Palomino Ch. 16byLadyRoscoe©
Lance glanced over at Wesley as he hopped in the truck, eyebrows furrowing some as he noticed one less person. "Where's Lacey? Thought she was gonna come see us compete tonight?" he asked, swiveling his head to see if she was walking up to the truck. The slant-load trailer was hitched to the back and both the Hell-Bitch and Gunthar were loaded, ready to head out.
"Ah... she says she's not feeling too well. She's got a fever. Wanted to stay home." Wesley scratched the back of his neck. He seemed a bit nervous with Lacey's excuses. They'd been using protection, but still, it worried him. He shifted in his seat and reached for the seatbelt to strap in. "Let's go. We gotta get to the gate by 3."
Lance nodded, a slight frown on his face and then shifted the truck into drive and slowly pulled out and headed down the long drive to the main road that led out to the frontage road.
Lance glanced over at his best friend, furrowing his eyebrows some as he drove. "You ain't nervous, are ya?" he asked, turning his attention back to the road. THAT wasn't a good sign.
"Me? No... I never get nervous." His voice was a bit higher than normal. It almost squeaked and he cleared his throat, still tapping against his thigh. Lance shrugged a bit and then glanced in the side mirror. Lacey and the boys should be leaving about now. He glanced over at Wesley again and hoped that he didn't wind up killing them all after tonight. Seeing Lacey and her barrel horse Ice was going to be quite the surprise. Especially with how good they had gotten.
Wesley shifted a bit and rubbed the back of his neck. "Lance... has Lacey been actin' funny lately, or is it just me?" He still had that nervous edge to his voice. Lance glanced over at Wesley, one eyebrow inching up. Surely he wasn't on to the plan? They had been more than careful. Hell, the whole ranch knew about it now, except for Wesley, and they had all worked hard together to keep him in the dark. "Wh-what 'cha mean funny?" he said, clearing his voice a bit and shifting in his seat as he drove, glancing back in the mirror again.
"I mean... she has this.... glow about her. She's overly happy. Now this, this... sick... thing." He clearly was nervous, but he didn't seem wise on to uncovering any plan.
Lance wanted to die laughing as he caught on to what Wesley was nervous about. He was relieved that he had no clue about what was really going on. He leaned over some and slapped Wes on the shoulder, a chuckle slipping past. "Easy there, fella ... I think you're letting your imagination get the best of ya. Hell ya, Lace is happy ... look at you two!" He shut his mouth quickly before he said anymore. Hell, he was a pro at keeping secrets. Wes looked out the corner of his eyes. He wasn't at all convinced. He'd worked a ranch too long, and had seen the cycles in lots of species of females. All he needed was Lacey pregnant. That would put stress everywhere it wasn't needed.
"If you say so." Lance just chuckled and squeezed his buddy's shoulder. "You just need to get in the arena and work that worry outta ya, Wes. Trust me, yer worryin' fer nuthin"
Wesley just muttered. "Yeah... I guess. At least I hope so. That's all I need right now." He seemed somewhat more relaxed at Lance's gentle assurance. He stopped the nervous tapping and shifting, but he still stared out the window as the grasslands became a blur as they made their way to the rodeo.
Lacey watched the guys load up from the bedroom window, hopping on one foot as she shrugged on her tight black jeans with tiny silver sparkles in them. She watched until she saw the brake lights of the trailer disappear. Then she quickly ran for the closet, pulling out her black boots with silver trim, tugging them on then shrugged on her matching silver top, embroidered with sparkles and black trim that Caroline had made especially for tonight. Grabbing her hat and a comb, she dashed downstairs, holding the brim of the hat in between her teeth as she buttoned the shirt and tucked it into the waistband of her jeans, buckling the shiny black and silver belt into place. Caroline, Tate and Tyler waited for her downstairs.
Tyler looked the cowgirl over and gave a low appreciative whistle as he gave her the once over. Tate did it too, but wasn't quite as vocal about it. Caroline just grinned and hugged her. "C'mon... get in the truck. The boys should be far enough ahead we won't catch up to them."
Lacey grinned appreciatively at the boys and then hugged Caroline, kissing her cheek. "I feel like I'm gonna puke," she murmured, running for the truck, but stopping long enough to check the trailer and rub Ice's nose. "Hey baby-boy ... you ready to go?" Ice snorted and stamped, nuzzling her hand. Tyler wrapped his arm around her. "C'mon cowgirl. In the truck. We gotta get to the gate by 3. Lance and Wes left later than I thought they would. We gotta go." Lacey smiled and rubbed Ice's nose once more before climbing into the truck. Pulling on her seatbelt, she hung her hat on her knee and started combing her hair and braiding it into one long braid down the back as she tapped her foot nervously. "I hope I remember how to do this," she murmured softly, glancing to Tyler.
