Hope for a Champion (AU,M/M,ADULT) - Chapter 6C - 10/8 [WIP]

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LuckyMiss
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Hope for a Champion (AU,M/M,ADULT) - Chapter 6C - 10/8 [WIP]

Postby LuckyMiss » Tue Dec 10, 2013 10:12 am

Hope for a Champion
By Erin (aka LuckyMiss)

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Thanks for the banner, Never Knows Best!


Summary: A stable girl and horse trainer are each faced with several obstacles, including rocky relationships, scandal and foul play, on their road to becoming stars in the horse racing world. Will they overcome them to become champions?

Disclaimer: If I owned 'Roswell,' would I be writing fan fiction?

Rating: Adult

Spoilers: None! This is completely and totally AU. The initial idea is based off the Thoroughbred book series, written by Joanna Campbell, though I’ve altered everything else.

Author's Note: This was a story I started a long time ago and never finished. I looked for it everywhere online to see if I could restart or rewrite it, but I had no luck. And then I stumbled upon a disc from 2003 entitled ‘Writing’ and found all of my old Roswell fics. So this, at the bones, is my original story, but it has been updated. Because, let’s be honest, a lot of things have changed in the last 10 years… and I’ve grown up a lot, and it shows in my writing. So, for those of y’all who read this in the beginning, I promise it’s going to be a little different. And if you’re still around from 2003, kudos. And let’s celebrate because we have been around for a while!

I've been posting this story at CID for almost a year now. However, I've wanted to share it with y'all for a long while and am finally making the move on it. So here's the deal: the story is M&M-centric, but there are other CC couples thrown in and who play roles in moving the story along. I'll be posting parts weekly (more than likely on Mondays or Tuesdays), unless otherwise noted for holidays.

I hope y'all enjoy this!

* * * * *

Prologue


She loved the smell of the stable.

Whenever she would walk into the barn, she felt as though she had gone to heaven. She had loved horses since she was a child, assisting her father in his small training operation when she was old enough to walk the powerful Thoroughbreds to and from the track. Those days were over now, though, and she was lucky to be where she was today.

The scents of the horses and the freshly polished leather were intoxicating, and she craved visiting the stable at all hours because of that. It reminded her of her childhood; of her blissful innocence. It felt like home, and to this day, provided a safe space for her. And words could not describe her feelings when she was around the powerful animals she adored and worked with every day.

Maybe that was the reason why she became a stable girl. She went by many names: a groom, a caretaker who helped raise the horse and made him shine, literally, but the end result was always the same, and she never received any credit for her hours of hard work. Every morning, she arose at 4 a.m. and was at work by 5, grooming and feeding numerous Thoroughbreds around the stable and preparing them for their daily routines, which usually included a workout for the younger horses and plenty of pasture time for the retired animals. She did not get a break from her work until 8 a.m., when she trekked into town for classes at the local university.

She wasn’t complaining, though. She lived and breathed horses, and it was more than she could have ever asked, especially given her past.

If those little truths about her job weren’t the deciding factors, they definitely added into her decision of coming to work here.

She loved her employer, who happened to be one of her best friends and a rising star in the professional horse racing world. Liz Parker was simply amazing with people and horses, and she had grown close to the older girl throughout the years, initially bonding over horses.

Liz was only a few years older than she but had so much more experience. Liz grew up on a horse farm in the Bluegrass State and had learned most, if not all, of the skills she possessed at her childhood home. Her father, Jeff Parker, was a big name among horse breeders in Kentucky, and her mother, Nancy, trained several of the foals Jeff bred. Because of this, Liz had the real world skills necessary to make it in the industry. And, more importantly, she didn’t have to start her climb from the very bottom rung of the ladder by becoming a stable girl at some corporate racing stable.

Maria met Liz in high school when they were both bright-eyed and bushy tailed. They were fast friends, even though Maria was a freshman, and Liz was a senior. They had attended the same college, and as soon as Liz graduated, she made her debut on the world stage with a bang, sweeping several races with one of her father’s horses who she trained. Unbeknownst to the racing world, Liz picked up several tips and tricks from her mother during her formative years, and she had been tapped by her parents to slowly take over their breeding and training operation, as both desired to retire sometime in the near future.

Shortly after Liz’s debut, she had earned enough money to build her own training facilities, which she fittingly named Daydream Acres. Liz’s entire job and success seemed like a daydream. When Daydream Acres had opened its doors three years ago, thanks largely in part to Liz’s parents moving their racing and breeding stock to Daydream and Liz’s continued success, Maria frequently visited, thrilled for her closest friend and slightly jealous of her success in the industry Maria was dying to be a part of. Liz offered her a job almost immediately; a job where she could live on the farm and commute to school whenever she had class. Maria had jumped on the opportunity without a second thought, much to her mother’s dismay.

Maria relished her days at Daydream, spending as much time as she could with Liz and soaking up as much knowledge as possible.

Life was great for Maria DeLuca. She loved her job, and she loved most of the people around her.

But sometimes, she wanted more from life than just being a stable girl. Sure, she had the opportunity to lead great racehorses out to the track, as well as groom and feed them, but she never played a role in the planning of the race or anything else except the polishing of the athlete. She didn’t want to be an ordinary helper for the rest of her life. She wanted something more than her current job could ever offer her.

She wanted to be a star, too. Not just the person behind the scenes who played a single role in the horse's life. It wasn’t that her job was unimportant — because it was — but she wanted more than it could be.

She knew where she wanted to be and what she wanted to do. It was just a matter of her pursuing that dream no matter what and pushing through the uncertainty and fear that accompanied it. Sure, she could follow Liz's footsteps any day with ease, especially since Liz had expressed interest in Maria learning more about training, but she had a completely different dream, one that was all her own.

She wanted to become a jockey — the person who rode the horse to victory; the person who risked her life to ride like the wind; the person who worked relentlessly to ride in the most prestigious race in the entire world that was merely a mile and a quarter long, a two minute sprint around a track to glory. She wanted that more than anything else in the world.

And she loved it, despite the risks she would have to take to achieve her goal.
Last edited by LuckyMiss on Wed Oct 08, 2014 4:27 pm, edited 15 times in total.
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"There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star."
-Henry David Thoreau-

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Chapter 1 - 12/18/13

Postby LuckyMiss » Wed Dec 18, 2013 10:04 am

Happy Wednesday, everybody! Wanted to pop in and drop off another part of this story for y’all, and I hope everyone is doing wonderfully… and hopefully isn’t crazy stressed with the upcoming holidays. This week has been a wild one for me, and it’s only halfway over!

Thanks to everyone who read and left feedback:

Eve: So excited to have you joining me on this! When I first got into this horse stuff as a kid, I kept a running list of ALL kinds of terms, so I understand and appreciate the need for a dictionary. (I recommend checking out http://www.equibase.com/newfan/glossary-full.cfm. They’ve got a TON of information, and if you've got questions, just ask!) And CID is Candy is Dandy. It’s a Candy board.

Carolyn: Yes, this is a VERY different everyone. Excited to hear what you think as the story progresses.

Pom: Thanks so much!

I hope y’all like this new part, and I’ll be back early next week with another new part!

Erin


Chapter 1


Maria DeLuca sang loudly along with the radio as she drove her old maroon Jetta home from class along the winding roads in northern Kentucky. The windows were down, a soft breeze blowing, and she smiled as she took in rolling green countryside lined with white painted fences. She lived in Horse Country, and she was beyond thankful her school day was over.

Maria made a sharp right turn into the farm’s main entrance, following the dusty gravel road down the hill and into the stable yard. She slowed down as she steered her car through the area and directed it toward the two-story apartment building on the western side of the property, specifically built for all the workers who spent their days and nights at Daydream Acres.

She guided the vehicle into her parking spot then shifted it into park, taking a second to drink in her appearance in the rearview mirror. Her honey-colored hair hung around her face, having lost all its body during one of her many breaks throughout the school day. She pulled a ponytail holder off her right wrist and quickly threw her hair up in a messy bun on the top of her head, grimacing as she took another look at her face and noticed the shadows beneath her bluegrass-colored eyes. Going to school all day will do that to anyone, she told herself.

She shook her head, climbing out of the old car without a second thought and made her way toward the main stable to check up on her favorite horses, as well as get the scoop from the other workers of what she had missed that Monday.

As soon as she entered the barn, she was greeted with a high-pitched, “Maria!” that resounded from one of the broodmare stalls all the way down at the end of the wood-lined row. A few horses stuck their heads out their stall doors and whickered at the petite girl, one reaching its head out and nibbled on a fly-away piece of her locks that had fallen out of her bun, asking for a treat.

“No carrots for you right now, Missy,” the blonde laughed as she stroked the mare’s forehead, dropping a quick kiss on her nose before making her way down the dusty aisle. Maria’s senses were filled with the scent of horses, leather, and manure. Ah – her favorite smells. She could even stomach the manure because it meant there was a horse in the vicinity.

She turned and greeted her sweaty friend who was running down the aisle, carrying an indiscernible object in her left hand. “Liz! What's up? Have I missed anything exciting today since I’ve been at the university for like, forever? I have the most horrendous tale to tell you about my calculus class, too, since that horrible professor seems to enjoy keeping me away from the stable.”

It was true. Maria worked full-time at Daydream, but she was also finishing up her undergraduate studies. Mondays were the day when Maria attended class all day — from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. She was extremely disgruntled that she was forced to miss the workouts and many of her daily chores, even though she was thrilled to be getting closer to earning her degree. It was a long time coming, and it certainly didn’t help that Maria had so many responsibilities at the stable, which was the cause of her delayed graduation. It was no different this beautiful March afternoon, and Maria did her best to hide her annoyance as she took in the appearance of her friend, who was drawing nearer.

Liz skidded to a stop in front of Maria, her shoulder-length brunette hair moving involuntarily and her brown eyes sparkling. Her faded jeans were clearly a few days old, and Maria didn’t want to point out the pieces of straw stuck in her friend’s hair. Liz frowned, running a hand through her wild locks. “You know China Doll?”

Maria nodded slowly. Of course she knew China Doll. She loved China Doll. Everybody loved China Doll. Maria was the horse’s groom, and Doll just happened to be her favorite mare. She was expected to foal any day now, and everyone at the stable was anticipating the birth of a champion. It wasn't often that Liz was able to afford the breeding fee of a stallion from a prestigious bloodline who had fathered so many winning racehorses.

“She dropped her foal this morning after you left.”

“And...” Maria motioned for the brunette to continue, anxious to hear about the new champion who had been born.

“And the foal isn't doing very well,” Liz continued, frowning. “She’s really sick... pneumonia.”

Maria gasped, her hand flying to cover her mouth and tears formed instantly in her wide eyes. “Oh no! The poor baby!”

“The vet doesn’t think she'll make it through the night unless she gets something substantial in her stomach. And from the looks of things,” Liz stated, holding up the full bottle as proof of the situation, “her future is pretty grim.”

“Oh my God,” Maria whispered softly. “Is there anything I can do to help?”

Liz smiled sadly at her friend, shaking her head slightly with a frown marring her features. “We were forced to separate her from Doll because she's so sick. We’ve been trying to bottle-feed her, but she still isn't doing well. She isn’t interested in the bottle, no matter how hard we try. Michael even attempted to feed her earlier, and she refused. She’s flat-out resisted all of our help, and things are not looking up.”

Maria chuckled softly under her breath despite the seriousness of the situation. Michael Guerin was not one of her favorite people, to say the least. He was the same age as Liz — 27 — and he came from a similar background, except he was raised on the backsides of tracks all over the place with his foster-dad-turned-adopted-father. Michael was an assistant trainer, coming to Daydream Acres nearly two year ago at Liz’s invitation. He was going to be amazing one day, especially after he broke away from the drama that had embroiled his family during the previous years, but Maria would never admit this, especially to him. And while Michael had the personality and attitude of a pile of manure, Maria had to admit he wasn’t hard on the eyes… even if they weren’t on friendly terms due to a falling out that occurred nearly three years ago. Maria’s feelings were still hurt by his words and actions after their initial fallout, which she could now begrudgingly admit was her fault. Neither was truly over what happened, though, as he often went out his way to intentionally antagonize her. She grumbled beneath her breath at the thought, then she was taken back to the situation at hand, and Maria sighed aloud.

Liz studied her friend, a hopeful look crossing her features. “We haven’t given up yet, Maria. Maybe she’ll like you better? You can go and give it a try if you’d like.”

Maria nodded slightly, lifting a hand tuck a piece of her honey locks back into her wild bun.

“Does that mean that you'll do it?” Liz asked hopefully, picking up a pitchfork that was lying on its side near one of the doors of a stall with her free hand, gazing up at her long-time friend.

“Sure,” Maria consented, nodding her head slightly.

Liz handed Maria the full bottle she had been holding and a brilliant smile crossed her lips, “Thanks, Maria. She's in the last stall on the right… it's two down from her mom's. You're awesome! And good luck!” Liz called back to the blonde as she trotted down the aisle to check on one of the many Thoroughbreds she was training and then muck out stalls.

Maria spun on her heel, facing the direction of the newborn filly’s stall. She truly despised when Liz chose Michael over her, even though she hadn't been at the stable all day because of her classes.

She couldn't wait until she graduated because she would work at the stable 24/7 without the nuisance of schoolwork or having to travel into the city for class. She would be there whenever they needed her assistance, which would hopefully be often. Only a few more months, Maria reminded herself as she jogged down the row of stalls.

China Doll whinnied a greeting as Maria ran past her box.

“Hey Doll,” Maria stated to the horse as she flew by, not stopping to give the dappled gray mare the treat she had grabbed on the way out of her little apartment.

Maria stopped abruptly when she reached the last stall on the row, panting slightly from her run down the long corridor. Slowly, she crept up to the door and peeked over, finding a beautiful, tiny dark gray filly with a star decorating the middle of her forehead staring back at her from where she lie in the middle of the straw bedding.

“Hey there,” Maria whispered sweetly as she let herself into the stall. The filly's ears perked up as Maria entered and inched closer, finally sitting down softly on the hay next to the sickly horse. “I have something good for you. I promise you’ll like it if you just give it a shot.”

She lowered the bottle that she held in her hand to the filly's mouth, forcing it open skillfully with her thumb and pointer finger, then attempted to get the small horse to drink.

However, the foal had a different idea. Instead of taking the bottle, she spat it out and looked up to Maria with a perplexed expression on her face.

“I know that you don't want to eat right now because you’re not feeling good and that you're probably scared because you’re away from your momma, but you really need to drink this,” Maria spoke as she again tried to convince the filly to take the bottle. “It will make you feel better. I promise, sweet girl.”

No luck, again.

Maria sighed, unwilling to give up. “Please, you know that we all love you… you just can't give up! You have such a bright future ahead of you. You can’t just quit!”

The filly shook her shapely head, huffed, then lowered it down onto the straw.

Maria heard a chuckle come from the stall door and turned her head to find Michael Guerin staring her down, clearly amused at her latest attempt to feed the sickly animal.

Michael’s dusty brown hair stood on end as his piercing eyes took in her features as she struggled to climb to her feet. She petted the filly’s forehead once more before marching over to the young man and glaring at him, her jaw set defiantly.

“What do you want?” she questioned, annoyed, as she frowned at him. “And what are you laughing about? A little bird told me you weren't able to get the filly to drink anything, either.”

“You know you aren't going to be able to help that filly,” he said, shaking his head solemnly and running a hand through his already bristly hair, making it stand even more on end. His voice lowered an octave, taking on a serious tone as his bourbon eyes met Maria’s bluegrass. “If she doesn’t want to drink, then there’s nothing that we can do about it.”

“I'm going to get her to drink this,” Maria stated, stomping her left foot in annoyance and holding the bottle up in the air, a glimmer of hope still shining in her eyes. “Just you wait and see.”

