“I can ride.” My words bite off hers. She eyes me and I shift my weight. “Really, I’ve ridden for professionals.”
“I qualified for Washington—”
“Again, not on horses training for dressage competition. I don’t doubt you have a lot of experience, but it’s the wrong kind.” Her words are the kiss-off. End of story. You’re not our kind.
“I can learn.”
Her face scrunches like she’s got a gas pain. “We really need riders in our program who can pull their weight. Especially now.”
I know why especially now. Now that Trey is gone. I take one step toward her desk. “Please. I really want to learn.” This job is my one hope right now.
Her shoulders slump, and she lets out a big sigh. “Okay. We can keep working on some lessons when I have the time and re-evaluate your application down the road.”
Down the road won’t help me. Down the road, I’ll be living with Angela. And Wade.
She pushes off the desk and stands to leave.
“How about Trey’s horse?” I ask, desperate.
She stops. “What about his horse?”
“Well…” I’m not really sure where I’m going with this.
Her brows scrunch together. “What about Trey’s horse?” she repeats.
“I—I just thought, since he’s a Thoroughbred and trained as an eventer, maybe I could ride him over fences, cross-country and stuff until Trey, uh…” My words dribble to a halt. What? Shows up again? Not likely.
“Trey isn’t paying us to work his horse. Besides, if he doesn’t turn up again soon and pay his board, or work it off, the horse will have to go.”
“Go where?” I remember Willow’s note. Ripped into tiny pieces.
“Auction. Sold. Donated to a riding school. I don’t know.” She digs in her pockets, then sweeps the room with a panicked look. “Where’s my damn phone?”
I spot it under some papers on the desk and hand it to her. My mind works furiously to come up with some advantage to me riding Trey’s horse that Eddie will see. I seize on one idea. “Until Trey comes back, the horse’ll have to be worked. He’s a Thoroughbred. If you sell him—even if you give him away—he’ll need to be in shape, to not act insane. I could ride him, keep him going.”
Her thumb stops scrolling across the screen of her phone, and her head snaps up.
“Until Trey comes back.” My face burns from what I learned in Brenda’s office. If he comes back.
“Right.” She draws in her bottom lip, making a sucking noise, and jams the phone in a back pocket. “Right. Until Trey comes back. Okay.”
I bolt out of the office before she changes her mind and go straight to Tucker’s stall. Trey’s horse is walking circles, wearing a path in the bedding. I look in on him, and he rushes to meet me on the other side of the bars. I never thought of it before, but this horse looks like he’s in jail.
“Hang in there, boy,” I tell him. “Trey’ll come back.”
“I’m not so sure.” A voice behind me, or my own thoughts?
I turn, my heart pounding in my ears, to find Willow standing behind me. Her wispy hair is flattened from wearing a riding helmet.
“What do you mean?” A step closer and I detect the sharp smell of liniment wafting off her clothes. “Did you hear from him?”
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