Black Stallion: Hopeful: Chapter 1

{disclaimer: Walter Farley and family hold all rights to the Black Stallion Series, Black, Alec Ramsey, Henry, Satan and a whole bunch others. This is pure fan fiction. I have created Alexzina Rosebalm and her family. Anyone alive or dead… I'm sorry. Enjoy the rest of the story.}

He's awake. Well actually, Alec's only conscious. He has an arm draped across his eyes. Was it all a dream? he wonders. Carefully he touches his leg with his other hand. The scar is still there healing. Slowly he stretches out the leg. His foot touches something soft. Slowly his toes explore this soft item. It's another foot. Not his. The foot moves. But then there is a hand that slides across his bare chest. He takes a satisfied deep breath. He carefully lowers the arm from his eyes to lay his hand across the one on his chest. It's a lady's hand. With a ring. He feels the ring. There's a silver A across a smooth stone. But the stone is butted up against…

The rest of the lady curls up against his body. She is naked. He finally opens his eyes afraid that it won't be real. But there she is. Her long dark hair coming across his shoulder. She's real. He strokes the hair back from her face. Her hazel eyes look into his blue ones. He doesn't know what to say. She smiles at him and whispers, "Regrets?"

He smiles and whispers back, "Is this real?"

She reassures him, "I hope so. Otherwise, don't wake me up." He joins her small laugh. "How do you feel?" she asks yawning.

He turns his body to face her directly and hold her hand to his chest, "Perfect."

She traces the freckles on his nose. She knows he has probably said more to his horse than to anyone else in his whole life. But she's the only person to ever get this close to him.

His eyes close under the tenderness of her caresses and soon he is back to sleep. She smiles. It's been a long time since he's has a decent rest. She enjoys the feel of him in her arms. She knows she better soak up every moment now, because he could be gone in a flash. She tries not to let the tears sting her eyes. Some where between soaring love and pain of could come.

She awakens to the sound of the pickup engine starting and then leaving. She sits up. He's gone. At first she is afraid. But then she sees he has left her a single pink rose and a hastily scrawled note:

Mrs. Ramsey~

I need to meet Henry…or else … you know


He left a horseshoe mark, not a heart at the end of the paper. She smiles. Even his notes are of few words. She can fill in all the blanks. She lays back and buries her nose in his pillow.

~~ He races down the street. What is he going to tell Henry? What about Black? He laughs to himself. Who is he more afraid of; his trainer or his horse? He taps his hand impatiently on the wheel at the slow moving delivery truck in front of him. The sound of his ring tapping on the wheel breaks through his thoughts. He looks down at his own wedding ring. He sighs in relief. Alex. She'll understand why he took off. Won't she? Yes, of course she will. He hopes.

The deliver truck moves. He rounds the drive way to the track. Black is giving Henry a hard time. Henry is mad. Not a good time to tell him. He parks the truck quickly. He grabs the gloves off the dash and tugs them on while he sprints to meet up with his team.

"Well it's about time you showed up?" Henry is fuming. "So help me Alexander if you were at a bar I'll-"

"I wasn't at a bar or brothel. And I'm sorry," Alec says quickly taking the Black's reins and tugs on his boots. Alec gives Black a hard stare and Black settles quickly. Henry continues to grumble and gripe about being on time, track appointments and such. Black begins to sniff Alec over carefully. Quickly Alec pops on his helmet.

Henry suddenly stops his grumbling and then looks up at Alec with a scrutinizing look, "Are you still dating the Rosenbalm girl?"

Alec doesn't move. Black turns his head to look at Alec. They are both waiting for an answer. Alec feels his hands begin to sweat in the gloves. He looks down, can Henry see the ring? He clenches the reins tighter. The silver begins to bite into his skin. Maybe he should have left it in the truck. Black snorts. "No," Alec finally simply says. He avoids looking in to their eyes by leaping onto Black's back.

Henry sighs as if Alec's heart had been broken, "I'm sorry. I know that-"

"- What do you want me to do today?" Alec cuts him off.

Henry rattles off some instructing. Alec blankly nods and takes Black out to the track. Some how he manages to stay seated. Black seems to have listened to the instructions. Because Alec's head was back at the hotel. When he returns to the stable, Henry is pleased, but not elated at the work out. He knows Alec is distracted. He knows that could be dangerous. Alec better get his head in the game or they're gonna loose this one. He's not exactly sure how to bring him around. He can see Alec is trying to get his head straightened out. He suggests Alec take Black for a lengthy walk, bareback. He knows that will really bring him around is for him to get back in tune with Black.

