He’s awake. Well actually, Alec’s only slightly conscious with an arm draped across his eyes taking in his surroundings ever so slowly. Was it all a dream? he wonders. Carefully he touches his leg with his other hand. The scar is still there healing. Slowly he stretches out the leg finding that his foot touches something soft. Slowly his toes explore this soft item. It’s another foot. Not his. The foot moves, but then there is a hand that slides across his bare chest lighting a satisfied deep breath. Carefully he lowers the arm from his eyes to lay his hand across the one on his chest. It’s a lady’s hand with a ring. He explores a thumb over the ring finding a silver A across a smooth stone. Curiously the stone is butted up against…
The rest of the lady curls up against his body. She’s naked. He finally opens his eyes afraid that it won’t be real, but there she is. Her long dark hair coming across his shoulder. She’s real? He strokes the hair back from her face to find her hazel eyes looking into his blue ones. He doesn’t know what to say. She smiles at him and whispers, “Regrets?”
He smiles and whispers back, “Is this real?”
She reassures him, “I hope so. Otherwise, don’t wake me up.” He joins her small laugh watching her yawn out, “How do you feel?”
He turns his body to face her directly and hold her hand to his chest, “Perfect.”
The marked hand traces the freckles on his nose. She knows he has probably said more to his horse than to anyone else in his whole life, but she’s the only person to ever get this close to him.
His eyes close under the tenderness of her caresses and soon he is back to sleep under her smiles. It’s been a long time since he’s has a decent rest and the feel of him in her arms is more than an honor, it‘s a grace. She knows she better soak up every moment now, because he could be gone in a flash. She tries not to let the tears sting her eyes. Some where between soaring love and pain of what could come.
This time it is she awakens to the sound of the pickup engine starting and then leaving. Sitting up she finds he’s gone. At first she is afraid, but then she sees he has left her a single pink rose and a hastily scrawled note:
I need to meet Henry…or else … you know
He left a horseshoe mark, not a heart at the end of the paper. Her heart smiles. Even his notes are of few words. She can fill in all the blanks easily enough and lays back to bury her nose in his pillow.
~~ He races down the street in the pick up truck. What is he going to tell Henry? What about Black? The last question makes him laughs to himself. Who is he more afraid of; his trainer or his horse? He taps his hand impatiently on the wheel at the slow moving delivery truck in front of him. The sound of his ring tapping on the wheel breaks through his thoughts. He looks down at his own wedding ring giving off a sigh of relief. Alex. She’ll understand why he took off. Won’t she? Yes, of course she will. He hopes.
The delivery truck finally moves giving him room to round the driveway to the track. First thing he sees is Black is giving Henry a hard time and Henry mad. Not a good time to tell him about Alex. Swiftly the younger man parks the truck. He grabs the gloves off the dash and tugs them on while he sprints to meet up with his team.
“Well it’s about time you showed up?” Henry is more than fuming. “So help me Alexander if you were at a bar I’ll--”
“I wasn’t at a bar or brothel and I’m sorry,” Alec says quickly taking the Black’s reins and tugs on his boots. Alec gives Black a hard stare and Black settles quickly. Henry continues to grumble and gripe about being on time, track appointments and such. Black begins to sniff Alec over carefully curious of this scent on him. Quickly Alec pops on his helmet trying to ignore the horse‘s curiousity.
Henry suddenly stops his grumbling and then looks up at Alec with a scrutinizing look, “Are you still dating the Rosenbalm girl?”
Alec doesn’t move. Black turns his head to look at Alec. They are both waiting for an answer. Alec feels his hands begin to sweat in the gloves. He looks down, can Henry see the ring? He clenches the reins tighter. The silver begins to bite into his skin and bulge the leather a little. Maybe he should have left it in the truck. Black snorts. “No,” Alec finally simply says. He avoids looking in to either of their eyes by leaping onto Black’s back.
Henry sighs as if Alec’s heart had been broken, “I’m sorry. I know that-”
“- What do you want me to do today?” the jockey cuts him off.
Henry rattles off some instructing which Alec blankly nods and takes Black out to the track. Some how he manages to stay seated. Black seems to have listened to the instructions because Alec’s head was back at the hotel with a gorgeous woman. When he returns to the stable, Henry is pleased, but not elated at the work out. He knows well enough that Alec is distracted. Both know that could be dangerous. Alec better get his head in the game or they’re gonna lose this one. He’s not exactly sure how to bring him around. He can see Alec is trying to get his head straightened out and thus moves carefully by suggesting Alec take Black for a lengthy walk, bareback. He knows that will really bring him around by getting him get back in tune with Black like they met some many years ago.
Alec follows his trainer and friend’s instructions feeling the warm of his best friend as they move as one. Henry is pleased to see Alec lean over and talk to Black. The way Black twists his ears, Alec must be telling him some deep secret. Black begins to prance. If only Henry knew what Alec was telling Black.
Alec was telling Black, “I love her. And I know you do too. I wouldn’t choose anyone who didn’t love you as much as I. You and I have been through a lot. Please welcome her home to Hopeful. Okay, Boy?” Black begins to prance and Alec knew Black had accepted the new addition to Hopeful Farms.
Eventually, Alec takes Black back to the stable and brushes him down until his coat just gleams. Then with a kiss to his nose he turns to their other mounts and preps them. As he is mucking out the stall he can’t help but look down to the Rosewood stables. The groom, with her long black hair pulled back into a four-strand braid, is also hard at work mucking the four stalls they have. She smiles down at him wiping the sweat from her brow. He returns the smile and then back to his own stalls.
Then he gets the next horse out and ready for the track. He untangles the reins, wraps the ankles, checks the frogs and knees and starts to brush the tangles from the mane. Henry comes over with a couple sack lunches while Alec tucks the horse back into the stall. Then he washes his hands and joins Henry on a trunk for lunch. As Henry hands him a sandwich bites the bullet, “Where were you last night? I was getting worried.”
Alec can’t help but look down at the Rosewood groom getting water for the team. “I had to take care of something.”
They eat in silence. Henry notices the flash of silver on Alec’s hand. Alec jewelry? Left hand? Alec takes his apple to Black. “Nice ring. Where did you get that?” Henry asks.
Alec keeps his hand on Black’s muzzle. “Oh, a silver shop around here.”
Henry tries again, “I’ve never seen you wear jewelry before. Is everything alright?”
Alec gives Henry a warning look to back off. “Look Alec, we all get our hearts broken sometime. Don’t-”
“It’s not like that, Henry. I’m going for a walk. I’ll be back in a few minutes,” Alec walks deliberately away from the Rosewood stables. He walks around the staff parking lot far away from the rest of the horses. Far away from the gathering spectators. He tries to get his head together.
What has he done? What is he going to do now? How long will he be able to keep this up? How did he get in this predicament in the first place?