Home > Dead of Night (The Youngbloods #2)

Dead of Night (The Youngbloods #2)
Author: Lynn Viehl

One

Most people have two lives. One is the life we carry on in the open where everyone can see it. It’s who we are to our family, friends, and even strangers. In this life we are part of the real world. It’s our day-to-day life, our normal life.

We also have another life, one that we have on the inside, out of sight. It’s like a reflection of normal life, only with everything we feel and think and dream of and want to do added to it. Sometimes people close to us sense that life, or we trust them enough to share bits of it with them, but mostly we live it alone. That’s our inner life, our personal life.

When we have to hide who we are inside from everyone in our real life, then we start living a third life. A secret life. And no matter how careful we are, it’s what happens in the secret life that can ruin all the others.

That cold December morning I began in my normal life: living on a horse farm in Lost Lake, Florida. I was doing chores inside while my two brothers, Patrick and Grayson, were working with our new horses. Gray and I had just started winter break from school, so we wouldn’t have to go back until January. Trick, who was thirty and our legal guardian, had quit his job and moved us from Chicago to Lost Lake so we could settle down and he could have his dream of breeding horses.

My normal life was nothing special. To everyone in town I was Catlyn Youngblood, a fifteen-year-old girl who had just moved to town in August. I hadn’t been at school long enough to make many friends, but I’d never been much of a social butterfly. I liked to ride my horse, Sali, read lots of books, and sometimes write bad poetry.

Most of that was even true.

After breakfast I finished my kitchen chores and started the laundry. It would have been nice to have a mom to handle the housework, but our parents had been killed in a car accident when I was little. By the time I folded the last load of towels and put them away, I checked the time. It was only 10:15 a.m., which made me wonder if my watch needed a new battery. But no, the wall clock in the kitchen also read quarter-past ten. Trick had promised to take me into town for my job interview, but the appointment wasn’t until three.

That left me four hours and forty-five minutes to do the rest of my chores, make lunch, decide what to wear and practice looking responsible and reliable so I’d get hired and earn some extra spending money.

Most of that was true, too.

“Cat?”

I thought of Shakespeare’s twenty-ninth sonnet, my favorite poem of all time, and recited it in my mind as I walked back to the kitchen. When in disgrace with fortune and in men’s eyes, I all alone beweep my outcast state …

Trick stood at the back door, and hay and dirt covered his black T-shirt and jeans. “I need the first aid kit.”

I stopped thinking about troubling heaven with bootless cries, whatever they were. “What now?”

“Flash had another tizzy. Gray’s hurt.” He held up one dirty hand. “Not bad, but—”

I didn’t wait to hear the rest, but grabbed from under the sink the big white plastic case with all our first aid supplies. “How bad is not bad?”

“Not that bad.” He looked down at me as I pushed past him. “I can take care of it.”

“Sure you can,” I said, heading toward our barn. “You can also give him a nice infection.”

He caught up with me, dusting his palms on the sides of his jeans before glancing at them and sighing. “All right, but I’ll warn you now, there’s some blood.”

“When Flash throws a fit, there usually is.” I saw our problem child palomino tied and hobbled in the front training pen. Gray’s horse looked angelic with his creamy golden hide and silky white-blonde mane and tail. Which he most certainly was not. As soon as Flash saw me he swung around so I was looking at his rear.

“Yeah, yeah, I know,” I muttered. “Talk to the hindquarters.”

Inside the barn Gray was sitting on a bale of hay. He looked pale, and held an old rag against his left temple. The blood staining it and the front of his shirt made my stomach clench.

“I’m okay,” he muttered as I reached him.

I put down the kit and tugged the rag and his hand aside. The distinct shape of the ugly gash on his temple made me take a quick breath. “Flash did this?”

“He didn’t mean it.” My brother tried to put the rag back, but I tossed it out of his reach. “Come on, Cat.”

In the past Flash had never hurt Gray. Now he was injuring him almost weekly. I didn’t buy it. “This is, what, the fourth time he didn’t mean it?” I demanded as I opened the kit. “Or the fifth?”

My brother put on his sulky face. “It’s not that deep. Just give me some band-aids.”

“Only if you put them over your mouth.” I checked his ears for bleeding, but found none. “Any headache?”

His broad shoulders moved.

I made a victory sign with my hand in front of his nose. “How many fingers?”

