Riley looked into his eyes. A little scared, a little unsure, and completely out of her comfort zone, she prepared to step into the unknown.
“Okay, it’s just you and me,” she whispered, adjusting her boots and taking a step forward.“If this is going to work, we need to have mutual trust and respect for each other. I put my faith in you, and you don’t hurt me. We have a deal?”
The horse whinnied in response and Riley stepped backwards, afraid to get any closer.
“Okay, that’s definitely not what I meant!”
“Riley, you’ve been on a horse before, remember? Why are you so nervous?” Lucas emerged from the barn and met Riley in front of the training ring.
“Well, Lucas that was different you see, because I was with you and we were inside the school where we had very limited space to explore. But this time I’ll be by myself in the open field where the horse could just run off and-”
“Riley, hey, look at me.” Lucas lifted her chin and smiled reassuringly. “You are not alone. I’ll be right here, every step of the way. And I’m literally holding onto the rope, so Trigger isn’t going anywhere.”
“You know, it’s really not comforting that the horse’s name is Trigger,” Riley bit her bottom lip and looked up at the horse nervously.
“Take that up with Pappy Joe. Now, come on, up you go,” Lucas stood beside the horse, clasped his hands together, and held them low to the ground. He looked up at Riley expectantly and she furrowed her brows in confusion.
“Ooh, are we cheerleading now?” Riley beamed, her naive innocence evident in her excitement.
Lucas shook his head, and smiled up at her.
“No, I’m giving you a leg up,” Lucas explained and Riley gave him a look that indicated that he might as well have been speaking another language. “Grab the reins and hold onto the saddle. Then put your foot in my hand, and I’ll lift you up onto the horse.”
“Oh! Got it,” Riley gave him one sharp nod, and did as he instructed.
“Okay, one, two, three!” Lucas lifted Riley and she swung her leg up and over the horse. She landed with a not-so-graceful thud, but managed to stay on the horse’s back.
“Hey this isn’t so bad,” Riley announced, as she took a look around the farm. “Wow, Texas looks even more beautiful from up here Lucas. Look at the trees over-”
Before she could finish her sentence, Riley leaned back, lost her balance, and started falling towards the ground. Before she could hit the dirt, Lucas swiftly caught her in his arms.
“Whoa! You caught me,” Riley sighed in relief and looked up at Lucas gratefully.
“Yeah, maybe we should have started you off on the pony after all,” Lucas brushed a piece of hair out of her eyes and tucked it behind her ear.
“One good thing came out of this though,” Riley pointed out.
“What’s that?” Lucas breathed, fully aware of how close he was to her.
“I’m not so sure about Trigger and me, but you and I are definitely starting our relationship off with mutual trust and respect,” Riley gave him a sly smile and attempted a wink.
Lucas laughed, and set Riley carefully on the ground. Even after Riley had regained her balance, she did not step back from him. They remained close, Lucas with one hand on Riley’s back, Riley with one arm around his shoulders.
“Still glad I came? Even if I can barely stay on a horse?” Riley wondered, still breathless from the fall and the way that Lucas made her feel.
“Does this answer your question?” Lucas whispered as he leaned in close, placing one hand on her cheek. His eyes moved down to her lips, and then back up to meet her gaze before gently touching his lips to hers.
Riley pulled back from the kiss and looked up at Lucas questioningly. “I have to get back on that horse don’t I?”
“Oh yeah,” Lucas nodded and gestured for Riley to put her foot back in his hands.
“Okay, I trust you,” Riley announced as she grabbed the reins and moved to do as she was instructed. “Trigger, we now know that Lucas will catch me if I fall, but let’s not give him another chance to? Okay?”
With that, Riley got back on the horse, and when she fell for the second and third and fourth time, Lucas was there to catch her.