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Has Chloe blown her chances of ever riding again at Pinnacle Stables? Will Dexter tell his sister about Chloe and Ryder?
Find out in the next episode of Stirrups:  All Over Again

Chloe glanced nervously around the restaurant before pulling the roll of babysitting money from her pocket. She discretely counted it under the edge of the table.

“Ninety-six, ninety-seven...”

“Hey Sunshine,” said Ryder as he slid into the booth across from Chloe.

“I asked you not to call me that,” said Chloe, looking up. She folded the bills and shoved them back in her pocket.

“You loved me calling you that at horse camp,” smiled Ryder.

“We're not at horse camp,” Chloe said as she nervously looked out the restaurant window. “Where's Lexi and Dex?”

“They had to stop at Tack-Mart. Alexis needed a new pair of breeches for the show next Saturday.” Ryder held up his finger to signal the waitress.

“Oh, yeah,” sighed Chloe. “I guess I'll be missing the annual August horse show.”

“I'll have a hamburger, fries and strawberry shake,” Ryder told the waitress who had come over to the table.

“And for you?” the waitress asked Chloe.

“Can I have a chicken sandwich and a banana split?” Chloe asked, looking up at the waitress, who nodded absently. “We also have two more coming, but put it all on one check and give it to me.”

“You don't have to do that,” Ryder said after the waitress had left.

“Consider it repayment. After all, it's the least I could do after everyone stood up for me,” said Chloe. “I'm sure Mrs. Carter would have banned me from the stable forever if it wasn't for you guys.”

She looked deeply into Ryder's brown eyes and sighed.

“I should have told her that Thunder was a biter,” Chloe continued. She glanced nervously toward the door. “And of all the people to bite, he had to sink his teeth into Paydyn's mom.”

“Yeah, she made Carter verify that Thunder had his rabies shots,” chuckled Ryder. “And Paydyn's dad threatened to sue. Plus, he wanted to move Sunshine to another stable.”

“That's awful. I'd never get to see Sunshine again,” whined Chloe. She cradled her head in her hands. “I swear I'm the epitome of Murphy's law. If something can go wrong, it goes way wrong!”

“Oh, I don't know,” snickered Ryder. “I thought yesterday afternoon was kinda fun.”

“You mean when you had to sneak out the back door because the twin's mother came home from work early?”

Paydyn casually approached Emily Parker. The older woman was primping her hair in the mirror that hung on her tack locker door.

“Misty is such a beautiful horse,” said Paydyn, as she leaned against the lockers and watched the well-dressed woman.

“Why, thank you!” Emily turned to look at Paydyn. “You're Penny's daughter, right?”

Paydyn nodded.

“Your mom has been accompanying some of us ladies on our Sunday trail ride. She brags about you all the time. Says that you're advancing nicely in your riding.”

“She does?” Paydyn looked astonished.

Emily chuckled, “Yeah, in fact I was thinking about asking if you were interested in riding Misty for a few months. I'm having carpal tunnel surgery and I won't be able to ride for a while.”

Emily closed her tack locker, glanced at her watch and began heading toward the exit. “Misty is almost twenty,” Emily said as she motioned for Paydyn to follow. “I really don't want to let her get out of condition. And since you and your mom share Sunshine, I thought this would be a nice way for you to ride together.”

“Oh,” stammered Paydyn. She followed Emily out of the stable and watched as she got into her black sedan.

“Actually, I was going to ask if you'd consider letting Chloe ride Misty,” said Paydyn. “She doesn't have a horse, but she is a real good rider.”

“Gee, I don't know,” said Emily, drawing in a deep breath. She put her car keys in the ignition and started her car. “I really need someone I know I can trust.”

Paydyn opened her mouth to speak, but Emily cut her off.

“Misty means the world to me, Paydyn,” Emily said through the open car window as she was backing out. “Let me know if you're interested.”

Paydyn bit her lip as the shiny black car headed down the driveway.

"Great," she muttered to herself. "That makes two horses I stole out from under Chloe."

“You have to admit, it was kinda exciting.”

“Real exciting,” said Chloe. “Do you realize if she'd caught you there, I'd have lost my babysitting job. I'm already grounded until the end of summer because of Thunder. My parents would flip if they found out I had a boy over there.”

“Does that mean you don't want me to come by tomorrow?” Ryder asked. He pretended to look hurt as he reached over and softly caressed Chloe's hand. “I could stop over after the twins go down for their nap.”

The door to the restaurant swung open. Alexis and Dexter walked in. Chloe quickly snatched her hand out of Ryder's.

“Hey, Chloe,” Alexis called as she walked over to the booth. She was carrying a plastic Tack-Mart bag that she handed to Ryder before sliding in the booth beside him.

“Well, did you buy the whole tack store?” he joked.

“Not the whole store,” Alexis giggled. “But I did get you a present for the show.”

Ryder opened the bag and pulled out a beautifully tooled leather belt. It had a silver belt buckle embedded with a gold horse. The ninety-seven dollar price tag was still dangling from the belt loop.

“Hey, this looks just like Jester,” Ryder said as he admired the buckle. “You are the best girlfriend ever,” he said. He put his arm around Alexis, pulled her close and kissed her.

