Mike peeked his head into the dining room, "There you are."
"Hey," Abby smiled. He fully entered and approached her. She was sitting at the table with a bowl of cottage cheese in front of her. Sliced strawberries had their own bowl in the middle of the table.
"Your room was empty," Mike remarked.
"Yeah," Abby replied, "I just had to get up and out."
"Hungry?" she asked. An omelet waited for him at the spot next to Abby.
"Aren't we running today?" Mike asked. The days they ran they ate breakfast afterwards.
Abby shook her head, "I promised you a riding lesson."
"I haven't forgotten," he pulled out his chair and sat.
"It's my first day off since you got here so I figured we'd start today," she replied.
"I'm up for it if you are," Mike agreed.
"Eat up," Abby directed, "You'll need the all the energy you can get."
"Yes, Ma'am," Mike took up his fork and cut into his still warm breakfast. He took his first bite. The omelet had pesto, tomatoes and peppers like the one he had asked for a couple of times.
"I hope you don't mind I had the cook make your omelet for breakfast- is it the way you like it?" Abby scooped out some strawberries. She dumped them into her cottage cheese.
"It's good, thanks," he reached for what he assumed was his glass of juice. Abby had been paying attention to what foods he seemed to favor.
Johnny leaned on the wall beside the operating room door. Charlie ripped off her surgical smock and opened the large trash can marked bio-hazard with her foot. She threw her gloves and smock in the trash then washed her hands in the bay sink. The rest of the team brought the still sleeping child out on a gurney and headed down a hall behind him.
Charlie dried her hands and threw away the paper towel. Without a word Johnny followed her as she expected. He gave up on trying to read her mood. Charlie kept her cool at work. She turned a corner to the hall that led to where the family members were.
Once in the waiting room he hung back while Charlie approached the family. The parents stood. She spoke to them in fluent Spanish. "Oscar did wonderful," Charlie smiled, "I removed the obstruction. He should make a full recovery."
The woman Johnny recognized as the kid's mother threw her arms around Charlie, thanking her profusely. After she was done the father shook Charlie's hand also expressing his gratitude.
"He'll be waking up soon," Charlie said still in Spanish, "If you'll follow me I'll take you back to the recovery area to see him." Both mother and father nodded. Charlie turned around with the parents in tow. Johnny joined them as they passed.
They got to the recovery room as Oscar was waking. "Hola, Oscar," Charlie smiled. She and the parents approached the bed with the young boy in it. Johnny stayed by the door and surveyed the room. Charlie asked Oscar some questions and talk with the parents for a while before taking her leave.
"What's next?" Johnny asked following her out the door and into the hallway.
Charlie took off her surgical cap, "Lunch break- I have exactly forty-five minutes left before my next surgery."
Mike & Abby's first stop in the stable was Silver's stall. The horse came to the front the moment he heard his mistress enter the building. "Hi, Silver," she said. Silver stretched out his head for Abby to rub. She rubbed his nose as he requested. "Back up, Hun," Abby instructed. Silver stepped back and let Abby & Mike in. "Want to go for a ride?" she asked the horse. Silver neighed.
"That sounds like a yes," Mike replied.
Abby retrieved the bridle. "Come here," she directed. Silver obeyed. "Watch- you'll be doing this on Aslan," Abby informed him. Mike nodded. She angled so he could see how to put the bridle on. They took him out to a space where they could saddle both horses. "Aslan might be a little more resistant," Abby cautioned.
"All right," Mike replied.
"He doesn't get ridden as often as Silver, but favors Dad," she tied Silver's reigns to a station.
"Gotcha," he followed her to Aslan's stall.
"We're coming in, Aslan," Abby alerted the animal. She unlatched the gate to the stall and they walked in careful to close the gate behind them.
"Hey, Bud," Mike greeted the large animal. He went for the bridle then turned back to the horse. Aslan backed up at the sight of the bridle. Mike was calm, but firm, "Woah." Aslan hesitantly allowed Mike to put the bridle on. Abby opened the gate for them.