Alec follows his instructions. Henry is pleased to see Alec lean over and talk to Black. The way Black twists his ears, Alec must be telling him some deep secret. Black begins to prance. If only Henry knew what Alec was telling Black.

Alec was telling Black, "I love her. And I know you do too. I wouldn't choose anyone who didn't love you as much as I. You and I have been through a lot. Please welcome her home to Hopeful. Okay, Boy?" Black begins to prance and Alec knew Black had accepted the new addition.

He takes Black back to the stable and brushes him down until his coat just gleams. Then with a kiss to his nose he turns to their other mounts and preps them. As he is mucking out the stall he can't help but look down to the Rosewood stables. The groom, with her long black hair pulled back into a four-strand braid, is also hard at work mucking the four stalls they have. She smiles down at him wiping the sweat from her brow. He returns the smile and then back to his own stalls.

Then he gets the next horse out and ready for the track. He untangles the reins, wraps the ankles, checks the frogs and knees. He brushes the tangles from the mane. Henry comes over with a couple sack lunches while Alec tucks the horse back into the stall. Then he washes his hands and joins Henry on a trunk for lunch. Henry hands him a sandwich, "Where were you last night? I was getting worried."

Alec can't help but look down at the Rosewood groom getting water for the team. "I had to take care of something."

They eat in silence. Henry notices the flash of silver on Alec's hand. Alec jewelry? Left hand? Alec takes his apple to Black. "Nice ring. Where did you get that?" Henry asks.

Alec keeps his hand on Black's muzzle. "Oh, a silver shop around here."

Henry tries again, "I've never seen you wear jewelry before. Is everything alright?"

Alec gives Henry a warning look to back off. "Look Alec, we all get our hearts broken sometime. Don't-"

"It's not like that, Henry. I'm going for a walk. I'll be back in a few minutes," Alec walks deliberately away from the Rosewood stables. He walks the staff parking lot. Far away from the rest of the horses. Far away from the gathering spectators. He tries to get his head together. What has he done? What is he going to do now? How long will he be able to keep this up? How did he get in this predicament in the first place?

Hopeful Chapter 2:
Black is pounding down the track. Two furlongs to go. They are pinned between a chestnut and a bay with a pinto in front of them. "Come on, Boy. Go!" Alec calls. Black responds and they get out of the pack. As they cross behind the chestnut, he saw it just before impact. Nothing he could do but grab for mane as the chestnut's loose shoe flies up and nails Alec across the leg. Right above the kneecap. Oh it hurt like the blazes, but there is no time to cry. He holds on tight as they slip under the wire second.

They get away from the pack and go for their cool down walk. Henry rushes to him, "Get off, Alec."

Alec grimaces, and shakes his head, "No, let me ride him to the stable. I don't want to know the damage yet." Henry leads with a track official following.

The chestnut's owner comes over with a female groom, "Ramsey!" Black almost rears. The man backs off.

The girl doesn't, "Hey Black." she says calmly. Black drops down and focuses on her. "I only want to help, okay Boy?" They make it to the stable. She holds Black's head while Henry gets Alec down. She rubs Black's muzzle. Black tries to turn back and check on Alec. She soothes him, "It's okay Boy. Let Henry do his job. Come with me."

Henry watches her for a moment while she takes Black back to his stall. Alec pulls his helmet off. His silk pants are torn above the knee. The pants are soaked wet all the way to the boot. Henry gently pulls the boot off. Alec can't help but cry out. Alec is starting to loose it from the loss of blood., "Don't tear the silks!" when he sees Henry come over with a knife to get a look at the wound. Apparently Alec didn't notice how badly the pants were already torn.

"Then drop your britches!" Henry barks at him.

The medics arrive just as Alec keels over.

~~ Alec comes to in the hospital. "Black? Henry?" he groans. Then he feels a hand on his. He opens his eyes slowly. His blurred eyes see black mane. He smiles as he reaches for it, "Black?" He hears the giggle as his fingers entwine the "mane." But it's so much softer. It's not mane. His vision clears. It's a beautiful girl with hazel eyes laughing at his mistake. As he withdraws his hand from her "mane". He tries again, "Who are you?"

