Irish Hearts
sounded and ten powerful forms lunged forward.
    It seemed to her a mass of flying hooves and thunderous noise, the pack clinging together in one speeding block. Still, her eyes were glued on Majesty as though he were racing alone. Her hand reached up of its own accord to grasp the one on her shoulder, tightening as she urged the colt to greater speed. Steadily he moved forward, as if following her remote-control command, persistently passing one, then another, until he emerged alone from the field. Suddenly the long legs increased their stride, streaking across the dirt track until his competitors were left with the sight of his massive hindquarters as he lunged under the wire.
    Travis's arm encircled her, and Adelia found herself crushed to his hard chest, sandwiched between his lean body and her uncle's stocky frame. It was like being caught fast between two unmoving, loving walls, and she found the sensation tortuously wonderful, a heady mixture of scents and textures. Her uncle's voice was raised in excitement in her ear, and her head was snuggled, as if it belonged, against Travis's chest. Majesty's win, she decided, closing her eyes, was the best present she had ever had.
    Every man, woman and child in Louisville ate, slept and breathed the Kentucky Derby. As the days dwindled, the very air seemed to shimmer with anticipation. Adelia saw Travis sporadically. Their conversations revolved around the colt, the only personal aspect of their relationship being the abstracted pat on the head he would give her from time to time. She began to think that quarreling with him had had its advantages, and she relieved her frustrations by spending more time with Majesty.
    "You're a fine, great horse," she told him, holding his muzzle and looking into his intelligent eyes. "But you mustn't let all of this go to your head. You've a job to do come Saturday, and it's a big one. Now, I'm going out for a few minutes, and I want you to rest yourself, then perhaps we'll see about a currying."
    Satisfied with Majesty's silent agreement, Adelia stepped out of the stables into the bright May sun and found herself surrounded by reporters.
    "Are you the groom in charge of Royal Meadows' Majesty?" The question was fired out by one of the people who suddenly cut her off from the rest of the world with a wall of bodies. The sensation was disconcerting, and she was thinking wistfully of the dim solitude of the stables when she heard another voice.
    "You don't see many grooms that look like this one."
    She rounded on the man who had spoken, squinting against the sun to see more clearly. "Is that the truth, now?" she demanded, discomfort replaced by annoyance. "I thought red hair was common enough in America."
    The group roared with laughter, and the man at whom her remark had been directed responded with a good-natured grin. Questions were fired at her, and for a few moments she surrendered to the pressure and answered, valiantly attempting to keep one query separate from the next.
    "By the saints!" She threw up her hands in dismay, shaking her head. "You're all speaking in a muddle." Pushing the brim of her cap back from her head, she took a deep breath. "If it's more information you're wanting, you'd best ask Mr. Grant or Majesty's trainer." She pushed through them with determination, turning when she felt a hand on her arm and finding herself facing the reporter who had made the personal observation.
    "Miss Cunnane, sorry if we were a little rough on you." He smiled with considerable charm, and Adelia found herself smiling back.
    "No harm was done."
    "I'm Jack Gordon. Maybe you'd let me make it up to you by taking you out to dinner tonight."
    She was both surprised and flattered by the invitation, gaining the pure feminine pleasure of having an attractive man pay her specific attention. He was, however, a stranger, and she was opening her mouth to decline when a voice sounded behind her.
    "Sorry, my groom's off limits."
    She whirled around to see

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