Chloe turned her head away. Her eyes immediately locked onto Dexter's. His eyes were icy blue. She slid over to let him sit down. Instead, Dexter turned and grabbed a chair from a nearby table. He sat down at the end of the booth, but didn't say a word.

“Soooo, what's up, Chloe?” asked Alexis. She looked from Chloe to Dexter and back at Chloe again.

“Not much,” said Chloe, nervously. “I'm stuck doing chores around the house all morning, then I babysit all afternoon. I'm not allowed to use the phone, computer or watch TV. It sucks!”

“Wow, that does suck,” said Alexis, sympathetically.

“Then how did you manage to meet us here for lunch?” quizzed Dexter.

“Kelly, the woman I babysit for, came home early from work yesterday,” replied Chloe. “She wasn't feeling well and decided to stay home today.”

“So your parents think you are babysitting right now?” drilled Dexter.

“You're not her parents!” Alexis abruptly addressed Dexter.

Dexter glared at his twin sister, then pushed himself up from the table and headed toward the restroom.

“What's your brother's problem?” Ryder said, shaking his head.

“I don't know,” Alexis replied. “He's been acting like a tool since the June trail ride.”

The waitress approached the table with a tray of food and handed it out to Chloe and Ryder. Chloe stared down at her sandwich while Alexis ordered her usual taco salad and a slice of pizza for Dexter.

“So what's been happening at the stable?” Chloe asked after the waitress had left. Ryder was already shoving his burger into his face. Chloe picked up her chicken sandwich and took a bite.

“Not much,” shrugged Alexis. “I mean, the stable show is coming up next weekend and everyone is preparing for that. Oh, and Emily Parker is looking for someone to exercise Misty. She's having hand surgery in September and won't be able to ride.”

Chloe's face lit up. She quickly swallowed and said, "Do you think she'd let me ride Misty? We'll be back in school, so I'll be done babysitting. I can ride every afternoon.”

Alexis grimaced, then turned her head to watch as her brother returned and sat down.

“Ummm,” Alexis stammered. “It might not be that simple.”

“Why not?” asked Chloe. She looked alarmed as she dropped her chicken sandwich onto her plate." Mrs. Carter didn't ban me. She said you guys all vouched for me and backed up my story that Thunder bit me at the lake."

"Vouched for you!," Dexter cocked an eyebrow. "More like, lied for you."

Alexis gave her brother a stern look, then said, “It's not that.”

“Then what?” demanded Chloe.

“Paydyn's mom has been telling everyone that you are irresponsible,” Dexter said, rather pointedly.

“Irresponsible!” cried Chloe. “I'm not irresponsible.”

“You did ride Sunshine without their permission,” Dexter pointed out.

“But I was cooling her off,” Chloe said defensively. “Remember, she got loose from you guys and ran all the way back to the barn. She was steaming hot.”

“You could have hand-walked her,” said Dexter. “Plus, somehow Paydyn's mom found out that you had left Sunshine cross-tied in the barn right before they bought her. And she knows that you forgot to scrub the water buckets that same day.”

“Paydyn!” snarled Chloe. “She must have told her mom those things.”

“You can't blame Paydyn,” said Dexter. “She didn't make you do all those things.”

Chloe bit her lip as her eyes welled up with tears.

“It's just not fair,” Chloe cried.

“Dexter! Stop!” said Alexis. “You're making Chloe cry.” She glared at her brother, who returned the stare.

“Is your chicken sandwich all right?” asked the waitress. She had arrived with more food and was setting Alexis's salad down as she addressed Chloe. Chloe nodded meekly. The waitress slid Dexter's slice of pizza down in front of him.

“Just let me know when you are ready for your banana split,” the waitress said.

“I'm not really hungry for it now,” said Chloe. “Can I cancel the order?”

The waitress nodded sympathetically towards Chloe, but gave Dexter a nasty look before turning away. Dexter shook his head in disbelief.

“See,” said Alexis. “Even the waitress thinks you're being mean.”

Dexter didn't say a word. He just tore the crust off the pizza and rolled it like a burrito. Then he started eating it from one end.

All the while, Chloe picked at the chicken sandwich on her plate and sniffed a few times.

“Sorry to have to leave all this fun,” said Ryder, as he pulled his vibrating cell phone out of his pocket. “But my dad is here to pick me up.”

Alexis stood up to let Ryder out of the booth.

“I'll walk you outside,” she said as Ryder slid across the seat. He slipped his cell phone back in his pocket and picked up the Tack-Mart bag.

“Don't even,” Alexis leaned down and whispered a warning to Dexter.

“Thanks for lunch,” Ryder smiled warmly at Chloe, before turning to leave.

A smile briefly flashed across Chloe's face.

“You're welcome,” she called. She watched as Ryder and Alexis headed out the door.

Dexter popped the last of the rolled up pizza into his mouth, swallowed, then said, “You may have my sister fooled, but I know what you're up to.”

Chloe's brown eyes locked on Dexter's blue ones.

“I know about you and Ryder,” he said, coldly.  

Deja Vu...

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