"Alex" she says with a soft laugh.

"No, I'm Alec. Who are you?" He knows he's on pain killers again, but these have to be doosies if he is seeing his horse in the hospital and he doesn't understand anyone.

She laughs again as he tries to clear his vision. She sticks out her hand in introduction. "I know you are Alec Ramsey. My name is Alex." He is still confused. She wrinkles her nose, "Okay it's Alexzina Rosenbalm. But you understand, Alexander."

His breath is caught in his chest. Some how listening to her say his Christian name is beautiful. He wants to hear her say it again. Finally he says, "What is wrong with me? Where is Henry?"

She doesn't respond right away. She's watched him from afar for a couple years. But here she was beside him. She slips her fingers in between his. She is lost in his gaze. She just breathes it out, "Gosh, you are handsome." He just stares back. She blushes instantly when a shadow blocks the door. She quickly jumps back and looks up.

Apparently Henry and Mr. Rosenbalm were too focused on their own conversation that they didn't see the intimacy of the moment. Thank goodness.

Mr. Rosenbalm turns serious, "Please excuse us." She nods and leaves. Alec is still trying to clear his head and wrap it around what just happened.

"How are you, Ramsey?" Mr. Rosenbalm asks.

Alec can barely think so he turns to his friend, "Henry?"

Henry comes to his side and pats his hand, "It's okay son. It's a nasty gash. But you got luck, no broken bones."

Alec smirks, "Well it was a horseshoe, right?" Henry shakes his head to join the smirk.

Rosenbalm turns to Henry, "I'm very sorry about your jockey. I fired the fairer." There's an awkward silence as this powerful controlling business man tries also to be honorable.

Alec turns to Henry, "When can I go home? How is Black?"

Henry touches his hand, "I know, Alec. But I want those tendons looked at again after the swelling goes down. You won't be racing for a few weeks. That's if-"

Alec sit up quickly, "I won't let this stop me."

Henry puts forceful hand on his shoulder, "Alec, you know I understand more than anyone. But you also need to think of Hopeful. We need you. In one piece. Rest. I have plans for Blackout. I have someone who can ride him. You should be well enough for the Preekness by then. If you don't do anything stupid. Take it easy."

Alec has no choice but to sit back and rest. He has the whole farm riding on his head. All he can do is nod.

Mr. Rosenbalm finally speak up, "Why doesn't Mr. Ramsey stay with me while you and the others go to the Carolina's. I'll make sure he gets back for his appointments. Black is welcome to our southern pasture. Maybe they both could use a vacation. After all, it was my horseshoe."

Alec turns to Henry. Henry looks at Mr. Rosenbalm, "Are you sure about Black?"

Rosenbalm smiles, "I heard it rumored that those two are almost inseparable and heal better together. I'd like to witness this."

Henry snorts, "Oh you got that right." Alec feels like he's ten again with his father and mother trying to talk over his head. Unfortunately, they were right too.

Rosenbalm claps his hands together, "Then it's settled. I'll have the guest house set up. Tomorrow we head out."

Henry holds Rosenbalm's hand in agreement. But he doesn't let go right away, "Alec is more than our rider. He's more than Hopeful's bread winner. He's like a son to me."

Rosenbalm returns the clasp, "He will be treated like my daughter." They are in agreement and then Rosenbalm leaves.

Henry sinks in to the chair beside Alec, "Please be careful."

Alec feels clear headed now and asks in return, "Are you sure about this other rider and Blackout?"

"You know we would do better with you. But we will be fine. We should place. Hey, we might even win." The friends and business partners smile. Then the silence falls again. "There will be a point when we will need to find a new rider. I might even want to retire from the racing business." They both have a good laugh. They know Henry would die if he couldn't smell hay and horses.

Henry gets up to leave when the nurse comes in. Alec asks quietly, "Who was the girl here before you came in? She looks familiar."

Henry smiles, "Yeah, nice on the eyes too."

Alec blushes because he noticed that too. But instead he asks curiously, "I think she said her name was Alex Rosenbalm."

The color drains from Henry's face, "Little Zina? No way!"

"Who is she?" Alec asks very curious now.

