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ARCHIVING: Only with the permission of the author.
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SERIES: Follows Winter Solstice.

Winter Wonderland
By Athena


Chapter 2 – Jingle Horse

Helena glanced at the time as she sipped her hot chocolate. She would have preferred a cup of tea, but since Claudia had been so gracious to prepare it, she didn't have the heart to turn her down. Finishing her beverage she started to get up.

"Darling, I need to go. I have an appointment at eleven."

Myka frowned. "Appointment? With whom?"

"Would you like to come with me?"

"Where to?"

"The barn."

"The barn?" Myka echoed confused, wondering how Helena even knew about the barn down the road from the inn. To her knowledge she had never mentioned it before.

Helena smiled and nodded. "My horse arrives today. I would like to be there when they bring him in."

Myka gaped. "Horse? You have a horse?!"

Helena laughed. "Yes I do. Is that so hard to believe?"

Myka took a deep breath. "I guess not. You must have had a horse back in England right?"

"Several actually."

Myka nodded at this new information.

"Can I come too? Please? Pretty please with a cherry on top," Claudia said and looked expectantly at Helena, chewing on her lip, hoping that she would say yes.

Helena put her arm around Claudia's shoulders. "Of course you can."

"Yes!" She hugged Helena.


Myka looked up. "Yes, of course I'll come."

Helena smiled. "Come on then."

"So what's his name? What does he look like?" Claudia asked from the back seat.

Helena turned in her seat and looked at her. "He's dark brown with black mane and tail," she explained. She looked out the window taking in the white landscape. "I named him Artie," she added as if an afterthought.

"What?" Claudia said and gaped.

Helena winked at her.

Claudia made a face. "You're just messing with me."

Helena laughed. "I'm sorry. Honestly, I don't know if I'd like to have anyone named Artie between my legs, even if it means I can use my whip on him," she mused.

Myka made a choking sound and the car swerved. "Helena," she hissed.

Helena just laughed. She turned back to Claudia. "He has a long fancy name from the breeder, but I call him Majeed which means noble in Arabic."


"Do you ride Claudia?" Helena asked curious.

"God no. Last time I was on a horse was at a pony ride when I was five. I like horses though. They are beautiful and so graceful."

Helena smiled. "Perhaps you'd like to learn?"

Claudia shrugged. "Maybe."

"What about you darling?" Helena said and put her hand on Myka's thigh. Myka put her hand on top, keeping it there.

"I used to take lessons when I was a kid, but it's been years now."

Helena beamed. "How marvelous."

Myka smiled at her. The short ride coming to an end she pulled the car over to the side and parked. A tall man with gray hair approached them. He smiled when he recognized Helena.

"There you are Wells. I wondered what kept ya'," he said and laughed. He shook Helena's hand and nodded to Myka and Claudia. "They should be pulling in any minute now. Would you like to see his box?"

Helena nodded and they entered the barn together. Myka watched in fascination as Helena gently patted a horse who curiously stuck his head out as she passed him. She smiled at the caring touch.

"As agreed, we have you set up for full-service. New straw every day, feeding and grooming. Unless you inform us otherwise, he'll be exercised daily too. Vet is supposed to be here later on today to check him over."

Helena nodded approvingly. "At the moment I'm on holiday so I will be available to ride him myself, but as I explained to you, my work is very irregular and I will need the backup from time to time."

He nodded. "Understood. Well you met Stephanie. She's the one who will be his main caretaker."

"Excellent. She's wonderful."

He smiled at the praise. "I believe they are here," he said as they heard the sound of a large vehicle in the yard.

Helena grinned excitedly at Myka as they exited the barn. She waited impatiently as the horse was off loaded from the truck. His dark legs were wrapped for protection and he had an expensive looking matching blanket, with the initials HGW stitched in the corner, on his back. He looked magnificent.

Unsure about the new surroundings and smells, the horse shook his head nervously, pulling at the reins; his eyes slightly wild he danced around. Helena stepped closer and took the reins. She put a hand on his neck to sooth him.

"Come on now handsome. It's all right. No reason to be upset," she said softly to him.

