The Cowboy Next Door

The Cowboy Next Door by Brenda Minton

Book: The Cowboy Next Door by Brenda Minton Read Free Book Online
Authors: Brenda Minton
she bristled like an angry cat.
    â€œLet me ride her first and then she’s all yours.”

Chapter Eight
    L acey felt like a rodeo queen on the back of the black mare. The horse was gaited, so her trot was smooth and easy. Jay stood on the outside of the arena. She kept her eyes focused on the point between the mare’s ears and tried not to look at him.
    But she did look at him. He smiled and pushed his hat back, crossing his arms over the top rail of the vinyl fence of the arena.
    â€œBring her over here.” He opened the gate and walked through, a rope in his hand. “Here you go.”
    â€œYou really think I can do this?”
    â€œWhy couldn’t you?”
    â€œI’m clumsy and uncoordinated.”
    He laughed again and she wanted him to laugh like that all the time. When he laughed she forgot that her sister was in the biggest trouble of her life, her niece was in danger…no, maybe she didn’t forget. It distracted her for a few minutes and the knots in her stomach relaxed a little, but she couldn’t forget.
    He put the rope in her hand, his hand closing over hers. His hands were strong and warm. He looked up, like that touch meant something, and she couldn’t look away, not this time.
    She realized she had one more problem she was going tohave to deal with: Jay. Because his smile did something to her heart, shifting what had been numb and cold and for a moment making her believe in something special.
    â€œHere you go.” His voice was a little quiet and rough and she wondered if he felt it, too. “Take it like this and make easy loops. Don’t work it too hard. You have to look at your target. That’s what works for me.” He nodded to the horns on a post. “Give it a try and remember, she’s going to do some of the work. She knows what to do. Don’t panic.”
    â€œI won’t.” If only she could breathe. Breathing would be helpful.
    â€œRelax.”
    â€œOkay.” She wished. But relaxing was probably going to happen when she managed to rope those horns. Never.
    She rode twenty feet out from the target and stopped. The mare responded to her leg pressure; just a squeeze and she came to a halt. Amazing.
    â€œYou can get a little farther away,” Jay encouraged.
    â€œUmm, no.” Lacey smiled and lifted her arm. “I thought it would be easier, and lighter.”
    â€œCome on, Lacey, cowgirl up.” He winked.
    â€œOkay, here we go.” She did it the way she’d seen it in the movies and at rodeos, raising her arm and swinging the rope. It seemed to fly, to soar, and then it dropped.
    She never expected it to drop on the mare’s head.
    But it did. And the mare didn’t appreciate it. She sidestepped and jumped back. Lacey fell to the side a little and she felt the horse hunch beneath her, like something about to explode. Lacey had no intention of getting thrown, so she jumped. As she flew through the air, she knew she was hitting the ground face first.
    She hit the ground with a brain-jarring thud that rattled her teeth. The hard impact of the ground socked her in the gutand knocked the wind out of her. She tried to draw in a breath and couldn’t.
    â€œLacey, are you okay?” Jay was at her side, kneeling and not hiding his smile the way she would have liked.
    â€œCan’t breathe,” she whispered.
    His smile dissolved. “Does anything feel broken?”
    She glared. “Everything.”
    â€œLet me help you sit up and you need to take slow, easy breaths. It knocked the wind out of you, but I think you’re okay.”
    â€œEasy for you to say.”
    Lacey rolled over and looked up at the sky, and then at Jay. He sat back on his heels and his lips quivered. Lacey laughed a little, but her head hurt and so did her back. Her whole body hurt.
    â€œI don’t think I did it.” She leaned back again, thinking maybe she’d stay on the ground.
    â€œI think

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