To my Grandma Moo who always told me love and hate are two horns on the same bull.
There’s something about a horse barn in the early morning hours that makes my heart full. I love walking into the barn hearing the horses chewing on the sweet alfalfa and feeling their contentment. This is where I feel most like myself, this is where I am no longer Paige Vandenberg, daughter of millionaires or the chubby rich girl. I am just me and I am free.
I have been raised around horses my whole life. My parents own a large horse farm in the picturesque small Dutch town of Lynden, Washington. Lynden sits just a few miles south of the Canadian border and truly is a small town. My family is one of the oldest families in Lynden and we own or have owned practically everything. You can’t drive down the main road and not see Vandenberg scrolled on something. For many people I’m sure this sounds wonderful, but to me it’s a prison. One in which I fully intend to break free of next year when I leave for college. I will miss my family and of course my horses but I will not miss the people, and especially not resident bad boy Cutter Daniels. I hate him.
“Hurry up Paige, we are going to miss Luke Bryan! I can’t miss meeting my future husband!”
One of my best friends Lacey was attempting to prod me along through the horse barns at the county fair. Lacey is stunning. She is your classic pretty country girl, skinny, blonde, blue eyes and energy for days. She is boy crazy and sometimes just plain crazy but I love her. I however, am more reserved and very content just looking at the horses. Lacey was at least twenty feet in front of me and attempting to maneuver through the ever growing crowd. I started to walk more quickly but still focusing on the horses. I should have been watching where I was going because I ran smack into something hard. When I looked up to see what I hit I came face to face with ice blue eyes and the wickedest grin I had ever seen. They belonged to none other than Cutter Daniels. He was gorgeous to say the least. He was a farm kid and had a natural dark tan from being in the sun all day and sun bleached hair that was spiked perfectly in the phohawk. He wore jeans that were hung low on his hips with a plain navy t-shirt that accented his dark tan and blue eyes perfectly.
“I’m so sorry I wasn’t watching where I was going. I was distracted.” I attempted to retreat quickly but a large hand grasped my wrist. The moment the large hand touched me I felt a jolt like I had grabbed hot wire fence. Whoa, what the heck was that about?
“You’re Paige, right?” he asked me like he didn’t already know who I was. Of course he knew who I was. I was infamous in this stupid small town. I was just about to croak out a yes and hope to hell he released me when I heard from down the barn aisle
“Cutter, what the fuck man! Why are you talking to the Piggy Princess?”
That of course was Cutter’s older brother Cooper Daniels. He was the devil incarnate. He had the most obnoxious red hair and thick freckles. He looked exactly like the mean boy from A Christmas Story minus the raccoon skin hat.
The minute I heard my lovely nickname I stiffened and began to walk away swiftly without looking back. Cooper loved to make me cry and I was not going through that today, I was not going to ruin a perfectly good Luke Bryan experience due to that angry red head.
I finally caught up with Lacey and she was talking to some local boys. I knew the guys went to the same school as her. Lacey went to public school and had many friends. I went to private school in the city and had a private tutor to accompany me at the horse shows. I was reluctant to approach them because I recognized these guys as friends of the Daniels brothers and any friends of theirs was for sure no friend of mine. As I approached them I could hear Lacey saying “I’m only coming if Paige comes.” Oh great, what was Lacey getting us into now.
Lacey and I had been friends for years. Her Dad works at our farm training horses. Lacey and her family live in a house on our sprawling compound so I see her every day. We ride horses together every afternoon when we get home from school and we attend competitions together. Lacey is a really talented rider, I think she is more talented than her Dad, Titus Cunningham. I tell her this all the time but she doesn’t seem to believe me. Lacey is fearless. She will just hop on a wild young horse and go for it, no hesitation. She is always telling me to stop hesitating that it’s going to kill me. She’s probably right. I’m just more cautious than her. She is wild and I am well, just plain boring.
“Great you’re here, finally!” I know she is upset I took so long looking at the horses, but I don’t really care.
“We are going to the river party tonight. Drake and Carter just invited us.” She knows I am going to say no but I refuse to have this conversation in front of the guys so I just smile and nod okay.
“Great. We will see you tonight.” Drake says before the guys wonder off to find their seats.
Lacey turns to me and says “Before you say no, I will remind you that it’s my Birthday and you agreed to do whatever I want. And I want to go to the party so we are going.” Great, she had me by the lady balls on this one.
“Okay we will go, but the first sign of drama and I am out.” I state sternly.
“I will be right behind you chica. This is going to be epic! What are we going to wear?” Yeah, I was totally screwed. Thank God for some Luke Bryan therapy before I dive head first into what I know is sure to be drama.
After taking two hours to primp and get dress, we were finally in my black Range Rover headed to the river. I had chosen to go more conservative than Lacey. I wore skinny jeans, my favorite Sperry Topsiders and lace top. I had chosen to do my long blonde hair in loose waves. I was glad I had just had a spray tan done. As my Mother always said “if you can’t tone it, tan it.” Well yeah let’s just say my spray tan lady is on my speed dial. Not that I think I’m fat, I don’t. I guess I just consider myself to have some extra curves, kind of like Miranda Lambert before the recent slim down. I wish I was tiny like Lacey but I’m not, I’m just average.
