Melissa returned home at 2 am and she found it very difficult to wake up in the morning, even though on Sundays she allowed herself an extra hour of sleep. When she got ready she went downstairs to eat something, hoping that Jonathan would have fed the horses by now. In the living room she found Mr Russell and Mr Wilson, the Smiths and the McKinseys. The two families were all very sad to leave at noon. The two businessmen were too preoccupied with their documents so they did not make any comments about the hospitality. Melissa announced that a small farewell reception would be held before the departure of the guests and everyone got excited. Then, she went to her office to prepare the receipts of payment and see if there were new bookings for the following week.
At 10.30, after having taken care of the paperwork, she went to the barn to see her horses and ride Coal. She walked through the thick mud, result of last night’s drizzle. Jonathan must have fed the horses because the door was unlocked. Thank God, she thought. She did not feel very energetic today.
When Melissa got inside the barn she froze. She realized that Chestnut was not in there. Immediately she called Jonathan on his mobile phone but he said that he hadn’t feed the horses today and he hadn’t gone to the barn either. Melissa felt her legs shake violently. What had happened to her horse? She wore her gear immediately and put a saddle on Chestnut. Maybe she had left the door open yesterday by accident and the horse leapt over the rail and escaped. Who knows? Maybe she could find her beloved horse before it would jump over the next property and get lost for ever.
Coal was not very cooperative today. Melissa had always believed that Coal sensed her fear and reacted to it. He most likely felt that she was worried and he responded with aggression. With stiff commands she managed to control him and started galloping around the property to find Chestnut.
As the minutes went by she started to fear that Chestnut was hurt or stolen. But some 20 minutes later she heard a horse nicker. Coal responded immediately and lifted his hind legs making Melissa lose her balance and almost fall. Her heartbeat was so intense that she thought her heart would burst. Coal was now galloping free and she was unable to control him. A few minutes later, though, she saw Chestnut trotting calmly, with Phillip on her back.
“What the hell are you doing?” she shouted to him when she finally approached him.
“What do you mean?” he asked genuinely puzzled.
“Are you crazy or do you believe that you already own the inn? You should have told me that you wanted the horse. I thought I lost it!” she said.
“I woke up early and went to feed the horses. I thought that you would wake up late since you went out last night” he said mildly.
“How do you…Oh hell! Do never ever do that again. Okay?” she continued shouting.
“I heard you were going out from Mrs. Phillipson and yes I will never do that again” he said smilingly. He knew he had done something naughty and he had a look on his face which said “I know I did something bad but I am cute and people always forgive me”.
“Mr. Mills, the communication between you and me is impossible”.
“Maybe verbal, yes” he said.
“What is that supposed to mean? Oh…” said Melissa suddenly realizing what he meant. She felt her cheeks turning crimson.
“I would advise you to refrain from such comments in the future, Mr. Mills” she said politely.
“Why don’t we go for a ride together?” he said, changing the subject abruptly.
“I don’t have much time, Mr. Mills. I have to go back” she said, hoping he would insist.
“Come on, it’s Sunday. You must have some free time. Follow me” he said and started galloping towards the lake. Melissa had no choice but to follow. She rode behind him, admiring his stiff posture and his elegant moves. Chestnut seemed very happy with her rider. When they stopped and dismounted, they walked together towards the lake.
“It is very beautiful, Miss Wilkinson. I understand why it is so hard for you to let go of your inn”.
“I want my children to grow up here, Mr. Mills, and I do not intend allowing my property to become an impersonal resort with a gigantic golf course.” she added.
They were now walking next to each other, so close that at some points their hands brushed each other. Melissa felt an electric shock but she tried not to show her excitement. All things aside, they were a young man and a young woman walking side by side in an idyllic environment. If only they didn’t have all these barriers between them! She would definitely be kissing him right now!
“Miss Wilkisnon, I am sure your children will be very happy wherever they grow up, as long as you are with them” he said and she felt her heart melt. That was one of the most beautiful things she has ever heard.
“Where did you learn riding so well?” she asked him suddenly.
“I grew up in Texas and I came to London when I was 15 years old. My mother is American and my father is English. I visit our ranch in Texas very often, whenever I want to retire from the world” he replied patiently.
“Chestnut is much happier with you than with me. I think she likes you” she said looking at him. It was sunny now, and she could see his features very clearly. A small scar under his left eyebrow, a tiny hair that escaped his razor blade, a golden circle around his pupil. It would be so easy to lift her hand and feel his face.
“I think I like her too” he said looking at her and for a moment he bent over. She did not blink for fear she would lose a moment with him. What were they talking about? Was he flirting with her? And if he was, did he mean it or he just wanted to use her to eliminate any obstructions between him and the inn?