Logically, Parker knew that it was unlikely that Eliot Spencer was his given name, and when she finally confronted Hardison about it, he'd only confirmed her suspicions. No records for an Eliot Spencer before he was twenty one, and given that they knew Eliot had entered the service at eighteen, it was as close to definitive proof as being told so.

Still, she was curious. And so when Eliot mentioned that he was going home during one of their week long breaks, she really couldn't help herself. She followed him, and she wasn't sure when it happened, but somewhere along the way, Eliot Spencer became Cale Townsend.

It was nearly dusk when Eliot's truck pulled up a long dirt drive leading to a farm house, green rolling pastures on either side. Parker, who was hiding in the bed of the truck, sat up, and Eliot jumped half a mile, having climbed out of the driver's seat.

"The hell, Parker?" He cried incredulously. "You hid in my truck?"

"There's horses," she noted with little more than mild interest. "There are a lot of horses," she looked around, completely un-phased by his reaction to her presence. She stretched a little, it had been a long trip, and she had curled up, head resting on his duffel bag and slept for most of the rid. Her muscles were aching from stiffness.

"There's something wrong with you. What are you doing here?" Eliot asked, hoisting the blond thief out of the truck bed. "I said I was going home. You were supposed to be spending the weekend with Peggy," He growled out, and she wouldn't meet his eye.

Parker just frowned, "I want to know you." Eliot blinked, taking a step back. Stunned beyond all belief was a total understatement.

"You do know me," he frowned as well.

"Not the real you. Not the whole you." She shrugged, "we know Eliot Spencer isn't your real name. I just wanted to know the Eliot with a family."

Eliot sighed, and pulled his duffel out of the truck, "alright, Darlin' it's too late to bring you back now. I've got an extra room in my house. Did you bring anything with you?" She shook her head. To be honest, Parker hadn't really thought this through, other than that she needed to keep Eliot from noticing her until they got there.

"Alright, I'll check with my sis and see if you can borrow some clothes for the night and tomorrow, we can go into town and pick you up some stuff." He sighed and slammed the truck door shut and placed a hand on the small of her back, guiding her towards the farm house.

"Are you mad at me?" Parker asked with a frown, leaning in towards Eliot, and he pressed a kiss to the top of her head.

"No, not really. I'm frustrated with you though. I wish you would have just asked me if you wanted to go." The front door swung open, and Eliot added quickly, "you're a friend from work; my name isn't actually a lie, its Cale Eliot Spencer Townsend. Please don't stab my mother or sister when they try to hug you," he whispered in her ear.

"Cay!" A young brunette shouted as she half ran out of the house, throwing her arms around Eliot's neck, and his reflexes kicked in before he had time to process, holding the woman against him tightly, and he could see Parker shuffling uncomfortably out of the corner of his eye.

"Hey Savannah," he greeted with a broad smile, mostly unable to contain himself. He was so glad to be home. And no, he wasn't going to lie to himself, it was infinitely better because Parker was there.

"Cale Eliot, who is this?" The woman, Savannah, stepped back, her eyes trailing over Parker carefully, critically. "Momma's going to have a heart attack. You finally settle down some?" Upon second glance, Parker realized that the woman was a bit older than she had thought, and it took a lot of self-control to contain herself as Savannah pulled her into a hug like Eliot had warned.

"We're friends," Parker added quickly, growing more and more uncomfortable.

"Sav, this is a friend of mine, Parker, Parks, this is my sister Savannah," Eliot introduced and Savannah raised a critical eyebrow.

"You had better be more than just friends. You know what Momma-" she was cut off by the shots of small children, and a little boy and a younger girl ran out the door with chants of "Uncle Cale!"

"Hey!" Eliot greeted as the two children launched themselves at him, and he caught them with ease, each in one arm. "Parker this is my niece and nephew, Camille and Ethan, guys this is my friend," a pointed stare at his sister, "Parker."

She waved awkwardly, and shifted as the little girl no more than five slid out of Eliot's hold and advanced towards her.

"Are you Uncle Cale's girlfriend?" She asked, blinking up at Parker with bright green eyes, and she could definitely see the resemblance to her uncle.

"Um, no, I'm not," Parker glanced at Eliot with pleading yes.

"Why not? Don't you think he's pretty? I think you're pretty. You look like Sleeping Beauty; can I touch your hair? Can I braid it? My cousin Ally has blond hair, it's pretty. Your name is Parker, right? Did Uncle Cale name his filly after you? We call her Parker too. Do you like horses? I love horses. I'm going to be a jockey when I grow up, but Ethan isn't-" Eliot clamped a hand over the little girl's mouth.

