~ The Ride ~ pg 8

When they did finally get back to the road, Alex was intent on making sure she was comfortable. Clouds hid the sun and he could smell the coming rain. If they didn't want a soaking, they'd have to make up the time. She mounted first, sitting on the front of the saddle, and Alex swung up after her. Even sitting in the middle as he usually did, she had still left enough room between them that they didn’t touch. Meeting Civyl’s stare across the group, he shared a nod with the man. Alex let the others ride on in front of them and observed her. He shook his head at her stiff back. If she had sat the same way behind him, it was no wonder she was so sore. This would not work. He wrapped an arm around her waist and slid her backwards ignoring her startled gasp. Her body went rigid and her knuckles white where she held the pommel. “Relax,” he whispered behind her. “Lean against me.” 

If anything, she stiffened more. “I do not think that would be very appropriate,” she flustered pulling herself forward again. 

Alex sighed and rolled his eyes. “You strained your shoulder this morning because you fight the rhythm of the horse,” he tried to explain. “Just listen, please.” At least she turned an ear to him. “Riding with a stiff back as you are will have you hurting again within the full tick. You must relax or we will never make it to Hailie tonight. Look at the clouds, or better yet, query the wind. There will be rain before the morning.” 

She looked up at the clouding sky and a breeze brushed past them. He watched as her shoulders slumped. “I do not want to sleep on the ground... or in the rain.” 

“Nor do I,” Alex agreed. “There is a way to lessen the strain on your shoulder, but you must trust me.” 

She was silent for a long time staring ahead at Civyl’s back no doubt. “Okay,” she finally answered. “What do I do?” 

“Lean against me,” he repeated. She pushed herself backward, tentatively, stopping at the barest of contact. It was a start at least. He wrapped his arm around her waist again and pulled her to him tightly. She remained stiff but she no longer protested. Alex began by explaining his philosophy on horse riding to her. If he could get her to understand the concept, they could easily ride through the day with no further stops. “To match the rhythm of the horse, rider and horse must be one. We are two riders. We also must become one. Relax,” he petitioned, “Lean against me and move as I move.” 

The End

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