Authors: Lisa Mondello
THE MORE I SEE
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THE MORE I SEE
Copyright © 2003 by Lisa Mondello
First Edition published 2003 by Avalon Books
Second Edition published 2012
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As a top-notch cutting horse trainer, Cody Gentry was riding high until he lost his eyesight after a freak chemical accident. Unable to see the hand in front of his face, never mind the horse or cattle he trained, he knows his life is over and slips deep into depression. His whole future hinges on the success of an eye surgery that could give him his old life back.
When guide dog trainer, Lyssa McElhannon, arrives on his ranch like Florence
Nightingale coming to save him, he wants no part of her or her guide dog. But something about Lyssa’s musical laugh coupled with her tenacity digs under his skin and won't let go. Having been blind most of her life, Lyssa understands the paralyzing fear Cody feels after losing his vision. But she refuses to let the stubborn cowboy waste his life away sitting in a chair when she knows firsthand that a good guide dog can change his world. She just needs one month to prove it to him.
Falling in love with Cody was not part of Lyssa’s plan, nor was having him open her eyes to see that there was a whole lot of living she’d been missing out on.
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Ebooks available by Lisa Mondello
Her Heart for the Asking***
His Heart for the Trusting ***
The More I See ***
The Marriage Contract ##
All I Want for Christmas is You ##
The Knight and Maggie’s Baby##
Nothing but Trouble
Cradle of Secrets – Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense**
Her Only Protector – Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense**
Yuletide Protector – Harlequin Love Inspired Suspense
Fresh-Start Family – Harlequin Love Inspired Romance
In a Doctor’s Arms – Harlequin Love Inspired Romance
*** TEXAS HEARTS SERIES
## Fate with a Help Hand (Massachusetts) Series
** Cradle Series
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A special thanks to Diane Piazzo and Otis (the Wonder Dog), both of whom inspired me to write this book, to Punk Carter for teaching me the sport of cutting from afar and reading my chapters, to Amy Vohres of the National Cutting Horse Association and Michelle Lavitt of The Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind. Any mistakes in interpreting facts are the author’s.
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This book is dedicated with love to Melyssa, LeeAnne, Becky and Ben, my shining stars.
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THE MORE I SEE
There was nothing extraordinary about Alyssandra Orchid McElhannon but her name.
She was used to being invisible where men were concerned. Men were an unusual breed for sure.
This one was no different.
Lowering her sunglasses, she blinked as she peered at the long, lean man stretched out on the lawn chair by the pool. So this was Cody Gentry. The man that insisted she come all the way from the Houston school where she'd worked to personally train him here on the Silverado Ranch.
At least Cody Gentry had a valid excuse not to notice her. He was blind.
He made no move to indicate he'd heard her approach, or the soft sound of dog claws scratching on the concrete as she led her guide dog closer. No tilt of his head, no lift of his long fingers, weaved tightly together on his lap, not even a twitch of his booted feet, crossed and slightly hanging over the end of the lawn chair.
Lyssa slid the sunglasses back up the bridge of her nose. He could be asleep, she decided.
By the slump of his shoulders and the angle of his head, cocked to one side, his white straw cowboy hat tilted over his face ever so slightly, it was certainly possible. It would explain why he'd yet to have even a slight reaction to her approach.
She knew how acute the other senses were when one was lost. She'd outfitted herself in her usual garb, a pair of well-worn blue jeans, a cool cotton button-down shirt, and a comfortable pair of sneakers. She could understand how the soft soles of her sneakers would be muffled.
Lyssa wasn't the most graceful person, but she wasn't a clod. If Cody hadn't heard the sound of her footsteps, he should have at least noticed the telltale sound of Otis' paws on the walkway.
Maybe he wasn't asleep. Maybe he was just being rude. Mike Gentry, Cody's father, had warned as much.
It had been only a week ago that Mike Gentry first approached the Houston Guide Dog School asking for immediate help, insisting his son needed a one-on-one instructor. If only the school could send someone to the ranch, he said, it might break through the deep, impenetrable depression that had overtaken his son since a freak chemical accident had rendered him blind nearly eight months earlier. It might help him get back among the living again.
Lyssa had been in the office the day Mike Gentry strode in with deep pockets and endless arguments about why he needed someone immediately. The director had been insistent that the school offered only month-long classes to students who stayed on their campus. While what Mike was asking for his son was not unprecedented, it was usually reserved for extreme cases.
The money Mike offered to gift the school spoke of his desperation. Right in front of Lyssa, he'd offered what amounted to enough money to service several dogs to those in need.
After a failed corneal transplant, the likelihood that Cody would get his eyesight back was slim to none. Cody needed to become functional again in his own environment, and without the aid of a guide dog, he wouldn't be able to get around.
Mike had assured the school that Cody was eager to work with a guide dog, but given life on the ranch, he felt that training should be conducted in the environment where the dog and handler would spend the bulk of their time.
Lyssa found she couldn't stay quiet. There was time before the next class started. She had a dog ready and, even with the limited information Mike Gentry had offered about his son, Lyssa felt the match might work.
Peering over at Cody now, she realized the depression Mike Gentry spoke of was much worse than he had let on.
