This is an excerpt from my novella that I am currently editing. It is from the beginning of Chapter 2 and the protagonist, William Jensen has just left town heading back to his ranch after being gone for about a week.
William stopped beside the stream that he knew meant he had less than an hour to go until he was home again. Even though he was eager to be home, he let the horse have a few minutes to drink from the stream and pull up some grass to eat. While he waited, he pulled out some jerked meat to chew on. It was not much of a meal, but he just needed something to hold him over until he would get a home cooked meal again.
When William figured the horse had enough rest, he swung back up into the saddle. “We’re almost there,” he murmured and kept repeating it as if it was the only think keeping him going. As if he felt his rider’s excitement, the horse picked up his pace. But, as he rode through the gate of his ranch, William yanked on the reins, bringing the horse to a quick stop.
“No.” The single syllable was a strangled sound in his throat that barely made it across his lips.
The house he’d been looking forward to getting back to no longer existed. Smoke still rose from the ashes of what he had called home for just over half a decade. “Anna. David,” he breathed the names of his family. Had they been there when the fire started? He hoped not. But with a lead weight in the pit of his stomach, he started the horse forward. “Please, God, please let them not be here.”
The horse pulled up several yards from the house, stamping the ground and snorting as he threw his head from side to side. William knew the smoke and the smell left over from the fire made him nervous. He slid from the saddle and rubbed a hand along the horse’s neck. “It’s all right, Boy. Stay here. I’ll check it out.”
He left the horse standing there and made his way closer to the house. As the acrid smell of smoke and burnt wood started to overwhelm him, he pulled the bandanna he wore around his neck up over his mouth and nose. And he told himself that the tears pooling in his eyes was from that smoke and not the fear of what he would find as he started through the rubble of what had once been his home.