Second Excerpt: Sparta Rose
She mounted and followed him out of the barn, annoyed he still refused to see her as anything other than a helpless female. She’d show him.
Once outside, Ty spurred his stallion into a run. The bag of tin cans tied to his saddle horn rattled as he left Ellie lagging behind. She dug her heels into Chessie’s side, but it was no use. The chestnut mare couldn’t match Shadow’s speed, besides, the faster pace sent cold air biting into Ellie’s cheeks. She slowed Chessie to a walk.
Ty noticed, reined his mount and waited for Ellie to catch up. He swiveled in the saddle and called out, “C’mon, we don’t have all day.”
Ellie wasn’t in a hurry. She wanted to make the time spent with him last, and if the truth be known, she didn’t mind stalling a bit to avoid the “show down”. She drew Chessie up alongside Shadow.
“I didn’t know we were in such a hurry. Why can’t we just enjoy the ride?”
“I did enjoy the ride,” he answered with a smug look on his face. “You should have joined me.”
She sneered. “All right, you’re an expert rider and a magnificent shot. I get your message. Has anyone ever told you you’re a conceited jackass?”
But a handsome one. It irked her she couldn’t seem to stay mad at him for any length of time.
He bent and patted the side of Shadow’s neck. “There’s a fine line between conceit and confidence. I’m confident because I know I’m good.”
There was no use pursing a conversation about his skills. He obviously had a pretty high opinion of himself, but maybe it was warranted. Her nervous stomach rolled as she turned her attention to the incredible scenery. She pulled the collar of her sheepskin-lined jacket up past her chilled cheeks and wondered what she had gotten herself into.
Ellie had no doubt her admiration of nature’s beauty posed a stall for time. A definite winter threat iced the air, but the grass around them was just as fresh as the first day of spring. A few evergreen trees dotted the countryside, but the majority of the others had lost their leaves, stretching naked branches skyward. An occasional rabbit skittered to escape the horses’ hooves, and in the distance, a hungry hawk circled over his intended prey.
She turned back to Ty and made a sweeping gesture of the landscape. “Isn’t this the most breathtaking sight?”
He nodded in agreement, but his gaze never left her face.
They continued to ride, and before long, Ty pointed to a stand of trees. “Over there. We should be far enough from the house so we don’t disturb your pa.”
Disturbing her father was the least of her concerns at the moment. What had she been thinking challenging Ty to a contest? Pa was doing better, but maybe she should use him as an excuse to postpone the match. She nibbled her bottom lip and sighed. Ty would see right through that excuse.
Note: Galley copy