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Notion Ch. 21
He didn't move.
At least what I could see of him wasn't moving. Fifteen people must have been surrounding Jasper's prone form, and all I could make out were his boots and the bottoms of his legs stretched out from beyond the circle formed around him of the medical staff, ring crew, and clowns. I drew is a shaky breath and held it. Emmett's hand clenched my own tightly and I knew he was barely breathing, too.
Then one of the crew moved away, signaling for someone to fetch the backboard.
That's when I saw Jasper move.
It wasn't much, just a short sliding of his foot, a bending of his knee, but it was enough. Emmett must have seen it, too, because we both let out the breath that we were holding for lord knows how long. My feet made the decision before my brain caught up with the action.
I don't remember running. I don't remember dragging Emmett behind me by the hand like he weighed no more than a feather.
What I do remember is stopping just outside the medic area as Jasper was being wheeled past…
And the fucker winked at me.
He winced when the stretcher he was on hit a bump in the dirt, but the fucker still smirked and winked at me. I just stood there, stark still and silent except for my mouth doing its best impression of a fish out of water.
Of all the no good, rotten…
Emmett's laugh boomed through the hallway. Not sure if he was laughing at my expression or Jasper's deranged sense of humor and once I snapped my jaw shut, I covered my bases and smacked him on the back side of his head anyway. He kept on snickering.
Big, dumb, sexy, smartass.
I stomped into the medical area, ready to give Whitlock a piece of my mind. He was trying to shoo the doctors away and they were doing their best to convince him to stay put. I could tell from the doorway that his shoulder didn't look normal.
"I'm fine. Gotta ride again soon, so I'll just be on my way," Jasper started to say.
He started, but I finished.
I walked right up to Jasper as he was shrugging the doctors and medical trainers away and stood in his path. He looked down at me, giving me a condescending smirk. That was all it took.
I reached forward and grabbed onto his shoulder, the one that I knew was dislocated from fifty feet away. Jasper let out a wail and crumpled back down to the stretcher.
"Now you listen here Jasper Whitlock," I gritted out from between my teeth. "You will lay here and you will let these doctors put that shoulder back into place." He started to protest so I squeezed harder, producing another gasp and shriek from his throat. "And you will follow their instructions to the letter, even if that means no more riding. Do you hear me?" Jasper tried to ignore me, but I'm a mean mama when I need to be, so I squeezed and shifted that should just a bit more. That got his attention and probably a chipped tooth from grinding his teeth so hard. "I said, do you hear me?"
"Yes ma'am," he groaned through his teeth and I finally released him.
I turned to the medical staff. "Ok boys, he's all yours." I tried to leave the room in a hurry, but I still managed to hear loud yell and the sickening pop of Jasper's dislocated shoulder being shoved back into place.
Men are babies.
When a guy is sick or hurt, he milks it for all its worth, constantly belly-aching that he's in pain or that he feels useless because he's out of commission. Women are much tougher. Anyone that can bleed for a week and not die, or squeeze something the size of a watermelon out of something the size of a lemon knows how to tolerate pain.
So when Jasper had to sit out the rest of the finals, you know he was mad enough to spit nails, but I was woman enough to put him in his place. Emmett was a giggling fool about the whole thing, snorting every time I raised an eyebrow and nodded to Jasper's sling in silent warning.
The rest of the long week went by in a blur of cheering on Emmett, listening to Jasper grumble, kissing on Emmett, running Copper for all he was worth, and lovin' on Emmett for all I was worth in our hotel room every night. I was wrapped in a world that I'd never really allowed myself to dream of, yet there I was, alive and living it as hard as I could. I think my mom and dad would have been proud, or at least Emmett told me so.
Rose, Edward, and Alice were the best support system and cheering squad. Every time I started to get nervous or down, my friends always knew just what to say to lift me back up. Emmett was riding for a gold buckle and I was sitting in second place and had left all the barrels standing so far.
The last night of the NFR, Emmett pulled out the victory and pulled me to his side, barely coming up for air from my lips as Rose tried to interview him on live TV. I was a little red faced, but mostly I was shaking like a leaf since I had yet to make my last run.
