Millionaire's Shot

By: Bev Pettersen



His words trailed off in a disbelieving hiss as both he and Cassie spotted his horse at the same time.

Ginger was tied to the back of a portable toilet a hundred yards from the other animals. She had no shade or hay or water, and a short rope forced her head unnaturally high. Her braided tail was still tied up in a game knot allowing the flies to feast undisturbed.

“Dammit.” Her grandfather charged forward. At the sound of his voice, Ginger nickered, a heartrending sound of welcome and relief.

“I’m sorry, girl.” He fumbled to untie her rope. But his fingers were shaking so much he couldn’t manage the knot.

“Let me do that, Gramps.” Cassie gently pushed his hands away and released the knot. She couldn’t bear to look at her grandfather’s face. Didn’t want to see his torment. If Rachel had wanted to hurt him, this had been effective, even more than slandering his training abilities. But tying a hot horse out in the sun after the mare had valiantly galloped around a field trying to please her inept rider was not only cruel, it was criminal.

It was a good thing Gramps had insisted on checking. At least they’d arrived in time. It had only been fifteen minutes since Ginger walked off the field. They could lead her around, give her slow sips of water and brush out her tail so she could swish away the hordes of flies.

Cassie’s eyes narrowed on the mare’s ribs. There were so many clustering flies they resembled a moving cloud of black. She waved her hand and they rose in a mass—revealing blood-red gashes.

She gasped then forced her words out between gritted teeth. “I’m going to cool out Ginger. And then I’m staying to talk to Rachel. This is despicable. Hey!” she called, gesturing at a passing groom. “What the hell are you guys doing? Did you forget about this mare?”

The groom shuffled over, not meeting her eyes. “Rachel wanted that mare to be left alone,” he said. “And she tied her like that. Wanted to teach her a lesson.”

“Fortunately she’s not her horse to teach,” Cassie said, pulling out the camera on her phone. “We need a bucket of water and some hay and ointment. And I want someone on the committee to come over right away and witness this abuse.”

“But her sides were bloody when she came,” the groom said, his voice earnest now. “Some backwoods trainer named Jake Edwards had the mare, and Rachel was just trying to rescue the horse. Even the vet saw the marks. It’s all been documented. No one will ever let that guy’s animals on a polo field again. And Rachel is going to post it on the website so everyone knows.”

Cassie’s fingers turned so numb she almost dropped her phone. This was being blamed on Gramps. She’d always known Rachel was crafty, but this was brilliantly evil.

“Just bring me the water and ointment, please,” she said, trying to gather her composure before daring to look at Gramps. She could already feel his confusion, sense him shriveling beside her. She could even imagine his heart pounding in horror. And that couldn’t be healthy.

Unfortunately there was little she could do to make him feel better—except wait for the end of the game and hope for a chance to confront Rachel.





CHAPTER FIVE





“Rachel just wants to win,” Santiago said, cradling his helmet and swiping the sweat from his forehead. “Good players are competitive like that. She had a tough game in the first half and took it out on the mare. That’s normal.”

“It’s not normal,” Cassie snapped. The end of a grueling polo match wasn’t the best time to confront Santiago but Rachel had tossed her reins to a groom and disappeared into the clubhouse and Cassie was too incensed to leave without saying something.

“She overrode Ginger,” Cassie went on. “Cut up her sides with spurs, then left her standing in the sun. Tied to a stinky portable. It was cruel.” She pulled in a shaky breath, hating the telltale quiver in her voice. “She told the grooms to leave her. Then blamed her condition on my grandfather. And Ginger was your responsibility. You’re the one who was working with her all month. You were the one supposed to ride her today.”

“And I’d planned to,” Santiago said smoothly. “But Rachel insisted on switching. And we wouldn’t have left the mare tied here any longer. In fact, she’ll be trailered safely back to the Sutherland Estate along with the rest of the horses. Her legs will be wrapped and she can have a nice bran mash…and you can pick her up there and take her home.”

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