Back in the main area Mike tied Aslan to the station beside Sliver. "First we groom them," she found the right supplies. The groom had already taken care of the hooves. Abby handed Mike a rubber brush, "It's a curry comb- you brush in circles."
He slipped it on his hand. "Like this?" Mike started on Aslan's side.
She came up close behind him. Abby laid her arm and hand over his. "Softer," she guided. Mike angled back his face and locked eyes with her. They shared a smile. Maybe she lingered there a little longer than she should have. Physical contact with Mike felt good. It felt right. Mike didn't complain one bit either. Abby finally broke hold to take care of Silver.
Mike stretched his arms out after the third session of brushing, "Done."
"Good," Abby inspected his work, "Now come the saddles." He watched Abby put a saddle pad on Sliver. He copied the placement on Aslan. Mike was about to ask her if she needed help with her saddle. It looked rather weighty. Abby surprised him by lifting her heavy saddle with ease and positioning it in the proper place. She was petite and feminine, which Mike very much appreciated, but also very strong. He found that pretty impressive as well. She soon had the saddle secured.
Mike followed suit with Aslan's saddle.
"Let's take them out to the corral," Abby suggested.
Down in the cafeteria Charlie and Johnny got in line. She got out a try and hand it to him. "You have to eat too," Charlie insisted as she got a second tray for herself.
"No argument from me," Johnny replied, "I'm starved." They continued along. He checked out all the offerings. "What's any good here?" Johnny was open for suggestions.
"Skip the pasta dishes," Charlie advised.
"That bad?" Johnny questioned.
"The noodles are mush," she wrinkled her nose in disgust, "And don't get me started on the sauces."
"You a cook too?" he chuckled.
"My mom was- I don't remember much about her, but I remember she could cook," she selected a bowl of salad with grilled chicken, "When this is all over I am going to have to have you and Mike over for some real food." Further down the line Charlie grabbed herself a couple rolls. Johnny chose a burrito and chips. They moved to the head of the line and got ready to pay. "He's with me," Charlie motioned to Johnny. She gave her card to the cashier. Johnny gave her a look like he wanted to protest. "What?" she shrugged, "You gave up the cushy stay at the estate day to come out and guard me- lunch is the least I can do."
"And you got me out of playing third wheel- I owe you," Johnny replied.
Charlie brushed it off, "The more time they have alone the better." She had liked what she had seen of Mike so far. If he stuck around for Abby after this was over? The more the merrier.
They found a table. "Is this ok?" Charlie asked. Johnny looked around. It was easy access to an exit and in a relatively quiet section of the seating area. He nodded. They sat down with their trays. Charlie picked up her fork. She poked on some of her salad. Johnny's cell phone beeped before he could start on his food. He picked it up and checked the message. Seeing it was from Lucia had Johnny grinning from ear to ear. Charlie took his phone. The icon on the message was a selfie of Johnny and Lucia that they managed to take before he left with Abby & Mike. "Lucia, huh?" Charlie raised an eyebrow. She read the flirty text.
"Hey," Johnny protested.
"You little sneak, what's up with going out and getting yourself a girlfriend when I wasn't looking?" Charlie teased.
"She's not my girlfriend," Johnny replied. Charlie chuckled. This was Lucia after all. She was one of her friends as well. The boy was sunk and didn't even know it yet. Charlie gave him his phone back. She ate some of her salad. While Johnny replied to the text she polished off a roll.
Charlie reached into her purse to retrieve something. When she pulled her hand out two pamphlets dropped out onto the table. Before she could collect them Johnny picked them up. He read the front of both pamphlets. "23me? Your Story? What's are those?" Johnny asked.
"Genetic testing services," she explained.
"And why would you be looking into one of those?" he frowned.