"If she is Alexzina Rosenbalm, stay away from her. That's Mr. Anthony Rosenbalm's only daughter. Don't even think about it Alec." Alec is very confused. "Rosenbalm will castrate you if you even look twice at his daughter!" Henry shakes his head, "This is a bad idea."
Alec smiles, "Henry, when have I ever stepped out of line? Besides, I will probably be stuck on a porch for a week while she does snobby society things."

Henry shakes a finger at him in a finally parting warning.

The next day, Henry picks up Alec and takes him to the track. Rosenbalm's truck is empty. He approaches Alec on crutches and Henry carries Alec's bag.. He is all smiles, "Hello. You made it. Good, good. I had my horses taken home yesterday. So Black has the truck to himself."

Alec didn't hear him that closely, he was headed over to his horse. He opens the stall door. Black sniffs him over and snorts at the brace on Alec's leg. Alec in turn buries his face in Black's mane and rubs his ears soothingly, "We're going on vacation, Boy. It will do us both some good." Black gives him a soft knickers in reply. Alec clips on the lead and tries to lead him out. But manages to get tangled in the lead.

"Here, let me help," he hears that soft voice again. Alec turns to the same girl he saw in the hospital. This time her hair is in a ponytail pulled high at the top back of her head. It makes her hair almost look like Black's tail and swings with her walk. He's enamored by her. He doesn't move as she gets the lead untangled from his crutches and legs. She's standing right in front of him. She's the same height as himself.

"Have I got horse slobber on my shirt again?" she smirks back at him. He just smiles and shakes his head. She's funny too. He hasn't really noticed her before. He just saw her around at the stables as an assistant to the Rosewood team. But now he's seeing her in a new light. She takes the lead and heads over to the trailer. Black is willing to go with her. His horse likes her. He even reaches out to tug at her pony tail. "I felt that, Black." He whines at her. Making fun of her.

Alec has to know, "Are you Rosenbalm's daughter?"

He sees her tighten her grip on the lead, "Yes. Please don't judge me by my name." He can see she wants to be known for herself.

"Well I find no fault with Alex. Has a good ring to it." He smirks back. She joins his laughter as they round to the back of the trailer. Rosenbalm and Henry are talking.

Rosenbalm claps his hands, "Well, looks like we are ready. I'll go find the driver."

Henry nods and reaches for the lead, "Thank you my dear. I'll secure him."

"Alexzina!" Rosenbalm hollers. She steps away from the Hopeful team to her father's bidding.

Henry leads Black into the trailer with Alec hobbling behind. Once again he reminds Alec, "Remember what I told you. Don't castrate the sire of Hopeful." Henry gives Black a final pat. As Alec and Henry begin to exit the trailer, Black gets anxious and starts to fight.

"Black! I'm right here!" Black won't settle. Alec comes to his head and strokes it gently. Black's flanks twitch with nervousness and fear. "Hey, Boy. Look, I'm going with you." Black isn't convinced. So Alec settles down on the wheel well and stretches his leg out on an empty feed bucket. Black is now calm. Alec sees Rosenbalm with Henry and Alex at the back of the trailer. "I think I'll ride back here with him. It should make for a better travel for the both of us."

Henry fires back once more glancing at Alex, "Remember what I said, Alec."

Alec waves to him, "I know Henry, don't do anything stupid. Got it." Henry shakes his head. Alex and Rosenbalm close the doors. And then the engine starts and they are on their way.

Hopeful: Chapter 3 The trip is only a couple hours, but by the time they arrive, Black and Alec are asleep. The quiet of the engine stopping along with the clank of the clasp on the doors opening wakes them both up. Alex comes up to them. She touches Black softly, "Hey Black. How are you? Want to get out and stretch your legs?" He knickers at her. "Well then come with me." She loosens the rope and leads him out of the trailer. Alec can only watch his horse go with her as easily as Henry or himself. He hobbles after them.

She takes him to a pasture with several apples trees and a huge oak tree in the middle. Alex reaches for the lead but the catch is stuck. She looks close at it. Black is burying his nose in her hair, "Don't even think of slobbering in my hair." She shoves his nose softly as she gets the catch loose. Alec chuckles. "Oh you like that do you?" She laughs back at him. "Wait until I kick you on the knee." Black takes her shirt in his teeth and tugs. She looks into his eye and shoves his nose again, "You know I'm only kidding." Black lets the drool drip onto her shirt. "Oh ugh. Boys do drool. Ick!" Alec starts laughing. Alex gives Black a playful slap onto his rump, "Go find a squirrel to chase!"

