perfect for girls who love horses and horse fiction, foster child Skye gets more than she bargained for when the two newest arrivals to the ranch are a half-wild Mustang and a former gang member who may be just as uncontrollable.
While at a major horse show, Skye gets the biggest shock of her life: a surprise encounter with a switchblade-wielding teenager named Wanda. Before long, Skye’s foster parents decide to bring Wanda to Keystone Stables as a foster child—and when they also purchase an out-of-control Mustang named Rebel, she can only wonder if they’ve lost their minds. But as Skye practices the gentle art of horse whispering with Rebel, she discovers a key that just might open up Wanda’s fearful, lonely heart to the healing power of God’s love.
- is written by an author who has firsthand experience with horses and foster care
- is a contemporary and realistic plot, with an inspirational Christian message
- features diverse characters and experiences
- contains extensive back matter on different horse breeds, how to care for them, and horsemanship, as well as facts, diagrams, and a glossary of horse terms so girls can better know their favorite animal
About the Author
Marsha Hubler is a homeschool consultant, evaluator, and educator specializing in elementary education and learning disabilities. She and her husband, Richard, were foster parents to countless children for more than eleven years. They live in Middleburg, Pennsylvania.
Read an Excerpt
By Marsha Hubler
ZondervanCopyright © 2009 Marsha Hubler
All right reserved.
Chapter OneChamp, you're eating like a hog today!" Thirteen-year-old Skye Nicholson smiled as she stroked her sorrel Quarter Horse's muzzle in a stall in the exhibitors' barn. She and her foster family were spending the last three days of February at the State Horse Show and Expo in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. "Hold your horses and I'll get you some more hay."
Champ nickered and snuggled his nose against Skye's suede western vest.
"Will you get Diamond an extra section?" Morgan Hendricks, Skye's fifteen-year-old foster sister, yelled from the next stall where she sat in her wheelchair grooming her bay mare. "Diamond worked up a good sweat in our last class. Of course, she's eating for two, so she deserves another serving."
"No problem," Skye yelled back.
"Sometimes it pays to have cerebral palsy," Morgan kidded. "Other people get to do the hard work."
"Caring for horses is not hard work in my book!" Skye said, heading down a long corridor sandwiched between two rows of stalls that buzzed with horse business. She weaved in and out among riders primping their mounts until she reached the corner of the barn. All along the way, she relived the last few wonderful days at the horse show. Second place in Junior Western Pleasure for Champ and me and third forMorgan and Diamond in the Special-Needs Halter Class. Not bad. Not bad at all! At the end of the hallway, she opened the Dutch door to a dimly lit room filled with stacked hay bales. She walked to the stack, and as she reached and pulled down a hay bale, something moved behind the piles, forcing her to jump back.
Must be another stray cat, she thought as she stretched to look behind the bales. What if she just had kittens? I bet she's hungry.
Skye shifted a few bales to her left to see farther into the corner. "Whoa!" she yelped.
The glinting blade of a jackknife pointed directly at Skye.
In the dim light, Skye strained to study a thin figure holding the knife. His face in the shadow of a black baseball cap, visor cocked to the side, the stranger wore a washed-out jacket and soiled and tattered cargo pants. The right arm of the jacket bore a neon orange patch with the barely legible word "Blades."
Skye sized the intruder, started to back away, and opened her mouth, but no words came out. For the first time in her life, she was scared down to her toenails.
"Get lost, horse breath!" the stranger ordered. "You're on my turf now!"
Riveted to the floor, Skye again tried to speak. "I-I was only getting some hay for my horse."
"I said get lost!" he yelled as he poked the knife toward Skye.
Skye quickly analyzed the situation and decided she was no pushover with kids like this. She had run with this kind a long time ago, before she went to live at Keystone Stables. In fact, she had been a kid like this. Skye's brown eyes flashed as she raked her hands through her long, dark hair. Should I take on this skinny rail of a kid or not? Better not, she reasoned. Not with that knife pointing my way.
In a flash, Skye turned and ran out the doorway and yelled to anyone who would listen. "Hey, there's a kid with a knife in this room!"
Every horseman within earshot stopped dead in his tracks and stared at Skye.
"A knife?" one girl yelled as she clutched her horse's halter.
"Call security!" a woman in English riding clothes and mounted on a black horse yelled as she reined her mount in the opposite direction.
Across the hall, a muscular man in Western attire and a ten-gallon hat came charging out of stall. With a pitchfork pointed in Skye's direction, he yelled, "Where is he? I'll take care of him."
As Skye focused down the long corridor toward the other end of the barn, she spotted Mr. and Mrs. Chambers standing in front of Champ's stall.
"Mom! Dad!" Skye yelled her lungs out. "There's a kid with a knife in the hay room!"
The man with the pitchfork charged across the hall. "Get out of the way, kid. I'm going in after him!"
