Chapter 31

Annie wandered aimlessly chasing the Monarch butterfly, giggling as she closed in on it.  Kevin had bought her a butterfly net the other day.  The animal would land on a blade of grass or flower.  She would catch up to it and it would fly away again.  She let the butterfly take off; she’d try and catch it tomorrow.  Skipping up the path, she headed for the big white barn.  Her Mom would be there; she liked Kevin’s horses.  Setting her net down outside the door, she walked in.  “Mommy!”  Annie called with her usual gruff voice.  Cass leaned out a stall door and smiled.  Annie ran to her.

Cass had been rubbing down Kevin’s prized possession.  A fifteen and a half hand high, solid black stallion, named Titan.  Kevin liked the looks of the sleek horse but not his disposition.  He wasn’t high strung, just stubborn.  He wanted to breed Titan to his beloved cinnabar filly, Tigress. 

Cass smiled at the suggestion, then she giggled.  “Any particular reason you want to breed that red filly to this big black stud?”

“Noooo,” Kevin covered his mouth then looked away.  Now the barn manager would be onto him too.  The old man laughed as he looked at Cass and then Tigress.  Then he looked at Kevin and then to Titan.  He had a glint in his eye and Kevin was busted.

“Just thought I’d ask.”  Cass laughed along with the barn manager.  He was one half of the old couple that ran the place for Kevin.  Cass lapsed easily into a conversation with the man.  The man was quite pleased to find another horsewoman in the barn, besides his wife.  They were discussing sperm counts when Annie wandered in.

“He’s so pretty,” Annie reached to pet the animal.  The animal reared, Kevin lurched and jerked Annie out of the way.  She was scooped up so fast she did a leg lock on Kevin.

Frowning, he looked at the manger, “Break him in or get rid of him.  I won’t have her hurt.” 

The next thing that followed was Kevin yelling “Ow!”  He rubbed his side as he glared at Cass, “Why did you just punch me?”

“Because you are as stubborn as your horse.  You don’t get rid of an animal because you don’t get along with it.”

“Well I do!”  Kevin barked as he set Annie down. 

Annie went to go see Tigress, she liked Tigress; she was a nice horse. 

Cass watched Annie go down a few stalls, she grabbed Kevin’s coat collar and pulled him towards her face.  “It’s a damn good thing I don’t or you’d be gone.”  With a flash, Cass had mounted Titan bareback and headed out the exterior stall door to the paddock.

“That woman is crazy,” the barn manager yelled at Kevin as he bolted out of the barn.  “The horse has never been rode.”

Kevin shrugged as he took his time to go out and around the barn.  This would be fun to watch; Cass getting dumped on her ass.  Lord knows she needed it.  His mother, Anne, had been wonderful to Cass.  Anne was thoughtful and kind, as well as mindful of what she said.  She had gone out of her way to make their stay a great experience.  However, Cass still had her moments of doubt and mistrust.

Kevin was lollygagging around as he came around the barn.  He had heard the barn hands yelling, as well as his own mother, telling her to get off the horse.  Kevin stepped up between his two brothers.  “Oh, she’s still on.  I’m impressed.”

Both Jerald and Tim turned to look at him like he had a screw loose.  They knew what Titan was capable of. 

“Get her off of there before she hurts herself.”  His mother now stood behind him.  Kevin gave her a lazy smile, “Can’t Mama, this is a little more than breaking in a horse, see at the moment, that horse is me.”

“What do you mean son?”  Anne was worried as Annie joined her side.

“Come on dammit, do something,” Cass was yelling at the stallion as it stood at a stand still in the corral.

“Forget it Cass!”  Kevin yelled as he hopped up on the enclosure, using the fence for a seat.  “He’s like me baby, he’s only going to let a woman ride him if he’s willin’.” 

The men laughed loudly, his mother cursed him out and shoved him with her hand.  “Annie is right behind you.” 

“She can’t see me either Mom, so relax.”  Kevin jumped down from the fence.  He was going to have a little chat with his new acquisition and it wasn’t the one with the red curly hair either.  He hadn’t acquired her yet, but he sure as hell was planning on it.

Kevin whistled and the animal pricked his ears, “C’mere,” he spoke softly. 

The animal pounded his hoof in the ground as Kevin came closer. 

The horse began to side step but Cass held her seat.  She knew Kevin was going to try and calm the animal. 

“This horse has been rode before.”  Kevin walked slowly towards the animal but showed no fear.

“They said no!” his barn manager yelled back.

“They lied,” Kevin spoke gently but loudly.  “Cass is an excellent rider.  She’s rode rodeo for years but even she knows someone has been on this horse’s back before.”

Cass nodded in affirmation.  “His mouth is soft Kevin, someone was too rough with him,” Cass patted the stallions neck.  “He’s afraid of the tack.”

