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Authors: Bonnie Bryant

Cutting Horse

BOOK: Cutting Horse
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HOTHEADED ABOUT HOLLYWOOD

“I
had
noticed that you’ve been spending all your time with him,” John said pointedly, pressing his lips into a tight line.

Lisa clenched her hands in annoyance. “Why shouldn’t we? We’re his technical advisers for the movie. Not to mention his friends,” she said. She tried to keep her voice calm, but she could hear it quavering.

“His
best
friends, from what I can tell,” John shot back.

“Skye has a lot of friends,” Lisa said hotly. “He’s a friendly person—which you would have noticed this afternoon if you hadn’t been so bent on insulting him.”

“That Hollywood pretty boy could use a couple of insults to take him down a peg or two!” John retorted.

RL 5, 009-012

CUTTING HORSE

A Skylark Book / June 1996

Skylark Books is a registered trademark of Bantam Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and elsewhere
.

“The Saddle Club” is a registered trademark of Bonnie Bryant Hiller. The Saddle Club design/logo, which consists of a riding crop and a riding hat, is a trademark of Bantam Books
.

“USPC” and “Pony Club” are registered trademarks of The United States Pony Clubs, Inc., at The Kentucky Horse Park, 4071 Iron Works Pike, Lexington, KY 40511-8462
.

All rights reserved
.

Copyright © 1996 by Bonnie Bryant Hiller
.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher
.

For information address: Bantam Books
.

eISBN: 978-0-307-82555-1

Published simultaneously in the United States and Canada
.

Bantam Books are published by Bantam Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. Its trademark, consisting of the words “Bantam Books” and the portrayal of a rooster, is Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries. Marca Registrada. Bantam Books, 1540 Broadway, New York, New York 10036
.

v3.1

I would like to express my special thanks
to Caitlin Macy for her help
in the writing of this book
.

Contents

“W
ATER
,
SPONGES
,
SADDLE
soap, metal polish, oil, rags—I now pronounce us ready to clean tack,” Carole Hanson said. Bridle in hand, she sat down on the floor of the tack room at Pine Hollow Stables.

One of her two best friends, Stevie Lake, sat down beside her. “You forgot the toothbrush and toothpaste,” Stevie said.

“Toothbrush and toothpaste?” Carole asked.

Stevie nodded. “For the bits,” she explained. “Believe me: Three out of four horses surveyed preferred the taste
of cool mint gel to the taste of metal polish. Starlight and Belle included.”

Carole laughed. Starlight, a bay gelding, was her horse, and Belle, a half-Arabian, half-Saddlebred mare, was Stevie’s. “I guess that’s the least we can do for them, considering we won’t see them for a week,” Carole commented. It was summer vacation, and she, Stevie, and their other best friend, Lisa Atwood, were leaving the next morning for a week’s trip out West.

“So I guess we should clean Lisa’s tack, too, huh?” Stevie asked, the slightest note of reluctance creeping into her voice. Despite being horse-crazy like Carole and Lisa, Stevie wasn’t known for her love of barn work like tack cleaning and stall mucking.

Carole looked sternly at her. “Now, Stevie—” she began.

“I know, I know: Saddle Club rule number two, right?” Stevie guessed.

“Right,” Carole confirmed. She didn’t have to say more. The three girls had started The Saddle Club, so they knew its rules cold. Besides, there were only two: Members of the club had to be (1) horse-crazy and (2) willing to help one another out in any kind of situation. Rule number two was the reason Carole and Stevie were going to have to clean Lisa’s tack.

“I still don’t understand why Lisa didn’t show up for the good-bye ride,” said Stevie, soaping the reins of her bridle.

“It is weird,” Carole agreed. “It’s not like Lisa to miss an appointment—even an appointment with us.”

Whenever the girls went on a trip, they knew that no matter how much fun they had, they would miss their horses. So they always liked to take a long last trail ride before they left. Carole would ride Starlight, Stevie would ride Belle, and Lisa would ride Prancer, an ex-racehorse. Unlike Carole and Stevie, Lisa didn’t have her own horse, but she had trained Prancer for so long that it almost seemed like the same thing.

“Maybe Lisa’s mother dragged her to the mall for some new Western riding outfits,” Stevie suggested.

“It wouldn’t be the first time,” Carole said, shaking her head. Mrs. Atwood liked Lisa to look nice all the time, in perfectly matched outfits, so she was constantly taking her shopping for new clothes.

“At least we’ll all be together tomorrow morning for the flight out,” Carole continued. “And I can hardly wait to see Kate and the ranch and everyone. Aren’t you excited?”

To Carole’s surprise, Stevie didn’t answer right away. She wrung her sponge out thoughtfully and waited for a
minute or two before replying. “I guess so,” she said finally.

