He pulls me off the hay and his arms go around my waist, pressing against me. His breath is hot against my neck, contrasting with the frigid air of the barn. His voice is deep, thick. Words rumble, vibrating against my chest.
“I don’t know what’s wrong, Reg. He won’t leave the house, and he won’t tell anyone the name Mom gave the red mare. He says it’s a test. A very weird test.”
His voice breaks and he won’t look at me. Instead, his hand slides up my back and cups my head. Fingers tug at a curl. I don’t dare move. I don’t even shift my weight. He takes a deep breath, and I feel his lips near the top of my ear.
“When Mom was dying, she asked him to sell her horse. She gave him the name of trainers who would help sell Red, but Dad didn’t listen. He said he’d know when the right person turned up.”
“How?” The word is barely a whisper.
Declan huffs and pulls away. “He said because they’d know her name. It’s stupid, I know.” He picks up the mare’s halter and places it on a hook.
A million questions run through my head, but I’m learning to keep my mouth shut.
Declan’s mouth twitches. “The power of names, remember?” He bows his head and shakes it slowly back and forth. “He says the mare is a Fiolair—a seventh filly born to a mare who was also a seventh mare. She’s magic. She’ll protect her rider, her true owner, he says. Irish legend. I think he actually believes all that mythology stuff he’s studied.” He scoffs. “When Ma knew she wasn’t getting better, she told him to cut the crap and just find the poor mare a good home.”
“Your dad must have loved her a lot.”
Declan sighs. “Yeah. A lot. So much, he couldn’t sell her mare. And now he’s waiting for a sign.”
“A sign? Like, from the grave?” I shove my hands deep in my pockets. My feet are numb from the cold. “What kind of sign?”
He looks up at the red mare. “From the horse gods.”
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