Chapter 49 
 I was completely shocked. The millisecond we left the chute I felt Coyote’s body fold together into some sort of mechanical engine that could pull millions of pounds of weight. I had never ever in my lifetime of training and riding horses felt a horse do something like that. I smiled. He knew what he was doing better than I did.
 As we neared the first barrel I prepared to show him where to go with a light touch of rein and foot but he already knew. I just had to sit back and he did all the work. I kicked him over to the other barrel and he flew like the wind! He rounded it perfectly and was already racing over towards the third barrel. He slid around it again without hesitation. When he rounded the last barrel his hindquarters came underneath and flung him forward, towards the chute, faster than any gallop I’ve ever ridden. We came to a skidding halt in the chute. 
 I sat there a moment, dazed over what had just occurred. My mouth hung slack, did that really just happen? That was unlike anything I’ve ever ridden before! In all the work that I’ve done with him before this moment I’ve never felt him so powerful! It was like a different horse out in the arena. And I noticed by his stance in the chute that he was completely bored and just wanted to know what was happening next. I couldn’t help but chuckle and give him a hard pat on the neck. It’s like he knew what his job was and planned to get it done. Get in and get out.
 I walked out of the chute with a smile from ear to ear. I was so happy I realized that had forgotten about my time! I whipped my neck around to face the board.
 14.36 seconds.
 I gasped. I did not expect to look up at those numbers. I leaned down and gave coyote a kiss. We did it! And the first time too! The no time was off my shoulders and forever gone. I looked up and saw Sean running to meet me. I jumped off coyote, Sean scooping me up in the one arm he could.
 “Ow…” he muttered.
 I jumped back, “Oh sorry…”
 He laughed, “I swear… how did you do that?” he asked me in complete bewilderment. “The first time you barrel race this horse and you get 14.36. I just don’t understand it…”
 I smiled, “Sean, it wasn’t me; I barely had to do anything! He honestly did everything by himself.” I turned around to Coyote and kissed his nose, “You’re a perfect little man aren’t you?”
 Sean chuckled and kissed my forehead, “Come on, let’s go tell your Dad before he gets even more pissed off about something else.”
 As we turned and headed for the back entrance I saw Josh jogging up to us out of the corner of my eye. I sighed…not now.
 “Hey Erica!” he said with a wave as he walked over, “Oh, and Sean, didn’t see you there.” Sean raised an eyebrow and gave him a half a smile. “That was an amazing run Erica, really incredible.”
 I smiled enthusiastically now, “Thank you Josh, I appreciate it.”
 “Oh and by the way,” he added, “I heard about you two and what my sister did…” he said, looking directly at me. “Sean didn’t kiss Kelsey. She did it. I don’t know how or why she gets these things into her head sometimes but… it’s what she does…” he said, half-heartedly giving us a smile. 
 I shook my head, “Yeah… thank you Josh.”
 He smiled, “Well, see you around guys,” and walked away with his hands comfortably in his pockets.
 I smiled, “You know he really is a nice kid.”
 Sean shrugged, “He’s alright.”
 I smiled and leaned into his shoulder, Josh is the only guy friend of mine that Sean didn’t absolutely loathe. As we walked back to my trailer I couldn’t stop talking about Coyote and I’s run, describing every little thing to Sean. Even though I’m sure he wanted to rip my head off he kept smiling through my description nodding and laughing when I started to get really excited. When we reached the trailer I tied Coyote and continued to strip him of his tack.
 “I would help you carry that stuff but I’m kind of useless right now…” Sean muttered.
 I laughed, “Don’t… worry about it,” I managed to get out, struggling with my tack as I plopped it all on the ground.
 I hayed the horses and watered them as well. I gave Coyote a kiss and put him back in his paddock, him teasing me by immediately rolling after I put him away. “Little bastard…” I muttered playfully.
 I picked up my tack and awkwardly struggled through our cramped trailer door while Sean held it open for me. We walked inside, me throwing my tack into the backroom. 
 “Hey Squirt… Sean…” my dad greeted us as I passed him.
 I collapsed onto the couch next to Sean, rolling my head back onto the couch, “Guess what?” I sang in a sing-song voice to dad.
 “What?” he grunted as he sunk onto the couch next to ours.
 “14.36 seconds…”
 That’s all I had to say for his eyes to almost pop out of his head altogether, “You? You got to run again?”
