Page 12 of Faithful Cowboy (Whiskey Valley Bryant Brothers)

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She’s too tempting. I saddled Bessie, and when I was done, I took the saddle off and let Hailey take a turn. She did it perfectly, and when I helped her into her saddle and walked Bessie around the small riding ring next to the barn, Hailey was beaming ear to ear.

“You want to go riding with me?”

The words are out, and I regret them instantly. I have no business riding, but right now, I’m willing to deal with any pain I might have just to ride next to her.

She’s smiling down at me, and there’s no way I could take my offer back.

She nods happily. “Yeah, I’d love to.”

I pull my phone from my pocket and call Allen, one of the ranch hands. He answers on the first ring. “Hey, can you please saddle Raymond for me?”

Allen answers yes, and I pocket my phone. “I don’t want to leave you out here, so Allen’s going to get my horse saddled for me.”

She nods, and I walk with her around the ring, telling her the different commands and how to make Bessie go faster, slow down, and stop. When Allen brings Raymond out, I pull myself up, ignoring the pain in my thigh, and urge him to start walking.

When we get to the open pasture on the north end of our land, I start us galloping.

She smiles from ear to ear.

We ride for a few minutes, and then I ask her. “Faster?”

She nods, and I remind her how to slow down and stop before we both take off. I stay behind her, and watching her has me forgetting everything else but her. She’s beautiful in a way I’ve never seen in a woman before. She was nervous, but she didn’t let it stop her, and now she’s fully embraced riding. She’s so happy, and I begin to wonder if she likes it here... if she could see herself here. Which I know is ridiculous. Not a lot of women from New York City would be happy living on a ranch in Tennessee.

She starts to slow down as we get near the creek, and I catch up to her. She stops, her face positively glowing in happiness. “Wow!”

I laugh. “Wow? Is that how you’re going to describe it in your book?”

She laughs then too. “No, oh my gosh, it’s like flying. It’s scary, but it’s freeing. I feel like I can do anything right now. What a rush!”

I nod. “Sounds to me like you described it perfectly.”

“Griffin, I can’t thank you enough. If you hadn’t pushed me to ride, I would have missed out on this. Thank you so much!”

I shrug. I want to tell her what seeing her ride does to me, but I don’t dare. Three and a half days... I have to keep reminding myself that she’s not going to be here long.

“You want to ride some more?”

She nods but looks at me curiously. “I know we have a lot on the list still to do. I want to ride, but can we save the rest for tomorrow. Being out here with you... I have so many thoughts I want to write down.”

I’m about to tell her sure when she shakes her head. “I’m so sorry. I don’t mean to waste your time... if you want to finish today, I’m on your schedule.”

“Don’t apologize to me. I’m glad you’re inspired to write being here. We can go back, I can show you how to care for a horse after your ride, and then you can have the rest of the day free to write.”

I pull Raymond over next to her and Bessie. The horses nuzzle each other, and Hailey quickly pulls her phone out to take a picture. When she’s done, she aims it toward me. “I want to remember all this.”

I smile, take my hat off, rub my forehead, and set it back on my head. “Now let me.”

I hold my hand out for her phone, and she hands it to me. I take a few pictures of her smiling, and then I lean over and hold the phone out, taking one of the two of us. She’s blushing, and the pink on her cheeks makes her even prettier, if that’s possible.

Before giving her the phone back, I send the pictures to my phone and wait for the beep of an incoming message in my pocket before handing her the phone back.

“Did you just send pictures to your phone?”

I smile. “Yep. I want to remember this day too.”

I want to kiss her, but I don’t trust myself. The one taste I had of her earlier is not enough, but I know I need to put some space between us. She’s leaving in a few days.

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