Tyler grinned and nudged her as they headed off down the road. "You'll be fine. You gotta good horse. Just give 'im his head and he'll go." Tyler looked over at Tate. "Ya think Wes is gonna freak?" Lacey glanced over, listening to the guys as she finished up her braid and tied it off and then pulled down the mirror to take a look at her make-up. If only Tyra could see her now!
"Ah hell ... yeah, prolly," Tate muttered and then gently patted Lacey on the shoulder. "But just wait 'til he sees this li'l gal in action. I betcha she places in the top five. Besides, it's time Wes got a big push over this hurdle. He can't go on avoiding the races forever."
"Took 'im what? Two an' a half years to start goin' to rodeos 'gain? Then another year to get 'im in to competing again?"
Lacey played with the hat that Wesley had given her, fingering the hat band and the pin on it. It had faded a bit, but she and Caroline had taken silver polish to the buckle and pin and added a bit of black powder to it, spraying it down with some hairspray and a bit of glitter to make it shine. It could pass as new, and went great with her new outfit. She glanced over at the guys and smiled gently. "You two really think he's gonna be okay with this after the initial shock?"
"Oh yeah! He'll be fine. Ya watch."
Lacey inhaled deeply and nodded, turning her gaze out the window to look at the side mirror, her smile returning as she thought of her gelding Ice back in the trailer. They had turned into quite the team over the past weeks. Now they just had to prove it in the arena.
Tyler grinned and opened the truck as they came to a stop inside the arena. He looked around to make sure Wesley and Lance weren't anywhere around, and he turned around to help Lacey out. "C'mon... let's get that horse o' yours unloaded and git ya where ya need ta be." Lacey slipped her hand into Tyler's and stepped out of the truck, shoving her hat gently on top of her head, the blonde braid gently swaying down her back as she moved to the back of the trailer where Tate was unloading Ice. The palomino gelding seemed very unruffled, nickering friendly-like to Lacey right before he shoved at her with his muzzle for some loving. She rubbed his forehead, tousling his forelock some before taking the reins to walk out the kinks. "Meet you at the gate, Miss Lacey. I'm gonna check ya in," Tate said as Tyler hurried to go park the truck.
Lance and Wesley were at the opposite side of the arena, getting ready for their roping event. Lance kept glancing up every now and then as if he were looking for something, knowing the races were coming up not long after their run. There was only a short break for some chuck-wagon racing and he had to figure out some way to get Wesley to watch tonight. Wesley was busy with the rigging and cussed when it knotted on him. He growled and tugged at it to get it to loosen it up and untangled it with deft, sure hands. He lifted the saddle up onto Gunthar's back and lowered the cinch, strapping it in place. He heard Gunthar take a deep breath and chuckled, tickling him behind the forelegs to get him to snort and exhale. "Gotta suck it in buddy. There ya go. That's better." He grinned and patted Gunthar's shoulder and rubbed up his neck, up over his head to his muzzle. Wesley never showed to be too soft on the outside, but when it came to his horses, he was a softy like none other.
Lance glanced over at Wesley, checking his cinch one last time before settling the stirrup back down and checked his lasso, hooking it in place over the saddle horn. Rubbing the Hell-Bitch's ears, he glanced to the opposite end of the arena. Lacey and Ice were back there somewhere. He was looking forward to seeing how she ran tonight. With all the practice they'd snuck in, he hoped she'd do well. Grabbing the reins and shoving a boot into the stirrup, he hopped up into the saddle, taking up the slack as the Hell-Bitch shifted and side-stepped, nonchalantly broaching the topic that had to be addressed tonight, "So ... I was thinking. I think it's time you watched the races tonight ... at least for a little bit"
Wesley rounded Gunthar's shoulder again and adjusted the length of his stirrup. Somebody had been using his saddle off and on; somebody short. It was rather irritating to have to redo his gear every time he needed on. Gunthar snorted and leaned down to rub his leg. "You were thinkin', huh?" He looked over at his friend and shook his head. "I don't think so."
