Millionaire's Shot

By: Bev Pettersen



Most well-trained polo ponies cost at least forty thousand, and a competitive rider needed a minimum of four horses, along with a support system that included transportation and capable grooms. Gramps had always found her horses off the track, picking up Thoroughbreds who either weren’t fast enough or simply didn’t want to race. Often they’d been as cheap as five hundred dollars.

“Hello, Cassie.” A woman’s long fingers wrapped around her arm. “What are you doing here? Thought you’d moved to sunny California?”

Cassie nodded, remembering playing polo against the brunette, a divorcee with two sons. But the woman’s name drew a blank. “I’m just home for a couple weeks,” Cassie murmured. “It’s good to see everyone.”

“I’m married again.” The woman’s voice contained a note of triumph. “To Jonathon Stiles. You must remember him. He’s President of the Board.”

“That’s great. Congratulations.”

“What about you? Husband? Children?”

“No,” Cassie said, her voice amazingly level. “Keeping busy with horses.”

“Indeed. Well you look exactly the same as when you were a groom here.” The woman’s eyes swept over Cassie’s jeans and now she sounded almost spiteful. “Lots of changes here. The Club made a ton of improvements after you left.”

“Yes, it looks a lot bigger.” Cassie peered over the woman’s shoulder, keeping an eye on her grandfather as he maneuvered around the tablecloths. He didn’t look sideways at the seated patrons and strode with a single-minded purpose. She didn’t want him talking to Santiago without her. Gramps was often too blunt, especially when it involved his animals.

“The clubhouse isn’t just bigger,” the woman said. “The horses and players are much more talented…you know, compared to when you used to play.”

Yes, the brunette’s smile was definitely spiteful. Cassie still couldn’t recall the woman’s name—Jocelyn maybe—and she didn’t want to waste any more time listening to her blather. Gramps was almost out of sight.

“Luckily the days of picking up cheap Thoroughbreds from the track are gone,” the woman went on. “We have a committee that steers members toward appropriate mount selection. We don’t want to risk injuries, especially with the quality of our players. The Sutherland team is amazing now. Actually, anyone who rides here has to be good—” The woman gave a pointed pause. “Not like before. And we only rely on qualified horse trainers now.”

Cassie had developed considerable patience working with a variety of needy movie stars, both adults and children, but this woman had just slurred her precious grandfather. Gramps was the best trainer she’d ever met, including her current boss, and she wasn’t going to stand back and let anyone insult him.

“That’s wonderful the players are so good here now,” Cassie said. “So you don’t play at the Club anymore?”

The brunette’s eyes narrowed as if struggling to process the comment. Then she gave a haughty sniff. “I certainly do play. I have a plus two ranking now, only one below my husband and his brother. We won the Family Tournament the last three years in a row. Maybe some day you’ll be able to watch. I’m sure my husband could get you a pass.” Her gaze lowered over Cassie’s jeans. “For the tailgate section of course.”

“Great,” Cassie said. “Those fans there are always the most knowledgeable.”

The woman opened her mouth to retort but Cassie cared too little to stand and spar. She definitely wouldn’t be around to watch the Jonathon Stiles team compete on Family Day. Once, that had been her dream. To have a family of her own. To ride with her grandfather, with Alex…

Turning, she scanned the crowd for Gramps. His denim checkered shirt should be easy to spot in this glamorous section. But he was out of sight. Didn’t matter though. She knew his destination. The ponies were tethered to the right of the clubhouse, and Santiago and his team would be gathered there, grabbing a breather before the second half.

Of course Alex might be there as well. Unlike many players, he always oversaw each of the Sutherland ponies, not relying solely on his grooms. That sense of responsibility had been one of the things that had drawn them together.

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