"That's enough, Camille, you have to let people answer before you ask more questions," the hitter chuckled, lifting the girl back up off of the ground. "Let's go inside. I'm starving, and I'm sure Parker would appreciate some of Momma's cooking," he carried Camille into the house, followed by Ethan, half hanging onto his favorite uncle. Savannah though, hung back with Parker, guiding her into the house.

"What did she mean?" Parker asked the brunette woman, "about naming his filly?" She wasn't familiar with horse terminology, but she could figure out that one at the very least.

"We own, breed and train race horses," Savannah explained as they stood just inside the doorway, and she glanced towards the kitchen door where the rest had disappeared through, "every year Cay picks the most promising colt or filly from the lot to take under his wing so to speak, and he controls their training. Two years ago he picked a little grey filly he named Parker's Little Thief. Didn't he tell you? That's why he's back in town; Parker's running her maiden race this Sunday at Keeneland."

Parker shook her head, a little stunned at the explanation Savannah had given her, "no, he didn't tell me anything about it."

"Cale Eliot Spencer Townsend, you did what now?" A near screeching holler came from the kitchen, decidedly female; Parker could have guessed it was his mother.

"I'm sorry!" Eliot shouted with a laugh, "Sav help! I need a witness!" Parker had never heard his voice sound so… light? It was strange but nice, and she could hear the light teasing in his voice.

She glanced at Savannah with mild concern, because their mother hadn't sounded like she was teasing, but Eliot's sister just shook her head. "You're going to need more than a witness when I'm through with you," the woman's voice replied, the threatening tone dissolving into a laugh as well.

"Why is your mom mad at you?" Parker asked as she and Eliot sat on the porch swing. Savannah and her husband Wyatt and the children had retired to their own house closer to the foaling barn at eight thirty, and Eliot's mother, who had showered Parker with hugs and stuffed her full of roast beef sandwiches and left over apple pie, had finally gone to bed around ten. It was nearly midnight but they had wandered over to a third house, much smaller and nearest to the training oval, and neither was remotely tired, so they had decided to remain outside.

"She's not really mad, she's disappointed," Eliot explained, a mug of decaf in his hands. "Last time I brought a girl home it was Aimee, and my Momma was convinced that she was the one for me. Started planning a wedding and everything. When that fell through she was furious at me, convinced that it was my fault. And it was but not entirely. But then Cam told her that I'd brought a girl home and she thought I was here to announce an engagement. And then I crushed her a little bit when I told her we weren't even in a relationship," he shrugged with apparent indifference, but even Parker could tell it was feigned.

Parker frowned, "I'm sorry, I didn't mean to cause trouble for you," Eliot glanced at her out of the corner of his eye, and his stomach churned when he saw how distraught she looked, and he knew that she couldn't understand. She'd never had a family; she couldn't know that disappointment, arguments were all part of loving someone. She didn't know that he'd have been in trouble no matter the situation because he was a good southern boy, and Momma was always right.

"Hey now, it's alright. I debated asking if you wanted to come along anyway, but then you said you had plans with Peggy so I didn't bother," he explained quickly, and that much was true. She'd never been in the country, Parker was a city girl, that was where the product was, cars or jewels or paintings. He loved the idea of showing her a bit of his world.

"You named a horse after me," Parker commented, her face impossible to read, and Eliot just stared into the coffee cup which was suddenly quite interesting, the milk beginning to separate out.

"Yeah," he grunted non-committedly.


Eliot just sighed deeply. "When she was born, she was really sick. We couldn't get her to stand and nurse, I had to hold her up and even then she was really weak. I spent the whole night in the barn making her nurse every hour or so but by sunrise, I guess I'd fallen asleep and when I woke up, she was just standing there, taunting me like, 'look what I tricked you into doing for me,'" he chuckled fondly, "she reminded me of you, after that first night when she couldn't stand up, she was the feistiest, bossiest filly in the paddock, throwing her weight around in front of all the older, bigger fillies and colts," Eliot glanced at her, a soft smile on his lips.

"I'm not like that," Parker frowned, unable to hear the affection in his voice.

"Yes you are, and that filly is just as crazy as you, and for some reason I like her anyway," he smiled at the thief. She pulled her feet up onto the bench tucking them under her as she shifted to face him.

