She finds many things in New Parish, the comfort of her sister, an annoying cowboy, horses, and finally her very own happily ever after… and peace.
Excerpt from Return to New Parish: The rest of Hannah’s ride…
Chapter 3 – Palominos
“A tapping sound in the distance brought her attention to the fence line on the other side of the stream. She saw a palomino horse that made her think of the one she’d seen when she was entering New Parish. The one the old cowboy rode to rescue the boy… the tapping sound continued as she tried to get a glimpse of the old cowboy. She half hoped to get to meet him, she had sort of envisioned him as a real life hero when she saw him that first day.
Watching the horse stand there like a statue she almost wondered if it was real then she saw an old cowboy come around from behind it and put something into the saddle bags.
“No flipping way!” she thought. “It can’t be him…,” but it was… Her heart sank as she realized it was, “It’s Alex James. That grungy, arrogant, old cowboy, that called me a red headed horse!” Her anger was on the rise once more.
Hannah saw him push his hat back and wipe his forehead, then he stopped and stood motionless for a moment. He was looking straight at her, Hannah felt a flush of embarrassment flood through her. The instant thought, “Why didn’t I just ride on? Why did I stay here and watch him?” Hannah saw him hold his hand up high and wave.
“Oh, grrrr!” she growled to herself, and pulling the reins, she turned the horse in the opposite direction, touched her heels lightly on Smarty’s sides. The horse instantly responded and the freedom of the ride was returning to Hannah’s heart.
She could hear Alex James shouting something, but she was determined to leave him behind as quickly as possible. She glanced back over her shoulder in time to see him jump on that huge palomino and quickly ride back the other way, then run his horse straight at the fence he’d been repairing. The horse jumped it with ease and was barreling after her with incredible speed – to her shock and horror.
“What the heck?” she thought, as she urged Smarty to go faster. “He must have some ego!” Hannah tried to suppress the fears and panic that were building inside her. Thoughts of, “What’s he going to do?” and knowing that she was on her own to defend herself out here in the middle of nowhere raced through her mind.
She encouraged Smarty to run faster, but in less than a minute he was grabbing her reins and pulling the horse to a stop.
“Whoa, there!” he shouted.
“Leave me alone!” Hannah shouted back at him. “Let go! What’s your damage?!” She threw a wild punch at him, but missed, as he leaned back in his saddle and pulled her horse around.
Hannah was desperately pulling her reins, trying to get away from him. Alex held onto her reins with a vice like grip.
“Hold on there Lady,” he tried to calm her.
“Let go!” Hannah shouted at him again, tugging hard on her reins.
“No, ma’am!” he returned firmly. Alex pulled the reins and led her just a few feet away in the direction she’d been going, then he pulled the reins to stop the horse, “Look,” he said through clenched teeth.
Hannah angrily looked at what he was pointing at, and almost fell off her horse. It was a deep sinkhole or gully that had obviously been washed out recently, but what made her a bit nauseous was that it was full of debris and jagged limbs.
“We had a flash flood a couple of months ago,” the cowboy explained, still holding her reins. “It washed all this mess in here.”
Hannah sat there on Smarty in shock, she knew that they would have been hurt very badly or worse if the cowboy hadn’t stopped her. She knew she wouldn’t have been able to see it in time to stop. The horror of what might have happened flashed through her mind then a wave of embarrassment washed over her. That embarrassment fueled her anger, completely overriding the fear that had been there previously.
Hannah closed her eyes to block out the image of what could have been, took a deep breath and blew it out slowly. She turned to the old cowboy who was still holding her reins and looking at her with concern in his eyes, “Okay, thanks. Now will you let go of my reins please?” she said with as much calm as she could gather.
Alex James returned her reins to her with an odd quizzical look on his ruggedly handsome face, as though he didn’t know quite what to make of her. Hannah took the reins and guided Smarty away from the deep hole full of jagged ominous looking branches and roots. She could see Sarah’s home in the distance, she touched Smarty’s sides with her heels and took off in that direction, this time she didn’t look back, she was very determined to put that incident behind her and leave it there.
When she reached the barn Alex, Max’s son was holding a shovel and on his way in. He smiled at Hannah and said, “I’ll take her in for ya, Aunt Hannah, if you’d like?”
“Thanks kiddo,” she said as she dismounted and handed him the reins.
Once inside the house Hannah felt the need to talk to Sarah, so she headed up to her room – she knocked and waited. She didn’t want to walk in on something, so the old tap and enter from when they were kids was not an option.
She heard Sarah say, “Come in.” So she opened the door and seeing the mess and disorder shook her head and laughed.
“Hey,” she said, looking around the room. “Did you get more stuff or is this just the other stuff shifted around again?” she teased her sister.
“I got more stuff,” Sarah said defensively. Then she chuckled as she looked over the mess of her sitting room that was going to be her nursery.
“So, there was a thing while I was out riding,” Hannah tentatively began her exposition.
“What thing?” Sarah asked with eyebrows raised as she reached for her chiming cell phone. After quickly reading the text she looked at Hannah with worry in her expression, “Okay, what happened? Max just text me wanting to know if you’re okay and if you got home okay.”
Hannah could see Sarah replying to Max’s text and insisted, “I’m fine, I’m fine,” it was her turn to be defensive.
“He’s saying that you almost rode into the sinkhole! And that Uncle Alex caught you just in time to stop you,” Sarah looked at Hannah accusingly.
“Okay,” Hannah said, trying to play the events of her ride down, “So, this is what happened.” She plopped down on part of a sofa that wasn’t full of baby stuff, sighed, and continued. “I was riding near the stream and heard a tapping sound coming from the fence line that was just beyond the creek.” She waved her hands to show the direction of the fence, “I looked to see what it was and saw a big beautiful palomino standing on the other side of the fence, like a statue, then that guy came around the horse to put stuff in his saddle bags,” Hannah paused to make a face of disapproval and blow out a big sigh then continued. “I didn’t want to talk to him so I took off in the opposite direction and before I knew what was happening, he was jumping on his horse, jumping the fence, and chasing after me!” Hannah threw her hands in the air for effect and gave Sarah a “what the heck” look. “So I go faster not knowing what he was up to, he catches me and grabs my reins!”
Sarah interrupted her with, “You didn’t punch him did you?” there was a pleading sort of begging tone to Sarah’s voice.
“I tried!” Hannah defended her actions. “But he’s pretty quick for an old guy. Sheesh!”
“Hannah!” Sarah shouted at her in exasperation.
“I missed!” Hannah shouted back still trying to defend herself.
“Hannah! He was saving your life!” Sarah shouted back.
“I didn’t know that’s what he wanted to do!” Hannah shouted, “For all I knew he was going to do something else out there, with no one else around,” her voice trailed off. Quickly thinking of a way to refocus the conversation she asked, “Besides, if he’s so rich why is he out mending fences anyways? Can’t he afford to hire people for that?”
“He’s a cowboy,” Sarah answered, with exasperation in her voice. “He’s always doing cowboy things. Yeah, he’s rich, but he’s very hands on.”
“He’s very annoying,” Hannah shared her opinion of the old cowboy.”
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