tagRomancePalomino Ch. 15

Palomino Ch. 15


It was a gorgeous Thursday morning, two weeks later, when the call came that a trailer was arriving with a special package for Lacey. Wide-eyed and scared that someone would catch the rig before she did, she dashed out of the main house in the middle of painting her nails and scrambled for the barn, praying to God that Wesley and the boys were still in the south pasture doing chores. The last thing she wanted to try to explain was why an expensive cutting horse was being delivered that he didn't know about. Running full speed, she slid into the barn, gasping for breath, blue eyes going wide as she saw Lance walking in through the opposing open doors.

Lance caught sight of Lacey run into the barn then dodge to the side and he furrowed his brows. What had her runnin' scared like a rabbit? He'd been feeding the calves they'd had to bring in from pasture when their mamas refused to feed them anymore. Betsy was always the cow they put lost babies with. She was a good mama and never turned any calf down. She'd never been able to produce her own, but she did damn fine with those that had bitches for a mama. He scratched the back of his neck as he caught the glint off a vehicle coming up the main road. "Miss Lacey?"

Lacey cursed just outside the barn door. What the fuck was he doing here? Glancing up, she saw that the trailer was turning onto the main road leading to the barn and she stepped into the barn once more, chewing on her bottom lip before she looked at Lance. "What are you doing here? I thought everyone was out in the south pasture?"

"They are.I was checkin' on the calves here. Makin' sure Betsy took 'em alright." He furrowed his brows. Lacey was always a calm and collected girl. "Is there somethin' wrong?"

Lacey started to say something when the trailer pulled up, the gears shifting as it came to a halt and then the horn blew to let them know it was here. "Shit ..." she glanced out and then back to Lance and then out again. "Just hold on a minute," she said exasperated and ran out the barn towards the trailer with a huge grin on her face as the driver of the truck and Tyler stepped out of the big rig.

Lance stood there rather dumbfounded and he semi-behaved, only walking to the door of the barn to peek out. Tyler Roy hugged Lacey as she came running at them all exasperated like. "Is this a bad time, Lace? We can come back later."

Lacey hugged Tyler and then shook her head, releasing him as she walked quickly towards the back of the trailer. "No! I've been looking forward to this for too long." She opened up the hatch where the horse's head would be, the slant-load trailer having room for more than one horse. When she pulled it open, a gorgeous palomino pushed his nose through the open space and whinnied loudly, snorting and breathing hard, eager to get out of the trailer and stretch his legs. "Oh god ... he's gorgeous," she cried softly, reaching up to rub his muzzle.

"What the fuck...." Lance muttered. He couldn't stand still any longer. He walked out to join the others. He shook Tyler's hand firmly, then the driver's, then looked at Lacey like she'd lost her mind. "What the hell is that, and why is it here?"

Lacey glanced over, hearing Lance's voice and looked both surprised and like she had been caught with her hand in the cookie jar. "YOU aren't even supposed to be here! Go away!" she accused before shaking her head with an exasperated sigh. And then her attention was drawn back to the horse, her smile returning. "Tyler, let's get him out. I want to see him," she said, completely ignoring Lance's question.

Lance growled. He didn't like being left in the dark, and he KNEW Wesley wouldn't be happy. Another horse meant more food.

Tyler rounded the truck and opened the back of the trailer, pulling down the walk. Then he stepped up into the trailer and released the horse from his slant stall and helped him back out a bit before turning him and letting him trot on down the ramp. The horse didn't even have to have a hand on him. He stopped at the back of the trailer and waited for Tyler to get him and he grabbed the halter, walking him around the side toward where Lacey stood.

"He loads up nice 'n easy. He's a natural showman. Will put on airs in front of a crowd. Loves bein' watched."

Lacey grinned, moving to the horse with soft coos as she let him sniff at her and then rubbed his gorgeous forehead, smoothing the light blonde colored forelock with her fingers before pulling out a treat from her pocket and offered it to the horse. "Isn't he simply gorgeous?" she asked, to no one in particular and then she grinned to Tyler. "Everything go okay? You've got all the paperwork?"

"Ayep... got all your signatures. You've got ownership papers and his pedigree. Ya should be good ta go. Glad I could help ya out, Miss King. If ya need anythin' else, gimme a call. I'm just seven miles away."

