19: When Senses Fail

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She reached for a hoof pick from her wooden box of grooming tools, and ran a hand down Dove's leg to check her hooves. Satisfied they were clean, Blayre moved on to the curry comb - the mare's favorite part of the grooming process and Dove relaxed in pleasure while her mistress made circular motions on her sable coat.

By now Blayre not only felt her brother's approaching magic release, but could hear the deep murmur of his voice as well as the even and sure tread of his footsteps. She wondered what he was doing in here - the guests had their horses in a different stable. And when he didn't appear in front of Dove's stall, she grew suspicious.

Giving the mare a pat, Blayre leaned over the stall door, sticking her head out and looking up and down the wide stable aisle.

There! She could see Seaver's back turned to her, several stalls down, and beside him the flash of red hair...

He was with Ainslee.

She flung herself back into Dove's stall and the mare snorted in slight affront - another horse may have startled and given her a kick.

"Twelve hells." She cursed. "He had better have apologized to her by now."

Dove let out a whicker as if to agree, and craned her neck around to nudge Blayre's breech pocket with her nose.

"Nothing else for you in there." Blayre said, pushing Dove's long face away from her. "Let me finish and get you tacked up."

Once Dove had been tacked, Blayre strained to hear the nearby conversation, but it had gone silent. She wondered if they were still there - perhaps Seaver had helped Ainslee with her horse and sped up the process. She couldn't feel his magic any longer, but he may have assumed she was either not there or ignoring him. If she had been ignoring him, her brother deserved it.

    Blayre wiped her hand on her breeches and gripped the gray mare's reins, unlatching the stall door and leading her out and to the right toward the stable entrance. She passed the stall of Ainslee's gelding and glanced in, expecting it to be empty.

    Instead she saw her brother's back and Ainslee's legs wrapped around him from the front, her friend's hands clasped around Seaver's neck.

    Apparently Seaver had made his case, and Ainslee had forgiven him for his failed attempt to surprise her - or whatever had happened.

    Ainslee's gelding looked at Blayre and Dove with one baleful eye, as if to say Please get me out of this stall and away from this.

    Blayre cleared her throat, and both Seaver and Ainslee startled noticeably, Seaver lurching forward and thus jamming Ainslee's back against the wood of the stable wall. Blayre heard the horse in the adjoining stall snort in complaint at the intrusive noise, as Ainslee let out a small cry of pain.

    "Sorry! Sorry!" Seaver said, "Twelve hells, Blayre!" He had set Ainslee down to turn toward the sound of the throat clearing. "I didn't even know you were in the building."

    "Obviously." Blayre said dryly. "I'm glad to see the two of you have made amends." She wondered if Ainslee would be making amends with her anytime soon - her friend leaned back against the wall, red-faced and scowling.

    "See you out there, Ains." Blayre tossed her dark hair and continued her walk out of the building, Dove's shoes a lazy clip clop, clip clop, on the stonework floor of the stable aisle.

If Fletcher noticed the continued frostiness between the two women, he ignored it, as Blayre supposed he had learned to over the years they had spent together since young adulthood. It wasn't the first time she and Ainslee had had a falling out, and she doubted it would be the last. As far as Blayre was concerned, this time was solely Ainslee's fault for overreacting, and her brother's fault for putting her in the position of being secretive in the first place. And now that all was well in their lives, she didn't understand why the other woman was continuing to hold a grudge.

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