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Authors: Bonnie Bryant

Stable Hearts

BOOK: Stable Hearts
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RL 5, 009–012

STABLE HEARTS

A Bantam Skylark Book/February 1997

Skylark Books is a registered trademark of Bantam Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and elsewhere
.


The Saddle Club” is a registered trademark of Bonnie Bryant Hiller. The Saddle Club design/logo, which consists of a riding crop and a riding hat, is a trademark of Bantam Books
.


USPC” and “Pony Club” are registered trademarks of The United States Pony Clubs, Inc., at The Kentucky Horse Park, 4071 Iron Works Pike, Lexington, KY 40511-8462
.

All rights reserved
.

Copyright © 1997 by Bonnie Bryant Hiller
.

Cover art copyright © 1997 by Paul Casale
.

No part of this book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher.

For information address: Bantam Books
.

eISBN: 978-0-307-82563-6

Published simultaneously in the United States and Canada
.

Bantam Books are published by Bantam Books, a division of Bantam Doubleday Dell Publishing Group, Inc. Its trademark, consisting of the words “Bantam Books” and the portrayal of a rooster, is Registered in U.S. Patent and Trademark Office and in other countries. Marca Registrada. Bantam Books, 1540 Broadway, New York, New York 10036
.

v3.1

TROUBLE IN LOVE

As soon as they arrived on the Cross County grounds, Stevie ran from the car. Lisa and Carole followed more slowly, heading for the horse van Max had brought from Pine Hollow. They could see Phil detach himself from a group of Cross County riders and hurry toward Stevie with a big smile on his face.

“Uh-oh,” Lisa said. “Is that an invitation in Phil’s hand?”

Carole looked and nodded. “Trouble,” she said.

A moment later they could hear Stevie’s shriek carried back to them on the wind: “What do you
mean
you don’t want to go to my dance?”

I would like to express my special thanks
to Kimberly Brubaker Bradley for her help
in the writing of this book
.

Contents

“P
INK BREECHES
! Now I’ve seen everything!” Stevie Lake said, dropping the currycomb she was holding. Stevie’s horse, Belle, was standing on cross-ties in the aisle of Pine Hollow Stables while Stevie groomed her. Belle swung her head around as if interested, and Stevie gave her a pat.

“Where?” asked Lisa Atwood, one of Stevie’s two best friends. She looked up and down the aisle but didn’t see anyone wearing breeches, besides herself. Lisa’s were classic-cut beige ones, however.

“Pink? You’re
not
serious!” Stevie’s other best friend, Carole Hanson, sounded appalled. Carole was a very good and very correct rider. She knew
that only traditional neutral colors, like beige, light gray, and rust, were considered suitable for the horse show ring. “I’ve never even heard of pink breeches,” she declared.

Stevie laughed. “Have you heard of Veronica diAngelo?” she asked. She pointed out the window of Belle’s nearby stall, and the three girls hurried into the stall for a closer look. Outside, in the stable’s drive, Veronica, another Pine Hollow rider, had just gotten out of her family’s chauffeur-driven Mercedes. She was wearing a white fluffy sweater and hot pink breeches. In the drab winter landscape, the breeches stuck out like a neon sign.


That’s
pink,” Lisa agreed. “I think my mom grows peonies that color.”

Carole shut her eyes as if in great pain. “They don’t make breeches that color,” she said. “They can’t. They
wouldn’t.

“I hope they do,” Stevie said. “I’ll get some. I think they’re fantastic.”

Carole groaned and Lisa giggled. Of the three of them, Stevie was by far the most flamboyant. She usually rode in tattered jeans and boots, because breeches were so tame.

“It could be a Saddle Club uniform,” Lisa suggested
teasingly. “We could get matching pairs, and I could embroider a Saddle Club logo on the hip pockets.”

Long ago the three friends had formed a club, The Saddle Club, dedicated to horses and each other. The only rules were that members had to be horse-crazy and had to help each other out. There was no rule regarding uniforms.

Now Stevie groaned. Lisa was neat and practical, as well as very smart, and because her mother was lesson-crazy, she’d learned to do all sorts of things. “Trust me, Lisa,” Stevie said. “You don’t need to embroider
anything
. Just as long as I don’t have to be nice to Veronica.” Not long ago they had all made New Year’s resolutions. Lisa’s was to learn embroidery, which she had—sort of. Stevie’s was to be nice to Veronica, which she hadn’t. Veronica was a horrid snob.

Veronica walked into the barn and down the aisle. “Did I hear you mention me, Stevie?” she asked, sticking her head in the stall door. “My, my, a committee meeting. Is there a reason you three are all in here while your horses are standing in the aisle?”

“Carole was just pointing out a section of Belle’s windowsill that needs to be repainted,”
Stevie lied with great dignity. “And we couldn’t help but admire your breeches. Did you get them at The Saddlery?”

Veronica laughed a tiny artificial laugh. “Oh, dear, of course not,” she said. “You can’t get these in stores. I had them custom made, and they cost a fortune! But they’re great for the valentine season. Like the color? It’s called cyclamen.”

