Zeus (Taken by Olympus Book 1)

By: Celia Aaron

Taken by Olympus, Book One

Chapter One

The red barn loomed up from the green landscape. It was idyllic, the weather vane atop spinning in the breeze that had only recently kicked up. The Sullivan farm was far out of my way, on the distant edge of the county, and deep in the black belt. The smell of hay and fertile earth swirled and created its own pungent perfume.

I pulled up to the barn and killed the engine. Hank Sullivan strolled out and gave me wave. I returned it and gathered up my bag and medical supplies. As I opened the Jeep door, a flash of lightning in the distance caught my eye. The deep rumble of thunder wasn’t far behind. I needed to get Hank’s horse taken care of sooner rather than later. The country road leading to the farm turned to mud at the slightest hint of rain, and the advancing storm clouds threatened much more than a passing shower.

“Glad you could come, Doc.” Hank shook my hand.

I brushed the blonde strands back behind my ears and smiled up into his weathered, yet handsome, face. I had always liked the Sullivans. Hank’s daughter Gina volunteered at the large animal veterinary clinic I owned. She would make an excellent veterinarian one day. Hank’s son Dean was hardworking and handsome.

“Where is he?”

“I brought him from the stables. He’s waiting in the barn.” Hank’s face darkened. “I sure hope you can save him.”

I hefted my bag higher on my shoulder. “Only one way to find out.”

We walked together into the barn, the smell of old hay and leather surrounding us. Lefty, the gelding I’d been called to examine, stood and watched us approach. He was fifteen hands high and a beautiful midnight black. I’d brought him into this world, helping his dame deliver him and keeping both of them alive. He was my first delivery after I graduated from veterinary school just three years ago.

A man walked from the back of the barn. Dean, Hank’s son. Plenty of women around the county drooled over Dean. I could see why. He was tall with broad shoulders and an open smile. His jeans hit him in all the right places and his plaid button down was open at the throat, revealing a dusting of dark hair on his chest.

He tipped his hat to me. I gave him a little wave before turning to my charge.

“How you doing, Lefty?” I smoothed a hand down his flank as he nickered in greeting.

I knelt next to his back left leg. He was clearly favoring it. “Got a problem back here, boy?”

The thunder rumbled louder as I felt around the tendons, muscles, and bone. He didn’t shy away though I knew my investigation hurt. I closed my eyes, just going by the sensations at the tips of my fingers. It wasn’t the worst news, but it wasn’t good either.

I stood and gave Lefty an affectionate pat.

“Well, Tara?” Hank held his beat-up cowboy hat in his hands.

“It’s a medium sprain. He’s going to need to be box-rested for a few weeks or so and then we’ll check him again.”

“Oh, thank goodness.” Hank swallowed hard. “When he came up lame, I thought…”

“Oh, I think he’ll recover. The ligament will never be as strong, so you’ll need to maybe give him to one of your girls to ride. I’ll call back to the office and have them bring out some anti-inflammatory meds for him. He’ll be just fine, really.”

“That’s good to hear.” Dean’s pleasant baritone came from right behind me.

I kept inspecting the horse, even though I could feel Dean’s eyes on me. I walked around to Lefty’s front. He stared at me with intelligent eyes. “You’re pretty much on bed rest, buddy.”

He nickered again. I gave a quick listen to his heart and checked his other hooves. He looked fine. I let out a sigh of relief that I wouldn’t have to take any more drastic measures. Being a large animal vet came with highs and lows, but nothing was lower than putting down an animal in the prime of life.

“He’s looking great, Hank. Really. You take great care of your animals.”

“Thanks, Doc. I think that’s the highest praise a man can get from a vet.” He smiled, kind wrinkles around his eyes.

The distinct smell of rain cut through the air. I needed to get on the road before I got stuck out here for the night.

“I think my work here is done.” I hefted my pack.

Hank settled his hat back over his salt and pepper hair. “Thanks, Doc. I appreciate you coming on out here. Can I interest you in dinner? Lina’s frying up some chicken.”

“Yeah, you should stay.” Dean offered to carry my bag.

I shook my head. “I’ve got it.” I had to stand on my own two feet. Vets were mostly men, especially ones in my specialty. Carrying my own bag and doing my own heavy lifting was part of the job, especially if I wanted to make inroads with some of the more old fashioned farmers in the region.