Kate Sherwood - Dark Horse 2.4 - The Filly

BOOK: Kate Sherwood - Dark Horse 2.4 - The Filly
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The Filly | Kate Sherwood

"It's a rookie move, man." They're sitting around the Kaminski table after dinner, picking at the remains of the meal. Dan is happy to have the opportunity to bug Evan a little. "Making the first date on
Valentine's Day
? Jesus, it's dating suicide."

"Well… " Evan thinks for a second. "That's good, really. I mean, if he's dating my fifteen-year-old sister, I
want
him to be a rookie, you know?"

Dan leans forward and snags another slice of garlic bread. "I don't know… maybe. But rookies make mistakes, and mistakes hurt everyone, not just the person making them…. "

Jeff has been watching Evan's reactions, and apparently feels it's time to get involved in the conversation. "She's going to get her heart bruised at some point, kid. You can't shelter her from that. But she’s tough, and he’s not looking to hurt her."

Dan thinks maybe he's pushed this a little far, because Jeff has a point— Evan looks like he's about to track Tat down and tell her she can't go on her date. Or leave the house. Ever. "I'm just kidding, dude. It's a dance. It'll be fine. And he's a good kid."

Evan frowns. "Yeah,
you'd
think so. Just because he likes horses. That's no way to judge a prospective… Jesus. A prospective boyfriend?"
"Bullshit, it's a
great
way to judge. With you, he could just be putting on a good show, behaving himself for twenty minutes at a time. But he spends hours alone with the horses, and they still like him. If he was an asshole, they'd be the ones to feel it first, and we'd see it." Dan cuts a quick glance at Jeff before continuing. "Besides… he's got great hands, and that's… you know… useful in other areas. "
Evan's hands fly to his ears. "Oh, Jesus, Dan, I cannot hear that!" Dan crams the rest of his bread into his mouth to conceal his grin.

The Filly | Kate Sherwood

Jeff smiles at both of them, then reaches across to rest his fingers on Evan's wrist. Even just that little bit of contact seems calming. "Remember when we met Dan, kid. You thought he was a good guy based on how he acted around horses, and you were right." Jeff's lips twitch just a little. "And you've got to admit, riders have some advantages— tight asses; nice, fluid hip movement…."

Evan jerks his hand away. "Shit, Jeff!" He frowns at both of them. "This is Valentine's Day for us, too, you know. You should be being nicer." He leans back and crosses his arms. "As a matter of fact, I think I'm going to insist." Dan's become pretty good at reading Evan's shifting emotions, and he can sense the playfulness reasserting itself. "You fuckers are going to woo me. You're going to apologize for your bad behavior. Your insensitive, inappropriate, and hurtful comments. You need to grovel a little, and make it up to me." He's nodding now, as if he's realizing the brilliance of his scheme. "We're going to wait for Brian to get here, then we're going to make his life a living hell for a while, and when they leave—it's wooing time."

The doorbell rings, and Evan stands slowly, not looking away from the other two men. "You probably want to take some time to make a plan, I'd say." The mischief is clear in his eyes, now. "'Cause I am absolutely going to make you work for it. Both of you." He turns and heads for the front door.

Dan has no problem with that idea, and judging by Jeff's slow smile, it's a unanimous winner. For now, though, they stand and follow Evan out to the front hall. Evan had been insistent that he wanted back up, and Brian had cornered Dan in the barn earlier that day, nervous and stuttering and asking whether Dan was going to be at the house when he arrived. He'd made it pretty clear that he was hoping for a friendly face. Dan's so happy that Tat's found someone who's already aware of her brother's unconventional love life that he'd been more than willing to help out. Evan opens the front door and just stands there. Dan's behind him, so

The Filly | Kate Sherwood

he can't see his expression, but his shoulders are set and his neck is tense and he looks huge. Dan shifts enough so that he can see past Evan to Brian, his smooth young face frozen in a stiff, formal smile.

Evan lets the moment last so long Dan's about to intercede, welcome the kid himself, but it's Evan's house and Evan's sister, so Dan makes himself stay out of it until Evan finally shifts a little, leaving space for Brian to ease inside.