“Lovely,” Lisa said. “Your legs look just like my mother’s flowers.”

Veronica looked as though she wasn’t sure if this was a compliment. “Well, I’m off to fetch Danny,” she said. Danny was her gorgeous Thoroughbred. “If you see Simon, tell him I’ll be ready in a few minutes, okay?”

“Simon?” Stevie sputtered. Simon Atherton had been a geeky rider who had moved away from Willow Creek, Virginia, during what Stevie’s mother would have referred to as his “awkward period of adolescence,” and come back transformed into a total hunk.

“Of course,” Veronica said sweetly. “We’re going on a trail ride.” She stroked the fluffy arm of her sweater. “My clothes are a little hint to get him to invite me to the Valentine’s Day dance.”

Veronica walked away toward Danny’s stall.
The three members of The Saddle Club walked out to the aisle and watched her go. Lisa shook her head. “Now I’ve seen everything. She’s a walking valentine.”

The girls walked back into the aisle and Carole slumped against Starlight, her horse. “Custom made,” she said disbelievingly, stroking the horse’s back. “Stevie, you can’t get those breeches in stores.”

Stevie laughed. “Given Veronica’s motive for wearing them, I’m not sure I’d want a pair. I mean, really!”

Lisa picked up a brush and began untangling Prancer’s mane. Prancer was the Pine Hollow mare she usually rode. Lisa didn’t have her own horse, but she loved Prancer. “I can’t decide if I like them or not. I know they aren’t traditional, Carole, but I think they’re kind of fun. But if wearing pink breeches could attract Simon’s attention—”

“Don’t say it!” Stevie yelled. “Yuck! Lisa! How could you? I know he’s gorgeous, but who cares? If he likes Veronica, there has to be something seriously wrong with his personality.”

“I didn’t say I would wear them,” Lisa said. “I was going to say that if wearing pink breeches is
what it takes to attract Simon’s attention, then maybe I wouldn’t
want
to wear them.”

“Oh, come on. He’s not that bad, you guys. And he’s not the first unsuspecting boy Veronica’s sunk her hooks into,” Carole objected. “He seems nice. Cute, too. Too bad he ignores us, even though I can hardly blame him, after the way we ignored him for years.” She carefully brushed Starlight’s ears. “It’s hard to believe it’s almost Valentine’s Day already. I can’t wait until the dance.”

Every year, Max Regnery, the owner of Pine Hollow, put on a big Valentine’s Day dance in the hay barn. It was always a lot of fun for all the kids and adults who rode at Pine Hollow.

“Eight days,” Stevie said with satisfaction. “Eight days until my night of perfect romance.” She batted her eyes dreamily and Carole and Lisa groaned. Stevie had a boyfriend named Phil Marsten. She wasn’t usually dreamy about him, but then, a Valentine’s Day dance was something special.

“I think the dance will be fun, but I don’t think it will be romantic for me and Carole,” Lisa said. Neither of them had boyfriends. “I wish there were
some
decent boys in Horse Wise.” Horse
Wise was Pine Hollow’s Pony Club. There were a lot of girls in it, a few very young boys, and some older boys who weren’t showing any signs of Simon’s miraculous transformation.

“Maybe you’ll meet some cute guys from Cross County tomorrow,” Stevie suggested. “I could get Phil to introduce you.”

Carole and Lisa groaned again. Cross County was the Pony Club Phil belonged to. The next day the two clubs were meeting to practice mounted games for an upcoming competition.

“I’m not up for an instant boyfriend, thank you,” Carole said. “Lisa and I will enjoy the dance on our own.”

“We could invite everyone from Cross County, though,” Lisa suggested. “Why not? I’ll ask Max if we can.” In addition to owning and running Pine Hollow, Max was the leader of Horse Wise.

“Sure,” said Carole. “That’s a good idea.”

“Well, you can invite the whole club if you want to, but I’ve got a special invitation for Phil. I’m giving it to him tomorrow.” Stevie turned slightly pink. “I made it.”

“You made it?” Lisa asked. “You’ll be doing embroidery next.”

“Lisa, stop!” Carole scolded. “Stevie, that’s nice. Phil will really like it.”

“It’s just a heart cut out of red construction paper,” Stevie said. “But I really want this dance to be special.” She dropped her brush into her grooming bucket. “Let’s go ask Max now about inviting Cross County. He’ll be teaching a lesson by the time we get back from our ride.”

Lisa and Carole agreed. As they walked toward the stable office, the office door swung open and they heard Max say, “So if you don’t mind, Mom, I’d really appreciate it if you’d handle the decorations for the dance.”

“I’ll be happy to do it,” Max’s mother replied. Her name was Mrs. Regnery, but she was always called Mrs. Reg, and she managed the stable for Max.

“Oh, good!” Carole said under her breath. Lisa and Stevie nodded. It was their private opinion that Mrs. Reg had not been herself lately. Late winter was always a gloomy time of year, but Mrs. Reg had seemed more distracted than anyone else at Pine Hollow. They hadn’t heard her laugh for a week.

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