Here is the first meeting of the two heroes, Dylan and Grey. It gives you some clues as to the conflict that’s going to keep them apart for awhile! Again here is the link to this story: http://www.jms-books.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=29_94&products_id=2010
Dylan went through the ritual of checking in, having set up his drops and made the rest of the required preparations in the preceding days. He’d been doing this for five seasons now, two as a Dog Warriors rep and then three on his own. He’d started with the smaller and shorter races, and now approaching the big one. If he completed the preliminary mid-distance races well, he’d go for the Iditarod
The Iditarod was the Grand Prix, the America’s Cup, the World Series and the Super Bowl all rolled into one as far as mushers went. There was nothing like it in the world. At first he hadn’t realized how addictive this sport was going to be, but he’d found in it a home and a purpose. Coming out of a bad PTSD case spawned by back-to-back tours in Iraq as a Special Forces soldier, he hadn’t known what he should do. Somewhere he heard about the Dog Warriors project and followed it to Alaska. When even that got too crowded feeling, he moved out on his own where he had solitude to lick his healing wounds. But the sled dogs had given him a reason to live. Now he was into mushing for life, dedicated to a sport that had totally absorbed him.
Freya and Thor were, without a doubt, the best lead dogs he’d ever worked. It took a whole team, but the lead pair was the keystone. They had to be indisputable leaders, obeyed without question and totally respected by the rest of the pack. Half-siblings, the two shared a common mother and had been whelped a year apart. Dylan owned the bitch that had produced them both. She’d been the best part of his first team. He still loved and admired her competitive spirit, her stamina, and her heart, but had retired her after an injury limited her ability to work.
Tatia was one unique dog, a bit of Siberian from one great-grandsire and who knew what else—just a pure Alaskan Husky, which was no breed at all but the refined combination perfected by years of careful matches made by seasoned mushers. He’d bred her first to a top contender’s male. That litter had given him Freya. Then he’d found a dog that came from the late Susan Butcher’s pack. He’d had to talk hard and pay a handsome stud fee, but the pups were worth it. Thor was the best of that litter. Dylan would give his life for either dog and he felt confident they’d do the same for him. The bond among the three of them was that powerful.
One more time, he checked over his harness, enumerated the contents of his sled bag, and ran a hand down the runners to be sure there were no cracks or rough spots in the plastic inserts. They were not new but seemed to be in good shape still. Then he waited, straightened his bib with his entry number and listened for his call to head for the starting line.
Waiting, he murmured a quick prayer to the gods and goddesses of his Norse and Celtic ancestors. He asked them for a good, safe run, health for his dogs, and the confidence and strength he must convey. The quasi-pagan beliefs were the only faith he had been able to keep after the horrors of war. Back in his cabin, although he never termed it an alter, he had a shelf with a few small items that he connected to some of those deities. He’d left a sliced apple—and apples were not cheap in Alaska this time of year—on a dish as an offering.
Turning around after a final look at Freya and Thor before he freed the sled from its anchor to his truck to restrain the eager dogs, he almost stumbled into a man who had slipped up without a sound while he was absorbed in the last-minute inspection.
“Whoa, what the hell?”
The man backed a quick two steps, stammering an apology. “Oh, sorry, man. I thought you saw or heard me. The dogs seemed to, but I guess you were busy.”
“Yeah. You shouldn’t get this close to a team that doesn’t know you. They’re well trained and socialized, but some sled dogs still don’t care for strangers. You always check with the musher before you approach the team. You must be new to this. What are you after?”
The smaller man pulled off a heavy glove and held out his hand. ”Grey Trammel. I’m a sports writer covering the preliminaries for the Iditarod. I saw you on TV yesterday and wanted to talk to you. Sounded like you’ve been in this a while and that it’s really important to you.”
Dylan shook hands without removing his glove. It was a fairly mild day, but his hands were almost as critical as his dogs’ feet. They all had their booties cinched in place, and he had his gloves. Neither would come off until they had to—the dogs to be changed to new dry and unworn footgear as needed and him when he went indoors or had to use top dexterity.
“Dylan Norgard. Yeah, I’m a dedicated musher. I’ve run most of the qualifiers, some twice, but back past the middle of the pack. I think we’ll do better this year, but right now, I’m focused on this race. This’ll be the first for my new lead dogs. I’ve got hopes for them, but the proof is in the running. This is a short race, just three hundred miles, you might say an easy run, but then weather, wild animals—most anything can throw a monkey wrench at you.
“I’m not big news, though. If you’re a writer, you’ll want to focus on the folks like the Mackeys, Seaveys, naybe Zirkle. They’re the ones to watch, the proven winners.”
The smaller man shook his head. “I’m looking for a different angle, a new way of seeing things here. I admit I’m new at this game. This is my trial run, too. If I can get something unique and powerful enough, pictures and a story, it could make my career. I know they don’t do riders on this one like the ceremonial start for the Iditarod, but I’d like to get out to a couple of the checkpoints and watch from there.”
Dylan shrugged. “Get hold of one of the bush planes or choppers that takes the veterinarianss and observers out and go with them. None of the racers can afford to be burdened with newbies. This is a short race, a fast one, where every second counts. We just had a storm blow through and another one’s on the way. We’ve got to get the race run before it hits, probably three or four days max. I have to warn you, though; this is serious business—life and death serious. If you don’t know the ropes, you can end up dead—real quick and real dead. Be careful, son.”
He turned away before the other man could respond and sent the team loping toward the starting line.
Sports writer and a cheechako green horn. Shit, the kid’s an accident waiting to happen and about the last thing I need to get tied up with. Lad ought to have a keeper.