Nataliya Savchenko is a foreign exchange student to a small town in the middle of nowhere South Dakota to a family of horse ranchers. Nataliya has never once been around a horse, and they scare her half to death, but what happens when she falls in love with the wild Bronte?


2. A Close Encounter

"Nope, nope, nope! I can't do this!" I yelled and Shanna laughed riding up next to me. 

"You were doing great Nataliya, why did you stop?" She asked. 

"Because I have no idea what I'm doing!" I exclaimed looking down at Orpheus. He was so nice before, when I wasn't on his back, now he was a monster... okay, maybe I was exaggerating it a bit, but I could not do this.  

"You are doing great, just use your legs so your butt isn't hitting the saddle so hard every time. Its a beat, lift up on one and lower yourself down on three. Up two down four. Try it." Shanna said giving me a smile and I did as she said as Orpheus started to trot again. Up two down four, up two down four, up two down four - "Great, but keep your back straight." Shanna called and I adjusted, "Perfect Nataliya!" I turned to look at where Shanna was just sitting on her horse only to find the man from earlier, Henry, next to her. His horse was a lot taller than her's too, and looked a lot more powerful. I urged Orpheus into a walk and headed back to them. 

"She's pretty good for a beginner." I heard Henry tell Shanna. 

"I know, maybe good enough for the team, you guys do need another member." Shanna said. 

"Another member for what?" I asked and Henry smiled at me. He was really cute up close, and a lot younger than I expected. He was probably around my age, if not a year older. I couldn't believe he was the man I saw earlier racing on his horse. 

"Our Show Jumping team," Shanna answered, "I'm their coach." 

"Show jumping, like on the Olympics?" I asked, I had always loved watching the event on tv. Shanna and Henry nodded. 

"We could teach you, if you want," Shanna said with a smile, "On a different horse that is, Orpheus is not suited to jump." I looked down at the horse I was on and frowned slightly. I liked Orpheus, he was calm, and Henry's horse looked wild... 

"I guess I will try," I answered. 

"Yes!" Henry exclaimed smiling. 

"Tomorrow, for now you are still learning how to ride correctly." Shanna said and urged Symphony into a trot, I followed after a bit more excited. "So, you will start school in around three weeks, that will give us time to start a good training schedule. Now Nataliya, you will have to work for it, horse jumping isn't just something to do for fun, its a competition." Shanna said as I caught up, and I nodded. 

"I understand." She looked over at me and smiled. 

"You are really good at English," she complemented. 

"Thank you, I went to an English school, so it was required for me to speak English." I answered.

"Interesting," Shanna said, then smiling over at me, "Do you want to go faster?" she asked. 

"Go faster?" I asked and Shanna nodded, "Alright." I agreed, and Shanna lead me through how to hold onto my reigns and how to hold myself in the saddle before lightly kicking Symphony in the side. Symphony started to go faster, and Orpheus, seeing it, started to go faster as well without my urging. My heart was beating so wildly as Orpheus ran, but surprisingly I wasn't afraid. 

"You are doing amazing Nataliya!" Shanna exclaimed, and I pulled back the reins slowly but firmly, telling Orpheus to slow down like Shanna instructed earlier. "Great job! You are a natural, it makes me jealous, I fell off probably 100 times when I first started to ride." I smiled at her complement. "Henry and some of the others are going on a trail ride later today, do you want to go with them?" 

"Sure!" I said patting Orpheus' thick neck. 

"Alright, lets go back in," Shanna said and Symphony turned and started to trot back to the stables. Orpheus and I followed behind. 

When we entered the stables, Henry was talking to a girl and a boy, the girl had dirty blonde hair and a face full of freckles, her hair was pulled into a low pony tail. The boy was taller than Henry, and had blonde hair. They could have been siblings for all I knew. I dismounted after Shanna and she took the reins from me. "Go say hi, this will be your team if you agree." She lead Orpheus away with Symphony, so taking a deep breath, I steeled my nerves and walked over to the group. 

"I know big sister." the boy said jokingly to the girl, an that solved it - they were siblings. 

