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Authors: Miralee Ferrell

Tags: #Horses, #Equestrian, #Riding, #English, #Trail-riding, #Jumping, #Hunt Seat, #Dreams, #Western

Mystery Rider

BOOK: Mystery Rider
13.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
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Horses and Friends Series

A Horse for Kate

Silver Spurs

Mystery Rider

Blue Ribbon Trail Ride
(Spring 2016)

To Kate, my darling granddaughter.

I hope by the time you're old enough to read these books, you'll love horses and reading as much as I do.

Chapter One

Upper Hood River Valley, Odell, Oregon

Summer, Present Day

Kate Ferris sprawled on the grass next to the newly painted paddock fence on her parents' farm. “Thanks for your help, guys. It sure goes faster with more than one person working.” She shot a sideways glance at Melissa Tolbert, still barely able to believe the girl who had always been so snotty at school had shown up and offered to help. “You're not bad at slapping on paint.”

Melissa leaned back on her elbows and grinned. “Even if Colt didn't keep his word to not splatter me with it.”

Freckle-faced Colt Turner removed a long piece of straw from between his lips. “Hey, you said not to make you look like the rest of us, but I didn't make any promises.”

Tori Velasquez, Kate's best friend, rolled her eyes. “We should get the brushes cleaned and the rest of the paint closed up and put away before you two start fighting again.”

“Not fighting.” Melissa arched one blonde brow. “Just discussing.”

“Whatever.” Tori smiled. “I was kinda wondering …” She eyed Melissa.

“Yeah?”

“Well, I never got to see those spurs you won while showing Capri. I don't suppose you've got them in your back pocket or anything.”

Kate snorted a laugh. “Now that would be funny—no, not funny, painful. Melissa wouldn't dare sit if she did. Could you bring them over sometime so we can all see them?” Pivoting toward Melissa, Kate was surprised at the girl's suddenly serious expression. “Of course, you don't have to. It's not a big deal.” The last thing Kate wanted was for the recent truce between Melissa, herself, and her two best friends to be ruined.

Melissa turned away for a minute, then back. “I'll do better than that. They really should be yours—or at least belong to the barn, since it was your horse I rode, Kate. How about I bring them over and give them to you?” she asked, her face earnest.

Kate shook her head, her long brown braids swinging. “No way! Mom and Dad would never agree, and I don't either. You won those spurs fair and square. You gave me the blue ribbon to put on Capri's stall door, and that's good enough. If you hadn't been such a good rider, Capri wouldn't have won the championship. There's no way I'd have made her jump that well.”

Spots of pink appeared on Melissa's cheeks, and she ducked her head. “Okay. Thanks.” She raised her eyes and stared at each of them in turn. “So, are you guys entering the Fort Dalles parade this summer?”

“Huh?” Kate lifted one brow. “I only moved here in March. I'm not sure I know what or where that is.”

Tori poked Kate in the side with her elbow. “Up the river at The Dalles, silly. The rodeo and parade are for Fort Dalles Days, 'cause that's what the town was at first—a fort, way over a hundred years ago. It's pretty cool. They have a carnival, rodeo, parade, and other stuff, and it lasts a week or so.” She turned to Melissa. “But why would any of us want to enter the parade?”

Colt sat up straight, and his blue eyes brightened. “The barn. Right, Melissa? You're thinking Kate and her parents should do something in the parade to advertise the boarding stable here?”

Melissa shrugged. “Yeah, why not?”

Kate wrapped one of her braids around her finger. “It's way too hard and expensive to build a float.”

Melissa nodded. “Right. But how about riding your horses and making banners to put over their hindquarters, behind their saddles? You could even dress them or yourselves up if you wanted to. Cowgirls”—she shot Colt a look—“or cowboys … or just wear your English riding gear, and Colt can be the cowboy. It doesn't matter so much what you wear, but I think it's a good idea to be in the parade. It's a cheap way to let people know you're open for business.”