“And I'm married to Jessica Biel,” he snorted. “Yeah, right. She’s not going to make it through the night. If she doesn’t want to drink, she’s not going to do it, and you need to accept that. You win some, and you lose some, especially when it comes to sickness. God knows I learned that lesson the hard way. And God knows we all need to say some prayers that she doesn’t infect others. The filly’s a lost cause, as much as I hate to say it.”

“Unlike you, Michael Guerin, I’m not one to shy away from a challenge. I don’t run away from problems.”

His eyes narrowed as he cut her off, “That’s not how I remember it.”

She raised her eyebrows, ignoring his statement and continued, “This filly is going to live, and she's going to become a champion, despite what you have to say!”

Michael smirked at her. “Whatever. You keep on living that dream, stable girl. That’ll be the day.”

And with those words, he sauntered away before she had a chance to come back with another remark.

Shaking her head, Maria turned back to the filly who was still lying on her side and blowing soft breaths onto the straw bedding. Maria slowly walked across the stall and took a seat next to the foal. “Girlie, I know you want to live. You have to. So do me a favor and drink this. I'm not going to hurt you and that you can trust me. Seriously, girl, give it a try. It won’t hurt you. I promise.”

The filly's ears perked up, and she whinnied weakly as she lifted her head off of the hay.

“That's my girl,” Maria smiled as the filly reached for the bottle and took it into her tiny mouth with ease. “That's my girl…”
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"There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star."
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Hope for a Champion (M&M+CC, Adult) - Chapter 2 - 1/29/14

Postby LuckyMiss » Wed Jan 29, 2014 1:08 pm

Happy Wednesday, everybody! I feel bad about falling off the face of the Earth for the last month, but between the holidays, travel and being sick three times in the month of December, there wasn’t much I could do. I’m officially back, though, and I’m going to be sharing this story weekly on Wednesdays, so get excited!

Thanks to everyone who read and left feedback for this last part:

Keepsmiling7: I always find it fun to learn about something new, so I hope you enjoy this new horse-related education!

Eve: Glad you’re excited to be learning, too, and that you’ve gleaned some knowledge from the Australian series MacLeod’s Daughter. I’ve never heard of it, and now I’m hoping they have it on Netflix so I can check it out!

Here we go…


Chapter 2


Maria’s eyes fluttered early the next morning as she felt something fuzzy sniffling at her right ear, then nudging at her cheek and the sun shining into her… bedroom? She awoke with a start, rolling over to see what was touching her face.

Gazing down at her was a set of chocolate brown eyes belonging to a gray face whose forehead was bespeckled with a large white star. The filly was standing shakily on her four legs and looking expectantly down at Maria. She was clearly hungry. And, most importantly, she was alive!

The filly softly poked her velvety nose against Maria’s cheek again, tickling her, then jumped back just as quickly when Maria twitched her nose, giggling at the sensation of the foal’s soft coat touching her skin.

“Hmm?”

The filly let out a shrill whinny, and Maria climbed to her feet while holding out her hand to the foal, allowing the animal to tentatively nuzzle her palm and grinning to herself as she finally realized what had happened. The filly drank all of the solution and had made it through the night. And then, Maria had fallen asleep in the stall.

The filly had lived!

“Hey there, baby girl,” she crooned to the gray foal who was leaning into Maria’s frame with all her weight, her nose still buried in Maria’s palm.

From behind her, she heard Liz chuckling, “Have a good night's rest?”

Maria grinned as she turned to face her friend. “I got her to drink the formula,” she stated, holding up the empty bottle triumphantly as her evidence. Then sheepishly stated, “So what if I accidentally fell asleep on the job?”

Then she joined in, giggling with Liz.

“So I see,” Liz admitted, her eyes falling on the filly who was standing next to Maria, nibbling lightly on her red gingham button-down shirt. “She even stood up. God, Maria. We didn’t think that would ever happen!”

Maria grinned, petting the filly’s forelock. “She's going to be all right.”

“I hope so,” Liz nodded. “She looks a whole lot better than she did yesterday, too. Michael went to call the vet so that he can check her just to make sure. Looks like those booster shots and your magic with the bottle did wonders for this girl.”

“Sounds good. She's still sick, but she's going to recover and become a champion like we all expect her to be,” Maria ran her hands through the filly's silky midnight mane. “You’re going to be just fine. Aren’t you, girl?”

The filly whickered ever so softly in agreement, and the two girls laughed at her reaction – she was already showing her intelligence, which was supremely important for a winning racehorse. Things were looking up for Doll’s foal.

She heard Michael call from Liz’s office down the aisle, “Vet's on his way!”

“Thank you for saving this girl's life, Maria.”

Maria grinned at her friend’s praise before stating, “It’s no big deal, really. Just another day’s work as a stable hand at Daydream Acres,” as she flipped her long hair jokingly.

Liz snorted at Maria’s comment and shook her head. “You’re hopeless. You know that, right?”

“Yup,” Maria winked and leaned against the stall door, swinging her arm lazily over it and peering down the aisle to observe what was happening in the stable that morning.

“So,” Liz began, “You wanna come and watch the workout this morning? Triple Star, that big bay colt from New York, is running for the first time today. It'll be interesting to see him run and to meet his owners. After all, you are going to be grooming him.”

“Sure, I'd love that,” Maria admitted as she stroked the filly's nose one last time, bending to drop a kiss on the foal’s forehead, then followed Liz out of the stall to the training arena. “But first – a question for you. Why the hell didn’t you wake me up when you got to the barn this morning? I have so much to do!”

Liz just shook her head. “You just looked too cute lying there on the straw with the filly. I could not bring myself to wake you up.”

“Oh, thanks bunches,” Maria returned sarcastically, picking a piece of straw out of her golden locks with a grimace.

“Yeah, I know I’m a good friend.”

“Whatever.”

* * * * *

Triple Star's owners were already standing near the stadium seating that lined the backstretch of the outdoor training oval when Liz and Maria approached them. They were chatting with Michael, who would be assisting in the training of the giant horse. They didn’t seem to notice Michael’s unfortunate personality, however, and talked amicably with him like he was the nicest guy in the world. Oh, if only they knew, Maria thought to herself, recounting several ways Michael had wronged her during the past few years, let alone the things said that spearheaded their current animosity.

Maria studied the young man and woman, genuinely intrigued at the two people who were entrusting the training of one of their animals to Liz and her team. The man was tall and dark haired, though he was an inch or two shorter than Michael’s 6’3” and a statuesque blonde woman stood next to him, nodding in agreement every once in a while as the the male owner and Michael talked. Maria could have sworn the woman was a supermodel, as she clearly had the style, the beauty, and the height.

When the woman saw Liz, she smiled and ran to them, wobbling only slightly in her high heeled shoes over the dirt ground, a smile spread across her flawless face. “Elizabeth Parker! It's been so long. How the heck are you?”

She wrapped her arms around Liz in a hug, and Liz returned the gesture enthusiastically.

“Great, Izzy, just pretty busy. But you know, it’s my job. I'm doing wonderfully,” she grinned, turning to face Maria while asking the tall blonde woman. “This is my friend, Maria DeLuca.”

The model shook her head and extended her hand to the smaller woman, “Nice to meet you, Maria. I'm Isabel Evans, the owner of Triple Star.”

“Nice to meet you, too,” Maria stated as she shook Isabel's hand. “We’re really looking forward to having Star here with us.”

“Wonderful,” Isabel smiled. “I hope that he likes it here as much as we do.”

All three girls laughed slightly at Isabel’s last comment before Liz spoke again.

“Maria is going to be Star's groom.”

“That's wonderful! I'm so glad that one of your friends is going to be grooming our Star. I'm sure that he'll do just wonderfully under Maria.”

“Thanks.”

“No problem.”

There was a moment of awkward silence.

“So... Izzy?” Liz asked, suddenly sounding unsure of herself. Maria and Isabel both turned to face the brunette girl with a question in their eyes.

“Hmm?”

“Who's Mr. tall, dark, and handsome? A boyfriend you didn’t tell me about?”

Isabel guffawed at that. “My brother, silly! You don't remember Max?”

Liz looked sheepish. “I guess not... After all, it has been a while,” her voice trailing off.

“Well, we're just going to have to introduce you to him,” Isabel stated as she grabbed Liz's hand, then immediately reached for Maria's, as well, and led the two women to meet her brother.

She cleared her throat, interrupting Michael's conversation with Max.

Michael narrowed his eyes, clearly annoyed, while Isabel’s brother cordially asked, “What do you want, Izzy?” perplexed by his little sister’s behavior, raising an eyebrow at the two girls that his sister had in tow.

“Max, I want you to meet Liz Parker, Star’s new trainer... As you know, she was, like, one of my best friends in middle school before we moved to New York. And this is Maria. Maria is going to be Star's groom.”

“Nice to meet both of you,” Max smiled as he shook both young women's hands.

“So, where is Star?” Maria asked. She was curious to see the horse she had heard so much about, and since she had been otherwise sequestered the previous night, she didn’t get a chance to check out the colt before turning in.

“We sent Kyle to get him,” Michael stated.

Maria nodded slowly. Kyle Valenti wore multiple hats at Daydream. He was a groom, but he also was an exercise rider and a jockey. He rode many of the horses during training and some of them in their races whenever the time came. Maria really didn't know him that well, as Kyle had been hired a few months ago, but he seemed like a nice addition to their tight-knit staff, and they got along wonderfully.

Her musings on Kyle were interrupted by Michael’s harsh voice. “You know, since you weren’t up early enough to get him ready for this morning,” Michael smirked ever-so-slightly as he baited her.

She frowned at Michael, narrowing her eyes, but he was too involved picking up his conversation with Max to notice. So she rolled her eyes instead and turned back to talk to her friend and Isabel, who was clearly catching up and reminiscing about times passed. Since Maria didn’t know Isabel in middle school, she tuned the two ladies out and awaited Star’s arrival.

A few minutes later, a short, dusty-haired man and a giant bay colt with two significant white stockings on his front two feet walked out of the stables and headed across the green to the shoot of the training track.

“Hey y’all!” Kyle greeted them in his Texan accent with a wave, approaching the small group of people gathered around the railing with his mount in tow.

“Morning, Kyle.”

“Hey Kyle.”

“Hi!”

“So, what's the plan for this morning?” Kyle asked, stroking the huge horse's neck as he stood patiently, every so often whoofing his breath on Kyle’s shoulder and nickering.

“I was thinking that we could jog him for a mile to get a feel for him,” Liz pondered, looking for the owners’ approval. “After all, this is his first day here. We don’t want to rush anything. Is everyone okay with that?”

Max and Isabel nodded together, consenting to Liz’s plan.

“All right, I'm all over that,” Kyle stated, grinning at the small group of watchers as he pulled his helmet onto his head. “Maria, will you hold Star while I mount?”

Maria silently nodded and took the reins of the bay horse while Michael sprung Kyle into the tiny racing saddle that had been placed on the colt’s back.

“Ready?” Kyle asked.

No one objected. Kyle waved as he steered the colt easily onto the track and picked up his pace to a trot.

Maria wished she could be in his shoes. She wanted to be out there, chasing the wind like Kyle did numerous times every morning. She knew she wanted to ride racehorses, but she was scared, partially because of an old promise and partially because she knew the risks involved, even though she wanted with her whole heart to become a jockey. She needed to graduate first, then she would find the courage to chase her dream.

Star flew through his workout and all the spectators were impressed. This horse was going to make something of himself if the cards fell right. And Maria had a good feeling that with Liz’s guidance, Star would make a name for himself.

“I'm pleased with the way that he's turned out,” Isabel admitted to Liz after the horse breezed by them. “At one point, we weren't so sure if he was going to become anything at all. God, his initial training was a nightmare.”

“Oh, don't you worry,” Liz laughed. “He’s going to be something, all right.”

As Kyle and Star strode off the track with confidence, Maria snapped out of her daze.

“Maria,” Kyle called her. “Will you hold Star while I dismount?”

“Sure thing,” she stated automatically and grabbed the reins as the Kyle tossed them down to her, holding the horse’s head and keeping him still once more.

Kyle hopped easily back off the colt and grinned at her, “Thanks. Would you mind if you took him back to the stable and get him cooled off?”

Maria shook her head and grinned at the jockey. “No problem, Kyle. It’s my job, after all, so thank you for helping me out this morning.”

“Anytime, Doll,” he winked at her.

Maria giggled, then gave a tiny wave to the colt’s owners and Liz as she led Star away from the crowd and back to his stall.

“Thanks, Maria!” Kyle stated as she guided the racehorse into the stable.

“Nice to meet you!” Isabel and Max called at the same time.

Liz said something to her, but she couldn’t understand since they were nearly inside the stable at that point, and she was sure Michael made a crack about her being the stable girl, but she didn't care.

She led Star back to the barns, cooled him off, then proceeded to give him a bath, and finally put him back into his stall, dumping his feed into his bucket and hanging it by the door of the stall before she left, making sure that he had enough hay and water to last the morning.

From Star's stall, she went directly to the filly’s, wasting no time. She entered the stall slowly, for the filly was sleeping peacefully on the hay, and sat down next to her. She sat there and stroked the foal’s soft coat while she thought about her life.

This filly was going to become a champion. She was going to make her one.

* * * * *

Later in the day, Maria smiled as she looked out upon the property of Daydream Acres. Liz had done a great job of building on her land. From the trail Maria was on at that very moment, the farm looked picture perfect. The two barns were standing proudly in the distance while the afternoon sun was bearing down on her and her mount. White picket fences lined the pastures and the riding trails, and Maria was sure this was what heaven looked like.

“How are you liking it on the farm so far?” she asked her companion as she urged on Bay Ghost, her favorite gelding who happened to be an ex-racehorse and was always up for a trail ride.

“So far, it’s not too bad,” the young man admitted, smiling at her as he moved his horse into a trot to follow Maria and Ghost down the wooded trail, taking in the views as each pondered their own futures and what it held.

Maria wondered what was going to happen with the filly, what would happen with Star, how well both would do, and just how much work she would get to do with them while she was their trusted groom.

Her reverie was broken by Kyle’s wry comment, “The sightseeing has been exceptional.”

“It could definitely be worse,” she laughed, her eyes twinkling as she turned her head to meet Kyle’s brown eyes, liking that she had invited him to join in on one of her favorite daily activities.

“What brought you here?” he asked her.

“Liz and I have known each other for years, and when she opened the farm, I basically dropped everything to help her out,” she shrugged as she slowed Ghost down to a walk so Kyle and Warrior could ride next to them.

“Must have been nice to get a job.”

“Oh, it definitely was,” Maria admitted. “Though my mom wasn’t too happy about me dropping out of college for it.”

Kyle let out a bark of laughter. “You dropped out of college for this job?!”

“I re-enrolled after that semester,” Maria rolled her eyes. “It wasn’t like I quit and didn’t go back.”

“Good,” Kyle nodded. “Because getting an education is important.”

“So where’d you graduate from?”

“West Plano High School, class of ’02.”

“No college for you, sir?”

“Nope,” he winked at her. “I was too good for that stuff, clearly. I went straight to the the racetracks and started riding professionally. And then I followed some girl to Kentucky, thinking she was the one, and here I am now.”

“Some girl?” Maria’s delicate eyebrows rose in question.

“Some girl who decided she didn’t want to be with a jockey long-term,” he admitted.

“Ah,” Maria responded. “Tough break, bud.”

“You’re telling me,” he stated. “But hey, I got a job at a farm, am making new friends and who knows? Maybe I’ll find the one sometime in the near future?”

“Maybe,” Maria teased.

“So what are you doing tomorrow night?” he asked boldly.

“I have no plans, just checking up on the filly and the horses and then probably nursing a carton of ice cream before calling it a night.”

“What about you and me enjoy that ice cream together?”