"Then take better care of Duck next time." the girl said and I cleared my throat, fully entering the group. 

"I take great care of Duck," the boy went on, not seeing me, but Henry did and smiled brightly. 

"Welcome Nataliya! Meet Christine Meyer, and Max Chapman." Henry said gesturing to the girl and the boy - so they weren't siblings... then why did he call her 'big sis'? I shook off the thought and shook hands with the two new people. Again, they were probably around my age, a bit older or younger, but certainly still in high school. Maybe one of these people were in my class. 

"Nice to meet you." Christine said giving a warm smile. "I'm glad to hear we have someone new around here-" Max scoffed and Christine smiled, "Not that you two aren't fun, but I think I've been needing some girl time." she hooked her elbow with mine and smiled over at me. 

"Ease off her, Chrissie, you are going to scare the poor girl." Henry said with a laugh and I smiled. 

"No I'm fine. It's nice to meet you two as well." 

"I heard you were a natural rider!" Christine exclaimed. 

I just shrugged and was about to protest when Henry spoke up, "Yes she is, one of the best starters I have seen - comes close to Jackie."

"No one gets close to Jackie, she was amazing." Max said in disbelief. 

"Who's Jackie?" I asked. 

"She was just our last team member, but she graduated last year." Henry explained with a small frown, I guessed they were close. 

"Can you not compete when you are older?" I asked. 

"Not for juniors, she's now on a team in a larger city down in Oklahoma." Christine said with a sad smirk. "Well," She said after a couple seconds of awkward silence, "should we go on a ride?" 

Everyone agreed and we walked toward the stables. "I'm glad you are here, even if you don't join the team," Henry said stopping at Lucas' stall. Lucas was so large compared with Orpheus, and I was frightened. "You can ride Orpheus again, or you could ride a jumping horse." 

I bit my lip thinking it over. I would have to ride a jumping horse sometime or another. "I suppose I will ride a jumping horse." Henry smiled. 

"Great! Zev is two stalls down." he pointed to the right and I walked that way slowly. Zev was a tall muscular horse with brown fur and white socks. I slowly entered the stall and walked toward the horse. 

"Shhhh," I whispered, hands up toward Zev as he nodded his head a few times. "I'm not going to hurt you," I said giving the horse a smile, he seemed to calm at my words, and I took a few more steps. I gently put a hand to Zev's nose and stroked it. "Well, aren't you a pretty boy." I leaned forward and kissed his nose, Zev snorted in reply as if to say 'yeah, I know'. 

"Do you need help saddling him up?" Christine asked from the entrance of the stall. I looked back at her and nodded, she smiled and entered the stall. Zev's saddle was a lot different than Orpheus', it was a lighter material with more padding and there was no horn either. I supposed that a horn would hurt if you hit it while the horse jumped. The bridle was the hardest part, it took me more than a few times to do it correctly. You aren't supposed to hit the horses teeth with the metal, but you also have to shove it into their mouth. Christine showed me how to do it in a faster way, which was to stick my thumb into the side of its mouth, when a horse feels something in its mouth it will open up to try to spit it out, thats when you slide the metal part of the bridle into the horses mouth. I would still need some practice on that part - but everything else was surprisingly easy. "You can take him outside, I'm going to go get Leo." she patted Zev's neck before leaving the stall and turning to the right. 

I took hold of the reins and pulled to get Zev to start moving. He did so with little urging and soon we were outside. Max was there with a gorgeous brown horse with a black mane and four black socks. He smiled at me when I came out with Zev. "Nataliya, meet Duck, Duck, meet Nataliya." he said and his horse - Duck - bobbed his head up and down a few times. 

I heard the clomping of hooves and turned to see Henry on Lucas and Christine on her horse, all four of the horses were tall and muscular, and I would have expected them to be a bit more wild, but they were as calm as could be. "Do you need help getting on?" Christine asked and I shook my head before swinging myself slowly into Zev's saddle. "My gosh, you are a natural." Christine said urging her horse to walk toward me, she studied the way I was sitting, the way I held my hands and the way I had my legs. "The stirrups might be a bit short for you, but other than that it looks like you could have been sitting on a horse your whole life." I blushed at the complement. 

