Millionaire's Shot

By: Bev Pettersen

He’d enjoy hanging out with her on the movie set. He’d still be involved with horses but he wouldn’t have to worry about his next customer. Wouldn’t have to get up every morning wondering if a horse would sell in time to pay the feed bill. That freedom alone would ease his stress.

Her boss was always looking for experienced horsemen. They could compare training methods and talk about animals they’d trained and she’d no longer ache to be closer to Gramps. They’d be able to make a real home again and they’d both grow to love California. She opened her hands, determinedly pressing her sweaty palms against her jeans.

“Mr. Edwards? Jake Edwards?”

The voice behind them was imperious, with a slight New York accent, almost exactly as Cassie remembered. She swallowed and turned, wondering if Rachel would even recognize her.

But the stunning woman standing in front of them stared only at Gramps. “I want to advise you that our committee will be sending official notice,” Rachel said. “Your mare is dangerous. Totally unsuitable for this game. She shouldn’t be allowed to step foot on any polo field.”

“I’ll give his mare another chance next week,” Santiago said quickly. “She might have been a little off today.”

“Absolutely not,” Rachel said, her cold eyes still locked on Gramps. “She almost killed me. You must take her back. Our club can’t waste time on inferior animals…or trainers.”

Cassie jerked forward at the slur, but her grandfather grabbed her arm.

“Let’s go, Santiago,” Rachel went on, not deigning to look at Cassie. “We have to mount now.”

She strode away, swinging her mallet like a weapon.

Cassie’s cheeks felt hot and it hurt to breathe. Her grandfather’s hand was digging into her arm and Santiago just stared, clearly surprised but unwilling to annoy his patron.

“I’m sorry,” Santiago said slowly. “But it seems best if you take the mare home. We can try out your horses next year.”

“But the college is buying now,” her grandfather said.

“There is nothing I can do.” Santiago gave them both a dismissive nod, but his expression remained shuttered, his polite smile not reaching his eyes. He turned and followed Rachel like a pet dog.

“Don’t let those people bother you,” Cassie said, her voice quivering. “You’re a great trainer. He knows that. Rachel knows it too. We’ll find another rider. Then everyone will see how good Ginger really is.”

“No,” Gramps said. He still held her forearm. But his grip had weakened and he seemed to be clutching her for balance rather than to restrain. “We need to take Ginger home. Rachel has too much clout. No player would dare give my horses a chance now. And I don’t blame them.”

“But that’s not fair—” Cassie pulled in a painful gulp and stopped talking. Life wasn’t fair. She knew that as well as Gramps. And she was supposed to be the strong one now. “Of course,” she said, pasting on a reassuring smile. “We’ll take Ginger home and figure out another way. We’ll find a different polo club.”

She glanced over her shoulder. Rachel was adjusting a knee guard while a groom knelt at her feet, giving her immaculate leather boots one last polish. She looked objective and totally focused on polo. She probably hadn’t intended to insult Gramps like that. Didn’t realize how disastrous it was to have a horse black listed.

Maybe the situation wasn’t so bad. Santiago could talk to her. Explain that it would be a good move for him to ride Ginger. Everyone wanted the best horses for their team, and clearly the woman didn’t even remember Cassie.

But as she considered that possibility, Rachel’s head swiveled. Her eyes locked with Cassie’s and her expression turned mocking. Despite the woman’s physical perfection there was nothing beautiful about her now. In fact, she looked downright malicious.

Cassie stared back, refusing to be the first to look away. But despite the warmth of the sun, her skin felt cold, clammy. Because it was obvious Rachel did remember her. And it was also clear that despite Cassie’s good intentions, her presence hadn’t helped Gramps. Not one bit. In fact, it was apparent that coming home had only helped draw the ire of a very powerful and vindictive woman.

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