To Thine Own Self (Chapter Six, page 1 of 7)

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Carmen had four horses saddled and ready when the men arrived in the barn. She was tightening the cinch on the last one when Gerald eyed the horse doubtfully.

"I hope they're gentle. I've never straddled one before."

Carmen laughed at his wording. "You can ride Casper. She has the most experience and she's gentle."

"Which one has the most spirit," Rob said with a wink. "I like my fillies spirited."

"That's a shame," Carmen said with a smile, "Because you're riding the gelding.

Aaron glanced up and met her gaze. His eyes reflected humor that never reached his mouth.

Gerald chuckled as he reached for the white Appaloosa mare.

"This must be Casper."

She handed Dandy to Rob and Random to Aaron, introducing the horses by name. Why hadn't it occurred to her that this might be their first experience on a horse? They led the horses into the corral. Slowly and deliberately, she mounted, knowing they were watching. When she turned to the others, Gerald smiled.

"That didn't look so difficult."

He put a foot in the stirrup and grabbed the saddle horn. It took him two attempts, but he managed a clumsy mount and sat uneasily in the saddle for a moment before turning his attention to the other two.

"Go ahead," Rob said to Aaron. "Let's see how many times it takes you."

Aaron shrugged and turned to his horse. He placed a foot in the stirrup and grabbed the saddle horn. In one smooth movement he swung up into the saddle.

Rob eyed him uneasily. "I'd say you've done that a time or two."

He turned to his horse and put his foot in the stirrup. Grabbing the saddle horn, he pulled himself up, but didn't get his other foot high enough. For a moment he tottered, half on and half off the horse, his eyes large. Finally he retrieved his balance and got his foot over the back of the horse and down the other side into the stirrup.

He let out a long breath and grinned. "For a minute there I wasn't sure which one of us was the Dandy."

Carmen leaned over to open the gate. "This gate isn't locked because the stable is a buffer."

When the three men rode through, she shut the gate and turned Princes toward the trail that Alex had chosen. Did he know the men were inexperienced riders? Surely he was aware that Gerald was inexperienced. It didn't take long to realize that Aaron was not only experienced, but as graceful as Alex.

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