Blazing the Trail (Sunshine & Shadow Book 5)

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Sunshine &
Shadow 5

 

 

 

 

 

Blazing the Trail

Novella by Alie
Williamson

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Copyright @ 2015
Alie Williamson

All Rights
reserved

Published by
POWWOW Books, Canada

Cover photography:
Monika Paterson

Models: Tyler Bergeron
and Nicole Cromarty

 

 

 

Chapter 1

 

 

 

The aisle was decorated
in white lilies, April’s favorite. The people lining it turned in their seats
to look at her. Cameras were out, flashing in her eyes. She looked past all of
it, at the man whom she was about to marry.

She walked alone, one
step after another, focusing on Lex, keeping her head high and trying to hide
the fear that was coursing through her veins. She reached the altar but
something didn’t feel right.

The music was too loud,
drowning out the preacher as he spoke. Why hadn’t the music stopped yet? April
leaned closer to him and looked at Lex. He was smiling, but something about his
smile seemed tight, forced.

She turned towards the
crowd and scanned the front row. Where was Kip? Not seeing his face, her heart
began to beat faster. No. She couldn’t do this without him. April’s breath
seemed stuck in her throat, her head pounding. Her eyes scanned once more,
coming up empty. Turning back to Lex, she could feel the panic setting in. He
was frowning.

“Lex? Where is he?” April
grabbed his arms as her heart started beating even faster and her eyes drifted
shut. Her voice sounded like it came from far away, like her eardrums were
blocked with something. She slid to the floor and the crowd clapped.

“No!” April gasped, losing
her hold of Lex’s tuxedo jacket and feeling him pull away.

Lex stared at her and hot
tears ran down April’s cheeks. She reached for him, her fingers grasping at the
air.

“Lex! Lex, please! You
have to help me find him!”

The crowd was still
clapping and April turned her tear-stained face to them. They were smiling,
laughing. April frantically searched for her family. Her dad was hugging her
mom, grinning from ear to ear, holding his wife in his arms like he never
wanted to let her go.

For a moment, April
paused; it was the first time she had seen her dad grin like that in a long
time. Simon Cooper was a very composed man.

She had to find Kip. He
was the only one who could help. Kip would know what to do. She just had to
find him.

From behind her, Lex
began to laugh and cheer with everyone else.

When she looked at him,
April’s eyes began to drift closed, the lack of oxygen taking its toll.

“No!” she tried to scream.
“No! Lex, please! Please, help me! Lex!”

April looked up and
watched him walk calmly away. The crowd was still cheering; smiling like the
day had gone exactly as planned.

“No! Someone help! Please!”
She felt her eyes shut. She couldn’t breathe.

She forced herself to
look at the sky and, using her last breath, ripped a scream from her own
throat.

 

April sat straight up in
her bed.

The memory of the dream
rushed into her mind and she put her hand to her forehead. It was clammy. She
sighed. Another nightmare.

Checking the time, she
leapt from the bed. She pulled her jeans on and cursed herself for forgetting to
set an alarm for the third time this week.

She dialed Lex’s number
and got his voicemail.

“Hi, Lex. It’s April. I’m
just wondering if you could do me a favor. I’m running late and it would be
great if you could stall for me with Damian. I’m assuming you’re already there,
or else…you would have picked up your phone. So…yeah, thanks. I’ll see you
soon.”

She hung up and wondered
if Lex had heard her voicemail from the previous night.

When she arrived on the
movie lot, April was greeted by Damian standing outside, tapping his foot. He
looked pissed.

“Hi,” April said, as she
approached him, pulling her purse higher up her shoulder uncomfortably.

“Again?” Damian said, his
face stern.

“I’m so sorry. I forgot
to set my alarm.”

“That’s the third time
you’ve been late this week, April. What the hell is going on?”

“I don’t know,” she said,
following him into the barn. “I’m not really sleeping very well and…it doesn’t
matter. I won’t be late tomorrow.”

“We actually don’t need
you tomorrow.”

“But…it’s the last day.”

“Yeah, and most of the
horses are being picked up. Lex and Violet are coming in to go over a few
things with Campbell, but there won’t be any horses on set. I can handle things
in the barn without you.”

“Okay…”

“Oh and find some time
today to take Benny into the hills. I think he’s getting pent up. It doesn’t
look good for the owners to show up and the horse is in a state. But right now,
you’re needed on set. Well, ten minutes ago you were needed on set. You know
they can’t start without one of us there. And I’m swamped.”

April turned on her heels
and headed in the direction of the set, knowing they had probably waited for
her to start filming.

When she entered, she
could see Violet and another actor standing in front of the screen. Lex was
sitting in his chair behind Campbell. He leaned on his fist, looking annoyed. A
member of the crew locked the double doors behind her with a clang.

“Thank you for coming,
April,” Campbell said, irritated. “We can finally begin. Action!”

April nodded
apologetically and went over to Lex.

“Hey,” she whispered.

He nodded to her, intent
on the scene in front of him.

She exhaled and sat
beside him, watching Violet act with slight envy. The other woman was truly
flawless. Her voice was like velvet, her movements’ fluid.

“Cut!” Campbell shouted.
He turned to Lex. “Did you like that? Good?”

Lex nodded, smiling at
him.

“Everything look okay to
you, April?” Campbell asked.

April smiled. “Yeah, the
horses look gre...”

“Take five everybody!”
Campbell said, interrupting her. 

April exhaled and looked
at Lex. “How’s it going?”

“Fine,” Lex said,
nodding.

“I, um, don’t have to
work tomorrow, so did you want to come over for drinks tonight?”


I
have to work
tomorrow.”

