By riding a dark horse into the history books,
charismatic female jockey, Arielle LaSalle, spares her father from financial
ruin, but in turn brings a killer to his door.
Bred true, former Dubai racing celebrity,
Napoleon, should have been a prolific sire of winners. However, in the
hands of stud master, Trent Winnings, the fabled stud fails to successfully
settle, time after time. The reckless investment threatens to bankrupt the
illustrious Pandora Estates stables.
With three unexplained murders at a rival
nearby breeding farm, the Hunter Valley local police wonders how
Chantilly Farms’ proud owner, Will LaSalle, has ever crossed paths with
a member of the notorious Cosa Nostra, now bent on revenge.
With her family honour and reputation at stake,
Arielle is left with no choice but to call upon a man she has spent a decade
forgetting. With betrayal and blackmail suddenly on the agenda, the emerging
scandal is prone to turn the racing industry on its head.
To save her future, Arielle will have to choose
between compromising the Sport of Kings for generations to come and burying
her deadly secrets in the burning desert sands.
A Darker Horse is
Carline’s third novel.
In Store Price:
Ebook version -
Number of pages: 324
Other books by this author:
Halibut Cove, SPRA, New York, 2011
The Fleuron Connection,
Green Olive Press, 2013
Cover: Clive Dalkins
FOREWORD AND WARNING
A Darker Horse is a work of
fiction and a product of the author’s imagination. Any similarities with people,
dead or alive, and events, past or present, are purely coincidental, even though
true events may have been inspiring.
While the intrigue is spun against the glamorous
world of horseracing, its aim was never to enlighten with its insights the
trainers, breeders, jockeys, stewards or any other professionals who derive
their livelihood from what has long been called the Sport of Kings.
Its aim was always to entertain the occasional
punters, the men and women of all creeds and ages who attend the races for the
unique atmosphere, the distinctive ambiance and the matchless excitement; for
those who, once a year, on the second Tuesday of November, stop all work at 11
am, spend a small fortune on hats and boutonnieres, and wait with bated breath
for the clock to strike three; and for anyone who admires these most noble of
animals, once meant to roam free across the plains of most continents.
The author hopes to be forgiven for taking some
factual liberties which may have stretched the boundaries of reality to enter
the realm of possibilities.
- PART SAMPLE
In the last six weeks, Arielle LaSalle’s favourite
mare had started to bag up, with her udder visibly swelling. A five-year-old
solid dark bay horse with a spritely temperament, Dauphine had bonded with her
rider since her birth. Together, they had tallied an impressive number of races
and everyone hoped that her best traits would be passed on to her progeny.
Watching her, Arielle worried about her maiden foaling. For the past few days,
she had lovingly brushed the horse to calm her down, sometimes twice daily.
Until yesterday, when she had finally noticed her nipples waxing – a sure
indicator that the foal would be born in a day or two – she had regularly
sponged her udder and teats so that the foal would nurse easily. After spending
hours cleaning one of the dozen large birthing stalls available at Chantilly
Farms, and laying soft, dry straw on the ground for the mare’s comfort, she was
now impatiently waiting for her waters to break, braiding and wrapping her long
black tail in the meantime. Outside, a quarter-moon hung high in the sky.
Arielle caressed the horse’s muzzle, but the latter
remained unresponsive to the familiar gesture, whipping her head around as if
human touch was too much for her to bear. In the dimly lit stall, Arielle
suddenly heard the unmistakable gushing of water: Dauphine’s placenta sac had
just broken and the mare instinctively began to lie down on her side. Within
minutes, powerful contractions racked the swollen horse, her legs twitching. She
groaned and whined as she did so, her nostrils flared. Arielle quickly punched
in the veterinarian Nathan Heather’s number into her mobile phone: the local
surgeon had promised he would be there within minutes to offer assistance when
the time came. Under normal circumstances, he would have offered to wait up with
her, but he had had a trying day at a nearby farm, resulting in a stallion being
put to sleep, a decision which always tugged at his heartstrings.