"I want to meet her," Parker half demanded.

"I thought you were afraid of horses," Eliot raised an eyebrow but he was more than willing to show the horse to her. He had appropriated her name, her identity after all. He owed her that much.

"Don't be silly. I already told you they're a lot less murderous than I thought." Parker frowned, certain that she was being teased. Sophie had told her that she wasn't supposed to like it.

"Okay, but in the morning, she's sleeping now and tomorrow she's being breezed and then shipped to the race track so I don't want to wake her," he nodded, setting his now empty mug on the wooden slats of the porch swing.

Parker nodded, "we could, you know. I don't want your mom to be mad at you," confusion spread across Eliot's face as he studied hers intently; completely unable to follow her train of thought because he knew they weren't talking about the horse anymore.


"Your mom. She thought we were together, but you told her we weren't. But we could, couldn't we? We already have sex," Parker shrugged, and Eliot took a moment to realize he shouldn't have been surprised at her blunt nature, but he was. It was Parker, she didn't understand social expectations.

"Are you asking me out?" Eliot asked with a huge grin on his face, an eyebrow rose tauntingly.

"What?" She squeaked out, apparently she knew more than she let on, "no." He raised his eyebrow impossibly higher. "Okay fine. Yes."

Eliot didn't do commitment; he hadn't since Aimee and had never planned to again. He'd had girlfriends but that wasn't commitment either, just exclusive sex for a certain period of time, but this was Parker. She was damaged and needy even if she mostly refused help. A relationship with Parker was something different entirely. She didn't do commitment either, no attachment. From what he had pieced together Parker rarely did human contact at all, and despite how… proficient she had been in bed, he was fairly certain her relations weren't a common occurrence. So in all, that both of them were considering a relationship at all meant feelings, and Eliot was certain they weren't about to go away, but if something happened, if something went wrong it had the power to destroy the team, rip them apart. It was a bad idea, terrible, so he couldn't fathom why when he opened his mouth to tell her no, "I'd like that," came out instead.

But Parker's face lit up, her blue grey eyes shining brightly at him and he knew he had said the right thing, "really?" He could hear the excitement in her tone, but he could hear the unspoken question that made his stomach clench uncomfortably, 'you want to be with me?'

She'd been tossed around, abandoned more times than he could count, uncared for, for so long that she had difficulty believing she was wanted for something other than her talent for theft. "Yes darling," Eliot pulled her into his lap, pressing a kiss to her forehead. "Really." He punctuated, end of story with no room for discussion. Still beaming, she leaned in close, her lips brushing over his ear gently, "does this mean I don't have to sleep in the extra room?"

The alarm was set for four thirty, but they were both awake just in time to shut it off before it could screech them into the world of the living. Unabashed as always, Parker flitted around the room, Eliot's room, completely naked as the prepared for the day, and Eliot didn't seem to mind much as Parker donned the borrowed clothes, jeans and a flannel shirt left un-tucked. And he couldn't help but think about how if she didn't open her mouth, she could easily pass as Southern Belle. The kind of wife his mother would be proud of. But of course, her accents were awful.

"Eliot let's go!" She was bubbling with excitement, a far cry from the woman he'd had to ask a personal favor of last time horses were involved, and though he'd told her she could call him Cale if she wanted, she stuck with Eliot and he wasn't surprised.

"Alright, alright," he finished buckling his belt, boots tied and he escorted the thief down to the two year old barn. The Townsends, Eliot's family weren't rich per say, not in their town where rich meant old money, but their two year old crop alone was nearly forty horses, and the stables were huge. Parker tensed slightly as they walked through the dark barn, the sun only just beginning to rise, and the horse heads popping over the stall doors waiting to be taken out and worked seemed to startle her.

The filly they were looking for was at the end of a long row, her head already hanging over the door waiting for them as they approached. She was on the smaller side, barely fourteen hands and a light white grey. She nudged Eliot's shoulder with her muzzle as soon as he was close enough, and he caught her halter before she could dance out of reach, giving her a few loving pats before turning to Parker the human.

"Parker, meet Parker's Little Thief," he grinned, and the suddenly shy blond stepped forward cautiously, petting the filly gently.

"She's nice," Parker commented with a smile as the young filly tried to nibble at Eliot's flannel shirt, and he swatted her away with a dramatic scowl before feeding her the carrot she was looking for.