"I'm curious about my genes all right? I didn't have my mom or dad around to tell me much," Charlie said.
"Like what is there to know?"
"Have you ever wondered if you were genetically predisposed to cancer? I can't really tell if I have a family history or not," Charlie brought up a valid point. That truly was something Johnny hadn't thought about. He was young and relatively healthy. She could see from his face that had piqued his interest a little.
"Can't you test for those here?" Johnny wondered.
"Yeah, but these go more in-depth," Charlie replied.
He eyed her warily, "Do they tell you about living family connections?"
"Some do," Charlie admitted, "Only if someone you are related to is in the system."
"I don't know about the family stuff, but hearing about the health risks might be interesting," Johnny admitted.
"Are you thinking about maybe taking a test too?" she inquired.
"Let me check it out and I'll let you know," he replied.
"Good maybe you can help me pick which one to go with," Charlie ate another fork full of salad. Johnny chowed down on his burrito.
"Aslan is voice command trained like Silver," Abby explained as the duo walked to the corral. She busied her free hand with tugging on the hem of her shirt so she won't reach for Mike. He had his hand in his pocket to avoid the temptation as well. They weren't quite ready to hold hands just yet, but both could feel the other wanted too.
"They also respond to the reigns very well," They opened the corral gate and got the horses in. Abby checked the straps on both horses and tightened the saddles where necessary. "Ready?" she planted her foot firmly in the stirrup. Abby gracefully pulled herself up and lifted one leg over to get settled in. "Got it?" she turned Silver around and looked at Mike. He nodded.
Mike put his first foot in the stirrup and began to pull himself up. Aslan shifted. Mike lost his balance and slipped off onto his feet. "You are not going to make this easy are you?" he muttered to Aslan.
"Are you all right?" Abby asked.
"Just fine," Mike said. She made it look so effortless. Again he placed his foot in the stirrup. Swiftly Mike pulled himself up and into the saddle before Aslan knew it. Aslan started forward. Mike pulled back on the reigns, "Woah." Aslan stopped. Mike grinned. Second time was the charm. Mike patted Aslan's neck.
"Well, you've gotten the stop command down," Abby said.
"It was kind of self-explanatory," Mike straightened. Abby bit her bottom lip. Mike sitting tall on a horse was quite a sight to see. His short sleeved white Henley showed off his chest and arms well. "What now?" Mike inquired.
Abby rode up along beside him, "Let's take you around the corral so you can get a feel for how Aslan rides."
"Ok," he replied.
"Come on guys," Abby clicked. The horses started out. They took it easy for the first lap. Mike watched Abby and copied the commands she gave Silver. Aslan listened for the most part. They were still getting used to each other. "Think you're ready to try one of the trails?" she offered. He was already miles above Vance. He wouldn't dreamt to ride a horse even for Abby. One thought of Vance swiftly snowballed into another.
"If you want to," Mike shrugged, "I haven't studied them all that well- I'll need you to guide me around."
"I might not be smart enough to guide anyone," Abby replied.
Mike nearly stopped his horse, "What makes you say that?"
"It's nothing forget it," she shook her head.
"It this about Vance?" he inquired.
"For a guy who've I've known for less than a week you can read me pretty well," Abby admitted.
"You don't have to pretend with me," Mike said.
"Most of the time I am ok," she replied.
"Then you get thinking about it," he deduced.
"And I just feel so stupid, you know?" she threw out, "I couldn't see what was under my own nose."
"You are smart, Abby- don't let Vance make you doubt yourself," Mike replied. Her ex was the idiot. "You're not the only one that's been cheated on," Mike added. From his voice it sounded like he was speaking more in the personal terms than general. That couldn't be right. Abby frowned. Who would be stupid enough to cheat on Mike? She got down and opened the gate. Once Abby was back on Silver they took off.
"Where are we going?" Mike asked.
"I have a visit to make," Abby answered. He didn't press her any further than that. Mike would find out when they got there.