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A harsh morning breeze sang sharp notes of coming winter, steaming horse manure, and dejection—mine.
I’d come to the show hoping to catch a few rides, make a few dollars, but no one needed help. Or no one wanted me. One pervy guy leered, grabbed his crotch, and said he’d like a ride.
Nice as could be, I asked, “And aren’t you a quelling rump-fed maggot-pie?”
He stood there collecting flies for a moment then sputtered, “Yeah well, you’re…you’re…”
“Smarter than you, that’s what.” I walked away, not feeling particularly virtuous or victorious.
I took my weak horse-show coffee outside and sank to the damp ground against the wheel of a horse trailer out of the wind, letting the feeble sun bathe my face, trying to decide whether to stay or go home and nurse the ferocious hangover pounding my head.
Reason for said hangover chose that moment to appear, looking more dapper than anyone who’d drunk me under the table had a right to. He even had his stock tie pinned in place, complete overkill for a schooling show.
“How you be, V?”
I shot him a look through slitted eyes. “I think you know how I am.”
Harry collapsed all six-plus feet of his skinny self next to me. “Crabby and all out of whipped cream?”
That about summed it up. I sipped my coffee, rapidly going cold and stale, but it took a hair off the edge.
A young man led a horse out to the field in front of us. The sleek dark bay wore saddle and bridle, and a lunge line was clipped right to the ring of the snaffle. Idiot. The grass was slick with half-frozen dew. I wouldn’t work a horse out here, especially not one vibrating like a thoroughbred being led to the starting gate. She probably was off the track by her looks and conformation. Sweat already darkened her shoulders and flank. She’d been getting ridden in the indoor warm-up ring, I’d bet, and not cooperating, so they’d brought her here to work out the kinks at the end of a lunge.
With my attention riveted on the horse, I asked Harry, “Where’ve you been?”
Out of the corner of my eye, I saw him swipe a finger under his nose, a habit from his cocaine days. I hoped he wasn’t stupid enough to start again. It would explain how he could stay up half the night drinking and still be here at the crack of dawn like the Energizer Bunny.
He grinned like an addle-pate. Not sure why I had Shakespeare on the brain this morning. Probably the tragedy of my current situation.
“Perfection takes time, petal, you know that.”
I kept my nose to the opening of my cardboard cup of black coffee—one of my vices. Inhaling deeply to block the scent of cologne and cough drops, I wondered how I’d ever been attracted to this person. The fact that he could model for Ralph Lauren might have something to with it. “Perfection,” I drawled. “Right.”
The boy with the horse jerked the line. The mare’s mouth worked, foam dripping, and her ears swiveled to me, to the field, to the indoor, anywhere but to him. He gave her slack, brought the whip behind her, and she moved out into a huge trot, covering tons of ground, tail swishing angrily with each stride. Four white socks and an irregular star. Barely visible dapples slid over her haunches like melted dark chocolate. Flashy. Beautiful didn’t cover it. Long sloping shoulders and a well-sprung ribcage. A dream made real. My fingers itched to stroke her neck, comb through her mane, take the reins, gather all that power to me. This one could jump the moon.
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