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From the front porch of her new home, Ashleigh Griffen looked out to the rolling pastures and white-fenced paddocks of Townsend Acres. It seemed so strange to be here and know that this was where they would be living from now on.
The last few months had been the most horrible in Ashleigh's twelve years. First a virus had swept through her family's own small breeding farm, Edgardale, farther north in Kentucky. Five of their best broodmares and one foal had died. As if that hadn't been bad enough, her parents had made the sad announcement that their insurance didn't cover their losses. Edgardale would have to be put up for sale and the remaining stock sold. They would have to find work somewhere else. Luckily, they had been able to -as the breeding managers at Townsend Acres.
Ashleigh felt like crying just thinking about it.
Townsend Acres was as beautiful and well kept as Edgardale, with dozens of sleek Thoroughbreds romping in the paddocks. But it isn't Edgardale, Ashleigh thought, and the horses aren't ours! They all belonged to the owner, Clay Townsend, who Ashleigh was sure would be awful.
She banged her fist down on the porch railing. She was furious with her parents for selling Edgardale -- she felt angry about everything!
Sighing heavily, she went back inside the house. Mr. and Mrs. Griffen were in the kitchen having coffee. They both looked tense and tired.
Maybe she shouldn't be so mad at them. They looked like they felt as bad as she did.
"Ready to go on our tour?" her mother asked. "Why don't you run up and get your brother and sister?"
Ashleigh went out to the front hall and up the staircaseto the second floor. "Caroline, Rory!" she called as she reached the landing. "Come on, we're going."'
When she didn't get an answer, she walked down the hall and into the bedroom she would share with her older sister. With her radio blaring away, Caroline was hanging some clothes in the closet. She was fifteen -- three years older than Ashleigh -- and incredibly neat. Already a line divided the room. Caroline's side was immaculate. On Ashleigh's side, boxes were piled near the bed waiting, to be unpacked, and the bed was rumpled and covered with horse magazines.
Caroline turned from the closet. "Im busy. And besides, I don't care about seeing Townsend Acres."
"I don't want to, either," Ashleigh said, "but we're going to be stuck living here. Aren't you even a little curious?"
"It can't be that different from Edgardale."
"It's bigger. Dad said they have their own training stable."
"So what? I'm sick of horses and everything to do with them! I'm staying here and putting my clothes away."
At that moment their seven-year-old brother, Rory, hurtled into the room. "'I'm ready!" he shouted. He was too young to understand what had happened at Edgardale. His red-gold hair was sticking up all over his head, and there was a smudge of dirt on one of his cheeks. Caroline had the same red-gold hair, except that hers was perfectly combed. Only Ashleigh had their father's dark hair and hazel eyes.
Rory raced over and jumped up on Caroline's bed. Caroline screeched and grabbed an armful of clothes she'd been getting ready to hang. "Go jump on Ashleigh's bed!" she cried. "It's a mess anyway."
Ashleigh took Rory's hand, pulled him off Caroline"s bed, and started leading him from the room. "Come on, Rory. The heck with her."
Their parents were waiting in the front hall. "All set?" Mr. Griffen asked. "Where's Caroline?"
"She doesn't want to come," Rory said.
"Caroline!" Mrs. Griffen called sternly. "We're waiting!"
In a moment Caroline appeared. "Why do I have to go? I want to get my stuff put away."
"You'll have plenty of time to do that later. It's time now for the family," her mother answered. ""We're all feeling rotten about having to move, but we have to make the best of it. You might even enjoy yourself. Mr. Townsend has a son about your age."
"Does he?" Caroline said. "I didn't know that. Maybe he'll be in some of my classes at school."
"I think he goes to a private day school, but I know he takes a lot of interest in the horses."
Ashleigh noticed that Caroline looked a little less gloomy as she followed the rest of her family outside. Her sister had never been horse-crazy like the rest of them. Even when they were small, Caroline had loved clothes and used to dress up whenever she could. While Ashleigh had raced around on her pony, Caroline had sat in the backyard reading a book or experimenting with nail polish.
As they walked along the graveled drive away from the house, Ashleigh sniffed the scent of new grass -- the famous Kentucky bluegrass, which wasn't blue at all but a very bright green. Leaves were sprouting on the trees lining the drive and paddocks, and the fences wore a coat of fresh whitewash. If only we had come Io Townsend Acres for different reasons, Ashleigh thought.
Their father led them into the first of the long, well-lit barns. The barn smelled of horses and fresh hay. Normally, the smell was like perfume to Ashleigh. Now it only brought reminders of her last visit to the Edgardale barns when she'd said good-bye to her special mare, Stardust. She'd ridden Stardust from the time she was big enough to graduate from their pony, Moe. They'd spent hours and hours together jogging around the farm-and now Stardust belonged to someone else! Ashleigh felt a lump in her throat. She had to think of something else, or she'd start to cry. She looked into the barn at the bustle of activity...Thoroughbred #01: A Horse Called Wonder. Copyright � by Joanna Campbell. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.