15. Palomino

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It took me two whole weeks to get back on my feet

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It took me two whole weeks to get back on my feet. Peyton kept me company for all but the last four days when he had to fly back to New York for a wedding. Shana took over from there. We watched a lot of movies, read romance novels, ate junk food, and gossiped. I never asked her about Jake's visit, and she never brought it up. By the end of the second week, I was sluggish and antsy from lack of movement, and more than ready to get out of the trailer.

There was an unexpected paycheck waiting for me when I returned to work. I went to Daniel Harris, who was in charge of summer employee payroll, to let him know about the mistake.

Daniel was a big, burly man in his late sixties who'd been serving as the Beaudry's stable manager since Earl Waites' drinking put him out of the job. He'd spent his whole life outdoors on horseback, and wore the resulting weather-worn skin and perpetual wind-burn with pride.

He was a good, solid man who had known my father and treated me well. He'd been the one who made sure my mom enrolled me in school, and the one who took me and bought me the necessities I needed when I first moved to town. He'd also held me (albeit awkwardly) when I cried, (which was often back then) and his wife Faith, would cook me nice meals at their cottage once a week. The meals only stopped last year when Faith was diagnosed with breast cancer and had to undergo intensive chemotherapy.

Daniel set his pen down on top of his ledger and smiled at me over his glasses. I grinned, rounded the desk, and gave him a hug and a kiss on the cheek.

He ruffled my hair and leaned back into his chair, making the old leather creak. "How've you been pretty girl?"

Daniel had been away for the past few months, overseeing renovations to the Beaudrys' property in San Antonio.

"Good," I lied. "When did you get back?"

His kind brown eyes turned sad, as they always did when he looked at me, but he didn't say anything further. "Last week."

"I'm glad to see you back. Can I come by and see Faith?" I asked.

"Give her some time to recover from the trip and we'll make a date. How's that sound?"

"Good," I said.

He glanced at the clock. "Shouldn't you be starting your shift?" Favored or not, work ethic and punctuality were paramount to Daniel.

I nodded. "I dropped by because I think somebody made a mistake on the payroll," I said, sliding the check across the desk to him. "I didn't work the last two weeks."

He glanced down at the check, then slid it back toward me. "No mistake. The sties were mucked, so you get paid."

I was about to protest that I didn't understand but realized that I did.

Daniel pointedly looked at the clock behind me. "Time, girl."

"Going... going..." I sighed, sliding the check into my pocket.

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