Rosenbalm joins Alex and Alec leaning on the fence watching Black prance through the pasture fining all kinds of stuff to sniff and explore.

"He looks like he is going to be alright, Mr. Ramsey." Mr. Rosenbalm says smiling.

Alec has his gaze fixed on Black, "Yes, Mr. Rosenbalm. He looks like he will be just fine. Thank you for letting us stay here."

"It's the least I could do." he replies.

"He's beautiful," Alex barely breathes. "This is very different watching him run free like this."

"It's like flying." Alec quietly returns. Black comes back to Alec. He is panting but very happy. Alec rubs his nose and give him a kiss. Then Black flies off again.

"Alexzina, why don't you see about lunch." Rosenbalm states. "Have it brought to the veranda." She nods and heads off to the main house.

Rosenbalm leads Alec to the house beside the pasture. It's a small house. The steps give Alec a little trouble, but he manages. Rosenbalm gives him the short tour, "It's a small house, but I knew you would want to be close to Black." Alec nods. The porch/veranda butts right up to the pasture fence. There is a table with four chairs on the porch. Just the kind of place where you spend more time outside than inside. "Inside there is just a couple rooms. Here is the bedroom, with the bathroom through there. And then the main room and kitchenette. Not much but just enough to be comfortable." Alec nods.

"This is very nice. Very comfortable." He says politely. Then they head back to the veranda. They settle into the chairs by the table. Alec props his leg up onto a third chair that Rosenbalm pulls closer.

"Here's the rules. I'm sure I won't have any problems with you. Henry runs a tight ship. You are welcome to the stables. But I have a lot of meetings at the main house. I ask you to stay clear. Confidential, you understand." Alec simply nods. "I'll have Mr. Simons, the head butler, get you to your appointments. Help yourself to the phone to check in with Henry or your parents. Alexzina will have numerous responsibilities, so she won't be able to entertain you. And keep that wound clean. Are we clear?"

Alec nods, "Yes, Mr. Rosenbalm. And once again, thank you for your hospitality."

Rosenbalm touches his arm, "If you need anything for yourself or Black just dial 0 and it will pick up at the main house." Alec nods. Rosenbalm then stands, "Welcome to Rosewood, Mr. Ramsey." Alec shakes his hand. Then Rosenbalm looks around the veranda once more, sighs and then heads down the stairs.

Alec leans his head back and sighs. It's been a long time since he just sat and stopped moving. Just to listen to the birds and the breeze. But he does wish he was back at Hopeful. Hopeful…..

And that is how Alex found him. She quietly steps up to the porch. She sets the tray down on the table. He slowly opens his eyes and sits up. "I'm sorry, were you sleeping?" He shakes his head. She pours the lemonade. Alec just watches her. She looks up and catches him watching her. He flushes and turns away. "What? Do I still have horse drool in my hair?" He shakes his head smiling. She's fun. The breeze blows the smell of roses his way. He watches Black also lifting his nose to the smell. Alec limps over to the railing and whistles to Black, who whinnies in reply. Alex comes to his side, "I brought him some carrots." She hands them to Alec. Alec does a second call to Black and waves the carrots. Black races over tossing his head. When he reaches them he snatches the carrots greedily. Alex pulls a last one from the back pocket of her jeans. She laughs as he stretches his neck out, steels it and flies away laughing at them.

Alec turns to her. Her laughter is musical. Her smile is bright. Her perfume is very light. Her hair is completely down now. Probably brushed Black drool out of it. She has on a clean pink blouse, too. She brushes her hair back over her ears. She has tiny gold horseshoe earrings. Henry's warnings were what again? He can't remember. She's fun. He could just run his fingers through her hair for just…

"Lunch?" she asks. Alec turns his back to the railing while she returns to the table takes the lid off the sandwiches. He spreads his arms wide on the railing with his bad leg crossed in front of the good one so not to put any weight on it. He doesn't move but watches her.

She sets back in her chair with her plate in her lap. She looks up at him. God, he is handsome, she tells herself. She can't help but really get a good look at him now this close. Yes he has one injured leg. But those legs are still quiet strong. The narrow waist that triangle up to a broad chest and solid shoulders. She can see the powerful biceps supporting the just as powerful forearms. Then she looks up to the endearing look on his face. The charming freckles speckled across his nose that give him a youthful look. It kind of counters his physic. But the deep blue eyes that are fixed on her do her in.