The desperation, the depression. Lyssa had seen it happen before. Although, since she'd lost her own eyesight at such an early age, she didn't remember feeling it herself. When she regained her sight after twenty years of living in darkness it was cause for celebration. New miracle surgery—an option that wasn't open to everyone. Yet. But Lyssa was sure that one day it would be. The advances modern science had made astounded her.
Until that day came, she had the incredible task of trying to pull this six-foot-plus man out of his despair by showing him that life was still worth living without his vision.
She sighed, noticing the heavy slump of his shoulders. She had her work cut out for her.
She commanded Otis to sit and the well-trained dog heeded the command instantly.
Lyssa cleared her throat. The man didn't move.
As she suspected, he'd heard her perfectly well. He simply chose to ignore her.
"I was told I could find Cody Gentry out here by the pool," Lyssa finally said.
The muscles on his face twitched slightly. "Who's looking?"
The timbre of his voice was deep, with a faintly ominous edge that reminded Lyssa of the voices she'd heard as a child when she and Kim would sneak downstairs in the middle of the night and watch old horror flicks on cable. She couldn't see the movies, she'd only heard the voices. That added to the mystery, raised the level of anticipation, sending shivers racing up her spine.
Cody wasn't anything out of a horror movie. She ignored the swell of apprehension that had her confidence faltering.
She knew better than to extend her hand in a normal greeting for her introduction.
Instead, she drew in a deep breath and hoped her voice sounded pleasant. "I'm Alyssandra McElhannon."
He didn't move. "What do you want?"
"I brought Otis," she said cheerfully.
"Otis is a who, not a what."
His whole body seemed to stiffen. His voice was controlled, but edgy enough to send shivers chasing over her skin. "I'm sorry you came all the way out here like this. Apparently someone failed to give you adequate information. I'm not training cuttin' horses anymore."
"Oh, Otis isn't a horse. He's a dog. Your guide dog. And I'm here to train the two of you to work as a team." She said the words with the pride she couldn't help but feel. Otis, like many dogs trained as seeing aids for the vision-impaired, was a lifeline to independence.
He sat still, unaffected. It wasn't at all the reaction she'd been expecting.
"And you would be Cody Gentry, I take it?" she asked, already knowing he was.
"I just said I'm not interested."
"And I heard you. My job is to make you interested."
Confused, she said, "Mike Gentry, for one."
He groaned audibly and straightened up in his chair. "My father sent you, huh?"
"That's right. He didn't tell you I was coming?"
"Did he already pay you for your troubles?"
"Well, yes, a portion is—"
"Then you're fired. I'll make sure you get the rest of the money you're owed by mail. I'm sorry he wasted your time."
Lyssa's huff was slightly exaggerated. Cody was as difficult as Mike Gentry had warned, but in a totally different way than Lyssa had been prepared for.
"In the first place, the school pays my salary and it is run entirely by donations. Second, training my dogs and students is never a waste of my time. Furthermore, you aren't the one who hired me, your father did. In fact, he asked me to stay on at the ranch until you and Otis were working well together. So, you can't fire me, no matter how much you squawk."
He made a face that almost made her laugh. "Squawk?"
Crossing her arms across her chest, she said, "I call it like I see it."
"Listen, Ms. McElfen—er—McEllaf... What's your name again?"
"McElhannon," she said slowly. "Alyssandra Orchid McElhannon. If we're going to be working together, I'd prefer to keep things informal. So you can call me Lyssa, if it's easier."
Easier and infuriating, she knew. Just because he couldn't see her, didn't mean he couldn't hear perfectly well. In fact, she knew his hearing was much better now than it had been before he'd lost his eyesight.
"Okay, Lyssa. I appreciate your crusade here, but you really are wasting your time. And mine, for that matter. I don't need a dog, and I don't need you. I need my eyes back. And if you can't give me that, then get out of my way! I don't want you or your dog here."
Anger flared so strong through her whole being that Lyssa could taste its bitterness. Part of Mike Gentry's argument that Cody needed a one-on-one instructor was because of his environment. He'd warned Cody could be difficult to work with, but explained he was there on Cody's behalf and that Cody was anxious to start training as soon as possible. He had attitude, but a strong desire. The only way to show Cody exactly how infuriating he could be was to throw it back in his face, his father had told her. Fight fire with fire. That seemed to be the only way to break through Cody's despair lately.
Lyssa couldn't argue with that. Cody had plenty of attitude. But Lyssa had
underestimated the warning and now regretted it. Fight fire with fire? In her estimation, she was going to need to set off a case of C4 explosives to even make a dent.
"Otis and I aren't going anywhere," she said calmly. "At least not for the next month."
Anger simmered to a boil just beneath the surface of Cody's exterior, it seemed. His movements were quick and deliberate as he sat up straight and dropped his boots to the ground with a thud. She wanted to take a step back to shield herself from the slap of anger she was sure he was about to unleash, but she held her ground.
Lyssa had been too young to feel the anger when she'd lost her eyesight. She learned, just as a child learns to crawl and then walk, how to live in her dark world. Learning to crawl for a child was second nature. Curiosity won over confidence every time, hands down. Get from point A to point B and it didn't matter how you got there as long as you did it.