She grinned back at him. “That sounds wonderful.”

“Okay, good,” he winked at her. “Because if you had said no, this trail ride would have gotten really awkward really quickly.”

Maria giggled at that. “Don’t I know it?”

And the two fell into a companionable silence until Ghost snorted, swishing his tail eagerly, as he plodded along the trails.

“This is the part of the ride where Ghost and I will race it out,” she admitted to Kyle as he watched her petting the retired racehorse’s neck. “I’m so thankful Liz has him here for anyone to ride. He’s great…”

“The two of you race?”

“Don’t tell anyone this,” Maria mock-whispered, “But I kind of want to become a jockey. And to do that, I’ve been told you need to get experience riding a horse.”

“Whoever told you that is a sage,” Kyle nodded wisely. “Good advice. And let me be the first and not the last to tell you that I think you will be a fabulous jockey when the time comes.”

“Really?”

“Yes, really,” he grinned. “You’re comfortable up there on Ghost, and I’m going to help you out. So there.”

Her eyes widened in shock. “You mean it?”

“Maria DeLuca, you don’t know me well,” he started, “but I am a man who keeps promises. When I say I’m going to do something, I follow through. So believe me when I tell you that you’re going to become a jockey.”

“All right,” a huge smile spread across her face.

“So let’s race!” Kyle exclaimed, kicking his heels into Warrior’s side and urging the horse into a gallop suddenly, leaving Maria and Ghost in their dust.

Maria shouted, “Go!” to her horse, and they took off down the path after Kyle and his mount, gaining on the two as Maia leaned her weight precariously forward over Ghost’s neck.

Maria wrapped a hand in the gelding’s mane as they galloped down the grassy trail toward the stables, striding closer and closer to Kyle and Warrior as they drew closer to the stable yard.

Maria urged Ghost to find another speed, and the gelding responded to her whispers, lengthening his strides and flying past Kyle and Warrior before they reached the end of the trail, slowing to a trot as Maria lost herself in the moment and imagine what it would be like to be a jockey.
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Hope for a Champion - Chapter 3A - 2/6/14

Postby LuckyMiss » Thu Feb 06, 2014 10:09 am

Happy Thursday, everybody! It’s a beautiful day here, and we’re actually seeing snow for the first time all winter, so that’s kind of exciting! (Us Southerners don't see it often, so whenever we do, it's awesome... and terrifying to leave home, all at the same time.)

Thanks to everyone who read and left feedback on this last part:

Carolyn: I’m glad to hear you think the story is getting exciting! Yeah, Liz was relieved, huh? And yes, the trainers and grooms have busy days ahead, so we’ll be getting into that!

Just a heads up: Chapter 3 is a ridiculously long chapter, so I’ve decided to break it into a few parts for y’all. Today, the first part is being featured, which includes a flashback (in italics.) I hope y’all enjoy it!

And without further ado, let’s get on with the part…


Chapter 3A



Later that day after Maria’s trail ride, someone knocked on the door of her apartment, breaking her concentration while she was working on an extra credit assignment for her calculus class

“Coming,” she called as she rose from her seat at the secondhand wooden desk and slowly made her way across the room to the front door. It wasn’t much to speak of, but it was a place for her to live, and it was more than enough space for her alone.

She opened it to find Liz standing on her doorstop with a smile spread across her face.

“Maria,” the brunette stated, grinning at her friend. She pushed past Maria and made her way across the tiny room, plopping down on the faux leather sofa, making herself comfortable quickly as Maria backtracked and joined Liz on her recliner, which was located next to the couch.

“Liz.”

“So...” the other girl began.

“Why are you here?” Maria asked bluntly, quickly correcting herself with a giggle, “No offense, but you usually don’t come to my apartment in the middle of the afternoon without an actual purpose. What’s up?”

“Well, I just wanted to come by, and thank you for saving the filly's life. We're putting her back with Doll because the vet said that she was getting better and could no longer infect any other horses.”

“That’s great news!” Maria exclaimed. “I’m so happy to hear that she’s going to get better. I was so worried about her.”

“I know you were. That’s why you spent the night in her stall.”

Maria nodded.

“And I was wondering if you would like to help name her,” Liz paused before continuing, taking in her friend’s shocked face. “You know, since she really likes you, and you saved her life?”

“Oh,” Maria said, her surprise evident in her voice. She didn’t expect Liz to show up on her doorstep, asking what she thought they should name the foal who could potentially bring fame to their operation. “What kind of a name were you thinking?”

“Something... Maria-ish.”

Maria laughed. “Actually, this might come as a surprise to you, but I’ve been wondering about what kind of name she needs to have to be the champion we all know she will be,” she paused, looking for her friend’s approval. “Initially, I thought we needed to incorporate something from her sire — Unbridled’s Song — but maybe put a different spin on it,” Maria laughed nervously.

“You’ve got my interest, girl. What are you thinking?”

“What about Unbridled Hope? You know, since it looked like all hope was lost, but she made it through against the odds. And because we all hope she will make something of herself, especially now that she’s going to live.”

“That sounds wonderful,” Liz smiled warmly. “Hope. I like it.”

“I know, I know, Michael will think it's dorky, and he’ll probably make fun of me and sneer at you because you let me pick the name. Heaven forbid! A stable girl naming a future champion.”

“Well, actually, he was the one who suggested it,” Liz said with sincerity, chuckling to herself at Maria’s huffiness over Michael and his attitude toward her job. If only Maria knew…

“Are you serious?” Maria raised an eyebrow in question.

“Yeah, he said something about how he was amazed because the filly would not take the bottle from him or anyone else, but she easily accepted it from you after some convincing.”

“Right.”

“Maria...” Liz started, but the fiery blonde cut her off before she could say anymore.

“Don't 'Maria' me! You know I cannot stand that man. We have a history. Period. End of story.”

“Yeah, a secret history you’ve kept from your best friend,” Liz muttered beneath her breath.

“A history that you certainly know enough about to not want us in the same place,” Maria flung her hands in the air in frustration. “And you went and asked him to come to Daydream anyway!”

“He’s my friend, Maria, and he used to be yours, too,” Liz started, waving off Maria’s exasperated look as she spoke of the other trainer. “You know how hard it was when the virus hit their stock!”

Maria nodded, biting her lip. She remembered the day like it was yesterday.

* * *

“Maria, let me in,” he banged on the front door of her apartment. She stood on the other side of the door, perplexed. She had moved in a month before, and the walls were still bare and boxes still littered the carpeted floor of the space. She had a lot of work to do. And she had no idea why he was here or how he knew this was now her home.

“I don’t want to talk with you, Michael,” she stated crossly, leaning her head against the door and praying he left her alone soon.

“Well, I need to talk to you,” he started again, rapping his fist against the wood in vain and hoping to force her to open it before he woke any of her neighbors.

“You aren’t very creative, you know?” she called through the solid oak barrier. “This whole midnight conversation thing got old the first time. And you were the one to tell me we were no longer friends, buddy. I don’t know what you need or why the hell you are here, but you are clearly barking up the wrong tree!”

“They’re all dead,” was the response she got.

Maria flung the door open to take in her former friend’s appearance. His hair was wild — wilder than it normally was — and dark blue circles underlined his tired bourbon-colored eyes. His flannel button down was wrinkled, and his jeans had seen better days, smudged with dirt and God-knows-what-else.

She couldn’t help but ask, “Who’s all dead?”

“The horses. All the horses are dead.”

“Oh my God!” Maria exclaimed, turning on her heel suddenly to search for her boots. She generally left them by the door in case she needed to head out quickly, and she was having a hard time collecting her thoughts. Liz’s horses were dead. Her best friend needed her! “Liz’s? How do you know this and not me? I live here!”

“Not Liz’s. Mine. Mine and my dad’s.” He wouldn’t look her in the eye, and he studied her socked feet as if they were the most interesting things he had ever seen as she bustled around the minuscule living room in search of her boots.

“Oh God, Michael,” she paused before whispering and walking back to him. “What happened?”

“Equine herpes. They were fine a few days ago, and when we went in this morning, Maverick couldn’t use his hind legs.”

“And he was showing signs of severe neurological damage?”

Michael just nodded his head glumly.

“And when the vet came out, you got the bad news?”

“Every one of them got worse throughout the day.”

“They had to put down all five?” Maria’s voice cracked as she asked the question. Though they hadn’t been friends in quite some time, Maria knew those horses were Michael’s pride and joy. This couldn’t have been an easy thing to deal with for him or his father, and she couldn’t fathom their entire stock suddenly falling ill so suddenly like this.

He lifted his head slowly, unable to answer her question. He was unguarded for the moment, and his eyes were a study in misery. Her breath caught in her throat at the look he gave her.

“I’m so sorry,” she whispered, recognizing this was the first civil conversation they had shared in a little more than a year and a half. “Is there anything I can do?”

He shook his head miserably, his eyes full of sorrow.

“Why did you come here?”

“Dunno.”

“Do you want to come in?” she asked awkwardly, unsure how to treat this version of Michael who she hadn’t seen in a long time. They had been too busy ignoring one another then attempting to drive the other crazy through their actions for the last year and a half to have any kind of civil interactions.

“OK,” he simply stated and stepped around her as she shifted to the side to allow him entrance into the studio, closing the door softly behind him and wondering what the hell brought him to her doorstep.


* * *

“How could I not do something to help him out?” Liz asked. “He’s one of my friends, and he lost everything. He and his father, and they were lucky to make it out of that without declaring bankruptcy after the DuPrees went after them.”

“I know, I know,” Maria grumbled.

“So give him a break, Maria. God knows you’ve been given a break in the past, too. And,” Liz began as she got up from the couch and started making her way out of Maria’s home, “If I were you, I'd at least give him a chance. He's one of the good guys, and he has grown up a lot since college. You might notice it if you ever gave him the time of day.”

“Yeah, well, I’m not going to be spending any significant amount of time with the man unless you decide he’s going to train Hope. And I have a feeling you might want to keep Hope for yourself since she’s going to become something big.”

“Sure,” her friend smiled uneasily as she leaned on the doorjamb. “Let’s just drop it, OK?”

“Fine by me.”

“I hope that you have a good evening. Go on down, and give Doll and Hope some loving after you finish that school work.”

“You bet,” Maria stated as she wrapped her arms around her best friend. “Thanks.”

Liz pulled back and stared seriously to Maria, “No, thank you.”
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Hope for a Champion - Chapter 3B - 2/12/14

Postby LuckyMiss » Wed Feb 12, 2014 3:48 pm

Happy Wednesday, everybody! I hope life is going well for y’all and that this week hasn’t been too much of a beatdown.

As always, thanks to the lovely folks who left feedback and those of y’all who are reading along:

Carolyn: It really is terrible about Michael and his father’s horses. That was a major loss for them and an incredible setback.

Eve: No worries, girl! Yes, Michael and Maria have quite the history together, and while it might have one time been a good thing, it’s not much of one now. Yes, Max and Isabel have officially made their entrance, and we’ll see some more from them soon!

I hope y’all enjoy this part!

Chapter 3B


The next morning, Maria awoke at the crack of dawn. She rolled out of bed as soon as her bedside alarm started ringing, slamming the device with her right hand to turn off the ear-shattering noise. Without turning the lights on in the pre-dawn darkened room, she deftly located an old pair of jeans and a light button-down shirt — the perfect attire for a morning of grooming and feeding racehorses.

In the matter of five minutes, Maria had pulled on her old riding boots, grabbed a ripe apple from the kitchen countertop, and headed out the door of her little apartment, paying no mind to the barely-lightening sky as she strolled from the building just a little more than a quarter of a mile away from her final destination. When the barns were being built, Liz had insisted that her workers all have homes on the farm, so she commissioned two four-plexes to be constructed very close to one another and the barns. Liz even lived in one herself for the time being, and Maria was thrilled that Liz was her neighbor and that oftentimes, they met up on their walk to the stables in the morning.

She didn’t see Liz this morning, though, and pretty soon, she was at the wooden gate of the training stable. As she walked briskly into the structure munching on her breakfast, she took in the sights and smells of the horses and their tack. She was minding her own business when she turned the corner to cross to the next aisle of stalls and smacked into someone, the force of the impact causing them both to crash onto the dirt-covered ground.

“God, Maria.”

She looked up to find Michael scowling at her. Great, just great. This was the way she wanted to start off her day – getting yelled at by Michael Guerin. It had been a while since their last confrontation, but she knew this was the best kind of wake up call.

“You know what?” she started angrily, crossing her arms over her chest in a defensive manner.

“No,” he cut her off, hastily jumping back to his feet. “What the hell is your problem? Do you always not look where you’re going, or did you just forget that this morning?”

She glared back at him, beyond annoyed with his impromptu tirade, “I meant to knock you over, Michael. Yeah… I planned it out so I could start my day exactly like this! Because this is fun for me. Thanks a lot, you jerk!”

Tears started to form in her eyes against her will, and she turned away, embarrassed that Michael was making her cry. He hadn’t done this to her in years, and she would be damned if he got to see it.

She was doing fine until a strangled sob escaped her lips. She covered her traitorous mouth, embarrassed, and turned her eyes back to him, her watery ones meeting his clear amber gaze.

Michael had to have noticed her tears, but he didn't say a word about them. Maybe he wasn't that bad of a person, after all. But she wouldn’t admit it out loud. He wouldn’t be a good person in her books until he apologized for all the awful things that had transpired after one fateful evening. That would be the day.

“So...” he began awkwardly, shifting his weight as he dusted the dirt off his jeans and then offered a hand to help her up, “I'll see you at the training session with Star, right?”

“Sure,” she sniffled, begrudgingly taking his hand, pulling herself to her feet, then stabilizing herself before refocusing herself on her morning activities.

Michael Guerin, nice guy? She shook her head. The only thing she knew for sure about Michael Guerin these days was that he was her pandora’s box, and she would rather not go there.

“Bye.”

“Whatever.”

* * * * *

Once inside the stables and after she put her run-in with Michael behind her, Maria was rushing around, happily doing what she did best: spending time with the horses she loved and preparing them for their days, whatever might be in store. She fed Doll and Hope quickly, playing with the filly and her mother for a few moments, but she soon had to leave because she needed to groom Star and prepare him for workout.

Once Maria let herself out of their stall, she scampered to the other barn, where the racehorses, including Star, resided.

It took less than five minutes to cross the stable yard and enter the larger training barn. Liz housed 12 horses in the stable currently, and there were six empty stalls. Maria had a feeling they wouldn’t be for long.

“Morning, Star,” she greeted the handsome bay as she approached his ‘home.’ He whickered in response, happy to see her and knowing she had brought his breakfast.

“I'm just going to let myself into your stall, and I'm gonna make you look pretty. Sound like a good idea to you? ‘Cause it sounds like one to me.”

The horse, as if he could understand every word Maria uttered, bobbed his head and whinnied once more when she had entered the stall with a bucket of grooming equipment and his morning rations.

Quickly, she fed the colt, then she got to work while he munched on his grains happily. She brushed him, making his dusty coat shine in the early morning sunlight, cleaned out his hooves, and lastly, tacked him up, gently lowering the lightweight racing saddle onto his back.

“You ready to go, big guy?” she asked as she cinched the girth, and he sighed, knowing what was to come. “All right, let's get you to the training oval.”

They walked together to the oval where Liz, Michael, and Kyle were waiting for them. Liz was chatting with Kyle, no doubt briefing him on she wanted for that morning’s workout, and Michael was staring off into space, occasionally looking down at his clipboard while shuffling his feet back and forth as he listened to the other two.

“Good morning, Maria!” Liz exclaimed when she saw her friend, a bright smile spreading across her face.

“Morning,” Kyle commented, taking in Star’s appearance as Maria handed the jockey the colt’s reins. “He looks good.”

Michael just nodded in her direction and went back to studying his clipboard.

