They're from two different worlds.
He lives in the estate house, and she spends most of her time in the stables helping her father train horses. In fact, Savannah has always been much more comfortable around horses than boys. Especially boys like Jack Goodwincocky, popular and completely out of her league. She knows the rules: no mixing between the staff and the Goodwin family. But Jack has no such boundaries.
With her dream of becoming a jockey, Savannah isn't exactly one to follow the rules either. She's not going to let someone tell her a girl isn't tough enough to race. Sure, it's dangerous. Then again, so is dating Jack..
Praise for Miranda Kenneally:
"Kenneally's books have quickly become must-reads."VOYA
"Fresh, fearless, and totally romantic."Sarah Ockler, bestselling author of Twenty Boy Summer and Bittersweet on Stealing Parker
About the Author
Growing up in Tennessee, MIRANDA KENNEALLY dreamed of becoming an Atlanta Brave, a country singer (cliché!), or a UN interpreter. Instead she writes and works for the State Department in Washington, D.C., where George W. Bush once used her shoulder as an armrest. Miranda loves Twitter, Star Trek and her husband. Visit mirandakenneally.com
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By MIRANDA KENNEALLY
Sourcebooks, Inc.Copyright © 2013 Miranda Kenneally
All rights reserved.
Roots and Beginnings
Welcome to Cedar Hill Farms of Franklin, Tennessee. Est. 1854. John C. Goodwin III, Owner.
Welcome to Hell would be a more appropriate sign, considering Dad just uprooted me from West Virginia and hauled me to Tennessee two days before senior year.
My father couldn't give up this opportunity to work as head groom at a fancy farm that trains horses for the Kentucky Derby and Breeders' Cup, and I didn't want to be the evil daughter who stamped her foot and refused to come.
It doesn't totally matter, because home is where my dad is. But it still sucks that I had to leave my part-time job exercising horses. It would've become a full-time position when I graduated from high school, and now I have to start all over again.
I punch the code into the alarm box, the heavenly white gates swing open, and I steel myself for the half-mile trek to Hillcrest, the staff quarters. My claustrophobic new home. Hillcrest is attached to the gargantuan white manor house, where a smattering of comfy rocking chairs dot the wraparound porch, waiting for someone to sit down.
Back in West Virginia, it was just me and Dad and She Who Must Not Be Named living in our trailer. Now we're sharing quarters with six other staff members and their kids. To escape, I took a walk to downtown Franklin this morning, but I'm cash poor at the moment so there wasn't much to do besides loiter, and the last thing I need before school starts is to gain a reputation as that weird girl who loiters.
So here I am, back in hell, gathering my courage to go talk to the lead trainer about getting some work as an exercise rider so I can cease being cash poor. I used to exercise racehorses at the track and casino in Charles Town. But that was at a totally different level — the horses I rode there were like driving a Ford and here they are like Ferraris. Hell, the Queen of England stables her horses thirty minutes away.
What if the trainer thinks I'm unqualified? Or a hack? I've been riding since I was four, but still. Just go talk to him, Savannah! The worst he can say is no ... and then I can go back to loitering. I inhale then let out the deep breath I've been holding and take in the scent of cornbread, fresh laundry, dirt, cedar trees, and of course, horseshit.
I can do this.
I charge down the driveway and suddenly a wailing, high-pitched alarm goes off. My first thought is: Tornado! But the skies are as blue as a robin's egg. Seconds later I see a brown and white blur streaking across the grass. A racer. Two guys on ponies are chasing it. He must have escaped!
I sprint toward the horse as he zigzags my way. The horse seems curious. But not curious enough to slow down. He zips past me as I yell "Stop!" and take off after him. The horse circles back around. I hold a hand up. "Whoa, there."
The horse slows to a jog, studying me, his expression both wary and nosy. Then he charges me. I reach out and snatch his bridle. With a firm grip, I thrust him away from me, showing him who's boss. That's when I discover he's wearing a saddle.
"Did you throw your rider?" Suddenly he rears up and kicks his feet. When he returns to all fours, I get up in his face again. "Whoa!" He cowers, bowing his head.
One time a horseman told me I have a way with horses. Dad told me not to listen when men say things like that because they're just trying to get into my pants. But I do have a way with horses. Dad, however, does not have a way with words.