 “Oh…Did you get my
voicemail?”

He glanced at her
sideways. “No, I didn’t.”

April stood in front of
him. “Are you pissed at me or something?”

Lex finally looked her in
the eye, his face quickly changing to a smile. “Of course, I’m not. I’m just...focused
that’s all. Sorry.”

She let out the breath
she had been holding. “It’s okay. Do you have any time today to come for a
ride? I’m going to take Benny out.”

Lex shook his head. “No
time today.” He made eye contact with someone behind April and stood up. “I
will come tonight though, okay?”

She nodded, forcing her
face to smile through the disappointment.

Damian took over for her
on set and April busied herself in the barn until lunch time. She mucked stalls
and wiped off tack. She even tidied the staff lounge; anything to avoid going
back into the studio.

After wolfing down her
sandwich, she rushed to Benny’s stall and tacked him up in record time. Leading
him from the barn, she got a few looks from the grooms, but she was used to it
by now. She ignored them. Only one more day.

The hiking trails on the
Hill all intertwined, and it was easy to get lost. April counted on Benny’s
homing sense to get her back to the lot. She headed up the steepest one, a
trail not many hikers dared to attempt. She wanted to tire the horse out and
climbing was one of the best ways to do it.

April didn’t have to
worry about meeting people along the trails, as she had when she was with Lex.
No-one knew who she was. No-one recognized her. She could happily slip past
people without uttering a word.

Benny was spritely; April
could tell what Damian had meant. He pranced sideways down the hills, slipping
in places and causing April to catch her breath. She rode through the trees,
closing her eyes and imagining she was back at Blue Haven, on Chinook.

Her heart fluttered at
the thought.

She tried to guess what
was happening back at the ranch; who was where, and doing what. But she
couldn’t. And that made her sad. She should be able to imagine. But her mind
was a blank.

She trailed her finger
over the supple leather saddle horn. Everything was too new, too oiled, and too
stiff. She missed her comfortable barrel saddle back home, with the rips and
tears that reminded her of memories she had long forgotten. It was molded
perfectly to fit her; the stirrups the right length and the seat nicely curved.
The flower engravings on the skirt were almost unrecognizable now, covered in
tiny scratches from riding through low brush.

April sighed and turned
Benny around, back the way she had come.

“Well boy, guess I just
make the most of it, right?”

The horse snorted.

April chuckled. “I’ll
take that as a yes. Come on.”

She urged the horse
forward into a relaxed lope. The meadow opened up ahead of them and he
lengthened his stride, pushing with his hind legs to drive his body forward,
into the rustling grass again and again.  April could feel the power in this
horse. He was magnificently graceful though, even in his gallop. His feet
didn’t seem to touch the ground; she could float in the saddle like he was
flying through the clouds.

At the other end of the
meadow, a couple stood. April slowed Benny down and passed them at a walk,
smiling slightly. She approached the gates and unlocked them with her keycard. It
was already close to 3:00 pm so, after untacking Benny and turning him loose in
his stall, April grabbed her bag from the staff lounge. As she passed each
horse, she fed them a mint from her pocket, saying her farewell and trying not
to be sad. She took one last look around the barn and headed to her car.

As she jumped in and
started the ignition she received a text from Lex.

 

From: Lex Mitchell

 

Hey April. Just wondering
what time I should stop by tonight?

Lex

 

April quickly typed a
reply, telling him anytime, and put her phone in her purse. She drove through
the streets of L.A in a daze.

Something was going on
with Lex. Something wasn’t right. Maybe tonight she would have a chance to
bring it up, see if he had noticed it, too. She wasn’t sure what it was; maybe
it was stress, or worry about something. Maybe he wasn’t sleeping, and that was
making him edgy. Whatever it was, she had to find out if she could help; she
hated the thought of him being upset.

April switched on the
television when she entered the cottage. CMT was playing country music videos
and she sung to herself, puttering around the kitchen, washing dishes. She had
a sudden thought.

She should surprise Lex
by cooking a meal for the two of them; maybe that would bring a genuine smile
back to his face.

Searching the
refrigerator, April pulled out her ingredients and set about chopping and
dicing vegetables. She danced as she cooked, swaying this way and that. She
checked her phone after a few hours.

6:00 pm.

Hmm. She wondered what
time Lex would show up; maybe she should have asked him before cooking.

The casserole was keeping
warm in the oven and she slid onto the couch after pouring herself a glass of
red wine. She took a sip and turned the television over to Entertainment
Tonight. They were doing a segment on Lex and Violet’s expected child and she
sighed.

It seemed no matter where
she looked she couldn’t get away from the fact that Lex was having a baby, with
someone else.

April switched the
television onto a Cops marathon and relaxed into the cushions. She checked her
phone again.

6:11pm.

It was going to be a long
night.

 

April awoke to the sound
of her phone ringing. She rubbed her eyes and sat up. She had fallen asleep on
the couch.

“Hello?” Her voice was
rough.

“Hey baby.”

“Hey dad. Why are you up
so late?”

“Late? It’s 6:00 am,
honey.”

April checked the clock
on the satellite receiver. “Oh my goodness.” She put her hand to her forehead.
“I slept the whole night on the couch.” She couldn’t remember what time she had
fallen asleep.  

“Why would you do that?”

“I was waiting for...I
was...” April paused. She didn’t want her dad to worry so she revised her
story. Stay as close to the truth as possible; that was what Kip had said. “I
fell asleep watching Cops.”

“Oh, okay.”

“Dad, if it’s only 6:00 am,
why are you calling me?”

“I was planning on leaving
a message. I thought you’d be asleep.”