In this excerpt from Chapter 2, Andi has gone riding to think over the unexpected (and possibly unwanted) upcoming ranch visitor in the coming weeks. Riding Taffy home from her special spot, Andi spies Shasta and greets him. Eventually she decides to ride him the rest of the way back to the ranch, which isn't far away . . .
Shasta stood like a perfect gentleman while Andi prepared to mount. At fifteen hands, the colt already matched his dam in height. He wasn’t quite old enough to be seriously ridden, but Andi didn’t weigh much, and it was only a short jaunt back to the ranch yard.
“How much simpler this would be in a pair of britches,” Andi complained. Her split skirt allowed her to ride astride, but it didn’t make mounting bareback any easier. Shasta was patient, though, and Andi finally hiked herself up on his back.
With the barest shift of her weight and a quiet voice command, the young horse took Andi into the yard and stopped in front of the barn. Taffy followed, as if watching over her young charges.
|Sid McCoy, ranch foreman|
“Show off,” someone remarked with a snort.
Andi turned toward the old cowhand. “I’m not showing off.”
Sid McCoy, the ranch foreman, crossed his arms over his chest and gave her a crooked smile. “I don’t mean you, Miss Andi.” He nodded at Shasta. “I mean that young upstart of a colt you’re riding. He thinks he’s the cleverest thing on four hooves.”
“And the prettiest, most spirited—”
“Orneriest!” Sid barked.
Andi slid from Shasta’s back and went nose to nose with the old man. It was hard to do, since Sid towered over Andi by a full head. “Shasta is not ornery!” She stepped back. “Maybe a mite spoiled, but—”
“A mite spoiled?” Sid unfolded his arms and planted his fists on his hips. “Shasta’s the ‘little prince’ of this spread and everybody knows it. Fact is, Chad’s been so busy this spring he went and hired himself an experienced wrangler to work with that whole bunch o’ two-year-olds.” He smirked. “Shasta included. That should bring his highness down a peg or two.”
Andi’s mouth dropped open. “Chad never said a word about it to me.” She narrowed her eyes, suspecting Sid was pulling her leg just to see her squirm. “Your joke is not very funny. Hire an outsider? That’s the craziest thing I ever—”
“It’s the gospel truth, Miss Andi,” Sid interrupted. “The new man showed up this morning.”
He pointed across the yard, where a tall figure in scruffy ranch clothes straddled the top railing of the big corral. Just below, a small black and white, collie-type dog lay perfectly still. Both man’s and dog’s gazes were fixed on the young horses trotting around inside the circular pen. Andi recognized two black fillies and a bay colt, all nearly the same age as Shasta.
Sid gave a sharp whistle.
The horseman turned and waved. The dog bounded to his feet, suddenly alert, tail wagging.
Andi’s stomach somersaulted. Experienced? This youngster didn’t look old enough to shave. What was Chad thinking? “He’s not going anywhere near my colt,” she said. “And neither is his dog. We’ve got enough dogs around this ranch already.”
Sid ignored Andi’s grumbling and motioned to the new hand. “Come on over here a minute.” He caught Andi’s sleeve before she could take off. “Stay put. I want him to meet Shasta, and you too.”
“Why? I see no reason to—”
“Cuz I’m the ranch foreman, and I’m tellin’ you to.”
Andi closed her mouth. Sid meant business. “Yes, sir.”
The young wrangler dropped lightly from the corral railing and hurried over. Dark-brown hair blew across his forehead. Hazel eyes peered out from under his broad black hat like two dusky pools of water.
He grinned. “Yes, sir?”
Sid snorted. “Since when did you start calling me ‘sir,’ boy?”
“Since I started earning wages on this ranch. You’re my boss, aren’t you?”
Sid shook his head. “Not this time around. Chad hired you.” He jabbed a finger at Shasta. “Meet his royal highness, soon to be one of your charges.”
The wrangler let out a long, low whistle. “What a fine-looking colt. He’ll be a pleasure to work with.”
Andi bristled. Who was this stranger? Chad ran the ranch, but Andi was mighty tired of her brother running her life. Or her colt’s. She and Chad were training Shasta, not some wet-behind-the-ears outsider. Why didn’t Chad ask me what I thought about this hiring business?
She whirled on the new man. “Chad can do what he likes with the rest of the colts, but Shasta’s mine. I’m in charge of his training.”
The wrangler looked taken aback. He shoved his hat back off his forehead and said, “Yes, ma’am.” A smile twitched his lips.
Sid burst out laughing. “She’s still got a mind of her own, ain’t she, boy?” He turned to Andi. “Sorry I didn’t make a proper introduction sooner, Miss Andi. It’s been a while since you two saw each other. Riley’s growed up some, ain’t he?”
Click HERE for part 2