Monday, June 8, 2015
A Day at the Races
"Get away from the door!" somebody shouted.
Rosalia barely had the chance to twitch her tail out of harm's way in time. The bar's door slammed open and five bare-chested studs charged in, lathered up and stinking up a storm. Normally Rosalia found stallion sweat a turn-on, but not in herd form. She wrinkled her nose and sent sympathetic vibes to the patrons who hurriedly vacated their stools.
The stud with the red-blond mane reached the bar first. "I win!" he whinnied. "Malt whiskey!"
"Screw you," said second place. "Everybody knows you're on steroids. I'll have a rye."
"Scotch on the rocks," the third one ordered. The other two had beers.
Rosalia shook her own thick mane and was on her way to the exit when she bumped square into a sixth shirtless runner. Now this was more like it, she thought. The also-ran had long, trim legs—shaved, she couldn't help noticing; that was unique—chestnut hair pulled back in a horsetail, and the loveliest brown eyes she'd ever seen. He had just enough lather on him to make his scent arousing. Best of all, he was more sober than the rest of his herd, an enormous mark in his favor.
He eyed the studs at the bar and swore. "Forget this. I'm out."
Rosalia barely glanced at the other stallions. This fine racer was more to her liking. "That time of year again, eh?"
Both his eyebrows climbed. "You know about the race?"
"The annual Bar Derby? What horse doesn't? It's a fine old tradition, especially here in Talbot's Peak. I ran a time or two myself, back when I was in school." His left brow crept a fraction higher. "The fillies run too, you know. Usually after the studs."
"It can't be much of a payoff for you," he said. "At least for the racers, the winner gets his drink paid for. Hell, everybody drinks no matter who wins the leg. By the end of the evening we're all dead drunk. Is that what the fillies race for? Some wobbly nag with beer breath?"
"More or less." Rosalia made a face over a particularly disappointing memory. "That's why a lot of us quit."
"I think I will too," the stud said. "I can think of better things to run for than a hangover."
"There are the bragging rights," she pointed out.
"And rights to the mares. I know. But what good is that if you're too drunk to enjoy it?"
"You're not too drunk, are you?" Rosalia winked.
He must have been a little sloshed, because it took him a moment to catch on. "I think I'd rather have dinner than another drink," he said. "How about you?"
"Dinner sounds great, as long as we have water and not—"
The winner at the bar slammed down his mug. "Next leg—Rattigan's!" he bellowed. "Somebody call it!"
One of the patrons at a table obliged. "And they're off!"
The winner bolted unsteadily for the door. This time Rosalia's impromptu date hustled her out of the way. The other horses gulped their drinks and galloped after the leader.
"That's not going to end well," the stallion said. "Louie told us in no uncertain terms he didn't want Rattigan's added to the course this year. He's got a cleaver. If the squirrel's on the register tonight, he'll have a gun."
"Should be fun to watch, then," Rosalia said. "We can have dinner there afterwards."
"Perfect." He bared big horsey teeth. "I'm Aaron."
He offered his hand. She took it. They left the bar together, at a sedate trot.