Blue Haven (Sunshine & Shadow Book 1)

BOOK: Blue Haven (Sunshine & Shadow Book 1)
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Sunshine &
Shadow

 

 

 

 

 

Blue Haven

Novella by Alie
Williamson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright @ 2015
Alie Williamson

All Rights
reserved

Published by
POWWOW Books, Canada

Cover photography:
Monika Paterson

Models: Katie
Giroux and Tyler Bergeron

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

 

April
Cooper sat on the front porch of the large, three-storey lodge. It was one of
those perfect June days. She watched the wind lift a dried leaf from last
year’s autumn into a slow waltz through the air and listened to the horses
behind the barn, snorting and digging their hooves into the dirt, looking for
fresh shoots of sweet grass.

The ranch was a
haven for horses. Twenty-seven in total called Blue Haven Cattle Co their home.
Every year, when they were brought in off the range, they would gallop and play,
careening from fence to fence and bucking in the air, just happy to be home.
April loved every one of them.

Through the open
window behind her she could hear her parents making plans for the upcoming
Out-trek season—arguing, as usual.

Blue Haven Cattle
Co was a working cattle ranch with over 800 head of Red/Black Angus Cattle. Its
pastures stretched over great expanses of the British Columbian wilderness.
Even with four full-time ranch hands, the Coopers had a hard time keeping
control of their herd when moving them from grazing land to grazing land, so
they decided to open their ranch to the public.         

Since then, Blue
Haven had become the number one destination in Canada for cattle drive
vacations.

April enjoyed the
company of the guests. Most of them just wanted to ride and experience what
British Columbia had to offer. The ones who didn’t have that attitude were easy
enough to ignore.

Kip, one of the
ranch hands, came out of the lodge door.

“Hey! I wondered
where you’d disappeared to.” He sat down beside her, sliding an arm over her
shoulder.

April liked Kip.
He was a kind person, and he was gentle with the horses. Standing at six foot
four, he was the tallest of all the ranch hands and towered over her. Kip’s
dark hair was long and usually hung in his face. His blue eyes were always
partially hidden.

“I just needed
some fresh air,” April said. She snuggled closer into Kip’s shoulder and let
out a sigh.

Kip looked into
the kitchen window. “I’m sure they’ll shut up soon. Do you want to spend the
night in my cabin if they don’t? We can have a movie night.” He grabbed April’s
waist and tickled her. He got up.

“I’ll be in the
office if you need me for anything.

April shook her
head and watched him disappear. Their relationship was like a rollercoaster.
They were too much alike. At times it seemed perfect; he could read her mind
when she couldn’t get her words out, or know just how to fix things when she
was upset. But other times, they would be at each other’s throats, fighting
over something completely trivial that neither would remember in the morning.

Out of all the
ranch hands, Kip was her closest friend. But three boys and one girl made it
difficult for Hailey, the other girl, and April
not
to bond.

Hailey was a huge
flirt; she had made her way into each of the ranch hands’ beds, including
Kip’s. Somehow no feelings were hurt. That’s how good Hailey was at influencing
men around her. She was smart, witty and charming, not to mention beautiful,
with long, black hair and eyelashes so dark she didn’t even need to wear
mascara. She was tall, nearing six feet and was also gentle and calm around the
horses. She and Kip were the ones April gave the young horses to—the colts and
fillies that needed kind but firm training.

On nights like
these, April usually sat outside on the porch and Hailey often joined her. They
would discuss training tactics and famous techniques that they liked and hated.
But tonight, April was surprised by Caleb slamming down on the bench beside
her.

“Hey sweetie,” he
said, stretching out his long legs and cracking open the beer in his hand.

“Hey, Caleb.”

“What are you
doing out here?”

April nodded at
the open window.

“They’ll stop
eventually.” Caleb said. “They’re just stressed about tomorrow. It’s the
smallest group we’ve had in a while; I don’t know why they’re freaking out.”