They are also looking her over. He has known her as Rosenbalm's assistant to the grooms and trainers. And errand girl. Now he sees her up close and in a different light. Her thick black hair is down past her shoulders. She has hazel eyes that change with her mood. Right now they are very soft. Her light weight pink blouse reviles the muscular biceps of the horse world but not of society life. Yes her fingers are manicured, but does by herself. They are not the fancy ones that are delicate. These are professional hands, working hands. A sun tanned face and set of lips that need to be kissed. Oh Lord, that was Henry's warning? "I should go home," he manages to choke out.

Just as quiet she says, "Please don't." No one moves. "My father would be disappointed." She says, hiding her own thoughts.

"The business…" he tries to make am excuse. She breaks the gaze by holding up a plate of food to him.

"Tell me about Hopeful." He ponders for a moment and then hobbles to the chair beside her looking out at Black. Black has found a squirrel in a tree. He wanders around the tree trying to follow it as it chatters down at Black. Alex sees what he does and they both laugh as Black looks disappointed when the squirrel finally gives up and disappears. Black whinnies to the animal, but it won't come back out to play.

"Does he have squirrels to play with at home?" Alex asks.

"A couple." He takes a bite of the sandwich. Then he tells her about Hopeful. The pasture, the pond, the mares and what he finds beautiful. She can see he is passionate about it. Then he drops his head and blushes again, "I'm sorry. I'm rambling."

She laughs, "My father says he can't get me to stop talking."

He leans in, "Tell me about Rosewood." She is lost in his questioning eyes. She feels she is being transported to Hopeful just in his gaze. She finally has to brake the trance by looking at her watch.

"I should go." She gathers up the dishes and heads for the stairs. "I'll be back tomorrow." And she is gone. He keeps watching and sees her go up the back steps to the main house. That black hair…

When she is out of sight, he gets up and wanders around the small house. He finds a hammock in the padded deck box on the veranda. It was fairly simple to set up, but takes a little longer to get into. But once settle, he enjoys it a lot. He even finds a book in the hammock. Arabian Nights. How can he not laugh.

Around dinner time, Alex is back with dinner. "Do you cook?" He joins her at the table again. "I didn't want you to starve." She sets up the simple meal of fried chicken, potato salad and green salad with ice tea.

"Thank you." he says quietly. "I enjoy your company." It's a quiet meal. But finally he asks again, "Tell me about Rosewood."

She sighs, "Do you want to know family history or the this place?"

He leans over, "Tell me about you." She has too look away. She has admired his skill, his integrity, and enamored by his tenderness toward his horses. She has been in awe of his devotion to his family and team. She is amazed at his sense of duty. He does it all and doesn't put anyone else down. He has skill, devotion and still a hard working gentleman. All the things that she wants in her life. She doesn't see this devotion in the circles of her father's society friends. She also doesn't see this gentleness and understanding of business sense in the many of the crass stable hands at the tracks. Truly where she would like to be. But not where her father would like her to be.

She looks out to the field where Black it playing with the fireflies who are coming out. "My favorite place it the stables. My least favorite is the dinning room."

She goes on to tell him that her father's money comes from his father and grandfather's steel mill tycoons. Her father was into Polo. He was even competing in England, where he met her mother. Her grand father was a lord or something. Anthony not only won Elizabeth's love but her father's praise as well. Another Polo player had been Elizabeth's suitor and was quite angry at loosing her. With his social and political pull, he ended Anthony's Polo career. So when he returned to the States with his new bride, he turned to racing instead.

Alex went to England with her mother numerous times for social functions. Anthony and her grandfather wanted Alex to be a lady. Her mother wanted her to be happy. Alex laughed as she told Alec how her mother would "send her to bed" with a wink to the nanny. The nanny would take her to the stables with the butler's son and the groom's daughter. Several of the other servant children would play in the stable too. Then her mother would come and get her when it was truly time for her to go to bed.

Her father could not understand why she loved the trips to England when she was always too sick to be with the other lord's and lady's children. Alec joined her laugh.