It was still the happiest time of my life.
The happiest time…right up until my final run.
Breathe. Breathe. Relax your seat. Easy, Copper…keep it easy right now…that's it. Still two other girls to go. Visualize. Check the reins at the first barrel, then let him wrap the last two cans on his own. Trust your horse. Breathe.
I was the last draw to go. Two more girls were in the warm up pen, waiting their turn ahead of me. I really didn't even see them. I knew they were there, but couldn't tell you who they were, what they looked like, if they had said anything to me, or if one of them had suddenly sprouted wings and was about to fly out the window. God could have chosen that moment to reveal himself to me and I probably would have just ridden right past him. My only thoughts were of me, my horse, and the guy manning the in-gate.
Two of us left now.
My heart was thudding in my chest. I fought to control the shaking in my hands with slow and steady breathing. Adrenaline pumped through my veins and gave me the high that I lived my life for. This feeling is what made everything worthwhile. This is what I had dreamed of my entire life. Everything came down to this one last ride. My one chance. My moment. My destiny within reach.
And then there was one.
When the last horse before my draw was gone, Copper began to get restless. He didn't like to be alone. I knew he didn't, and I had planned accordingly on how to keep him steady.
But something was off. He was too excited, too hot right now. I circled him a little to try and remove some of his tension, but I only had about ten more seconds before that gate would open and I would be headed up the alleyway.
Copper shook his head and started prancing sideways, and both of us had muscles that were trembling. He was breathing too heavy. That wasn't good. The change in climate wasn't good on his lungs and I knew that he was prone to bleeding through his nose. I leaned to the side and tried to peer at his nose. Sure enough, there was a thin trickle of blood rolling down his muzzle.
But it was too late. I was out of time. That damn announcer had condemned me.
"And our last cowgirl is Miss Bella Swan on Copper Dash…show her your love folks!"
The gate swung open, revealing the alleyway into the arena. Copper was too seasoned and knew what that meant - he was supposed to run. I tried to hold him back - I didn't want to hurt him - but he was too strong. He rooted his nose forward, ripping the reins from my hands and took off at full speed down the alley.
I wasn't ready.
I tried to play catch up, frantically reaching and grasping for the reins, but all my fingers could find was Copper's long red mane. I buried my fingers into his long hair and held on so tight that my knuckles immediately turned white. My feet weren't set and had somehow slipped from the stirrups.
I was in deep shit. This would be like holding on to a speeding freight train with my bare hands. My instincts kicked in. I deepened my seat in the saddle, gripped with my knees and thighs, and did the only thing that I could do - I spurred him on faster.
We sped up the alleyway and burst into the arena, running faster than I've ever gone in my entire life.
In the back of my head I could hear the crowd gasp as they realized something was terribly wrong.
We made a direct beeline for the first barrel and I wondered if Copper could rate quickly enough at this speed in order to wrap around the can. I braced once hand on the saddle horn and tightened my grip even further on his mane, but never stopped bumping my spurs on his belly or hissing him on for more speed.
Just when I thought for sure we were going to blow by it, Copper melted into the ground underneath me and effortlessly snaked his way around the backside of the barrel before exploding out of the pocket toward the second. I was able to stay with him, still pushing for more speed. He wrapped the second barrel just as smoothly and then headed for the third.
The crowd was going wild and all it did was push my horse and I even faster.
Copper sat into the ground and seemed to slide right around the final barrel, turning back to the alleyway. He flattened his neck out and stretched his legs as far as they would go, covering ground like never before. I still kept spurring him, one hand tangled in his mane and the other using my over and under rope to push him harder.
I could see the alleyway rapidly growing larger.
I could hear Copper thundering underneath me.
I could hear the crowd stomping their feet and screaming.
We crossed the timer's barrier when I really heard it - my horse's breathing hitched. Then stuttered. Then stopped.
And we were falling.
Copper's head bowed down between his legs…legs that had buckled underneath him. His whole front end disappeared before my eyes, and I was launched out of the saddle toward a large, white, brick wall.
There was a loud thud.
There were screams and gasps.
And then there was blackness…