Here we go again. See you on the flip side.
Disclaimer: I don't own Twilight, it belongs to S. Meyer. I just put her characters on horseback. This storyline is still mine though, so please no stealing or fiddling with it without my permission
From Chapter 23
All I can do is sit quietly, sipping my drink as I try not to be overwhelmed by the situation. All these people will be watching, plus many many more.
I only hope I can live up to their expectations
Chapter 24 Reach For The Sky
The next few weeks pass in a blur of last minute coaching sessions, sorting equipment, and packing. We're travelling down with Jane, who is also competing. Rose and I will be staying nearby once we've got Charlie set up in his temporary stabling. Jane's huge horsebox does have living quarters – the thing is the size of a barn, I swear. As swish as it is, Rose insisted on booking hotel rooms for us all. She must have pulled some strings. We were so late coming to the party, I feared every place in the area would have been booked solid.
Although desperately nervous, there's a ripple of excitement running through me. This is really happening. I have visited the Badminton Estate before, but only as a spectator and shopper. When we drive through those gates next, I will be a competitor. This is like something out of the pony books I read so avidly as a child.
Finally, the big day dawns and it's time to go. Everything we will need has been packed into boxes. Edward isn't here right now – he had a meeting earlier, but he and Jasper are hoping to be back in time to wave us off. Emmett is here – he seems to be a permanent fixture these days – and has been a huge help hefting boxes of equipment around. Who would have thought we needed so much stuff for four days?
Rose's children have already left to stay with their father after several somewhat sticky hugs, leaving me with their own little good luck tokens of smeary drawings and odd garishly coloured plastic toys. I have packed them amongst my things, together with several good luck cards from the locals. You can never have too much good luck, right?
Now everything's ready, I find myself pacing. I wish Edward was here. I hate the thought of setting off without him. I check my watch one more time. Jane and the horsebox will be here any minute. I check on my horses one last time. Charlie is all rugged up and padded, ready to go. He's a pro at this now and looks completely underwhelmed. Freddie would be bouncing around his box by now if he was going. Instead he's sulking, presenting me with his backside and letting off a loud fart when I go in to say goodbye.
I feel a tad sorry for the girls who will be managing the yard in our absence. I've left detailed instructions for looking after him, which include turning him out in the paddock a lot. Last time someone tried to exercise him for me, they ended up being dumped head first into a bramble bush. He only just tolerates Rose and the one other person to manage him without mishap is Jane. I shake my head, trying to dispel the worries. It's just a few days. And I already have more than enough to be fretting about.
My stomach gives another ominous gurgle. Oh hell. It hasn't been happy since I got the news of my late entry and the closer things got to the actual date the worse it's been. The good news is I've definitely lost some weight which is never a bad thing.
Still no Edward. I sigh heavily. Then I hear the telltale rumbling engine announcing Jane's arrival. This is it. Time to go. I avert my eyes from Rose and Emmett's rather lengthy clinch, trying to conceal the pang of jealousy I feel. Jane jumps down from the cab, all businesslike. She has brought her groom, Siobhan, with her. Siobhan is all blonde ponytail and muscle. She is scarily efficient and runs Jane's yard like clockwork. She has kindly agreed to be my groom as well, although Rose will be pitching in, too.
Siobhan and Emmett heft the boxes of tack and riding gear into the box's storage compartment, leaving Rose and I to simply stow our travelling bags. I'm not sure who's the stronger – Siobhan or Emmett. He seems a little scared of her to be honest.
I fetch Charlie from his stable and he plods willingly up the ramp. Like I said, he's a pro at this. I fasten the partition and hop back down, while Emmett and Siobhan raise the ramp and secure the bolts. That's it. We're ready. I toss my small bag, and papers to get us through the gate, into the cab, and am about to step up when there's a screech of tyres. Edward parks his car haphazardly and dashes across to me, sweeping me into his arms as he lifts me into a clinch. He kisses me until I'm breathless before setting me back upon my feet. I lean against the cab, my legs a little weak. Wow.
"Good luck." He beams, amused by the fact his kiss has rendered me incapacitated.
"Thank you," I breathe, once I can form coherent thought.