Lacey smiled and nodded, grasping the halter with one hand before reaching out to shake Tyler's hand with her other one. "Don't worry. I'm sure I'll be calling you again sometime, Tyler. Thank you again!" She took the envelope with all of the gelding's paperwork and then glanced to Lance with somewhat of a sheepish grin. "Would you mind grabbing me a lead rope from the tack room ... please?"

Tyler chuckled. "He don't need no lead rope. Turn 'round and he'll follow ya. Ya gave him treats. You've got a friend fer life there." Tyler winked and crawled back into the truck and drove away.

Lance just kind of looked at Lacey like all hell was going to break loose just any second. Especially when Wesley found out this was done behind his back. "What're you thinkin'? Where we gonna keep that thing? I sure as hell ain't takin' care of it."

Lacey led the gelding towards the barn, the horse following just like Tyler said he would, nuzzling her pockets for more treats as she looked at Lance with a sheepish grin. "Okay, look ... if I told either one of you, you both would have been trying to stop me all this time," she admitted, glancing to Lance as he fell into step beside her. She noticed that he was taking in the horse and assessing it quickly with a trained eye. "What do you think really though? I mean, about the horse?"

"He's kinda lanky. Needs his hindquarters built up." He stopped the horse and grabbed the halter, tilting his head up to pull on the upper lip to take a good look at his teeth. He then began to pat down the neck and the chest, over the front legs to test startle point. He then lifted one foot and tested the knees and checked the hooves. Slowly he walked around the animal as the horse just stood there, almost leaning to one side as if bored.

Lacey's eyebrows furrowed together some as she watched him assessing the horse, watching his every move. "What 'cha mean, lanky? He's gorgeous."

"He's young.... patient. Got good eyes. Just needs to be built up as he finishes growing. He broke and everythin'?"

Lacey nodded, her smile growing. This horse was far more than just broke. He had a lot of experience under his belt with both cutting and barrel racing, even being as young as he was. She quietly handed Lance the envelope with the horse's pedigree and papers in it. "Take a look, tell me what you think. I need your honest opinion, Lance."

Lance took the papers and unfolded them to take a look, then looked at the horse, then back to the papers. "God... no wonder he's tall. His sire was 17 hands." The horse had found refuge with Lacey again. The two had shared an instant bond and he nudged her chest for attention. Finally Lance folded up the papers again and tucked them in the envelope to hand them back to Lacey. "Well, if you're gonna race him, he needs a bit of conditioning. He's been out of the runs fer awhile. Look at his haunches and his legs. Li'l practice will build that right up. He might need leg wraps fer awhile 'till we get those spindles built up some. All in all Miss Lacey, I hope you paid fer whatcha got. Let's go see where to put 'im and see about gettin' you a corral to run in."

Lacey tenderly rubbed the horse's muzzle, fingering the soft strands of his forelock and then running her hand back between his ears to shake his mane lovingly. She glanced at Lance kind of wide-eyed as he figured out what she was going to do with him, and then chuckled softly, nodding. "So ... you'll help keep my little secret while I get him in shape? Tate's been working with me every day on Gunthar ..." She and the palomino followed Lance as he led them to a place where she could keep the horse somewhat still a secret, for now.

"So that's what ol' Tate's been up to. Now I get it. I knew you been ridin'... can see it in yer legs and back and yer posture. Just the way ya stand. Surprised Wesley hasn't picked up on it. Noticed it in Gunthar too. He seems perkier. Anne used to race him. It took all I had to convince Wes not ta sell 'im. After 'while they became fast friends. We'll keep your fella in here. I'll work on keepin' Wes away if ya want me to. See about leg wraps fer 'im. Don't want 'im runnin' and strainin' anything. I might be wrong 'bout his strength, jus' don't wanna take the chance."

Lacey smiled as she listened, and walked the gelding into the corral that Lance had found for them. She nodded and carefully removed the halter to give the gelding some freedom, but he seemed content to stick close to her, nuzzling her and butting her with his head a bit as if he didn't understand why she wasn't climbing up on his back and trying him out. "Yeah ... Tate's been real good about keeping my secret. I want to surprise Wesley with it." She glanced over at Lance for a moment. "Do you really think he's going to be upset that I did all this behind his back?"

Lance stood up on the gate and he chuckled. "If he gets upset, it'll be short lived. I dunno what other reactions he might have. Might be good, might be bad. He may be doin' team ropin' with me 'gain, but he still won' watch the races. Ya might break 'im of it though." He chuckled as the horse got bossier and bossier. "Why don'tcha get on up there and trot 'im 'round a bit? Doubt he needs a saddle. Seems tame as a dog."

