West (Chapter Six, page 2 of 12)

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Far more comfortable in it than what Nell dressed me in, I pulled on my boots and a long riding habit of wool. Proud I'd been able to figure out how to dress myself with the overbearing clothes, I tucked my phone in a pocket and crossed to the door.

I thought for sure several times that I'd wake the entire house with all the creaking the floors did. No one stirred, though, and I made it down the groaning stairs to the bottom floor and the wide front doors. Fumbling with the locks, I was nearly blown over by the harsh wind outside and barely caught the door before it smacked the wall.

My hair tossed around me. Closing the door, I wrestled my tresses into a sloppy braid that managed to subdue most of it and ran to the barn. The wind was a combination of warm and cool as autumn blew across the plains to replace summer.

Entering the cozy, quiet barn, I sucked in a deep breath of the familiar scent of horses and hay. It took only a moment to realize that John had horses of incredible quality, along with polished, soft saddles and bridles that would cost a lot in my time.

I selected a horse and prepared him for a ride, silently thanking my aunt for pushing me into dressage when I was five.

Moments later, I was outside in the brusque wind, headed at a quick walk on horseback towards the road leading to town. When I was far enough away from the main house not to be overheard, I pushed the horse into a canter.

It was much harder to follow the map when on the road than it seemed in my head. At some point, I was supposed to leave the road and head west, towards the territory of the Native Americans. But that point … well, I failed to recall the terrain features, except that it was somewhere around a huge tree, and there weren't many of them.

I rode over two hills before spotting the tree - and another flag marking the edge of John's property. Hesitating only a moment, I switched directions and nudged the horse off the road, trying to follow the map in my head.

The hills continued in this direction, though I began to see shallow box canyons, a river in the distance, and wider valleys. The grasslands bowed to the wind, the rustling sound loud, while the horse snorted every once in a while and picked his way through the grasses.

Pulling out the notes I made, I checked our course to see what else I needed to look for.

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