“Only the best for Star here,” Maria giggled.

“Lets jog him for a mile and sprint him for a third today. Okay, Kyle?”

“Sounds good, boss,” Kyle grinned at Liz.

“Boss, he says,” she muttered beneath her breath, chuckling and rolling her eyes.

“Maria, will you hold him?” Kyle asked, not waiting for an answer before he handed her the reins, and Michael helped him jump onto the horse's back.

“Thanks, doll,” he winked down at her.

It was Maria’s turn to roll her eyes as she laughed, “You know me.”

Kyle grinned at her once again, chuckling slightly, then rode away as Maria took her respective spot on the rail next to Liz and Michael, awaiting the horse's workout.

* * * * *

Maria was cleaning out Doll and Hope's stall when someone cleared their throat somewhere behind her. She turned around to find Liz staring into the stall at her work.

The brunette smiled at her friend and quipped, “Good job. Someone taught you well.”

“I’m sure my mother would be so proud to hear that. Especially since she’s coming to grips with this being my ‘official’ job after graduation this summer,” Maria giggled, then finally asked, “What’s up?”

“I need your help,” Liz whispered, grabbing a pitchfork and letting herself into the empty stall to help Maria with the shoveling.

“Okay… with what?” Maria was genuinely curious. Liz hadn’t acted like this for quite some time, and her interest was piqued. She was in a tizzy, and the last time this happened, it was about a horse.

“Umm,” she paused, taking her time in choosing how she wanted to word her next statement. Finally selecting a safe route, she brushed a sliver of brown hair behind her ear and began, “We have this dinner thing tonight with Star's owners, and well, dates are necessary for the evening.”

“Sorry, Lizzie, but I cannot be your girlfriend tonight,” Maria chuckled as she recalled a few of the times she played that role. “I do realize it worked like a charm in college with those creepy stalker guys, but you're out of college now, and these are people who you work for. I’m all for gay rights, but is this the kind of message you want to send to your bosses, especially since you’ve known Isabel for forever? Also, I’ve kind of already got plans.”

“No, Maria,” Liz shook her head, laughing at her friend’s response. “I wasn't meaning for me.”

Maria's mouth fell open in shock. She had no words, especially after the conversation she and Liz had shared yesterday about Michael and their history.

“Max asked me out, and Isabel is coming, too. Except Michael said he got a weird vibe from her when she was here earlier this week. I told him I'd fix him up with one of my friends. He didn’t want to go to dinner alone because he thought he would become, and I quote, ‘Another victim of hers,’ whatever that means.”

“Wait for a second there, chica,” Maria started excitedly. “You’re telling me that Mr. Tall, Dark and Handsome is your date for the evening? Like, a date date?!”

Liz couldn’t hide her excitement, and she beamed before nodding. “I don’t know what to do with myself, Maria. I didn’t remember him at all from our childhood. We were talking, discussing a business dinner tonight when he just flat out asked me to be his date.”

“Oh my goodness!”

“I know!” Liz exclaimed. “He’s so cute, Maria. And I haven’t the slightest clue what he sees in me or why he would even fathom asking me out. I mean, I’m just a racehorse trainer.”

“Girl, you are crazy,” Maria responded immediately. “How could he not notice how beautiful and smart and wonderful you are?”

Liz blushed at Maria’s compliment.

“Own it, chica,” the blonde grinned up at her friend. “Tonight is going to be so much fun!”

“Yeah, which is why I need your help,” Liz started again.

“We can get a makeover done with plenty of time to spare, Lizzie. No worries, girl. I’ve got you covered.”

“That’s great, Maria,” Liz started. “But that’s not the favor I was asking for.”

Maria looked perplexed. “So what is this favor that you’re speaking of? Certainly it’s not what I am thinking.”

“So, it’s not going to be just me at the dinner tonight. Obviously, Max is coming. But since it is supposed to be a business meeting, Isabel and Michael are coming along.”

“I don’t understand why either of them would need a date,” Maria started. “I mean, I guess it would be like a double date. But Michael’s never been very choosy about his women, as you well know. And Isabel… well, poor Isabel is your friend, so you’re going to have to give her the 411 on Michael before he tries something.”

“Actually, that’s what I wanted to speak to you about. Michael thought Isabel was completely over the top, and he told me later that he didn’t want to be stuck one-on-one with her. He said he was getting a weird vibe from her.”

Maria snorted at the thought, then she shrugged. “She seemed really nice. And as far as I’m concerned, people like her are hard to come by in the world today. He didn’t seem to be getting a weird vibe from either when I saw them talking. Hell, his ego was practically inflating as she talked to him. How could he get a weird vibe when that was happening?”

“Well, you didn't see her after you left,” Liz chuckled. “It was kind of interesting. Apparently, she saw you as a threat and didn't flirt with Michael then or something, but whatever the case, she hit on him a lot once you were gone.”

“Yeah, right. And anyway, I thought that things between the trainer and the client was like, taboo.”

“Don’t remind me,” Liz sighed, running a hand through her hair.

“Oh, Lizzie. I didn’t mean it that way,” she retracted her previous statement. “I’m sure you and Max will have fun. You two can be the exception to the rule. And I guess Michael and Isabel will be forced to have fun, too.”

“No, you don’t understand,” Liz pleaded with the blonde as she leaned against her pitchfork. “I have never seen Michael so impassioned about something before. Please, Maria. All that you have to do is play his girlfriend for one night.”

“No.”

“Why not?”

“Does the word ‘asshole’ mean anything to you?”

“C’mon, Maria. I don’t know what your problem is with Michael, and I would maybe understand if you told me what the fight was between the two of you. I can’t figure it out for the life of me, and you won’t tell me a damn thing. Neither will he! So I’m asking you once and for all: Why? Why are the two of you so combative? What happened between you that was so horrible you both have a hard time being civil when you’re in the same room? Answer me, and I won’t ask you to help me out tonight.”

Maria sighed, running a hand through her loose hair, groaning. “I…”

Liz motioned for her to continue.

“It’s an old fight, Liz, and it has nothing to do with you. Please just drop it. Neither of us wants to rehash the past.”

Liz crossed her arms and narrowed her eyes at Maria’s statement. “Have you maybe thought that things could get better between the two of you if you did rehash the past and talk over whatever issues are clearly holding both of you back from the friendship you once had?”

“It’s never gonna happen, Liz.”

“Says who?”

Maria flung her hands up in the air in exasperation, letting out a loud sigh.

“I don’t want to talk about it, Liz. Please respect me in wanting to keep the awful things that happened between us to myself. Please.”

“Maria, I love you like a sister. I really do. But I don’t get what happened between the two of you, and I thought your relationship might get a little better after he moved to Daydream to come work. Clearly I was wrong because it seems to have gotten worse, if that was even possible!”

Maria worried her lip, studying her best friend. She owed Liz an explanation after all these years, she really did, but she didn’t even know where to begin or what her friend would think of her after she learned the truth.

“You really want to know?”

“I want to know so I can know how to fix it, Maria,” Liz whispered, her eyes shining with unshed tears. “You’re my best friend, and I know something horrible had to happen between the two of you for you to want to keep that to yourself for so long.”

Maria sighed, respecting Liz’s answer. “I’m only going to tell this once, Lizzie, and then we will never speak of it again. Okay?”

Liz nodded succinctly. About frickin’ time. “Should we go somewhere more private?”

“Probably so,” Maria started. “This tale isn’t one for the light of heart.”

“Oh, goodie. You know how much I love stories like that.” And with that, Liz linked her arm around Maria’s and led the smaller girl out of the stall and down the aisle to her office.
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"There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star."
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Hope for a Champion - Chapter 3C

Postby LuckyMiss » Fri Feb 21, 2014 2:16 am

Happy (early) Friday morning, everybody! I hope all is well and am dropping this part off quickly, as this week has been bonkers!

As always, thanks to the lovely folks who left feedback and those of y’all who are reading along:

Carolyn: We’ll hear a bit more about Liz and Max’s future date in a bit… but first, more information about what transpired between Michael and Maria a few years back…

I hope y’all enjoy this part!


Chapter 3C

Liz and Maria made their way into Liz’s tiny office located inside the training barn. The office, itself, was nothing special. It was located in the middle of the structure, and being in the middle of the barn, it was built with all-wooden walls and no windows. The interior of the room smelled of leather and cedar, and the space was dominated by an antique desk that was given to Liz by her father when Daydream opened its doors three years before.

Liz trotted across the room, dropping into the old leather chair located behind her desk, and she gestured for Maria to have a seat in one of the two plush arm chairs located in front. Maria unceremoniously dropped in one of them, staring at her hands before staring her tale.

“You remember the night after Michael won his first race?”

“Of course I do,” Liz nodded. “We all went out to celebrate at O’Brien’s afterward. That was a crazy night!”

“In more ways than one, Lizzie.”

Liz quirked her eyebrow at Maria’s statement. “How so?”

Maria sighed, gathering her thoughts before beginning. “That was my sophomore year. I wasn’t old enough to get into O’Brien’s, so we had to sneak me in. Michael, of course, was the mastermind behind the plan, and we somehow convinced the doorman to look the other way while he escorted me inside because there was no way in hell anyone would ever believe I was 21.”

Liz chuckled at that. It was true. Not only was Maria incredibly petite, but she had a youthful face, and they ran into the problem of getting Maria inside the bar often while she was in college because of it.

“So we were at the bar, we were all celebrating, and it was great. You were there. You know. It was when the night started winding down that things got a little more… intense.”

She cleared her throat awkwardly.

“Wait a minute,” Liz began. “How could they have gotten intense? You were the designated driver and made sure we all got home safely.”

“Yeah…” Maria’s voice trailed off. “And you remember that I took Michael home last?”

“Oh yeah,” realization hit Liz at that moment. “Oh my God. Something happened between the two of you that night! I had always wondered…”

“That’s one way to put it…” Maria’s voice trailed off as her thoughts drifted back to that fateful night almost four years ago.

* * *

Maria shifted her car into park as she pulled into an empty parking spot outside of Michael’s rundown apartment complex on the outskirts of town. The lot was barely full, and there was no movement outside, as it was nearly 3 a.m. A feral cat ran across the landscape suddenly, causing Maria to jump, and she sighed as she realized what it was.

She turned to her friend, taking in his disheveled appearance before asking, “Do I need to make sure you make it up to the door? Or am I all right to leave you out here and trust you’ll make it into your apartment without passing out on your doorstep?”

Michael hiccuped in response, turning his face away from hers. Maria scrunched her nose at his reaction.

“Apartment it is,” Maria grumbled, flinging open the door to her old Jetta and walking around to the passenger door, opening it to help him out of her car, her hand holding his as she attempted to pull him from the seat unsuccessfully. With a major effort, Michael swung his legs out the opening and placed them shakily on the ground, looking up at her with bleary eyes as he shifted his weight and rose to his full height, towering nearly a foot over her. Her breath caught in her throat as he flashed a grin down at her — he really was gorgeous, not that she would ever tell him that.

She looked up to his handsome face before nodding to herself. “All right, Michael. I’m gonna need you to help me on this walking bit because God knows I cannot support your weight.”

And with that, she wrapped an arm around his waist and did her best to guide him three flights of stairs up to his apartment.

“All I’m gonna say is you need to work on dropping a few l-b’s if you plan on having me drag your sorry carcass up those stairs again, buddy,” she quipped, reaching into his front right pocket to grab his keys.

“Which one?” and he selected the golden key, shakily inserting it into the lock and turning, flinging the door open carelessly and pushing his way inside.

“It’s time to put you to bed, Michael,” Maria sighed. She was more than happy to take care of a drunken friend, but since Michael rarely got drunk, he was hard to read when intoxicated. She studied his face before asking, “You gonna help me put you in bed?”

He gave a short laugh to that, “Only if you let me put you to bed, too.”

“Whatever you say,” Maria came back, once again wrapping an arm around her friend. With her opposite hand, she slammed the front door closed, flipping the deadbolt, and then proceeded to guide Michael through his one-bedroom apartment that was barely large enough for him to live inside. The bedroom door was already open, and Michael’s floor was littered with various T-shirts, a few pairs of jeans and two pairs of boots.

“You have a hard time deciding what to wear tonight?” she chuckled, straightening him as much as she could before once again guiding him toward the bed, allowing him to unceremoniously flop down on the cushions. He landed in a sitting position, and he began pulling off his T-shirt, revealing a smooth, sculpted chest.

She unconsciously licked her lips before asking, “Want me to leave for this part?”

“Nah,” Michael responded, sobering slightly to give her a lopsided grin. “It’s nothing you haven’t seen before.”

Maria laughed nervously before waving her hand at him and brushing his drunken comment off. She supposed Michael’s statement was untrue, but she wasn’t sure she trusted herself. She had felt an attraction toward him more recently; the kind of attraction she didn’t want to allow herself to think about, especially since they had become such good friends.

Michael grumbled as he attempted to pull off his belt while still sitting on his unmade bed.

“It might be easier to get your pants off if you stood up,” she commented, laughing at her drunken friend’s debacle.

He followed her instructions, rising to his feet again, one eyebrow rising in interest as her hands came to rest on his hips.

“Now you can get your belt off,” she confirmed, attempting to unfasten his belt buckle before his hands landed on hers.

“I’ve got it,” he looked down in her eyes. “Thanks for helping me, Maria. You’re a good friend.”

Maria shrugged. “Pssh. Not a good friend. Just a friend. Because that’s what friends do.”

“Well, you’re really good at it.”

His statement made her grin, and at that moment, he pushed down his jeans with a flourish, only left in his boxer briefs as he straightened to his full height once more. She kept her eyes on his face, feeling guilty that she desperately wanted to rake her eyes over his body. That wasn’t right. He was her good friend, and he was drunk.

“Into the bed with you,” she instructed. “Do you want me to grab you a glass of water before I head out?”

He nodded, pulling the sheets back and then slowly sliding his long legs beneath them, sighing in contentment.

Maria turned to walk out of his room, making her way to the tiny kitchen. She opened the refrigerator to find a half-empty Brita water carafe, and she pulled it from the confines, simultaneously opening one of Michael’s three kitchen cabinets to find a tall, plastic glass. Smoothly, she poured the water into the cup, transferring the pitcher back into the fridge, closing the appliance and then making her way back across the living space to her friend’s room.

“Your water is ready,” she whispered, unsure if Michael would be awake when she poked her head back into his room. It had been a long time since Michael had been this drunk, and while she knew he was excited about his win, she wasn’t sure what brought this on. She had to make sure he was all right before she headed home.

Michael was sprawled across the bed on his back, his eyes closed. Maria crept into the bedroom and placed the glass of water on his bedside table before heading out.

“Maria?” he asked, his eyes opening just barely.

“Mmm?”

“Will you stay?”

Maria was shocked that Michael was asking her to stick around. The last time he was drunk, he practically pushed her out of his apartment before she could make sure he was all right.

“If that’s what you want, Michael,” she responded softly, unsure how to react and resisting the urge to blush. “I’ll just grab a T-shirt and camp out on the couch.”

“Will you stay in here with me?”

Maria paused before answering. She loved Michael. He was one of her friends, and for whatever reason at this very moment, he was asking her to stay — something he had never requested from anyone else in their group. Who was she to say no? After all, as well as being his friend, she had recently become his confidant or something like that.

“Okay,” she responded quietly, crossing the room to pick up an old Metallica T-shirt that was lying on the floor in the pile of discarded clothes. Maria quickly pulled down her skirt, standing only in her panties as she then unzipped her silk top, pulling on the T-shirt as quickly as possible before she climbed in bed with Michael. “You gonna give me any room here?”

He groaned and rolled slightly, allowing her a little more space on the large bed.

“Goodnight, Michael.”

“Goodnight, Maria.”