“How many?”

“Three.”

“Three!?”

Caleb nodded and
took a long drink of Miller. “Like I said, it doesn’t seem like a big deal.”

 

The next morning
dawned bright and early. From her bedroom window April could see Caleb and Hailey
feeding the horses with the other ranch hand, Adam. Adam was the youngest, the
newest addition to the Blue Haven team. He was still learning.

She pulled on her
jeans and rushed downstairs. They had to be quick; the guests were arriving at
8:00 am.

April’s mom and
dad sat at the large, mahogany dining table, drinking coffee. They seemed to
have recovered from their argument and were smiling again. April grabbed a mug,
filled it with coffee and rushed outside to get the stalls cleaned and the
grain scooped before breakfast.

Inside the barn
she was immediately greeted by morning nickers and whinnies. She loved the
sound and smell of the horses. Inhaling, she went about her chores. Once every
horse was turned out and every stall was cleaned, April rounded up the others
and headed back to the dining room.

“Good morning!”
Kip was poking his head out of the kitchen door, adorned in a flattened chef’s
hat that belonged in a Halloween costume bargain bin. April smiled and sat at
one end of the long table.

“So, how’d
everyone sleep?” her dad asked.

Hailey immediately
began describing one of her dreams. April didn’t mind listening to Hailey’s
stories. At least no-one was asking her to step into the spotlight and describe
one of
her
dreams, even if it was a little boring to hear for the
hundredth time Hailey’s detailed account of the high school dance that she
missed, but wished she hadn’t missed, but felt like she was meant to miss.

Soon though, the
conversation turned to April and she was forced to snap back to reality.

“So April, did you
have a chance to look at the Master’s Degree brochures that I put on your
desk?” her dad asked. The look on his face indicated he already knew what her
answer would be.

“No.”

“Don’t you think
you should?”

“Dad, I’m busy.”

“With the horses?”

“Yes.”

“The horses are
not your future.”

April grimaced.

“You’ve only got
your Bachelors’ Degree.”

“There’s no rush,
dad. I’m taking a gap year.”

April’s dad
slammed his fist onto the table hard enough to make the cutlery jump. “Dammit,
April, we’ve talked about this. You’re going back to school in September and
registration is a month away. You have to pick your classes.”

“That’s enough,
Jack.” April’s mom set a pile of paperwork on the table beside her husband,
ultimately ending the argument and earning a glance of gratitude from April.

Her dad sighed and
began peering through the papers. His shoulders seemed to tighten slightly.

At that moment,
Kip brought out scrambled eggs, bacon, sausages and toast in big metal trays
and set them on the table. Everybody dug in, glad to have a distraction from
the obvious tension.

April’s dad
cleared his throat. “Right, well as you all know it’s the first day of the
season and we’ve got guests arriving in about an hour.” He checked his watch.
“Make that half an hour.”

“Who are they?”
Caleb asked with his mouth full of egg.

“Well, that’s the
thing, Caleb. This week is going to go a little differently. One of the guests
is um...different.”

“Are we doing the
Make-A-Wish Foundation thing again?” Hailey asked.

April’s dad shook
his head. “No...No, nothing like that.”

“What’s going on,
dad?” April asked.

“Well, he’s...I mean
he’s not...quite...” her dad struggled with his words.

“He’s a
celebrity,” her mom said.

“A celebrity?”
Hailey was immediately interested.

April’s mom
nodded. “We’ve known for a while, but we weren’t allowed to say anything.”

Hailey and Adam
were discussing the situation as Kip was finally sitting down.

“What’s everyone
so excited about?” he asked.

“A celebrity’s
coming today!” Hailey said. “To the ranch! Today!”

“Who?” Kip said.

Everyone turned to
April’s dad. No-one had thought to ask that question in all their excitement.

“Alexander
Mitchell,” he answered after rifling through the papers again.

