Hi there! Though I'm new to writing for Phantom Stallion I'm certainly not new to the fandom. I've been reading these books since I was in elementary school and now I'm a college freshman. These books are part of the foundation of my life. Even though there are a few inconsistencies in Farley's story line(such as the name of the original Kenworthy ranch and the mysterious Ely brother, Seth, who seemed to exist only in one book before vanishing altogether), I adore these books and several times I've had ideas for stories. This is the first time I've actually written one and posted it. Also, my Beta lives on the other side of the world and isn't online so what you're about to read is only edited by me. I apologize for that. Hopefully you'll enjoy reading anyway!

DISCLAIMER: I own nothing but Connor and Brent, neither of whom are in this chapter.





The early summer morning is warm and still as Samantha Forster steps out onto the front porch. In her hands are a plate of microwave pancakes – Gram would die seeing them – and a powder blue pottery mug of pale coffee. Though she never used to drink it much, Sam has come to rely on the energy the beverage provides. Senior year of high school is no joke, especially when you are the editor of the school newspaper.

The horses mill around quietly in the ten acre pasture, nothing more than a large mass of horse flesh in the dim morning light. Blaze trots over from the bunkhouse to stare hopefully at her plate, and since she is in a good mood Sam indulges him with a pancake. Blaze whines appreciatively and gulps it down, then curls up at her feet. Sam is up earlier than usual, so she has the time to dawdle a bit before getting ready for school. She sees Dallas standing on the porch of the bunkhouse and waves. Giving Blaze her last pancake, she downs her coffee and goes back inside.

At six o'clock in the morning, Gram is already dressed and in the kitchen, tending to the biscuit dough on the counter. Sam pecks her on the cheek, darting up the stairs before Gram can scold her about the cheap breakfast she'd had. She ducks into the bathroom to brush her teeth and wash her face. In her bedroom, she pulls on a pair of medium jeans – the skinny kind Sam guiltily adores – and a soft, worn white Beatles tee she'd nicked from Brynna. The day promises to heat up quickly, so Sam throws her now-long hair into a messy ponytail and grabs a pair of old sunglasses Gram had passed off to her. The Jackie O. style of them brings a grin to her face. By the time she slides her feet into a pair of comfy flip-flops and returns to the kitchen, Cody is awake and standing next to Gram as she cooks.

"Hey, little man!" Sam greets, ruffling his messy brown hair. Even at just two, he looks a lot like Dad. With his white smile and sweet brown eyes, Sam has no trouble picturing the string of broken hearts he'll someday leave in his wake.

"Samma," he mumbles, smiling but not quite awake yet. He holds his arms out and Sam dutifully lifts him up in hers. She presses a loud, sloppy kiss to his cheek, delighting in his giggle. "You go school?"

"Unfortunately," she replies, bouncing him slightly. "I'd rather stay and play with you."

"Play," Cody agrees. He nods his little head sagely, as though this is the wisest course of action. When Gram sets his breakfast plate on the table, Sam places him in the chair holding his booster seat.

"Sorry, kiddo." Sam smiles ruefully. "School first. We'll play when I get home, if you're awake." Sam usually gets home around three, which is right about the time Cody goes down for a nap. To keep Gram from fussing about the pancakes, Sam plucks a biscuit from the pan and slathers the warm bread with Brynna's homemade apple butter. She doesn't protest, either, when Gram hands her a glass of milk. "Your biscuits get better every time you make them."

"Don't think you can sweet-talk me into forgetting about those pancakes, missy." Gram levels her with a glare of mock-offense. Then she smiles. "And thank you. Maybe this weekend, I'll show you how to make them."

"Sounds like a plan." Sam checks the time on her Blackberry, an early graduation present from Dad and Brynna. Sam isn't allowed to go crazy with phone calls and text messages, but it's nice to always have a way to get a hold of someone. Just now it's six-thirty. If she leaves now, she can make it to school just after seven. Plenty of time before the eight o'clock classes. "See you guys later."

Speaking of graduation presents, so far Aunt Sue's is the coolest. Back during spring break, Sam had flown out to San Francisco to visit with her mother's sister for the week. They spent the next seven days gallivanting around the hilly city, hitting up shops, restaurants, and beaches. Sam had even spent a day with Pam, her best friend from the city. At the end of the week, Aunt Sue had surprised Sam by giving her her old car. The 2004 Lacrosse was used, sure, but it was Sam's first car and it was perfect. Dad had flown out to the city so that he could act as a navigator while Sam drove home in her new car. Sam still liked to joke about her family's taste for Buicks.

The Lacrosse is currently parked next to Gram's own Buick, a yellow monstrosity Sam has ridden in more times than she can count. Compared to it, Sam's Lacrosse looks sleekly black in the sunlight. Sam revs the engine and, as she crosses the bridge, tunes the radio to an oldies station. Singing along to Diana Ross and the Supremes, she stops off at Diamond K to pick up her best friend.

