Chapter 14

With the bridle in place, she swung the saddle over the stallions back.  “Where are you going?” echoed in the barn.

“I’m going for a ride, I need to track that wild mustang.  I just heard him and he isn’t far.  Most likely he’s just above the tree line.”  Cass spoke softly but didn’t turn to the person speaking.

“After five years, you still can’t be trying to catch that animal,” a long heavy sigh followed the remark.

“I’m not chasing him, I’m chasing his son.  I can win with that horse.”  Cass grumbled, “I owe some bills, I need that horse.”

“Cass just talk to me, I have plenty of money.”  Kevin waited for the cynicism to kick in.  Cass had more dignity than any person he knew.  She continued to ignore him as she went about getting her horse ready. 

Kevin pushed a stall door open and began saddling a mare.  Two can play her game, I’ll get my questions answered and I can tag along.

“What are you doing?”  Cass watched as he quickly readied the horse.

Tightening the cinch strap he looked at her, “I’m going with you, we need to talk, privately.”

“You’ve screwed this up for me before, remember, you’re not going with me,” Cass dug her heels into the side of the horse and galloped out of the barn.

Kevin let out a whistle of frustration, soft and low.  The mare’s ears perked, “Well at least some of the ladies around here like me.”  He swung up into the saddle and rode off after her.  It was a match and a half, Cass’s horse was quick compared to the mare he was riding.  Settling on a full trot, he caught up with her just at the tree line.  Her horse was standing off to the side and Cass was lying on the ground. 

Fearing the worst, Kevin jumped off the horse and made a grab for her, in return he was in hit in the chest.  “What are you doing?”

“OWWW!” he covered his injury and Cass’s hand covered his mouth.

“You mess this up for me and I will shoot you next time,” Cass’s eyes narrowed at him as she pointed down the tree line.

“Wow,” he whispered softly.  Kevin took the spot on the ground next to her, “He’s beautiful, so black…”

“He knows it too, just like you, now shut up before you spook him.”  Cass was lying flat out on the ground, on her stomach.

Kevin wrinkled his nose at the comment.  “Why is Judge Bailey here?”

“I told you to be quiet... he’s here to play checkers with Annie,” Cass frowned at Kevin’s insistent chatter.

“Checkers?”  Kevin repeated.

Cass bolted from the ground with a rope in her hand as the wild mustang approached closer to the two horses standing idly by munching.  It took a few seconds for Kevin to fully comprehend what was going.  Cass was charging a wild horse and going to catch it with a rope, was his first thought.  The second came quicker and with more terror, the mother of his only child was chasing down a wild animal five times bigger than her.  “Shit!” he cried out as he jumped from the ground and ran after one woman and one horse.

Running after Cass he became winded, he ran up next to her as she threw the lasso around the horse’s neck.  The horse’s eyes had pure fear in them as it began to rear up on its hind legs.  It was squealing with alarm, and his ears were flat against it head.  The horse’s hooves went up and then slammed into the ground.  The animal’s flesh was quivering from the surprise assault.

“Gotcha! I Gotcha!”  Cass let out a whoop as she held onto the rope. 

Kevin’s eyes glanced to her hands and he saw blood.  She wasn’t wearing gloves, “Let go Cass!” he screamed as he grappled for the rope. 

“No!” she refused to let go even though the steed was whipping around on the other end of the tether. 

“Cass, let go, he’s going to kill you!”  Kevin watched the animals eyes change from fear to almost a death glare as it charged towards Cass.  Kevin knocked her down and away.  She still refused to let go of the rope, “Cass let go now!”  Kevin jumped towards the horse smacking the knot free, the rope dropped to the ground.  They both watched as the animal galloped away. 

“How could you do that?” Cass cried as she looked at her hands.  The rope had cut through the layers of skin, blood oozed from the deep gashes.  “I need him, he’s the only way.”

Kevin watched her, then they both turned as the stallion stood off in the meadow, whinnying wildly and stomping his feet.  Kevin’s mare spun around and took after the stallion.

“God dammit!”  Cass yelled as she struggled to stand up, using her elbows as support.  She began yelling at the two horses as they trotted off together.  “Typical bitch!  It had better be good for you because you’re nothing but a roll in the hay to him!  I’ll send you to the glue factory!”