"Skye, get away from there!" Mr. Chambers' voice echoed down the hallway as he ran toward Skye. "Eileen, call security, and I'll go check it out!"
Skye took several steps away from the door, and before the cowboy and his pitchfork reached the room, the intruder tore past Skye, the knife nowhere in sight. He took off full speed ahead, weaving around gawking contestants and jittery horses toward the open doorway at the other end of the barn.
"Hey!" Skye yelled, and took off after him.
"Skye, be careful!" Mr. Chambers yelled, running toward the kid.
"I can handle this joker!" We'll just see how tough this bean pole is without his knife, Skye thought as she picked up speed.
"Give it up, kid!" Mr. Chambers yelled, barreling down the hallway.
Just a breath behind the kid, Skye took a running leap and wrapped her arms around his legs. Falling flat on his chest, he squirted out an "Oomph," followed by a string of foul language.
With all her strength, Skye wrestled the stranger, pinning him face down. "I've got him!" Skye yelled as she spotted a bulge in the back pocket of his pants and retrieved the knife. At the same time, the cowboy and Mr. Chambers grabbed the boy by his arms. "Skye, let go," Mr. Chambers said. "We've got him."
Skye released her grip, and Mr. Chambers pulled the kid up to his feet.
"Let me go, you scuzzball!" Taking vicious swings at Mr. Chambers and the other man, the kid's cap went flying.
Skye scrambled to her feet, ready to throw her own punch. "It's-it's a girl!" Skye said, gasping to catch her breath.
Spectators on both sides of the hall gawked and tried to calm their spooked horses.
"Let me go," the kid yelled. "I ain't done nothin'."
"Then what'cha runnin' for?" the cowboy asked with a firm grip on her arm.
A policeman came running down the hall with Mrs. Chambers trailing right behind and Morgan not far behind.
"All right, that's enough!" The policeman huffed in short breaths, grabbing hold of the girl, who kicked and tried to shake him off. "What's going on here?"
Mr. Chambers and the cowboy released their grip, and the cowboy backed away. "Looks like you got this case sewn up," the cowboy said as he left.
"Thanks for your help," Mr. Chambers huffed, raising his hand.
"Kid, I'm telling you to calm down right now," the officer ordered as he scuffled with the girl, "or I'm going to cuff you."
Cuffs with your hands behind your back are not fun, Skye remembered as she watched the kid reluctantly give in to the policeman's demands. Gasping for breath, Skye handed the knife to the officer. "He-I mean she-pulled this on me in the feed stall. I don't even know who she is."
"Wanda," the officer said, catching his own breath, "I thought I told you to stay clear of this place." He turned and shouted to the mesmerized crowd. "Everything's okay, folks. We've got everything under control. Go about your business."
With that, the spectators quickly returned to their hustle and bustle.
"Skye, are you all right?" Mrs. Chambers huffed, blue eyes flashing from under her beige Stetson.
"Yeah, I'm fine." Skye released a devilish smile as she brushed off her jeans. "It's been awhile since anyone pulled a knife on me. Just like old times!"
"Horse breath," Wanda snapped, scowling at Skye.
Skye studied the semblance of a boy and determined that if Wanda's chopped-off wavy brown hair were longer-and clean-and she'd gain a few pounds, she would be almost pretty, especially with her dark brown eyes and long eyelashes.
"What's happening?" Morgan said, parking her wheelchair next to Mr. Chambers. Her freckled face radiated red almost as much as her long kinky hair.
"Folks, I'm sorry about this," the officer said. "We've had trouble with two gangs in this part of town. They're always having turf wars that include this complex. Wanda here runs with the Blades from the south side. The Scorpions think they control the west side. Somehow, they both claim this territory as theirs. Wanda was probably on a graffiti binge tonight and had some interference from the enemy. Isn't that right, Wanda?"
Wanda pulled her arm free from the officer and picked up her cap. She yanked it down on her head, folded her arms, and said nothing. All the while, her eyes scanned the scene as if searching for someone.
Who's she looking for? Skye thought.
"Wanda, that expression on your face means only one thing," the officer said. "You've got some Scorpions hot on your trail, don'tcha?"
Wanda lowered her head and said nothing.
"Well, they won't find you tonight, not where you're going."
"Juvie hall," Skye said.
"That's right, young lady," the officer said. "She'll be safe there until she sees the judge-again. This time she'll be sent up. She has a record as long as a flagpole."
Mr. Chambers quickly squared his tan Stetson and extended his hand to the officer. "I'm Tom Chambers. This is my wife, Eileen, and these are my two foster daughters, Skye Nicholson and Morgan Hendricks."
Wanda looked up with a scowl and stared at Skye. "Whoop-dee-doo," she slurred.
"Wanda, just be quiet," the officer said as he shook Mr. Chambers' hand. "Officer Bill Connors, third precinct. This is my turf when the horse show is being held."
Wanda just folded her arms and scowled.