I confirm the horse is a boy then gently slap his neck, checking the engraving on his bridle. Tennessee Star is his name.
"You sure are fast," I tell the young horse, petting his nose. He's beautiful — a light brown chestnut with white markings. A Ferrari. I never rode such a well-made colt in Charles Town.
Then, from the fields beyond the manor house, a guy comes riding up on a horse. I don't take my eyes off that rider, even when Tennessee Star tries to yank away.
I haven't met the owner's son yet, but I've seen him riding around like he's king of the place. Which is technically his title, I guess. When we arrived two days ago, Mr. Goodwin's chief of staff told me the Goodwin family is fiercely private and that non-housekeeping staff aren't allowed inside the manor. We were instructed to keep our distance from the Goodwins. Since I don't want Dad to get fired on day three, I haven't spoken to the boy.
Still, he's beautiful. I should start a magazine called GQCowboy, and he could be the cover model every month. Wavy hair the color of straw curls out from under his cowboy hat. His snowy white button-down shirt is spotless and pressed, tucked into his jeans, the arms rolled up to his elbows. The three coonhounds that always seem to follow him around bound up and sniff my jeans.
Last night a giggling maid told me his name: Jack Goodwin. And he's seventeen, like me. He attends Hundred Oaks High, the school I'm starting on Monday.
"Star!" Jack says, dismounting fluidly. "You're too smart, you know that?" he scolds the horse, then grabs the bridle as I let go. Two farmhands jog up on ponies and Jack wordlessly hands Star off to one of them, slapping the horse's flank before they lead him away.
"If I didn't love that horse so much, I'd send him to drag a tourist carriage in New York City," Jack says in a deep Tennessee drawl. "That'd teach him not to buck his rider and run off."
Once he confirms he has a good grasp on his stallion's reins, Jack turns to me. His blue eyes widen and a bright smile spreads across his face.
"Thanks for catching Star. That was insane how you cornered him with no corner. I've never seen anything like it."
"So what can I do you for?" He tips his cowboy hat in an exaggerated manner and smiles again, revealing perfectly straight white teeth. Behind closed lips, I run my tongue over my slightly crooked front ones. "You're a bit late for the tour. They're at eight a.m. and it's nearly noon now."
He thinks I'm here for the tour?
"No, no," I say, starting to explain, but then he unleashes his megawatt smile. It makes my throat close up and my heart pounds even harder. This guy is hot, but I don't like boys who get whatever they want without trying. I worked damned hard to get my part-time exercise rider job back in Charles Town. Just like I'll work damned hard to get a position here.
"Soo ..." Jack says, stroking the stallion's mane. "Do you want a private tour? You know, to say thanks for catching my horse?" A private tour? Like, me and Jack alone? Dad would kill me for breaking the Goodwins' privacy rules. Besides, hanging around people like Jack is not my thing.
"I'm not here for a tour. I —"
"I didn't know Mom was hosting guests this weekend," Jack says. "I hope she's not having another fashion show for charity, because I barely survived the last one."
"We haven't met."
He thrusts a hand out, grinning. "I know. I'd have remembered you. I'm Jack Goodwin."
I shake his hand quickly. "Savannah." What a player. "I gotta get up to the house."
I stalk off and Jack hustles after me. "Wait! I'll escort you."
He'll escort me? How primitive.
The horse makes clickety-clack sounds on the pavement. It's a young stallion — probably no older than five — and he's sprinkled with white and black, like Rocky Road. I can't resist touching his nose. "Who's this?"
"This is my bro, Wrigley."
"My sister tells me I'm an idiot around girls."
That's the biggest bunch of bull I've ever heard. I can sense the cocky confidence radiating off his tanned skin.
"So why did Star run away?" I ask.
"Two baby raccoons climbed a fence at the track. One of the hands managed to chase them away, but not before a bunch of the colts and fillies started screaming. I think that's why Star took off."
"Makes sense." Anything will scare horses when they're young. Especially if they're Thoroughbreds. Dad says they're crazy because of inbreeding. Thoroughbred bloodlines are worse than the royal families of Europe.
When we reach the top of the hill, the racetracks and barns come into full view.
"Here we are," Jack says, glancing over at me.