"Sometimes," the hitter chuckled, turning back to the horse that was once again trying to eat his shirt. "You missed me, didn't you girl," he half cooed, letting himself into the stall and Parker watched with interest as Eliot groomed the filly and saddled her.

"You're going to ride her?" Parker asked finally as Eliot swung the door open to lead the filly out, noting how short the stirrups were.

"Nah, her jockey is out exercising another horse with my sis," Eliot explained, "I'm too big to exercise her. My weight would throw her off for her race." Parker didn't really understand that, she would have figured it would be like when she did all of her exercises with leg weights, and it all became easier when she took them off.

She frowned, it was all so confusing, "will she win?" Parker fell in step with Eliot as he led the horse out of the barn and down to the training oval. And Parker's eyes widened when she saw the track, six horses all at hard gallops and on the far side a group of people standing on the fence. On the far turn, two of the horses slowed up and came to a stop in front of Eliot and Parker and the small jockey slid off the black colt, turning it over to a groom.

"Hey Corey," Eliot greeted, giving the short man a leg up onto the grey filly. "Canter at the half mile pole, a lap or so, when you get her back around break from the quarter for the mile," Eliot instructed, tossing the reins over the horse's head. "Keep her controlled; I don't want to work her too hard." He gave the filly a firm pat as Corey trotted her away.

"What now?" Parker asked, turning to Eliot as she hovered close to his side. She said they didn't scare her, but she still wasn't used to thousand pound animals running loops at forty miles an hour.

"We time her. Watch, she'll start running right in front of us," he walked over to the rail, a stop watch in hand, and his eyes watched the grey filly critically. Parker turned to watch her as well, standing with her feet on the lowest slat of the fence.

"The oval is a mile around," Eliot explained without turning his eyes from the filly, and when she came to a stop, she lined up with a chestnut colt at the half mile pole. The ring of a bell and they both broke into gallops, and Eliot started the stop watch.

The grey filly pulled away from the colt in only a few strides, and Eliot could tell she was still collected and breathing easy. Now three lengths ahead, the chestnut chased the filly down the back stretch and at the far turn she lengthened her stride and pulled another two, three, four lengths away and past the pole she was nearly ten lengths ahead of the chestnut colt. Standing up in his stirrups, Corey slowed up the horse and circled back around to Eliot and Parker on the rail.

The hitter glanced at her time with a broad grin and the filly practically danced over to them, still full of energy. "How did she feel?" Eliot asked, walking over to the horse, Parker at his heels.

"Great, I never even asked her for anything, I only let her out a little and we just flew," Corey's excited look mirrored Eliot's and Parker really didn't get it, but giggled when the filly nudged her shoulder and Parker scratched her muzzle.

"That was just at the track record, if nothing goes wrong, she should blow away the competition," Eliot chuckled, wrapping his knuckles on the wooden fence just to be sure.

"That was impressive," Savannah called from atop the chestnut, "Tuck had no chance of even keeping pace with her," she commented, and Parker hadn't noticed Eliot's sister was riding before.

"Parkers always win," Parker added absentmindedly, still petting the filly who seemed more than pleased at the attention. Eliot laughed heartily, patting the filly's neck with only a thin sheen of sweat and he couldn't be more pleased.

"Come on," he encouraged Parker and took the filly's reins, "let's go cool her down. We need to get her all cleaned up to ship her to the track."

Eliot leaned back in his chair, completely stuffed from the lunch his mother had made. He loved to cook, but food was always better when his momma made it. That was just one of those pesky facts of life. "El?" Parker poked him in the side, her elbows resting on the table. "Will you teach me how to ride?"

Eliot did a double take before staring at the little blond. His mind had gotten away from him a little.

"You never learned?" Camille's loud question interrupted his train of thought.

"No, Parker didn't grow up around horses," he explained gently to the five year old girl. "Sure, do you want to go now and we can head into town after?" Parker nodded, and they both helped to clean up from lunch before heading back down to the stables, though they entered a different barn.

Selecting a docile gelding named Rex for Parker, and a four year old racer who needed some exercise for himself, he saddled them up and led the two into the cool down ring. "Always up on the left side," he instructed, giving her a leg up into the saddle. "Heels down, sit straight and keep your hands low," he adjusted each as he spoke and then took Rex's lead. "Ready?" Eliot asked, and she nodded. At the click of his tongue, the horse started to walk, and Parker squealed but remained in the positions he had placed her in, and after a few times around the ring he swung the gate open and threw a leg over his horses' back.

