tagRomancePalomino Ch. 14

Palomino Ch. 14


Lacey leaned against the railing of the inner fence back behind the grandstand once again, a small smile on her face as she watched both Lance and Wesley prepare their horses for team roping. She had watched them practice on and off all week, and had even got in a little bit of practice herself on the back of the buckskin that she had been taking out in the mornings, unknown to Wesley. She was actually trying to surprise him by learning a bit more about rodeo and barrel racing while he was busy doing his job on the ranch.

One of the other ranch hands, Tate, who had broken his leg and was pretty much stuck close to the main house, had been giving her some lessons while Caroline came out every morning to watch. Everyone was staying pretty much tight-lipped about it so far.

Wesley was dressed his best, like every competing cowboy was. He uncoiled his lasso when he found a kink in it and coiled it again, preparing it for the quick ride ahead. Gunthar danced beneath him impatiently. He kept throwing his head to get his boss' attention to tell him it was time to go. Wesley grabbed the reigns and pulled him up a bit. "Easy fella... we'll go soon enough. Promise." The hell-bitch was much calmer with her partner around. She hadn't thrown a fit yet. She seemed as excited as ever, but wasn't spooking, and was behaving like a charm for Lance. That's all that was missing. She was half a team, and she balked at the idea of running alone. Wesley was the foot man. Always had been. Lance had a tendency to drop a leg if he tried. So they'd settled a long time ago who did what. Finally he guided Gunthar into the chute next to the chute the steer would bolt out of in a few seconds. He looked at Lance with a lopsided grin. He loved competing. He never knew until he roped with Lance that first time after three years, how much he had missed it.

Lance grinned at Wesley from the opposite side, backing the hell-bitch up into the furthest corner, his lasso on the ready. Damn, if Wesley didn't look good sitting over there! Their team was finally back together and it felt like old times. He glanced over for a moment, seeing Lacey leaning against the railing, chewing on a well-manicured nail as she watched. She hadn't ever seen Wesley compete. She was as nervous as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rockers. Turning his gaze back to the hell-bitch beneath him, he saw that she was ready and he glanced back to Wesley one last time before nodding his head quickly to show they were ready.

Wesley pulled his hat down and nodded. The chute opened to let the steer out and the barriers broke. The horses bolted like they were made for the sport and raced after the steer. Wesley didn't even have to tell Gunthar what to do, but he held the reigns for show as he watched Lance's lasso thrown. The instant he saw it hit home he let loose of his own lasso and yanked. Gunthar stopped backed up as soon as he saw the rope fly by. The crowd rose up in a great cheer as the steer was stretched for the time allotted then let loose and disentangled from the ropes. Wesley beamed at Lance and they slapped hands as they trotted to the other end of the arena. "Good run, cowboy."

Lacey jumped up and down from where she was standing behind the fencing that separated her from the arena, cheering and whistling loudly with her fingers in her mouth. Anyone that would have noticed her among the others would have thought she was a cowgirl through and through. She was wearing tight, faded blue jeans and her ropers that were finally starting to look broke in good, a suede and green vest that showed off her tanned arms and the curve of her breasts with blonde hair swinging free beneath the hat tucked down low over her forehead. Ducking back through the crowd, she jogged down the fence line in the same direction the boys were going.

Wesley glanced in the direction he'd seen Lacey as he dismounted and patted Gunthar down to praise him and gave him a couple sugar cubes as a small treat. "Good boy..." he praised, chuckling when the horse nudged him for more sugar.

Lacey came jogging around the corner and Gunthar surprised both Lance and Wesley when he momentarily ignored the sugar cubes that Wesley had dug out of his pocket to wicker loudly at Lacey. He wasn't the type of horse that normally greeted anyone, especially someone that wasn't a regular rider on his back. What they didn't know, though, was that Gunthar had become Lacey's favorite mount in the mornings while the boys were out doing chores and had done a lot for her learning of the ways of becoming a barrel racer.

This, of course, flew right over Lacey's head as she ran up and hugged both men tightly, gushing praise before rubbing Gunthar lovingly as he nudged and poked at her pockets for the treats she usually brought him. "Oh my god ... that was amazing! You two just HAVE to come in the top five," she said, glancing excitedly to the scoreboard.

