Love Rides a Chestnut Horse Ch. 03bytigrlily320©
The next morning, he awoke before dawn and slipped out of her arms. He looked back longingly at her curled sleeping in the bed, but moved to the grab his clothes and got dressed. He headed out to the barn and took care of the morning chores, already getting used to this new routine. He tended to the horses last, feeding Leo and giving him water. He moved to Beauty to do the same, finding him much more difficult to manage. He marveled over his fiancé's skills with him, but recognized that the horse was probably simply unused to dealing with someone other than Isabella. He finished and came into the house to leave a note for her to find when she woke, planning to head out for his ride before she woke. He walked to the den and looked around for something to write with. As he sorted through the desk, he thumbed through old pictures and smiled at his girl. He moved a stack of them aside and saw the bank ledger, and paused for a moment. He placed his hand on it, but did not pull it out or open it. He knew that when the time came, she would share everything with him. He pulled a piece of paper from beneath it and found a pencil buried under some other documents, and began to write.
Upstairs, as the sun shone through the windows Isabella slowly awoke, blinking at the light and stretching her body in the bed. She turned her head to the side seeing he was gone, and pulled herself out of bed. She padded to the bathroom, where she readied herself to go into town. He heard her movements and abandoned the note. He walked up the stairs and paused in the door of the bathroom. He watched her careful movements as she began putting her long hair up.
"Morning, baby," he smiled as he leaned against the doorway.
He watched her intently. "I was just writing you a note to tell you I'm going to leave for my ride now. I should be back early this afternoon. All the morning chores are done, so there's nothing for you to worry about."
"Ok," she nodded. "I'm going to leave soon to head into town."
"Ok, baby," he whispered. He leaned in close and placed a soft kiss on her temple. It seemed odd, but it hurt him to know that the two of them were going to be apart for the majority of the day.
She smiled, "be careful."
"I will, love. You come back quickly. I want you here when I get home." He gave her a wink with a lustful glance and she chuckled.
Shaking her head, she smiled. "I'll do my best, babe. You'd better go before you get yourself in trouble."
"Kiss me first."
She leaned up, kissing his lips softly. He closed his eyes and rubbed her arms.
He squeezed her hand as he turned away and walked down the hall.
"Be careful!" She called out as he descended the stairs.
He smiled, calling back up to her. "I will, baby. I'm not going to leave you."
He walked from the house and got Leo ready to ride, swinging onto his back and taking off at a lope through the fields of the farm. Isabella finished getting ready and headed out to get Beauty. As he reached the top of a hill behind the house, he looked down to see her riding away from him in the opposite direction. He let out a shrill whistle and saw her pull the black stallion to a stop. As she turned to look for the source of the sound, she saw him waving in the distance and waved back.
From his position on the hill, he yelled as loud as he could, "love you baby be careful!"
She smiled and waved, showing him she had heard. Looking over her shoulder, she turned Beauty back towards the road and took off. When he couldn't see her anymore, he turned Leo and headed over the hill.
Isabella slowed as she rode into town, feeling the disapproving stares of the townsfolk. She grinned to herself, and continued towards the church at the end of the road. She slipped off Beauty and tied him, unaware of the dark clouds gathering behind her as she headed into the church. Inside, she greeted the reverend with a big hug, and the two sat down for a long talk. While he was shocked to hear her tale, he knew her father well and had known Isabella herself since birth. He knew that she didn't make quick decisions lightly, and he told her he couldn't wait to meet this young man who had stolen her heart and sent the townsfolk into such frenzy. Together, they planned a small, private ceremony that would take place in the church in just two days. As she stood to leave, he congratulated her once again and told her that her father would be very proud. She smiled shakily and wiped away a tear as she thanked him, walking outside. As she approached Beauty, she noticed he was moving in a nervous manner. She looked up and saw the gathering clouds, heard rolls of distant thunder. Quickly she untied him and abandoned all other errands, mounting him and taking off toward home. The rain began to pour down before she reached the edge of town and she cursed silently.