"Well, if you are done fangirling over Nataliya, how about we get going," Henry said giving me a wink, he then spurred Lucas into a walk. and we headed into the open country around the stables. Riding Zev was a bit harder than riding Orpheus and Henry saw that I was struggling, "Tighten the reins, Zev likes to be told what to do." I did as Henry suggested and Zev started to behave a bit better. 

I smiled, "Thank you." 

Christine rode up beside us and looked over at me, "You are from Ukraine right?" she asked, and I nodded. "So do you speak Russian?" I nodded again, knowing where this was headed. "Could you say something for us?" 

"What do you want me to say?" I asked. 

"What's horse?" Henry asked. I said the word and the three tried saying it to varying success, Max was by far the best. I laughed at them and spurred Zev to move a bit faster, the others followed my example, and soon we were racing across the countryside. I could get used to this, riding horses, hanging around with these three, the only thing I missed was my boyfriend. Derek though, would have hated all of this. He thought animals were in the way of human development, and I used to believe that as well, but those thoughts were starting to wear off.

"You know we aren't even going their fastest speed yet," Christine said looking over at me.

"I don't think she is ready for that Chrissie," Henry called from behind us. 

"Oh come on, look at how she rides! She is a natural! She can do it!" Christine said looking back at Henry. She kicked her horses side and he went unbelievably faster, and Zev seeing, kicked it up a notch as well - except I wasn't ready, and tried to slow him down. 

"Woah, woah, Zev, slow!" I yelled pulling back on the reins, only, I pulled too fast, and Zev reared up and I went flying off him. My heart leapt in my chest as I felt what was happening, and on instinct, brought my head up so it wouldn't hit. I hit the ground on my back, and pain shot through my lower back and legs. 

"Oh my gosh! Nataliya! Don't move!" Max yelled, and I tried to breathe while holding back my tears. I wouldn't cry - I hated crying. "Don't move." Max repeated and I felt large hands on me. I opened my eyes to find Max hunched over me. "Don't move Nataliya, you might have hurt something." 

"Just let me breathe - Ч Иисус Рузвельт Христос." I muttered taking deep breaths. The pain started to lesson and I felt Max's hands on my forehead. 

"Did you hit your head?" he asked and I shook my head. "Thank God... how is your back?" he asked and I kept in a cringe as I sat up. "I thought I said don't move." 

"I'm fine." I repeated, but then sucked in a breath. My vision started to go black. "My vision went black," I said, knowing that I needed to tell him. 

"Henry, call 911-" 

"No, I'm fine, my vision is coming back..." I said blinking a few times. 

Through hazed eyes, I saw Christine jump off her horse and run toward me, "I am so sorry Nataliya! Henry warned me, and I didn't listen!" she said tears falling down her cheeks. 

"Christine, I'm fine." I said, but I leaned against Max. 

"Can you stand?" He asked and I shrugged. 

"I guess I need to try." I said and slowly got to my knees before pushing myself onto my feet. My head went dizzy for a second but cleared quickly. Max's hands were still on my back, and Christine was covering her mouth, murmuring thanks to God, tears still streaming down her cheeks. 

"Do I need to call 911?" Henry asked, his phone in his hand. I shook my head, but he didn't look too certain. 

"Ч Иисус Рузвельт Христос, just believe me, I'm fine." I said taking a step forward, and held in another cringe as pain shot through my left leg and tailbone. Max was there instantly, seeing my cringe. 

"Take it slow Nataliya." He said, his blue eyes filled with concern. I looked forward and took a few more steps, breathing heavily. I couldn't let them think I was injured injured. I looked back at Zev, he was breathing heavily just as I was, and I felt extremely sorry. I walked toward him slowly and grabbed his reins.

"I'm sorry," I whispered, he blew hot air into my chest. 

"Can you ride, Nataliya? Or should we walk back?" Henry asked, and I noticed his hands were white knuckled in fear. 

