Read an Excerpt
Thoroughbred #61: Parker's Passion
By Joanna Campbell
HarperCollins Publishers, Inc.Copyright © 2006 Joanna Campbell
All right reserved.
Eighteen-year-old Parker Townsend stood in the terminal at Kennedy International Airport in New York, a worn duffel bag slung over his shoulder, and studied the screen in front of him. "Flight four-oh-one to London, boarding at gate seven," he whispered out loud. A few hours earlier he'd watched his girlfriend, Christina Reese, ride her way to victory in the final leg of the Triple Crown on her horse, Wonder's Star.
Parker was thrilled that Star had won the Belmont, but he was doubly thrilled that he and Christina had decided to get back together. Their breakup certainly had been difficult, and he'd really missed her. Their becoming a couple again had made this whole trip worthwhile. Even though Christina would be spending the rest of her summer racing at Belmont and Saratoga, and Parker would be across the ocean preparing for Burghley, a prestigious four-star event held in England, they had parted with the agreement to keep their relationship strong. And he knew they would.
The previous night Parker had given Christina a tiny rhinestone horseshoe necklace that he'd bought at the track gift shop. "Here's something for good luck while I'm gone," Parker had said. "I'm sorry they're not real diamonds."
Christina hadshaken her head. "I don't want diamonds," she said, her hazel eyes shining. "I just want you."
Just the thought that Christina was once again his girl had kept Parker smiling all the way to the airport. But now that he was about to check his luggage for the flight to London, something felt off. Not between himself and Christina -- that was great. But something seemed...well, unfinished. He didn't feel quite ready to leave yet, but he couldn't figure out why. As he got closer and closer to the front of the line, he still couldn't figure out what it was, but the feeling was gnawing in the pit of his stomach. His eye drifted to a giant ad for Palm Pilots. The woman in the ad had bright red hair and a wide smile. "That's it," Parker whispered under his breath. The woman in the ad looked just like his mentor, Samantha Nelson. Suddenly a thought popped into his head, so quickly and so powerfully that he didn't have time to talk himself out of it. He knew what he needed to do.
"Next," the ticket agent called. Parker walked over to the counter with his mind made up. He quickly explained his new plan to the ticketing agent.
She handed Parker his revised itinerary. And Parker smiled.
He was going to go back to London, all right. But first he was stopping for a couple of days at home, in Kentucky. I need to talk with Sam before I can go back. Forget England. I'm going to Whisperwood!
He wondered if he was nuts, changing his plans at the very last second. Maybe I am nuts, but I don't care. I need to see her, Parker decided. He knew he couldn't leave the States without spending a little time with Sam and her husband, Tor Nelson. Together the Nelsons owned Whisperwood, a combined training facility near Lexington.
Jack Dalton will explode when he finds out, Parker thought, picturing his instructor back in England. He hoisted his duffel with its faded school crest onto the rack to be checked in for the flight to Kentucky. But I have to go. After all, I'd never have been given the grant to train in England in the first place f it weren't for Sam.
A day and a half later Parker stood on the edge of Whisperwood Farm's cross-country course, watching his favorite pupil, sixteen-year-old Kaitlin Boyce, take a couple of low fences.
"Hey, Brit boy! Check this out!" Kaitlin called as she pointed Sterling Dream toward an imposing jump that resembled a hayrack. She shielded her eyes against the hot June sun and glanced over to make sure that Parker was paying attention.
"Go on, I'm watching," Parker urged somewhat nervously. Kaitlin's warm-up gymnastics had gone smoothly, and when she had started jumping over a few practice jumps set up at the edge of the field, Parker hadn't given it a second thought. But now that she was about to take the dappled gray mare over the huge hayrack, drops of perspiration trickled from Parker's brow, sweat that had nothing to do with the Kentucky summer heat and humidity. The last time he had seen his former student approach a sizable jump like this, she'd sunk her weight into one stirrup, ducked to the right, and gone flying over the fence -- without her horse! Luckily, she hadn't been hurt, but Parker definitely didn't want to see a repeat performance.
But this time Kaitlin and Sterling negotiated the difficult jump with ease and landed squarely on the other side. After she pulled up, Kaitlin pumped her fist in the air and whooped loudly. Parker clapped his hands together and emitted a low whistle. Twisting around in her saddle, Kaitlin grinned at Parker and took off her helmet in mock salute.
"Not bad, huh?" she joked as she brushed some wet tendrils away from her face. "I think I've finally broken my bad habit of putting too much weight in one stirrup."
Parker nodded. "It's a whole new you. Must be all that blond gunk you put in your hair," he cracked. "Makes all the difference."
Kaitlin shot him a look. "Ha ha, very funny. And I haven't used any blond gunk. My hair's just gotten sun-streaked since I've been out in the sun riding so much."
"Well, you two have definitely improved since I've been gone," Parker replied.
"Told ya we would. I'm dying to move up from prelim one day." Kaitlin patted Sterling's darkened neck, flecked with foam. "This sweet girl and I have big plans."
"Not so fast," Parker shot back. "You just rode prelim for the first time this spring, as I recall."
Excerpted from Thoroughbred #61: Parker's Passion by Joanna Campbell Copyright © 2006 by Joanna Campbell. Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.