Lacey chewed on her lower lip a bit as she pondered all that Lance had said, but he hadn't said anything that she hadn't already thought of. She knew his reactions could be mixed when he saw her barrel race for the first time, but somehow, inherently, she knew that it would help. Every day that she had been working with Tate and Gunthar, it was as if she could feel Anne encouraging her, whispering in her ear that this is exactly what Wesley needed to help put the past finally behind him.

She nodded and smiled to the gelding, moving to his side and rested both hands on the horse's back. He turned his head a bit to watch her, as if he knew what she was going to do and gave her a nudge. She hopped gracefully three times, and then sprang upwards, her body folding over the horse's spine, and then wiggled a bit, throwing her right leg over and sat up, scooting forward once to get in the right place. She could feel Lance's look and didn't have to glance over to see that he was surprised with how much she had improved.

"How's he feel?" Lance asked as she trotted around the corral. He was mostly watching the horse's legs and feet. His gait was clean. There was no hitch in his stride, no wavering to one side or the other. He was clean all the way around. "See if he'll back up, Lace."

Lacey's hands held lightly onto the horse's long mane that bounced up and down with his smooth trot. She had a natural seat, and seemed to ride straight on her balance point, making it look like she was one with the horse. "He feels good ... hardly any bounce at all," she said, a bright smile on her lips. And then she sat back a bit, her legs slightly moving in a bounce like motion and the horse began to back up without hesitation, blowing through his nose as his head shook a bit, almost like he was showing off.

Lance smiled. A horse that would back up that smooth on its own was a good horse. Still his stride was clean. There was no hoof tapping, no confusion, no head-throwing or argument. "Take him into a lope hon.. I want to see how he handles his head."

Lacey nodded and sat forward just slightly, her hips rolling and her legs giving him a gentle squeeze. As he started to move, she moved her body in a loping action in which the horse immediately picked up on and went straight into a canter, his blonde mane whipping out from his neck, identical to the blonde mane that whipped out from Lacey's back. He shook his head slightly and snorted, his playfulness contagious as Lacey moved with him, a huge grin on her face.

Lance watched the carriage of his head, the way his neck moved in tandem with the rest of him. He couldn't help but notice how the two seemed almost identical in personality and suaveness. She'd picked good. "Well... seems ya have a good horse there, Miss Lacey. Whatcha gonna call 'im?"

Lacey cantered in circles around Lance, lost in the movements of the horse before Lance's question sank in. She settled a bit more back, dropping her energy and the gelding dropped into a slow trot and then a walk, blowing through his nose and then jerking his head down a bit to nip at a fly. She glanced over at Lance for a moment and then smiled. "I was thinking of calling him 'Fire and Ice' ... Ice for short." She smiled down at him, ruffling his soft blonde mane as he showed off a bit, prancing and then moving back into a walk. She glanced back at Lance. "What do you think?"

"Ice sounds good to me. He seems to like it too. Don'tcha Ice?" He reached over the gate to rub the animal's muzzle as he came to a halt near the gate. He really was a tame showman, a show-off to the hilt, and young and as spirited as the girl riding him was. He seemed just what she needed. "Yep... that's a fine animal you've got there, Lace. Let's get him some food and I'll pull a hose out here and fill that trough. We'll see about gettin' ya barrels ta work with... we'll jest 'ave ta pack 'em away each time."

Lacey smiled and slid off Ice, giving him an affectionate shake of his mane and then buried her nose against his skin, inhaling deeply. It probably looked silly, but she loved the smell of horses. Especially one that was all hers. She grinned and then slid through the gate to give Lance a huge hug. "Thank you, Lance ... I don't know what to say."

He smiled and hugged her back. "Now don'tchu go gettin' all soft on me. We got work ta do. Lots o' it. If there's any trainer that'll help ya most, it's ol' Tate. I'm just here fer moral support, and ta make sure that animal conditions properly. We're also gonna see about gettin' ya a saddle 'r two. Ones that fit ya. The ones I've seen ya in are all men's saddles, and too big fer ya."

Lacey nodded and then glanced to Ice as he walked around the corral, sniffing at everything and walking in circles before lowering himself to the ground and made a big show of rolling, sending up a cloud of dust and ruining the beautiful brush job that had been done on him before he had arrived. Lacey just laughed and shook her head. No doubt that he was a man, having to make a mess when he looked ravishing just the way he was!

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