Back on the ranch, James had reached the end of the property line and began riding along it. He saw the clouds gathering over town and hoped his girl was ok. He knew the storm was moving in closer, and decided to cut the ride short and head back. He nudged Leo forward, moving quickly through the brush and starting down a steep hill. As Leo stepped tentatively, the water-soaked ground suddenly gave way and he slipped, falling to his side and pinning James's leg as they slipped and slid down the hill in the rain and mud. As they slid faster and faster, the horse moved off of him, freeing James from beneath him. His joy at being released was short-lived, however as his head glanced off a rock before his fall finally ended. He lay still for only a moment, gasping, and then pushed himself up on all fours, blood dripping from his forehead. He took stock of the situation, the leg that was pinned feeling sprained. He called Leo over and was able to pull himself onto the horse. He slumped in the saddle and pointed the horse toward home.
Isabella galloped faster down the old dirt road, the crashing thunder and lightning making Beauty rear up several times. She clung to his neck to not be thrown off, urging him faster and faster. She didn't know what, but had a sinking feeling that something is wrong. As she reached the house, she saw Leo coming over the back field, James slumped in the saddle. She gasped as Leo ran up to her whinnying loudly. Jumping off Beauty's back, she hurried around the horse, reaching up to her fiancé with fear in her heart.
"James? James, please! You promised!"
His eyes opened and he looked down at her, trying to force a smile. "Im... Ok, Baby...."
"No, you're not... Can you get down?"
He clumsily slid from the saddle and slipped to the ground. He held on to the saddle as she struggled to hold his larger form. She wavered a moment, and then stood straight.
"It's ok," she whispered. "I've got you."
She guided him toward the door, her body burning from the exertion.
He groaned in pain, "Honey, you need to see to Leo and Beauty. We don't need them to get sick."
She turned her head, whistling loudly. Upon hearing it, Beauty took off for the barn, nudging Leo as he goes. "See? They're fine."
"Baby, no. They need the saddles off or they'll get saddle sores."
"I know. I'll do it as soon as I take care of you. Let's get you inside." She helped him stumble up the stairs and into the house.
He stopped once they were inside and looked at the stairs. He didn't think there was any way she could get him up the stairs, though her strength thus far was admirable. He looked down at her, "I'm all muddy, love. We don't need that in the bed."
She nodded, relieved. "The couch, then. It'll clean."
She steered him to it and as gently as possible laid him down on it. He pulled off his shirt and used it to wipe the blood from his head. Isabella couldn't help the tears that began to fall as she struggled to help him.
He reached out and cupped her face gently. "Baby, don't cry. I'm ok."
Her shoulders began to shake as she sobbed. Shaking her head, she cried, "no, you're not! You promised you wouldn't leave me." Shakily, she held his shirt to the cut on his head.
"Baby, I'm right here. I haven't left," he tried to take her hand, but she pulled away.
"But you're hurt!"
He smiled a little, hoping to calm her. "I'll be ok baby."
She shook her head violently. "You don't KNOW that. You can never KNOW that!"
"Yes. I can, love." He pulled her down and kissed her gently.
She shivered, pushing away from him. "I... I have to go take care of the horses. Will you be ok until I'm back?"
He looked at her questioningly, but replied, "yes, baby. But please be careful, it's very slippery out there."
Nodding, she ran back out the door into the storm. In her long dress, she struggled through the puddles and mud, stumbling several times. Eventually she reached the barn and ran inside to take care of the horses. He watched her go out, then pushed himself up, struggling to his feet and limped up the stairs to the room he had initially planned to live in. He dried himself off and cleaned himself up as best he could and changed into dry clothes. Satisfied, he hobbled back down the stairs and out to the porch, seeing the lantern burning in the barn. He held a bandage to his head, hoping the bleeding would soon stop altogether.
In the stable, Isabella led Leo into his new stall, talking softly to him.
"Thanks for getting him back to me, baby. You're a good boy."
She pulled off his saddle, brushed him down quickly and gave him a small scoop of feed and fresh water. She then headed over to her Beauty, who seemed more skittish than normal as she approached him. She soothed him as she always did, leading him into his stall. As she pulled off his saddle there was another loud clap of thunder and the big horse reared up on his hind legs, kicking Isabella in the temple as he did so. She cried out as she fell, losing consciousness, into the corner of the pen. From the porch, James heard the commotion and moved as fast as possible out into the stable. His eyes widened as he saw her laying on the floor of the pen.
