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Galloping Into Marriage by Sonja Gunter
by Sonja Gunter
Melange Press

(Note: This title is a re-release of
I Don't Want to Be Married)

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Galloping Into Marriage by Sonja Gunter




Rosalind Dunne walked Dawn, her golden quarter mare, to the gates and heard the loud crowd.  Sam Hughs, who’d been her grandpa’s oldest best friend and now her guardian, had warned her about turn three.  She’d already heard several riders complain about the group of spectators who were being obnoxious and distracting at the turn. 

She glanced around the Las Vegas Sagebrush Ranch Arena towards turn three and saw them. 

All men.  It Figures! 

She counted at least nine.  They were whistling, hollering, and waving, what she guessed were newly acquired bandanas and cowboy hats at each rider that rode by.  She could tell they definitely weren’t real cowboys, only wannabes. 

Not today, her mind screamed, as she angrily kicked at the dirt.  She couldn’t afford to lose.  This was the last big Annual Barrel Race competition before the World Championship Show in November.  Today’s winner would receive a purse of fifteen thousand dollars.   

Mr. Kennedy, her real-estate agent, had left a message, saying that Mr. Hillsboro, the owner, weren’t going to wait any longer for the down payment.  She needed to sign the purchase agreement and close by the year end; or it was going back on the market. 

Time wasn’t being her friend.  She wasn’t about to let the land slip through her fingers.  Not when she was so close but her time frame had closed to three months.  Everything would’ve been completed by now if Sam hadn’t reminded her about her grandpa’s will and his old school marriage stipulation. 

Dawn snickered and Rosalind eased up on the bridle.  “Sorry girl.  I’m just mad.”

What was she going to do?  She needed a major portion of her funds by the end of the year.  The land she wanted, no needed; wasn’t going to wait for her to turn thirty.  She was only twenty-five!  It was for sale now!  

Mr. Dwight Hillsboro, the owner of the adjacent ranch to hers, had promised to give her first chance to purchase his land when he decided to sell.  He’d called her a couple months ago saying he was going to list his ranch because he needed the cash.   He knew how important his land was to her but she understood he needed the money.  Now it was her turn to make good on her guarantee to buy it. 

If things would fall into place like she’d planned she’d be able to open up the land as a sanctuary for aging and abused horses.  She already had several horses on her waiting list. 

Damn it!  She wanted the land.  She needed the land.  It all came down to the land.  It was everything. 

Squeezin’ Lizzie, as she liked to call the saddle horn, she pulled herself up on top of Dawn.  Suddenly, the drone from the crowd in the arena grew louder.  She took a wild guess that another rider must have taken turn three.  Those men had to be drunker than a peach orchard sow or crazier than a parrot eatin’ stick candy, she thought.

Without missing a stride, she moved Dawn closer to the posts to have a clearer view of what was happening.  The next rider raced around the barrels but instead of watching the rider, her gaze horned in on the group of men.  One of them was wearing a sign that read, About to be Hitched.  At least he had a choice; he wasn’t being forced to get married.     

As the rider neared the third barrel in front of the group, they waved and howled.  The horse got spooked and slowed down.

Not good.  Poor rider.

The rider saved the run but not the time.

Damn wannabe’s.  Where were the officials?

Her gloved fingers tightened on the reins, which caused Dawn again to snicker in protest and pull her head.  Disgust replaced her smile and she was about to complain to the officials herself, but felt an intense stare coming from the group of the men.  She tried not to look but found the one pair of eyes that were looking right at her.  They took her breath away.

OMG.  He was so hot he could melt ice cubes on a cold day in Minnesota.

The eyes belonged to the most magnificent hunk of a man she’d ever seen.  And she’d been around tough, good looking bull riders, bare back riders and bronco riders before.  But for some reason the man’s unbroken stare was giving her butterflies. 

Breathe.  Damn it. 

It had to be his blonde hair; it had always been her down fall.  His however, stuck out like a casino in a church district.  She smiled when she noticed the way his midnight black Stetson was sitting pushed back on his head. 

Did he know wearing his hat that way meant he was single and looking for company?  She doubted it.  Could he be the one she needed?