Mesmerised, Arielle witnessed one delicate front hoof
poke out, quickly followed by another, both covered by a rubbery coating.
Through the wet glaze she observed the full length of the front legs slide out,
immediately followed by nose and head: one last push and the foal lay at its
mother’s feet. The mare paused, remaining immobile, snorting noisily, her
breathing still laboured, contractions still racking her body. Puzzled, Arielle
wondered why the mare did not stand up immediately. Tentatively, she approached
her to see what the matter could be. Minutes ticked by but Dauphine still laid
on her side, her eyes wild and panicked. Could there be another foal? Could
Dauphine’s difficulties of the past few days be due to carrying twins?
As per the instructions given by Nathan earlier that
day, she promptly lubricated her hand and arm and bravely slid it down the
mare’s birth canal. The horse didn’t protest at the invasive but gentle gesture.
The young woman soon grasped a foot and then another, tugging at them, slowly
pulling them towards her until the head and shoulders finally appeared. Gently,
steadily, she continued to slowly pull out a second foal. Behind her, Nathan
“Well done, Arielle!”
Covered in a wet, slick substance, Arielle looked up
at her lover, her eyes shining bright, emotion choking her.
“Now let her rest and bond with her young,” he
The exhausted mare nonetheless stood up within
minutes, the sudden movement breaking the umbilical cord. She looked down at the
two foals lying at her feet, circling them once and sniffing the air, before
studiously licking each foal clean and nuzzling them. Nathan quickly reached for
the iodine solution to coat the foals’ navels and began to carefully sponge off
both mother and foals, Arielle silently following suit.
“We still need to wait for Dauphine to evacuate the
placenta and make sure the foals stand up. Are you all right?” asked Nathan
minutes later, looking at Arielle’s tired face.
“Look at them: they are so beautiful. They are as
black as their father! And look, they have their mother’s unusual markings. I
just can’t believe there are two of them…” whispered Arielle in awe, her eyes
moist and her lips trembling. “I never cease to find this experience amazing,”
she added, watching the firstborn tap his forelegs together as if trying to
judge how he would sustain his weight.
She laughed softly when he tried to stand once again,
falling and rolling back on his side. After a few more comical attempts he
finally stood under the approving eye of his proud mother. On the other hand,
the second-born foal had remained alarmingly inert, his head rolling from side
to side, calmly observing the proceedings. Distraught by his inactivity, the
mare came around, nuzzling him repetitively, nudging him over and over again, as
if trying to convince him to attempt to stand, but all for naught. Worried,
Nathan and Arielle finally approached the colt cautiously, aware that the mare
may at any moment unpredictably react to their undesirable interference.
Large liquid eyes, the colour of dark chocolate,
stared into Arielle’s own and the foal tentatively sniffed the air around her,
taking in her soapy scent now mixed with sweat, fear and fatigue.
“Come on, little one,” begged Arielle, “please stand
At the sound of her voice, the foal retracted its
forelegs underneath his torso. It was now obvious to both observers that the
second foal was not only smaller in size but also much weaker than the first,
his long legs almost too fragile to support his weight on their own. It took
another three hours of failed attempts and nervous pleadings before the foal
finally stood and joined his twin and mother in the small paddock outside the
birthing stall. Pre-dawn already crackled when they began nursing. With the
birthing ritual finally over, Arielle lit a cigarette and watched them play,
hopeful that despite the obvious difference in initial birth size, both colts
would now survive.
Their coat was a true black, with just a white
irregular blaze resembling an upside comma in-between their eyes. The only true
visible difference between them was that one had a coronet on each front leg,
right above the hoof, while the other failed to display such distinctive
markings. In Arielle’s eyes, they were both gorgeous specimens yet, from
experience, she already feared that when her father, Guillaume de la Selle,
owner of Chantilly Farms, came and inspected the newborn foals later that
morning, the second twin might not meet with his approval. She sensed that due
to its smaller than normal size, he might not reach expectations and be
disregarded outright as a potential runner.