"Hey, Brian." Dan smiles, but he keeps it quiet, makes it clear that

Evan's in charge.
"Dan, hey!" Brian turns a little. "And, Jeff, hi." The kid's been
working part time at the barn for months, so he knows them all. But he's
never been to the house, never gotten involved in their personal lives. Jeff smiles, then looks at Evan. "I'll just go check on Tat, see if she's
ready?" Anna and Robyn had been over that afternoon, going over lastminute wardrobe decisions, figuring out… well, figuring out whatever it is
that females figure out before going on a first date. But they'd gone home
before dinner, and Tat had barely eaten, even though Tia had left her
famous chicken lasagna, Tat's favorite. A little calming Jeff-time would
probably be a good thing.
Evan nods, then jerks his head towards the living room. "We can
wait in here." He's still practically growling, and Dan wonders how much
of this to allow before interceding. Of course, with Evan wound as tight as
he is, there's no guarantee that he'd follow Dan's suggestions, and the two
of them having a fight would do nothing to make Brian more comfortable.
He decides to wait it out— Evan's protective streak is deep, but fairly
narrow, and Dan hopes that they'll get through it soon.
He trails along behind the others, tries to read the look Jeff shoots
him before he heads down to Tat's room, but doesn't think he really gets it.
Oh well, he'll have to figure it out on his own.
Evan nods Brian in the direction of an armchair, and sits down on
the couch opposite. Dan thinks that maybe refreshments should be offered, but it's not his house, so it's not his call. He sits down on the couch next to

The Filly | Kate Sherwood

Evan, and waits.
Well, he doesn't wait long, because, damn, this is awkward. "So,
you're still on for RamTap next weekend, right?" Brian is one of their
travel grooms, in addition to helping out around the barn.
"Yeah, absolutely." Brian seems almost pathetically glad to have
something to say, but then it's like a floodgate's been opened, and he can't
stop. "I mean, I'm really looking forward to it. I've been there a few times
to watch, but, you know, it'll be a lot more intense to actually be part of it.
And, you know, maybe someday I'll be able to show there." He catches
himself. "Not on your horses, I didn't mean. I mean, obviously your horses
would be great, that'd be fantastic… for me, but of course you've got better
riders, lots of people who deserve it more, I just meant someday, you
know. If I keep working in this area. Which is something that I absolutely
want to do." His eyes are wide, as if he realizes that he's talking too much
but can't seem to control himself. He stares at Evan. "Not that I want to
keep being just a groom forever. I mean, you know, not that there's
anything wrong with being a groom. But I'd like to do something else,
too." He gulps. "Dan's been talking to me, he says it might not be worth it
to go to college for just equestrian stuff, but my marks are good, I could…
I don't know, maybe business, or I was thinking about being a vet; I like
biology, but not chemistry so much, but, you know, I do fine, I could…
well, if it's for something I want, I can just buckle down and do it, right?"
He stops. His hands are gripping the seams of his grey dress pants, pulling
on them so hard Dan's afraid they might rip.
On the plus side, there was a lot of information in that little speech,
and Evan's never been one to let knowledge pass him by, so he's
distracted, at least a little. "What's wrong with chemistry?" It's not quite
conversational, but it doesn't sound like an interrogation, either, so Dan's
going to call it a win.
Brian still looks wide-eyed. "Uh, nothing. I mean, I do like it, just

The Filly | Kate Sherwood
not as much as biology. But chemistry's fine. It's good." He stops himself, and Dan smiles in what he hopes is an encouraging way.

"I told him that if he wants to make a living coaching or training, he needs to get a reputation built up, and going to school won't really help with that." Evan turns his head enough to look at Dan while he's talking, so Dan keeps going. "But he's got enough sense to know that going to school for
something
is probably a good idea, so he's looking around a little."

Evan nods cautiously, and then Brian's eyes shift from staring at them on the couch to staring at something behind them, and Dan and Evan both turn to follow his gaze.

Tatiana is standing in the doorway, Jeff hovering behind her. Dan's used to seeing the sweatshirt-wearing barn rat, hair pulled back in a ponytail, face often covered in dirt or sweat. He barely recognizes her. She's wearing makeup, and a silvery-pink dress, and Dan doesn't know fashion, doesn't know the words to describe it, but it makes him think of Audrey Hepburn, or some other old-time star. She's smiling shyly, looking for approval, and it stings a little, because she's not looking at Dan, nor at Evan… she's peeking out at Brian to get
his
reaction. Dan has a burst of irritation towards this upstart, this punk kid who thinks he's good enough to come cruising into Tat's life and replace people who've cared about her… Dan catches himself. He's got a new understanding of Evan's behavior, and thinks the guy pretty much deserves a medal for allowing Brian into the house at all.