She tweaked her lips as she stared back and tipped her hat to him.  She looked away first, the man wouldn’t give up staring at her, it was to unsettling.

“You ready Rosalind?”

Sam appeared at her side and patted her leg.

“Yea, as ready as I’ll ever be.  Mr. Kennedy called to…”

“Stop.  I don’t want to hear it.  You need to focus on the run.  Mr. Kennedy can wait,” said Sam, as he pulled and checked her straps.

She nodded but she couldn’t let it go.  How could her Grandpa have been so cruel?  What had he wanted her to do?  She knew how to handle money; hadn’t she survived the last four years on her own?  She didn’t waste money.  She couldn’t wait five years to be given permission to use her money whenever she wanted or need to.  And she sure in hell didn’t want to get married for it to be given to her.

Sam was right.  She needed to focus.  The land, Mr. Kennedy and her anger had to be put on the back burner.  Rosalind went into her routine mode.  First thing was to check her shirt; she patted her fringed western shirt to make sure it was tucked in.  She absently touched each of the white capped snaps, insuring they were all properly fastened and pulled her hat string tight.  She turned her head and felt the weight of her braid on her back.

She couldn’t spare any deductions for improper dress.  The judges were strict when it came to the National Barrel Horse Association points concerning the dress codes.  The NBHA fined members up to twenty-five dollars per violation. 

“Rosalind Dunne, rider number fifteen, to the gate.”

She nudged Dawn forward with her knees to the starting line and turned her attention to the signal.  The flag was her center point then the words.  She waited and waited.


The flag dropped. 

Dawn didn’t need any nudge; she took off like a bat out of hell.  Fifteen, sixteen, and turn, Rosalind mindlessly counted off to herself to insure she was in time with each long stride Dawn took.  She rounded barrel one and then barrel two with no problems.  As she neared the third barrel, the dreaded turn, she heard the shouts, whistles, and the catcalls.  She used all her experience to avoid a catastrophe on the turn. 

Out of the corner of her eye, she saw the blonde hair man stand up and wave.  As he did, he began to fall face first into the arena, right by her, but was saved by his friends just in time as she passed by.

Even with the distraction, she completed the hairpin turn with the stirrups nearly touching the ground.  She braced herself for the last leg of the run.  She loosened up on the reins, to give Dawn her head as they rushed to the finish line with incredible speed.

“Fourteen-point-one seconds for Rosalind Dunne.”

The voice shouted out over the intercom.

Hot damn!  A record time.  She’d done it!

She’d secured a coveted spot at the World Championship Competition.  Her heart was pounding so fast she could hardly breathe.  Somehow, she smiled and raised her arms in victory and took Dawn back out to the arena.

As she cooled down Dawn, a crowd of well-wishers began to gather.  Between the handshakes and conversation, she found herself looking out into the stands in curiosity.  To her astonishment, the man who’d almost fallen into the arena now stood.  No weaved and still had his gaze fixed on her. 

Who was this man?  She hadn’t recognized him or anyone in his group.  Was he at the rodeo for entertainment?  Or was he a local chap, out on the town for the weekend? 

To her dismay, more of the rodeo participants came over shouting out praises and trapped her in.  By the time she broke free, it was time for her to ride back into the arena to receive her trophy.  As she took her victory lap, the first thing she noticed was the man with the blue eyes and his friends were gone. 

She planned to get married while she was in Las Vegas.  A quick and fast one; they happened all the time here like that.

Damn, back to square one.  He might’ve been her ticket to financial freedom.  What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas, right?

She smiled a little again but it disappeared as quickly as it had appeared.  Her stomach rolled a little at the thought of all of her inheritance sitting in the bank and she couldn’t get at it. 

Damn Grandpa.  Her plan had to work.  Time was up, it had to happen tonight. 

Some greenhorn man out there had to be money hungry.  All she had to do was convince some sucker to marry her and then divorce her for a bonus.  Simple.  It would only be a business agreement, no night of bliss; the poor sucker would go home alone.  Being married wasn’t her cup of tea, it only caused heartaches.

Copyright 2012, Sonia Gunter - DO NOT REPRODUCE

Copyright 2024, Sonja Gunter
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