* * *

“So that’s it?! You just went to sleep?” Liz exclaimed, unable to control her curiosity. She was finally learning what happened between her two friends years ago, and she couldn’t help but admit that she was excited to hear the tale, if not to only just know what had happened, but also to see if she could help in some way get them back to where they had been.

“Michael was drunk, Liz,” Maria started, shaking her head at the memory.

Liz scrunched her eyebrows together. “So, wait. You’re telling me Michael was drunk, you were sober, you stayed at his apartment in the same bed, and nothing happened? And this is the reason why the two of you have been at odds for the past three years?”

“Umm, no.”

Liz motioned for Maria to continue, and Maria’s cheeks were stained red as the memory hit her.

* * *

Maria woke up feeling warm for the first time in as long as she could remember. Since she lived in the dorms, her room was an icebox for nine months out of the year, and since she was cold-natured, she was always wrapped in at least one afghan while in her space. She blinked owlishly as she took in her surroundings, noting the diffused light trickling in from between the curtains on the southern wall of the room.

“Hey,” she heard from behind her. She turned to find herself face-to-face with Michael. The previous night came rushing back to her, and her eyes bulged as she realized she was in Michael’s apartment, lying in his bed.

“Hey,” she responded. “You feeling any better this morning?”

He snorted at her question, “Yeah, like I’ve been run over by an 18-wheeler.”

“Want me to go find you some aspirin?”

He nodded slowly, his thick eyelashes sweeping his cheeks before he looked up into her clear green eyes and grinned at her. “That would be amazing.”

“Consider it done,” and she hopped out of the king-sized bed quickly, scampering around the piece of furniture, heading out the door and crossing the tiny hallway into the bathroom. She dug beneath the sink, finally finding the bottle she was looking for, and she turned on her heel to walk back to Michael’s bedroom after shaking three pills out into the palm of her hand.

She ran into something solid, and she looked up, shocked to find Michael moving to stand right behind her. She collided with his chest, the aspirin and its bottle that she had been holding clattered to the floor as his hands came up and cradled her face, his thumb running lazily along her full bottom lip as he studied her face.

“Maria…”

And then he lowered his head and planted his lips on hers, kissing her gently at first. She moaned, in spite of herself, and her fingers flexed against his taut back muscles, and she kissed him back tentatively, loving the feel of his lips on hers. He leaned into her, continuing their dance as his tongue sought entry to her mouth.

Maria was shocked. Sure, she had noticed Michael’s attractiveness several times during the past year and a half, but she never thought they would take their friendship to the next level. Shaking her head, Maria attempted to clear her mind as her hands wandered to his hips. Giving up on rational thought as he ravaged her mouth, she pulled him into her, loving the feel of his body against hers.

His palms wandered from her face down her neck, brushing her shoulders and then lowered ever-so-slowly down her ribcage, caressing the sides of her small breasts. She shivered at the feel of his hands on her body through the fabric.

“I’ve wanted to do that for so long,” he confessed, grinning wickedly at her as he pulled back for a second to look her over once again.

“Oh God,” was all she could mutter before his lips were back on hers, leaving her breathless as their tongues fought for dominance. He slipped his fingers beneath the cotton of the Metallica tee she wore, his digits lazily tracing circles on her abdomen as her stomach flip-flopped with every gentle touch of his calloused hands on her skin.

“I want you,” he whispered, his eyes seeking hers as he pulled away from their kiss once again. She groaned at the loss, and she turned her hungry eyes toward his.

“Yes,” she hissed, grinding her hips into his insistently. “I want you, too.”

Spurred on by Maria’s encouragement, Michael trapped her wrist in his hand and lifted it above her head, her eyes darkening as she watched him, breath abated. She couldn’t contain her gasp as his lips found their way back to hers, and he positioned his other hand on her hip, lifting her up against the wall, then holding her steadily there as Maria wrapped her long legs around his waist, leaning in to pepper several kisses on his neck before wrapping her lips around his Adam’s apple.

Michael groaned at Maria’s actions, and he finally shifted her body further up the wall and captured her full lips in another insistent kiss. As their tongues dueled, Maria’s hands roamed Michael’s broad chest. Her thumb and forefinger wrapped around his left nipple, rolling the distended skin softly, and he moaned loudly, his head falling back in pleasure before attacking the sensitive muscles of her neck and causing her to echo him, unable to form words as he suckled the groove where her neck met her shoulder, leaving a mark.

“Michael,” she whimpered.

He lifted his head from the crook of her neck, and meeting her clear, bluegrass gaze, he grinned at her. God, he had a beautiful smile, even if he didn’t show it often or to many people.

“Bedroom?”

She nodded eagerly, and he shifted his weight off her, placing her back on her feet as his hands ran up her sides and slid the Metallica shirt from her chest, lifting it over her head and tossing it carelessly on the tiled bathroom floor, taking in her body for the first time.

Maria leaned against the wall, transfixed by Michael’s bourbon eyes studying her figure. He started at her feet, taking his time as his gaze climbed up her legs to her barely-there panties to her flat stomach and then her pert breasts. Her nipples tightening at his heated look, and he chuckled beneath his breath, a hand reaching out to tease one to stand even more at attention before looking up into her eyes.

Her heart was in her throat when she asked, “Like what you see?”

He nodded, his mouth suddenly dry, before whispering, “Maria DeLuca, you are beautiful.”

And she blushed, in spite herself, then reached out to grab his hand. “You’re beautiful, too.”

“Beautiful?” he arced an eyebrow.

“You know what I mean,” she rolled her eyes. “What do you say about taking this to the bedroom?”

“Sounds like a plan to me,” he smirked, and he allowed her to lead him into the room, grinning widely when she turned in his arms to drop a kiss on his chest at the threshold.

“I never thought anything like this would happen between us,” she muttered. “I don’t even know where to begin with you.”

He lifted a hand to tilt her chin to his face.

“Start right here,” and his lips crashed down upon hers once again.


* * *

“So you had sex!”

“Yes, that’s one way to put it,” Maria stated wryly. “And God, was that sex good!”

“So what happened?”

“I was an idiot, that’s what happened,” Maria confessed. “We had an amazing day, spent mostly in his bed… and then I had to go and run my mouth. And it all went to hell.”
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Hope for a Champion - Chapter 3D

Postby LuckyMiss » Thu Feb 27, 2014 10:15 am

Happy Thursday, y’all! I hope all is well with you. This week has been notably less crazy than last week, so hooray for that!

As always, thanks to the lovely folks who left feedback and those of y’all who are reading along:

Eve: They are both kind of stupid, huh? It’s good that you can understand Michael well and his reaction, even if you can see he could have done something differently. The same with Maria. And yes… Liz is a bit shocked. She always figured something happened, but since neither of them spoke to her about it, she didn’t think it would be something THAT big. Glad you’re enjoying this, even if you don’t know much about the horses!

Carolyn: Ha. Right? We’ll learn what happens next for them in this part…

I hope y’all enjoy this part!


Chapter 3D


Previously…

“So you had sex!”

“Yes, that’s one way to put it,” Maria stated wryly. “And God, was that sex good!”

“So what happened?”

“I was an idiot, that’s what happened,” Maria confessed. “We had an amazing day, spent mostly in his bed… and then I had to go and run my mouth. And it all went to hell.”

* * *

The sun was setting, and they were losing light fast in the tiny bedroom. Michael and Maria were lying in the middle of his bed, wrapped up in each other. Her leg rested between his, and his palms were splayed out across her bare back as her chest was mated to his as her hands stroked his arms and back lazily.

“Michael,” Maria moaned through his kisses. “Michael, we’ve got to stop.”

He pulled away from her, looking down in question. “Stop?”

“Michael, we can’t do this,” she sighed, turning her gaze away from his.

“What?”

“I just…” she flung her hands into the air in frustration, biting down on her bottom lip, unsure how to even begin the speech she felt building up in her slight body.

“I don’t understand what you’re trying to say, Maria.”

“Michael, we both have these big dreams,” she started, the words beginning to tumble out of her mouth without her own volition. “We have so much stuff we want to do, and we’re still so young. I don’t know about you, but I want to achieve my dreams, Michael. And, as much as I love you as a friend, I just don’t think this would ever work.”

“This as in,” he started, his brow furrowed as he gestured between the two of them.

Maria nodded slightly, pulling away from him again, untangling her limbs from his, and finally swinging her legs awkwardly over the bed to place her feet solidly on the carpet. She shook her head as she stood, suddenly self-conscious about her nudity as she moved to pick up her skirt and silk top from the night before from the pile of clothing haphazardly lying on the floor.

“It’s nothing I haven’t seen before,” Michael commented, leaning back in the bed and watching her frantically throw on her clothes, an amused barely-there grin painting his face as she accidentally pulling the shirt on backward. He wore the grin until she spoke, jarring him.

“This was a mistake.”

“Uh huh,” was all he said as he ran a hand through his bedhead hair, shaking his head to attempt to wrap his mind around her words. “A mistake.”

“A mistake,” she confirmed softly, shrinking into herself and wrapping her thin arms around her waist as she avoided all eye contact.

Silently, he clambered to his feet, moving to block the doorway she was eyeing as an escape route. “And you didn’t know that five times ago?”

Maria had the chagrin to look guilty as her bluegrass eyes filled with tears and confusion. “I was a little caught up in the moment. But that doesn’t mean that this was right, Michael. We could have some serious consequences to pay!”

“Like what?” he demanded.

“Like the fact that you could have potentially knocked me up!”

His eyes widened at her admission. He didn’t think that was in the cards. Oh, God…

“Yeah. That. And if there’s a kid, Michael, my dreams are pretty much over. I could never take that kind of risk if I had a baby. Look at what happened to my dad! God, I am so irresponsible!”

“I was there, too,” he started, his volume rising. “It wasn’t like you did this on your own.”

“Yeah, but you’re a guy, and guys don’t have to pay the consequences of unprotected sex.”

“Guys still get STD’s, Maria,” he started, sighing as he saw the firm set in her jaw. “So I hope that’s not going to be a surprise for me after this interlude.”

“I didn’t say that!” she cried indignantly as he smirked at her.

He crossed his arms over his bare chest, staring down at her. “I know that’s not what you said. I was just making a point.”

She rolled her eyes.

“But I’ll tell you one thing: If a guy happens to impregnate some chick in the process, he certainly take the necessary measures to make sure everything is okay. Myself included.”

“Yeah, but still!” Maria wrung her hands, and she looked around the room frantically, taking on the look of a caged animal. “I think I’m going to be sick.”

“You’re just being dramatic, Maria,” he started in an attempt to calm her down. “It’s all going to be okay.”

“What if it isn’t, Michael? Huh? What then?” her eyes were blazing. “I’m not on birth control, and we didn’t use condoms. This could end badly for both of us.”

“Then we’ll figure it out. Together. Like we always do,” he responded stubbornly, his hands coming to rest on his hips.

“I just…” her voice trailed off. “I’ve got to go!” And with that, she pushed by him and ran out of the apartment, leaving a confused Michael leaning against the doorway of his bedroom, staring at the closed front door that had slammed behind her. He scratched his eyebrow and sighed.


* * *

“Well, you obviously weren’t pregnant!” Liz exclaimed. “God, Maria! What got into the two of you?!”

“I haven’t the foggiest,” Maria responded simply, running a hand through her blonde locks. “It was just something that happened, and it had been something that was building for a while. We were both just overcome in the moment, and I screwed it all up.”

“Why in the world would you tell him it was a mistake?”

“Because…” Maria’s voice trailed off. To this day, she wasn’t sure why she had said that to Michael. If she had known how he was going to react, she would have chosen her words differently. Whenever she looked back upon the memory, she couldn’t help but cringe because she should have known he would react the way he did.

“Clearly it wasn’t a mistake! God, Maria! And the two of you have been at odds for the last three years over this! Of course it meant something — to both of you! If it hadn’t, you both would have moved on by now.”

“That’s not where the story ends, Liz,” Maria sighed. “And it only gets worse from here on out. When I went to tell him that I wasn’t pregnant with his child, he had some news of his own to tell me.”

* * *

She stood on the doorstep outside of his tiny apartment nearly a month later, shifting her feet from side to side nervously as she waited for the door to open. She had knocked on the door nearly a minute ago, and she was beginning to think Michael wasn’t at home. Her blonde hair was less vibrant than usual recently — probably from the stress, she kept telling herself — and as she fidgeted on the doorstep, she pulled it into a messy ponytail.

Suddenly, the door swung open to reveal a tattered-looking Michael. His bourbon eyes were dull. He was wearing an old T-shirt and old jeans, and he clearly hadn’t shaved in a week or more, the blondish-brown stubble upon his face revealing more than he would say.

“I know, I know. I’ve been super sketchy this past month,” she started, but he cut her off by holding up his hand in silence.

“No calls, no messages… I was beginning to think something happened to you,” he drawled sarcastically.

“Well, I’m fine. And you don’t have to worry,” she continued, throwing the speech she had gone over in her head several times on the way as her emotions got the best of her. “I’m not pregnant. You aren’t going to be a father. We can both breathe easy now.”

“And you expect me to, what? Throw you a party?” he narrowed his eyes and crossed his arms over his broad chest.

“I expect you to be relieved! You cannot even know the stress I have been under!”

“I might have known if you had taken the time to speak to me about it, Maria!”

“I was busy, okay?”

“Well, I was, too. Okay?”

“God, you’re an asshole.”

“No, you’re the asshole, Maria,” he came right out and said it, not caring how harsh his tone was or how much it conveyed about the past month and the hurt she had left him with.

“Excuse me?”

“You spend the night at my apartment…”

She cut him off, “Because you asked me to!”

He waved her off. “You stay the night at the apartment, and the next day, we have sex. Several times. And then you tell me that you can’t handle it, that we’ve made this huge mistake, and you freak out and leave me here and act like that’s okay! That’s not okay!”

“Well, I’m sorry, Michael! I made a mistake, and I was freaking out!”

“And you don’t think I was, too?”

“You aren’t the one in this relationship who can get pregnant.”

“Yeah, I’m just the one in ‘this relationship,’” he used his fingers to form quotation marks around the term, then he spat out the next part of his sentence, “who can do the knocking up but have no part in the pregnancy itself.”

“That is not what I said!”

“Then say what you mean, Maria! Because I’m tired of your excuses, and you’ve been a piss poor friend this past month. Didn’t you think I would be concerned, too?”

She didn’t have a response to his question, and she bit her lip nervously as she studied him. He looked tired, his brown hair was all over the place, and his amber eyes were blazing, the only part of his face that was animated.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” she relented, sighing. “I have been a piss poor friend. I was thinking about myself, not you. What else is there to say?”

“So you didn’t think I would be concerned.”

She shrugged, looking down at her feet.

“You thought you were just some other girl to me?”

She nodded once, wincing at his tone.

“You never have been,” he sighed.

“You’ve never been just some other guy to me,” she admitted before he cut her off.

“The thing is, Maria,” he looked straight in her eyes before running a hand through his messy hair and sighing once more, “if you can’t tell that what we have is different from everything we have been through during the past year and a half, then I don’t think I can be your friend anymore.”

“What?”

“Too much has happened, Maria, and I’m done with people who only think of themselves. So let me tell you what you want to hear: You were just another girl I took to bed. It was a mistake, and even if you hadn’t freaked out after, I would have eventually kicked you out and started avoiding you. Because that’s what guys like me do.”

“I didn’t say that!”

“Well, that’s what you led me to believe when you ran out on me and left me here,” he responded harshly, narrowing his eyes as he took in her face. “I can’t do this anymore, Maria. You know your way out.”

And with that, Michael spun and sauntered back into his apartment to the kitchen, not even bothering to close the door as Maria felt tears welling up in her eyes.

“Michael!”

“I don’t want to hear it, Maria. Too much has happened. And clearly, I don’t mean enough to you for you to keep me informed about this huge mistake we might have made together. So goodbye.”

