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Racing for Love - Chapter 1

Chapter One

 

Introductions

 

At thirty-one, Lena Corkill had risen in the ranks of thoroughbred horse trainers to become the head trainer for Wagoner Stables in Lexington, Kentucky. Resting a foot on a fence rail, she was contemplating her options for the next entrant into an upcoming prestigious horse race. When one of the two fillies she had selected for today’s trials galloped past her at a remarkable speed, she smiled at the time on her stopwatch. The change of jockey worked. She raised a well-defined eyebrow when the next filly galloped past. She should have beaten the other horses by at least three lengths. Perhaps she needs a change in her diet. Lena chewed on her lip as she considered her options with the high-strung filly while she watched the jockeys steer both horses toward the stable fence.

 

Lena’s attention turned toward the outbuildings across the way where her employer, Louis Wagoner, accompanied by a blonde woman, was heading in her direction. They were too far away for her to make out the features of the woman or her age. It really didn’t make any difference who the stranger was since Lena knew that, if it were important to the farm, Louis would inform her. She paused only seconds to retrieve her hat from the fence post before flipping it casually on top of her head. She walked toward the stable with her long gait taking  the strides evenly and at a remarkably graceful speed.

 

Over the years, she had been told that anyone watching could easily imagine her to be a thoroughbred among women. They said it had to do with her six-foot-tall figure that moved so fluidly it enhanced her attraction. Some even said she was breathtaking, a true specimen of perfection of the female form. Lena wasn’t sure she agreed but took the compliments for what they were—a way to seduce her.

 

Lena knew she had a wicked sense of humor and, when in full force, it could be hilarious to many or utterly humiliating to others. Many considered this to be another of her skills and if they were right, it appeared she had skills in abundance. She had a stream of willing admirers. Many were interested in a one-night stand only, telling her that they were afraid they couldn’t handle her on a full-time basis. Lena herself hadn’t found anyone remotely interesting enough to be with to consider having a long-term relationship. After experiencing a couple of bad romantic attachments when she was in college, she wasn’t about to jump into a relationship and, from time to time, she wondered if she ever would find that certain someone.

 

I wonder what happened to Alice Kimball. Lena and Alice had been in a two-year love affair when it suddenly snuffed out like a candle in the breeze. Alice had hooked up with some socialite at a horse auction that she attended with Lena and her dad, Seymour. It had hurt, as all love affairs do that come to an abrupt end. Lena had learned an important lesson and made sure it would never happen to her again.

 

Her feet crunched on the gravel as she went inside the stable to begin the tasks of the busy day ahead. Tomorrow, she and Louis would be attending an auction and she knew of one or two interesting lots that she wanted her boss to bid on. She headed to her office to look over the lot descriptions again.

 

 

Katherine Anne Lawrence watched the retreating back of the tall woman who had been timing the horses in a six-furlong race. She tried to enhance her five-foot-six-inch frame by bouncing on her toes to see the woman more clearly. Even by straining her eyes she still didn’t get the view she wanted. If the face were anything like the body she saw draped over the rail, she knew she was going to enjoy the negotiation to purchase the Wagoner Estate Stables. She gave Louis Wagoner a dazzling smile as they continued the inspection of the rest of the property.

 

Kate, the only daughter of Carl and Belinda Lawrence, with a maturity that belied her twenty-six years, was beautiful in a quiet way and brilliant in her business undertakings. Her background as a member of the super wealthy had not jaded the young woman. In her own right, she was the owner of several properties, one of which was a large farm in Ocala, Florida, called Merridoc Farms, along with two race courses, one in Florida and the other in New York. On today’s market, Katherine Lawrence was worth over one hundred and twenty million dollars. Her mother, who had several stables in California and New York, had passed her love of horses on to Kate. Her father indulged her mother shamelessly in her passion for the horseracing trade. He was much happier being the industrial giant, which he had worked hard to achieve in the last thirty years. The only women in his life were his lovely wife and his beautiful daughter. He pampered them completely, giving in to whatever whim they had.

 

Kate knew that the one element that was missing for her parents was an heir to the kingdoms each had built, not to mention Kate’s own considerable wealth. Once they learned of their daughter’s sexual preferences, they knew she would have to resort to unconventional methods of creating an heir. At some stage, when the time was right, she intended to tackle that problem.

 

Kate followed and listened to Louis as he showed her the beautifully run Wagoner Estate Stables. She looked at him and her eyebrows knitted.

 

“May I ask why you want to sell such a magnificent property?”

 

“I lost my wife and our son several years back when a fire burnt down our house.” Louis rubbed a scarred hand over his face, then held it out and looked at it. “Burnt both my hands and chest tryin’ to save them.”

 

Kate, seeing the deep sorrow etching the man’s face, looked away.

 

“No sense mournin’ something that can’t be undone.” Louis turned and his hands swept over the land before him. “After that, I concentrated on buildin’ the largest trainin’ facility in Lexington along with rebuildin’ that mansion. I’ve entertained the famous and not so famous in that house. We’ve housed horse breeders, friends, racin’ enthusiasts and the like. My wife, Martha, was sure one for parties—she loved everyone.”

 

“You’ve done a magnificent job, Mr. Wagoner.”

 

“My head trainer, Seymour Corkill, and I worked night and day figurin’ out what winnin’ thoroughbreds needed and how to make that happen.” He smiled and kicked the dirt with the toe of his boot. “It was the farm’s good fortune when Seymour and his family moved here from Ocala. The whole family was into trainin’ horses.”

 

“I’ve heard of the family. Wasn’t Seymour hurt working with a horse?”

 

“We had this crazed stallion and he reared up on Seymour and broke his back. Never was the same after that. Being confined to a wheelchair broke his spirit for a long while.” Louis lifted his chin to the woman walking toward the barn. “The one good thing that came out of the accident was Lena’s promotion to head trainer. I’ve known Lena since she was four. All she ever wanted to do was be with the horses just like her dad. He trained her to follow in his footsteps and now she’s my head trainer.”

 

“Didn’t her mother’s family own Osogill Farms? She must have had lots of experience too. That particular farm is known for breeding studs that sire winners.”

 

“Kentucky Derby, Preakness, Belmont—Anna’s family had the knack of breedin’ winnin’ horses for all the big races.” Louis smiled. “It was a fortunate day indeed when Seymour and I signed a contract. Now, I have Seymour’s headstrong but talented daughter runnin’ things. Lena is a natural.”

 

“I’ve heard only good things about her methods.”

 

“You asked why I was sellin’. Well, I love this place, it’s home to me—” His eyes darted to the mansion. “My family is gone and I’m not gettin’ any younger. The doc told me my ticker is gonna give out if I don’t slow down. I’ll surely miss this place along with Lena. I think of her as a daughter.” His toe kicked a small pebble and he watched it skitter across the ground. Then he looked straight at Kate.

 

“If I thought Lena could afford the place I’da offered it to her.” He shrugged. “I have no choice but to go outside the farm to find a buyer.”

 

“Leaving something you love behind, Mr. Wagoner, is always difficult.” Kate considered his words. Some may have found them offensive, but she knew it was business and not a personal affront.

 

The farm impressed Kate. She had carefully researched the Wagoner Stables by using all the resources available to her through her family’s corporation. After today’s tour, she knew that her original gut feeling on the project was correct. Tomorrow, she would attend the area’s annual auction with Louis Wagoner and make her final decision as to whether the property was worth the investment.

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