Recognizing her voice he calmed down and pushed her in the chest. She laughed and scratched him between the ears. "You spoiled thing," she mumbled.

Myka just gaped at the scene. She silently followed Helena as she led the horse into the barn. She watched her talk to him and check on his legs and feet. Myka grinned when he pushed Helena in the butt when she leaned down to check his front leg.

"Oh do stop it," she said sternly to the horse, and again ran her hand down his leg until she could lift his foot.

Helena removed the protective wrap from his tail and he swished it happily. It reminded Myka of Helena's hair. She watched as he pushed at Helena again, more persistent now. He nipped at her coat which made Myka a bit nervous.

Helena stuck her hand in her pocket and pulled out a small apple. "Is this what you want darling?" she said and laughed as the horse took the offered treat from her open hand. Scratching him one last time between the ears she closed the box behind her.

"He's gorgeous Helena," Myka said softly.

"Isn't he? You should see him move. It's amazing."

Myka nodded. "When will you ride him?"

Helena smiled at her and shrugged. "I'd like to wait until the vet has checked him over, so probably sometime tomorrow. I've asked them to let him out to stretch his legs later on today, after the vet gives his approval."

"So we'll come back tomorrow?" Claudia asked excitedly.

Helena put her arm around Claudia's shoulders and smiled at her. "Absolutely. Bundle up warm and bring some of that wonderful cocoa of yours. Majeed and I will do our best to entertain you."

Claudia grinned at her. "I can't wait to see that. I bet you're a really good rider."

Helena grinned, thinking about the past for a moment. "I have some experience," she said noncommittal.

Helena supervised as the crate with all the tacks and accessories was offloaded and put away. Her request of having Stephanie polish the leather was met with an approving nod. Myka watched the items as each was inspected by Helena before put away. Even her limited experience with basic gear told her that this was all top of the line items, and definitely very expensive. Helena's monogram was embroidered or burned into several of the pieces. Myka took a step closer and ran her hand over the English saddle, the leather smooth under her hand. She smiled at Helena.

"You don't go for the bargain sales, do you honey?"

Helena gave her a disapproving look. "Why on earth should I?" she asked as if the idea was ridiculous in the first place.

Myka shrugged. "It's expensive stuff."

Helena shrugged. "Not as expensive as him," she said and tilted her head in the direction of the horse.

Myka smiled. "Naturally, but still."

Helena took a step closer to Myka and put her arms around her waist. "Darling, I can afford it. Does it bother you that I spend money on my horse?" she said softly.

Myka smiled. "Of course not. It's your money. You can do whatever you want with it. I just didn't realize that you were that well off."

Helena sighed. "I've never hidden that fact from you. Truthfully, I find money tacky, so I don't talk about it much. I have it, and I use it. End of story."

Myka sighed.

Helena gently caressed Myka's cheek. "Darling, I knew that I would need money at some point in the future. I made sure that some was set aside in a safe place where I would have access to it whenever I was released," she explained softly. "Largely due to my success, my family was fairly wealthy. I had more than I needed at the time. My relatives and servants were well taken care of and there was still enough left to make the foundation for me to have a very nice savings account today."

"How wealthy are you Helena?" Myka asked wearily.

Helena shrugged again. "I have enough that I really don't have to work, if I don't want to," she said, evading the question slightly.

Myka stared at her. "Good lord," she whispered.

Helena bowed her head. "Will my money be an issue?" she asked sadly.

"Honey," Myka said gently and cupped her chin. "I love you, not your money."

Helena grinned at her. "You do? You really do?"

Myka nodded.

Helena tilted her head. "So, say I wanted to buy you a horse, you wouldn't object?"

Myka gaped. "You want to buy me… a horse?" she gasped.

Helena nodded enthusiastically. "How would we else be able to go riding together?" she said with a smile.

Myka laughed. "Oh I don't know, perhaps rent a horse for me?"

Helena frowned. "That might be alright once or twice, but not forever."

Myka smiled at her. "Let's talk about it."

Helena nodded.

