Chapter One

I wake with the sounds of last night's party. The dancing, the laughter. Everything is in my head. I try to sit up, but my head feels heavy and clouded. I knew that I should have listened to Peter about drinking so much. Dang, my head hurts so bad. I lie back down on the pillow and let my head sink into the feathery softness.

"Tara?" I hear Peter's soft voice enter my head and swirl around my brain.


"Are you awake?" I feel Peter brush his soft finger across my cheek.

I put my hand on his and open my eyes, "Partially."


"Maybe," I reply and groan.

Peter grins and lays down next to me, "That's what you get for not listening to me."

I close my eyes again and snuggle closer to his muscular chest, "It was my birthday party, what was I supposed to do?"

"Not drink as much?" Peter replies and puts his arm around me.

"Spur of the moment?" I say and stroke his long brown hair.

He grabs my hand and sets it back on the bed, "I don't think so. Look, why don't you go take a shower and I'll get some Tylenol for your head."

I look up at Peter, "Why can't I just sleep?"

"Because we have plans," he replies and rubs my shoulders.

"Mm, like what?" I ask.

"You'll have to get ready to find out!" Peter grins, his hazel eyes are shining.

I sigh and sit up, clutching my head, "Fine, I'll go."

"Come to the kitchen when you're done. I'll have breakfast and some Tylenol for you," Peter says. He gives me a kiss on my forehead, gets up, and then walks out the door.

I smile to myself and then walk into the bathroom. I look around my small dark green bathroom with pink flowered wallpaper and almost throw up. The colors are making my head spin. I close the door behind me and lean over the toilet, ready to throw up if the time comes. I rub my temples and turn on the shower, while my head is still over the toilet. I stand up slowly. I strip down to the skin and carefully step into the shower. I let the warm water run over my bare body and into my scalp.

I finally get done and step out, sighing to myself. I rub my hair dry and put on some clothes. I pick out some jeans and a long-sleeved shirt. I walk back into the bathroom and put some lipstick and eye shadow on. I yawn as I walk into the kitchen, where Peter is.

Peter is my boyfriend/fiancée. What I mean is that he hasn't really proposed to me, but we've talked about marriage. We know we both want to be married, but we don't know if we want to get married at this point in our life. Peter is about three years older than me (making him twenty-five, my twenty-second birthday was last night) and we are both at different points in our life. He is struggling with some family problems and I'm just learning what struggles really are. We both love each other with all our heart (at least I do), but we just aren't ready for the big step yet.

I love Peter for so many ways. He is one of the most handsome people I've met, for one. His long brown hair is always tousled in a beautiful way and his hazel eyes always have a mysterious sparkle in them. Peter is also one of the nicest people I've met. He's sweet on the inside and the out, with no flaws that I have seen. I guess we were just made for each other.

"Here's your Tylenol," Peter says and hands me three pills, "I got you some milk to wash them down with. I also made some pancakes."

I smile and take the pills, "Thanks."

"No, prob." Peter hands me a plate with a stack of three pancakes on top.

I look up at him through my lashes, "Is there a reason you think I can eat all this?"

"Food is always good for a headache. Also, you didn't eat anything last night."

"I ate a few things!" I protested.

"Two shrimp and a couple pieces of bread doesn't count," Peter replies and sits down next to me at the bar.

I roll my eyes and start eating my first pancake, "So what are we doing today?" I ask in a mouthful of pancake.

"First, let's get that syrup off your chin," Peter picks up a napkin and rubs it against my chin. "Now you are the beautiful girl I love."

"You can't love me if there's syrup on my chin?" I frown.

"Nope!" Peter laughs.

I punch him in the shoulder, "That wasn't funny!"

"I'm sorry," Peter says and wraps his large muscular arms around me. He gives me a light kiss on the cheek. I cut my pancake and am about to take a bite, when Peter snatches the fork away and eats my bite of pancake.

"Hey! That was my pancake!"

"Mine now! Yum!"

I take my fork back, "I didn't know you liked peanut butter on your pancakes."

"I don't."

"Well, that's what you put on here," I wipe away some peanut butter on the corner of Peter's mouth.

Peter's eyes grow wide and he starts coughing, "Man, I can't believe I forgot that! Nasty!"

I slap Peter on the back, which is quite a feat considering he is behind me, "Don't choke! I don't want my lovely boyfriend to die right now."