Lance rubbed the Bitch's shoulder and neck, eyeing Wesley as he adjusted the saddle. He couldn't help but grin some, thinking Lacey never did remember to fix that damn thing after she used it, but now she had her own saddle. It wouldn't be a problem anymore. "I wasn't asking," he said, adjusting the reins and leaning across the saddle horn some. "It's time, Wes, and you know it."
Once he had the stirrups adjusted. he hooked his left boot up and swung over to settle with the agility of an experienced horseman. Waiting for Gunthar to lift his head again, he leaned over the saddle horn to grab the reigns that had slipped with the stretching of the horse's neck. He muttered as he laid them across the horse's withers again, looking at Lace with a dark gaze. "I don't care if you're asking or not. The answer's no."
Lance continued to lean across the saddle horn as he regarded Wesley. He knew that this was going to be like pulling teeth on an old man that refused to give up the last of what he had left, but he was determined. Even prepared to go to drastic measures if he had to. "I ain't budgin' 'til you agree to watch."
"Well... you're gonna be standin' there a long damned time then. 'Cause I ain't watchin'." Gunthar was shifting his weight from one side to the other, dancing, ready to go. His head lifted and his ears perked as he watched and listened to things going on.
Lance shrugged and swung back off the Hell-Bitch, looping the reins in his hands. Wesley was the major competitor in the team. Lance was the show-off. He knew it would only be a matter of time before Wesley agreed to do whatever it took to get Lance back up on his horse. He glanced out as the team before them shot out of the gate and ran after their calf. "Hmm ... we're next I guess. Too bad I ain't going out there."
Wesley growled and glared at Lance. "Damnit, Lance. Get on. We have a show to do." He glared more when he didn't see Lance budge and he reigned in Gunthar, backing him up a few steps. Wesley looked toward the arena. They were being waved in and he growled again, glaring at Lance. "Get the fuck on yer horse and let's go. Now."
Lance leaned against the Hell-Bitch's saddle, not making a move to get back up on her. He glanced almost lazily up at Wesley for a moment as one of the arena judges starting walking towards them. "Not 'til you give me yer word that you'll watch the races with me."
Wesley snarled dangerously. He didn't want to start a scene with Lance. Not here, not now. "Do you want me to fuckin' withdraw us? I will. I ain't watchin'. Period."
Lance scratched at the back of his neck and glanced towards the judge approaching them. He knew that Wesley wouldn't withdraw them, but he also knew that he was pushing some major boundaries. "What's the big deal? It's a race ... it's been three and half years, Wes. You need to do this and you damn well know it."
"No! I ain't watchin', damnit!" Wesley's mood was entirely not in the game now. He glared at the judge, then to Lance. Without another word he turned Gunthar's head away and nudged him into a quick canter away from the scene and back toward the stalls, leaving Lance to handle the judge.
Lacey was coming back from stretching out Ice's legs in the riding arena back behind the main covered one, glancing towards where she saw Tate leaning against the doorway, watching her. Ice was moving good and had some quick starts. She was looking forward to seeing how well he ran, but she was having a hard time with the nervousness about Wesley. Would he watch? Would he be pissed? Would it help him get over this last hurdle with Anne's ghost? Pulling up to Tate, she smiled gently. "Well, what do ya think? Think Wesley will show up?"
Tate rubbed his chin and he just nodded "Yea... he'll show. How kin he not show? How's he doin'? Work that kink out of 'im?" Lacey glanced over Tate's head towards the arena, her eyebrows furrowed some. The loudspeakers had just announced that Wesley and Lance had withdrawn their entry tonight. She chewed on her bottom lip nervously before she glanced back at Tate and nodded, rubbing Ice's withers as he shifted beneath her, bending his head down some to rub at his leg. "Yeah, he feels good ... got quick releases. I think he'll run good tonight."
Lance walked the Hell-Bitch back towards the stalls, fuming that his plan hadn't worked. Now, not only did they have to withdraw and lose out on a chance to add more points towards their bid to Nationals, but Wesley was in a foul mood. How the hell was he supposed to get him to watch the races?
Wesley was dead silent as he worked. He always got that way when he was angry enough to spit nails. He got down off Gunthar's back and immediately lifted the stirrup to unstrap the cinch and lattigo and folded them up over the seat to avoid dragging them through the dirt as he lifted the saddle from the horse's back, setting it over the top rung of the stall. He grabbed the grooming bucket and retrieved the soft brush to brush Gunthar down. Gunthar looked at Wesley all sorts of confused. They hadn't gone to work. He kept trying to nudge Wesley to get the saddle back on but Wesley didn't even respond with so much as a head pat.