Cass glared at Kevin, her hands were useless to her at the moment or she would have hit him.  She had to settle for a verbal beating, “You son of a bitch, not only did you cost me a win and some cash, I lost a damn horse because of you.  That mare isn’t even in heat, otherwise I would be pleased they took off together.  I have to go get Gary, she can’t run around like that with a saddle on, he’ll break her back.”

The words that she had screamed at the mare as she galloped away were still sticking in Kevin’s head.  Cass was venting her own feelings again.  Kevin thought maybe Cass would be grateful that he saved her life.  Ha, fat chance in hell, he muttered to himself.  Walking to her horse she struggled to get into the saddle with no luck.  Her hands were hurting badly.  Kevin came over and boosted her into the saddle.  “Move up,” he told her.

“You can walk,” as Cass squeezed the sides of the stallion with her knees.  “If Gary can’t catch her, you will pay for her.”

“How the hell am I suppose to get back?”  Kevin huffed, with his hands on his hips.  His lips were pursed grimly together.  The irritation on the inside was surging to get out, he didn’t give a shit about the horse.

“Walk because I really don’t give a damn,” Cass nudged her mount forward.

“You ungrateful bitch,” Kevin grabbed the saddle and swung up behind her.  Cass was shocked that he could even pull that move off without falling off the horse.  Her mount pranced from side to side.  Cass leaned forward to jump off until she felt Kevin lean onto her and unwind the reins from the horn.  An arm possessively encircled her waist and the horse was nudged forward.  “Make one move and I’ll drag your ass behind this horse all the way back to the ranch.”

A few minutes elapsed and Cass’s hands began to ache.  “You owe me a horse.”

“I’ll buy you a shitload of horses…  Now I have some questions.”  Kevin peered into the darkness trying to remember the way back.  “How much are you in debt?”

“That is none of your business,” Cass spoke dully with her eyes closed.

“It is now, I wrote a fat check today but I don’t think it was a fraction of what you paid.”

“Kevin, the check you wrote was a drop in the bucket.  Our bills totaled over sixty five thousand dollars.”

“Jesus Christ!”  Kevin spoke as he almost fell off the horse.  “Why so much?” as he leaned back more the saddle rubbing against him uncomfortably.

“The Neo natal nursery bill was twenty nine grand alone…  I have the audiologist bills and the hearing aids on top of it.”  Cass let out a low sigh and continued to whisper as her hands shook from the ache.  “I mortgaged the ranch twice, I can’t do that anymore, I’m barely making the payments now, last year was terrible.  I needed that horse Kevin to catch up.”  The last portion coming out as a cry.  Cass was devastated; Kevin had waltzed into her life and destroyed it more than once.

A hand pushed her back again his chest, “I’ll do what I can… Why is Judge Bailey here?”

“To play checkers with Annie.  One night a week Bailey, Abe, and Annie use to play checkers.  He still comes because he knows that Annie misses Abe terribly.”  Cass gave in and leaned on him for support.  The night air was stinging the cuts on her hand.

A silence overcame both of them, not sure what to say next.  Kevin broached the thing that was bothering him the most when he had walked in the barn.  “Why’d you kiss J?”

Cass ignored the question, it was out of Kevin’s territory and truly was none of his business.  Hunching forward Kevin brushed his lips against the side of her face.  “Don’t start anything with him, remember what happened last time.  You’re my daughter’s mother.  I expect that you wouldn’t lay with one of my brothers.”

Cass hackles went up and she sat bolt upright in the saddle.  The words were one thing the contact was another, it sent shivers down her spine.  “What I do is my business, not yours.”

“I mean it Cassandra Jo Collins, my bros are off limits,” Kevin’s voice rumbled in the dark.  “You may have heard stuff about us sharing, it’s not true.  I don’t share.”

They entered the yard of the ranch and Cass catapulted off the horse, “Maybe you don’t but maybe I do.”  She walked slowly to the house as she let her words settle over Kevin.  How dare he tell her how to run her life.  Just the fact that he had reminded her how this entire situation got started was enough to make her want to load her rifle and eliminate the arrogant son of bitch from her life, forever.





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