Helena exchanged a couple of last words with the barn owner while Myka warmed up the car.

"All set?" she said and smiled at Helena as she hauled herself inside the Jeep.

Helena nodded. "He'll give me a ring when the vet gets there. Unless there's something specific, I don't really need to be there."

Myka nodded. Her thoughts went to Kelly. Had the events of a couple of years ago panned out differently, then it would have been Kelly who would have checked on Helena's horse. She sighed softly and her heart ached again for Pete's loss.

Helena shot her a glance, but Myka kept her eyes on the road. There was no reason to share her somber thoughts with Helena. What was in the past needed to stay in the past.

They made it back to Leena's just in time for lunch. Claudia was babbling nonstop about Helena and the horse.

"And then when he got all nervous and stuff because it was a new place, she just walked right up to him and went all Horse Whisperer on him. Freaking awesome," she said and grinned at Pete.

Pete nodded. Myka realized that his thoughts might be mirroring hers from earlier.

"Claudia, I do believe that you're exaggerating a bit," Helena said and smiled at her.

Claudia shrugged. "You were pretty impressive," she said and smiled. "Though he got ya good, almost made you fall on your face when he pushed ya," she said and laughed.

She jumped up to do a little reenactment. "Here we have the ever calm and collected HG Wells, expertly inspecting a prime specimen of," she stopped and looked at Helena. "What kind of horse is he?"

"Thoroughbred," Helena said and smiled angelically at her.

"Yeah, what she said. Anyway, she leans down to pull up his foot."

"Hoof," Helena corrected softly.

Claudia just waved her comment away. "Whatevs. So there she is with her buff behind in the air. Apparently too tempting, not only to our dear Myka here, but also to male horses," she said and grinned at the disapproving look on Myka's face. "So he decides to give her a little nudge which makes our dear Victorian lady almost fall on her face in the hay. Oh it was beautiful," Claudia said and clasped her hands in front of her looking up with an angelic smile on her face.

Helena folded her arms and gave her a stern look. "Are you quite done darling?" she asked in a low voice.

Claudia flinched. "Yes, I believe I am," she said and quickly sat down.

Helena rolled her eyes. "Very amusing story Miss Donovan. Perhaps you should consider a career as a writer?" she drawled and leaned closer to her.

Claudia leaned back in her seat eying Helena warily. "Nah, I don't think so. The only thing I'm good at writing is code."

The friendly word fight was effectively interrupted by Mina who came galloping into the room. She stopped next to Helena.

"Mommy says you have a horse," she said and grinned.

"I do." Helena smiled at her and picked her up and put her on her lap.

"Can I see him?"

Helena chuckled. "Of course you can, but you have to ask your mummy first."

Mina nodded. She played with a lock of Helena's hair. "Is he silver like Cassie?"

Helena startled. "How do you…" she glanced at Myka for help.

Myka looked at Pete, Claudia and Leena who were staring at them in confusion.

"We have something to tell you that will sound absolutely crazy, but keep in mind I saw it too." She told them about Christina and the events of that night. Helena had never been more appreciative of Myka's help than in that very moment. She wasn't sure she would have been able to retell the story without crying.

"I heard Christina mention Cassie, but I don't know who she is," Myka said softly to Helena.

Helena closed her eyes for a moment. She smiled when she felt Mina's little hand on her cheek. She opened her eyes and looked at the girl.

"Cassie was Christina's pony, short for Cassiopeia. Her real name was longer, but I quite frankly don't remember it. She was a gray Connemara pony with dark legs and mane. A beautiful horse. Christina loved her."

Myka took her hand and gave it a gentle squeeze.

Myka stirred and stretched as she woke up. She smiled, realizing that she was still on vacation, but then frowned when she noticed that she was alone in the bed. She made a face. They were both on freaking vacation, so where the heck was her alluring girlfriend who was supposed to be naked next to her for all sorts of delicious touching and cuddling? She rolled out of bed and after a quick stop in the bathroom went looking for said girlfriend downstairs.