Lance stopped, flipping the ends of the Bitch's reins over and over in his hand as he glared at Wesley. "You are one stubborn sonofabitch, ya know it? What's it gonna hurt for you to watch? You don't wanna get over it, or move on, or what? Cuz if you don't, then how come yer stringing Lacey along for a ride that she's never gonna finish?" He knew his words were strong, and would hurt, but he had to get through to his friend somehow. This about more than just a surprise. This was about his friend finally finding some happiness.
Wesley stilled as Lance's words sank in. They hurt. They hurt bad. He gripped onto Gunthar's mane to keep from simply hurling himself at Lance and causing a huge ruckus in front of God and everybody. He and his friend had fought too much too often lately. It was starting to become a regular pattern. Once he could breathe again he spoke low and evenly to try to keep his temper under control. "I'm not watching, Lance. End of story."
Lance just shook his head angrily. There really was no getting through to him, and at times like this, he wondered if he ever would. He kicked at the lower plank on the railing, cursing and then walked the Hell-Bitch to the other stall, yanking the cinch loose and then quickly hauling it up and off her back. He had to hurry if he was going to catch Lacey's run. Despite his failing to get Wesley to watch, he refused to let her down completely. "Fine, asshole ... have it yer way. But yer fucking up, big time, and ya don't even care." Pulling off the Bitch's bridle, he hung it over the saddle horn and walked out of the stall, closing it behind him as he stalked off to find a good place to watch. "I'm going to watch the races," he called back before disappearing from view.
Wesley let out a sob he'd been holding in the whole time Lance had stood there. He leaned against Gunthar, his fingers wrapping in the silken mane. Yeah... he probably was messing up... but there'd be plenty of time to come 'round. Or not. He could probably survive just fine without ever seeing another race. It was just horses and girls circling barrels anyway. After several moments he stood up on his own two feet again and walked around Gunthar's head, removing his bridle and hung it over the saddle horn then rubbed his muzzle "Sorry 'bout tonight fella.... I'll make it up to ya in the mornin'."
Lacey watched, feeling the butterflies take flight in her stomach as she watched the racing chuck wagons slowly come out of the arena. They were driving in a truck now to set up the barrels and she glanced around, inadvertently looking for Wesley. "He's not gonna show ... I just know it," she said softly, feeling Tate's hand gently pat her thigh.
"You don't worry about that none ... you just git out there and do yer best. Time to show this place that ya really belong on a ranch, eh?" he teased gently, looking up at her.
Wesley half-pondered going over to watch the races... the after-effects of the argument still stung bad. On top of what happened, they wasted a night of competition and it depended on if they were high enough in the ranks as to whether they'd be allowed to compete tomorrow night at all. If not, it had been a waste of a 3 hour drive and $150 entry fee. He'd tell the judges that Gunthar had a stitch in his leg and he'd found him unfit to run tonight. It'd probably buy them a little bit of lee-way.
Lance jogged up just in time as the truck drove back through, the arena all set up for the races. He grinned reassuringly at Lacey as she caught sight of him, her eyes hopeful. He walked over, shook Tate's hand and then shook his head a bit, patting Lacey's thigh as if to tell her he failed. "I'm sorry, Lacey ... he wouldn't budge."
At the disappointed look on her face, Tate stepped up and took hold of Ice's reins to get her attention. "Now you listen to me ... you've worked your ass off for this, and it's not about Wesley. It's about YOU. And Ice. You get out there and do what you've trained to do. You're damn good at it, Lacey, and you love it. I see it every time you get on that horse." Lacey nodded quietly, the sad look on her face slowly replaced with determination.
"Folks..." the loudspeakers boomed "Up next we gotta rookie. Miss Lacey King. This is her first run at regional level. First run ever it says here. Born on the King ranch in Riverton, lived in New York City until just a few short months ago! Our very own Lacey King and her gorgeous mount, Ice 'n Fire! Ain't she lookin' fine tonight folks?"
Wesley stopped and looked up from the judge he'd been talking to. He waved the judge off "'scuse me..." He couldn't have heard the announcer wrong. He'd heard the name twice. Damn the girl! No wonder Lance wanted his attention on the races. Without a second thought he darted over to the gate and shoved another cowboy over to crawl up to see just as Lacey darted into the ring on a horse he'd never seen before. He couldn't help but shout and cheer with the rest of the crowd. She was perfect. She marked the animal wonderfully as they worked as a well-honed team.