Millionaire's Shot

By: Bev Pettersen



“What is it? Does your chest hurt? Just lie back, take slow breaths.”

Gramps leaned forward, craning to see the field. “That’s Ginger, my good mare,” he said. “But that’s definitely not Santiago riding her.”

“Are you all right?” she asked, holding her phone so tightly she could no longer feel her fingers.

He didn’t answer, but he was clearly breathing. And obviously just agitated. She loosened her grip on the phone and followed his gaze.

Four riders wore the purple and white uniform of the Sutherland team. Three appeared like extensions of their mounts. But the fourth rider clung to her horse’s neck, her mallet jabbing precariously close to the animal’s eye. When the ball bounced beneath a cluster of legs, her horse twisted in pursuit, dumping her to the ground. The spectators beside Cassie guffawed.

Her grandfather, however, dropped his head in his hands and groaned. His breathing was labored but he wasn’t having another heart attack. He just looked completely and utterly defeated.

“So that’s Ginger,” she said as understanding dawned. “But that rider’s fall wasn’t her fault. She’s just following the ball.”

“Ginger is too good to be ridden by someone like that,” her grandfather said, jerking to his feet. And now his face was no longer white, but a blotchy red. “I have to talk to Santiago. Right now. We had an agreement!”

“Sure. But it’s better to talk tomorrow,” Cassie said. “After the game. When you’ve had time to think about what to say.”

“But my horses don’t get treated that way. And Ginger looks like a bronc. It’s not fair to her.” He shook his head, a tendon in his neck bulging dangerously.

Cassie couldn’t pull her eyes away from that bulging tendon, imagining the flood of blood his heart was struggling to pump through his body. This was exactly the situation doctors wanted him to avoid.

“Don’t worry,” she said, trying to keep him calm. “We’ll call Santiago tomorrow and figure out when he can ride Ginger next. How about I look up the schedule of other games? Right now on my phone. There’s probably one here next week.”

Gramps wasn’t even listening. He twisted away and stomped toward the truck.

“There’s no sense going over there now,” Cassie said. “Santiago will be busy with the game. It’s best if you talk to him later.”

“The third chukka is almost over,” her grandfather said. “I can see him at halftime. He was supposed to be the only one riding that mare.” To Gramps, a man’s handshake was as good as a written contract. He honored his word and expected others to do the same. “If you don’t want to drive me,” he added, his voice hardening, “I’ll walk. But I have to check on Ginger. She’s upset. And I need to find out why Santiago switched riders.”

“No problem. I’ll drive you.” She pulled in a resolute breath, rose and folded the blanket. His urgency was understandable. A trainer’s livelihood revolved around his reputation, and her reluctance was mostly based on her desire to avoid Alex.

Right now, it was more important that she help Gramps stop fretting. He wouldn’t relax until he worked out another game date with Santiago. Besides, she didn’t care about Alex. After almost a decade, she was well over that pain—and totally happy with her life.

And a part of her almost believed it.





CHAPTER THREE





The sign above the door warned: ‘Club Members Only.’ Their memberships had expired long ago but that didn’t stop Gramps. Besides, they didn’t intend to linger. They just had to cross the patio to reach the horse grounds on the other side.

“Hello, Jake,” a man in a white seersucker suit called. “Hi, Cassie. Good to see you both.”

The man looked vaguely familiar and Cassie acknowledged his greeting with a polite wave. But her grandfather didn’t stop. He plowed through the spectators, intent on reaching the picket area on the other side. When she’d ridden here the clubhouse had been open to the public, in an attempt to attract wider interest and prove that polo wasn’t reserved for the wealthy. She’d managed to participate on a tight budget but that was only possible because Gramps had been able to retrain affordable horses.

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