Exercise boys are riding around both practice tracks. A field of haystacks sits beyond the tracks, and a garden full of sunflowers and vegetables lies between the tracks and the manor house. The biggest of the six barns is larger than a Walmart. The barn Dad worked at in West Virginia is a shack by comparison.
Wrigley starts sniffing my hair and nuzzles his face against mine.
"Wow," Jack says. "Wrigley doesn't like anybody but me. My father hasn't raced him yet 'cause he's too stubborn and mean."
"Maybe he's just lazy and doesn't want to race." I kiss the horse's muzzle. "And being stubborn is his way of getting out of it."
"Your dad lets you keep Wrigley even if he can't race?" Caring for a Thoroughbred for one year costs more than a new pickup truck.
Jack pats the horse's neck. "I love him — and I believe we can train him. You're really good with horses. Does your dad own a farm?"
I laugh again. "Me? Own a farm?" Wrigley pushes against me and nickers. He's saying hello. "Hello," I say back.
"Wrigley," Jack says, securing the lead around his hand. "It's not nice to be so forward."
I kiss the horse again. "You're such a pretty boy."
"Thank you," Jack says, grinning.
"I was talking to the horse."
"I don't believe you. My bro Wrigley is nothing compared to me. Right, bro?" He slaps Wrigley's side.
"Is Jack always such an ass?" I ask the horse. I can't believe I said that. I feel my face turning the color of strawberry ice cream, but Jack just laughs and keeps on beaming. I better watch my mouth before the Goodwins boot me right on out of here.
I reach into my back pocket to grab a sucker — an orange one. You know how some people take antianxiety meds? Well, I eat candy. I rip off the crinkly wrapper and stick the sucker in my mouth. Instant relief.
I peek up at Jack's blue eyes. He's nicer than I figured he'd be. And he has a sense of humor too.
"Who are you?" Jack asks with this shit-eating grin on his face. "Did you come with Senator Ralston to meet with my father today? Are you related to him?"
Me? Related to a senator? I look down at my holey jeans, boots, and tight black T-shirt. I'm about to fess up that I've just moved into the Hillcrest dungeons and therefore he and I can never speak because his family values their privacy when a man storms out of the house and up the hill to us.
"Jack!" The man is dressed exactly like him — pressed shirt, dark jeans, and cowboy boots. "Abby Winchester has called the house eight times since breakfast looking for you and I'm about to smash the phone against the wall."
Eight times? Stalk-er, I sing in my head.
Jack keeps a firm hand on Wrigley's lead and lets out a long breath. "Hi, Dad."
Mr. Goodwin goes on, "Why aren't you answering your cell —" He stops. Takes one look at my red hair, freckled skin, and short, jockey-sized body, and then his eyes grow wide. "Are you Danny Barrow's kid?"
"Yes. Savannah Barrow."
Jack furrows his eyebrows. "You're the new groom's daughter?"
Mr. Goodwin drags a hand through his hair. "Can I see you in my office, son?"
"Yes, sir. Savannah, can I catch up with you later? Maybe we could —"
"Jack. Now," Mr. Goodwin says.
Jack ties Wrigley to a hitching post, his voice changing from casual to super serious. "Nice to meet you, Savannah. If you'll excuse me." Then he disappears inside the house with his father and the three hounds at his ankles.
I gently pat Wrigley's muzzle, as I stare up at the white manor house.
Now that Jack knows who I really am, the groom's daughter, he doesn't even give me a second glance.
On my way to Hillcrest to retrieve my riding gear, I skirt the stone wall that doubles as a fence bordering the property. Mom once told me, "They call them slave walls." It had embarrassed me to hear Mom say something so un-PC, but when I confronted her, she said, "We can ignore history or we can learn from it. I choose to learn from it."
What I wouldn't give to hear her voice now.
She died when I was eleven after having been diagnosed with breast cancer the year before. It was stage four by the time the doctors caught it, but Mom fought hard. We didn't have insurance, so we couldn't afford the medical bills that skyrocketed to over $200K. Then Mom was suddenly buried ... and Dad was buried under a mountain of debt. And without her, my whole world fell apart.
