For Better or Worse (Chapter Six, page 2 of 2)


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“Mums!” She had never called her grandma and Mums didn’t seem to mind.
Destiny wasn’t her only granddaughter, but all of the others were in their teens. Mums lifted Destiny into her arms, enthusing over her for a few minutes before she turned her attention to Carmen.
“You sounded excited on the phone. With all the foals born on your place, is this the first time you have been able to watch?”
Carmen nodded. “Alex says it’s best to let them alone, but Casper is used to being around me.”
Mum’s admiring regard rested on Alex. “Well, I’m sure he knows best.”
Alex held his arms out to Destiny. “Kiss me goodbye.”
Destiny leaned toward him and kissed him enthusiastically. She gave Carmen a quick kiss and then kissed Mums. Mums was still chuckling as she buckled Destiny into the car. She shut the door and waved at Carmen and Alex before getting into the driver’s seat. In spite of her extra pounds and gray hair, it was hard to believe Mums was in her late 60’s. She still seemed energetic and optimistic.
After Mums left, Carmen and Alex headed for the barn again. Carmen smiled up at Alex.
“I’m looking forward to this.”
His eyes twinkled with mirth as he gazed down at her and a smile plucked at the corners of his mouth.
“You’ve never seen a foal born before?”
“No.”
He lifted a brow. “You could look on the internet.”
She made a face. “It wouldn’t be the same. I wouldn’t have you there.”
He shrugged, his eyes still twinkling. “I could watch it with you.”
She frowned in mock exasperation. “Alex!”
He chuckled, slapping her lightly on the backside in a playful manner.
“Come on. Let’s see if she has progressed any.”
This was nothing to him. He’d probably lost count of the foals he had delivered. He even delivered Dawn while Carmen was visiting Mums.
Carmen sighed. “The biggest animal I’ve ever seen born was a goat, and it wasn’t much bigger than a cat.”
He grinned. “Well, this foal will weigh in around 65 to 75 pounds.”
She gazed up at him as he held the barn door open for her. “How do you know that?”
He shrugged. “I don’t. It’s just a guess. I think it’s a big foal, probably a colt.”
“I hope so,” she said, stepping through the doorway into the dimly lit barn.
He chuckled as he came in behind her and shut the door. “Not too many people wish for a male horse . . . unless they want to use it as a stud.”
“He’s registered, and he comes from quality stock.”
He grunted. “And closely related to all your mares.”
There was no point in discussing the subject further. He had suggested she breed Casper to another stud, and she had intended to, but Ed got to her first. To his credit, Alex hadn’t said anything about her neglect. They couldn’t keep the foal as a stud, but she might be able to trade it for a mare when it was older.
When they reached the stall, Casper’s flanks were wet with sweat. She kept looking at them, possibly wondering what was causing such pain. Her eyes were wide. It must be frightening for her, not knowing what was happening.
She lay down several times and then got up again. She paced around the stall and then lay down again. This time a whitish sack protruded and then ruptured. Ambiotic fluid gushed out.
Alex grabbed Carmen’s waist and pulled her back a few steps. When she looked up at him, he put an index finger to his lips indicating silence. He glanced at his watch and returned his attention to the mare.
In only about five or ten minutes, the mare was groaning and lying on her side, pushing hard. Several times she made a sound that was like she was talking. Finally her efforts resulted in something shiny coming out. Carmen watched with excitement as the foal’s feet could be seen inside a thin sac . . . first one and then the other. Next came the little nose. The mare stopped straining and it receded.
Carmen looked up at Alex and he smiled, whispering to her.
“That might happen a few times. It’s normal.”
It did. Finally the head appeared. The mare strained several times over a period of time.
Alex selected a clean towel from the things he had brought to the barn and waited a little longer. Finally he entered the stall and wrapped the towel around the foal’s legs. When the mare began pushing again, he pulled down gently, twisting the foal a little.
The shoulders slid out slowly and the foal was out to his hips. Alex waited through some more contractions and finally pulled the foal straight out. It delivered suddenly and completely. Alex pulled the membrane from the foal’s nose and stepped back.
Carmen leaned against the stall and whispered.
“Will she be alright? Why doesn’t she get up?”
He nodded. “She’s just resting. She’ll get up in a little bit.”
“Shouldn’t you cut the cord?” she asked anxiously.
“No. Let nature take its course.”
It seemed like a long time, but was probably no longer than fifteen minutes before the mare lunged to her feet, snapping the cord. She turned and started cleaning her newborn baby.
Alex exited the stall wiping his hands on the towel and grinning.
“Well, that’s it.”
The whole thing didn’t take more than an hour, and she delivered a baby weighing close to seventy-five pounds. Why was it so difficult for humans?
Carmen studied the foal for a few minutes. He was healthy and well formed with beautiful coloring. She glanced up at Alex and grinned.
“He’s a real dandy, isn’t he?”
Alex smiled. “I’d say so.”
She gazed at the foal again. “I think I’ll name him Dandy.”
They stayed in the barn for a while, watching as the foal took its first steps, and finally found the milk supply. Dandy was the first colt born on their ranch.
As they headed toward the house, Alex put an arm around her shoulders.
“I wish Jonathan had been here.” His expression changed as he gazed down at her. “On the other hand, it was kind of nice, just you and me.”
She hugged his waist and smiled up at him. “It’s nice any time we’re together – with or without the kids.”
He kissed her forehead. “Have I ever told you how much I enjoy being married to you?”
She leaned her head back against his arm and gazed up at him. “Not really. Have I ever told you?”
He chuckled softly and drew her into his arms. “Money couldn’t buy what we have.”
She captured his neck in the noose of her arms, directing his head down to her with a gentle touch of her hand on the back of his neck.
“Money may keep this whole world turning, but love greases the wheels,” she quipped in reverse.
He chuckled again and kissed her lips.
Certainly money had made their life easier. Without it they wouldn’t have had so many material things, but their love wouldn’t have been any different. It wasn’t money that made Alex so special. It was moments like these.
He stood gazing down at her until his expression became sultry. Reaching down, he placed one arm behind her knees and the other around her back, gently lifting her into his arms.
She wrapped her arms around his neck and snuggled her face against his cheek.
“I love it when you do that,” she whispered as he carried her across the courtyard.
He lowered her feet and gently pushed her against the wall beside the door.
“What?” his deep husky voice asked innocently. His fingers worked at her blouse, expertly unbuttoning it. As his hands pulled her bare stomach against him, his warm lips covered hers, preventing any possibility of response.
She gave in to the rush of desire, knowing that wherever he led, she could count on an utterly delightful experience. It was always that way when he was in control. The afternoon was theirs to use as they wished, and he always knew the best way to use it.

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