Shamrock Stable #1
No Horse Wanted
The only thing that Robin Gibson wants for her sixteenth birthday is a 1968 Presidential Blue Mustang. Following their family tradition, what her parents promise her is a horse of her own, one with four legs, not four wheels. Mom competes in endurance riding, Dad does calf roping, her older brother games and her older sister loves three-day eventing, but Robin proudly says that she doesn't do horses. She'll teach her controlling family a lesson by bringing home the worst horse she can find, a starved, abused two-year-old named Twaziem.
Robin figures she'll nurse him back to health, sell him and have the money for her car. Rescuing and rehabilitating the Morab gelding might be a bigger challenge than what she planned. He comes between her and her family. He upsets her friends when she looks after his needs first. Is he just an investment or is he part of her future? And if she lets him into her heart will she win or will she lose?
No Horse Wanted was a finalist in the Young Readers category in the 2015 EPIC eBook Awards!
Check out EPIC eBook Awards here.
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|Middle Grade / Teens|
Wednesday, September 11th, 2:30 p.m.
One more day, I thought, one more day!
Then, I’d be sixteen and nobody could tell me I was a kid. Not my parents or my older brother or my college freshman sister, who all thought it was their life mission to order me around, just because I was the youngest in the family. I’d get my driver’s license, go wherever I wanted and no one would call me Princess Robin ever again.
All I needed was a car. The one destined to be mine was a classic! A 1968 Mustang hardtop coupe. No convertible for me, not in Western Washington where it rained more than the sun shone. The brilliant blue paint on my dream car shimmered in the sunlight as I approached the Mustang Corral on the main drag in Podunk, USA—otherwise known as Marysville, Washington.
Why had Brenna moved my car out to the premier spot on State Street? Everybody who came into town could see it there and someone else might buy it before I convinced Dad to sign the papers. Brenna knew I wanted that gorgeous car. I’d told her often enough, and of course, I visited my Mustang every day on the way from school to my father’s accounting office. I’d get it for my birthday. I knew it, heart and soul.
I’d talked her down from the list price on the car to fifteen thousand dollars, cash. All I had to do was get my father to agree to pay half, and he was almost there. Okay, so I was his baby and sometimes I played it to get what I really wanted. But, I was a good kid. I might not get the greatest grades in the world and I did bring home every stray animal I found, but I never did drugs, or drank booze or hung out with sleaze-balls. I deserved my Mustang. Once he came up with his share of the bucks, I’d use part of my college fund for my portion.
I’d be driving all over the place. My brother might be happy with the beat-up half-ton Dodge pickup he found on Craig’s List and my sister might swear there was nothing better than her 1991 four-wheel-drive Jeep. One of my dad’s clients saw it parked beside a road up in the boonies with a For Sale sign taped to the cracked windshield. My sister still raved about the great deal she’d made.
They could really be satisfied with other people’s cast-offs, but not me. Okay, so my Mustang was more than forty years old and it had been driven by someone else, but it didn’t look like a used vehicle. The previous owners treated my car like the treasure it was. I circled around it, admiring the sheen of the Presidential blue color. Freshly washed and waxed, not a glimmer of dust marred the finish. When I got it home, Brenna’s brother, Harry, wouldn’t be around to keep my car in shape for me. I’d have to do it myself.
No problem. What could be better than washing and waxing my own car? Nothing! Nobody better even think about eating fast food in my car when I got it. That was so not happening!
I headed past the other ten Mustangs, candy-apple reds, canary yellows, a night black convertible, and emerald greens. A real rainbow herd, I thought. Brenna kept the rest of the cars on the sides and toward the back of the lot. I spotted Harry washing the puke green fixer-upper ’67 model on the far side of the garage. No matter how hard he tried, that particular rig was destined to be what his older sister called the “loss leader.” It needed a new tranny and a rebuild on the engine before anyone could drive it. And who would want to?
Looking at Harry Thornton made my day even better, even if he hadn’t seen me yet. Sunshine blond hair curled to broad, tanned shoulders. He’d changed to a T-shirt and shorts to work here, but he still looked majorly hot. Of course, he didn’t have a clue. He just thought all the girls wanted to sit at his table because I did.