Reaching into his pocket, Kevin pulled out a sugar cube.  The onlookers gaped as the tall man with dark hair sporting a UK baseball cap and the redheaded woman balanced on the horse’s back as they both spoke quietly to the nervous beast.  “Be careful Cassie,” Kevin stretched his arm out cautiously.

“I am,” she crooned as she leaned over the animal’s neck.  “Kevin, he’s a rodeo horse, not a racer.  I can feel it, perfect barrels and poles, he side-steps naturally.”

“Like hell you can feel it,” Kevin flattened his palm with the sugar cubes still in it.

“I’m serious, let me try him,” Cass was eager; this animal would blow them all away.

“Not without a saddle or a bridle.”  Kevin looked up into the munching horse’s eyes.  He had bought him for Cass to replace the wild mustang that he had caused her to lose in the first place.  What had stopped him from giving him to her up until now was the horse’s attitude problem.  Kevin and Cass had talked in great length after they had arrived.  She fit in great with the people in the barn; the people in the house were a problem, at least for Cass.  Cass kept telling him they should leave and go back to California.  She knew they didn’t like her.  Kevin shook his head.  Everyone had done nothing but tell him how much they liked Cass.  She was down to earth, easy to talk to, and she didn’t put on airs.  Cass had those feeling but they were turned around.  She thought maybe they thought that neither Annie nor her were good enough for Kevin.

“Kevin please, just one jump?”  Cass was begging him with her eyes.

“Cassie, I don’t want you to get hurt,” he was half grinning when he said it.  If there was ever a woman that could hold her seat, he knew it was her.

All Cass needed to see was the dimple.  She sailed over the corral fence, opposite the audience.  People gasped as they watched Cass take her mount up to the tree line and back.  She weaved and bobbed him around objects.  She jumped right back into the corral.

Kevin stood in the corral his hands on his hips, his eyebrows almost to hairline.  “Are you happy now?”

Cass jumped off the animal and ran directly to him.  Throwing her arms around him, she was asking if she could have him.  She begged, cajoled, told him she would do anything, but marry him, if she could have him to ride.  It was a good thing that nobody could hear her words but him.

“He’s yours,” Kevin stood back, putting her on the ground.  Pulling his cap down, he looked at the horse.  He stuck his finger in the horse’s face but didn’t eye him directly.  “You play nice with my girls!”  Kevin left Cass to her horse; he hopped back over the corral fence.

Annie grabbed his hand and walked next to him as Jerald and Tim joined him.  “Mommy has a new horse?”  Her voice not being understandable to others.

Kevin was on automatic pilot as he swung her up in his arms.  “Yes, Mommy has a new horse.”

‘What do I get?’ she signed as she held her butterfly net under her arm.

Kevin had picked up sign language rather well over the last few weeks.  Kevin vocalized her thoughts for his brothers.  “What do you get?  Hmm… Don’t you have enough?  What do you want now?”  Kevin asked as Tim slapped him on the back and told him ‘Welcome to the club.’

Annie knew what she wanted and the way she saw it, if she asked Kevin, she could get it.  “A Daddy like you,” she spoke roughly.

“Oh,” Tim halted and then walked the other way.  That was a rough request even for him to handle emotionally.  Annie was as cute as a button; she was just like her dad but like her mom too.  She had her Mom’s honesty and spunk.  She had her Dad’s seriousness, sensitivity, and looks.  Tim figured the stubbornness came from both sides.

Kevin wasn’t one to give false hope, even to his own child.  There was no way to answer this question, tonight he would have to talk to Cass and see when they were going to have their little chat with Annie. 

Annie was upset as he carried her up to the house, all she asked for was a dad like him.  She didn’t mean to make him sad.  Reaching the house, he set her down.  Annie shot up the stairs like a streak of lighting, her net still in her hand. 

Anne came around the corner when she heard all the commotion.  Annie was crying loudly.  “What’s wrong with Annie?” she dried her hands on a dishtowel. 

“Nothing, she’ll be fine.”  Kevin jerked the door open and left.

“What happened after I left?” she looked nervously at Jerald.

“Annie asked for a Dad, just like him.”  Jerald’s eyebrows dipped, they almost matched his frown.  They were so busy watching Kevin stomp down to the barn that neither of them noticed Annie sneaking behind them and out the back door.

Annie snuck out the back door and went up to the meadow with her butterfly net.  She wanted to hide; she had hurt Kevin’s feelings.  She never wanted to hurt Kevin’s feelings, she loved him.  Annie was going to find him the prettiest butterfly she could to make him feel better. 

She found three butterflies and picked the biggest one to catch and give to Kevin.  She would take it back in the net.  He would look it up in his book and read it to her.  Then they would let it go outside the backdoor near the garden.





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