Dad worked as a groom for a wealthy horseman who was more interested in gambling than the racehorses themselves. Mr. Cates didn't give a crap that his employees didn't have insurance, and he worked his horses into the ground, racing them when they were injured with stress fractures or worse.
Shortly after my mother died, Dad said he needed my help with a sad mare named Moonshadow, who had been lethargic ever since her first foal had been weaned. Mr. Cates didn't care that the horse was sad, but I did. I told my dad I would help her feel better again.
I rubbed the mare's nose and searched her eyes. "I know how it feels to lose somebody too."
I started riding Moonshadow nearly every day, and she taught me just how great at riding I am. She made me feel proud of myself. As soon as I got to know her, I told her all my secrets.
The first one?
"I love my dad, but I'm never gonna end up working for minimum wage like him. I want more."
* * *
Back in Charles Town, Dad spent 99 percent of his time in the barns, and coming to Tennessee hasn't changed that habit one bit. So I figure he must be in Greenbriar, where the Goodwins' best horses live. It's the fanciest barn I've ever seen; it has a digital contraption that keeps flies and mosquitoes at bay and classical music plays 24/7. I don't even have an iPod, for crying out loud.
After grabbing my riding gear from Hillcrest, I tramp through mud on my way to Greenbriar, passing by two of the smaller barns. The Goodwins own about forty horses, but they have enough barn space to house over 1,200. Apparently they make a lot of their money renting stalls (studio apartments for horses) to Thoroughbred owners who use the Goodwin practice tracks to get ready for the real races on weekends. Mr. Goodwin keeps plenty of people on staff — veterinarians, farriers (blacksmiths) to fix horseshoes, farmers to work the hay, tons of grooms and exercise riders, and stall managers.
I arrive in front of Greenbriar to find Dad and a bunch of guys sitting in lawn chairs.
"What a bunch of lazy asses."
Dad jumps to his feet as the other guys laugh at me. "It's break time." He draws me into his arms for a hug. I bury my nose in his shirt, inhaling his earthy smell of grass and leather and hay. My dad's only thirty-six, and his height makes him look even younger.
When I pull away, I bounce on my tiptoes, scanning the group. "Is Gael around?"
"Gael? What do you need him for?"
"I want to talk to him about riding —"
That's when this douche of a jockey comes strutting out of Greenbriar. Bryant Townsend is 5'1" — an inch taller than me, but I could take him.
"Forget the horse, Barrow. Come ride a cowboy," he says, making rude gestures with his pelvis. What an ass. Dad looks like he might kill Bryant, but I hold him back — I can handle myself.
"Tell me when you see a real cowboy and I will."
"Oooooooh," the guys say, laughing.
"You're all fired," Dad says. He waves an arm at the guys, and they go back to talking horses and trucks, ignoring my father.
"Wow, what a great help you are, Dad." He gives me a noogie, and I duck away. "Not the hair!" It takes forever to bind my red curls in a French braid.
It doesn't surprise me that Dad fits right in here. He's a good head groom — he knows when to be strict, but most of the time he's relaxed, which keeps his staff relaxed, which ultimately keeps the horses calm. And he knows more about horses than anyone I know. I completely understand why Mr. Goodwin snatched him away from Charles Town.
Excerpted from Racing Savannah by MIRANDA KENNEALLY. Copyright © 2013 Miranda Kenneally. Excerpted by permission of Sourcebooks, Inc..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents
Chapter 1. Roots and Beginnings,
Chapter 2. The Tryout,
Chapter 3. There's No Place Like Home ... Sort Of,
Chapter 4. The Colors Were So Real,
Chapter 5. At the Races,
Chapter 6. Why Can't Things Stay Simple?,
Chapter 7. If Pie Cured Confusion,
Chapter 8. Blinded by Inspirational Posters,
Chapter 9. An Honorable Man,
Chapter 10. The Race and a Change of Pace,
Chapter 11. The Dance, Truth or Dare, and Beef Jerky,
Chapter 12. You Can't Help Who You Love,
Chapter 13. Hold on Tight,
Chapter 14. My First Race,
Chapter 15. Taking the Road Less Traveled,
Chapter 16. The Walk of Shame,
Chapter 17. Dead Last,
Chapter 18. If Circumstances Were Different,
Chapter 19. Show Time,
Chapter 20. Future Plans,
About the Author,