Mr. Chambers smoothed his brown mustache and released a friendly smile. "Officer, we own Keystone Stables, a special-needs dude ranch and foster-care facility about an hour north of here. My wife is also a special-needs therapist at the Maranatha Treatment Center near our ranch. Our lives are dedicated to helping salvage the youth of today that are so-well-I wonder if this young lady would like to spend a year at our place, away from the Scorpions." He directed his last words right at Wanda.
"There's always room for another kid at Keystone Stables!" Skye said, staring at the girl.
"I ain't in need of no 'salvaging,'" Wanda declared. "Me and my gram get along just fine."
"Sure you do," Officer Connors said. "The last time I talked to your grandmother, she said you hadn't been home nor in school for two weeks. Hanging out with that gang spells nothing but trouble with a capital T."
Mrs. Chambers smiled and reached out to shake Wanda's hand. Wanda just stared and scowled.
"Wanda," Mrs. Chambers said, "I'm very glad to meet you. I'd love if you'd consider spending some time with us. It's not that bad. We have horses and two dogs, and a game room, and a pool table, and-"
"A pool table?" Wanda looked up, and, although the girl made no attempt to shake hands, Skye thought her eyes betrayed a sudden interest.
"Yeah," Skye said. "My friend Chad, who's in our youth group at church, is showing me how to shoot pool."
"A lot of kids in the youth group like to shoot pool," Morgan said. "They're always hanging out at our place."
"Now you've got her attention," Officer Connors said. "Whenever I want to find Wanda, all I need to do is go to Joe's Billiard Room on Fifth Street. If she's not with the gang, she's usually hanging out there. She's a regular pool shark. Has her own stick and everything."
"You'd really like it at the ranch," Morgan said. "There's lots to do with the horses."
"I hate animals," Wanda said, "especially horses."
Then you'll hate Keystone Stables, Skye reasoned.
"I think you'd like them if you spent some time with them," Mr. Chambers said.
Officer Connors slipped the knife in his shirt pocket and squared his hat. "Well, folks, if you really want this kid, you're looking at a two month wait until the court schedule opens up to adjudicate her into your care. But that will give you time to put bars on all your windows." He chuckled.
"Very funny," Wanda sneered.
"I know a quicker way," Mrs. Chambers said. "If Wanda agrees to come, we can have papers drawn up immediately that her grandmother can sign to release her into our custody. We do it all the time when family members are involved."
Wanda stood in silence, pretending not to listen. Then she scowled in Skye's direction. "I ain't goin' no place where Horsebreath lives."
Skye found herself with mixed emotions. As a Christian, she knew that with God's help she and her foster family could give Wanda a second chance in life. Yet she wasn't sure about this tough gangbanger who could turn everything upside down in everybody's life. I don't know if I can take a whole year of insults, Skye thought. But then, God changed me, so he can change anybody!
"Mr. Chambers, if you can get permission from her grandmother, that'll work," Officer Connors said. "What I can do for all of you is take you to see Wanda's grandma as soon as possible. Wanda, is she home?"
Wanda just shrugged.
"What's your phone number?" he asked.
"None of your business," Wanda snapped.
"Miss Smart Aleck, you deserve a year's worth of shoveling horse manure. That will be better for you than any juvie hall or residential treatment facility I know." Officer Connors punched numbers into his cell phone. "I'll call headquarters and get the phone number. How long are you folks staying in town?"
"We were going to leave this evening, but we'll change our plans if we need to," Mr. Chambers said.
"With any luck, you can meet Wanda's next of kin tonight and get the process moving. In the meantime, Wanda will be spending a little time downtown."
Wanda shot another sour look at Skye, more hateful than the last. "Horse breath," she growled.
Skye gave Wanda a forced smile and sent up a quick prayer. God, I'm going to need you big time with this one.
Chapter TwoIt was a bitterly cold Saturday in March, exactly a month to the day that Wanda had caused so much trouble at the horse show. Now Skye was coming to grips with the fact that for the next year she would have a new foster sister.
"When are Mom and Morgan getting here with Wanda?" Skye stirred a huge bowl of macaroni salad in the kitchenette next to the game room in the basement.
Mr. Chambers, standing beside Skye, had a large pot of beef barbecue bubbling on the stove. He glanced at the clock on the wall. "Well, let's see. They left at eight this morning to pick up Wanda at her grandmother's. An hour down, an hour to pack the car and say goodbye, and another hour back. They should be here any minute." He adjusted his towering chef's hat, which he always wore just for fun, and stirred the steaming hot food. "I hope the youth group gets here before they do."
Excerpted from Whispering Hope by Marsha Hubler Copyright © 2009 by Marsha Hubler. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I love this book it was really good
sooooooo good cute!
Rp means roleplay.
I"ll have to go to the other one because I can't get my lives without StarClan cats. Over and out! (Pads out)
I have read most the books in the series and i love them and i like how the books talk about God!
Good so far have not finsh yet