Then it really is time to go, Edward and Jasper (who I had totally failed to notice was there all along) give us both goodbye hugs and Edward insists on helping me up into the cab, with a sly pinch to my backside. I blush and stumble, landing in my seat with a thump, much to Jane's amusement. Siobhan looks on with a stoic expression although I'm sure a hint of a smile crossed her lips. Or maybe it was an Edward-induced-scrambled-brain-hallucination.
Emmett shows no such subtlety, smacking Rose hard on the ass as she climbs up. Laughing loudly, she isn't in the remotest bit embarrassed. Sometimes I wish I had her ballsiness.
Doors are slammed and we roll down the driveway, waving until the boys are out of sight. This is it. Here we go.
Just over an hour later, we pass through the gates of Badminton House. I'm bouncing in my seat like a kid at Christmas as we cruise slowly along. I can't believe it. I'm really here.
I mean, I've been here before as a spectator, but we had to go in through the spectator's entrance and wade through the mud. It's not quite the same. Thank heavens the weather has been kind so far this year and the ground is perfect.
Once in, everything is a blur. The place is a hive of activity. We register, collect our security passes and set to loading the horses into their temporary home for the next few days. I can't believe this time tomorrow I will be trotting Charlie in front of the grand Badminton House, for his first inspection.
After the horses are settled, it's time to check our schedules. The lorry is parked in its allotted space. We have nothing to do until later, when it will be time to walk the cross country course. My stomach is already churning at that thought.
We decide to head into the village and check into our rooms. Jasper and Edward are dropping off a car for us later, before taking us out to dinner, but until then we are on foot. Thankfully our rooms are in the adjoining village. It's a short walk of about twenty minutes. Rose must have some excellent contacts.
The local hotel is rustic and quaint. My room is beautiful and I eye the ensuite bathroom with longing. I know I'm going to need to soak in that tub after cross country day. We leave our bags and stop by the bar. Jane and Rose chat over all things Badminton. Of course, they're fearless. Rose is just watching and Jane has competed here several times already. I find myself growing quiet, nerves gnawing away at my stomach.
Rose nudges me with her elbow.
"No brooding over there! C'mon, Bella, this is your dream, right?"
I snap myself out of it. She's right. She's so right. It is.
After a couple of drinks and a light lunch, Rose insists upon hailing a taxi back to the course. This makes sense as we have quite a long walk ahead of us once we get there. Having cleared security, we make it to the course for our allotted appointment and set off. We examine the first fence, nothing too scary there.
But the rest of it is. These fences are enormous! I try to concentrate as Jane and Rose converse at length about strides and distances. The ball of nerves in my stomach is growing and when we reach the lake, it's reached monstrous proportions. I glance over at the temporary stand that's been erected, right next to the water. Come Saturday it will be full of spectators waiting to see someone fall into the drink. Every rider's nightmare.
Oh please, don't let it be me! The BBC coverage always shows the falls that take place and I do not wish that to be my one moment of fame. I shake off the feeling. I'm not going to fall. I need to make this my mantra.
We walk on. The rest of the course isn't too bad. Well, apart from the bit where one fence has such a huge drop on the other side so you feel like you're jumping into space, or the one where you jump into the dark of a small wood, or the one made out of two pick up trucks. Or well, let's just leave it there, shall we?
Finally, we make it to the end, which is set inside the main arena. As I walk across what will be the finish line, I say a silent prayer that come Saturday I will make it there in once piece. We drop in on the stables to check on Charlie. He seems content, munching away at his haynet. Then it's back to the hotel. Siobhan has plans with the other grooms, I have no idea where. There is a formal dinner at the house tonight, but Jane and I have declined. We need an early night and decided that spending an evening rubbing shoulders with the big names will just be too intimidating.
After a long hot shower, I join the other girls in the bar. Yes, we need an early night, but I don't plan on spending the evening in my room revising tomorrow's dressage test. We're going to have dinner once the boys get here. Jane has no significant other joining her – her life is the eventing circuit and she claims she simply hasn't the time, but Rose and I often wonder in private if she has a secret lover.