She found Helena in the kitchen making a cup of tea. Her eyebrows shot up when she noticed Helena's outfit. A wide grid spread on her face as she took in how nicely the black riding breeches hugged Helena's behind. The tall boots and the crisp white shirt added to the overall look.

Helena turned her head just in time to catch Myka's appreciative grin. She turned fully and leaned against the counter. "Like what you see darling?" she drawled.

Myka chuckled. "You bet. Your ass looks great in those pants." She slipped her arms around Helena's slim waist and tugged her close to her. Moving her hands further down, she caressed her butt. "And it feels great too."

Helena kissed her smiling lips. "I'm glad you approve of my riding gear darling. It's ever so much more comfortable than the riding dresses I used to wear." She tucked an unruly lock of Myka's hair behind her ear. "Are you planning on coming along?"

Myka nodded.

"You better bundle up. It's cold today."

"Good morning horse people," Claudia said cheerfully as she sauntered in.

"Morning Claud," Myka said and smiled at her. She disentangled herself from Helena and grabbed a coffee cup. "Want some coffee Claud?"

Claudia nodded. "Sure. Four large sugar and cream please."

Myka made a face.

Claudia ignored Myka's disapproval of her coffee preference and instead turned her attention to Helena. "So Lady Horse Whisperer, are we going riding this morning?" she teased.

Helena chuckled and shook her head. "Yes I am. Would you like to come?"

Claudia gave her a look. "Try to stop me. I've already got the cocoa and a blanket lined up."

Myka smiled at her. "Let's make some sandwiches too."

"Great idea." Claudia bolted from her seat and stuck her head out in the hall. "LEENA! Need you in the kitchen," she hollered.

"Claudia!" Myka said sternly. She caught the toast as it flew out of the toaster. Clearly Claudia had been fiddling with it. "Did you mess with the toaster again Claud?" she muttered and shot her a dark look.

Claudia just waved at her and sat down again. She sipped her coffee and smacked her lips. "Yummy."

The sound of running feet in the hall made them turn their heads towards the door. A second later Mina ran through the door and right at Helena. Helena held out her arms to catch her.

"Good morning darling," she said and kissed her cheek.

Mina hugged her and put her head on her shoulder.

Myka smiled at them. After her mother, Helena was definitely Mina's favorite person. It was funny really how the two had bonded, and in such short time.

"Good morning," Leena said and smiled at them. She shot Claudia a dark look. "Were you yelling for me?"

Claudia shrugged. "I might, or might not have done that."

Leena made a disapproving face at her.

"Are you coming with us to the barn?" Myka asked.

Leena smiled and looked at her daughter. "I believe so. Someone hasn't been able to stop talking about Helena's horse since she got up."

Helena laughed. "If you're good and really brave I'll let you ride him too," she promised the girl.

Leena looked a little worried at her.

Helena smiled at her. "Don't worry, I wouldn't put her on a horse alone. I would ride with her."

Leena smiled and nodded.

After some shuffling around and running back in the house to get a forgotten blanket the four women and little Mina were all in the car ready to go. Pete suddenly appeared running down the front door step.

"Hey you guys, don't leave without me," he yelled.

Claudia sighed and jumped out. "In you go. And I get to sit on your lap."

He made a face at her. "No funny business."

She leered at him.

Myka looked over her shoulder at the people in the backseat. "Everyone good to go?"

Mumbled yes and nods confirmed that this was the case. She put the car in gear and slowly started down the wintery road.

Helena picked up Mina and walked inside the barn. She was telling her about the horses and how she had to be careful around them. Finally they stopped by Majeed's box.

"This is Majeed darling. He's a very nice horse." She scratched him between the ears and patted him on the neck. "Majeed meet Mina."

The horse pushed at Helena's arm which made Mina giggle. "He likes you."

Helena smiled. "I'm kind of his mummy now." She stuck her hand in her pocket and grabbed a mini carrot. She held it out in her open palm to the horse who happily took it. "Would you like to give him a carrot?"

Mina nodded silently. She looked a little scared. Helena took her hand and showed her how to offer the treat from her palm. Mina shrieked with laughter when the horse took the carrot from her hand.