Despite having recently turned eighteen, Jennifer Kenworthy is as eccentric as ever. To her friend's credit, Jen has toned down the craziness of her wardrobe some. Some, but not much. While she usually has only one stand-out item, Jen makes sure that "quality" makes up for the lack of quantity. As she comes jogging out of the house, her white blonde hair free of its plaits for once, Sam immediately notices the print of black cats on her sleeveless white blouse. Paired with peg-legged jeans and a pair of oxfords that seem granny-ish, Sam decides it could be worse. At least there are no fuzzy Easter eggs.

Jen slides into the passenger seat, dumping her backpack into the floor at her feet. "Morning. Thanks for the ride."

"Sure thing." Sam turns the volume down on the radio as they pull back out onto the road. "Nice outfit."

Jen beams. "Ryan got the blouse for me, actually. Which is sweet, considering how my off-kilter sense of style must give his sophisticated British brain a hemorrhage."

"The mark of a true boyfriend," Sam intones jokingly. Jen and Ryan have been officially dating for the past year and so far things are going well. Though Jen has cut back on the girlish gushing, Sam knows her excitement hasn't dimmed. "How did your date go last night?"

Jen sighs dreamily and Sam wonders if she shouldn't have asked. "He was going to take me to see a movie, you know, Quantum of Solace?"

Sam laughs. "Of course he'd take you to see James Bond."

"Shush. Anyway, he misplaced his wallet and got adorably frustrated trying to find it. So he gave that up and saddled Champ, then told me to hold the reins and wait. When he came back he had this picnic basket and a blanket. He had me mount up and I held it all while he rode behind me. I kid you not, Sam, we had a picnic dinner and watched the sun set over the Calicos. How disgustingly romantic is that?"

"Extremely," Sam agrees, though she's smiling.

Jen sighs again. "It was perfect, though. He's perfect. Speaking of, when are you going to get a boyfriend?"

Sam groans. Jen has been on Sam's case about her lack of romance since last Christmas, when Sam's other best friend, Jake Ely, came home from college to visit. Thinking of Jake always makes Sam's chest tighten. At the bonfire two years ago, when Cody had just been born, Jake had reached over and taken Sam's hand. Uncertain of what it meant, but eager to find out, she went along. Jake has been a part of her life for as long as Sam can remember, and nearly everything she's learned about horses and how to treat them comes from him. For a time, there had been something more between them than the usual bickering camaraderie and Sam was – still is – sure Jake felt it, too. Then Jake left for college and took that something more with him. Trouble was, the next time Jake was in Nevada he'd left that something more behind.

"Stop brooding, it won't get you out of answering my question."

Frowning, Sam offers a shrug. "I don't know, Jen. Even if I had one, I wouldn't have time for him. Between stepping up more on the ranch, getting ready for prom, being the editor for the paper, preparing for finals, not to mention graduation and college plans… The poor boy would probably sue me for neglect."

"While I understand that you really are working hard, those all sound like excuses," Jen remarks, calling Sam out.

Sam doesn't dignify this with a reply, choosing instead to stare out the windshield as they drive through Darton toward the school. Jen is right, though, and they both know it.

"Admit it," Jen says, gentler. "You're waiting for Jake."

And there it is. Sam's silence is all the answer Jen needs. The ache in her chest makes Sam want to drive back home and crawl into bed. Last Christmas, when Jake was home, there was tension between the two of them. While it was stressful, it wasn't entirely unpleasant and Sam had hoped it meant Jake was going to do or say something to acknowledge whatever it was that had changed between them. Only he didn't. He treated her as he always had – like a best friend and sibling. They teased and fought with each other, but to Sam it seemed lacking, false. Jake was trying to pretend nothing had happened, but going back was impossible. When he returned to school, Sam was left emptier than before, and heartbroken.

Sam pulls into the parking lot with twenty minutes to spare. She picks a spot close enough to the main doors and cuts the engine. She and Jen sit in silence, unaware of the few students who send waves their way. "What else am I supposed to do? I've been waiting for Jake all my life, in different ways for different reasons, and my patience almost always pays off. He's Jake, so he's being stubborn about this, that's all."

Jen nods, but doesn't seem convinced. "That's true, about the stubbornness and being patient, but maybe this time he isn't going to come around."

Though Sam wants to argue that yes, of course he will, something deep inside tells her that Jen, in all likelihood, is correct. Jake may be stubborn, but when it comes to something he truly wants he isn't one to dally. Two years of dallying should tell Sam all she needs to know, but she can't give up just yet. She has to wait just a little longer. While her faith in Jake has been tested on many occasions, it has never wavered.

Jen, now a master of reading Sam's facial expressions and body language (and quite possibly her mind), rolls her eyes. "Clearly you're going to be as stubborn about this as he is, but please, Sam, don't make yourself miserable because of him. It seems to me that Jake has moved on. Maybe you should do the same."