I sip my wine slowly. I need a clear head in the morning after all. Soon, the boys arrive. Edward's hug and quick kiss are as comforting as a warm blanket. Emmett is a riot as usual and Jasper his typical witty self. We talk about what tomorrow has in store and I explain what lies ahead. We will have to complete a test of twenty six set movements before three judges. Each movement will carry a mark out of ten and penalties are applied for mistakes. The total penalty score is then carried forward. Of course, Edward and Jasper decide to geek out over how the penalty scores are calculated. They go into it in such fine detail my eyes start to glaze over a little. Men!
Jane joins in with the conversation, but remains aloof, excusing herself to her room immediately after dinner. Much as I would love to smuggle Edward back upstairs to mine, he has to get back as he and Jasper have meetings first thing. I will miss him but I have the girls for company. We have the inspection in the morning and my test is in the afternoon. Jane's is Friday. So we'll all be around to support each other. I can't wait to explore the grounds and enjoy the shopping. Yes, I said shopping and enjoy in the same sentence. Badminton shopping is different. The trade stands are fascinating and I've spent many happy hours exploring them in the past.
All too soon, I'm kissing Edward goodnight. We linger over our embrace, neither one wanting to let the other one go. He kisses me one last time.
"Knock 'em dead tomorrow. I'll be with you in spirit," he whispers lovingly in my ear.
When I have to let him go, I trudge back to my room. Rose and Emmett are still together; he's staying tonight at least. Pyjamas on, I flop onto the bed and read over the dressage test one more time. We've practised it non stop over the last few weeks. I just hope the weather behaves – showers are forecast and a wet horse is an unhappy horse, which usually results in dropped marks. I push the paper to one side and flick on the television. I hate being this far away from Charlie, I would normally have a goodnight pep talk with him before a competition.
I watch the late night news until my eyes become heavy and sleep finally takes me, drifting off to Edward filled dreams.
I wake refreshed after a not too shabby night's rest. Hmm. This is a surprise. I guess I don't fear the dressage test too much. Friday night could be another matter though.
We eat a hearty breakfast and arrive back at the stables bright and early. We pass our first inspection with flying colours and tuck Charlie back into his box. He's taking everything in his stride, cool as a cucumber.
We explore the grounds, the crowds are starting to build although these two days are much quieter than the weekend, when there will be literally thousands of people here. I decide to treat these first two days like a warm up, to get used to the setting so I'm not blown away when Saturday comes.
Our empty hours fly by and I need to get ready for my test. Siobhan and Rose have Charlie polished and plaited and looking his absolute best. I slip off to change into my smart breeches and jacket, tying my tie with shaky hands. It'll have to do. The girls give me a leg up and it's time to face the judges. I repeat the mantra in my head as we ride into the arena. Obedience, Discipline, Accuracy and Elegance. Seven and a half minutes for us to do our best.
All the gods smile on us and things go relatively well. I don't make any glaring mistakes and the weather stays dry. We finish on a reasonable score, it won't be top ten, but I won't be last either. Satisfied, we put Charlie away and descend upon the trade stands. I don't buy anything but earmark a few items to revisit tomorrow when we have more time. Once things wind down for the day, we head back to the hotel. The evening is more relaxed for me. Jane excuses herself early once more and it's just Rose and I sharing drinks and banter. The boys don't visit tonight, but I share a lengthy phone call with Edward once back in my room. Relaxed and a little tipsy, I fall into a deep sleep.
Friday dawns and it's another fine day. The sun shines brightly, Jane's test goes brilliantly, and the rest of the time is spent shopping and soaking up the atmosphere. The boys arrive late afternoon, and Edward and I stroll through the grounds, hand in hand. I glance across at him, the sunshine glinting off the bronze highlights in his hair. How did I get so lucky?
He can sense my anxiety starting to build. We slip away from the others and share a private dinner in a nearby restaurant. It's wonderful to escape for a few hours and just be us. Edward raises his glass.
"To my girl – and her horse!"
I gaze at him, my heart overflowing. He knows just what to do. No pressure on me to perform tomorrow, he's just wishing us well. He takes my hand kissing every finger and I melt a little inside.
Walking back to the car, his arm around me, I can't help but kiss him. He responds eagerly, turning to push me against the nearby wall. I wrap my arms around his neck and tug him closer, deepening the kiss. I don't care that we are outside, in public. I need him so much. He kisses me until we're both panting, before breaking the kiss only just before we risk public indecency. He purrs in my ear.
