With no hint of annoyance on her face, Mrs. Hunt freed herself from his intrusive grip.
“That is quite kind of you, Howard,” she said. “I’m sure Lynn will be able to bring him home.” Fleming frowned. Lynn tried to look absorbed in straightening the horse’s shipping blanket.
“Let me get one of my grooms to take care of this,” he urged. He smiled at Lynn. “We’ll have him taken care of in no time, Liz. A stallion is no horse for a girl to handle.”
Lynn kept from rolling her eyes with pure effort.
“Thank you, again,” Mrs. Hunt said firmly. “I’m sure we will manage just fine.”
“The thing is,” Lynn said, turning to Mrs. Hunt and wishing Fleming were somewhere else, “We need to get the rest of the horses home. They’ve been waiting on the trailer, and I don’t like them being cooped up and stressed like that.” She took a deep breath. “I could ride him home.”
“What? That horse is worth a fortune! You can’t be seriously thinking to ride him!” exploded Fleming.
“Lynn – it’s light out here but it’s way dark already in the woods,” said Gina. “I mean, are you sure?”
“It’ll take me forty-five minutes, tops. We could be here all night. We’ve got to get the rest of the horses home. I mean, unless you want to leave him with Mr. Fleming’s mares.”
She held her breath at her own audacity and faced Mrs. Hunt square on, half-expecting to be fired in the woman’s next breath. And then she thought, No. She’s lucky I don’t walk out right now.
And on the heels of that thought – she knows it, too.
To her surprise Mrs. Hunt didn’t seem to be annoyed at Lynn’s maneuver. Instead, she looked out toward the woods and patted a strand of hair back into place. She looked at Lynn and back at the woods.
“I don’t think, that is – I’m not sure…” Her voice trailed off. Lynn was boggled. Mrs. Hunt – flustered? She didn’t think she’d ever seen that.
“Oh come now, Kathy,” Howard said. “Just say the word and I’ll have Geoff fix a box for him.” He smiled indulgently. “We can drive down to the Continental for dinner. My treat.”
Lynn felt a pang of sympathy for Mrs. Hunt. The woman looked trapped.
Ignoring Fleming’s invitation, Mrs. Hunt said, “At night? Are you sure it’s safe?”
“It’s less than an hour, practically door to door. I’ll bring a flashlight and I won’t jump anything, I promise.”
Mrs. Hunt dutifully acknowledged the little joke with a polite smile but still she hesitated. “Those stories…”
Lynn stared at her. The stories?! The summer camp stories that said Gordath Wood was haunted? Was Mrs. Hunt serious? “Stories, yeah. The summer camp kids get a kick out of them…” She hastily improvised. “It’s really not that far. I ride these trails twice a week or more with clients. I really think we should be getting the horses home.”
“Yes, of course, the stories are nothing but stories. They’re nothing.” Lynn waited while Mrs. Hunt tried to convince herself. Finally Mrs. Hunt took a deep breath. “Very well. Ride him home. We will see you back at the barn. Howard, I believe I left my hat at the owner’s pavilion when it collapsed.”
As he escorted her off, remonstrating with her, Lynn let out a silent breath. She and Joe exchanged glances. What have I gotten myself into? She shook her head.