"Come on darling," he urged the horse forward and Rex followed suit. Clearly nervous, Parker impressed Eliot; though he reasoned he really shouldn't have been surprised. After all, she had impeccable control over her body, and though she also had to account for another brain, she seemed to get the basics.

"This is fun," she giggled, and Eliot couldn't help but note what a natural she was. They followed Eliot's favorite trail, and he got her to trot and canter too on the way back and on his favorite flat stretch he urged the colt into a gallop just for a few lengths and then waited for Parker to catch up.

"I want to do that," her eyes gleamed at the idea, and Eliot was sure he was going to regret helping the adrenalin junky over her fear of horses, because she was too talk to jockey flat races, but not so for the more dangerous, more exciting steeplechase.

"Not yet, darlin', you're still learning," he chuckled.

It was dinner by the time Eliot and Parker got back from town with new clothes and a white cowboy hat for the thief who was enthralled. The meal was the usual lively affair with the whole family as well as some of the stable hands, and Georgia served Eliot-Cale's favorite cherry pie for dessert. Everyone retired early, and Parker understood why now, since they'd all been going since four thirty and they hadn't really stopped. There were horses to train, stalls to muck, and the constant paddock rotation. Then there were horses to groom and feed and she had no idea how they kept up with it all, even with all the help they hired.

"That was exhausting," Parker commented, flopping face first into the queen sized bed in Eliot's room. He just laughed softly and sat down next to her.

"Farm work is hard work," it was what his mother repeated every time someone complained, "you can go to sleep you know," he patted her thigh, and she rolled over, blinking up at him. "What Darlin'?" he frowned at the stare. For all he knew about the thief, her expressions could be impossible to read, and so he had learned to expect everything, but the way she twisted around and pinned him to the bed with a searing kiss still caught him off guard. Of course that didn't stop him from responding immediately, both hands on her tiny waist. She giggled softly and pulled away from him, seemingly oblivious to how their hips ground together and Eliot couldn't stop the husky growl from escaping his lips.

"El," she breathed quietly hovering over his face, and tendrils of her silky hair brushed across his cheek with the small intakes of air. "What does being in a relationship mean?"

The timing surprised him, but not the question, after all, she wasn't one for romantic books or movies, and she'd never been in this position before. He reached up, thumb trailing over her cheek as he tucked strands of hair behind her ear. "It means," he struggled for a moment, trying to put it in Parker terms, and he brushed his thumb over her kiss-swollen bottom lip. "It means we're best friends who get to sleep together and not share with anyone else," he liked the bright smile that spread across her face.

"I've never had a best friend before," she was excited at the prospect, and it stung a little every time he was reminded of what she had actually missed out on.

He wasn't finished though, and continued, "It means we trust each other, we don't lie to each other, and we spend time together outside of work," he added quickly.

She nodded, "so the only difference is you won't have sex with other girls," she commented thoughtfully and shifted positions and Eliot's mind blanked for a millisecond, delighting in the friction.

"No," he shook his head, "I haven't slept with anyone but you since the first time," he admitted, and Parker blinked again, that same blank unreadable stare and he squirmed slightly, unsure of what to make of it, his admission.

"That was seven months ago," her eyes were wide and he could read it now, surprise. He just nodded. "But we've only had sex seven and a half times since then," she commented, the confusion was obvious in her voice. He raised an eyebrow at the half remark, but he knew what she was getting at- she had every intention of continuing this. Still, he kind of wished she would stop using such blunt terminology; it seemed cheap somehow, wrong.

"I know, Darlin'," he confirmed with a soft chuckle.

"Before that you took girls home every weekend," she frowned, clearly not understanding. And Eliot wasn't sure what to think of the fact that she had paid attention.

"Not after you," he shook his head. "The idea of just some other girl I met at a bar or a restaurant seemed infinitely less appealing than waiting for you," he replied simply, but he didn't give her a chance to respond, and flipped them over, pressing a rough kiss to her lips as his hands started to unbutton the red flannel shirt.

Friday and Saturday couldn't pass quickly enough and Eliot couldn't believe how rapidly the sneaky little thief had taken to farm work, and she was practically eager to help him muck the stalls and groom and feed the horses and she watched critically as they clocked breeze times for the horses, and when they headed over to Keeneland to care for the runners they had there, she spent all of her time with the horse who shared her name.

