Since I’m finishing “Landfall,” and since my “Swordfall” line edits came in, I’ll cheat on my blog this week and regale you with an excerpt from the upcoming “Broken Gait.” I’ve been writing like a mad woman while trying to get enough sleep and exercise to stay “with it.” So close – one more day of creative frenzy – and then I’ll be able to submit the book and just look forward, look ahead, plan new stories… HEAVEN! In the meanwhile, enjoy!
But I don’t know a thing about horse shows….
“Don’t worry, Kai. I’ll talk you through the whole thing. You already know all the elements you will need to do. We’ll have you and Cayenne training with the others so you can string it all together, but I want him to stay relaxed and comfortable in general. We’ll load him up in the trailer with Sen two or three times and take him to a nearby park for trail riding. That will reinforce a positive association with travel. Other than that, the basics are pretty easy.” He sipped his tea and gesticulated with the cup. “You will enter the arena at a trot. You and Cayenne will trot to the middle, stop, and greet the judges. You will then walk, trot, and canter. It’s very structured. You’ll do a twenty-meter circle in each gait too—you two have already done that.”
Kai listened to Attila’s recitation, noting his shoulders tense under his white linen shirt. “If it’s so easy, what’s making you so nervous?” Kai asked.
Attila shifted in his chair and looked out the window for a while. With anyone else Kai would have assumed that they were composing a lie, but Attila always strove to be truthful. Moments passed before Attila’s brow furrowed as he drew a final deep breath, forcing himself to relax on an exhale. “I don’t know enough about Cayenne’s background. I have absolutely no idea how he will react to that kind of an environment.”
“The crowds and stuff?”
“That, the car traffic, the other horses….”
“So let’s not do it.” Kai decided, relieved.
“But I want you to and you’re ready for this level. I don’t need you to rack up your eighteen points to pass your test—I don’t need you to win or even to look good. I need you to feel what it feels like to be out there, with the others, with the judges and the crowd watching… and I need to see how Cayenne reacts to all that stimuli, too. We need to find out.”
When Kai did not respond, Attila amended. “Of course, you could ride Dusty or Zorro, and we could bring Cayenne out just for the fieldtrip. Although it seems like a wasted opportunity for the two of you to be seen together.”
Kai quirked his mouth in a half-suppressed grin. “To be seen?”
A dusting of pink blossomed on Attila’s cheeks and he grew quiet.
Attila shrugged. “You just look so good together. I’d love to show you off. Or rather, I would not mind making it known that we are together.”
“You and I against the world?” Kai’s breath caught as he said it.
Attila’s eyes usually looked gray, but now they had a brilliant blue spark as they met Kai’s from across the small table. Attila looked good, all flushed and positioned behind a vibrant bouquet of the bombastic, exotic dahlias. At that moment it occurred to Kai that there had never been anyone willing to take on the world by his side. His chest swelled with pride.
Attila gave a minute shrug. “Yes. Yes, I suppose.” Now his face was crimson and his gaze slid toward the purples, pinks, and oranges of the flowers between them.
Kai placed his hand, warm and secure, on Attila’s. “For you, I’ll ride any horse in any show, babe. Just tell me what to do and I’ll do my damnedest to do it right.”
They returned from the trail ride in the late afternoon. Both Cayenne and Sen behaved well, and both walked out of the trailer with the relaxed lassitude of those who got to run across the meadows of a large park, knowing their food awaited them. Attila was almost humming with contentment.
Not Kai, though—he felt bowlegged and sore. The long ride taxed his new skills more than he had expected it to, and he could already tell sitting in the saddle, or on any hard surface, would be agonizing for the next day or two.
He untacked Cayenne, brushed him down, and picked his hooves. He then gave him an affectionate pat and left him to his hay and grain. He moved on to fill the mangers of the other horses while Attila was bringing them in from the paddocks, one by one.
Only once all the work was done and they sat down to their microwaved lasagna leftovers did Attila notice the way Kai winced as his rear settled on the wooden chair.
“What is it? You didn’t pull your back, did you?”
Kai shook his head.
“Well?” Attila pressed.
A grin tugged on Kai’s lips. “I guess I shouldn’t ride the day after I’ve been ridden.” Now Kai had the unmitigated pleasure of observing his partner’s reaction.
Attila’s face was frozen aghast. “No! Really? I am so very sorry.” He removed himself from the table and soon returned with a throw pillow from the sofa. “Here. This should help. Did I… did I go too hard last night?”
The question triggered a decisive bodily response in Kai, who only grinned and adjusted himself as he settled on his pillow. “No, I wouldn’t say that,” Kai drawled, taking perverse pleasure in his partner’s consternation. “The walk was fine, the trot was okay because I could post. I think it was the canter up and down the field that did me in. All that friction….”
“Oh, Kai… I feel terrible.”
“Tomorrow we’ll switch horses and do some arena work,” Attila decided. “You can go slow on Sen, and I’ll train Cayenne.”
“He might dump you,” Kai said, giving Attila a dubious look.
Attila shrugged, wiping a nonexistent hair off his forehead. “I don’t think so.” He stood and began clearing the dishes off the table. “In any case, falling is part of riding.”
“And falling for you is part of riding you,” Kai quipped before snagging Attila’s truck keys so he could pick up Grandpa Keleman.
“Broken Gait” is now available for pre-order, PLUS Dreamspinner Press is running a 25% off sale until September 5th! Here’s the link: http://www.dreamspinnerpress.com/store/product_info.php?products_id=3963&cPath=55_669