Lacey chose to wear a sundress with a giant cutout in the back and cowboy boots. Oh and lets not mention it was like two sizes too small for her, it was practically painted on but she still looked amazing. Something told me I would be returning to the farm by myself regardless of Lacey’s earlier vow. She was looking to party and I was just looking to hopefully go unnoticed.
“Relax. It’s going to be fine. No one is going to say anything to you. I promise.” Lacey gave me an encouraging smile as we drove down the gravel road to the river bar.
It was packed. Trucks littered the river bar and a giant bon fire was in the center of all the vehicles. I could see a group of girls dancing in the bed of a lifted truck next to the bon fire. Country music blared from its speakers. I was so glad it was dark and packed with people. Hopefully I will just blend right in. Lacey and I headed toward the party. I needed to just to relax and breathe but my brain was on high alert.
We have been here a couple of hours and no one has seemed to notice me. I was actually enjoying myself. I was sticking close to Lacey and chatting with some of her friends from school. I was just starting to get comfortable when it happened. I heard the hyena type laughing first and then I saw him, Cooper Freaking Daniels. He was making his way through the crowd headed straight for Lacey and I. As the crowd parted to let him through I could tell he was drunk and his little brother, Cutter was right behind him. Oh Gosh, I’m so screwed.
“Is that Piggy Princess? What are you doing here Piglet? Who invited you?” I started walking backward as quickly as I could. Like retreating from a rattlesnake, I knew better than to turn my back on Cooper. If I did he would strike and who knows if I would survive. I looked for Lacey as I was retreating but couldn’t find her. It didn’t matter, I just needed to get to my car and quickly. “Where are you going Miss Piggy? I want to talk to you. Wait up.”
Screw this, it was time to run.
So I did. I ran through row after row of trucks until I spotted my Range Rover. Thank God! I knew Cooper was still pursuing me I could hear him making his way toward me. I clicked the remote start and clicked the unlock button. Shit.
There was someone leaning against my door. He had a lit cigarette in his mouth he was dressed in dark jeans and black hoodie. He had a on a baseball hat low on his head so I couldn’t see his eyes. Crap, crap, crap. What am I going to do now! It’s probably one of Cooper and Cutter’s friends making sure I can’t escape. I may have to jump in the passenger side and crawl over to the driver’s seat to avoid him.
“Where are you running off to?” The dark stranger asked me.
“Umm… I’m leaving, like now. If you’ll excuse me I need to get in my car.” Get out of my way asshole I will push you if I have to! This is a code red situation!
“Why do you let them treat you like that?” He asked me.
“I don’t. They just treat me like that and I choose to not be around them.” I can’t believe this dude wants to ask me about they why’s of this situation right now. Can’t he tell I am like full on panic attacking right now?
“Well you choose how you let people treat you.” Seriously! I am getting a self-esteem lecture right now, really? Who is this guy?
“There you are Piglet!” Cooper called. Oh Hell!
Cooper has caught up to me thanks to Mr. Questions over here. And surprise Cooper and has brought a little group with him including his hot brother. God what is wrong with me? How can I think Cutter is hot when he is practically leading this lynch mob? I am so messed up.
“Enough!” Holy hell Mr. Questions is telling Cooper to stop, this should be interesting. “Leave her be Coop and get back to the party.”
“Oh come on Jasp we are just having some fun, lighten up.” He slurred.
“I said enough, now leave her alone.” Oh hell, Mr. Questions is Cooper’s best friend Jasper Callaway. Why the hell is he standing up for me? This is odd.
Well whatever the reason is I am thankful because it stopped Cooper. Cooper and the rest of the group sauntered back towards the party leaving me standing against my car dumbfounded. Jasper stood across from me making sure the little group headed back towards the party which was thankfully happening except for Cutter. He just kept starring at us. He looked so angry. I could feel his hate.
“You too Cutter, leave her be.” Jasper rasped at Cutter. Cutter hesitated like he wanted to say something but nodded instead and then followed the others.
“Thank you so much.” I said to Jasper.
“It’s nothing. Just sick of hearing this shit from them. You need to stand up for yourself. I might not be around next time.” Jasper was right of course. I just nodded in agreement and he walked off. Lacey came rushing towards me looking concerned and pissed.
“You okay?” She asked.
“Yeah I survived it. But I’m ready to go home, you coming with?” I knew she wouldn’t say yes but I always asked anyways. I never worried if Lacey would make it home okay. She was smart and a spitfire. I honestly felt bad for the person who dared to mess with her.
“I’m going to stay. You should too. I heard Jasper defended you. Everyone is talking about how crazy that was. I think he likes you.” Just what I needed more gossip starring yours truly.
“No thanks I’m exhausted. I’ll see you at home?” She knew I was not having any of it.
“Okay. I love you! See you at home.” She said as I climbed in the Rover.
I got half way to the main road before the tears really started flowing. God I can’t wait until I’m out of this town, I hate it here!