You know those cliché small towns with a population of about 200 and everyone knows everything about everyone? Well, that's home for me. I'm Bella Swan. I'm 19 years old and I live in a small town in northwest Texas with my dad Charlie Swan. We live on a 25 acre farm with 3 barns, a large farmhouse, acres of fields, a training ring, and a pool. The house was large enough for me, my dad, and the guys that worked for us as riders and ranch hands. My father had always been a good trainer and when my mom died when I was 12, he threw himself into his work; he became the best horse trainer in the southern U.S. I guess you could say I was tomboyish. I grew up surrounded by men, it was bound to happen. My mom managed to get some girlyness in me before she died. I wore clothing that was both comforting, and accentuating to my assets. I knew how to style my hair well, and would wear make-up if I was going out somewhere other than the barn. But as much as I was around the guys, I'd never had a real boyfriend. I'd fooled around with guys I'd met on the road during competitions, but none of them felt right. My dad just told me I was too good for them all.
I woke up at my usual 5:30am and quickly got dressed. I threw on a pair of faded skinny jeans and tucked them into my worn black 'cowgirl' boots. I pulled on a white tank top with a dark blue button up shirt over it with the bottom few buttons done up. I ran a brush through my hair until it was acceptable and headed downstairs where I could hear the guys eating.
"Morning Bells." The all called with mouths full of food.
"Morning boys." I said cheerily as a plate of eggs and toast was set in front of me.
"Thanks Emmett." He smiled down at me. Emmett was like my big brother. My dad found him sleeping in our barn when I was 7. He was 9 years old and had no parents. My mother had a soft spot for his dimples and big, brown eyes and we took him in. Once he turned 15, he offered to work for my dad to earn his stay. He was extremely protective of me and an excellent friend.
"So what are you up to today Jelly Belly?" Justin asked me, still shoveling food into his mouth.
"Well I thought I'd take Dallas out for a little after breakfast, then maybe work with Dakota for a while. That is if anyone is willing to lunge her for a little while first." I said, sweetly. Dallas was my own mare. She was a beautiful bay with a star on her forehead. (A/N: For people who don't know horse lingo. Mare means female and bay means the horse is dark brown with black legs, mane, and tail. A star is a small white marking on their forehead.) I'd raised Dallas from birth and trained her myself. She was 6 years old and already perfect. She'd won me many competitions. Dakota was Dallas's daughter. She was all black with the exception of a black stripe. (White strip down their face)
"I'll do it." Thomas said indifferently. He was one of the older workers at 35, and very experienced with horses.
"Thanks Tom." I said, smiling at him, which he returned.
"No problem Baby Bells." I frowned at the nickname he'd been calling me since I was 5 and he started working here. I quickly finished my breakfast and headed out to the main barn with Emmett, Thomas, and Carter. I helped them clean a few stalls before entering Dallas's stall to get her ready. I spent my time brushing her, frequently kissing her soft nose. I fastened the girth and did up the buckles of her bridle before leading her out. It was about 6:30 by then and the sun was completely up. I quickly mounted Dallas and kicked her forward into a brisk walk towards the trails in the woods. I had set up a small jumping course out of logs in the woods and I frequently chose to ride English to practice them. (English means it has the smaller saddle with no horn and the rider jumps. Western in like the cowboys do it. Larger saddles with a deeper seat to hold the rider better and a horn on the front, mainly for ropes) I urged her into a steady canter after a few minutes, making our way through the worn trails towards our course. After about an hour, I decided to head back. As we reached the edge of the woods, I urged Dallas into a full gallop towards the open fields. I loved the feeling of galloping. It made me feel so free to have all this power beneath me, at my command. I yelled out joyfully and Dallas joined me with a playful whinny. Once we got close to the barn, I slowed her down to a nice easy trot, then eased her to a walk, letting both our breathing return to normal and her cool down. After I untacked her, I brought her over to the wash stall and gave her a soothing sponge bath to relieve her sweaty fur. I unhooked her and lead her outside to let her graze on our acres of grass while she dried off. After another hour, she was completely dry with her coat shining. I led her to her field and let her go, closing the gate and watching her run off to greet the other horses. I reentered the barn to Dakota waiting for me. Thomas came in, wiping the sweat off his forehead.
"She was a little antsy at first, but calmed down after about 10 minutes. I think she'll be pretty good today." He told me, stroking her shoulder. I smiled at the beautiful creature and softly rubbing over her nose.
"She's always good. Aren't you pretty girl?" I asked in my horse-talking voice. Thomas chuckled and walked off to water the fields. I began brushing Dakota, just like I did with her mother. I was brushing through her tail and talking softly.
"You're such a good girl Dakota. You'll be perfect, just like your mother. I know it."
"I'm sure she appreciates your pep talk." An unfamiliar voice startled me and I looked up to see a handsome man, who looked about my age, maybe a few years older. I walked over so I was level with Dakota's shoulder, and able to see him fully. He was tall and lean, but muscular at the same time. His skin was slightly tan, accenting his honey blonde hair. His plain white t-shirt showed his defined chest muscles and he had on blue jeans and worn work boots. I snapped out of my daze and looked at his face.
"Can I help you?" I asked, friendly.
"Um, yes. My name is Jasper Whitlock; I was hoping to find Charlie Swan. I'm looking for a job." For some reason, his accent was extremely attractive, even though I'd heard it a thousand times. I even had the same one.
"Bella Sawn." I said holding out my hand. He walked towards me and took my hand lightly. I felt a small shock when our hands connected.
"Good to meet you ma'am." He smiled a beautiful smile, with only one dimple, but it was adorable.
"Nice to meet you too." I said. Smiling back, I knew my smile was beautiful. Plenty of men had commented on it. I looked into his eyes and momentarily stopped breathing. They were gorgeous. Deep blue with specks of emerald green. I finally dropped my gaze and let go of his hand.
"Well, my daddy's out for a little while, but you're welcome to stick around and wait." I said, returning to Dakota to finish tacking her up.
"I think I'll do that, thanks." He said kindly. I finished on Dakota and led her out of the barn, noticing Jasper following me. I met Thomas and Emmett out in the training ring while Jasper stayed on the outside of the fence.
"You ready Bells? Who's the guy?" Emmett asked, eying Jasper.
"Jasper Whitlock. He's looking for a job. I told to wait for daddy to get home." I said as Thomas gave me a leg up onto Dakota. I sat still for a few seconds, letting her get used to my weight before urging her into a walk. She seemed calm, so I coaxed her into a steady trot. I noticed that every time we passed Dallas's field, she'd pick her head up a little and step more lightly. She was showing off for her mother. I smirked and urged her into an easy canter. I made sure she got her lead and continued to circle the training ring. She was doing well and I decided to end on a good note, so I eased her back to a walk and cooled her down.
"Looked good today Jelly Belly. Brush her up and put her back out with Dallas." Thomas instructed and walked off into one of our other barns where his horse Shadow was boarded. I dismounted and walked out of the ring with Emmett. That was one of his protective perks. He was always either in the ring, or very close by when I was training in case something went wrong or I got hurt. We exited the ring and brought Dakota back into the barn with Jasper following.
"Hey man, Emmett McCarty." Emmett introduced himself to Jasper.
"Jasper Whitlock." He responded, shaking Emmett's hand. Emmett was smiling, but I could tell by his eyes that he was looking over Jasper, checking him for any 'bad feelings' he might get from the guy. He was a main factor in the decision making when daddy hired someone new. He let go and helped me untack Dakota. When she was back out in the field, we headed towards the house and heard the sound of daddy's truck on the gravel driveway.