Peter removes his arms and puts them on the bar, "Don't you mean you don't want your lovely boyfriend to die ever?"

"Yes! That!" I say. "That's what I meant."

Peter tries, unsuccessfully I might add, to raise an eyebrow. His face ends in a weird expression with both eyebrows furrowed together very high on his forehead. I can't help but laugh. Peter moves his eyebrows up farther than I thought humanly possible. Before long I am doubled over laughing on the kitchen floor. I try to stand up, but my legs go out from under me. Peter grins and rushes over to me. He helps me into my chair and strokes my back.

"Are you okay?" he asks.

"I… Think… So…" I reply between fits of giggles.

"So, I was thinking that today we could go horseback riding."

I look at Peter and almost choke on my bite of pancake, "You're serious? Do you even know me?"

"Well, I could help you out."

I almost start laughing again, but stop myself before it goes to far, "I'm not a horse person…"

"You will be now."

I shake my head and finish up my pancakes. I swallow my last bite as I feel Peter's arms around me again, "If you go horseback riding with me, then we can have a picnic."

I shiver when I feel Peter's hot breath on my neck, "Fine, whatever."

Peter smiles and kisses me soundly on the mouth, "Awesome!"

I roll my eyes and push him off me, "Can I do my dishes now?"

"Yes, Ma'am. I've learned not to get in your way whenever you're about to clean something. Danger major."

I laugh and push Peter out of the way, "You have learned well, young grasshopper."

"Thank you, Master Tara," Peter does a mock bow, making me burst out in laughter. "You know, you laugh a bit too much."

"Laughter is good for the soul," I reply as I rinse off my plate. I set it in the dishwasher and close the door. I turn around and see Peter sitting with his chin in his hand with his eyebrows raised almost exactly the same as a few moments ago. I try not to laugh as I walk past him.

"What? No laughter?" Peter asks as he falls into step beside me.

"Nope," I mutter still trying not to laugh.

Peter sighs and opens my bedroom door for me, "What are you getting?"

"Necklace," I reply.

"We're going horseback riding," Peter says. He leans against the wall while he watches me search for the fifty cent piece necklace. "I don't think you need a necklace."

"Actually I do," I say. I pick up a thin string with a fifty cent piece at the end of it. The necklace was from eighth grade when we wrote on a piece of paper that we commit ourselves to sexual purity. We threw it in the fire as a sacrifice and so God would know we were serious about our commitment. Our eighth grade science teacher gave us all fifty cent pieces so that whenever we went out with someone we would take it with us and it would remind us of our commitment. I had my grandparents drill a hole in it so that I could put it on a necklace and wear it all the time. Every time I go out with Peter I wear it. It really is just my safety barrier so I don't cross over the line I have drawn in my mind.

"That necklace?" Peter asks.

I nod, "Want to help me put it on?"

"Sure, why not?" Peter jokes. He comes behind me and hooks the two ends together.

"Thanks," I reply. I move my hand out from under my hair, making it fall in loose waves around my face.

"Ready?" Peter opens the bedroom door again and waits for me to walk out.

"Um, maybe," I say. Horseback riding isn't my thing. At all. My mom had me try it one time whenever I was younger. The horse bucked me off and I ended up with a broken arm. I had vowed to myself to never ride a horse again. I guess that vow will be completely broken today.

"I won't let you fall off," Peter promises. He follows me into the kitchen where he opens the back door and lets me walk out first. Sometimes Peter can be such a gentleman. Other times he is a complete and utter jerk. But I'm glad that he's being a gentleman right now.

"Are you positive?" I climb into Peter's car.

"Completely." Peter slides into the driver's seat and starts the car.

"Well, not letting me fall off would require you to hold on to me the whole time," I say.

Peter grins and looks at me, "That wouldn't be too bad would it?"

I fake a laugh, "Haha, you're so funny."

"Thought so," Peter replies. He turns a couple of times. After a couple miles of dying grass we come to a small ranch. There are a few pastures with green grass growing in them and I can see cows, pigs, and. . . Horses. Darn Peter's amazing romantic mind.

"Crap," I mutter. "I can't believe I'm actually doing this."

Peter parks the car and puts a hand on my back, "Trust me. You'll be fine."

I look at him unconvinced.

"I promise I won't let you fall off. I also won't let the horse buck you off or run off a cliff."

I raise an eyebrow, "There aren't cliffs around here."