“None. Claws? Two.” He flinched as I yanked his too-long golden locks out of his face. “Hey.”

“Look at me.” I used a pen light from the kit to check his pupils, both of which dilated normally. “You keep up this feud with Flash and I’m going to have to take another first aid course. The one for treating reckless brothers who don’t know how to hold their horses.”

Gray muttered some words he wasn’t supposed to use under his breath.

“Nice language.” I used some antiseptic to soak a gauze pad. “This is going to burn like blazes. You want a stick to bite down on, tough guy?”

“I told you, it’s not—” His voice turned into a pained grunt as I began cleaning the hoof-shaped cut. “For crying out loud, will you take it easy with that stuff?”

“As often as that stupid horse has been clobbering you lately, I should keep the bathtub filled with peroxide and dip you twice a day.” Now that I had wiped away most of the blood, I saw that the cut was mostly superficial, although my brother was probably going to end up with a spectacular bruise.

I applied some antibiotic ointment as I glanced at Trick. “The Red Cross instructor said even minor head wounds can be unpredictable. We should take him over to the E.R. to be checked out.”

“I’m not spending the rest of the day sitting in a waiting area.” Gray got to his feet. “Where’s Flash?” He didn’t wait for an answer but stalked out of the barn.

“Let him go, Catlyn,” Trick said, catching my arm as I tried to follow. “He’s embarrassed.”

I turned on him. “He got kicked in the head, Patrick. He’s lucky his brains aren’t leaking out of his ears.” Now I saw a dark, wet patch under the dirt on his shirt and pointed to it. “What is that?”

Trick glanced down. “Gray’s blood.”

“It better be.” I looked past him at the horses, all of whom had their heads over the stall doors to watch us (next to humans, horses were the nosiest creatures on earth). That’s when I noticed the empty space between Sali and Jupiter. “Where’s Rika?”

“By now”—my brother rubbed the back of his neck—“on the other side of the farm.”

Paprika, a pregnant mare my brother had recently bought, had been causing trouble since coming to the farm. An elegant Arabian the exact color of her namesake spice, Trick had told us she seemed good-tempered. And she had been, until we’d led her out of the trailer. The minute she’d stepped off the ramp she’d started fighting her bridle. Even after Trick had hustled her into her new stall she’d fussed for hours.

My brother intended to return her and get his money back, which was when he discovered Rika’s former owner had moved out of the state the day after he sold her to us.

Since we were stuck with Rika, we tried to make the best of it. Gray, who had trained our other horses, began trying to gentle her. His experience dealing with Flash’s tantrums made him a lot more patient than me or Trick, and his quiet, calm handling usually soothed the most aggressive mule-heads. For some reason, however, the Arabian didn’t like him.

Gray had tried everything: training her alone, letting her run first, putting her on a lead rope, and sticking her in the smallest pen. Where, I suddenly realized, Flash was now in his timeout.

“Did Grim put Flash in with Rika?” I demanded. Grim was one of my nicknames for my brother, as was Grouch, Gross, and every other Gr-word that fit his surly personality.

“He tried to.” My brother’s expression turned wry. “For about ten seconds.”

I couldn’t believe it. Pairing a steady, well-trained horse with a troublemaker was one way to reinforce herd behavior; but Flash was about as calm as a hurricane. “Trick, when you want to put out a fire, you don’t throw gasoline at it.”

He glanced at the barn door. “Gray knows he screwed up,” he said in a lower voice. “Now let it go.”

“Yeah, sure.” The frustration I felt was not so much about my brother’s carelessness as the reason behind it. Ever since the Halloween dance Gray had been making a lot of dumb decisions, and some of that was my fault. I closed the first aid kit and went to grab my saddle, a coil of rope and a set of blinders.

Most pregnant mares became a little jumpy when they were ready to deliver; with her personality Rika would be ten times worse. “Could she be getting ready to foal?”

“Not yet, she’s only thirty-two weeks.” He dragged a hand through his hair. “You don’t have to go after her.”

“Of course I do.” I opened Sali’s stall and led her out. “She’s not going to let you or Gray get anywhere near her now.”

Once I had my Sali saddled, I had to force myself to use the mounting crate. If I were by myself I would have just jumped up from the ground to her back, but like a hundred other things it wasn’t something I could do in my so-called normal life.

Pretending to be good old clueless Catlyn was the only way I could keep living my normal life. That didn’t mean I had to like it.

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