“I like it!” Kate gazed at each of her friends. “So, are you guys in? Do you want to ride your horses in the parade and help us advertise the barn?”

Tori's dark-brown eyes widened, and she pulled back. “I don't know, Kate. What if my horse gets scared at all the noise, and I can't handle him? I'm not an expert rider like Melissa, or even as good as you or Colt.”

Melissa waved her fingers. “Hey, I wasn't trying to push in. I only suggested it for you guys. You don't need to include me.”

Kate tipped her head. “You aren't getting out of it that easy, Melissa Tolbert. This was your idea, so you're stuck with us, since you seem to know so much about what we're supposed to do.”

A shrill tone sounded in Melissa's pocket, and she took out a cell phone. “Sorry, guys. My mom. I'll be right back.” She pushed to her feet and walked a few yards away, keeping her back to the group. Her voice dropped, but a light breeze pushed her words toward Kate and her friends. “Yeah. Just hanging out with those kids from the barn. No big deal. I can leave if you don't want me here.”

Colt leaned forward and whispered to Kate and Tori, “Her mom was pretty pushy about her earning the most points at the horse show. I wonder if she'll want Melissa helping us. We're not exactly rich or anything. She might not want to hang around.” He contorted his face into one of his trademark comical expressions.

Kate laughed. “I wondered that too.” She sobered. “And to be honest, whether this
new
Melissa will last. From what she said to her mom, it doesn't sound like being here is a big deal to her. I want to trust her, but after the way she treated us at school and then bossed us around when she came to the barn, I'm not sure I can.”

“I think we need to be nice to her,” dark-haired Tori replied. “She didn't have to help with the fence or give us suggestions for the parade. How about inviting her to our sleepover tonight? We could start planning what we want to do for the parade.”

“I think that's pushing things too fast,” Kate said. “I agree with Colt. We're not in Melissa's circle of friends, and I doubt she'd even want to come. How about we ask if she wants to be part of our parade group and nothing more for now?”

Someone's throat cleared behind the group, and they all turned. Melissa stood, frowning, several feet away. “Are you talking about me?”

“Sorry, Melissa. We were talking about the parade and wonder­ing if you'd want to help.” Tori paused. “We were thinking Colt could be in charge, since he's the only guy.”

Colt raised his hands and laughed. “No way. I'm no organizer, but I'm guessing Melissa would be good at that kind of thing. I vote for Melissa.”

Tori clapped. “I second it!”

Kate nodded. “It's decided. Melissa's the head of our parade committee, if she agrees.” She exchanged glances with Tori. She knew what her kindhearted friend was thinking. They needed to invite Melissa to come tonight. It was the right thing to do. But Kate bet they'd end up being sorry.

“Seriously? You guys want me to help?” Melissa, seemingly rooted to the ground, gazed around the small semicircle.

“Yep.” Kate smiled. “But don't take it as too big a compliment. You might end up being sorry you ever agreed. If you'll do it, and our parents agree, then you're it.”

The uncertainty in Melissa's green eyes turned to acceptance, and a hint of joy seemed to shine through. “Right. So when do you want to start planning?”

Kate and Tori looked at each other. Colt was coming to the party for popcorn and a movie, then planned to go home while the two girls stayed up in Kate's room talking and giggling. Did Kate really want to include Melissa in their private party when she'd been such a pain in the past, dissing them and being so condescending? Tori gave a tiny nod. Kate sneaked a glance at Colt, who barely shrugged one shoulder.

Melissa searched Kate's face. “What's up? Am I missing something?”

“Nope. You're not going to miss a thing. In fact, if you're free tonight, we'll start planning after we eat a big bowl of popcorn. You wanna come to my house tonight?”

Melissa stared at Kate as if stunned. “With all of you?”

“Yeah. Me, Tori, and Colt. We were going to have a sleepover, but I don't know if you'd want to do that.”

Colt nearly choked on his straw and blew it out of his mouth. “Hey, now. You're going to ruin my reputation. I am
not
staying for the sleepover. Just the food and a movie—unless we change it to food and talking about the parade. Got it?”

