(Note: I forgot about this! But we’re cleaning up old computers here and I dug it out of some files that go back aways. This was the original beginning to Gordath Wood. It had zippy dialog and character development and I hated to see it go. But this guy, Harris? I have no idea where he came from or where he went, so starting the novel with his problem was, well, problematic. So long, Harris. Be happy, dude.)

Lynn Romano threaded through the crowd around the warmup ring, shouldering between horses, riders, and spectators. She squirmed between someone’s black warmblood with a checkerboard design gleaming on its huge haunches and a tall skinny man at ringside. In the ring, a rider on a chestnut thoroughbred nodded to the judges and put his horse into a canter, circling before he began his course. Everyone around the ring hushed as the chestnut soared over the first fence, a simple four-foot rail decorated with plastic flowers.

Lynn watched for only a moment before turning to the skinny man. “Harris,” she said. “What the hell is going on?”

Harris rested his arms on the fence rails. The sleeves of his smart hacking jacket were pushed back and his white stock was loosened at his throat. His head was bare — his plush black velvet hunt cap rested on the top of the fence post. He turned to look at Lynn and the look on his face, was, if not exactly blissful, the face of a man who had made a decision and found peace with it.

“I quit,” he said. “I told her, and she said fine, and said to find you. But I already quit, so –” he shrugged, making it quite clear that finding Lynn was no longer his problem.

Lynn felt a shriek coming on. Out of deference to the horse and rider negotiating the course (knocked a rail at the in-and-out, but it didn’t fall, so they still had a chance in the ribbons) she whispered instead.

“I know. Kate found me. And Joe, and Gina, oh, and Caroline, don’t forget her, she was her usual self about it too.” Hysteria caused her voice to rise and she tamped it down with effort. With a huge breath she said, “You can’t quit. You have to ride Dungiven in the next class.”

“I’m sorry, Lynn. I should have told you sooner, I know, but I’ve decided this just isn’t me anymore.” He waved a hand indicating the horses, the crowd, the loudspeaker announcing the winners in the pony classes.

“You decided this fifteen minutes before the Classic?” Her voice rose; the owner of the warmblood gave her a disgusted look, clucked to her horse, and led him away from the crazy woman shouting ringside. Lynn gave her glare for glare and wormed into the empty spot. “Why? Just tell me why? Wait—” she held up her hand. “I changed my mind. Tell me after the class, Harris. Please. One more class. That’s all I ask.” She tried to smile winningly and knew it came out as a ghastly grimace.

His smile became sad, a little rueful. “You know why. We’ve talked about it. Horse shows. All this money and effort and time – for what? So a bunch of rich snobs can play lord of the manor and dress up and we ride their horses and win their ribbons and sleep in tiny apartments over their barns.”

“It was worth it! That’s what we talked about, Harris! It was worth it! Not give it up!”

“Not anymore. Not for me.” He shook his head, forestalling her next protest. “You don’t want me to ride him, Lynn. Not with my heart not in it. Bad stuff happens.”

He walked off then, taking off his hacking jacket as he made his escape and flinging it over his shoulder. He left his hard hat on the fence post – Lynn picked it up and watched him head for the parking lot.


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