36. Noble Elise

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The rest of the week was slow

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The rest of the week was slow.

Peyton? AWOL. I called him once and found out that he was in Dallas. And that was all he had to say about that. Well, fuck you too.

Jake was busy at the fairgrounds with the rest of the ranch hands, prepping for the Stock Show. I only saw him twice in passing, and both times, we pretended not to see each other.

Not surprising, considering how we'd left it after that mess at Sonic. He'd started apologizing in earnest as we neared the ranch, all but groveled for forgiveness, really. But I'd ignored him, slammed the car door shut, and walked away while he'd called my name over and over again in exasperation.

And that was that.

Whatever. Who was I kidding anyway? I was no take-charge woman ready to take the bull by the horns. I was just a clueless girl who barely knew her head from her ass.

As for my worries about having to choose between Jake and Peyton, well, that was just delusional. One girl with crushes on two guys, neither of whom seemed particularly enthusiastic about getting it on with her? That's not a love triangle, that's just life.

Apparently, sleep deprivation caused temporary psychological disturbances. WebMD said so, and that was good enough for me.

Time to move on.

Besides, the pageant was only a week away and I had real-life things to do. I was on my way to meet Beth so we could practice my routine. We'd decided on a Freestyle Reigning number to the tune of "La Bamba."

I know.

But Beth was super into it, going out of her way to choreograph the whole thing for me and I didn't have it in my heart to say no.

Left and right lead changes, three rundowns and stops, six spins in both directions, one rollback and some two-tracking. Easy as pie. Apparently, Phoenix was great at circling so she wanted me to try executing small, slow circles with a quick transition to large, fast ones. It was a good idea, that was always a crowd pleaser.

Practice wasn't necessary, I could do all that in my sleep, but I liked hanging out with Beth, so I'd agreed. I couldn't wait to surprise her with my contribution to the program. I'd do it without reins.

Look Beth! No hands!

I couldn't wait to see her face when I showed her. Grinning, I picked up the pace.

And stopped short when I saw Jake.

Seeing him unexpectedly caught me off guard. Seeing him with Charlotte, doubly so.

The two of them stood beside a horse with the most exquisite coat I'd ever seen, a pale iridescent gold that was nearly metallic in its sheen. She was elegantly built- narrow chested and long backed with incredibly beautiful slender legs and low set hocks.

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