The Hellion and The Heartbreaker(2)

By: Jennifer McNare

Scarlett mentally congratulated herself, for that simple phrase, just this once, was something she’d heard more times than she could count. She dashed the lone tear from her cheek and flashed her brothers a brilliant smile. Turning, she darted toward the front door, allowing Colin no time for second thoughts.

They followed her outside, watching as she raced full speed across the beautifully manicured front lawn, her hair flying out behind her like a flaming cape as she sped toward the stables. “Are you certain she’s only twelve-years-old?” Conner asked.

Colin chuckled. “She reminds me more and more of Papa every day.”

Conner nodded in agreement. “Like mother too,” he said, a gentle smile curving his lips. “She’s the best of both of them, a whole lot of sugar and a healthy dash of spice.”

A light breeze gently ruffled Colin’s red hair as he turned to his brother, his bright eyes twinkling. “A force to be reckoned with.”

“We’ve spoiled her you know.”

“I know,” Colin agreed, his amused tone betraying not an ounce of regret. “She’s had us all wrapped around her little finger since the day she was born.”

Grinning, they followed Scarlett to the stables.

Rory and Gavin, Scarlett’s sixteen-year-old brothers didn’t seem overly surprised to see her barreling into the stable yard shortly before noon. She should have been at her lessons for at least another hour, but neither of them so much as blinked as they noted her sudden appearance. They were home from boarding school on summer break, and she had missed them dreadfully. She loved all of her brothers immensely, but the twins were especially full of fun and youthful energy, and brought an added lightness to the estate when they were home.

“Good morning, Trouble,” Rory teased, as Scarlett skidded to a halt beside him.

“Are they here yet?” she asked breathlessly.

“Yep,” Rory responded, setting down the bridle he’d been working on and taking Scarlett’s hand, “they just arrived.” He led her into the massive stable, past numerous horse-filled stalls, walking in the direction of the rear paddock, their clasped hands swinging freely between them. The grooms smiled fondly at her as they passed, and she smiled warmly at each of them in return. She had known most of them her entire life and she loved them like family.

The stable was her favorite place on the estate. She enjoyed the perpetual activity, the smell of fresh hay, the gentle nickering of the horses, and the playful banter of the young grooms as they went about their work. She helped out whenever she could, feeding and grooming the horses and mucking out the stalls along with the lads. She had spent more hours here than she could count.

Glancing over her shoulder, she saw that Gavin had fallen into step behind them and she immediately reached out for his hand, clasping it in her free one as they walked toward the paddock. Hand in hand between her brothers and liberated, at least temporarily, from the schoolroom, Scarlett’s mood was jubilant.

“Take a look at these beauties,” Gavin said when they reached the tall wooden fence, hoisting her up so that she stood on one of the rails, enabling her to get a good look at the new additions to the McPhearson stables.

There were four of them, all beautiful, magnificent creatures, but one in particular caught her eye. He was an immense stallion. His coat, black as night, shimmered with a silvery tint in the bright sunlight. “Oh, look at him, he’s beautiful,” she exclaimed.

“That he is,” Rory agreed, following her gaze.

Gavin nodded, following the stallion with his eyes. “He’s a damn fine piece of horseflesh all right.”

For Scarlett, it was love at first sight. She watched in blatant admiration as he raced along the perimeter of the fence, his powerful hooves tearing up large clods of dirt and grass as he came toward them. He tossed his head in her direction as he passed, and for a moment, their eyes seemed to meet. She felt an instant connection. She’d always loved horses, but there was something special about this one. She watched his graceful movements for several long moments, entranced. He was meant for her, she just knew it. “I want to ride him,” she breathed, unable to take her eyes off the splendid animal.

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