He found her where Gertie said she'd be, lazily looping the ring on a horse. Not the same one she'd been riding yesterday, but a compact dark bay with no white on him save his face. She asked him to pivot, and he was doing a typical green* move of pushing through the shoulder, evading the bit, and rushing.
"Put your outside leg on more, let go the rein, you're letting him lean on the outside bit shank too much." He called, and propped on the fence, watching her frustration build. Not likely the best thing she could be doing. Training horses took patience, and hers was sliver thin at the moment.
She flicked a glance out towards him, nodded, and applied her leg on a little further back, easing the rein contact. The horse shook his head and lunged forward, but she sat back, and he slowed. Then she halted him, spraying sand as he skidded.
"I should not be up here." She said, and hung her head. "I just needed to-"
"Do something other than fuss?" Shaun offered, and climbed through the fence boards over to her. "I get it."
She hopped off on the far side from him, and walked around, rubbing the horse's nose softly. She wasn't looking at him.
"Your aunt says dinner soon, you're to come up and eat." He said. "You hungry?"
He put a hand out to the horse, the warmth greeting his skin achingly familiar. This was a nice little horse, his legs well put under him, his hindquarters powerful. Jess didn't answer.
"What's your plan for him?" He prodded further, running his hand up the mane, coming around to where Jess was. She rubbed the gelding's forehead, the horse putting his muzzle up to her face and nibbling at her.
"Barrels, or maybe reining. He's quick, and he's smart. He'll pivot on a dime. But he's also a bit of a hothead. Good qualities, if I can get him to settle into work. Hot I can handle. Out of control I can't."
"He'll do, I think. Needs more time maybe." He offered.
"So I talked to someone." She blurted out then, and he swivelled his gaze back to her. Her cheeks were pink from the ride, but he sensed she felt embarrassed by her admission and it was partly to blame for the blush. He put a hand out to her shoulder on impulse, and she looked up at him then. There was pain in her eyes and it caught his breath.
"Yeah?" he wavered, trying his best to maintain control. "Good. Glad you took my advice."
She smirked and fiddled with the reins. "Don't let it get to your ego, officer. I figured I should call a friend and let them spread the news I am ok. I turned my phone back on and there were about a thousand texts and voice messages."
"So? What now?"
"So apparently tonight there is a vigil at the factory for all the-" she stopped and shrugged. "I keep forgetting there are thirteen other victims and hurting families. Not just me, my Dad. I've been in this bubble since I found out."
"Do you want to go?" Shaun asked. It would likely be fine, she could pay her respects, people could see she was ok, her friends could comfort her. He could only imagine how frantic some of them likely were. They weren't letting anyone onto the property, so even if folks had come by, there was no way they could visit. Baked pies and sandwich platters had started arriving a few hours ago, with Gertie turning half of it away to feed the people at the gate. A community rallied, and the notion to ensure everyone was cared for was as old-fashioned as Gertie seemed to be. She had told the officers to share the baking with the news people, of all things.
"Is it safe?" She asked quietly. He still had his hand on her shoulder. She wasn't backing away from him again, and he felt the connection hit him square in the chest. Their eyes hadn't left one another, and he reacted, pulling her in, wrapping his arms around her, letting her bury her head in the crook of his shoulder.
YOU ARE READING
Headstrong and independent, Jess Nichols doesn't need anyone's pity over the murder of her estranged father, least of all from the cop assigned to protect her family. As the investigation goes deeper, she turns to him to help her make sense of the f...