by Heidi Hutchinson
In Cold Mud novel
Publication Date: March 11, 2016
Genres: Contemporary, Romance
Ryan Zacherson’s life was forever altered the moment her mom passed away. Thrust into a family feud decades old, she attempts to hold tight to the reins of her life without losing control. She embarks on a forced journey of self-discovery. As she becomes more deeply involved in the world of horse racing, liars, gamblers, and cheats, she learns harsh lessons as the girl no one wants. She’s taught the value of love, compassion, loyalty, and resilience. With the help of her closest friend, Jesse Hart, she learns what it really means to be brave.
With every lesson she learns, Ryan proves time and time again: nothing can break her spirit without her permission.
Companion to Brand New Sky.
Stubborn Hearts excerpt #1
“How did the assignment come out?”
They had made it through Jesse's whole first sandwich before he'd brought it up. Ryan was actually hoping maybe he wouldn't bring it up at all.
She shrugged. “I ate an entire cake while sobbing over my laptop.” She fixed the onion that was falling out of the side of her sandwich, stuffing it back where it went. “Posted the story. Sent the link to Triston. Stared at my ceiling all night long. So it went well I think.” She took a huge bite of her sandwich as Jesse chuckled.
“Good. First steps are important.”
“I think you mean painful.”
“How are you so good with people? Like, you can read them and understand them and... I don't have that.” She sighed, shaking her head. She didn't have skills like that. Reading people was incredibly hard. Jesse's low chuckle and subsequent choking on his sandwich got her attention again.He took a big swallow of his beer and cleared his throat. “I am not good with people.”
“Sure you are,” Ryan argued.
He shook his head. “No, darlin', I'm not. You're not like other people. I think that's one of the reasons you and I are such good friends.”
She smiled and tilted her head to the side. “We're good friends?”
He rolled his eyes. “You know you're my best friend, stop fishing for compliments.”
Ryan stilled, warmth spreading through her insides. She'd never been anyone's best friend before. She wasn't ready to embrace that notion fully. It was bigger than she was emotionally equipped to deal with. So she shrugged. “Well, you're not my best friend. I have a dozen or so applications to go through first before I make my decision.”
“You're such a shit,” Jesse said, his mouth tugged up on one side. “I better not get beat out by one of your asshole uncles.”
“No,” she declared adamantly. “They're... I don't know where they fit, to be honest. But I don't trust them.”
“I don't blame you.”
Stubborn Hearts excerpt # 2
Red hadn't run since the last threatening note had caused so much strife and upheaval in Louisiana. They also hadn't changed his schedule. They proceeded as if everything was normal. But Ryan was a bit apprehensive, especially in light of the things Jesse had shared with her over Thanksgiving.
Red's next scheduled race was in a week.
Jesse straightened and held his stopwatch in his hand. “Let's see how he's feeling.” He lifted his hand and signaled the jockey to bring him around and open it up.
Red was the kind of horse who didn't just like to run.He liked to run.
Full out, no restrictions, no limits.
The trouble these days was horses' bodies were degrading at a faster rate than they did fifty or a hundred years ago. Ryan had her theories, so did Jesse. They'd discussed them in depth. Horses were being pumped with too many performance enhancing drugs and their bodies were deteriorating. Sometimes only allowing them six good races before being called into retirement due to weakened bone structure and the higher rate of injury. Breeding was where the big money had moved and Ryan could see why, a single horse winning a dozen stakes races in a year was unheard of anymore.
However, it appeared, Red was immune to the things that held back the other horses and their teams. And under Jesse's training, he had blossomed into a horse no one saw coming.
A legend in the making.It had a lot to do with Jesse being old school. No drugs, no enhancements. He wanted his colt to feel every moment of the race, not be numbed stupid. The diet was important, too. For years, there was a belief that feeding a horse a higher amount of protein would contribute to muscle growth and better performance. It had the opposite effect. Horses need a high carb diet, it was just body chemistry. Which Ryan had studied extensively in college.
Putting Ryan, Jesse, and Red on the same team? It made them unstoppable.
Red stood still at his start, then Eddie made a slight move and the horse jumped forward. The power in his hindquarters propelling him to a phenomenal speed instantly. He thundered by, the ground shaking beneath them and ricocheting through Ryan's rib cage.
Red picked up speed as he came around again.
It was an eight furlong dirt track, or one mile. Usually taking a horse a minute forty. Jesse stiffened, his head jerking back and forth from his clock to his colt. Ryan could sense it, but she didn't take her eyes off of the fastest horse she had ever seen. If it were even possible it looked like....
“That's not possible,” Jesse said out loud.
“What?” Ryan asked as Red went by a third time. Eddie was standing in the stirrups, trying to get him to slow down.
“He... damn.” Jesse laughed out loud and shoved away from the fence. Ryan spun to watch him. His smile was enormous and unsuccessfully hidden by his hand.
He charged forward, getting close to Ryan. “He just broke a track record.” He shook the stop watch in Ryan's face excitedly. “Twice!”
“What?” Ryan asked, not following.
Jesse's flushed face was beaming. “The track record was a minute thirty-five for a mile. He ran the first mile in a minute thirty-four-five. And he ran the second in a minute thirty-three.”
“That's not possible,” Ryan said, feeling the blood drain from her face.Jesse laughed again, running a hand through his short hair so it stood up all crazy on top. “But he did it anyway.” He kicked his boot in the dirt and pointed the watch at Ryan. “I told you! Didn't I tell you?”
Stubborn Hearts excerpt # 3
“Shh, now, don't get testy with me,” Ryan murmured. “I promise, everything is going to turn out just fine.”
Red nodded his head in disagreement, stalking to the far end of his box.
“Who do you really think you're fooling? I know you're not mad at me.” She held still, her hands loose at her sides, letting the last remnants of tension drain from her body. Her feelings for her father weren't invited to this conversation. She boxed them up and threw away the key. All Red needed to feel from her was her absolute confidence that he was the best race horse in the world.
“I love you, Red,” she said, voice suddenly rough. “And I'll do anything to make your life as great as possible. Anything.” She began to hum a Pearl Jam song, then her lips picked up the words and she sang “Just Breathe” as well as she knew how.
Red grunted and took a step towards her. Then another. Soon, his big warm forehead was pressed against Ryan's. She wrapped her arms around his neck and continued to whisper as many promises and soothing words as she could find. And Red believed her.
Jesse stared up at the dark ceiling listening to Ryan soothe Red in the next stall.
No matter what happened after this, he would never forget the way she loved him.
The colt. The man.
Both of them.
About Heidi Hutchinson
Heidi Hutchinson was born in South Dakota and raised the exact right distance away from the Black Hills. She had an overactive imagination very early on, and wasted no time in getting most of her friends in trouble due to her unrealistic and completely ridiculous ideas. Seeing as she was so lazy and also afraid people would think she was bonkers, she didn’t write down any of the story lines that played out in her daydreams.
During her high school years, she took pen to paper and filled more notebooks than she is proud of with angsty, depressing, self-deprecating poetry. This led to her writing down more things: notes, ideas, character bios, plot twists that had no plot yet to twist. After years of cleaning up her own scraps of imagination with nothing solid to hold on to, she sat down and wrote the story that had been in her head the longest. Fueled by coffee and her unwavering and perfectly normal devotion to Dave Grohl, she discovered a writer living inside of her.
She still lives in the Midwest, though not as close to the Black Hills as she would prefer, with her alarmingly handsome husband and their fearless child. They eat more pizza than God intended and she listens to her music the same way she lives: loudly.