Wesley hugged her with a grin and kissed her cheek as she turned her attention to the boards. "Whatchu been doin'? Spoilin' mah ropin' horse 'er what? I saw that." He nudged her pockets and eyed her with a chuckle.

Lacey glanced to Wesley with a surprised look and then shifted her gaze to Gunthar who was nudging at her pockets and then chuckled, rubbing his forehead. "Who me? Nah ... he's just desperate for someone to give him some treats," she said, giving Gunthar a look like "watch it or you're gonna get us in trouble."

Gunthar snorted in irritation as he wasn't getting anywhere and nudged Wesley square in the chest. He laughed and ruffled his forelock. "Quit it! You bossy beast." He glanced up at the scoreboard as he saw a flash of change out the corner of his eyes. When he saw his and Lance's initials in first place his eyes widened. He wasn't expecting THAT good of a run. Lance whooped and jumped on Wesley's back, hugging him tight. "Whooee! Yes! I knew we could do it!" He then grabbed Lacey in a huge hug and spun her around and grinned then glanced to Wes. "You mind?" Without waiting for an answer he dipped Lacey back and kissed her firmly on the lips.

Lacey gasped, half laughing as Lance suddenly bent her back and kissed her, clinging to him to keep her balance. When she was up righted, she staggered a bit as Lance started jumping all around the place and laughed, grabbing onto Gunthar's saddle to keep her balance. "My word ... you crazy cowboy!"

Wesley grinned and grabbed her around the waist to turn her and kiss her lovingly. "Should put him on a bull, don'tcha think? Then he'd get the jumpin' around out of his system."

Lacey smiled brightly, her hands trapped on his strong chest as he pulled her close, blue eyes sparkling with a happiness that radiated from within. She hadn't been this happy since ... since ... Something flashed in her eyes momentarily as the memory of Kenny and what had happened popped into her head. But then the moment was gone and she smiled gently at Wesley before glancing to Lance with an amused expression. "I'd be afraid for the bull."

Wesley stilled a bit when he saw the distant look in her eyes, but it was gone as soon as it came, and he squeezed her again, placing another soft kiss to her lips. There was a soft cat call from up above in the grandstands. Another cowboy was bending down over the railing. It was Tyler Roy, the owner of a neighboring ranch who normally teamed up with the King ranch for round-up season. "So Wes! Got yerself another girl, eh? 'bout damned time." When Lacey looked up, Tyler winked and tipped his hat. "Ma'am."

Lacey was in the middle of toying with Wesley's hair at the nape of his neck, just beneath the edge of his cowboy hat and leaning in for another kiss when she heard the cowboy's words. She glanced up and then smiled radiantly at the man before glancing back to Wesley with a soft blush to her cheeks. There was no room to think about Kenny, or the past. Nothing like that was going to happen to her again and she was determined not to ever be that stupid again. She could tell that Wesley was about to say something back, so she simply waited, glancing up to the cowboy again as her hands slid down from his hair line to rest on his broad shoulders.

Wes just grinned and nodded. "Ayep, Ty. Sure do. Her name's Lacey King."

Tyler's brows raised and he had a rather shocked look on his face. "Ya mean to say THE Lacey King?"

Wesley just nodded and chuckled.

"Ol' Bill's little girl? Can't be." He looked her over. then whistled low through his teeth. "Grew up mighty fine, dincha Miss King? Ya might 'member me," he said, extending a hand. "Tyler Roy of the Roy ranch next ter yer daddy's."

Lacey's flush brightened a bit at the compliments and suddenly realized he must be getting a bird's eye view of her cleavage pressed up against Wesley's chest and then chuckled, stretching a bit to the side and up as her hand reached up to shake his, azure eyes twinkling a bit. How could she forget Tyler Roy? They had shared their first kiss at the yearly bar-b-q one year at the dance in the barn after the round-up. "It's been a long time, Tyler. How are you?"

"Been well, Miss King. Been mighty fine. Got myself a wife now. Three li'l chillin's runnin' around. You might see mah oldest boy 'round here somewhere. 'Bout waist heigh, acts like he's thirty." He looked over in the direction of Lance, who had found an old flame, as usual, and he grinned. "We were jest headin' to the hoe down. Why don'tcha folks git those horses put up and join us?"

Lacey couldn't believe it had actually been that long. Tyler was married and had three kids! God, what had she been doing all this time? She smiled gently and then glanced to Wesley before answering. "Well that would be up to Wes and Lance, of course."