I wasn’t that popular even if I ran track and cross-country. I was blonde, brown-eyed, five-foot-six, and made friends easily. I liked people, well most of them, and they liked to hang out with me. And Harry was always willing to talk to me about cars, especially Mustangs, which had to be the best cars ever made by Ford.
Brenna waved to me from the steps at the front of the office trailer. “Hi, Robin. Come on over.”
Shifting my backpack, I went to join her. “Hey, Brenna. What’s up with my car?”
She smiled, then ran a hand through her shoulder-length red hair. The blue mechanic’s coveralls she wore matched her eyes. “It’s not yours until the papers are signed. And like I’ve told you all summer, your dad needs to do that, since you’re not eighteen yet.”
“He’ll do it,” I said. “Tomorrow’s my birthday and he knows this car is all I want. I’ve been telling him that for ages.”
Brenna nodded and her smile faded. She actually looked her age, almost thirty. “One of the guys I served with in Afghanistan took it out for a test drive today, Robin. I’ve been straight up with you. I won’t hold a car for someone who can’t buy it. This place eats almost as much as Harry does.”
I knew she was trying to make a joke, but I could also tell that she was being honest with me. If somebody came in with enough bucks, my car would be gone. “Okay, I’ll get my dad in here right away.”
She nodded, then headed for the garage to do maintenance on a car she’d just taken in, and I jogged toward the sidewalk. The Mustang Corral wasn’t that big as far as lots went. It was sandwiched between a vacuum repair place and a small strip mall. The only business left in the mall was a doughnut shop that was open from before school to midnight. I skipped my usual routine of popping in for a coffee and a maple bar. I had to talk to Dad and he had to get serious about the blue Mustang. Or else!
When I walked into the accounting office twenty minutes later, the secretary told me that my father was finishing up with a client. I had to wait almost an hour for him. Then, he rushed me out the door. He wanted to get to the feed store before it closed because his horse needed some kind of special supplement. Finally, we were on the way home and he was a captive audience. He couldn’t get away from me.
“Dad, we have to talk about my birthday.”
He glanced sideways at me while he waited for the red light to change at the intersection. “Robbie, we already have it planned. Felicia is coming home from school, and she’ll be here tomorrow night to celebrate with us. She’s taking Friday off from classes and driving back on Sunday morning.”
“Wonderful,” I said, hoping he didn’t catch the sarcasm. “I can’t wait to see her. I’m talking about my big present. I want—”
“I know what you want,” Dad said, stepping on the gas. “But it doesn’t mean you’re going to get it. Presents are supposed to be surprises. You’ll have to wait until tomorrow night at dinner to see what you get.”
I nearly told him I didn’t think waiting was a good idea, not when Brenna had a buyer for my car. However, my cell phone vibrated. When I looked at the screen, it was my best friend and I had to talk to her. Not about the car—she just didn’t get why I was so hooked on Mustangs—but about her life, which pretty much sucked all of the time now.
* * * *
Thursday, September 12th, 4:00 p.m.
Leaving the department store sacks unopened and uninvestigated, I closed the door to the closet in my parents’ bedroom. Snooping there had been a long shot, but I didn’t know where else to look for the papers and keys to my Mustang. I just couldn’t find anything to do with the car. Mom and Dad hid the information too well, although the ’68 classic hadn’t been on the lot when I walked by there today.
So, my car had to be here on the farm. I just hadn’t found it yet. And I didn’t have a lot of time left to look. Mom had to make a quick grocery store run to get Felicia’s favorite junk food and Dad went with her. Hello, it was my birthday. Wasn’t I supposed to be the special one today?
I’d searched most of the buildings; anywhere a person could drive a car. The only place left to look was the big barn where my family kept their horses. I figured my older brother Jack would totally freak if the car was in the indoor riding arena, not because the horses might trash it, but because they could spook and get hurt.
