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Heartland #13: Darkest Hour

Amy stared at Dylan. Please, please, she begged silently, not Dylan. Quickly, she checked his nostrils. They were still clear. She put her hand on his neck. The horse was perhaps warmer than he should be, but it was a hot afternoon. It was difficult to tell. He wasn't sweating more than usual - yet. But then he coughed again.

"Ty!" she called as Ty at last managed to slip a halter over Major's head. He led the nervous horse over to Amy.

"Not Dylan, too?" he asked, with dread in his voice.

Amy nodded, frowning. "He's coughing," she said. "He doesn't seem to have too many other symptoms. But he doesn't usually cough."

Ty reached out and touched Dylan's nose. "I think we have to assume the worst," he said. "We can put him in the back barn next to Candy."

The sky continued to grumble ominously as Amy headed to the barn with Dylan. She looked up at the clouds, which were gathering into black, angry masses behind the farmhouse. The air hung thick and heavy, but the storm refused to break. Amy wished it would start so that they could get it over with.

She led Dylan into the last stall of the barn, next to Candy, and went to get a thermometer. His temperature wasn't uncomfortably high, but it was above normal, and as she took the reading, he coughed again. There was little doubt that he was infected. Amy covered him with a blanket to make him comfortable, then did a round of the other sick horses. Candy was beginning to eat her hay again, which was a good sign. Willow was following a similar patter to Candy - her temperature was down one degree, and although she continued to cough, her condition had stabilized. She wasn't getting any worse. Sugarfood and Red were still in the early stages of infection, so it was difficult to tell how they would cope.

But it was Solly who worried Amy. The yearling looked more dejected than any of the others and was refusing to eat anything, even the soft mashes that Amy prepared every day. His cough was harsh and persistent.

Amy slipped inside his stall and took his temperature. It was still a hundred and four. "I think I need to call Scott out again," she whispered to him, stroking his damp neck. "I hope you're not getting worse. I'll put some molasses and fenugreek in your mash. You'll like that, won't you?" But even as she said it, she knew that Solly was unlikely to eat a single mouthful.

She hurried up to the feed room, keeping one eye one the sky. A flash of lightning lit up the feed room door, but the rumble of thunder followed slowly. She got the tub of diluted molasses that they used to dampen the feed. Amy had infused it with cloves of fresh garlic. She poured out some of the mixture, thinking about Solly. Scott's warning about secondary infections worried her. Could the yearling be developing one? I'll call Scott as soon as I'm done with this, she said to herself. And Nick, too.

But phoning Nick to tell him about Dylan would mean she would risk speaking to Daniel. Her heart thumped in her chest, and her cheeks burned. Why hadn't she told Ty when she had the chance? She'd feel so much better if she had. Now she'd have to wait until they were along again and, with the storm brewing, that might not be until tomorrow.

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