"I - I think I can ride." I said thinking it over while walking to Zev's side. I slowly - slower than I had the last time - pulled myself into the saddle. My ass hurt horribly, but I could do this. Max was at my side in an instant, a hand on my leg. 

"Are you sure you can ride?" he asked and I nodded, "Okay, but we are going right back." 

​"I'm so sorry again Nataliya," Christine said running a hand through her hair nervously. 

"I told you, I'm fine." I said a bit more sternly than I intended. Max shooed Christine back to her horse before going back to Duck and swinging himself into the saddle. 

"We will walk back," Henry said and started back toward the stables. I kicked Zev lightly in the side and he followed, I patted his neck. 

"I'm sorry," I whispered leaning down to rub his neck a bit more. I cringed in pain again sitting back up. 



The ride home took a bit longer than it took coming sense the horses were only walking, but we made it there in no time. I slid off the saddle and walked Zev into his stall before taking his saddle off by myself. It wasn't hard, and I limped out of Zev's stall after a couple minutes after kissing his nose.

There was a loud noise down on the far end of the stable, and an angry neigh. A stall door slammed open and the most beautiful horse came running out. His coat was a sleek black, no hint of any other color, he was like the night.

I was so transfixed in his beauty that I barely heard Henry yell in warning as the horse ran at full speed toward me. I raised my hands, "Woah, woah!" I exclaimed and the magnificent horse reeled up on his hind legs. Henry was yelling for me to stay calm, for the horse to stay calm, for me to back away. I didn't see a way I could back away without startling the horse into charging at me again, and who knows - this time he could very well trample me to the ground. "Shhh, you are okay," the horse landed back on his front hooves, blowing air from his nose, bobbing his head wildly. "ты в порядке." I repeated in Russian, and the horse seemed to calm at the words this time. "ты в порядке... Успокойся, я не причиню тебе вреда." I slowly put a hand to the horses nose, and he bobbed his head a few times but didn't move away. "Shhhhh...." I said, and held onto the bridle. "ты в порядке." 

Henry came up behind me, "Could you take Bronte back to his stall? He seems to like you." Henry said, his voice had a quiver to it, as though he were scared. 

"Uh yeah." I slowly lead the horse, Bronte, back to his stall. "Shhhh, ты в порядке, Теперь тебе нужно остаться здесь, хорошо?" Bronte bobbed his head a few times as though he were nodding, and I smiled. "Good boy." I rubbed his jaw one more time before walking out of the stall and closing the door. 

When I turned to walk toward the house, Shanna, Henry, Christine, Rusty, Max, and a few other people were standing there, staring at me like I had mud on my face. "How did you do that?" Shanna asked. 

"Do what?" 

"Get him into his stall?" she clarified.

"I just told him that he was safe, and that he needed to stay in there." I said, confused at what she was asking. 

"My gosh, she's a horse whisperer." Christine said quietly, her eyes wide. 

"Shut it Chrissie," Henry said nudging her. 

"What, she is!" 

"What did I do?" I asked, looking at the people.  

"You just got one of the most wild horses - the most wild horse into his stall without help." Rusty said eyebrows up. "No one has been able to do that, Nataliya." I looked back at Bronte's stall at Rusty's words. 

"Wait, was that the horse that kicked you?" I asked Shanna, she nodded. Wow... 

"Alright, everyone back to work!" Rusty said and shooed everyone off. Henry gave me a wink before he left and I blushed. 

Shanna put a hand on my back and lead me out of the stable, before stopping, "Why are you limping?" 

"I fell of Zev - it was my fault." I said quickly, afraid she would blame one of the others. 

"Are you okay?" Shanna asked filled with concern. 

 "Yeah, I am completely fine, just a bit sore, I hit my tailbone." I answered, and Shanna nodded but she still looked concerned. 

"Well, I have to go back to work, so you can go into the house, or do whatever you want, just holler if you need anything." Shanna said and squeezed my arm lightly before walking back the way we came. I let out a sigh, and headed toward the house. 

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