He gestured to the door, and she turned, sniffling as she did.

“I’m sorry,” she whimpered.

“That’s not enough,” he whispered and in three strides, traversed the room, slamming the door in her face as soon as she crossed the threshold, tears welling in her eyes.


* * *

Liz’s mouth was hanging open at the end of Maria’s tale.

“I screwed up big time, and he wouldn’t give me another second. Rightfully so. And then after that, he started bringing home all those bimbos on campus. More than he did before.”

“Oh, Maria. I had no idea.”

“Yeah, no one did,” Maria sighed. “And I’d appreciate it if you didn’t mention this to him at all.”

Liz could only nod at her friend’s request.

“So does that get me out of dinner with the man?”

“Yeah…”

“Okay, good. I’m going to go now,” Maria gestured to the door before lifting herself out of the chair and awkwardly walking to the exit to let herself out of the tiny office.

“Maria?” Liz asked before Maria had made it all the way, and Maria spun slowly to face her friend once again, her shoulders slouched and her eyes sorrowful.

“Hmm?”

“Do you regret it?”

Maria’s eyes were downcast when she answered, hiding unshed tears. “Every day. He was one of my best friends. I was so young and stupid. He won’t ever give me another chance to make it up to him. And to be honest with you, Liz, I wouldn’t give me another chance after that.”

“You’d be surprised,” Liz whispered.

“That’s wishful thinking, my friend,” Maria responded before turning to leave the office. “And I don’t believe in fairytales anymore.”
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"There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star."
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Hope for a Champion - Chapter 4A - 3/21/14

Postby LuckyMiss » Fri Mar 21, 2014 1:48 pm

Happy Friday, y’all! Sorry I’ve been MIA for the last few weeks. I’m currently in the most intense part of my marathon training, and I find that running is taking over what used to be my free time… and my sleep… so it’s been a little crazy over here. The good news is that mileage goes down in two weeks, and once the race happens at the end of April, I’ll be back to my normal schedule!

As always, thanks to the lovely folks who left feedback and those of y’all who are reading along:

Carolyn: Yes, Liz is a good friend.

Eve: You hit the nail on the head about this being what happens when kids act like they’re adults and them hurting one another because they aren’t emotionally prepared for the consequences. Michael was deeply offended by Maria’s actions… and we’ll hear a bit more of his side of things today.

I hope y’all enjoy this part!

Chapter 4A


Almost two hours after Maria had broken down and told her best friend about the dissolution of her friendship with Michael, she found herself standing outside of Liz’s apartment, which was conveniently located next door to hers for the time being, as Liz’s home was currently under construction and was the last building to be raised at Daydream Acres. Liz had told Maria a long time ago that she wanted to make sure her horses and staff had homes before she started one for herself, and Maria had laughed at that statement, but she understood Liz’s reasoning. If she was the owner of Daydream, she would have done the same and assured her workers that she didn’t see herself as more important than them because the workers are those who make the farm actually function.

She knocked on the door, shifting her weight back and forth between her feet before Liz flung open the teal-painted door. Maria had to stifle a chuckle at the appearance of her best friend. She was a mess. She was dressed in her self-proclaimed ratty jeans and an old T-shirt that had a few interesting holes decorating it. Her makeup hadn’t even been started, and half her hair on the top of her head in hot rollers while the other was hanging limply like a curtain. And she looked frazzled, to top it all off.

“Maria!” she gasped, surprised to see her friend so shortly after their conversation. She figured Maria would need time to decompress after it.

“Hey,” Maria grinned sheepishly. “I figured I’d come over and see if you needed help getting ready for your big night.”

A huge smile spread across the brunette’s face. “Oh my God, Maria. Yes. That would be amazing.”

Maria nodded and followed her friend into her equally small living space, trailing behind her until they walked into the bathroom. Maria surveyed the damage: Several containers of eye makeup, bottles of foundation and coverup, as well as assorted tubes of lipstick were strewn halfway across the countertop while a blowdryer, straightening iron and the electric curlers were plugged into a power strip, taking up the entirety of the room’s measly counter space.

“What in the world are you trying to do?” Maria laughed at the sight of the messy room. Her friend must have it bad for Max if she was pulling out all the stops, including stops she didn’t even know how to use properly.

Liz threw her hands up into the air in frustration. “I don’t know! I was just trying to do something a little… different. Which is clearly not this,” she stated as she gestured to side of her head where her flat mop of brown hair hung limply.

Maria clucked her tongue as she surveyed her friend, then she clapped her hands together suddenly. “Okay, chica. Let’s get you ready. And first? First, we’ll start by fixing that rat’s nest of curlers!”

Maria paused and gave Liz an appraising look before asking, genuinely curious, “What in the world did your poor hair do to you to deserve this kind of treatment?”

Liz shrugged, unsure what to say, and sighed as her best friend went to work, settling down on a wooden stool in front of the mirror as their previous conversation that day was forgotten until a later time.

* * * * *

Less than an hour later, Maria was putting the final touches on Liz’s makeup, and she took a step back before blotting another portion of Liz’s lower lip, then nodding her head in satisfaction and grinning widely. “I think my work is done here, lady.”

Liz spun around in her stool to glance at her reflection in the mirror, squealing in delight as she saw her brunette hair falling in softly-rolling curls, and Maria’s specialty makeup: smoky eyelids, bright cheeks and kissable lips.

“I don’t know how you did it, Maria, but you are a goddess!” she exclaimed, leaning forward, wrapping her arms around her friend’s shoulders and and kissing her cheek sloppily. “You made me look older than 16!”

“Stop it, stop it! You’ll ruin the lip gloss! That was the final touch!”

Liz pulled back and studied the shorter girl for a second before speaking. “I’m really sorry, Maria.”

“What for?”

“For forcing you to air your dirty laundry to me earlier,” Liz started. “It wasn’t right of me, and I shouldn’t have pushed you so hard. It’s just… I just never imagined that was what happened.”

Maria sighed. “Don’t worry about it, Liz. If anything, maybe it’s a good thing you know what our feud goes back to so you can understand — and hopefully respect — why I don’t want to spend much time with him. There’s just too much hurt there, and I don’t want to revisit it with him.”

Liz nodded slowly. “I understand, and I won’t mention it again unless you want to talk about it.”

“Thanks,” Maria grinned wryly. “I sincerely doubt I want to ever talk about it again.”

“Well, if you do, know I’m here. And I won’t judge you. I’ll just listen and be supportive. I just,” she sighed, “I just wish the two of you had the opportunity to talk to one another about it and to come to terms with what happened. It makes me sad that two of my best friends were great friends and then ended up… not after something like this.”

“Yeah…” Maria’s voice droned off, and she looked away, tears welling in her eyes. Even though her and Michael’s spat happened years ago, it still made her teary-eyed when she thought about how she still missed his friendship and companionship after all this time. And that thought alone made her angry because she was still upset about it.

“Well, are you sure you don’t want to come along?” Liz joked, her eyes twinkling with mischief. “I’m sure you could really throw Michael for a loop if you showed up as his supposed date.”

“Oh,” Maria grinned. “Now that might be fun… but alas, I have better things to do.”

“Such as?”

“I’m going to go watch a movie over at Kyle’s. He asked me, and I figured, why not?”

“Scandalous,” Liz winked salaciously, causing Maria to let out a giggle. “And what might you be wearing for this movie night at Kyle’s?”

Maria laughed at that. “Just what I’m wearing now. It’s not a big deal, Liz. We’re just two friends hanging out.”

Liz took in Maria’s dark-washed jeans and her silky top, noting her friend was a little more dressed up than usual before responding, “All right, all right. If that’s what you say…”

“It is.”

“And there’s no chance whatsoever you want to come out with the Evans clan?”

“Lizzie, I love you,” Maria started, “But there’s not a chance in hell. So tell you what — let me walk you to the meeting point, and I can send you on your way, then I’ll go hang out with Kyle.”

Liz grinned cheekily before gesturing to the front door, “After you, my friend.”

And the girls left the apartment.

* * * * *

Michael Guerin was fidgety as he leaned against the side of the training barn, awaiting his fate. He didn’t have a date for dinner with the Evans siblings, and that made him nervous. Isabel, while she was a nice woman, had come on a little too strong the last time he had spent any time with her, and he hoped Liz found someone to play his girlfriend for the evening because he really didn’t want to deal with Isabel or her come-on’s tonight.

He hadn’t always been that particular about his women — hell, back in college, he would have taken Isabel to bed without a second thought, but he had calmed down since graduation and all the drama that ensued afterward. He couldn’t find it in himself to deal with women who were clearly chasing after him, attempting to charm him with their feminine wiles, and he would much rather have something real than an artificial relationship these days. He shook his head at that thought, hardly believing that Michael Guerin, Bad Boy of Kentucky, was actually more interested in settling down than taking a random girl home these days, and he chuckled bitterly at the thought. Too bad he couldn’t find a girl to actually do this with.

He knew Isabel, while she was a nice person, was caught up in his bad boy image and the rumors that had, no doubt, circulated about him throughout the years, and that was what she was after… not him. He was afraid he would be spending an intimate evening with Isabel while Liz and Max — the drool twins, he was sure — were off doing God-knows-what.

He shuddered at the thought and shifted his weight between his feet.

He looked up shortly after to find Liz and Maria walking through the stable yard toward him, hand-in-hand to the designated meeting spot. Liz was wearing an expensive-looking dress that shifted with every movement while Maria was wearing a dark pair of jeans and a silky top that looked strangely familiar.

“Holy shit,” Michael muttered beneath his breath as the realization dawned on him.

Liz was setting him up with Maria. Liz, one of his good friends, was purposefully putting him and Maria in a social setting together. And she had no idea what she was getting herself into because she had no idea what had transpired between the two of them.

Once the two girls had reached him, he sighed loudly, almost in disappointment.

“What's your problem, Michael?” Maria asked, glaring at him in distaste as she overheard his dramatic sigh.

“I don't know...” he paused, his eyes narrowing in disbelief as he turned his gaze upon Liz. “I get that you’re trying to fix me and Maria, but it’s not gonna work. We can’t be fixed. I know this, Maria knows this, and you need to accept it.”

Liz attempted to speak, but he cut her off, swinging his gaze back to the blonde.

“And hell, Maria, why would you come dressed for this owner’s meeting in jeans? I thought you knew better, especially since you were the person who tried to convince me of that back in college!”

Liz's smile faded as his harsh words registered. “Michael…”

Maria gasped at Michael’s statement, lifting her pointer finger in a threatening gesture, her other hand coming to rest on her hip as she thrust her chin out defiantly, not able to hold her tongue any longer as he insulted her. “Listen here, buddy.”

Liz attempted to step in front of Maria to break the two former-friends apart before either did something to harm their relationship more than it already had been.

“No!” she shook off Liz’s arms and marched up to Michael, stopping just short of him and stood nose-to-nose with the man who had driven her crazy for the past three years. “You’d be a lucky son-of-a-bitch to ever have a date with me, let alone spend a significant amount of time with me anymore. And for your information, Liz tried to convince me to be your date since you’re so pathetic you couldn’t get one of your own. I turned her down. And, anyway, I have a date of my own tonight and couldn’t be bothered to help you, not that I would, even out of the kindness of my heart these days.”

“Who the hell would want to date you?” he roared back at her.

“You act surprised,” she narrowed her eyes.

He rolled his eyes. “Surprised? No, I just want to know the man who is too dumb to realize what an obvious mess you are.”

“Kyle,” she simpered.

“Well, the man clearly doesn’t know what he’s getting himself into. Heaven forbid just anyone take Maria DeLuca out on a date.”

“Heaven forbid I actually like someone and am finally doing something about it!” she cried indignantly.

“Oh?” Michael whispered, leaning dangerously close to her, his voice lowering with each word. “Would that include having sex with him then ignoring him for the next month?”

Maria’s hands found their way to his chest to push him away and hurt simmered beneath the surface as she studied him. Her comeback caught in her throat when she recognized the same pain in his eyes during a moment of unspoken honesty. She shook her head, clearing her thoughts before speaking again, forgetting to move her hands from his body, “That’s none of your business anymore, Michael. Maybe you need to get over the fact that we made a mistake!”

Standing a few feet away, Liz’s eyes bulged at Michael’s outburst and Maria’s admission, flashing back to their previous conversation earlier that day. She was positive they had forgotten she was in their vicinity while their emotions were bubbling over — finally. However, Liz doubted this conversation was going to take them anywhere because they were both too wound up and hurt to see neither was over what had happened. She wondered if either had truly moved on in the three years since, and she would be willing to bet her bank account that neither had. Maybe this conversation would finally put their emotions out in the open? Liz realized this was wishful thinking, but she had to hope as her attention was drawn back to the clash in front of her.

“So I remember,” he growled back at her, leaning in to her touch as his body responded all too eagerly to the feel of her hands on him.

“I don’t get you, Michael Guerin! You’re like a caged beast, snarling when you hear I have a date, and that I’m moving on when you clearly did the same less than a month after…” her voice trailed off, cracking on the last word as her eyes flickered to the barn, the pathway and anywhere but Michael’s angry face.

“I was just following your lead!”

“My lead?” she let out a bitter laugh, her hands unconsciously gripping the fabric of his button-down shirt as the pads of her fingers felt the wild beating of his heart beneath the fabric, resounding throughout his body. Her mind briefly registered that it beat in sync with hers. “My lead was to ignore you! And you went out and started taking home any and every girl who was interested in fulfilling a bad boy fantasy.”

“A bad boy fantasy?” his eyebrows rose in shock before he muttered to himself, “So that’s what it was.”

“Clearly, I got over it,” she responded drolly. “And anyway, the real thing didn’t live up to my imagination.”

He let out a bark of derision. “Well, now I know you’re lying.”

“You haven’t the slightest idea of whether or not I’m telling the truth,” she shot back immediately, backing down from his last statement and continuing on her rant. “And anyway, you have no right to be upset for misconstruing I was the person Liz set you up with and then for being angry about me going on a date with someone else. Get over yourself, Michael Guerin. The world doesn’t revolve around you.”

And with that, she shoved Michael against the barn’s aluminum siding before stalking away from her former friend, leaving him stunned in her wake.

“No, clearly it revolves around you,” he called after her, but there was no stopping her. She was already rushed into the night, and he felt a strange pang in his chest. Was this what heartache felt like? He brushed the thought aside, shaking his head visibly.

“So…” Liz started as Michael’s eyes followed her best friend into the night.

“I don’t wanna talk about it, Liz,” he simply stated and turned away from her just in time to see Isabel and Max Evans standing about ten feet away from them, clearly having witnessed part, if not all of the confrontation.

“Great,” he mumbled. “Just great.”

Liz spun around at that point to see the Evans siblings standing back, and she waved sheepishly at them. “I’m just gonna go…” she gestured to them with her thumb and trotted off, leaving Michael leaning against the stable wall.

He ran a hand through his hair and sighed, his shoulders dropping and resisting the urge to run. What had he just done?
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"There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star."
-Henry David Thoreau-

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LuckyMiss
Enthusiastic Roswellian
Posts: 27
Joined: Mon Jan 14, 2013 10:13 am
Location: Texas

Hope for a Champion (M&M+CC, Adult) - Chapter 4B - 4/9/14

Postby LuckyMiss » Wed Apr 09, 2014 4:42 pm

Hello, hello! Happy Wednesday to y’all. Dropping off this part quickly, then getting back to work, but I hope everyone is having a lovely week so far.

As always, thanks to the lovely folks who left feedback and those of y’all who are reading along:

Carolyn: Thanks! I’m glad for both of those, too! Michael… he does have that bad boy image, but he could be so much more…

I hope y’all enjoy this part!

