Keeping It In The Middle, p.1Lyn Denver
Keeping It In The Middle
An Equestrian Love Story
Copyright 2016 Lyn Denver
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Van popped her neck as she rose from the beaten down futon in the barn's tack room office. The regular "clank ... clank ... clank" of Tyler's hammer hitting the farrier anvil woke her. Bondo was resting on the floor just in front of the couch. He looked at her briefly, wagging his tail, yawned, and rolled back to sleep again. She glanced at her phone, gawking at how late she'd slept. It was past one in the afternoon. There was a reply text from John that said, "Glad to hear it. Get better soon, Rocky." She'd messaged him earlier that morning to say she was released from the hospital and home safe.
The bright sun blinded her momentarily as she stepped from the dark confines of the tack room. She covered her eyes with one hand, absently pulling the itchy gauze bandage from her stitches. "Hey," she mumbled to Tyler's back as she tossed the gross thing into the nearest trashcan. He was bent at the waist, positioned under a horse with nails between his teeth. He looked up briefly before taking a nail from his mouth and driving it into the shoe, securing the metal to the hoof.
"Hey. How's the noggin?" he asked as he finished hammering in the remainder of the nails. He twisted off the sharp points protruding through the hoof with a quick flick of his wrist.
"I've got a headache," Van said, stepping closer. Tyler released the horse's hoof for a moment, and then pulled it forward, resting it on a hoof stand. He clinched the nails flush with the hoof wall, securing the shoe and protecting the horse from injuring itself, before rasping of the hoof toe and letting the horse lower its leg back to the ground.
As he stood, he stretched his back with two fists pressed into his lower spine. "That's to be expected, I'm sure."
Van brushed a hand over the horse's muzzle. The mare fluttered her tail, swishing at a fly, before cocking a hind leg to relax.
"You shouldn't have let me sleep all day," Van said.
Tyler shrugged as he leaned down to attach the rasp to a magnet on the hoof stand. "It's not a problem. I don't need any help with this stuff and it is our day off." When he looked back up, he was smiling. It was the playful one that crinkled the corners of his eyes, one of her favorite smiles.
"Right," she said. "Like there's ever really a day off at a horse barn."
"Oh," Tyler groaned. "I only had to feed a hundred head by myself, because my lazy coworker was sleeping off her bender, and then shoe about a quarter of that number. No real work."
"You must be exhausted," she said, noticing the dark circles under his eyes when he moved his sunglasses to scratch his nose.
He let out a half laugh as the shades fell back into place. "Well, I couldn't sleep in the hospital because you were choking me half to death."
Van winced. Her half drunk, half drugged self had practically mauled him in that hospital bed. "Yeah, I'm sorry about that," she said with a grimace. "Honestly, I just remember being ridiculously cold."
"And I was the nearest warm body?" Tyler asked with a smirk. She wanted to tell him no, never, that she had wanted him and only him to comfort her when she was hurting, but something held her back.
He untied the horse and led it to the nearest paddock, releasing it and slipping the halter on another standing nearby. He retied the second horse in the same spot and began knocking the old nails loose to remove its shoe. He jerked the piece of iron off with one quick twist of his arms and stood upright. He picked at the old nails with the nail puller before placing the horseshoe on the anvil to hammer it straight again. The sound was a too loud, "clank ... clank ... clank" that vibrated Van's head and shot down her spine.
He was concentrating on the horseshoe, holding it at eye level to see if it was straight, before he put it back on the anvil and beat out another "clank ... clank ... clank." He stopped hammering and moved back towards the horse, holding up the hoof to see if the shoe was shaped correctly. Then he quickly trimmed the overgrown hoof wall and rasped it level. He placed the shoe on the freshly trimmed hoof, looking at where the edges met. The shoe needed to be brought in just a little on the right.
He moved back to the anvil.
Clank ... clank ... clank.
"You okay?" he asked, looking up from his work when she put a hand over her eyes, wincing from pain.
"The noise and the light," she muttered.
Tyler placed the horseshoe and hammer on the anvil, closing the distance between them in two long strides. He smelled like horse sweat and cigarettes. He leaned in close, looking at the stitches on her head that probably should have been covered. When he tipped her head up to face him with two fingers under her chin, Van visualized him leaning down to kiss her. She wanted him to kiss her, she suddenly realized.
He opened his lips and sucked in a breath as he leaned closer, but then he backed away. He pulled his sunglasses off and slipped them over her ears and up her nose.
"Better?" he asked. She nodded, adjusting the Oakley M sunglasses that were too big for her smaller head. "Quite a knock to the melon," he laughed. "I think that shot glass must have weighed about five pounds."
Van let out a noisy breath. "You know this is all your fault, don't you?"
Tyler reached to the anvil, picking up the horseshoe as he moved back to the horse's side. "How do you figure?"
"Obviously, you're jealous ex hates me," Van said.
His face transformed into that really cute, but really annoying expression he wore when he tried to weasel out of cleaning and oiling tack or when he'd eaten the last Swiss Roll in the house. "Hey, I can't be blamed for that psycho's actions."
"Actually, you can," Van said. "You're the one who broke up with her and she blames me."
He hammered nails into the horseshoe, starting with two at the toe to keep it steady. "I hate to break this to you, Van, but there are a lot of girls that hate you because of me."
"Why is that?"
He looked up and smiled innocently. "Because you're my best friend that I need everyday and they're just one-night stands that I need for, well, one night."
Van couldn't decide if that was a compliment to her or an insult to the rest of the world's women. The latter she decided, crossing her arms over her chest. "That is so sexist, Ty. I don't even know what to say."
He pulled the hoof in front of the horse, so he could clinch the nails and rasp the hoof smooth. "Sorry," he said. "It's just the truth."
A gust of wind blew across the stable yard, creating a cloud of dust, horsehair, and hay. Van ducked her face down to her chest, covering her exposed stitches with her hand. "Storm's supposed to blow threw tomorrow," Tyler said. "We better batten down the hatches tonight."
Keeping It In The Middle by Lyn Denver / Romance & Love have rating 3.5 out of 5 / Based on38 votes