Leaping Hearts

Leaping Hearts by J.R. Ward

Book: Leaping Hearts by J.R. Ward Read Free Book Online
Authors: J.R. Ward
the opportunity to shift herself to one side. The change in balance derailed his course so he missed the jump and came to a sputtering prance at the far end of the ring.
    It all happened so fast that Devlin would have missed the defection except for the sound of pounding hooves.Glancing up at the noise, he saw the towering black horse lunge forward and he watched for A.J.’s reaction, knowing that it would tell him more about her skills as a rider than he’d learn in a week of structured training. Instead of becoming flustered by the unexpected, she focused and reeled the horse in without being too hard on his mouth or injuring either one of them. It was the measured response of a real pro and Devlin felt relief. When a horse bolts, all the training in the world couldn’t help a rider with poor instincts. In the saddle of an out-of-control animal, a rider either had the right impulses or suffered from their lack by hitting the ground.
    The woman’s instincts were good.
    And she was going to need them, he thought, walking over to the pair.
    “Good defensive riding,” he said.
    A.J. heard the approval in his voice and warmed to it. “Well, we know one thing. He’s strong and fast.”
    “Great timing, too.”
    Sabbath was fidgeting under her, impatient. She held his head firmly with the reins.
    “I should have been more prepared.”
    “You did fine. It was inevitable he’d try something.”
    Devlin smiled at her and she felt optimistic. The horse was every bit as athletic as she’d hoped and her trainer was showing real promise as an ally. So what if the former just tried to toss her like a football and she was completely attracted to the latter? Even though her half-cocked decision had cost her a lot of money and an argument with her family, she thought things might just work out all right.
    Sabbath whinnied and threw his head, hooves pawing at the air.
    Or maybe not, she thought, getting him under control again.
    “Now that he’s made his point about being a rebel,” Devlin said, meeting the stallion’s eyes evenly, “let’s see what happens when he’s asked to behave.”
    A.J. nodded and directed Sabbath to the perimeter of the ring, keeping his stride at a trot. He fought her for his head with every footfall and she began to feel like she wasin a tug-of-war. The stallion was testing her strength, assessing her determination. She just hoped he’d get over it before her arms were stretched so far her knuckles dragged on the ground.
    Devlin watched as she let the horse work out his initial enthusiasm at being in the ring. Her hands were firm but gentle and she sat up in the saddle with the comfort and poise of a natural. Together, the two looked good, even though it was their first time together and the horse was pulling at the bit like the reins were made of taffy. The stallion’s height and obvious strength meant he carried A.J.’s long body with ease and her calm confidence was the right match for his itchy high-stepping.
    They just seemed to fit.
    He thought of Mercy and, to avoid his feelings, he began calling out gait and directional changes. A.J. and the stallion spent the next hour going through a gradually escalating workout. When he was satisfied with their efforts, Devlin called them to the center of the ring.
    A.J.’s smile was as blinding as the afternoon sun. “Isn’t he wonderful!”
    “He has his good moments but there’s a lot of work ahead of us. That horse has his own ideas of how things should go and he’s got to learn to be more disciplined.”
    “On the bright side, he hasn’t tried to ditch me for over an hour.”
    “He puts up quite a fight, doesn’t he?”
    She nodded.
    “How’s he feel?”
    “Smooth as water,” A.J. said, taking her helmet off and brushing some hair from her face. “It’s like swimming. As long as he isn’t fighting with me.”
    As he looked at her, Devlin realized he loved watching her move. There was something innately fluid about her strength,

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