Brian looks like he's having a little trouble moving, and it helps Dan to forgive him. At least the kid's got enough sense to know that he doesn't deserve to be anywhere near Tat. But she's going to start dating someday, and it's not like anybody else is going to be better than Brian, so Dan kicks himself into gear. "You look beautiful, Tat." That gets him a smile, at least, and then she looks over at Evan, who has refocused his attention on Brian.
"You're going to be driving with my sister in the car, Brian." Evan's

The Filly | Kate Sherwood

voice is deep and strong. "That means that you go
below
the speed limit, you check, double-check, and triple-check for every possible problem, you keep your eyes on the road and your hands on the wheel. " Brian nods emphatically at each new requirement. "And you don't touch a drop of alcohol, don't even be in the next room as someone who's smoking up…."

Brian's eyes widen. "No, I would never!"
Evan seems satisfied, and turns to look at his sister. "You do look beautiful, Brat." He smiles at her. "Dance is over at eleven, right? So you'll be home by quarter past?" Tat looks at Brian, and they both nod in unison. Evan frowns a little, and looks over at Jeff, then Dan. "Careful driving, no drinking, curfew… what am I forgetting?”
"You've got your phone?" Jeff asks Tat, and she holds up her little purse in confirmation.
"And you're just going to the dance, nowhere before or after, so if someone was to, say, drop by the school, they'd find you in the gym at all times?"
"Evan, don't you dare… " Tat sounds mortified, but also fierce. Her expression softens as she turns her head. "Dan, please don't let him… " She takes a step forwards as if in supplication. "It's me and Brian, Dan… "
Dan isn't sure why this is his role, but he nods. "And you're both smart and trustworthy. Right, Evan?" He waits for Evan's nod, which he finally gets, before turning back to Tat. "Robyn and Chris are going out, but she said she'd keep her phone on and pick up if you called, so if you need girl-talk, you can call her, okay?" Tat nods, and Dan shifts his attention to Brian. "And you've got my number, so if anything goes weird, if it's something you don't want to call your parents about, call me. It doesn't have to be a big deal, just… anything. Seriously." He feels like a bit of a hypocrite, setting himself up as the voice of wisdom for teenage dating, but at least he's got lots of ideas of what
not
to do.
Jeff steps into the room now, taking his turn to question Brian. "You've got a full tank of gas? And the car's in good repair?" "Uh… like, half a tank… at least. And, yeah, it's my mom's car, it's

The Filly | Kate Sherwood
only two years old, and she's totally uptight about it…." Brian's hands twitch down again, grabbing hold of the seams of his pants.

Jeff nods sagely. "And the back-up plan? In case the car breaks down?"
Brian seems a little lost. "Uh… we're just going into town, so… I guess I'd just pull over and call somebody." He frowns. "I'd probably call my mom for that, 'cause it's her car. But then maybe I'd call here, too, just to keep you in the loop?"
Jeff seems to like that, and he lets Evan take over. "What if there's a problem at the dance? Somebody tries to start a fight, or does something that might be dangerous?"
Brian frowns a little. "Well, there's chaperones at the dance… and, you know, it's a public school, but it's not like it's rough or anything… there's not really going to be anyone
dangerous
there." The kid pulls himself back. "But, uh, if something
did
happen, I'd just get the chaperones, make sure Tat's okay… "
"Or
I
could make sure that
Brian
's okay," Tat contributes. "Come on, guys, it's not like I'm helpless… "
"No?" Dan asks. "Okay, smarty-pants, answer me this… what are you gonna do if the dance is attacked by dinosaurs? Huh? Got a plan for that, Missy-Miss? T-Rexes in the parking lot, Velociraptors in the halls… what're you gonna do then?"
Tat grins, and shifts her eyes towards Brian. "Can you believe that he never saw Jurassic Park until last night? It's like… I don't even know. Like he grew up in a land with movies, or something."
"Maybe that's how come he got so good at riding - no distractions," Brian suggests, and Tat nods her head in agreement.
"Well, you still haven't answered the question… " Dan starts, but then Evan's beside him, looping his long arm over Dan's shoulders, and he decides that the little joke has done its job; he can let it die now. Jeff moves forward too, coming to stand on Evan's other side, and it throws Dan a little, because he's gotten used to being in the middle, but this

BOOK: Kate Sherwood - Dark Horse 2.4 - The Filly
3.27Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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