"BABY!" He screamed as he ran to her side, forgetting the pain in his leg and head. He saw the blood matting her hair, the large gash on her temple, and struggled to wake her up.
"Baby...." he sobbed, his tears as real as hers had been what seemed like moments before. "Talk to me please, baby. Honey, I'm so sorry."
He ran his hands over her body, checking for other injuries, and shook her as gently as he could.
"Please talk to me," he whispered as he patted her face gently. He felt so lost as he stared her, willing her big green eyes to open. He reached over and got a handful of water from the pail and splashed it on her face. She awoke, gasping. Her eyes opened slowly, then closed again in pain.
"Oh, thank God! Honey, talk to me love," he leaned in over her and placed his hand on the top of her head. She groaned in pain.
"I don't think Beauty liked me talking to Leo." Her voice was barely above a whisper and her eyes were once again closed tightly against the pain.
"No, baby he was just scared. Oh God, I'm so sorry." He looked around, wondering how he was going to get her back into the house.
She whimpered, "It's ok. I'm ok."
Not seeing an alternative he looked back down at her. "I'm going to carry you inside now, ok?"
She tried to shake her head, and then moaned in pain. "You can't, your leg...."
He scooped her up, holding back a groan from the pain. Hobbling, he carried her inside.
She whispered, "stop, you'll hurt your leg worse. I can walk." Her eyes closed again, even as she protested.
"Honey, no." He stated as he ground his teeth together, carrying her upstairs. He laid her carefully on the bed, hurrying to get cloths and water, bringing them back to her side. He began to clean the blood from her head, tears running unchecked down his face.
"I'm so sorry, baby."
She whimpered as he pressed against the wound, whispering, "not your fault."
He shook his head angrily, "I shouldn't have told you to go take care of the horses."
"You had to. It's ok." Her eyes drifted closed again.
Gently, he rubbed the blood away, then washed out the cloth and repeated his actions. "Stay with me. Wake up baby."
She groaned, whispering, "tired..."
"No, baby. You've got to stay with me, ok?" He watched as she struggled to keep her eyes open. "You were unconscious, baby."
He leaned down, kissing her gently. "Stay with me, my love," he murmured.
She whispered once more, "it hurts."
"I know, baby." He quickly made a bandage and placed it on her head. "Talk to me, love. Stay with me."
Her hand moved up, brushing the cut and bruise on his head. "You're hurt," her voice was suddenly filled with wonder.
"I'll be ok, baby. I'm just worried about you." He took her hand, holding it firmly, as if he could hold her to him if he tried hard enough."
"I'm ok...," her eyes closed again. "I'm just tired." She fought to keep them open, though she couldn't remember why she wasn't allowed to sleep. She was so tired, and sleep would make her better. Why was he telling her to stay awake?
In answer, he squeezed her hand quickly. "Come on, baby. Talk to me, please?"
Her eyes were still closed, but she responded to his request. "What do you want to talk about?"
He scrambled for questions to ask her to keep her with him. "What do you want to name the baby when we have one?"
"A baby would be nice," her lips curled into a smile. Then her eyes actually opened wide. She brought her other hand over to him and placed it on top of his. "Oh, and we're getting married in two days. Don't forget, ok?"
He smiled, for the first time that night, "two days, huh? Ok baby, I'll remember."
"It's just us," she whispered, drained. "We don't need anyone else..." her voice drifted off at the end and her eyes closed again.
"No, baby, come on." He leaned in, kissing her lips deeply, trying anything to keep her awake. "Honey, please. You have to stay up for awhile since you lost consciousness."
She heard him and managed to open them just a tiny bit. "Tell me a story," she whispered. "Tell me about you... about growing up,"
He smiled again, squeezing her hand. "Ok, baby. Well, I grew up on a small farm in Kentucky. We always had animals around. I got my first horse when I was twelve. I remember we'd ride to the lake and go swimming with friends." As he spoke, he watched her carefully, making sure she was staying awake. He continued on for hours, talking about his youth and his journey, trying to engage her in the story so she wouldn't fall asleep. Eventually, they both succumbed to sleep. Isabella lay on her back with James curled protectively around her, as if he were guarding her from being taken away.