Once Bitten, Twice Shy (Chapter Six, page 1 of 5)

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Carmen woke with a start. Had she been dreaming, or was Brutus barking? The throaty bark filled the air again and she rolled out of bed into the cold morning. Now what? She jerked jeans over her nightgown and waited until she reached the front door before tugging on her boots. The house groaned as a gust of wind bombarded it. She dived into her coat, snapping it as she opened the front door. The outline of the dairy was dim in the early dawn light, but the intermittent barking from Brutus was like a beacon. She sloshed through the slushy snow, splashing icy water on the legs of her jeans. A gust of wind tore the hood from her head and snatched at her hair. At least it wasn't a cold wind, and the snow was melting. As she vaulted over the fence, the cause of Brutus's excitement became obvious. The barn door was open and the goats were scattering, forcing the dog to race from one end of the lot to the other. His huge feet splashed through the wet snow, slinging it at the goats. The scene was total chaos, with goats dashing every which way in an attempt to avoid each spray of slushy snow.

"Brutus! Stop!"

The sharp command brought the dog up short. He tilted his huge head to the side and whined. He had no idea what he was doing wrong. As the airborne snow settled, so did the goats. The barn door was wide open, the latch torn loose - probably by the wind.

"Come on, boy."

Brutus followed her into the barn, anxiously looking over his shoulder at his dispersed herd. Carmen poured grain into the feeders and the smell of oats and honey brought a tidal wave of goats into the barn. A quick count indicated they were still one goat short. A quick glance around the barn confirmed it was Tessa.

Carmen closed the barn door and propped it shut with a board. Turning her attention to the hills, she saw a single trail leading up into the rocks. No doubt Tessa was in labor and searching for a private place to give birth - some place high in the rocks, away from the water, but sheltered from the wind. There were a dozen such places, and the snow had melted over part of the rocky areas, making tracking almost impossible.

She glanced at the house. The safe thing to do was to tell Katie where she was going, but the few minutes it would take might mean the life of the kid. Anyway, she knew every nook and cranny of her acreage. She sloshed down the trail, scanning the woods ahead as she neared. Yes, there was where the goat had entered, but how long ago, and where was Tessa now? The trail swerved only to avoid trees, and it was soon evident where the goat was headed. When the trail stopped at the edge of a rock strewn clearing, Carmen continued. She found the goat and her newborn kid exactly where she expected them - and barely in time.

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