For Marcus Denton, life on his Thoroughbred farm is blurred from his grief and the loss of his previous lover, Philip. When a group of interns work at the farm, one in particular stands out -- David, with his sunny smile and sunnier disposition. There's something about the golden boy that stir Marcus once more. After three years alone and in pain, is it time to try again?
This story appears in the author's print collection, Holding the Reins and Other Stories.
“Doc, you ready?” Marcus called. When he got a head nod, he pointed to Malotov’s stall. “All right, Goldie. Show me you’ve learned how to handle a stallion like this.”
A long glance, then David grabbed Malotov’s bright red halter and snapped on the nose chain. He stood at the stall door, his voice soft and low. “Come ‘ere, Malotov, let’s go see the little lady, come on over.”
Malotov whinnied again and stamped one front hoof. His flanks quivered and his neck twitched with agitation. His eyes were rolling, wild. David kept up his smooth talk as he opened the stall door. The stallion lunged forward. David held his ground against thirteen hundred pounds of worked-up horse. He raised his arms, the halter and rope rustling. Malotov veered away with a snort.
“Come on, big guy, you’ve got a date with the prettiest mare on the block, she’s right over there. Come on.” David stepped closer, shoulders rounded and turned slightly away from the horse. Malotov lowered his head. David set the halter in place and looped the nose chain over Malotov’s shivering muzzle. He rested his fingers on the stallion’s damp jaw and murmured as he leaned close. When the stallion was under control, David gazed at Marcus.
“Good job. You’ve learned a lot this summer,” Marcus said.
“I could learn a lot more.”
Marcus didn’t want to ponder that comment, not now. It was time to concentrate on this breeding and keep focused on the expensive animals.
His thoroughbred farm had an internship arrangement with the University of Florida. Their veterinary program supplied him with interns each semester; he supplied the students with hands-on experience at a working breeding operation. Of the half dozen that had started with him in January, David Livingston was the most promising. He certainly wasn’t the best rider -- he’d fallen off twice just cantering in the ring. He wasn’t the best student either. His weekly reports were adequate -- nothing special.
David’s forte was horse handling. He had the touch, a real connection with horses that couldn’t be taught, no matter how many pricey “horse whispering” clinics a student took. His voice, his posture, his demeanor, all spoke to the animals and he handled them with flair.
Marcus wondered how David would handle being bedded; their kisses and belly-rubbing had been interrupted by a groom knocking at the office door. Marcus shook the thought away.
The summer semester had ended in August. No more weekly reports for Marcus to review and grade; no more clinical demos to do. And yet David was still here, working.
“We’ll let them flirt with each other for a bit. Walk him around her pen,” Marcus said.
David led Malotov out of the barn. David’s hair glinted in the morning sun, golden as a palomino. Over six feet tall, his frame was slender and stretched out, with that lean-hipped look that came from youth, not working out. His features were even, his nose long and sharp, his mouth upturned; it reflected his cheerful disposition.
He’s never been hurt; that’s why he looks so good to me.
The horses whinnied to one another. Prancing at the end of his lead rope, Malotov arched his thick neck, giving little bucks now and then. Inside the pen, the groom tied off the mare’s tail. Dr. Lee did a final check with his gloved hands and nodded to Marcus. “She’s ready.”