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Maybe Baby (Baby #1)

By:Andrea Smith

Maybe Baby (Baby #1)
Author: Andrea Smith





CHAPTER 1

I wiped the sweat from my brow with the back of my hand, capturing a stray lock of brown hair that had escaped from my ponytail. Angrily, I twisted it behind my ear as I had countless times today.

Damn it's hot!

It was only 2 p.m. and I had to endure two more hours in this sweltering stable. Sweeping my pitchfork the length of the stall, I studied the piles of manure and chunks of straw that reeked of horse urine, fantasizing about the cold shower that awaited me back at my cottage when my shift ended. I loved working with horses, but some ventilation would be welcome on stifling days like this. June in southern Virginia was torture.

Just then, Luke Winslow came into the stable leading Ariel, a gray dappled mare, down the aisle between the stalls. I noticed him taking off his wide-brimmed straw hat, wiping sweat from his brow with his forearm. Luke was tall, strawberry-blond, and leanly built. He had a sprinkle of freckles across his rosy cheeks, which made him look like an all-American, apple pie kind of guy. But I'd seen Luke after he'd had a few beers and quite frankly, he could be terribly irritating and pushy.

"Hey, Tylar, looks like you could use a beer about now," he remarked, bringing Ariel to a halt outside the stall I was picking. I glanced in his direction briefly, keeping my focus on the straw. The college hands liked to party after hours.

"Sounds tempting, Luke. All I can think about now is finishing up here and getting a cold shower back at my place. My shift ends at four."

"Oh, that's right. Well, I get off at three. I got a keg at the cottage. Some of the others are coming over later. We're going to have a bonfire. Why don't you stop by, it's Friday, you know!"

"I'll see, maybe. Is Jenna going to be there?"

He smiled wickedly. "Sure thing. You know Jenna. She doesn't miss a chance to party. You can hold your own with her, though," he winked. Just then, Ariel decided to lift her tail and drop a steaming, fresh pile in the aisle I'd just immaculately swept.

"Oops, sorry about that," Luke laughed.

"Damn, Luke! Move on, please. I may stop by later."

He flashed me a grin, pulling on Ariel's halter and clicking his tongue as she finished her business. "It's cottage number eight on the end," he called out as he led the horse down to her stall. "Hope to see you later."

"We'll see," I called out after him.

I was the new kid on staff, and among the youngest at 20 years old, soon to turn 21. The others had worked at Sinclair Stables on weekends and summers since high school. Most were in college and one was even in grad school; they came back to work summers to pay for college. They enjoyed the benefits of being able to live in the cottages, which were only offered to full-time help. I wasn't a local, having been born and raised in Kentucky and now attended nearby Virginia Intermont College. My major was equine studies. My dream was to work with quarter horses and warm bloods in breeding science.

My parents divorced when I was a baby; I'd never known him. I knew he'd financially supported me over the years and I was using the trust he'd established to pay for college. It'd had become active when I turned 18. Mom was a part-time secretary at the law firm that handled my trust. She often came to me for help especially after the child support payments stopped. She couldn't afford the lease payments any longer on her new Mustang; I'd given her my old Jeep. She'd bitched about how the Jeep wasn't sexy like her 'Stang had been.

I'd attended a local college my freshman year, but living at home wasn't working out well. I figured my being at home put a cramp in her style. At 41 years old, she still had the looks to land plenty of guys. I felt uncomfortable living with her after high school with the constant parade of men in her life. So, I transferred to Virginia Intermont my sophomore year and lived near campus in Bristol.

A loud snort and whinny brought my attention back to the present. Derringer, the most beautiful black Lipizzaner I'd ever seen, was pawing the ground in the stall across from me. He was skittish and spirited and he intimidated most of the other help here. His temperament suggested he was missing something or someone.

"Easy, boy," I said quietly, unlatching the gate to his stall. I entered slowly; pulled a carrot from the back pocket of my jeans, holding my open palm out to him to take it. He snorted loudly, backing up two steps, eyeing me. Then he slowly lowered his large, beautiful head, and nuzzled my palm with his nose. Soon he was chomping happily as I rubbed his sleek, shiny neck.

"You want me to brush you, Derringer? Huh, pretty boy?" I reached up and grabbed his halter and lead rope from the hook outside his stall. Slipping the halter over his ears, I led him out of the stall into the aisle and clipped his halter to the cross-ties. He pawed the ground and snorted as I secured him.

"Ahh, I get it. You want to walk don't you boy? I don't know," I said, rubbing his mane. It didn't go so well last time, did it? You promise you'll behave today if I take you out? You embarrassed the hell out of me the other day over at the Belle."

He whinnied, moving his hindquarters almost in a dancing motion. I had to giggle; he was a show-off if nothing else. Perhaps he'd been trained in dressage. That would definitely explain his frustration for never being exercised with the other horses. I mean what the hell was that about anyway? But my instructions were not to ride him; just take care of him. "Okay," I clicked my tongue as I led him out of the stables, "But remember your promise. No showing off for the pretty little fillies over at the Belle this time!"

I led him out to the pasture and then over to the gate that opened to the trail leading over to the Sinclair's plantation on the other side of the woods. The estate was called "Le Vie Belle," which meant "The Life Beautiful." We all called it the Belle for short. In addition to their estate and stable, the Sinclair's owned and operated a horse farm, a summer horse track, a winery, and a tourist attraction, which was an immaculately restored antebellum mansion. The Belle had originally bred thoroughbreds, whose lineage to this day could be traced to several modern Triple Crown winners. There was a turf racetrack where horseracing events were held on weekends during the summer months, attracting hundreds of tourists. The mansion and winery hosted tours all year round.

Leading Derringer through the woods offered some relief from the sun and presented a more pleasant, slightly cooler atmosphere than the stable had for sure. "Yep, great idea you had there, Derringer," I said to the horse, as if he understood anything I ever said. Yeah, I talked to him a lot; it helped to kill time and frankly he never seemed bored by what I had to say.

///



"Hey wanna go by the mansion and make fun of Jenna in her hoop skirt and prissy little bonnet?" I laughed.

Jenna lived a few cabins down from mine; she worked at the Belle. I snickered to myself thinking about her job. She and Rodney were tour guides in the mansion wearing period costumes of the Civil War era. Jenna as a southern belle absolutely hated the hoop skirts, frilly undergarments, and button-up leather boots required. When she was in character, she wore her bleached blond hair in a tight bun, and no make-up. This killed her. Jenna was almost 24.

Rodney came from Mississippi; he was 22. Along with helping Jenna he also provided horse and buggy rides for the tourists. Rodney was a serious guy with a fun-loving side.

"Hey Derringer, maybe Rodney has your BFF "Sugarfoot" hitched to that buggy today, want to go see?" Derringer gave a snort so I took that as a 'yes.'

I led him up the brick half circle dri

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