“You
guess
so?” Carole repeated, incredulous. “Wait a minute. Is this Stevie Lake I’m talking to? School’s out, you’re about to spend a week on your favorite dude ranch with your two best friends, riding and hanging out to your heart’s content, and you
guess
you’re excited?” Carole could hardly believe her ears. The girls had taken a number of trips out West to visit an old friend—and an out-of-town Saddle Club member, Kate Devine. Kate’s parents owned and operated a dude ranch called the Bar None. The Saddle Club always had a wonderful time there.

Stevie smiled at Carole. “You’re right. I know it’s going to be great. But sometimes I worry that if we
plan
to have fun, we won’t. You know?”

“Yes,” Carole replied. “I know what you mean. Every time we’ve gone out West, something incredibly exciting has happened, and it’s always been something we didn’t plan.”

“Exactly,” said Stevie. “Like the time the Devines needed us to help them save the ranch.”

“And the trip when we helped catch the cattle rustlers,” Carole chimed in. “Yup. We’ve had our share of adventures out there. But I think this trip will be great, too.”

“Okay. I just don’t want to curse things by
planning
all the fun we’re going to have,” Stevie insisted.

“Well, then we’ll just have to sit here and clean tack in silence because that’s all I can think about!” Carole said.

Just then the tack room door swung open and Lisa burst into the room. She stood there, red-faced and panting, for several minutes. Carole and Stevie stared at her. Finally she caught her breath enough to speak. “I just got off the phone,” she managed to blurt out. “And you’ll never, ever guess who just called me!”

“Skye Ransom,” Stevie said, trying to think of the most unlikely person for Lisa to get a call from. Skye Ransom was a teenage movie star whom the girls had met on a trip to New York.

Lisa’s jaw dropped. “You guessed!” she cried indignantly. “And here I was planning to keep you wondering for hours.”

“Skye Ransom?”
Stevie and Carole repeated incredulously. Stevie had been joking—she hadn’t believed for one second that Skye was the person who had called.

Even though the girls kept in touch with Skye, he didn’t usually call out of the blue to chat. He was a very busy professional. He flew all over to make movies, and the rest of the time he was occupied with leading the glamorous life of a young star in Hollywood.

“He wanted to say hi?” Carole asked doubtfully.

Lisa grinned. “I guess you could say that. He did tell me to say hi to you guys,” she said. “Of course, I told him that he could wait”—Lisa paused dramatically—“and do that in person!”

“In person?” Stevie and Carole cried. Now they were utterly confused. Unless Skye planned to show up in Willow Creek, Virginia, that night, they would miss him. They were due to fly out early the next morning with Kate’s father. Frank Devine was a retired Marine Corps pilot who flew a private plane part-time. The girls tried to time their visits so that they could hitch free rides with him.

“Lisa,” Carole asked gently, “have you, um, by any chance, forgotten that our trip starts tomorrow?”

“Yes,” Stevie said, chuckling, “unless Skye’s planning on checking into the Bar None, I don’t see how we’re going to meet up with him.”

“Oh, he’s not planning on checking into the Bar None,” Lisa said.

“Well then?” said Stevie.

“He’s already there!”

Stevie and Carole looked at one another wildly. “You mean Skye Ransom just happens to be taking a vacation
at the Bar None the same week we are?” Carole demanded.

Lisa started to giggle. “Not exactly.”

Stevie stood up and put her hands on her hips. Obviously, Lisa had news—good news—but she was making them extract it from her piece by piece. “All right, Atwood, out with it! What’s the story?”

“Okay, okay. It’s too good to keep secret. Skye Ransom is filming a movie at the Bar None!” Lisa cried.

It took a minute for her words to sink in. Then Stevie and Carole let out a huge whoop. Before they could barrage her with questions, Lisa sat down with them on the floor and told the whole incredible story. “It all started a few months ago, but I didn’t want to tell you in case it didn’t work out. Skye called me and asked if I could recommend a ranch where they could film a Western he’s going to be in. Naturally, I said the Bar None. But I never heard anything more about it. I thought maybe the movie got canceled.”

Stevie and Carole nodded. So far, everything made sense. Skye had called Lisa because he knew her a bit better than he knew them. Lisa had hung out with him on a trip she’d taken to Los Angeles with her mother. The fact that Skye hadn’t called her back was normal, too. As
he had told them, Hollywood was a crazy place. Movie projects got abandoned all the time, sometimes even when they were far along. So it was no wonder that Lisa hadn’t given the conversation a second thought.

“Anyway,” Lisa continued, “this morning I was dressed to come riding when the phone rang. I picked up, and a voice said, ‘Last night I watched the sun set over the Rockies.’ It was Skye! It turns out that the producers flew out to see the ranch, and they loved it. I guess the Devines were thrilled, too. They’re getting a lot of money, and it will be great publicity for the Bar None. The filming started yesterday!”

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