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And with the bargain struck, we both returned to our horses.
Rune stood perfectly still while I saddled her and whispered to
her that I was about to get involved with Liz Chase. While appearing
exceedingly bored by that piece of information, Rune nonetheless
indicated she might tolerate my riding her by further standing still as I
climbed on board and shifted in my seat.
Liz was riding ahead of me as I gave Rune the signal to walk. She
loved to walk out fast, which I liked about her, but quickly the walk
turned into a tolt that was a little too fast. I slowed her down, but she
was go-ey and irritable. In fact, Rune always felt like a revving engine
under me, an engine that wanted to shift into a higher gear.
We headed toward the west end of the paddock at a walk, and when
I said a low  whoa, she came to a full stop. I relaxed, rocking back
slightly in the saddle, and dropped my hands to my lap. As the white
paddock gate swung open just slightly in the wind, I felt Rune tense up,
then her back end rolled up under her, and she sprang forward.
I gathered myself up in an instant and pulled back on the reins,
but she jolted forward, then reared up with eyes wild and mouth open.
She was no sooner up in the air than she was down again, taking a
sharp right. I pulled her head toward her flank to keep her from taking
off down the long pasture, but she spun in the direction I pulled, and
the centrifugal force of her turn threw me off her left side. I heard Liz
scream as I fell to the ground with a body slam that knocked me out.
I vaguely remember the excruciating pain on the left side under
my arm. I remember the sound of Rune s breathing as she stood over
me for a brief second, her fit momentarily subsided, and Liz screaming
my name. I was semiconscious on the ground.
" 178 "
MISTRESS OF THE RUNES
Heal my horse, I ask as I lie injured, not knowing if I will live or
die. The golden animal lies beside me, having nearly run herself to
death to keep us both out of the hands of my enemies, but they overtook
us. The queen is safely away, but I am pierced through my chest, my
horse injured beside me. The woman in the white robe has come out
of nowhere to minister to me. She lays her hands on my horse and the
horse s breathing becomes normal. And the horse stands up and shakes
itself and is healed. My own fate still lies in the balance.
 Brice, can you move? I could hear the terror in Liz s voice,
which sounded muffled and far away.
 Just leave me here a minute, I whispered.
She disappeared and returned with ice packs, sliding them under
my back.
I lay there until that part of my body numbed, and I could hear her
dialing my chiropractor on her cell phone. I don t know how I got up.
I was having trouble breathing, just like the horse in my dream. When
I took in a breath, a sharp pain exploded on the left side of my chest. I
crawled to the paddock fence on my knees, unable to use my left arm to
pull myself up, and Liz tried to find a place where she could hold on to
me without my screaming.
Once up, I dragged myself to the car and she loaded me in. Every
little bump in the road was like a knife in my body, and by the time
we d made the forty-minute trip to the doctor s office, my body had
taken on the shape of the front seat. Straightening out and walking was
excruciating, but I finally made it through the office doors and to his
chiropractic table.
 Don t try to lie down, he said.  We need to X-ray your chest.
My ribs hurt so badly that I was almost oblivious to the pain in my
back and neck and hip, the large gash on my shoulder, and the fact that
my head was ringing. My theory was that if my lung were punctured, I
wouldn t be breathing well, and my breathing was getting better. I was
going home, not to the ER, and the chest X-rays confirmed that my ribs
were not broken.
 I won t ride that mare again, I said, choking tearfully on the
words and my physical pain.  It s not worth it.
A part of me wondered about the timing. Did I do this on purpose?
This accident definitely postpones a physical relationship with Liz. But
" 179 "
ANDREWS & AUSTIN
why would I want to do that? Why does Rune do what she does to
avoid being ridden, to avoid being controlled by someone?
I spent the night staring at the ceiling moaning in pain and thinking.
You can t swim across the ocean if you won t let go of the dock. So why
won t I let go? Be honest with yourself! I demanded when I felt myself
drifting away from the issue. What are you so fucking afraid of? I asked
of the bedroom walls.
In the silence, I thought I heard my own voice say to me, Liz is so
perfect. To have a relationship with her and then to have it fail that
would be different than all the other relationships. That would be
heartbreaking and the heart would be mine. I felt a tear gathering at
the edge of my eye. There, goddamn it, I ve said it.
After work the following night I went out to the barn and had Liz
saddle Rune for me, though she protested mightily. My ribs hurt so
badly I couldn t lift a blanket, much less a saddle, but I was determined
to settle something in my mind.
 You can t live alone out on the prairie, you d kill yourself, she
said, girthing up my mare.  You shouldn t be doing this. You re on pain
pills. You hurt so badly you can t sleep, and you re out here acting like
you think you re a PBR champion!
 Life is short, horse, I said to Rune, ignoring Liz.  I own ranch
land now and I want to ride my horse across my land and return in one
piece. I don t know if that s what you want, Rune, but I m going to get
on you. And if you don t want me to ride you, throw my ass down in the
dirt, and that will be my sign that you ll just live out your life as a brood
mare or as a hood ornament. Otherwise, ride me well and that will let
me know that you want to be my horse. It s up to you.
 Good God, what are you doing, Brice! Liz wailed as I hauled
myself up into the saddle, silent tears streaming down my cheeks from
the pain of the effort.
I lay across Rune s neck at first, having to gather the strength to
sit upright, then caught my breath and tried to relax, waiting for Rune s
answer, as I pointed her toward the end of the small outdoor arena. I
knew one thing: whatever happened, I couldn t be in more physical
or emotional pain. Rune moved with grace and poise, one ear back [ Pobierz całość w formacie PDF ]