Chapter 4B

Michael shook his head, clearing his thoughts before he walked over to where Liz, Max, and Isabel were standing next to the barn, bathed in the eerie orange aura of the floodlights. They had greeted him kindly, and they continued on with their conversation as soon as he had approached the two owners that he and his co-trainer would be sharing dinner with this evening.

He did his best to pay attention to Max and Isabel as they chattered about their days to him and Liz, wasting time before their dinner reservations that were in a little more than an hour in the city. They would have to leave soon to make their appointed time, but he wasn’t interested in dinner anymore. His mind kept jetting back to the conversation he and Maria had shared a few moments before, and he couldn’t shake it.

He couldn’t help but feel a little guilty at his accusatory tone at her earlier. It wasn’t her fault she chose that moment to walk Liz to the meeting spot by the barns before heading her own separate way, but she had taken what he gave her and given it back harder… and then left without letting him have the last word, something she had become deft at during these past few years. She always put him on edge, even after all this time, and that appeared to be one of the only things that didn’t change… other than his insistent attraction to her that burned deeper than ever, even though he was still incredibly hurt about what had transpired. He wasn’t sure if he could forgive that… but then again, he was still drawn to her, so maybe he was letting go, in part?

He worried a nervous hand through his hair, attempting to pull himself back into the conversation with Liz, Isabel, and Max. He noticed, rather guiltily, Isabel trying to include him in the conversation, asking little questions to him here and there while Liz was shooting him sympathetic looks, and Max was completely ignoring the confrontation he had witnessed a few moments before. None of their tactics were working, and Michael was fed up with them.

“So it’s about time we headed in to the city,” Max grinned down at Liz, his brown eyes dark while his white teeth sparkled in the late day light. “Should we take one car or two?”

Isabel shot a look at Michael and immediately shook her head at her brother, dreading a car ride with only Michael Guerin in the vehicle. “I think one car will suffice.”

“You know,” Michael suddenly piped up, no longer interested in going to dinner with the Evans siblings, no matter how unprofessional it made him appear. “If you don’t mind, I think I’m just going to stay here for the evening and catch up on some paperwork.”

“Paperwork?” Liz echoed, clearly not believing a word Michael had just uttered.

He nodded, attempting to show as much sincerity as possible in his face. “Isabel, Max,” he shook their hands, “It was great seeing the two of you tonight, but I’m going to have to bow out.”

The siblings nodded mutely as he went to leave.

“Michael?” Liz called after him in question, and he spun on his heel to face her, nodding his head just barely to let her know he was listening. “Good luck.”

Without another word, he strode into the training barn, intent to get some work done and to perhaps find the girl who had been driving him crazy for the past three years and say something to her; something that didn’t hurt her. He just wasn’t sure what.

* * * * *

Maria angrily wiped tears from her eyes as she walked into the breeding barn, attempting to put her run-in with Michael behind her. She hated that he still had such an effect on her, and she sniffled loudly as she made her way down the darkened aisle, willing the wetness from her eyes. It wasn’t her fault that he had misunderstood her walking with Liz as her being his date for the evening, and it certainly wasn’t her fault that he attacked her because of his assumption.

After all this time, he still found a way to drive the knife in deeper.

Not only had it broken her heart when he began bringing home various women after their encounter, but he thought she was an emotional mess and that she intentionally ignored him for a month. The last statement was true, and it was a dagger to her heart every time she remembered that pertinent fact. He should have known better, but she had to admit to herself, she didn’t leave him with any explanation or encouragement that the day they spent together had meant anything.

Other than him accusing her of being a tease, luring a man in to seduce him then drop him, the biggest revelation of their run-in was the moment where their eyes had met, hurt shimmering beneath the surface, and for the first time, she was beginning to wonder if he still ached over their fall out. She wondered momentarily if he experienced moments like she did; ones where she would question why she acted the way she did and then question, albeit bitterly, if things could ever be the same. Shaking her head, she pushed the thought from her brain, instead focusing on his misunderstanding of the situation and riling herself up even more.

How dare he think she was his date, and how dare he attack her for what she was wearing! If she was coming to the owner’s meeting, she would have been decked out and looking fabulous, and he knew she would have been because he knew her. Or at least, he used to know her.

She desperately wanted her heart to stop aching every time she saw him. She would like nothing better to forget him — to forget about the touch of his lips upon hers, the feel of his slightly rougher hands upon her soft skin, and the way he held her so close — but every time she saw him and caught a flash of his smirk, she tumbled back into her memories. She couldn’t let go after all this time, and she was drawn to him like a moth to the flame.

He had treated her like shit during that time, but in truth, she was as much, if not more so, to blame in the deterioration of their friendship. After all, she hadn’t spoken to him for a month after their day together. She shook her head as she remembered all the times she desperately wanted to pick up the phone and call him to simply hear his voice or the times she resisted the urge to drive to his apartment and fall into his arms, allowing him to hold her close and comfort her through the uncertainty together. After all, they had been good friends.

Even after all this time, she couldn’t forget the way he held her, how gentle he was with her or the way he moaned her name again and again as they made love — yes, made love — throughout their day together.

More than anything, she was angry with herself for falling so hard for her friend, then messing the whole thing up. Angry because they could have been so great together, but now, that was never going to happen. And angry because of the situation they were now in — working at the same farm, seeing each other daily, but no longer have any kind of relationship.

She stopped for a second, sniffling as she surveyed her surroundings, having walked into the stable on autopilot, traversing the aisles with ease after having worked at Daydream for years. She had ended up outside of Hope and China Doll’s joint stall on the broodmare aisle of the barn, and she let herself into the wooden box quietly. Doll lifted her head in greeting, whinnying softly, while Hope scrambled to her feet, wobbling toward Maria on sleep-ridden gray legs as she entered the stall.

“Hey girls,” she whispered to the two sleepy horses as she sat down on a hay bale. Hope came to stand next to her, leaning her elegant head into Maria’s shoulder, which made her chuckle. “Tonight was a disaster.”

Hope gazed up at Maria with her big brown eyes and bobbed her head.

Maria chuckled at the foal’s response. “Oh, you know, do you?”

The foal nickered and nudged Maria with her nose again, and Maria immediately started toying with Hope’s midnight black mane, braiding it in places as she spoke to the horses.

“I just… I don’t know what to do anymore. This is becoming too much, and I simply cannot seem to get over what happened so long ago. I thought I was strong enough to let it go and to let him go… and I thought I did. But recently, I’ve been learning over and over that I’m not over it, not over him, and not over what happened,” she sighed. “And I’m beginning to wonder why.”

* * * * *

When Michael had left them to disappear into the night, Liz, Isabel, and Max had fallen silent, each with their own thoughts. They immediately made their way to Max’s midnight blue BMW 528i sedan, Isabel gesturing for the smaller girl to take the front seat with her brother before she climbed into the spacious back seat.

“What in the world was that all about?!” Isabel exclaimed when the three of them were in the car together, and Liz and Max turned back to her, surprised at her outburst.

“You mean what just happened?” Liz asked coyly, unsure how to even approach what the owners witnessed.

Isabel rolled her eyes. “Elizabeth Parker, you know what I’m talking about. What’s the deal with Michael and Maria?”

Liz ran a hand through her brunette locks, stopping halfway when she realized she was undoing Maria’s hair creation, and she picked at a nail instead. “How much did y’all hear?”

Isabel opened her mouth, and her brother cut her off. “What my sister was about to say, I’m sure, is that we walked up and heard something about a bad boy fantasy?”

Liz’s upper lip lifted in a partial smile as she thought back to the confrontation. No, it wasn’t a funny thing, and it certainly wasn’t good that the owners of quite a few of the horses who were being trained at Daydream had stumbled upon one of the rawest moments of honesty between her two friends in quite some time. It was a shame the two were too wound up to actually do anything productive about their confessions or their run-in, but at least they had spoken honestly for the first time in a long time.

“I’m really sorry about that,” Liz spoke quietly, unsure what to tell her bosses.

“Things happen,” Max stated diplomatically, shrugging his shoulders as he shifted the car into gear, pressing on the gas and pulling out of the small parking lot next to the barns. “We’re all human, after all,” and he winked at her.

Before Liz had a chance to respond to her brother’s flirtation, Isabel spoke again, “So what’s the deal with them? What an odd couple!”

“I wouldn’t necessarily say they were a couple.”

“But they were at one point?” Isabel probed.

“That’s not really my story to tell,” Liz sighed, flailing her arms in a helpless gesture. “I’m just really sorry the two of you had to experience what has been held in for three plus years finally boiling over.”

“Whatever happened between the two of them occurred three years ago?”

“Good Lord!”

“That’s a long time!” Isabel exclaimed. “A long ass time!”

“And the two of you got to witness the first real confrontation between the two in a long time,” Liz responded, her voice low. “I’m really sorry about that, again. Michael and Maria are both wonderful at their jobs and professional. They just have some, uh, personal differences.”

“Personal differences?” Isabel laughed. “More like knock-down-drag-out fight kind of problems! Nothing that a good, old fashioned roll in the hay can’t fix.”

“That’s the first time I have ever seen either of them lose control,” Liz ignored Isabel’s comment. “It won’t happen again, and I assure you that it won’t effect the training of any of your horses.”

“Pssh,” the blonde responded immediately. “I think it’s safe to say that we are not concerned about that, Lizzie Parker. And you shouldn’t worry about it, either. Really. We know you and trust you with our stock.”

“And we wouldn’t trust anyone else with their training,” Max cut in, turning to flash a pearly white smile at Liz.

“Thanks, guys,” she responded shyly, hoping the discussion about Michael and Maria was over and forgotten about.

“So I guess this means that Michael and me are on the outs, huh?” Isabel asked with a chortle, causing the other two to break into a chorus of laughs.

“No offense, Izzie,” Max told his sister, meeting her eyes in the rearview mirror. “But I don’t think you stood a chance with that man. It looks like he’s only got eyes for one woman, and that woman is not you.”

“Oh, drat,” she huffed.

* * * * *

Michael had made the rounds in the training stable, stopping to fill out some paperwork in Liz’s office, before heading back to his apartment. However, instead of just walking out of the barn to his tiny apartment on the farm’s grounds, he decided to make a detour through the breeding barn, combing the aisles quietly and checking on the horses before turning in.

He was surprised to hear a female voice murmuring something down the aisle, so he made his way in that direction to investigate, and he was stunned to find Maria, still decked out in her date night clothes, sitting on a hay bale in China Doll’s stall, talking in a low, soothing voice to both horses.

He leaned in, interested to hear what she was saying as one of the barn cats brushed up against his trouser-clad legs, purring softly.

“They’ve all gone to dinner now, and I don’t know how much more I can take, Hope,” Maria whispered to the gray horse as she continued braiding the filly’s mane. Hope grunted, enjoying the treatment she was receiving at Maria’s hands. “He drives me crazy. He does all the things that he knows drive me crazy, and he does them intentionally. I bet he gets a kick out of it, too. Sometimes, I think it’s to solely get a rise out of me and nothing else. And he has gone out of his way since our fallout to make my life miserable.”

Michael’s eyes widened at Maria’s admission, and he stepped back into the shadows, unsure if approaching Maria was the best thing to do at this time, especially since he didn’t know what to say to her, as he was stunned to have stumbled upon this confession.

Hope, as if she understood, snorted and shook her beautiful head, leaning her shoulder into Maria’s chest as she continued her ministrations.

“I know,” Maria sighed. “Boys are stupid. Even horses know that.”

Doll chimed in, whickering softly, and nudged Maria’s shoulder with her snout. Maria laughed at the horse’s interaction with her, and she continued talking to the horses as if it was the most natural thing in the world.

“I made a mistake three years ago, girls,” she started again, sighing dramatically as she struggled to find the words to express her feelings at that very moment. “That was long before you were born or were even being thought about, Hope, but it wasn’t so long ago in human years. And that mistake has haunted me ever since and caused the dissolution of one of the most important relationships I had at the time.”

She snorted sarcastically before adding, “Maybe one of the most important relationships I’ve had in my entire life, really.”

Unable to contain his shock, Michael’s mouth fell open at Maria’s admission. One of the most important relationships of her entire life? Certainly he had heard her wrong because that couldn’t be the case. Especially after all they had been through, and especially what had pushed them apart. Neither one of them were blameless when it came to their relationship, but it was clear to Michael — and Maria, from the sounds of it — that what they had was something special and something different. And they had mishandled it. Clearly, things couldn’t be the same, and the thought of that terrified him.

“If I were him, I wouldn’t give me another chance, either, but that doesn’t excuse him from all the awful things he has done and said in the interim.”

Michael shifted uncomfortably, remembering the dozens of girls he brought around her after their falling out. At the time, he told himself that she was just another one of those girls, and she had already moved on, brushing off any guilt from his conscience. Now, three years later, he learned the truth, and it stung, especially since he had gone out of his way to draw her attention to these other girls, paying no mind to the pain it clearly caused her.

Now that he was thinking about it, while he was out gallivanting with the ladies, Maria drew further and further into herself. He couldn’t recall one date, let alone boyfriend, she had since their falling out. Was this date with Kyle the first one in three years? He shook his head, certainly not. She had to have moved on since their day together, right?

He took a step back into the shadows, unable to believe he had stumbled upon her retelling their story, of all stories, to her two favorite horses, and that he was witnessing Maria pour her heart out to the animals… and unknowingly, him.

“He was my best friend,” she stated, her voice wavering as a tear dripped down her cheek. It glistened in the artificial light of the barn. “And I told him he was a mistake — that it was all a mistake. It was a lie because I didn’t know what else to say other than it was the most perfect day of my life. And now? Now, we barely even speak, and we’re co-workers! And when we do speak, we yell and fight. There’s no in-between for us, and I just don’t see it getting better ever, girls. You should have seen the way he looked at me tonight. There was hatred in his eyes when he thought Liz had tried to set him up on a date with me. It was awful!”

Doll was the one to make a move this time, walking over to Maria and gently brushing her nose against Maria’s forehead, eliciting a giggle from the tearful blonde.

“But you girls are horses, and you don’t have to worry about the troubles of your humans, huh? I guess I should let the two of you get back to sleep, and I should head on my way for my date, anyway.”

Hope whinnied at that, signifying the heavier conversation was over, and Michael chewed over what he had overheard while fighting back an unexpected surge of jealousy at the realization that Maria was still going on her date with Kyle. Something had to change and fast. However, it wasn’t going to happen tonight, and he slipped into the shadows silently, wondering if there was a way to fix what had broken so long ago.
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"There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star."
-Henry David Thoreau-

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LuckyMiss
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Hope for a Champion (M&M+CC, Adult) - Chapter 4C - 4/16/14

Postby LuckyMiss » Wed Apr 16, 2014 9:53 pm

Hello, hello! Happy Wednesday evening, y’all.

As always, thanks to the lovely folks who left feedback and those of y’all who are reading along:

Carolyn: Thank you! We will find out more about Michael’s “paperwork” in today’s part…

Begonia: Thanks! You’re really correct about the two of them being wounded, but wanting them to discuss it as adults because, hey, that’s what adults do. It IS poisonous to the work atmosphere… and well, we’ll see if they actually do discuss it.

I hope y’all enjoy this part!

Chapter 4C

She nervously shook her head, letting herself quietly out of the stall of the two horses she had come to visit earlier, and she pulled her cell phone out of the back pocket of her dark-washed skinny jeans. She was waffling over what to do about Kyle, and she just came to the realization that going to visit him and watch a movie would maybe not be the best idea after the evening she had.

Scrolling through her contacts, she picked Kyle’s number, immediately dialing it, and pulled the phone to her ear. A smile crossed her face when she heard his cheery voice answer, “Hello? Maria?”

“That’s me,” she stated, her spirits feeling uplifted a little bit at the man’s enthusiasm.

“What’s going on? I thought you were going to be over here a while ago,” he queried, concern evident in his tone.