"Let's go back to your room, sweetheart. Then I'll take care of you."
I clutch his hand tightly as he walks me to his car. I feel all weak-kneed like a lovesick teenager. We hold hands during the short drive and I almost break into a sprint when we get back to the hotel, all but dragging him up the stairs. Once into the room he throws me on the bed, playfully. I bounce, slightly, giggling.
What is it about hotel rooms?
Edward quirks a brow, a mock stern expression on his face.
"Something funny, Bella?"
Oh, he wants to play! I like this. I picture myself in his office, contrite.
I smile, meekly.
"Good, good," he purrs. He looms over me, still standing. My eyes greedily take him in as he shrugs his leather jacket to the floor. My mouth waters – tight tee shirt, snug fitting jeans. Very snug fitting jeans, my eyes linger on the bulge that appears to grow in front of my eyes.
Edward watches me, intently. He knows what I need.
"Undress me," he orders.
I get up on my knees and scoot forward. He bends to help as I peel off his shirt, unveiling the lean muscle beneath. I want to lick him. I lean in, but he stops me.
"Not yet – I'm still wearing too many clothes."
I grasp his waistband, my fingers fumbling in their eagerness. I unzip his jeans and pull them down, slowly, sucking in a breath between my teeth as he springs free. He's naked. And mine. I lean in, my lips caressing his skin as they move lower until I'm brushing the silky skin of his hardness. I look up, meeting his eye as he grasps my hair, pulling slightly as he growls.
I comply, eagerly, wrapping my lips around his length as I slowly take him in. Damn it's been awhile since I did this and I forgot how much I love his taste. I grip his hips as I start a rhythm. He responds by holding my head still and starting to move. He groans.
"Fuck...Bella, you look so good like that."
He continues to thrust, not too roughly as I still have a gag reflex, but I try my hardest to relax my throat so I can take more of him. He grunts as he picks up the pace. He's getting close, I can tell. I swirl my tongue around him, and in one last bold move cup his balls firmly. This is his undoing and he climaxes down my throat, spewing curse words.
He collapses on the bed next to me, panting hard. Once he regains his senses he looks to me with a wicked grin.
He flips me, pinning me on the bed as he kisses me hungrily. Still holding my arms above my head, he removes my trousers and underwear. He only breaks our kiss when he whips my top over my head and my bra soon joins the pile of clothes on the floor. Then he pins me again, his eyes devouring my bare skin as I lay, spread out on the bed. I'm already beyond excited.
"I think I'll take my time." He grins wickedly, as he slowly kisses my neck. Such sweet torture as he proceeds to kiss me everywhere. I'm a panting bundle of want by the time his mouth reaches my inner thigh, his tongue teasing the crease.
"Please!" I beg him.
He looks up, grinning wickedly as he slowly licks his lips.
"What do you need, Bella?" he asks.
He's going to make me say it? We've never been like this ever.
"Your tongue...Edward. Please?" My voice is full of need. He leans in, his hot breath washing over my already soaked flesh.
"Yes," I pant. Before the word has left my lips he is tongue deep in me, licking hard. Oh holy hell. I moan as he fiercely swirls his tongue around and around. It's so good.
This is what I need. To lose myself in him. He grabs my legs, hoisting my thighs over his shoulders, and really sets to work, bringing his fingers into the mix. He curls them and hits that magic spot and within moments I am done. I feel the pleasure everywhere— my body tingling all over. But before I can recover Edward is crawling up the bed, kissing me, and slipping inside me in one long thrust. His movements are hard and fast and it's not long until we both find our peak again.
Exhausted and sated, I don't give my nerves another thought. I simply curl up in the arms of the man I love and drift off to sleep. Tomorrow? I'll worry about it in the morning.
A huge thank you to everyone reading and reviewing this story. I really do appreciate you all. And to EMCxo and Monamour for helping to give this a final polish.
No recs this time. I will include some of my favourite stories in my final authors note. Speaking of which, the next chapter will be the last full one. A short epilogue after that and *sniffles* we'll be done.