Kate giggled. “Like my parents would allow a guy to stay the night, or like we'd want you to.” She wrinkled her nose. “No offense, Colt, but your socks stink when you take your shoes off, and no matter how nice you are, we don't want any guys crashing our girl time.”

“Good!” Colt heaved a huge sigh. “You had me scared for a minute there. But I'm in for popcorn and planning, if everyone else wants to do that.”

Melissa nodded slowly. “Okay. I know my mom won't care. I'll come for the popcorn and to talk about the parade, but I don't think I can stay long—not for the sleepover anyway. I've got something else I need to do tonight … and honestly, I'm not sure you guys would want me around that long.”

Kate jumped in. “We didn't say that, Melissa. I wasn't sure you'd feel comfortable hanging out with us for a longer time—you know, after all that's happened in the past. But you can if you'd like. Really.”

“Thanks …” Melissa hesitated. “But not this time. I really am busy later tonight.”

A small smile flickered across her lips, as if she had a secret she wasn't telling. Kate winced inwardly. She'd seen that same expression before when Melissa was scheming something that wouldn't be fun for the rest of them. She and Tori had been on the receiving end of the wealthy girl's meanness too many times. As for Colt, he seemed to ride above all the ruckus, not letting any of it bother him.

Did I make the wrong decision inviting her?
Kate now wished she hadn't. Sure, Melissa had come over and helped paint the fence, and she seemed genuinely sorry for the snobby way she'd treated them before.
Being nice for a day or two is one thing
, Kate thought.
But sometimes people don't change, even if you think they have.

The last thing Kate wanted was to bring more trouble into her own life, much less Tori's or Colt's. They had enough to do with getting the Ferris family's horse barn up and running with paying customers.

Kate settled into the couch with a bowl of popcorn and grinned at her friends, excited they'd made the decision to come and talk about the parade. Her mom and dad had said they'd consider allowing them to ride in the parade after they heard what ideas Kate, Tori, Colt, and Melissa came up with, so at least they hadn't said no first thing.

Kate clicked the remote and turned off the TV. “That was a good movie, but we'd better get back to planning. Melissa, you're in charge, so you should take over.”

Melissa's blonde curls bounced with excitement. “I've been thinking about it all day. First, we need to make banners to drape behind our saddles with the barn name. Second, we need to come up with colorful costumes we can wear, or our horses can wear—something that will draw attention. We could wear our riding outfits, but will anyone really notice us if we do? Isn't that too”—she made air quotes—“
normal
?”

Colt slumped back against the couch. “I hope you don't mean doing something dumb like dressing up as
Arabian Nights
or fairy-tale characters. That would not be cool. I don't see why I can't be a cowboy riding a horse. After all, it is a parade for the Fort Dalles Rodeo.”

“I get your point, Colt,” Tori added. “But Melissa might be right. Lots of people ride horses in parades—the rodeo princesses and clubs—and pretty soon you hardly notice them. Maybe we do need something a little different to stand out.”

“But where would we get costumes, and how would we pay for them? And what kind of banners would we make?” Kate pondered a minute. “Paper would rip too easily, and I'm no good at sewing. I've seen horses with silk banners and professional lettering, but we can't afford that. It's a great idea, but we have to make sure that whatever we decide will work.”

“I see what you mean,” Melissa said. “Our regular riding gear would be cheap and easy, but do we really want to look cheap?” She tossed her head. “I sure don't.”

Tori sighed and shot a glance at Kate. “Maybe we could think of a way to earn money for nice banners or costumes. I agree that we need something that catches people's attention.”

Colt nodded. “That might work. If you girls want to do a bunch of baking, we could have a bake sale.”

Kate raised her brows. “And what would the boy be doing while the girls are baking?”

Colt smirked. “Licking the bowl and doing quality control on the goodies.”

Tori smacked his arm. “More like washing the dishes and doing publicity.”

BOOK: Mystery Rider
13.68Mb size Format: txt, pdf, ePub
ads

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