Eliot was pleasantly surprised at how well they got along, since the filly usually tried to bite anyone but Eliot and Savannah, but under Parker's care, the horse had practically gone pet, and he couldn't help but take a picture when he found Parker and Parker in the small track paddock. The filly had lain down; looking around alert and the thief was asleep, using the usually high strung filly as a pillow.

He knew Parker liked to own precious things, and he wondered if the girl understood how priceless the filly really was, who could trace her sires back closely to not just Secretariat, but also Seattle Slew, Affirmed and Native Dancer, and her dams to Devona Dale and Sky Beauty. Eliot wondered if she realized how impressive six furlongs in just over a minute and one without putting all in was, but no matter, because come Sunday morning she was more nervous and excited than he was. Eliot wasn't sure if it was just that it was her first race, or if it was the bond that she seemed to have formed with the filly.

Parker was vibrating with energy as the watched Corey lightly breeze her in the dark before sunrise, it wasn't a claiming race but they didn't want the odds in her favor for the first race of her career, he was just a little superstitious.

By the time post time came around, after she had wished the horse good luck and handed Corey her 'lucky stone' to carry during the race (and by stone she meant thirty karat yellow cushion diamond) she'd worked herself up into a fit, and in the owner's box with his mother and sister and his niece and nephew, he pulled her into his side.

"Look, she just went into the gate," wearing mint green and lavender, the Townsend silks were easy to pick out as the filly loaded into the outermost gate. Not the ideal post position for most people, but Eliot was thrilled. He hoped he wasn't making a mistake running her without blinkers the first time, since she'd never seen a crowd before, but he knew she'd need to see any horses near her to kick her into gear.

"Aaand they're off!" the bell sounded and the gates broke open. Parker's hand flew to Eliot's and she gripped it tightly. "A clean start, Apollo's Arrow pulls to the front, Parker's Little Thief got a late start," the announcer called, and Eliot wasn't surprised, the filly never charged the gate, and they drown out the excited announcer's shouts as she swept the lead in a furlong, charging ahead with long strides. As they rounded the far turn she began to pull away from the pack, a length and then two, and three and he could see Corey give her more rein, kneading his hands along her neck and she surged forward on the stretch and even Parker could tell that she hadn't given even ninety percent of what she was capable of when she swept under the wire, fifteen lengths ahead of the pack, and Eliot leaped up, scooping Parker up into his arms.

"New track record!" Shouted in the background.

"She won!" Parker squealed, and Eliot grinned, setting her down on her feet, but he took her hand again.

"Come on, we have to go down to the winner's circle," he was beaming. This was it, the dream every horse trainer, owner and jockey had, the one that could run them to fame and glory. Immortalized by the champion. Parker's head was racing, and Eliot tucked her into his side as a blanket of flowers was draped over Corey's lap atop the filly, and they all posed for the picture, and only after the flash did Corey slide off her back, and Parker threw her arms around the horse, congratulating her.

"That's quite a filly you've got there, she blew away the rest of the field, all colts who had raced before. Do you have anything to say about her new track record?" A reporter shoved a microphone in Eliot's face.

"She may be little, but she's got all the heart you could ever ask for. I'm sure she's going to go onto great things, as you may have noticed, she didn't even put in a hundred percent but I'd like to announce," the hitter glanced over at Parker, "while I'm staying on as trainer, I'm signing over seventy five percent ownership to this lovely woman right here," he nodded to Parker, "this little filly's namesake."

Parker turned around with wide eyes, her hand still on the filly's neck. "I see you didn't tell her first," the reporter commented with a chuckle.

"Why did you do that?" Parker frowned as she led the filly over to the cross ties and began sponging her down. She didn't really understand presents; if something was that good why not just keep it for yourself?

"She likes you," Eliot shrugged but that wasn't really why. "You like her. I know you haven't really gotten gifts before, but I want you to have her. I want you to be stuck with me."

Parker blinked at him, seemingly dumbstruck but her face was still unreadable. "I heard some of the grooms and stable hands talking about other races, millions of dollars, and you just gave that up because you want me to stay?" He couldn't even read her tone, but he could tell she was baffled. Parker loved her money.

"If she does well her foals will be worth a lot too," he added, but he nodded, "there's always more money, Parker, but I don't want you to spook and run away from me." He admitted softly, setting the feather light racing saddle on its perch.

She dropped the sponge into the water bucket, and threw her arms around Eliot's neck, hanging off of him like a koala, and he didn't even stagger backwards. "Thank you," she whispered into his ear, "but I don't want to leave."