Horses were weird at the best of times and Jack fussed over the ones in the barn non-stop. He kept their stalls cleaner than Mom did the house. She often said she wished his obsessive neat and tidy fanaticism would carry over to his bedroom. It hadn’t in nearly eighteen years, so I figured she should get over it. I started to leave my parents’ room, then remembered that Salt escorted me upstairs.
I glanced around the master bedroom. The eight-week-old, black and white Persian kitten was nowhere in sight. I hurried back to the closet and opened the sliding door. Salt sauntered out and wound through my legs, purring. I scooped him up and closed the closet again, heading downstairs.
The house was hopeless. I’d searched my dad’s office, my folks’ room, and Mom’s sewing room where she made quilts and other handmade crafts to sell. No sign of anything to do with my car. Where could the papers be?
Okay, I’d stop looking for those and go back to hunting for the car. I left Salt on the couch in the living room. He promptly jumped to the back and stalked to the cream drapes that covered the huge picture window. An extra black paw stole around the edge of one drape and batted at Salt. Pepper, the other kitten, was in his favorite hiding place on the windowsill. Leaving the kittens to shadowbox, I hurried out into the golden afternoon.
I was on a mission and I’d find my car, no matter what!
In the barn, I looked down the long row of stalls that bordered the indoor riding arena. The stalls opened onto a wide aisle. Off to my right, a wall separated the stalls from the ring, which was about two hundred feet long and seventy-five feet wide. Sometimes Jack and his buddies practiced football plays inside. There were eight stalls, although we only had three horses right now.
Felicia took her Appaloosa gelding with her to Washington State University in Pullman. She’d fussed more about finding the perfect stable to board him than she did about her stuff for the dorm room. I’d done most of the shopping so the place would be livable, or she’d have a sleeping bag on her bed and her clothes in suitcases since she wouldn’t have any hangers for the closet. Of course, as long as her horse was happy, she wouldn’t have cared. The whole family loved the indoor arena, except me. I’d voted for a swimming pool—not that anyone listened.
The first box stall held Jack’s huge, white Thoroughbred, Nitroglycerin. I shuddered and gave him a wide berth when he pinned his ears and gave me that wicked once-over from pale blue eyes. Jack told me that people used to think blue or glass-eyed horses were blind. I wasn’t that dumb. I just knew Nitro was evil. I’d been sure of it even before he ran away with me the last time Mom insisted I come riding with her and Felicia.
Next to Nitro was my mother’s purebred Arabian mare. She was tiny in comparison to Nitro, fifteen hands to his eighteen. Ibn Scheherazade was a dainty chestnut with a long flaxen mane and tail. She answered to Singer at home because she pranced and danced across the finish line at hard endurance contests, just like Mom’s sewing machine stitched material.
Singer’s head came up, and she listened intently to the soft thuds overhead in the hayloft. I recognized the thumping of little cat feet. Obviously, the two half-grown kittens, Ginger and Cinnamon, were playing tag again. When I found Salt and Pepper abandoned near the train tracks in Marysville, Mom told me that two kittens in the house were enough and my older cats had to go to the barn because the newest ones needed to be bottle-fed every couple hours. Luckily, it was August so I could get up all night long to do it and not have to worry about school the next day.
Singer snorted and jumped to the back of her stall as the noise continued in the loft. She looked like a horse statue come to life, but she wasn’t as smart as Mom claimed. Dad’s Quarter horse, Buster, took up the third stall. He searched his manger for any crumbs left from lunch. I always found it hard to believe that this was the same horse that exploded into the arena when it was time to rope a calf since he was such a hog-body at home.
Jack came out of the tack room, all cowboyed up in his jeans, western shirt, and boots. “Thought I heard someone. What’s going on, Robin?”
“Not much,” I said, eyeing him. Would he tell me where to find my car?
He grinned at me, a tall, dark-haired, younger version of Dad. “So, are you here to help me with chores, Princess?”
I shrugged. “Sure. Why not? I’ll do the cats, the chickens, and the rest. You do the horses.”
“All right!” He pumped an arm in the air. “It won’t do you any good. I’m still not telling you about your big present.”I’d been charming secrets out of him for years, and he always lost this kind of battle. I just smiled up at him. “Want to bet?”