Without further ado, Tyler simply handed his beer to his partner and hitched a leg over the railing to drop down into the dirt below. He reached up to take the beers as his buddy did the same. "This is ol' Red." He nudged Red in the chest and handed him back his beer as he chugged his own and tossed the cup in the trash. He hooked arms with Lacey and looked at Wesley. "Still ridin' ol' Gunthar, eh? That horse has gotta be pushin' nine. Ain't he gettin' old for this work?"

Lacey smiled at Red, nodding gently as Tyler suddenly took charge and hooked his arm in hers. "Well, I see that time hasn't changed you one bit," she teased. She then glanced to Gunthar and then Wesley, a soft smile on her lips. It was funny how quickly she was becoming accustomed to life on a ranch and the people that worked on them. She couldn't help but suddenly think of her father and what life would have been like for her if he had never turned her away, her smile fading a bit.

Wesley just shook his head and didn't say anything as he took Gunthar's and the hell-bitch's reigns to guide them toward the stalls on the outskirts of the arena that had been set up. Tyler was already talking up a storm about his wife Wendy and their three boys and how she was home with two of them, and he'd brought the oldest to show him what daddy's life was all about. Wesley didn't mind Tyler's company, he just had a tendency to talk up a storm and not let anybody get a word in edgewise; Wesley was the complete opposite. He was quite content to be silent.

Tyler had basically cornered Lacey and she suddenly remembered why she hadn't been too interested in him after that first kiss. She wanted to laugh and offer to buy him a beer to shut him up, but she simply listened to his stories, nodding her head and glancing to Wesley as he walked away. As Wesley went out of earshot, Lacey suddenly had an idea and turned to Tyler with a look of surprise on her face, like she had just remembered something important. "Tyler ... I need you to do me a favor. You know where I can find a good barrel racing horse without making a big fuss about it and the word getting out I'm looking?"

"Ah, yeah! Might know a few places to look. Ya want a gelding er a filly?" he finally stopped talking long enough to actually hold a two-sided conversation.

Lacey thought about it for a moment, chewing on her well-manicured thumbnail a moment as she went back over all the training and reading she had been doing lately. "I guess it doesn't really matter, but I'd like to start with a pretty experienced one, but not too old. I'd prefer gelding if at all possible, then I don't have to worry with heat cycles and mares getting all worked up during, well, you get the picture" she said with a soft laugh.

He grinned and nodded, taking his hat off his head to scratch at the mop of dark hair beneath. "Any particular breed, or do ya care?"

Lacey's first thought was an Arabian. She had always wanted one. But quarter horses were so popular in this sport. "Gosh, I don't know ... what tends to be the best for racing?"

"Well.. ya got your quarter horses for short dashes and high speed, then ya got your quarter thoroughbred crosses; longer legs, longer stamina, but not as quick on the feet. It's a give or take situation. Depends on what ya want."

Lacey chewed on her thumb again for a moment, glancing back over her shoulder to make sure Wesley didn't walk up on her during this particular conversation. Seeing that he was still tending to the horses, she turned back to Tyler with a grin, "Then quarter horse. I want speed. Stamina isn't necessarily something that is needed for barrel racing... is it?"

Tyler nodded and scratched his beard as he thought a bit. "I'll look around fer ya, Miss King. See what I can find. Any particular price range ya lookin' fer? A trained horse will be a pretty penny. Would be cheaper to train 'im yerself."

Lacey shook her head a bit before answering, "I'd rather have one that already knows what it is doing. Price isn't really a factor." And it wasn't ... she had plenty of money in a couple of accounts from all the hard work she had done in New York.

"Alrigh'.... I'll see what I can find fer ya." He looked over in the direction of Wesley and Lacey's constant peeking, sensing she wanted to keep this quiet from the seasoned rancher.

Lacey smiled and then saw him glance in Wesley's direction and laughed gently. "And Tyler ... let's not mention this to anyone else right now, alright? At least leave my name out of it for the time being."

"Will do, Ma'am." He brushed the brim of his hat with a wink.

Wesley was finally through rubbing down the horses and getting them settled in for the night. He was in high spirits despite the fact that Lance had left him to do all the work. They'd scored first. It was time to celebrate.

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