Once In A Blue Kentucky Moon
The consigner stood abruptly and ran a meaty hand over the horse’s back. As he did so, Blake noticed the colt’s big black eyes tracking his every move. The animal gave an irritable toss of the head and nickered ominously.
“He has real nice withers here,” The man continued. “Nice short back, his top line is real nice. In fact, I’d have to say, this colt’s got near perfect conformation all round. Folks,” he said, looking them both in the eye. “You are not gonna see better angles for racing—on a horse anywhere.”
Stargazer puffed and snorted impatiently, pawed at the ground as the consigner skimmed a hand along his back and moved to the rear of the horse. The girl gave a sharp tug on the reins to settle him.
“Now if you’ll look at the rump here folks, you’ll see where all that power comes from. This horse has a very dynamic hip, there’s a lot of power right here—” The man slapped the horse’s rump and with a strangled whinny, whippet-fast Stargazer shot out a hind leg, catching the man square on the shin.
“Aarghhh!” The consigner bellowed, diving for his throbbing leg with a painful grimace. “You goddamn cantankerous, son of satan!”
“Stargazer!” The girl tugged hard again. “Stop it!”
“Ah, you better take a step back there,” Blake said to the consigner. “He doesn’t seem to be in the best of moods right now.”
The man’s face paled as he realized he was still well within striking distance. He quickly hopped out of range. “Dang horse forgets his manners sometimes, is all.” He rubbed his leg gingerly and straightened with a grimace. “If you gentlemen will excuse me a few moments, I’m gonna go get some ice on this real quick. I’ll leave you to ah, peruse the animal. And ah—”
Spinning on his heel, he hobbled stiffly toward the barn, waved a puffy hand in the general direction of the white cowgirl hat on the other side of the horse. “The young lady there will answer any questions you may have. Be right back.”
Face contorting, Blake stifled a snort of laughter. Yeah, those kicks hurt like hell, he’d certainly had his share, but the guy worked with horses for crying out loud, couldn’t he read the animal? And as for slapping him on the butt, well that was just plain dumb.
“He wouldn’t be the first thoroughbred in history with a mean streak.” Mike said, breaking into Blake’s thoughts.
Blake caught him biting down on a grin. “Yeah I grant you, or maybe he’s just a great judge of character. You know that guy was right about one thing, though.”
“He did have a lot of power in that hip.”
Mike let out a loud guffaw, then remembering they still had company, tried unsuccessfully to disguise it with a cough. “Seriously though Blake, you’re not gonna walk away from this fella just because he’s a little high strung, are you?”
“Little high strung?” Blake raised an eyebrow at him. “There’s high strung and there’s ornery as a goddamn mule.”
“Well, alright, but he’s such a beauty.” Mike tried again. “You gotta agree, colts like this don’t come along every day of the week.”
”I know. And the guy was right about the angles. But he’s got a temper like a junkyard dog.” Blake shook his head, as he eyed the cantankerous colt. “I don’t know. I think that stubborn streak could prove too much of a liability. He’s gotta be trainable.”
He crossed to the colt and ran a hand over his silky coat. Two big dark eyes regarded him with a twinkle, seemed to exude a lively intelligence. “What’s eating you boy?” The animal’s ears twitched in response. “Don’t like people? Is that it?” Reaching into his back pocket, Blake produced a carrot and the colt devoured it greedily.
“You were right about him being a beauty,” Blake said, twisting around toward Mike. “He definitely ticks a lot of boxes. But the way things are at the farm right now, I can’t risk it. I just can’t justify the expense on a horse that probably won’t pay his way.”
“I still say you should take some time to think—“
Teeth bared, the colt snapped his head around and tried to nip at Blake’s hand. “Hey!” Blake sprang back, whipping his hand out of the horse’s reach. “No you don’t buddy! Didn’t anybody ever tell you not to bite the hand that feeds you!”
“Stargazer!” The girl cursed from the other side of the colt, yanking on his reins. “Will you quit trying to pull my arm off!”
Cheeky bugger had nearly gotten the better of him, Blake chastised himself. He should have known better than to let himself get distracted like that. The girl was keeping a white-knuckle grip on Stargazer’s reins now he noticed, but it was too late. There was no way he was buying this colt. Stargazer had a truckload of attitude and just flat out didn’t like being told what to do.
The ever-present knot in his gut twisted, turned. Damn it. When he’d seen the colt amble out of the barn earlier, he’d really thought this could be the one—the champion racer he desperately needed to save Lockwood Farm.
Instead, he’d just seen his last ditch hope to save his Daddy’s farm go up in smoke.
Tension thrummed through Tatum’s veins, as she kept her head down. Her nerves were wound so tight, she felt like she was going to explode. Thank goodness she’d worn her big white hat to work today, because it was turning out to be a life-saver.
Still, despite the nerve-wracking situation she found herself in, a smirk crept onto her face. Stargazer kicking Buzz in the shins had been the funniest thing she’d seen in a long time. It had taken all her self-restraint not to laugh out loud, but she’d made it this far, she had to keep it together a little longer.
She’d had an absolute heart attack when she’d spied Uncle Mike from the barn. She’d immediately told Buzz she wasn’t feeling well, had begged him to let Enrique lead Stargazer out instead. But true to form, Buzz had told her to quit her moaning and get her butt outside pronto. He’d said he had a great prospect and he wasn’t about to lose him on her account.
Now she was standing here with just a horse between her and her Uncle Mike, hoping to goodness he didn’t realize it was her. Luckily for her, he’d seemed so completely besotted with Stargazer—he wasn’t paying the least bit of attention to the girl on the other side of the horse. Otherwise, she might have had some explaining to do.
What the heck was Mike doing out here at the sales yard anyway, she wondered. He wasn’t a horse trader. He was a veterinarian, consulting at whatever farm happened to call him in to come treat an ailing horse. It must have something to do with that guy he was with, she thought. Mike was probably advising him whether Stargazer was a good buy or not.
The guy had been pretty darn hot actually, Tatum mused. Not that she could see him now, but with his hot body and smouldering blue eyes, he’d made quite an impression when she’d spied him from the barn earlier.
He was rugged. A man’s man, she knew the type. Exactly the type she’d vowed to stay the hell away from, from now on in her life. Never again was she going to fall for the good-looking guy with the great body and the over-sized ego to match. They were arrogant as hell and mean to boot. God knew, she could vouch for that first-hand.
But right now, something about the guy was tugging at her consciousness. He was familiar somehow, though she just couldn’t think how. Well, it would come to her later. Right now, she just had to keep her head down and stay out of sight. Whatever the reason Uncle Mike hadn’t spotted her, she planned on keeping it that way. She wasn’t ready to deal with things, yet. Not any of it.