CLAIMED is the first book in the Hunter’s Moon Series by P. J. O’Dwyer
“O’Dwyer displays an unfailing instinct for building and maintaining story tension and intensity, and for creating complications as believable as they are compelling.”
One girl. Two horses. And a past itching to catch up. . . .
Fourteen-year-old, Colorado juvenile delinquent Mackenzie Lynn Stonebreaker doesn’t do horses. But the volunteer gig at Hunter’s Moon Ranch has its perks. With cold, hard cash she lifts from its boarding fund, Mac’s poised for escape to search for her birth mom when an Arabian mare named Bella is viciously struck by a shotgun blast. Alive and talking—well, telepathically only to Mac—the horse begs for her help.Talking to horses totally freaks Mac out. But leaving Bella and her colt Raider isn’t an option. Ditching her plans for now, Mac becomes a modern-day Dr. Doolittle, looking for justice. Only Mac tends to act first and ask questions later. When her protective instinct for the horses gets in the way of her good sense, Mac finds herself, once again, on the other side of the law.
Dodging a return trip to juvie, thanks to the ranch owner’s partner Dr. Rachel Hunter, Mac is now in the pediatrician’s custody and living a life she could only dream. With newfound friendships, the gift of gab with two quirky horses, her first kiss, and a chance at that family she’s always wanted, she can’t quite let go of one thing.
Abandoned and unloved by her mother, Mac wants to know why. But sleuthing for answers puts Mac on a collision course with the past—one that will shatter everything she believes in about herself and those she’s come to love and trust at Hunter’s Moon.
Mac just may find that what she’s been looking for her whole life is the exact opposite of what she will get.
Excerpt from CLAIMED
ou want me to go in with you?” Miss Rachel sat in the driver’s seat of the dark blue Hunter’s Moon pickup parked outside of Rifle House, her warm green eyes searching Mac’s under the interior light.
“Nope. I’m good.” Miss Rachel had already contacted Hale. Hale had agreed to let her stay and help. That was good enough for Mac. “Thanks for McDonald’s.”
“Least I could do.” She frowned. “I could have cooked something homemade.”
Mac understood. They’d all been wrapped up with Bella. She only hoped the note in the pocket of her sweatshirt from Miss Rachel would be enough for Hale to agree to let her go back to the ranch tomorrow, which was Sunday. They usually didn’t volunteer on Sundays. That day was set aside for church. But you would think any God-fearing woman—although she doubted Hale was one of them—would allow Mac to slide if she was helping out an injured horse that, from Miss Rachel’s point of view, needed the calming presence of one Mackenzie Lynn Stonebreaker. Mac smiled at that.
Since when had she ever been a calming presence?
“I’ll see you tomorrow.” Mac grabbed the door handle.
“If you need a ride, have Ms. Hale call the ranch. One of us will pick you up.”
Ugh. With her luck, she’d end up with the ranch manager. She didn’t much care for Gil Bruckner. He was way grumpier than Whit could ever be.
“Okay. See ya.” Mac jumped out and headed up the sidewalk. She cleared the gate of the chain link fence—like that was somehow going to protect the neighbors from the baddies locked inside—and climbed the stairs to the two-story Cape Cod with its barred windows.
The rumble of the truck engine gave way to panic. Mac dug out the handwritten note from her pocket, her face cool in the shadows of night under the porch, and wondered. What could possibly stand in her way of being reunited with Bella and Raider?
Mac squinted against the bright light coming from Hale’s office window and gritted her teeth.
It wasn’t what could get in Mac’s way. More like who.
Jordan wasn’t an oversized giraffe. No. She was a backstabbing, two-faced suck-up. Mac gripped the doorknob and seriously considered cutting through the back, rounding the shed, and coming in the back door.
The door swung open, and Mac jumped.
Caroline Hanson stood frowning at her. “You need to hide the—”
Mac beaded in on Caroline. If she thought she was going to buddy up to her, she was wrong. Her fingers clenched. She made it a habit to never trust anyone, especially the girls at Rifle House. Not that Caroline—super brainiac, freckles, straight blonde hair that Mac envied, and one of her bunkmates—had given her any crap like Jordan. She wasn’t into making friends. She didn’t plan on being here in this uptight place long enough.
“Out of my way.” Mac brushed by her, never making eye contact. She skirted the double glass French doors of Hale’s office—the stupid whiteboard with Hale’s schedules she was half tempted to rip off the wall—and ignored the curious raccoon eyes of Skylar, leaning against the entryway hall with her dark makeup, dyed black hair, and pierced eyebrow.
If there was one girl more antisocial than Mac, it was Skylar. Good thing. She wasn’t talking to her either.
Mac cringed at the singsong voice of Brooke Jenkins and glanced into the recreation room on the opposite side of Hale’s office near the steps. Both Brooke and Angela Hawkins—they were forever attached to their bony hips—hung over the couch, their equally annoying ponytails swishing into place.
Mac gave them a mean face. “Get a life.” She took the steps upstairs.
“I think you should be more concerned with your life.”
Mac recognized that nasty tone and turned to find Ms. Hale next to her.
“Glad to see you finally made it home.”
Mac could read between her fake smile and pleasant words. Even her professional outfit screamed poser. Most youth counselors dressed casually—not Ms. Hale. She liked silk, tight skirts, and killer heels.
Mac’s stomach gurgled, and the heat crept into her face.
So much for the hamburger and fries.
“Can I get something to eat?”
“Kitchen’s closed.” Ms. Hale folded her arms and looked down her slender nose at Mac through a pair of designer reading glasses. “Your assistance at the ranch is not a requirement.”
Yeah, well, it beats hanging around here. She hated this place, especially during Hale’s shift, and she hated when the woman threatened her. Totally one of the reasons she wished Hale would slide off this side of the earth and never come back.
Mac said nothing and started up the steps.
“Miss Stonebreaker, we’re not done here.”
A bowl-shaped blonde head, body like a bendable super hero—only more evil—cleared Ms. Hale’s office. “Thank you, Ms. Hale, for taking the time to speak with me.” Jordan shook Ms. Hale’s hand, and Mac wanted to puke. What? Did she think she was running for office? She was fifteen and a juvenile delinquent.
“My door is always open, Jordan.” Ms. Hale gave a sweep of her arm. “In my office, Miss Stonebreaker.” She turned and walked toward her desk, her high heels clicking on the wooden floor.
Mac remained rooted to the floor, debating whether she wanted to or not. Ms. Hale’s tone was pleasant enough. Maybe Jordan hadn’t ratted her out. Mac reached for the note in her pocket and relaxed. Show her the note, let her give you a lecture, and boom, you’re out and on the ranch tomorrow.
Jordan smirked and then mouthed the words, “You’re dead.”
Mac nailed her with her eyes, refusing to look away.
“Miss Stonebreaker, I’m waiting.”
Mac’s shoulders slumped. Well, that pretty much sealed it. Jordan was “Jordan” to Ms. Hale and Mac was “Miss Stonebreaker.”
Mac’s heart sank lower as she made her way into Hale’s office.
P. J. O’Dwyer donates ten percent of all book and jewelry sales to horse rescue to help in their mission of rescue, rehabilitation, and education.
Author Bio –
P. J. O’Dwyer is an award-winning author of young adult and romantic suspense. She’s an active member of Romance Writers of America. When asked where she gets her story ideas, she laughs ruefully and says, “It helps being married to a cop.” She lives in Maryland with her family.
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