“Yeah, about that,” her voice trailed off, and she took a deep breath before launching into the prepared speech she had come up with in the last three minutes. “Tonight’s not going to work for me, after all. And as much as I’d like to come hang out with you and watch that movie, it’s just not gonna happen.”

“Is everything okay?”

Her full lips curled into a partial smile at Kyle’s concern for her. It was refreshing, even if she had to break off this date tonight. “Yeah. Everything’s fine. I’m just not feeling well, and I’m about to head home to get some sleep.”

“Where are you?”

“I came to the barn to visit the horses a bit earlier, and I’m still here.”

“Oh,” his voice was quiet. “Well, we can arrange something for later in the week if you still want to hang out.”

“That would be lovely,” she conceded, nervous butterflies fluttering in her stomach. She wasn’t accustomed to men asking her out or wanting to spend time with her, so she was thrilled at the prospect of watching a movie with Kyle. Not only was he super sweet, but his handsome features hadn’t slipped her notice, either.

“How about we take a trail ride tomorrow? And then after it, we can figure out what day works best for us to watch a movie?” he sounded hopeful.

“That’s perfect, Kyle,” she whispered, a grin crossing her lips again. For the first time in a long time, she felt encouraged about dating someone else, and Kyle was the perfect person for that. Who knew? Maybe they would really get along and this would be the start of a beautiful relationship.

“Awesome!” he exclaimed. “So I’ll see you tomorrow morning during training, and we can head out on the trails after.”

“Sounds good to me,” she nodded her head once. “I’m sorry I can’t come over now.”

“No problem, Maria.”

“Have a good night,” she concluded, pacing a few more steps before coming to a stop in the middle of the aisle in the breeding barn, peering in to look at Hope and Doll, who were both now snoozing peacefully.

“You too!” he chimed before she disconnected the call and leaned over the stall door, studying her two favorite horses as she was lost in thought.

* * * * *

He waited in the shadows, watching for her to silently exit the main door of breeding barn and cross the yard to her small apartment after he had slipped out of the stable a little earlier.

After ten minutes, he began to realize that she wasn’t leaving yet, and curiosity got the best of him, luring him back into the building to find her standing in the middle of the aisle, looking lost.

“Maria?” he asked, and she looked up, startled, and her eyes wide in shock.

“What are you doing here?” she asked, the hint of a bite in her voice as she studied him. He was still wearing his slacks and button-down shirt that he had worn earlier for the owners dinner, but it was too early in the night for the excursion to be over. “Aren’t you supposed to be dining with the owners and Liz right now?”

“I stayed behind to catch up on some paperwork,” he explained with a shrug of his shoulders, taking slow steps as he approached her.

“Paperwork? Really?” her eyes narrowed suspiciously.

“It’s just…” his voice trailed off, and he came to stand still about three feet in front of her, shifting his weight back and forth between his feet. “I felt bad.”

“Oh?” she arced an eyebrow at his statement. “And just what did you feel bad about, Michael Guerin? I was under the impression that you didn’t have a soul to direct you when to feel bad or not.”

“You,” he whispered, ignoring her jibe.

“Excuse me?” she lifted her hand to cup her ear. “I didn’t hear you there.”

“I felt bad about you.”

Unsure how to react to Michael’s statement, Maria’s mouth flapped open a few times as she searched for words before uttering in shock, “Why in the world would you feel bad about me?”

“I said some things that were pretty despicable earlier, and I wanted to talk with you about that.”

“You? Talk? I was under the impression that you were more an action kind of guy. And that talking wasn’t a part of your repertoire, especially when it came to me.”

“For the first time in three years, I want to talk to you. Can you handle that?” he stated crossly, looking down at her and crossing his arms over his chest in a defensive motion.

“I can’t believe that you want to talk to me after all this time!” she exclaimed, her hands animating her emotions. “We are far past the whole talking thing, buddy!”

“So how do we move forward?”

“I thought it was pretty clear that we weren’t moving in any direction,” she spat out, her hands resting on her hips.

“I’m just trying to fix this!”

“Three years after the fact!” she exclaimed, her voice high and brittle in shock. “And, as I remember you saying earlier, we aren’t something that can be fixed, Michael!”

“That was before I overheard you talking to Hope and Doll!”

Her eyebrows shot up at the statement. How had he overheard her confessing her true feelings to the horses?

“It wasn’t intentional,” he sighed, scratching his eyebrow nervously while studying her face. Her irises had gotten bigger and the normal bluegrass tone of her eyes had darkened to a deep evergreen, and if he had any sense in him, he wouldn’t do what he was about to do.

He moved quickly, closing the distance between them, his hands moving on their own volition, rising to rest softly against her cheeks. She stared back at him in shock, clearly startled at the turn of events, with her pink lips slightly parted and her eyes wide.

“I didn’t realize that you felt the same way that I did,” he murmured, drawing her closer to him. “I didn’t realize that our day together meant the world to you, too.”

“It did,” she responded quietly, lost in his whiskey eyes. There was no use denying it anymore. He overheard her. He knew. And there was something incredibly freeing in that, even though him knowing scared her.

“I’m sorry,” he stated firmly, still holding her face as he spoke. “I’m sorry for all the things I said and did after we slept together. I’m sorry I didn’t trust the Maria I knew that there was something more between us. It’s just… why would you have thought that you were just some other girl?.”

“I know. I was young and stupid,” she shrugged awkwardly, causing his hands to drop back to his sides as she had a hard time finding the words to describe her feelings at the moment as she leaned into him a bit more, the hint of a grimace on her lips. Her eyes were glassy, glistening with unshed tears, as she spoke again, “And I’m sorry, too. For implying that I was just another one of those girls. And that I didn’t answer your calls or return your messages or spend any time with you after our time together. I was just so terrified, and I wanted to come to you and face it with you as a team, but then I was scared that you wouldn’t want me to do that.”

He sighed, wiping the silent tear that had fallen onto her cheek with his thumb. “How could I not want to spend time with you?”

She shrugged helplessly, and his hands moved back to her cheeks, drawing her nearer to him. Her breaths were coming in small gasps as she found herself nose-to-nose with him, his eyes meeting hers before he planted his soft lips on hers in a tender kiss she had craved for nearly three years.

Unable to help herself, she moaned into his mouth and flung her thin arms around his shoulders, pulling him into her as his tongue danced along her bottom lip, requesting admission to her mouth. As soon as her lips parted, their tongues danced together, relearning what was lost long ago. Her hands ran up his spine to rest in his hair, and he groaned against her lips as she tugged at his locks with the tips, momentarily caught up in him.

As the kiss deepened and became more demanding, his hands trailed from her flushed cheeks down to her sides, coming to rest firmly on her small waist, squeezing her tightly and simultaneously fluttering his fingers along the hemline of her silky shirt that felt so familiar as her palms followed his movements and drifted from his hair to his shoulders and then to the collar of his shirt, deftly unbuttoning the fastenings on his shirt to reveal a black Metallica T-shirt being used as an undershirt.

“I’ve wanted to do this for so long,” she admitted after breaking the kiss, her voice husky. Her eyes had darkened even more, and her breath was coming in gasps. When she chanced a look up into his face, she saw the same emotions prominent in his features.

“I missed you,” he whispered honestly.

“I missed you, too,” she returned, and she pulled him back into her, her lips crashing into his as they met in the middle for another searing kiss, her hands moving from his shoulders to his chest and down, stopping near the waistband of his slacks, her fingers tickling his flat abs as they drew mindless circles against him and slowly inching up his T-shirt.

He pulled away, meeting her eyes as his palms cupped her breasts through the fabric of her shirt and trailed downward. Her eyes closed, and she worried her bottom lip with her teeth as he placed firm kisses along her jawline, inching his way toward her ear until he took the lobe into his mouth and bit down lightly, eliciting a drawn-out moan from her.

Her legs felt like they were going to turn to jelly as his hands continued their exploration of her torso, finally coming to rest along her hips before pushing up the fabric of her shirt, inching it upward to her belly button, then over her chest and finally, leaning back and lifting the top over her head, tossing it carelessly onto the dusty floor of the aisle.

He grinned down at her, dropping a quick kiss on her lips before dropping to his knees and kissing her bare belly, looking up at her with lust-darkened eyes as his hands raked upward, coming to rest on the thin fabric of her bra, his thumb brushing against her nipple and causing her to squirm.

“You are so beautiful.”

She met his eyes with a warm smile, unable to find her tongue in this shocking turn of events, and she let out a gurgle as he kissed his way from her waist up to her belly button and further upward, finally pushing the right cup of her bra aside with his nose to take her rosy bud into his mouth, his palms snaking around to her back to unclasp the piece of lingerie, finally springing her free, and the cups falling aside to leave her bare.

Her hands immediately moved to his wild hair, stroking his scalp as he suckled her. His hair was as crazy as ever, and she smiled to herself as he groaned against her, scratching her nails against his head a little more when he bit down on her, causing her to gasp aloud.

“I never thought this would happen again,” she admitted to him, and he shifted his gaze from her breasts to her face, giving her a smile that very few people had seen. He was so handsome, and she wasn’t even sure how they reached this point again, but here they were. And, for the first time in three long years, things seemed to be progressing in a way they both wanted and needed them to.

“I had hoped,” he smirked, tweaking her nipple between his thumb and pointer finger and watching her shudder at his touch before turning his attention back to her. His lips descended back upon her, and she fought to stay on her feet as her knees wobbled dangerously beneath her.

“Michael,” she whispered, grabbing at his shirt-covered back. “Michael!” she tried again, pulling his head away from her. He looked dazed, and his eyes were hooded, mirroring the lust she felt boiling in her veins.

“What?” he blinked distractedly.

“Are we really going to do this in the barn?” she fought against the laugh that nearly burst from her lips at the ridiculousness of their situation. Were they really going to get it on in the breeding barn? Well, it certainly would make for a good story, she thought to herself before cringing. The breeding barn? Really?

“You’d prefer to continue this somewhere else?”

She gave him a succinct nod, grabbing his hands and pulling him to his feet before wrapping her arms around his middle and giving him a tight hug. She loved the feel of him — all of him — against her slim body, and she fought the urge to bury her face into his shirt, inhaling his unique scent and soaking in this moment that she never suspected would happen.

“Yeah,” she finally whispered into his chest. “How about we take this back to my apartment? It’s closer than yours.”

He let out a barn of a laugh before concluding, “So what? The extra five hundred feet to mine is a detractor?”

“Hey,” she commented, leaning back and giving him a hard look. “I’m just trying to make it easier on you. I can’t imagine it being easy to walk in the condition you’re in.”

He smirked at her. “Whatever you say, DeLuca. Just as long as you don’t leave me alone for the next month after we’ve finished what we started here.”

Her eyes flashed back to him in shock, and she came crashing back to Earth. “Excuse me?”

“I want this time to be different than last,” he shrugged. “And I’d prefer for you to not leave me high and dry after an amazing day, okay?”

“You make it sound like I did that intentionally to you!” she exclaimed, her eyes searching the dirt floor of the aisle frantically for her silk top.

“That’s not what I said, Maria,” he sighed, scratching his eyebrow nervously as he studied her.

“Well, maybe this time, you won’t feel the need to bed every co-ed within the nearest thirty miles after we’re through!” she accused, finally spotting her shirt a short distance away and marched over, picking it off the ground and dusting it off frantically. “I can’t believe you!”

“We both admitted we made mistakes! A lot of mistakes, in my case. I thought we were past this.”

“Maybe we’re not! Especially if you feel like you need to joke about it!”

“Why’s that?”

“Because there’s always some semblance of the truth in a joke, Michael,” she spat. “And because, you clearly think I haven’t grown up in the past three years!”

“I didn’t say that!”

“You implied it, and that’s just as bad! God! What the hell was I thinking?”

“I don’t know, Maria,” he bit back at her, his long arms crossing in front of his chest. “Why don’t you tell me for once?”

“Again with the implying that I haven’t grown up! God!” She threw her shirt on, pulling the silky straps and bodice over her head quickly and carelessly, deciding not to even attempt to find her bra in the darkness of the stable.

“You’re being ridiculous.”

“Only as ridiculous as you!”

“You’re going to go there? Really?” he quirked an eyebrow. “After everything we’ve been through and everything that’s happened tonight, you’re going to stoop to insulting me?”

“You’re the one who is joking about our past!”

“Joking is the key word, Maria,” he sighed.

“I can’t do this anymore, Michael,” she groaned, running a hand through her long, blonde hair. “We got caught up in a moment, again. At least we didn’t sleep together this time and come to realize that we made another mistake.”

“Another mistake of not talking to one another and each of us going on assumptions? Come on, Maria! That’s exactly what you’re doing here!”

“I think you’ll agree with me on this one in the morning,” she snipped at him. “This can’t happen anymore. You clearly haven’t gotten over the fact that I made a mistake by leaving you alone all that time ago. And you clearly haven’t grown up any more if you’re going to assume I would just run out after all you’ve heard from me!”

“That’s not what I said,” his voice was rising and becoming more frantic as Maria began to pace the aisle, refusing to look at him.

“This is over,” she finally stated, stopping her pacing. “I’m sorry. We both need to move on. I can’t do this. I don’t know if I could ever do this.”

He stood there in silence, his mouth open in shock as she finally spun on her heel to walk out of the barn.

“You can’t just leave me here like this!”

“Oh,” she stopped, turning to face him once more and upon seeing the confused look on his face, she strode back to him quickly. Her hands landed on his belt buckle, fumbling slightly at the act, but she made quick work of it, finally unclasping the metal and popping the top button of his slacks open. In one fluid motion, she lowered the zipper and slipped her hand through, grasping him.

He placed his hands on top of hers, stopping her movement as his eyes searched hers for an explanation.

“Would you prefer for me to drop right here and finish you off? Or us to go back to my place and do what we both wanted to do earlier? And then have it end like this? Or just stop it before it starts?”

“If that’s all it means to you,” he started cooly, picking up on her harsh sarcasm. His eyes narrowed as he watched her on her knees in front of him, and he was suddenly resentful about the way she thought of him. Clearly, she believed he was someone who would do something like this and have it mean nothing. He had just poured out his soul to her, and she didn’t believe him, having gotten caught up in the moment earlier, so he had to protect himself. “Go ahead. A guy’s got needs. And as I recall, you have an extremely talented mouth. That image got me through a lot of lonely nights when I didn’t have some other girl fulfilling my desires.”

Her mouth fell open in shock as she caught his hardened glare. She wasn’t sure what to make of his statement, but then thinking of him fantasizing about her working him over during lonely nights? It made her skin crawl, especially when she knew there was lots and lots of other women who were at his beck and call. She didn’t want to be just some fantasy for him, and she was beginning to realize that was all this was. “You’re serious?”

“As a heart attack.”

“You’re disgusting!”

“You offered!” he responded indignantly.

“I can’t believe I ever saw anything in you!” she spat, shakily rising to her feet and thrusting out her chin while glaring at him, fighting the urge to push his hips away from her but deciding she didn’t want to touch him again.

He said nothing in return, and she looked him over once more. His full lips were drawn in a scowl, and his bourbon-colored eyes, having lightened during their argument, were darting around the darkened barn, looking anywhere but at her as his arms migrated from his sides to crossing in front of his wide chest.

How could they go from almost having sex in the middle of a stable to arguing in no time? And how had things not changed? If Michael really felt like she hadn’t grown up, she couldn’t continue this — or even breach this topic — with him anymore.

“You don’t have anything to say for yourself, huh? So all that stuff you said earlier, it was just to get a quick roll in the hay, huh?”

“You think you know me so well,” he sneered back at her, not meeting her eyes as he took a step away from her.

“Yeah, well, too bad. We’re done, Michael Guerin,” was all she said before she strode out of the barn, leaving him speechless.
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"There is more day to dawn. The sun is but a morning star."
-Henry David Thoreau-


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