 I nodded, “They said they didn’t drag the ring when it was my turn so they gave me a re-do. Even though I knocking over that barrel had nothing to do with the ground… rules are rules.”
 He shook his head and sat back; taking a sip of the coffee he had in his hands, “So who did you run with?”
 I swallowed, he didn’t know that I decided to ride Coyote and I didn’t know how he was going to react to the news, “I rode Coyote.”
 And these are the moments that I hate the most. When I tell my dad something and he just gives me this expressionless stare. Eventually he chuckled to himself and looked at Sean, “And you let her go through with it?”
 “I- I… was I not supposed to let her?” Sean replied nervously.
 Dad chuckled again and shook his head, “I’m going to bed…” he muttered as he walked into the kitchen and poured his coffee down the drain.
 Sean gave me a confused expression. I shrugged back at him, “Okay, I’m goanna go over to Sean’s for a little while.”
 “Be back by 11:30,” he said, not looking up from the cup he was washing in the sink.
 We let the door slam shut behind us as we walked out, “What was that all about?” Sean asked as we walked over to his trailer. I shrugged, “I don’t know but he must have been pretty happy about my time if he let me stay out with you until 11:30.” I said with a smile.
 He opened the door of his trailer for me, “Or he might just know that you’re not going to be doing anything too wild with this cripple,” he said, closing the door behind him. I laughed and wound my arms around his waist, resting my forehead on his neck, breathing in his delicious scent. It’s good to have you back…” he whispered, his breath tickling the back of my neck.
 “It’s good to be back.”
 He sighed and slowly lowered his body down to his bed, cringing all the way, “Here,” I said, bringing him a bag of ice I found in the freezer.
 “Thanks,” he muttered as he rested it on his cheek. I scowled, hating the fact that he was in pain. “Hey, how about that Driscoll family remedy for horse kicks.”
 “Oh, I forgot!” I began rummaging through his cabinets full of exotic foods Becky had bought.
 “What are you looking for?” Sean asked suspiciously.
 I turned around, “Ever heard of Comfrey root?” I asked him. His face went blank. I laughed and started rummaging again, “It’s a root that helps heal bruises… Becky might have picked some up…” I thought out loud.
 “Uh… check in the cabinet to your left, there’s a whole bunch of weird stuff in there.”
 I opened it and found a cluster of comfrey roots, “Ah-ha!” I snatched two or three of them up and started looking for his electric burner. When I found it I plugged it in and put on a pot of water. “When it starts to boil I’ll put in the roots to make like a tea thing, it heals bruises really fast.” I explained.
 He shook his head and lay down on the bed. I frowned and sat next to him, “What hurts the most?” I asked in a small voice.
 He shrugged pretending it was no big deal, “Mostly my ribs,” he noted, moving the ice pack now to his left side. 
 I picked up his hand and started playing with it, “If I was there… to tell you no… you’d be fine right now…”
 He sighed and pulled me down to lie next to him. I curled up into his side, making sure I didn’t bump anything broken. “Nothing would have change you know… this day had to come.”
 I dug my face into his chest so he wouldn’t see my emotions. He kissed my hair and laid his hand on my neck gently running his thumb back and forth. I groaned when I heard the pot start to bubble. I lifted myself up and stretched. I plopped in the roots and set the timer for ten minutes. I yawned and noticed that Sean was still in his nice clothes from the rodeo.
 “Want to change into something more comfortable?” I asked him.
 He nodded, “But I don’t know how I’m going to get this stuff off with all this junk on me.” He slowly rose out of the bed, putting on a brave face all the while. He fumbled with the one hand he could with the buttons on the front of his shirt.
 I chuckled and started to help him, “Nice try.” He chuckled and kissed my forehead as I undid the pearl buttons. But when I got to the third one down I gasped.
 “Oh shoot,” he muttered, quickly turning away from me and trying to button up his shirt again.
 I turned him around, opening up the rest of his shirt. Usually I’m just stunned by the perfection of his body but the chest I looked at now was far from perfection. Scattered across his usually healthy and sculpted muscles were dark purple, inflamed horseshoe marks- at least five- across his chest. Not counting the ones the gauze protecting his ribs inevitably covered as well. I took a step back, slapping my hand over my mouth in shock. 
 “I… I wanted to tell you but I knew… you would react like this…” Sean said in a voice barely audible. Tears welled up in my eyes, I tried my hardest not to let them spill over but they decided to slip out anyways. 
I reached up my hand and traced a light purple outline of a horseshoe… right over his heart.
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