Elizabeth - Page 32

“Yes?” Phillip asked.

“Cristoff wants to take us horseback riding. How does that sound?” I asked.

Please say good. Please say good. Please say good.

“I suppose we could take a pause and go see about his stables,” Phillip said.

“Wonderful!” Cristoff exclaimed. “Then follow me. We’ll get the two of you set up on horses with saddles, and I’ll lead us through my favorite trail on my entire estate.”

I practically bolted to the stables. The second they came into view, I picked up the pace so I could get there quicker. And all of the horses were beautiful—black stallions with white manes and tails and red-haired mares with brown and black tails. One thoroughbred horse was all white, the purest color I’d ever seen on a horse before. I walked up and down the stables as the horses poked their heads out, nuzzling me as I kissed and petted every single one of them.

“Well, hello there. How are you doing?” I asked as one nuzzled my cheek.

“Looks like this one likes you,” Cristoff said.

“What’s her name?”

“And you know it’s a mare.”

“I have a sixth sense for horses.”

“Then as a champion rider, I’m impressed,” he said with a smile.

“What’s her name?” I asked again.

“This is Sassy. She’s a bit of a brat, and I love her all the more for it. She’s the one I usually ride, but for her to be taken with someone else, I can’t help but relinquish her for the day. She usually isn’t this friendly with others. Bites more than anything.”

“It’ll be an honor to ride her, then,” I said.

I helped Cristoff get the horses prepared, and every time I did something he thought I shouldn’t know how to do, he whistled. He really did live in an old-fashioned world. But it didn’t matter. None of it did. My entire childhood had consisted of three things: boarding school, books, and horses. Mounting Sassy and feeling her jerk underneath me was the most incredible sensation, and my hips rolled with each of her steps as she took off without my command.

“She has to get used to the feeling of someone else up there other than myself,” Cristoff said.

“She can go wherever she wants. It’s been so long since I’ve been on the back of a horse. I miss it,” I said.

“Usually I’m the one doing the riding,” Phillip said.

I whipped my head around to look at him as my jaw fell open. He tossed me a playful smirk as Cristoff’s head fell back with laughter. My eyes widened before a giggle bubbled up my throat, and I watched as he attempted to steady himself on the horse.

I knew those motions.

Phillip had no idea what he was doing.

I put my “fiancé” between Cristoff and me as we began to follow him. But the man in front soon got annoyed with Phillip. Cristoff wanted to take off, to gallop down the path and wind it around his property. But every time we tried to teach Phillip something, his horse would buck. Or stop. Or move in a way Phillip wasn’t prepared for. It would slow us down because I’d try to help him as much as I could, and Cristoff would mutter underneath his breath.

I could tell it was getting to Phillip, so I decided to step in.

“Why don’t you ride up ahead of us?” I asked.

“You sure you can handle the newbie?” Cristoff asked.

“You were new to all this once. How many times were you thrown from a horse before you got back on it?”

Cristoff looked back at me before his face softened.

“Toward the end of the path is a long climb up a hill. It’s the best view of my property. I’ll meet you two up at the top,” he said.

Then he jammed his heels into his horse, and I watched them both take off.

I rode up alongside Phillip as he tried to guide his horse as best as he could. But I could already see a lot of the things he was doing wrong. His heels were constantly digging into the horse, and his grip was too tight on the reins. His instinct every time the horse moved was to pull back instead of latch on to the saddle. I trotted alongside him before reaching out for his reins, and then I drew all of us to a stop.

“What are you doing?” he asked.

“First and foremost, you grip with your thighs, not your heels. Your heels tell your horse when to speed up. That’s why this guy underneath you is trying to take off with you so much.”

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