“Lex Mitchell?”
Kip said. “He’s the hottest country singer around right now. What’s he coming
here for?”

“I heard he’s
supposed to be on tour,” Adam said.

“Never heard of
‘im,” Caleb mumbled, still shoving spoonful after spoonful of breakfast into
his mouth.

“He’s coming for
riding experience. He got a part in a movie that starts shooting in a couple of
months and he needs to brush up on his western riding. His manager said he used
to ride a lot, but it’s been a few years. April, can you pick him a horse?”

“What horse?”

“Well, his manager
said he’s experienced. But needs a reminder.”

April nodded. “Are
we still heading out tomorrow?”

Her dad shook his
head. “Since we’re supposed to be helping him get back into riding, we’re going
to spend tomorrow here at the ranch and leave for the Trek the following day.”

By 8:00 am, the
dining room was back to its clean self, and April was in the arena with Kip.
They were schooling the young horses. At least, that’s what they called chasing
each other around with lassos. Caleb and Hailey were in the barn somewhere and
April’s mom was sweeping the porch.

A large, black SUV
rolled slowly up the driveway.

“Hailey! Caleb!
Jack! He’s here!” Her mom practically threw the broom into the lodge.

April and Kip
wandered their horses slowly over to the fence to wait for the guests to get
out of the vehicle.

Kip smiled. “I
have a feeling this week is going to be interesting.”

April laughed.
“Interesting? More like awful.”

A man stepped out
of the driver’s side of the SUV and opened the backseat door. A woman got out
next. She wore a dark grey skirt suit and had a cell phone at her ear. She was
frowning. April smiled to herself; she wouldn’t find much cell reception in
these parts.

The last guest to
emerge was the man everyone had been waiting for. Lex Mitchell was the epitome
of tall, dark and handsome. He carried himself with a grace that could only
have been perfected by being in the public eye.

April could tell
he knew exactly how good looking he was. He wore dark sunglasses, and when he
removed them, April could see piercing green eyes. His skin was tanned from the
California sun, which made them appear even brighter.

Striding onto the
deck, Lex shook hands with April’s dad. He then took her mom’s hand and kissed
it, locking eyes with her and obviously enjoying the fact that she didn’t seem
to be able to look away. This man knew how to charm, and it was immediately
unnerving to April.

Kip and April
watched as Caleb helped the driver unload enough bags to last all of them a
month. The bags were pristine and Kip laughed out loud as Caleb lost his grip
on one. It fell into the dirt.

“Careful with
that,” Lex said with raised eyebrows. “It’s Louis Vuitton.”

As he turned
around, Caleb shot Kip and April a look that described what the week was going
to feel like for all of them. Hailey hurried after the celebrity, rambling on
about how much she loved his music and how talented he was.

Kip said, “As if
he doesn’t know that already. Look at him. How the hell is he gonna survive out
here?”

April shrugged.
“That’s not my problem.” She reached down and gave her horse a scratch on the
withers. “You’re my problem, right Charger?” Charger bobbed his large, black
head and April laughed.

Lex’s entourage
didn’t seem to be able to part with him for a second. Every time he moved, they
moved, like magnets. Lex’s assistant, Gretchen, was constantly looking for
things to fuss over. She seemed like a younger, more animated version of
April’s mom without wine to calm her down.

April had been
keeping her head down throughout the day, working with as many horses as
possible. She had managed to ride five colts and even had an hour to spend with
her own horse, Chinook.

Hailey had been
showing Lex Mitchell around the barn when April was tacking up Chinook. She
couldn’t help but be a little star struck. The celebrity had an air about him.
He certainly was charismatic, or knew how to pretend to be. She could tell he
enjoyed the attention he was getting from Hailey.

“So Mr. Mitchell,
what’s it like living the glamorous life of a musician?” April’s dad asked when
they all assembled around the dinner table later that day.

BOOK: Blue Haven (Sunshine & Shadow Book 1)
12.95Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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