“Sorry I’m late,” he slid into a chair next to her. “But Bastion threw a shoe and it had to be replaced.”
“The horse I was on. Firestorm Bastion Prince Farrington. Crazy name for a crazier horse. We’ll never break him, but he’s great breeding stock. I thought he was going to bite my ass when I had his foot up. I had to tether and hobble him until so he’d stand still while I put the shoe on. I almost put a muzzle on the bugger.”
“You’re a blacksmith?”
“Yeah, well the proper term is farrier, since I do almost exclusively horseshoes. But yes, that’s me.”
“Wow, I never met an honest to goodness blacksmith—farrier before. How did you get into that?”
“Completely by accident. I was always the strongest hand around here, so when the old farrier came, I held the horses. Bastion’s sire kicked him so hard in the privates, I ended up finishing the job. I guess I did pretty well. He took me on as an apprentice, as soon as I turned seventeen. I’ve been working with him ever since. He just retired, and the business is mine.” He beamed proudly.
“Hana just finished college,” Enid told him pointedly. “She graduated Summa Cum Laude.”
“Really? Congratulations! I know that wasn’t easy. I did all right myself, but not that well. I studied to be a vet, but decided I honestly didn’t like it. As much as I love animals, what makes a cow’s digestive system work doesn’t interest me that much. Once I figured out I didn’t care how much corn Bessie had in her shit, I quit.”
Hana giggled, putting her fingers over her mouth so she wouldn’t spew her food, glancing at her aunt. Usually that kind of remark got a firm reprimand, but she didn’t say anything, just chuckled at him.
“So what did you graduate Summa Cum Laude in?” Jasper wasn’t simply making polite conversation, he wanted to know.
“Computer software. I had a job set up as a consultant in a company in Albuquerque, but that fell through.” She made a wry face.
“I’m just as glad it did,” Enid said with sparkle. “If it hadn’t, the three of us wouldn’t be sitting here together. I’d be saddled with some tiresome busybody from the agency hovering over me like a mother hen. Hana lets me have my space, it’s wonderful!”
“How will you get better if you don’t do something for yourself?” Jasper asked. “You have to get back up to fighting trim, Miss E. I want my dance partner back.”
“You may have to break in a new one. These pins of mine are weak as a baby’s. It’s all I can do to walk most of the time.”
“If anyone can buck the system, it’s you. I’ve never seen anything hold you back. Not even the time you decided you wanted to ride Thunderbolt.”
Enid reddened. “Oh, you wicked boy! You had to bring that up! Hana, hold me back, I’m going to whack him with something!”
She leaned forward trying to reach Jasper. He dodged playfully away.
“Bastion’s sire. Hell of a stallion, but nasty tempered. He was mistreated as a colt. We got him cheap at an auction because he was good breeding stock, too. Enid decided she was going to be the one to break him. As it was, she broke her tail bone.”
The band was playing something slow and mellow, another Kenny Wayne song. This time Stan was singing.
“Come dance with me, Hana,” Jasper reached out his hand.
Hana held back a moment, not knowing what to do. She wasn’t much of a dancer.
“Please? I promise, I won’t embarrass you.”
“Go on, Hana Belle,” Enid encouraged. “Take a chance.”
Hana stood and Jasper led her to the dance floor. He held her close and led her in a slow two step. She found herself leaning into his embrace, cuddling against his strong, broad chest. She listened to the lyrics closely for probably the first time.
“I found love when I found you.” It was like they had performed the song just for her and Jasper.
As the song drew to a close, she gazed up into Jasper’s eyes. She couldn’t read all the emotions there, but beneath everything, she saw a glimmer of insecurity. She smiled, a hint of a tear in her eyes. She could hardly breathe, he was so good looking, strong and sweet. No man had ever made her feel the way he did. He could set her heart fluttering just by walking in the room. She hoped he could see all this in her eyes, because she wanted desperately for him to know all she was feeling.
He must have found a little glimmer to hold onto, because she saw the expression in his eyes change. He stood a straighter, held her a tiny bit closer and leaned over, taking in the scent of her hair. The band played another song, but Hana didn’t even hear it. All she heard was the beating of her heart and that little flutter she felt when he held her close.
The song ended and the band took a break. For a moment, neither Hana nor Jasper noticed the music had stopped. The man who had been singing came over, put his hand on Jasper’s shoulder gazing meaningfully into his eyes.
“Son, we’re taking a short break so we can eat. We’ll be back in thirty minutes.” He winked and walked over to the buffet table.
“My dad,” Jasper shrugged.
© Dellani Oakes 2022