"That you know of," Peter says almost so quietly that I can't hear him.

"Well, that makes me feel so much better," I reply. I look out the window and see a few of the horses running around the small pasture.

"I was just kidding," Peter wraps his arms around me and hugs me tightly. "I love you. I wouldn't let you get hurt."

I smile, "I know."

"Then trust me," Peter says.

"I'll try." I pull away. We both jump out of the car at the same time. The wind is blowing my hair around my face. "Just my luck to not know it was windy."

Peter comes up behind me and puts my hair up into a messy ponytail. "Voila!" he exclaims and kisses me on the cheek.

I blush, "Thanks." I never blush around Peter so that is a new feat for me.

"Are you ready?" Peter asks. He takes my hand and leads me to the stables, where I'm thinking our little teacher, trainer guy is.

"No," I watch my feet as I take step after step. The ground is a little uneven and the grass grazes my legs. I grip Peter's hand tighter. With my luck and grace I would trip on a rock before I even get on the horse.

"Breathe, Tara," Peter releases my hand. "You're killing me here."

I take a deep breath, "Sorry. I'm just really nervous. You know, my motto since eighth grade has been trip, fall, die. What if that occurs right now?"

"First of all, what kind of an eighth grader makes a motto like that?" Peter asks. I hear him chuckle silently.

"Bree and I," I reply.

"Oh yes, you and Bree. The dangerous little eighth graders."

"We weren't not dangerous. We just needed a caution sign around us," I grimace as we walk into the stables. "Secondly?"

"Secondly," Peter continues. "There's no way in heck you are going to trip, fall, and die."

"You don't know that for sure!" I protest.

"Just trust me on this. You promised to trust me," Peter puts his arm around my shoulders.

"That was before I remembered my motto and my amazing grace," I smirk.

"Just be calm, listen to the trainer, and do exactly what he tells you. I promise you'll be fine. I won't let one little thing happen to you."

"You keep telling me that and I keep not believing you." I look around the stable at all the different horses. There are a bunch with brown coats and a few with black. They all look so beautiful, so harmless.

Peter continues to talk, but I'm transfixed by the beauty of one particular horse. The horse has a light-colored coat with dark teardrop eyes. Its ears prick up as I walk past and smile at it.

"Are you listening to me?" Peter asks.

"Sorry, what?" I reply. I turn my gaze away from the horse and look back at Peter.

"Never mind. Are you ready for this?"

"You ask me that one more time and I'll scream," I say through gritted teeth.

"Sorry, sorry. The trainer is right over there," Peter points to a man standing near a horse with a black coat. "His name is Joe. He's really nice. Just smile and act like you actually want to be here," Peter squeezes my shoulder.

I shake my head and follow Peter to where Joe is standing. As I walk closer I can only think that I'm walking one step closer to my death and one step farther from Peter. Step after step. I start to count my steps, but halfway there I lose count. I grimace as Peter pushes me forward to meet Joe.

Joe is a very tall man. I can't see his hair because he has a cowboy hat covering it, but his eyes are a dusty brown color. His features are soft, yet firm and his smile is electrifying. He sticks out a tan hand and shakes mine.

"Tara. It's very nice to meet you. I'm Joe, as Peter probably told you," Joe smiles at Peter and winks.

"Nice to meet you," I manage to say. Stuttering over words is usually a thing that happens when I meet new people.

"Why don't we go out to the corral and we'll get ya'll started," Joe lets go of my hand and walks out the back door to the stable motioning for us to follow.

One step closer to death, one step farther from Peter. The next chance I get, Peter is a dead man.

A/N: Surprise Surprise! Well here's a new story. I just want to post it and see what ya'll think. Next chance I'll get to update will probably be Saturdayish. I have three tests Friday and Bible test Thursday. Project over the weekend. This is what I get for being gone to camp. Oh well!

I do have a 50 cent piece that I shall be putting on a necklace. Drilling a hole in money is illegal. I did not do that. It's on like a pendant thingy. But in my little world of writing, tis not illegal. ) Never been horseback riding, but Tara's motto is my actual motto. My friend and I have that exact motto. D

Anyway, hope you enjoy this! It's a little different than I normally write. But I hope you like it.

Please R&R!

P.S. She has not broken her committment yet. She lives by herself, but Peter has a key. The time will come just trust me. Also I do not believe this will be rated M. I don't think I'll make it like that. But if it does come to that it shall have to be rated M.