"It tickled," she said and smiled. "His nose is so soft." She reached out and touched him, petting his muzzle. Helena smiled at her fearlessness. Christina had been the same way. She knew that most children would not show fear until taught fear, but still.

"Let's go and get his things, shall we?" Helena said and smiled at the girl.

Helena quickly got the horse ready and soon she was walking him through the barn towards the waiting group outside. She held up a hand to Mina who came running towards her. "No running sweetheart," she said softly to her. She held out her hand and Mina took it. "You have to be very careful or you can get hurt. Not all of the horses here are nice. Some are very nervous and get scared easily. Do you understand?"

Mina nodded and grabbed Helena's hand tighter.

Helena handed Mina over to Leena as they exited the barn and led the horse out in the open. She quickly adjusted the saddle and checked on the gear one last time. Eager to get moving he nervously danced around, clearly impatient with her. She smiled and grabbed on to the saddle as she swung herself up, matching the movement of the moving horse. When his front legs came off the ground she leaned forward and patted his neck, laughing.

Myka gasped at the scene of the wildly dancing horse and Helena sitting as if glued in the saddle, her long hair fanning behind her. Their eyes met for a moment, and she smiled when she saw the utter joy in Helena's eyes. She realized that there was only one other thing that brought out that smile on Helena's face. She blushed and looked down.

"Myka," Helena called to her. "Can you please open the gate for me?"

Myka nodded and walked over to the paddock. She swung the gate open and Helena nudged the horse through. Myka closed it and secured the lock before leaning against the fence. She smiled at Claudia who had climbed up on the fence, sitting next to her. Together they watched Helena work the horse. It quickly dawned on Myka that Helena was quite an accomplished rider.

"It looks like they're one," Claudia said amazed.

Myka nodded and rested her chin on her arms leaning more heavily on the fence. She glanced over her shoulder when she heard laughter and saw Pete on his back in a snow bank, Mina throwing snow at him. She chuckled.

"Want some cocoa?" Leena asked.

"Please," Claudia said and rubbed her hands together. She looked cold.

Leena poured them each a cup and they sipped the hot beverage while watching Helena. She looked just as calm as when she started, but the horse was breathing heavily, his breath a cloud around his head.

"Any cocoa left for us?" Pete asked and put Mina on top of the fence, a secure arm around her so she wouldn't fall. She looked a little cold.

Leena handed him the thermos and wrapped the blanket she had been holding around her daughter. Mina smiled and snuggled closer. She carefully took the cup of cocoa from Pete.

Helena watched them out of the corner of her eye. She could feel Majeed getting tired. She put him through one more set of exercises and then let the reins lose as he slowed down. Finally she made him stop by her friends. She smiled at them.

"Mina, would you like to ride with me?" she asked.

Mina nodded. She handed her cocoa to Leena . Pete picked her up and placed her in front of Helena who wrapped a strong arm around the girl's waist. Helena told her to hold on to the horse's mane. When she felt that Mina was settled she nudged Majeed forward. He slowly started walking.

"Look mommy, I'm riding," she said with a happy grin to Leena.

"Yes sweet pea, you are."

Helena handed Majeed off to Stephanie who tossed a blanket over the sweaty horse before leading him inside. Once back in the car Myka turned the heat up to max as they all shivered in the cold air. Helena wrapped her blanket around her legs. The riding pants were not exactly warm once you were no longer on the horse. She sipped her cup of hot cocoa relaxing in her seat feeling the warmth spread through her body. She glanced at Myka and their eyes met for a brief moment as they smiled at each other.

"Did you see me ride Uncle Pete?" Mina said as she bounced excitedly on his knee.

"I did munchkin."

"I'm gonna have a horse too Uncle Pete. Just like Helena," she said seriously.

Myka chuckled and glanced at Helena. "I think we have a severe case of hero worshiping on our hands."

Helena smiled. "I'm just glad that she enjoyed herself. There are worse things for a little girl to get into than horses. It's a wonderful hobby really. Don't you think?" She put her beverage in the cup holder and leaned closer to the air vents warming her hands.

Myka nodded.

Part 3

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