Then the silence fell again. Alex's gaze drifts to the stables. "I miss her so much." Alec can't help but put a hand on hers. She smiles up at him, "That's why Papa doesn't argue too much with me being at the stables. He thinks he can keep an eye on me. Well, at least James does. Papa's head groom. He knows the men of the stable won't try anything. Papa doesn't know that I have been James' assistant since I was almost ten. His daughter and he have taught me so much." She sighs and looks over at Black coming towards the railing. Squeezing his hand she leads him over to the railing. "The cancer took my mother in less than a year." She lets go of his hand to reach out to Black's muzzle.

They walk out to the gate. Black follows them over. She strokes Blacks face, down his neck, pulls some strands from his mane, she runs a smooth hand over his body. Black just relaxes completely. "Oh he is wonderful. He is such a fire cracker at the gate, I didn't know he could be so gentle." Black lays his chin on Alec's shoulder as he also caresses his horse.

"Be kind to her, Boy." Alec tells Black.. Then he cups his hands. She checks his expression to be sure he is serious. He comes closer. She sets her knee into his hands and before she can breathe, she is astride his stallion. Black doesn't flinch. He just stands still for just a moment. She leans forward and lays her head beside his neck entwining her fingers into his mane. Alec has to go back to the fence and lean back against it as he watches his stallion walk away with someone else. Black even takes her for a light trot. Alec can only watch as they move together.

Oh this is nuts!, he tells himself. He has no time for women. Certainly not one of this caliber. Then what kind of woman would fit his life? Definitely has to be one that Black approves of. This Alex could be the one. He rubs his forehead. Don't let Henry hear the thoughts in his head. He can only smirk to himself as Black and Alex return. With a flip of her leg, she slides down be side Alec. Black races of with a toss to his head. He enjoyed himself, too.

Alex reaches out and hugs Alec gleefully. Almost like a child. "Oh Alec, he is wonderful!" Alec isn't sure if he should return the embrace. He keeps one hand on the fence for stability and uses the other one to complete the embrace. She has a very solid feel to her. Alex in return can now feel how very muscular this quiet red head really is. She looks up at him. He looks nervous. She steps back. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't have…"

He just smiles back at her. Then to keep the moment light, he looks out at Black grazing. "No one rides him but me. He won't let anyone."

"I thought that was all hype and legend." she gasps. Alec shakes his head. He heads back to the porch, holding the gate for her. She secures it. They return to the table and he props his leg back up.

Alec points out to the clouds brewing in the distance. "Is there a place in the barn for Black and I?"

"I'm sure there is. Is everything alright?"

Alec shutters, "Black and I don't do so good with thunderstorms."

"Alec…" she tries to press but he changes the subject.

"Thanks for dinner. I don't want you to get into trouble with your father." She starts to lean towards him to ask another question. He knows he is going to say more than he should. He also knows it would be so easy for him to fall for her. Pain killers or not, she is very attractive to his soul. He wants to feel her in his arms again. He wants to see her on his horse again.

He gets up and goes inside the house and closes the door. He hopes she doesn't take it as a rude move. It was a saving move. He hears her gather the dishes and leave a few minutes later. "Good night, Mr. Ramsey." And then the squeak of the steps.

That night he has a fitful sleep. His dreams of playing Polo with Black in a thunderstorm against Rosenbalm.

By five in the morning, he gave up sleeping. When she comes by the later in the morning she knocks on the door, "Alec?"

"Just a moment!" he calls back. Then she hears a grunt and "Owe!"

"Alec, what are you doing?"

"Changing the dressing," he says through clenched teeth.

He hears the door as she says, "I'm coming in." She makes it to the bedroom doorway just in time to see him throw a blanket over his lap. His face is as red as his hair. She smiles at his embarrassment. She drops to her knees beside his bad knee.

"You can't do this properly by yourself. Let me help."

He cringes, "It's pretty ugly. Have you done this before?"

"I had a dog get run over by a tractor that I took care of," she responds carefully. She slips her hand behind his knee and delicately cuts the bandage away. Her hands are warm on his skin.

"How is the dog?" He tries to keep her mind off the ugly leg and his mind on the wound not on her tender touch. She pulls the bandage all the way off. It doesn't look that bad, but still stitches, swollen and goo.

She looks up at him sheepishly, "He died."

His face looks grim but she starts to laugh, "Well what do you expect? It was a one ton tractor and a fifty pound dog!" Alec can't help but laugh with her. Then she drops her hand to get the clean bandage.